Learning Threads Explained
Two Broad Learning Activities in a Healthy Community
Learning new things and teaching what you know are the two fundamental learning activities of a thriving community.
Unfortunately, these two learning activities are completely different and must be separated in the way the community conducts them.
Learning new things requires experimentation, research, exploration. Learning new things does not progress in a linear way. Learning new things is often messy. We don’t know the answer before we start when we learn new things.
On the other hand, Learning new skills is completely different. It is a linear process. We know the answer before we start.
A “Learning” Community is different than a “Non-Learning” Community
A Learning Community believes in its soul that things are always changing and that to thrive it needs continual learning to keep up with the changes. A Non-Learning Community believes that it knows everything that needs to be known and there is no reason to learn anything new. (Expect perhaps to learn how to fight those they don’t like. They learn the things they need to defeat their enemies. No more.)
A Learning Community respects change and respects that any and all individual members of the community could help the community improve. A Non-Learning Community fears change and does not allow individual members to affect change within the community.
A Learning Community is interested in doing research to find better ways to do the things the community needs to thrive. A Learning Community is interested in teaching the skills needed to thrive to those that want to learn them. A Non-Learning Community prevents research to find new ways to do what it does because that research might challenge the status quo.
There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order. This lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the law in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it. Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince and The Discourses, 1513, Chapter 6.i
Yet, despite the difficulties that change often brings, continually improving the things a community does is critical for a community to thrive.
Whatever the community is about, continually learning how to do it better and then continually doing it better is what sets that community apart from its competitors. If the community is a fishing community then to thrive it must continually learn how to fish better and continually teach the community how to fish better. If the community is a farming community then to thrive it must learn how to farm better and continually teach the community how to farm better. If the community is manufacturing community then to thrive it must learn how to manufacture better and teach the community how to manufacture better.
Recognize here that I use the term community very broadly. A community is any group of individuals that self identify as a group. A business is a community. A market is a community. A family is a community. A religion is a community. A city, state, or country is a community. So Walmart is a community. GM is a community. Los Angeles is a community, Germany is a community. Your church is a community.
Let’s say you are a Java Programmer. You then belong to the Java Programming Community. If you are a welder, you belong to the Welder Community. Both the Java Programming Community and Welder Community should be interested in finding new ways to do Java programing and new ways to weld. And they should be interested in teaching new Java Programmers and new welders how to program and how to weld.
Let me, if you will, provide another example. My wife and I are a community. Granted a community of only two. But a community none-the-less. And our little community has gone though a lot of changes. Newly wed, children, no children, different jobs, different homes, retirement, sickness, and aging. In order for our little community to thrive we have to continually research new ways for us to get along every day. And we need to teach each other how to do the things we need to do to thrive as a little community.
Linking Learning Communities Together
What could make an individual learning community even better is being able to share stuff they learn with other learning communities. A fishing community that learns a new way to manufacture boats could share that knowledge with boat making learning communities. And a boat making learning community that learns new ways to weld with a welding learning community.
Unlike the old days where it might have been possible for a community to know everything there was to know about their community, in the 21st Century there is just too much information to know everything. The foundational thinking that allows a learning community to respect change and respect the abilities on its individual community members also allows that learning community to respect that other communities learning.
Two Basic Learning Treads
The curriculum encompassing learning new stuff is the “Research Learning Thread.” The curriculum encompassing the teaching the stuff we know is the “Skills Learning Track.”
These two tracks, the Research Track and the Skills Track, require two different educational structures:
- The Research Track is optimized with a dynamic, open, and “peer-to-peer” educational structure. The Research Track is focused on the key questions the community needs to answer in order to thrive. The communities research track will inform the community on what skills the community needs to thrive.
- The Skills Track is optimized with the traditional educational structure of a teacher teaching and a student learning. The Skills track can easily be one way – teacher to student. The Skills track is focused on the specific skills the community needs to thrive.
While each community would have different specific things they are researching and different specific skills they are teaching, the educational structure of the two different tracks would be the same independent of what the community is about.
Research Learning Track
The Research Learning Track is driven by the key questions the community needs answers to.
- What is the best Business Model for a Community?
- What is the best Business Model for the @lantis Learning Community?
- How to improve Interpersonal Communication?
- How to improve Family/Group/Team/Political Communication?
- Improve Decision Making
- How to improve Decision Making?
- How to avoid fatal mistakes?
- Economics and Politics
- What is the best economic system for a particular situation?
- What is the best economic system for the @lantis Learning Community?
- What is the proper role of Government in Economics?
- What is the best Education System for the Community?
- What is the best Education System for the @lantis Learning Community?
- Information Management
- How Information is Generated?
- How Information is Stored and Retrieved?
- How Information is Communicated?
- How Information is analyzed?
- How Information is Acted upon?
- Mastering the Internet
- What is the right Answer for “Net Neutrality?”
- What is the best way for a community to promote competition and innovation?
- What is the best home networking/automation systems?
- What is the best mobile system to use?
- What is the best Internet Provider network for the community?
- What is the best Video Provider network for the community?
- Should you pay your kid an allowance?
- How should you discipline your kid?
- How does Religion fit into a 21st Century Information Age?
- Skills and Assessments
- What are the best skills to know to compete in the 21st Century?
- How does the community measure performance in those skills to determine which are the best and who does them the best?
Skills Learning Track
- Communication Skills
- Computer Skills
- Mastering the Internet
- Java Programming
- Search Engine Optimization
- Micosoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint
- Photo and Video
- Network Design and Optimization
- RF Theory
- Propagation Modeling Software – Planet EV, Atoll
- RF Tools – Mapinfo
- Business Analytics and Decision Making
- Change Management
- Project Management & Project Planning
- Time Management
- Personal Finance
Learning Questions are specific things the community or individual wants to learn more about in order to thrive in the 21st Century.
Learning Questions can be very narrow like “What is the best way to cook chicken on a grill.” Or learning questions can be very broad like “What is the best Healthcare system for the Georgia 6th District?” Learning questions could also be very technical, like, “What is the best Wi-Fi Router should I buy?”
All learning tracks start with a question and an answer. The community then adds value by suggesting facts, conclusions, and recommended actions that either support the answer to suggest a different answer.
Learning questions, answers, and value added information is fully editable by the community via a “Wiki” approach.
Learning questions start with questions, like, “What is the best Healthcare Policy for the community.” Then one or more answers are proposed, like 1) The best healthcare policy is Medicare for All, or 2) The best healthcare policy is to have no healthcare policy.
Then the community offers facts, conclusions, and recommended actions that support or counter a particular answer. Each individual community member can then evaluate the questions and answers and either agree, disagree, and/or suggest why they agree or disagree.
The reason this can work is that all learning communities agree to use a communication standard that allows better valuation of the require that all participants to the learning tracks be vetted so individuals within the community can better value the contributions.
And, as with any Wiki, any changes to specific answers or questions must go through a review process.
1. Figure out what’s needed “just in time”
Not all learning needs to be available just in time. Determining which training resources should be readily available to your team can be difficult, but it is a necessary first step. Before making any decisions, gather any data you may have about common workplace issues, and observe your employees on the job.
Talking to your team and asking for suggestions is crucial, as they are the ones who will ultimately be usingthe learning solutions, and they have the best idea of what they will need. Walk in their shoes and imagine what information would be the most beneficial for them to have on hand day to day.
2. Assess what’s currently being done
A critical step in planning for improvement is assessing the status quo. What’s working? And what isn’t working? For example, are your managers successfully delegating to their team? Are there any workplace conflicts that aren’t being resolved? What makeshift solutions are employees using to fix common issues? What happens when learning isn’t accessible, and team-members are confused about how to move forward? Questions like this help to further clarify which training solutions should be accessible “just in time.”
3. Organize the categories of learning
Once you’ve decided what types of training to include, begin grouping similar concepts together. As an organization, you’re likely training a wide variety of topics. For example, you might have learning solutions that cover onboarding/orientation, compliance, company values and processes, applications and programs, sales, leadership/management, and customer service.
Organizing the different categories of training helps you consolidate your ideas. This will also help your team find information faster and more effectively when you’ve put together your just-in-time learning model. You want employees to be able to access needed information quickly, so grouping similar information together is a good early step.
4. “Chunk” learning to make it digestible & easy
Long paragraphs of text and drawn-out explanations tend to lose peoples’ attention, so make sure to reduce information down into smaller components. Only include details that are pertinent, and avoid lengthy, difficult to navigate content.
Think about the typical context of “just-in-time” learning. People usually expect an answer right away and need to be able to quickly find and process the essentials.
Making information easily searchable is a great way to make sure the correct lessons are getting into the hands of your team. The faster employees can access and use learning at the moment of need, the happier they’ll be.
Breaking your learning down into small pieces of content (sometimes called “microlearning”) can help make information more digestible. Microlearning is the approach of delivering small bits of information that learners can study at their own speed, and on their own time. Your employees will have a variety of different uses and contexts for training content. Microlearning can empower learners to arrange and tailor standardized content to best meet their individual needs.
5. Provide examples and scenarios, not just information
People learn best when they can relate topics to real-world examples. Providing information without any context can lead to topics going in one ear and out the other. Showing someone how information is actuallyapplied can give them a framework for how they will use it themselves. Practice opportunities can help learners confidently handle the variety of situations they may face on the job.
Make sure that your just-in-time learning focuses on practice opportunities and tangible application. A bulleted list of facts can be useful, but it’s not going to help employees internalize and develop the right behaviors. Excellent just-in-time learning fits within a company’s broader development strategy to help people grow.
6. Figure out where is help needed
Smart organizations focus on their core competencies and leverage outside help for areas that fall outside of it. What are the areas within learning and development your company can handle better than anyone else? What areas would be best served by a 3rd party provider? Where would you be simply “reinventing the wheel” (i.e. – rebuilding something that already exists)?
Understanding where your training gaps exist is a good way to begin assessing what assistance you might need. Does your company have unique processes that are best covered by a fully custom training solution? Are there skills within your company that are not specific to your organization, but are more universally applicable? What topics and skills need to be made more robust and how?
Perhaps you need assistance in figuring out the areas of need. This is where finding the right value-add partners can be a huge help.
7. Find partners who can add value
No one has all the pieces to the puzzle when it comes to organizational health. Finding a partner with complimentary characteristics is a good way to make sure you’re covering all the bases, and that your approach will have the impact you’re expecting. Selecting the right partners is an important decision and selecting partners that will add value is critical.
Advantage Performance Group has been a value-add partner for hundreds of companies since 1990 and leverages a rich portfolio of impactful training, which includes Vital Learning’s just-in-time solutions. Vital Learning specializes in developing practical management skills, with bite-sized and scenario-focused online and blended learning.