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

30 April 2009

Learning and Work

Clark @ 1:30 PM

In trying to get attention for work, a colleague is concerned with the ‘learning’ label being a potential detriment.  It’s probably true, and that’s a sad state of affairs.  While I joke that we who work in the learning/training/performance/etc field are those who’ve retained their love of learning despite schooling, I do believe that there’s some baggage associated with the term.

If you put on a ‘serious business’ perspective, learning can seem like warm and fuzzy coddling.  “What we really need is to hire the talent we need and let them know what to do and have them do it, right? They’ll do it, and like it, or they’re out!”  Which, of course, is ridiculous, but who doesn’t believe that view is out there?

What’s really the case is that each organization will have it’s own way of doing things, and that individuals will need to be brought up to speed, then provided resources to support performing, and expected to contribute. And, as I am coming to believe, as things get more complex, we’ll need more from people in terms of adaptation.

Or, as Kevin Wheeler put it:

Today success is in the hands of creative people who have energy and excitement over reaching a business objective. These people are hard to find and hard to keep as their energy and entrepreneurial spirit are not always suited to a controlled environment.  They need space, time, and freedom to experiment. They thrive in a networked world where they can exchange ideas, swap experiments, and engage in conversation.

That, to me, is learning.  To look at it another way, I lump innovation, problem-solving, creativity, design, and more all as activities of learning.  Herb Simon said “to design is human”, and I believe that design is about learning.  But maybe it’s about thinking?  Doing?

So, to me, it’s a shame that a ‘learning’ label would be a barrier to being perceived as relevant to business, but that seems to be the case.  My question is, do we rebrand, or do we reengineer learning’s status in the organization.  I don’t have an answer, do you?


  1. […] Quinn added some great thoughts today about “learning as a label.”  He raises some interesting questions about the […]

    Pingback by Working / Learning April Blog Carnival « Social Enterprise Blog — 30 April 2009 @ 2:02 PM

  2. My opinion of “learning” being a label is that I believe learning is a process for all ages no matter where it takes place. Now, businesses may have given learning a negative view by their assumptions of what that process is.

    Does “learning” need to be rebranded? Maybe. Even if you rebrand I believe that the business (some but not all training departments within businesses) mentality will be to “give/train” employees what they need to do the job instead of using some of the exploring techniques facilitators use for allowing employees to be involved in the “learning” process. There is so much change today with the equipment and software that companies can use for educating their employees that I believe some of them just don’t care much about what the next “new gadget.” Yet, there are many businesses who are fully engaged in what is coming next.

    I do believe that learning does need to be reengineered. Many businesses are not using the tools available to them in order to engage employees in the learning process. Maybe their thought is that employees need to be given information in order to learn and that they cannot learn unless a “professional trainer” helps them. Granted, there is some information that does need to be given to employees – but not all of it. Their view may be that “this is how it has always been done.” Change is difficult for everyone. Another thought behind this is that they may not believe they have the proper equipment to do the job. I think if they look hard enough, they can find platforms they can use.
    Then there are the companies who use nothing but online learning instead of a blended learning mix. If there is no practical exploration and follow-up for what employees do learn, then are they really understanding and applying what they learn? Or are they just turning pages.

    In summary – if branding or reengineering of learning is take place, how do we get followers if businesses are not willing to change their point of view of the learning process? I believe that businesses need to participate in some learning of their own in order to keep up with the method of learning that is best for their employees, especially during this economic time of “getting it done faster, cheaper, and better.”

    Comment by Cheryl Conner — 30 April 2009 @ 9:13 PM

  3. We tend to define learning as a service implying that we have the power to capture, store, hold, and transport knowledge from the knowledge batteries to the learner’s motor.

    To me, this is a pretty twisted view. The transport metaphor is a big part of our problem – it feeds the belief that it’s not difficult to codify and distill the components of learning, box it up, ship it out, and it’ll be received as intended. Everything can be boxed like this, many would have us believe.

    Learning is a process, a journey, and something that can only be encouraged by well engineered packaging. Learning is done by the learner:) A far cry from the ‘lightning in a bottle’ view of learning packages in the commonly perceived state.

    Surely — learning needs to be viewed in a different light than is typical. Concepts and information (we can facilitate the supply of these elements – but these are acquired by many methods) feed the roots of performance (skills and values). Skills and values provide the foundation for task execution… Branching to the fruit of accomplishment.

    Learning is growth.

    Comment by sflowers — 1 May 2009 @ 11:53 AM

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