We must learn to live with new concepts like personal learning environments, “gamification”, socialization of learning… although for many these terms are strange and unknown.
However from all these new ways of learning, I suggest you reflect on the role of Communities, new organizational structures that are not mostly created with educational purposes, but that are the major source of learning in our professional future.
Social learning, in communities
In the company, learning in classrooms, memoristic, conceptual, separated from the reality, cognitive, disciplined learning… is disappearing. However, the classroom continues as the basis of business training. We must make the effort to forget this way of undersating education in companies, as the future has little to do with this reality.
The new ways of learning will be often informal, outside the classroom, without programs, “serendipity”, ubiquitous (in any time and space), cooperative (social, in groups via conversations), participative or inclusive, where we are not just recipients, but also creators of content and ideas (prosumidors).
Learning will be integrated in our company’s behavior and values as an on-going and collective phenomenon that will affect all us professionals constantly. For this reason, from the company we must ask and help our professionals to create their own personal social learning environments, which in some cases will be closely connected with the company, but on other occasions will be connected with external professionals or systems and educational institutions. The professionals that survive in the future will be socialnetworkers, experts in developing themselves in networks.
Of all these new phenomena, the most revolutionary way of learning is that you learn with others in collaborative work environments: communities. Usually in technological environments where you connect, share, analyze, question, apply, share, analyze…
The communities designed for learning are the so-called communities of practice. They are the most well-known: groups created with the purpose of developing a specialized knowledge, sharing learning based on the reflection on practical experiences. This type of community will be created in all companies and in all business environments (commercial, production, management, etc.)
Many workers will be present in external communities of practice. Faced with the complexity and specificity of the knowledge of many of their workers, they will be trained with external resources, resulting in socially intelligent workers. And this will be done with external academic institutions and platforms, many on the Internet or in external informal groups. Many employees will create their own social learning space on which their professional success will depend.
However, intelligent organizations will create, above all, another type of community. Communities that are not just used to share internal knowledge, but to resolve business problems, with the knowledge of employees being used to do this. Intelligent organizations will ensure their employees are connected in the network with other professionals, especially within the company.
More efficient social environments for learning are not environments created to learn
The most relevent learning theory for the digital era is connectivism, which according to George Siemens establishes that learning starts from the diversity that emerges from connecting people (nodes) and the quality of their connections, where decision-making is itself a learning process.
The new ways of learning give increasing importance to action and real or simulated decision-making within the network learning process. The communities designed to improve processes, to reduce costs, to increase sales, to analyze new products, will be the communities where the professionals learn the most.
The learning that will extend in the future will not separate learning and work, it will not separate theoretical learning and real decision-making, it will not separate between communities to learn and those used for decision-making. Communities where the most will be learned, those that will be most used in the future are the communities whose goals are associated with business: communities for improvement, innovation, creation, systemized…
The goal of these communities is not to develop applied knowledge; the goal is change, the transformation or achievement of goals. They will be created to innovate, although they will be the greatest source of learning for new workers in the digital era.
These communities will have many characteristics of the communities of practice, but proactivity and distributed leadership and the creation process of ideas to implementation (the so-called idea trip) will be the new bases of success. These communities will be the most mutable and flexible organizational structures, in which there will be roles and decision-making that require the management of complex knowledge thanks to the participation of diverse specialists.
No, we won’t separate work from learning again. And this will make us think that perhaps there are memories from our childhood that we should not bury in the past forever and that we should remember school and how we learnt there… in the school yard. We will learn like we learnt when we were kids, experimenting, sharing and creating collaboratively, making mistakes and correcting ourselves, to achieve goals.
Virginio Gallardo is Director of Humannova, a HR consultancy specialized in helping lead innovation in companies and manage the organizational transformation. He is author of the book “Liderazgo transformacional” and coordinator of “Liderazgo e Innovación 2.0”. This post was originally published on “Supervivencia Directiva“, where you can follow his thoughts.