The most powerful tools in the world won’t help if you don’t have the time or the authority to use them. The second ingredient of an effective bottom-up learning strategy is opportunity:
Discretionary time: Bottom-up learning is in most cases a discretionary activity for which time must be made available. Many employees – particularly knowledge workers – have some degree of discretion about how they spend their time; others are strictly rostered and timetabled and can only participate in bottom-up learning activities outside work hours or in time specially allocated by their managers.
Authority: Time is not the only issue – even with the time, employees have to be allowed to contribute to bottom-up learning, whether that’s through formal organisational policies or the specific inclusion of these activities in their job descriptions. L&d professionals have their role to play here, by making sure that their own policies don’t leave all the power to control the teaching and learning process in their own hands. A good example would be the restrictions that are often placed on the content that can be published on an organisation’s LMS, making it impossible for rapid or user-generated content to be distributed in this way.
Informal spaces provide those without the facility or the inclination to blog with a face-to-face equivalent. Americans talk about the learning that takes place ‘around the water cooler’ and with good reason. Coffee areas and staff restaurants have the same effect, as do the areas where smokers gather to satisfy their addictions. Organisations create these spaces primarily for their functional purpose, but they should also be aware of the learning opportunities that these provide.
Experts in the open: throughout history, humans have learned a great deal by observing experts in their everyday work. Organisations can facilitate this process by arranging workspaces in such a way that novices can work alongside the experts, much as apprentices and their masters have done for centuries.
Coming next in chapter 6: Then they need the motive
Obtain your copy of The New Learning Architect