Sunday, February 8, 2015

Droughts and Storms: Learning should be like rain - gentle and regular

After too many years in the chill winters of Chicago I've now been in the Bay Area for coming up for 3 years.

California has been in a drought for a few years and desperately needs rain. My new home is in Napa, and the agricultural nature of this area means that it is particularly concerned about the lack of rain. So the rain that is soaking Northern California this weekend is welcomed by all, me included, even if it's keeping me off my bike.

But the type of rain we are getting is not ideal. A few days of heavy downpours quickly saturates dry ground, and runs into creeks and rivers that can't always take that much flow. All too quickly it runs off into the Bay or the ocean.

And sitting here trapped by the rain, I can't help but think how similar this pattern is to so much in the way of workplace learning.

A workforce parched of the skills and nourishment that they need to flourish and grow, And then all of a sudden there comes a deluge. It rarely comes with adequate time to prepare, When it comes it's in concentrated form. New facts and information pouring in, without time to get absorbed before the next set comes rushing in to follow. The minds of the learners fill up quickly and but the facts are still coming. Instead of giving them time to absorb and reflect on what they have just heard we move on to the next chapter. Instead of making time for people to integrate their new learning along with their existing body of knowledge we keep pouring. And worst of all instead of giving time to practice using their new skills we look for ways to bring it to their work, we add to the flow of facts until it runs past being useful and is instead wasted.

If we want to link learning to better performance, and if we don't then we are in the wrong game, then we need to change the way we do it.

We need learning in small, absorbable showers.

We need to allow our learners time to let their new knowledge sink in deep.

We need to think about ways to make the learning available when and where it's needed.

It is our job as learning professionals to guide and direct our learners and to give them what they need to grow.

Happy Learning.


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