Jay Cross and the end of formal training (sort of).

Learning how to cut up radishes would seem to be a skill better learned at the Culinary Institute of America than in a restaurant on Cape Cod. Indeed, Mr. Cross acknowledges that Anthony Bourdain saved years by going to school rather than apprenticing in a kitchen. His professional development was accelerated through training. That said, however, Mr. Cross goes on to call formal training wasteful and ineffective.  I don’t see the balance of formal and informal training recognized.  Both kinds of training are needed and both are effective when used in the right circumstance.  In my mind you can talk about the importance of informal training to learning the different aspects of a job and the ways to provide an environment supportive of informal learning without tossing all other kinds training (end of rant).

The concept of workscape as a means of supporting informal learning at all levels of an organization seems necessary for success in today’s organizations. By creating opportunities to collaborate, connect and form relationships, making communication easy, necessary and in all directions within the organization, fostering the right to failure as a learning experience, and encouraging innovation and the expression of contrary ideas, organizations will create the environment for informal learning. I am especially appreciative of ensuring informal learning at all levels of the organization, not just for the novices.  Through sharing and problem solving at more senior levels, results-oriented performance measures can be reached with a much higher payback than just knowing that a novice understands the basics of the work.


6 thoughts on “Workscaping

  1. Hey Mike,

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment and the need to balance formal with informal learning! I think Cross has a point that formal learning has its limitations and that informal / social learning is often overlooked, but I really think a lot of organizations can benefit from putting on the creative cap and thinking of ways to expand learning beyond traditional classroom style training. To my surprise, that possibility is often immediately shot down, but I don’t think decision makers realize the effectiveness that informal / social learning provides (provided the use of these tools is designed correctly). (Steps off of soapbox)

  2. Concur. Jay Cross makes excellent points about how much learning happens informally. I think his extreme bias towards informal learning over formal training is simply the necessary push to get past the resistance in the field. But you’re not going to train a brain surgeon via informal learning. Formal training is, and will remain, essential for many specific kinds of jobs and skills. End of speech 😉

  3. Mike, I’m going to throw my neck out there and say there’s no such thing as informal training, only informal learning. Training and education involves preparation and a teacher and a learner – learning informally doesn’t. Truthfully, the concept of informal learning/training/education, or whatever we want to call it, bugs me. Why are we formalizing informal learning? I think we can add value by leaving it alone and just immersing ourselves in it. Feel free to disagree!

  4. Kris, I fully agree that there is only informal learning, not informal training. However, given that we are in the learning business and so much of what is learned is informal, it calls for our examination and understanding. I think what we should be doing is creating an organizational environment where informal learning is encouraged, supported, facilitated where necessary, and examined to see if there is a missed need in the formal training. Training and informal learning need to coexist and even feed each other. Perhaps by examining what is learned informally, we might see a need to create job aids or other just-in-time tools to support performance. What do you think?

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