Education: It’s About Changing the Function of The Distributed Organizational Brain

Here is somthing I wrote about 5 years ago, but relevant to the idea of closing the training department.

Building Communities of Practice to extend and continue learning.

Although instruction can be designed with limited goals, achieving expert performance in complex inter-related tasks with the attendant brain reorganization and the capacity to respond to novel future situations, requires ongoing and deep learning. In turn, this requires an environment that reinforces learning, provides an opportunity to extend learning, provides face to face access to expert help, and encourage the reinterpretation and renewal of learning in a lifelong context. Structured contact is important, but “just in time” contact can sometimes also be arraigned.

Training at best can only be the beginning, the tip of the iceberg.

If I read it right, closing the training department means switching to performance support, which should also imply looking at organizational culture and turning the organization into a communities of practice.  Training (and classroom activities in all settings) often end with only an assessment to determine their initial effect.  But anything worth doing should be done well.  Doing well in education means:

  • developing support for learning goals in the day to day activities and work flow.  I might mean fitting into the work flow or it might be important enough to take on the larger task of persuading worker to work out changes to the work flow.
  • Building a community of practice means introducing elements of social support, interacting with the organizational culture and making the organizational boundaries porous to allow support from beyond the organization.
  • Rethinking, learning more about the original goal, and interacting with the learning community on an ongoing continual basis.

Its not about closing the training department. its about educating the organization to understand what learning really is all about.  Classrooms still make sense, but not at the center of learning.  The focus of education must get out of the classroom and into the world.

Summary: The reorganizing the brain part above refers to ideas derived from Lev Vygotsky, that learning is finished when the function of the brain has been changed.  In this case, it’s when the organization changes the way it thinks about education and that thinking leads to changes in what it does to support learning.  It’s sort of like distributed cognition, where the brain of the organization (what you are trying to reorganize) is distributed across the all the individuals brains that make up the organization.  Changing that is the goal.