Monday, June 30, 2014

Thinking openly

Image: osmar01, via
It's finally time to sit back and reflect on the Learning & Skills Group Conference, and I can't think of a better place to start than with David Price's keynote session. This session is particularly important for me since I am involved in both workplace learning and the education system, both of which are experiencing a massive change in the face of technology and the accompanying shift in peoples' attitudes and behaviours. David's book ties in well with a growing number of themes that I have been exploring lately.

For the workplace, we are experiencing a shift in the normal hierarchies, with smarter companies realising that learning has to flow up as well as down. Employees simply have to be trusted to think and adapt in a rapidly changing landscape, one where job security and trust are becoming scarce commodities. Even our relentless drive to get everyone a degree cannot guarantee success, as this actually seems to drive the cost of skilled labour down through the Dutch auction effect. The only skills that seem to have real value are those which are self-taught, and the value of knowledge has changed from economic to social.

The six imperatives of social learning:

  1. Do it yourself - we can share information amongst ourselves faster than our institutions can
  2. Do it now - immediacy
  3. Do it with friends - to share and reinforce learning
  4. Do it for fun - playfulness can be used to surprising effect
  5. Do unto others - generosity
  6. Do it for the world to see - high visibility

There's a lot in common here with the theme of personal learning networks, coupled with a growing understanding of how these diffuse interactions can slowly but permanently change society. In the emerging future, education has to move from pedagogy towards heutagogy, with an emphasis on learning how to learn - content may indeed remain king, but it will be created increasingly by the learners themselves.

With a greater sense-making network around them, people feel more able to take on the 'fail fast and iterate' approach of Google. Companies that operate this way have more in common with the 'machine shop' culture, where learning is social and horizontal, and learners are free to roam and combine their ideas with a 'freedom to fail'.

'Thinking that the role of leadership is to act and make short-term decisions misses out on how well fully functioning human networks can deal with most problems without intervention from above. When managers and executives get involved, they often make things worse for those doing the day-to-day work. This is even more pronounced when those doing the work are connected to their peers in social networks and communities of practice that have established and trusted knowledge-sharing practices.'

Harold Jarche, Good leaders connect