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‘Learning’ – just the latest buzzword?


Is 'learning' just the buzzword du jour? No it isn't, says Roger McAniff, CEO of The McBliss Leadership Company

The switch to the use of learning instead of training is solidly based on adult learning principles. Training is the old teaching method that places the trainer as the expert and force-feeds the recipient with material. Training is Pavlovian in its orientation and aimed at changing behavior. The recipient is passive and learns very little.

Adult learning places the responsibility for the learning with the learner. The learner actively chooses what to learn, how to learn it and actively participates in the process. The role of the "Trainer" in adult learning is to respond to the learner's requests and make the necessary information available in an appropriate form for the learner.

There is an implied or implicit contract between the learner and the organization / trainer. This contract outlines the material to be learned, the process to be followed, timelines for completion and how completion of the learning will be assessed or verified. The learner can choose from the many different programs and modes of learning to match their learning style and preferences about how to learn. The availability of many online and other types of learning programs has helped accelerate the switch to learning.

In the industrial / machine age where people were performing defined tasks with machine like repetition, training was appropriate. Repetitive behavior was the goal and the output. In the information age and the newly emerging age of freedom, the goal has changed to creative and thoughtful behavior and workers need interactive and social skills as well as technical knowledge. More people are working in team environments and learning is taking place in team settings. In the larger companies, teams may also be virtual, diverse, speak multiple languages, be geographically dispersed and come from different functional areas. Their needs for learning have increased and their available time for learning has decreased. Change is the norm and repetitive behavior is rare.

Training was the language of control, stability, bureaucracy and conformity. Learning is the language of empowerment, change, growth, leadership and creativity. The language used to describe your education programs helps define which type of organization you are. High growth and creative organizations are learning organizations.


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