Doing Development in the Workforce: the Integration of Talent, Organization and Economic Development

I believe that workplace and adult learning is the intellectual location where society can focus in making the largest functional gains for society development and economic progress.  It’s not that K-16 and graduate education are not important, it’s just that tradition learning institutions have received the bulk of study, while workplace learning has been relatively ignored.  First, I’m perceiving that the terms and definitions of workplace learning are not clear or well defined.  Training, talent development, human resource management, knowledge management, organizational learning, organizational development, etc. . .; individually these areas tend to be ill-defined and together contain many overlapping and duplicate commitments.  Understanding what’s going on requires looking more at the goals of specific actions rather than understanding the terms that are given.

For me, this is the beginning a research project to try to better understand this general area as a personal development project for 2010.  Initial ideas and biases that I’m bringing to this project will constitute initial posts.

Development – I’m going to focus on development as an over-riding term to understand this area, which I will define as the cognitive, intellectual, moral or social aspects of people and their contexts as they come to perceive, understand, and act in ways that change or expand the scope or complexity of their function in specific contexts over time.  Note the highlighted people and their contexts above.  Action or behavior is a function of people and their contexts and it’s generally useless to try to separate where the effects of people start and the effects of contexts end.  The development any organism is always directed toward it’s environment and, functionally, the organizism is the development of the environment is just as critical as the development of the organism. The function of a person is structurally linked to the environment.  Developing talent in any organization must also be accompanied by development in the organization.  If one person is to develop by increasing the complexity in which they are able to function, than the organization (i.e. other people) must also develop to handle that increasing complexity.  For instance, there is no principled disjunction between talent development and organizational development; they must proceed hand-in-hand.  This is clearly supported by Barab and Plucker (2002) who draw on ecological psychology, situated cognition, distributed cognition, activity theory, and legitimate peripheral participation to support this idea.  From a common sense perspective you can understand that when an employee who is able to respond to his environment with more adapted complex ways, the organization must also respond to and understand this new level of complexity too.  Since an organization is structured by its relationships (Maturana & Verela, 1992), changing the relationships changes the organization.  Individual learning must also be accompanied by team learning and any individual than learns must be responsible for passing this along to his team and to the organization.  Individual development, team development and organizational development must be one integrated process.

Next up I hope to explore the phrase “All doing is knowing and all knowing is doing” (Maturana & Verela, 1992, p. 27)


Barab, S.A. & Plucker, J.A., (2002).  Smart People or Smart Contexts? Cognition, Ability, Talent Development in an Age of Situated Approaches to Knowing and Learning, Educational Psychologists, 37(3), 165-182.

Maturana, H.R. & Varela, F.J. (1992). The Tree of Knowledge: THe Biological Roots of Human Understanding, Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications Inc.

Philweb, The Human Being: Definitions: Developmental Psychology;