Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

2 March 2009

Workplace Learning in 10 years?

Clark @ 10:41 AM

This month’s Learning Circuit’s blog Big Question is “What will workplace learning look like in 10 years”.  Triggered by Jay & Harold’s post and reactions (and ignoring my two related posts on Revisiting and Learning Design), it’s asking what the training department might look like in 10 years.  I certainly  have my desired answer.

Ideally, in 10 years the ‘training department’ will be an ‘organizational learning’ group, that’s looking across expertise levels and learning needs, and responsible for equipping people not only to come up to speed, but to work optimally, and collaborate to innovate.  That is, will be responsible for the full performance ecosystem.

So, there may still be ‘courses’, though they’ll be more interactive, more distributed across time, space, and context.  There’ll be flexible customized learning paths, that will not only skill you, but introduce you into the community of practice.

Learning/Information/Experience DesignHowever, the community of practice will be responsible for collaboratively developing the content and resources, and the training department will have morphed into learning facilitators: refining the learning, information, and experience design around the community-established content, and also facilitating the learning skills of the community and it’s members.  The learning facilitators will be monitoring the ongoing dialog and discussions, on the lookout for opportunities to help capture some outcomes, and watching the learners to look for opportunities to develop their abilities to contribute.  They’ll also be looking for opportunities to introduce new tools that can augment the community capabilities, and create new learning, communication, and collaboration channels.

Their metrics will be different, not courses or smile sheets, but value added to the community and it’s individuals, and impact on the ability of the community to be effective.  The skill sets will be different too: understanding not just instructional but information and experience design, continually experimenting with tools to look for new augmentation possibilities, and having a good ability to identify and facilitate the process of knowledge or concept work, not just the product.

10 years from now the tools will have changed, so it may be that some of the tasks can be automated, e.g. mining the nuggets from the informal channels, but design & facilitation will still be key.  We’ll distribute the roles to the tools, leaving the important pattern matching to the facilitators.

At least, that’s what I hope.


  1. Hi Clark. In the context of this discussion I would take issue with “and responsible for equipping people not only to come up to speed, but to work optimally, and collaborate to innovate” is that it smacks of the same old supply side approach of ‘experts’ working out what other people should have. Hopefully, in 10 years time we will have moved to a demand-led approach where learners identify what, how and where they study. Lots of challenges here, employers trusting employees to work out what are real learning needs being one of them.

    Lots of folk thinking about this and working towards it already I know….

    Cheers, Stephen.

    Comment by Stephen Powell — 2 March 2009 @ 11:27 AM

  2. Stephen, I see what you mean, but I still reckon there’s a role for mentoring in learning skills. Yes, that *should* be the role of K12 and higher ed, but given their sorry states I’m not optimistic. Expecting individuals to be fully effective learners hasn’t yet been a safe way to bet. And our understanding of learning skills will no doubt develop too. So I’m expecting that there will be a role to facilitate learner’s learning skills, and happy to be wrong.

    Comment by Clark — 2 March 2009 @ 12:41 PM

  3. I agree with all of your comments Clark, particularly the part about trainers becoming more like facilitators. I think we can look to the news industry for inspiration in this this — iReport for example, where reporters now vet the incoming news submitted by the public.

    I also like what you say about not just knowing instructional design, but information and experience design as well. I’d add community management skills like moderation and seeding to drive discussion. I think that’s what you are driving at when you wrote: “…having a good ability to identify and facilitate the process of knowledge or concept work, not just the product.”

    For me, the core of this transition is moving from being the pipe to being the plumber, which means we can’t just worry about what’s moving through the system, but how the whole thing is laid out: where the connections are, what’s the flow rate, where does information flow in, where does it flow out, etc… I wonder sometimes though, whether the majority of our industry is ready to play the game at this level.

    Comment by Dave Wilkins — 2 March 2009 @ 12:53 PM

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