The blog is a reflective space: an evolving picture of my learning and understanding, which is why i’m revisiting the ‘redundant pyramid‘ of learning hierarchies that i recently unearthed.
The premise of the redundant pyramid is that learning is changing: we used to sit at the top and pour knowledge down the sides: from teacher to learner. Today, learning is surrounded by social learning layers: the skill is less to capture knowledge, more to develop capability, to acquire skills and to remain an agile learner, able to put things down as fast as you pick them up.
Hence this post: i had huge engagement around the first piece, a lot of discussion and feedback, so i want to develop my thinking further. In particular, to pick up on the ways that communication has changed and the impact for learning.
Under the old hierarchy, structure implied a relationship to expertise: the more you knew, the higher up you sat, the greater your power to make decisions and the more embedded you were in the foundations of the organisation. This was the accretive model of authority: remain in place long enough and the pyramid would be built around you. That was all well and good until communication freed up everyone else to transmit ideas at will: all of a sudden everyone had a voice that was loud, to challenge or support.
Instead of committees and working parties, we have spontaneously emergent communities of practice, social learning spaces evolving around individual challenges and shared problems. Knowledge and experience flows into these spaces from a wide range of people, even people from outside the organisation, and meaning is created within. People no longer work in isolation: they can take challenges out to the group, play with them, resolve to take actions and report back to fine tune things. We are enhanced, upgraded, by our social learning communities and personal learning networks, all outside of the formal structures of the organisation.
The response we have to take to this is not to throw up walls, to try to restrict the conversation, but rather to lift up our sledgehammers and lay about the masonry. Instead of holding back, this is the time to concentrate of building these communities, on nurturing these spaces. Sure, not all of them will thrive, but we have to understand which ones will and start learning what makes them work.
The old hierarchies are crumbling, undermined by rampant communication and a breadth of social learning spaces, but new networks are emerging, new maps of authority and agile power. These do not correlate directly against formal structures: they are agile and responsive, but can still be understood. If we understand more about how these communities form, about what bonds them, about issues of trust and authority, integrity and growth, we can nurture them as well as learning from them.