Learning 2020 – Glossary [Pt 3]

Over the last couple of weeks i have shared the first two parts of a Glossary of central ideas around Learning Transformation. These run alongside the recent Learning Transformation Maps that i have been drawing. The Glossary covers one paragraph on each idea. This work is not a definitive picture, but represents a sketch of key ideas to understand, notions that will act as foundations for change.

Curiosity is an idea that is gaining traction, or at least is making a lot of noise, in the learning space: possibly aligned to engagement, or a magical hope that we will discover treasure troves of hidden meaning, or possibly a recognition that much of what drives learning is intrinsic to learners, rather than imposed upon them. My own interest in ‘Curiosity’ in relation to learning lies in the notion that learning itself is a process of breaking your own understanding, and remaking it from some of the fragments, alongside some new ideas. Curiosity may be the thing that drives the initial fragmentation. When asked to describe ‘curiosity’, i typically describe it as the landscape just over the horizon: it’s not entirely abstract, but it is out of our current sight. So connected to what we know (either as a kick off point, or a root), but different. From an Organisational perspective, we must recognise the dominant effect that culture has on curiosity e.g. not so much how do we unlock curiosity, so much as ‘how do we stop killing it?’. Our Organisational imperatives for consistency, conformity, replicability, and scale, can lead us to drown out the spaces for curiosity to thrive within. Curiosity is likely to be a central behaviour of a dynamic team, but it may just not be something under our remit or control.

Competence is described as an ability to do something effectively, and in Organisational terms as a codified strength to do so e.g in terms of ‘Competence Frameworks’ that we believe will be trainable and give us desired strength at scale. This may indeed be true, but probably only for a limited subset of skills and behaviours. There may be a gap between structure and execution, or between process and art. Competence is most likely something that we may be able to usefully understand through a reductionist approach (how is someone good at something), but is also something that will only form one part of a picture of performance. Key trends that we may wish to consider include: the shift to collective competence, the validation of competence (against known and desired outcomes, or for the potential to generate new and potentially useful ones), our permeability to competence (e.g. do we feel the need to ‘own’ it all), and the routes to competence (e.g. how we structure experiences to learn, rehearse, prototype etc). Understanding competence, in the context of Organisational need, is complex, and a simply codified picture is likely to fall some way short of the truth that we need.

Metrics will form a strong part of an evolved approach to Learning, and in general it’s sensible to look at this in two dimensions: micro and macro scale. At the micro scale, we need strong capability to design both qualitative and quantitative measures deep into learning design, and especially in the evolution of more social, collaborative, and continuous models of learning. The ability to triangulate between self expressed, observed, and peer reviewed measures will be important, as well as a solid understanding of the limitations of measurement e.g. you can measure anything, but what you measure may not have any value if you cannot validate or utilise it. This is probably an emergent role in Organisations: to have an ability to design measurement schemas that tie into broader work on data and analytics, and ultimately predictive ability, or holistic planning.

Skills is also an evolving field: predominantly i am interested in how/or whether, we are seeing a dispersal towards a more collective model of capability e.g. it is less about your individual skills and knowledge, but more about our connection to others, and conditions in which we can share/transfer/learn those skills. A more Dynamic view of Organisational capability would mitigate in favour of an evolved model of skills acquisition: not simply a ‘just in time’ framework, but rather either a cumulative one (understanding how certain skills are nested, or foundational) and also aggregated (how my skill enables yours – which may provide us with the analogy that leadership is more about assembling the workshop environment, than it is about controlling resources within it). When considering skills we are also on the threshold of cheap and optimised technology that will directly impact acquisition and, perhaps more importantly, maintenance of perishable skills: simulation is becoming more available as hardware, software, and design capability permeate out of specialist military, medical and manufacturing contexts into broader areas of application. With the caveat that to truly simulate skill building spaces we must move beyond linear and fixed models of development. It’s clearly an area where Organisations may potentially spend significant time and effort for little return, either if they rely overly on technology, or overly on fixed views of manifestation and development.

Community can be said to be at the heart of an Organisation that carries with it a Dynamic strength: strength held in the arms of our Community. Or Communities, in fact, as we inhabit many different ones, that range from formal, to fully social, visible to hidden. Often we seek to deploy a Community to do a thing, thinking of it as a productive entity, but a true learning Organisation will recognise that the word ‘Community’ describes the mechanism of social cohesion and potential, and if we wish for a Community to do a thing, we must learn to trade with it, using the right currencies, in the right marketplaces. For focus, Organisations should look at their approaches to technology, and the leadership skills to inhabit a range of Communities, as well as considering how they will connect between Communities, and how they will earn the right to hear the stories of learning that they build. A focus on Communities is a solid space to start considering transformation.

Meaning is what it’s all about: when push comes to shove, capability does not come from either knowledge or skills alone, but rather through the creation of meaning: the conceptual framework of understanding that we hold in our heads. This includes our belief systems that surround the formal Organisational structure, and our understanding of both our own, and others, potential and capability. Meaning is not given to us, but is rather constructed at both an individual and collective level. To transform, we create new meaning. To understand this will shape our approach to learning: the technologies, the communities, the methodology, the assessment, and the design.

About julianstodd

Author and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the Social Age. I’ve written ten books, and over 2,000 articles, and still learning...
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