At the HRD 2012 conference, attendees heard that the role of the learning professional is more and more shifting to that of “curator” of content already available to the public, rather than producer of proprietary content for the organization.
Color me skeptical.
Certainly, especially in consumer product fields, there is a great deal to be learned about the markets we serve from the public conversation around products and services. And certainly, much of what organizational learners need to know around soft skills like negotiation and leadership is available in numerous formats from multiple sources outside the organization. It’s inefficient to build what we can buy for cheap, or free.
But to the extent that our own organizations have a unique value proposition, one which is the product of what our colleagues have learned about creating our solution to the problems our clients face, well, that is material which is not available on the open web, and it can’t be bought from vendors.
If our colleagues are to be effective, they need to be spending their time doing their jobs, not meandering the web looking for serendipitous inspiration. So sure, part of the responsibility of the learning professional is the gathering and vetting of resources available outside the org, and making pointers available to the people who will find them valuable. (Calling this activity “curation” though, rightfully sets the teeth of professional curators on edge. Real curators are charged not only with the gathering, thoughtful display, and placing in context of artifacts they make available to the public, but also with the preservation of those resources. To the extent the resources we point to are not our own, we have no power over their preservation.)
We can possibly be forgiven for a lack of concern about preservation. We are not museums. In the fast-paced environments in which most of us work, the danger is not so much in resources becoming unavailable as it is in their becoming out-of-date!
It seems to me that the most effective learning organization in these times is one which achieves the optimal balance among providing links to existing resources from which our learners will derive value, developing new material which incorporates the latest and greatest iteration of our own organization’s “secret sauce”, and providing opportunities for our colleagues to share what’s going on in the field, in the research lab, and in the executive suite in the pursuit of delivering that secret sauce. Challenging our colleagues to make meaning and action from the blend of public, proprietary, and “embedded” knowledge in the organization, and facilitating their efforts to do so, is what we should be doing.
Fortunately, we’ve got better tools than ever for doing so. Do your online learning tools permit you to build courses which draw on publicly available resources, along with the “secret sauce” embedded in proprietary job aids, and discussions with colleagues and coaches? Can you ask your folks to reflect on what they are learning, produce a sample piece of work to demonstrate that understanding, and receive feedback from each other and/or a coach on that work? Can you include field trips, ride-alongs and other face-to-face out-of-classroom experiences and track the participation of the learners and their coaches in a single, easy-to-administer platform? If you can’t, you might want to give us a call…