Our relationship with knowledge has, over time, significantly shifted, and remains in flow. Some broad trends are clear: a move from a centralised state, to distributed access, from control to democratisation, from formal authority, to distributed validation, alongside a levelling of the power dynamic, whereby wealth and power gave greater access, but now access is more a matter of capability. Knowing ‘how’ to find things is important, knowledge often garnered through our community, as much as through technology.
These changes, alongside some of the broader themes of the Social Age, such as our radical connectivity, and emergence of the reputation economy at scale, pose a significant challenge to the legacy structures of learning that proliferate society, and our Organisations themselves.
Historically these have been structures for the aggregation, creation, validation, and control, of learning, but all four of those features are becoming less relevant, or entirely redundant.
When writing about the New York Dereliction Walk, i described architecture as a shadow of social organisation: power is manifest in buildings, and those building persist, often beyond the life of that form of power itself. It’s the same with our entities of learning: schools, universities, corporate functions, libraries, training rooms, all reflections of a bygone era.
We will still need both architecture, and function, but both will evolve.
More modern approaches to learning will tend to be socially collaborative, distributed, co-creative, extended over time for spaced practice, supported by community, and presented as experience more than fait accompli. Learning is, in many contexts, a journey.
From an Organisational perspective, we will need to consider how we structure, support, and recognise learning. But perhaps to a lesser extent will we need to own it, or seek to control it. In the absence of the notion of ‘career’, learning can no longer be handed out as morsels of reward for advancement within one system: instead, we will advance through many different ones, some of which will sit beyond Organisational structure.
Broad systems of accreditation, transferable qualification, alongside persistent community bonds, will be typical.
There is one slide i always tend to use with learning teams, when exploring this future. It starts with one questions: ‘what can you leave behind’?
It’s easy to focus on the latest trend, the newest endeavour. But we do not just need to accrue, we need to release. We need to cut some things away. Perhaps as we look to the future, our starting point should be to recognise, and then release, the past.