I’m reflecting on the disruption of design, which, you’ll note, is a two pronged statement. On the one hand, traditional methodologies of learning design are being disrupted by the realities of the Social Age: the rise of ‘sense making‘ communities, our evolved relationship with knowledge, the emergence of social authority, all of which require a different approach to learning. Then, secondly, the way good design disrupts our routine, breaks habits and enables us to form new ones through constant feedback, guidance and support.
Everything has changed: if we continue to deploy traditional courses, we will get a lower return, because the expectations and capability of the audience has changed, as well as the ecosystem in which those solutions are deployed.
Many of the fundamental business models that our organisations are founded upon are shifting and only agility will keep us afloat: agility in mindset and behaviours, with skills to match. None of this will be delivered if we continue to view learning in the old mindset of something we do to a reluctant population.
The ways we conceptualise, design and deliver it need to change.
I’ve been working on the design of a Global Leadership Challenge programme, using a scaffolded social learning approach: a blend of workshops, eLearning and community based co-creative spaces. The narrative will be shaped by the organisation, but the detailed story will emerge from the community. We are even using a storyteller to support the process throughout.
This approach ties into my recent writing about the choreography of learning: excellence by design, not accident. It’s about how we create and use disturbance in learning and, more than anything, how willing we are to adapt our working practices to suit the Social Age.
My observation is that much organisational learning design starts with constraints: the need for a workshop, the need for an assessment, the need for eight people to be involved in writing it. Very little starts with the core story and a question about engagement and effectiveness. How can we write a compelling story, timely and relevant, and how can we generate engagement. One, of course, leads to the other.
Much organisational learning is, by design, redundant: more a question of what the organisation wants to say to feel good about itself than what we as learners need to be more effective. It’s driven from an ‘us‘ and ‘them‘ mindset, where we are the ones with the knowledge and understanding and ‘they‘ are the idiots we are trying to teach.
Great design is about ‘choreography‘, about the total quality of the experience, it’s about the experience itself being grounded in the real world and not abstract of that reality, it’s about a methodology that is consistent and rigorous, and it’s about stories that are authentic and engaging, magnetic.
The fundamental shift in learning for the Social Age is, in fact, a shift away from it being learning at all. It’s instead the provision of a scaffolded narrative, a set of facilitating technologies and resources, a trust in the sense making functions of community and a permission to experiment and learn.
Scaffolded Social Learning approaches are open ended, grounded firmly in the real world. So our role is less about owning the story, more about co-creating it, through the provision of spaces and permissions, providing resources and support.
Many organisations are starting to realise this, but only conceptually. The step to implementation is challenging, because it inherently involves relinquishing control, stepping back from ownership. Most that i see fail at the first step: bought down by a sense of the need to comply with traditional structures. Despite little evidence that those approaches are effective.
It comes down to how we measure the effectiveness of learning: is it in the quality of experience in the session, or in terms of impact in the workplace, out in the real world.