Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How to Resolve Broken Things

So Brent Schlenker posted twice at his blog Corporate eLearning Development about this video of a presentation by Seth Godin at the Gel 2006 conference. Seth discusses--with rather humorous examples--how, as a society, we accidentally and/or on purpose produce "broken things," things that are not user friendly or are just down right confusing.

Seth's basic premise is that there are a number of reasons we let broken things get into the public hands which he sums up with seven general reasons (which he freely admits he came up with off the top of his head) which are:
  1. Not my job
  2. Selfish jerks
  3. The world changed
  4. I don't know
  5. I'm not a fish
  6. Contradictions
  7. Broken on purpose
It's unfortunate, but I see these broken things appearing in the training world. Going forward I will look at each one of these in detail, and I think the number one reason it is broken is Seth's third point: The World Changed.

There has been a great deal of discussion over the value of formal learning and informal learning. In the weekly podcast of the Yi-Tan Community Call titled Informal Learners Everywhere, Jay Cross defined formal learning as a bus ride that has a structured course while informal learning is like riding a bicycle where you control the course you take. (Forgive the puns.)

As stated in the Yi-Tan podcast. The training world is functioning in the framework of the 20th century industrial age, when everything was mass produced and as Henry Ford stated with his Model T, "You can have it in any color, as long as it's black." So management now views training as an "event" in which you herd people onto the bus (a classroom or seat in front of a computer monitor) and you take them on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. When they exit the ride they are trained. It's magic!

But as Jay Cross points out, the corporate style of mass training is unusual to humans. We have crawled up from the primordial ooze learning the hard way--by trial and error. As knowledge was accumulated within the community it was passed on from elders to the young, an early form of classroom training. But it was knowledge needed to survive and it was passed on when the youth of the community needed it to contribute to the success of the community. And that is the key being able to practice immediately what was learned and if they made a mistake or got confused then they could turn to their elders, who often were working beside them, for assistance.

In today's training environment, we are teaching soft skills, hard skills, procedural issues, all types of skills. Some of the training events are engaging while others are downright boring. The unifying factor is that often the learner is sent back to his or her job site and has no opportunity to practice what they heard in the classroom. Of course that is often out of the trainer's hands, all he or she can do is to encourage them to practice. So they don't get to practice a particular skill immediately. When the time comes to use that skill their only hope is to ask their manager or track down an expert with tribal knowledge to share.

That is where the Web 2.0 world comes into play. In his article: A Web 2.0 Tour for the Enterprise, Shiv Singh paints a picture of how Web 2.0 tools can take, what has in the past been a local tribal knowledge repository and expand it to an entire multinational company.
What Web 2.0 values should be corporate values? The more collaborative the employees of a company are, the more successful the company becomes over time. Employees that collaborate efficiently by leveraging each other’s intellect and resources create stronger and more successful products.
This is training and learning in its mot basic form. Its the creation of virtual trade unions where masters and apprentices can meet and talk and learn from one another.


Brent Schlenker said...

Thanks for connecting us up, Dennis. I have tons of thoughts around the Godin video and now your post has generated more however, my time for posting them is slim.
Quickly though...in my current role we use number one quite often. We know users don't actually learn anything, but that's "not our job". Our job is to give the customer what THEY want, not what we know works. After all, without the internal customers we have no jobs. But, we end up there anyways in the next few years if we don't start figuring out how to leverage everything2.0.

dmcoxe said...

I couldn't agree more. I tried floating the idea of exploring (and selling) the concept of learning via web 2.0 tools to my boss and his response was to talk about a partnership with a content management vendor.

When I pointed out that content management was still a one-way street with learners being passive receivers of information and not active participants he didn't seem to understand my point. That does not mean I will give up trying to make my point. Rome wasn't built in a day, and I still don't know everything I need to know about Web 2.0. But I'm not going to give up. I will master these concepts and learn to state them more clearly. And if I can't convince the company I currently work with of what the future holds, then I will succeed with some other company.