This last couple of weeks, i’ve been thinking around the idea that knowing things is no longer enough. Instead, we have to know how to use that knowledge, to bring it to bear in different situations, to synthesise multiple channels into one coherent story and enact change based on our analysis. It used to be the case that we could derive authority and power from what we knew, but now, it’s more about what we can do with all the things that we know. Simply knowing things is no longer enough.
“One challenge for organisations is getting people to realise that what they already know has increasingly diminishing value. How to learn and solve problems together is becoming the real business advantage” says Harold Jarche, and he’s absolutely right: our ability to adapt to changing technologies and changing requirements in a networked and social world is key. We have to change the way we view ‘knowledge‘, change the ways we access it and change how we think about it.
I’ve been carrying out some research on the Learning Forum into how strongly people agree with this assertion, and how they feel this themselves, and the results have been interesting. For a start, 100% of people agreed that the world has changed: that it’s our ability to use multiple sources of knowledge, at speed, that is now the measure of success.
I’m particularly interested in how mobile learning and technology is changing how we access knowledge, instantly, in response to immediate requirements. We check train times, our email or Facebook throughout the day, responding to impulse and need. We use google to enhance the quality of our conversations by adding in facts like seasoning as we require them. Talking about the Titanic? We can google it and add in facts and figures at will, whilst we are having the conversation. You no longer need to carry this stuff in your head!
“Mobile technology is a means of gaining knowledge quickly“, says Susanna Westerfield, on the Forum, but there is a caveat. “Putting the new ‘knowledge’ (skill) into action takes time (and multiple experiences).”
This, i think, is a key factor in the change. The knowledge itself now comes easily, but synthesising that knowledge into developed skills and changed abilities takes time and practice. This has impacts for how we develop and structure learning: how much of our efforts should be around divulging knowledge and how much should be about facilitating the practice? Where should our focus lie?
We need to consider how we coach and support individuals as they go through this process of practicing and rehearsing skills, but we also need to consider whether new skills are needed too. Is the process of using mobile to find knowledge a skill in it’s own right? It’s all very well assuming that people can find knowledge themselves, but we can’t assume that everyone can do this in equal measure, with equal ability.
“With increasing amounts of information becoming available, it’s valuable to know how to stay strategically informed and access the information you need quickly” says Jillian Convey, and how true this is. “Understanding how to convert that knowledge to action relies on instantly being able to connect a lot of different dots.” Being able to discern the relative quality of each of the available sources of knowledge and being able to ‘join the dots‘ is a valuable skill: being able to do it at speed is harder. There are simply so many competing channels of media, so much information, that it’s not hard to find a huge range of information. It’s very hard to whittle it down though. It’s like the huge stack of books sat on my shelf waiting to be read. Where do i even start?
Aubrae Lutz gives us an insight when she says “the baseline has changed. The fact that one can acquire and gain a lot of knowledge is the new baseline. What one can do with that knowledge is the differentiator“. This is spot on, our ability to manipulate that knowledge, to apply it, is far more valuable than simply having knowledge ‘in the abstract‘. As i said earlier, simply knowing things is no longer enough: it’s what you do with that knowledge that counts.
Says Jim Blythe, “as trainers, we have to go against ingrained ideas… in the business world, there are a lot of organisations who are driven by gaining knowledge to a point where they are frozen into inertia. Training should drive the application of theory, challenge the status quo and expand the way learners think”
So we need to consider what we do with knowledge: are we training it to the point of inertia, as Jim worries about, or are we providing the right tools and methods to allow people to react to these multiple sources at speed, the main concern that Jillian holds? Probably neither is the answer at the moment: i think that this is largely a hidden issue. It’s the right time to be considering it, as the world changes around us, we need to adapt, to change our methodology for learning and the ways in which we view knowledge and what we expect people to do with it.
We already live in the new world. Our ability to change and adapt is up to us.
You can read more of the comments around this subject in the Learning Forum here: http://lnkd.in/DjhAV8