Yesterday I was at my local library and as I passed the children’s section I noticed three different learning activities. Sitting on a small bean-bag type chair a small girl was reading quietly to herself. A little further away, a mother was reading a book with her son. They would stop every so often and talk about what the story was saying – for example, ‘Mummy, that car is the same colour as ours.’, to which the mother would respond with phrases such as ‘Yes it is, and look, this one is the same colour as Grandpa’s.’ The third learning activity was a boy playing alone with a wooden jigsaw puzzle, putting the pieces together as best he could, sometimes getting the right piece in the right place, other times not.
I thought about how we as adults also engage in these types of learning activities and how those of us who like to guide organisational learning can use and integrate these different methods.
Many of our employees like to engage in independent research and learning, how do we facilitate this, how do we ensure our people have access to great information and thought leading ideas? Importantly, how does our organisational culture support independent learning and research? Is it OK for people to be at work reading and learning independently? Is that considered legitimate work?
Our employees also like to learn in social spaces, both physical and virtual. Does our workplace support social learning interaction? Can people have accidental but purposeful conversations in our workplaces? Do our employees also have access to social media forums and virtual spaces within which to explore and interact with others?
And thirdly, can our people experience success and failure and work things through until the pieces fit or do we expect everything to be right first time? How do we use experience as a learning strategy?
Although my observation at the library was three different children engaged in three different activities at a snapshot in time, it is not difficult to imagine one child engaged in all three activities over time just as our employees can engage in all three learning strategies (and many more) over time (or even concurrently).
So how can an organisational learning professional help to guide workplace learning such as those strategies described?
- Work with IT departments to ensure people have easy, open access to good sources of information.
- Get involved in office design to ensure office layouts are conducive to social learning.
- Encourage the use of social media for learning.
- Help to build a culture of true experiential on-the –job learning where both success and failure are genuine learning opportunities.
There’s a lot to be gained by observing the way people learn naturally.