The Breadth of Good in Learning

‘Good’, or a desired outcome, may be a broader position than we initially think, and it’s one that should be carefully considered in the design of any learning experience.

‘Good’ may be related to our own predefined or determined idea of an answer: so if a learner matches what we believe, then that is good.

‘Good’ may be related to how relevant, or actionable, a learner derived answer is: so if they are able to put something into practice, then that itself may be good.

‘Good’ may relate to the invalidation of our own predetermined answer: so asking the question may challenge the questioner. This is generally either surprising, or undesirable, but why?

I guess if we view learning as something ‘done’ to people, then we uphold the right to be right ourselves. But if learning is something done ‘with’ people, then it’s ok if we ourselves are wrong.

Most Organisational learning is based upon a premise that we desire change: change in what you know, change in how you think, change in how you act. But the specific direction of that change, and it’s desirability, are open.

When Organisations describe change they often mistake ‘change that we like’ for ‘change’ itself. Anything that is not the current state is change. Failure is change.

So a broader question is, are you seeking conformity, to a predetermined way of thinking, knowing, or acting, or are you ok with a diversity of views, so long as they fit within a broadly scaffolded set of the acceptable?

This comes to the fore with Social and Collaborative models of learning, whereby the act of dialogue itself is part of the sense making by which the answer is created (note – not ‘found’, because in Social Learning the context of answer is held both by the individual and local community).

Or to put it more simply: formal learning is tidy, Social Learning is not. And the reason it’s untidy is because it inherently includes individual context which is, itself, both unique and untidy!

There is a broader context for this, relating both to Organisational culture, and performance. A narrowly held view of learning, held in conformity, is good for the ‘known’ space, and to scale in known ways. A more broadly differentiated view of learning is good in an evolutionary context, for innovation and creative change – but is harder to measure or even see the trends.

A mistake that Organisations often therefore end up with is that they seek creative and diverse learning, but they under resource it, and are unqualified to produce it, and lack the political space to develop this capability. So everyone is complicit in failure, but at least what is produced is easily measurable at the discrete level of ‘project’, and hence nobody perceives individual failure.

The world is increasingly unforgiving of the mundane: mundane performance and mundane culture. Learning is really an easy way to unlock an Organisation from stasis: if we move beyond the simple (and naive) attempts to fix this with technology alone – and instead develop broad frameworks of culture, leadership, and capability, then investment does not need to be high (although perversely disruption to the present may be significant).

A learning Organisation is one that is able to learn, not simply to operate through doctrine and dogma alone.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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