Friday, February 15, 2019

Deliberate Learning

I came across a new term this week: Performance Adjacent Learning.  I'm not sure it's completely new and the idea behind it isn't completely new.  It appears that as the context for a particular discipline constantly evolves, with new technologies and associated changes, our vocabulary can become inadequate or insufficient.  My hypothesis is that this creates opportunities for the Subject Matter Experts who have a deep involvement in the topic to invent new terms to fill in the gaps in vocabulary.  Sometimes it sticks and sometimes it won't hold.  I can't tell if Performance Adjacent Learning is the next big thing as a term, but I can relate to the idea behind it.

In short (my interpretation), we need to pay more attention to learning that is happening "in the flow of work" as opposed to learning that happens outside of the work flow.  Learning that happens outside of the work flow can happen at work (corporate training for example) but it is typically separated from doing the work.  Even the learning that happens in the context of a Community of Practice, which is much more informal than traditional training, is not necessarily "in the flow of work" and while very useful overall, does not necessarily provide immediate support for the accomplishment of a work-related task.  CoPs could be an avenue for more Performance Adjacent Learning if they are structured for that.

This reminded me of a map I created a while ago about investing in your own learning (posted below).  When the topic of learning comes up, people's minds go into two primary directions:
  • What professional development courses am I taking or should I be taking this year?
  • What are the books / blogs and podcasts I should read or listen to to keep up with trends in my profession?
I suspect that most professional do not think in terms of learning in the flow of work and asking people to engage in self-reflection regarding their work experiences is not an option that will appeal to everyone. 

The map below was created in the context of a Toastmasters Speech during which I focused on the benefits of the 5-Hour Rule.  The 5-Hour Rule is a commitment to 5 hours of learning every week.  That has often been interpreted as 5 hours of reading, but I think that would not be optimal for everyone... and the average professional no longer reads full-length books.

The core message remains that we are all individually responsible for our own learning.  The 5-Hour Rule is not necessarily the right approach (at least not all the time) because it clearly separates the learning from doing.  However, to get the habit of learning started, it's a smart way to dedicate time to learning.  Once the habit of learning is established as a thinking habit more than a dedicated time, then it can be embedded into the workflow more easily.

The same is true for other habits.  Let's take exercise.  To commit to exercise and stick to that commitment, it may be worthwhile to establish a specific goal of a certain amount of time every week spent exercising.  Let's say 3 times a week for 30 minutes of running.  That's the equivalent of the 5-Hour Rule.  It's a set goal that's easily measurable and trackable.  Once you've established a certain level of fitness and comfort with physical activity, it is easy to switch from taking the car everywhere to biking or walking, for example.  Physical activity becomes embedded in the flow of life as opposed to the scheduled trip to the gym.

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This idea of embedding rather than separating activities is also something I have tried to work on within Knowledge Management by arguing that Knowledge Management needs to be embedded in the flow of work so that it is not limited to 1) a lessons learned exercise at the end of a project or activity; 2) the responsibility of the KM office or lone Knowledge Manager.

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