This month’s Learning Circuit’s Big Question of the Month is whether learning organizations should be leading the way in the use of Web 2.0 technologies. Or, to be more exact:
- Should workplace learning professionals be leading the charge around these new work literacies?
- Shouldn’t they be starting with themselves and helping to develop it throughout the organizations?
- And then shouldn’t the learning organization become a driver for the organization?
- And like in the world of libraries don’t we need to market ourselves in this capacity?
The short answer is yes, we (I’m assuming most of you are learning professionals) should be leading the way. It may seem like an odd locus for technology awareness, but it’s really about technology affordances for organizational effectiveness, not just new technology. That’s why it shouldn’t be IT, or operations, or engineering, because they’re focused on a task, not the meta-level look at how the task is being accomplished, can be improved, etc. And that’s the unique perspective that makes the learning organization the right instigator.
Learning folks have the perspective of looking at the performance needs of the organization, and are charged with helping people meet those needs, but that also gives the learning organization the opportunity to improve them. When it’s the product or servce, it’s the user experience group (that, ideally, gets in early in the design process), but internally, it’s the learning group.
Which means the learning organization can’t be just a training group, but that’s part of the strategic picture I’ve talked about elsewhere. The point being that to truly help an organization you have to move to a performance focus, moving people from novice, through practitioner, to expert, and giving them a coherent support environment. To do this, you need to know what’s available. And, consequently, the learning organization has to experiment with new technologies for it’s own internal workings to determine how and when to deploy them to organizational benefit.
To put it another way, if not the learning organization, then who? Of course, there’s the political perspective as well, demonstrating currency, but I’m more concerned about adding real value. Learning professionals need to know it, bring it to bear when it’s valuable (and skewer it when it’s not), and in general be seen not only knowing what’s what but also what’s hype.
Marketing is smart in general, but it’s not hype, it’s helping transition the perspective from a training group being an expendable cost-center to a learning capability that’s central to organizational effectiveness and performance. Which is where a learning organization should be, right?