The drive towards the compilation of and implementation of "best practices" has been the hallmark for success both in the training environment of business organizations and in the institutions of formal education for much of the 19th and 20th century. These selected practices have been the goal when mentoring new educators and trainers. However, with the rapid development of technology and the ever present web involved in every aspect of our lives, we are faced with some challenging questions:
"Has technology and the world wide web changed our traditional concept of what best practices are?
Do we need to re-think the nature of best practices because of rapid change in our society? Can the best practices that have essentially remained static over the years still afford us success and a competitive advantage in a world economy that has a greater focus on the online world of the world wide web?"
Effectively competing in a globally connected world means capitalizing on the intellectual assets found within business organizations. This means establishing the free flow of information through networked collaboration. You as a business organization have a choice; you can stay on the treadmill constantly running to keep up or you can act proactively and force your competition to keep running to keep up. Business organizations such as Apple and Google testify to the importance of placing a priority on learning.
A Business Example: The PowerPoint Presentation
First, I want to assure you that I am not disputing the usefulness of the Microsoft collection of tools. What I am questioning is whether or not this approach is still meeting the real learning needs of business organizations as they seek to meet the demands of the 21st century globally connected business economy.
"Does this "best practice" still meet the learning needs of our employees and also our clients?"
This style of "training" is based upon two main assumptions:
- The "sage on the stage" approach is best because the person on the stage is the expert on the topic and the audience are the learners.
- The goal of training is to impart information that the employee needs in order to better perform his or her job.
In the first assumption there is a neglect to acknowledge a stark reality which is that the world has changed and the changes do have an impact on business organizations. Due to the rise of technology, information is growing at an exponential rate across many disciplines and to suggest that an "expert" has a strong hold on information that impacts a given business is naive at best. It also ignores the fact that because of the integration of technology into the lives of our employees outside the business environment, how they learn as adults has changed. This brings us to the second assumption which is linked to the changes taking place.
Learning in the outside online world does not treat learners as passive receivers of wisdom. On the contrary, learning is very much interactive where the learner is engaged with the technology with the purpose of developing skills and mindsets that allow the individual to advance in his or her learning. Besides interacting with the technology, the idea of collaboration has taken on a whole new meaning where collaboration is not restricted to physical borders or time. Learning and collaboration is now in a 24/7 framework where any mobile device can have a participant join in and collaborate in a business organization that is a port networked with other ports anywhere in the world.
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A third trait that runs contrary to the "training" best practices is the idea that learning needs to be ongoing rather than "one and off" training sessions. This means that the learning culture of a business organization needs to change the mindset of meeting organization needs in a checklist of needs to meeting, encouraging and GROWING the learning of employees. In such a change, the business will experience a greater ROI that is directly in harmony with what is really happening in the outside world.
So, what does this all mean for the concept of best practices in business learning?
Re-Visioning Best Practices: Five Qualities
- If best practices are still be considered as a great guide to effective business learning then they need to be adaptive, flexible and individualized to the needs of the learner. Best practices should always point to the future and not be unchanging and rooted in the past because the one constant in the 21st century is constant change.
- The design of learning experiences need to have the qualities of being: meaningful, memorable, motivational and measurable for learners. Learners need to be engaged in their learning on a regular basis within the organization and the organization needs to weave a drive to learn throughout the organization from the C-Suite to the entry level personnel. It should become a natural mindset in the way a business competes and serves their client base.
- For the benefit and health of the organization, learning needs to have stronger connections to the ROI which will happen if decision makers make it part of their organizational mission.
- Employees need the assurance that their ideas that they arrive at through collaboration have value for the organization. To accomplish this, business organizations should have forums where employee collaborative groups can pitch and defend their ideas. Such a forum could follow similar parameters as the t.v. reality show called: "Shark Tank".
- Establish a new staff position titled: "Learning Principles Director". If you wish to know exactly what that means, ask me. HINT: It has to do with establishment of mentor networks.