A function of living and working in what is increasingly becoming, at least in the developed world, an information society, is that there is more to know than can possibly be taught. According to Richard Saul Worman , “a weekday edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in seventeenth century England.”
When the knowledge that employees need to do their jobs changes so rapidly, it becomes pointless to try and teach it all. As George Siemens points out, “The connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing. ‘Knowing where’ and ‘knowing who’ are more important today than knowing when and how.” Charles Jennings, formerly of Reuters, takes a similar view: “The word ‘knowledge worker’ in today’s world is a misnomer. Knowledge workers actually need to hold less knowledge in their heads to do their jobs than they did 20 years ago. However, they need to have the skills to be able to find the right information and knowledge, and build it into capability as efficiently as possible.”
According to Robert E Kelley , when employees were asked whether they believed that the retention of information in their heads was important for them to do their job well, in 1986 75% agreed, while in 1997 this had reduced to 15-20%. Kelley guessed that by 2006 the figure could be as low as 8-10%.
Even in the area of skills development, l&d departments are struggling to keep up. In a large-scale survey published in 2007 by SkillSoft , “almost two-thirds of employees said they had been asked to carry out tasks in areas where they felt insufficiently trained or where they were lacking the necessary skills. When asked if they could do a better job if they received more training, 65.9% said yes.”
I’d say that requirements are clearly changing.
Information Anxiety by Richard Saul Worman, Doubleday, 1989.
Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens, self-published, 2006.
How to be a star at work by Robert Kelley, Three Rivers Press, 1999.
The Future of Learning, SkillSoft, 2007
Coming next in chapter 2: Have learners changed?
Return to Chapter 1
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