We do not learn in isolation: we inhabit a rich ecosystem of media, all competing for our attention. TV adverts, posters on the sides of buses, radio, new music, films, the xBox, books, emails from friends, Facebook and Twitter, there is virtually no end to the ways we can distract ourselves if we put our minds to it, or, indeed, allow our minds to wander away from it. Learning can fall pretty low down the agenda, especially the typical organisational offerings. Why? Because they’re cold, low energy media, competing in a maelstrom of light.
Look at the ecosystem and think which parts fall to the formal or informal. Offices, intranets, official comms, work emails, they’re all typically formal, couched in regulated language, slightly unfriendly, under the watchful eye of the boss. The social spaces are either unregulated or community owned, or are curated to be attractive, to fit in with what we want. Think about the cinema: they build those things to make us want to sit in them! Comfy chairs, drinks holders, extra legroom, surround sound, it’s all a long way from sitting at my desk with headphones plugged in and watching some compliance training.
So do we have to take learning to the cinema?
Nope, but we do have to take great stories to the learning. You don’t have to spend money to drive engagement, but you do have to adopt social and sociable languages and stories. We need to lose some of the formal and engage with people in places and languages that they like. We have to think about whether our actions are to do with command and control, or whether they’re in support of storytelling and engagement.
So lose the tie, lose the acres of wordy introductions, write adverts and get colleagues to present it. The voice that stands alongside you is more powerful than the one shouting down at you. The hierarchies of learning are changing.
As the ecosystem of learning expands, we are lucky that organisations are more willing to adopt social approaches and mobile methods that let us exploit it. So now it comes down to learning design. Where do you want to be? In the long grass of the formal spaces, or out in the social sunshine?