February 28, 2019 |
‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn’. Another gem from Benjamin Franklin, although in truth he was reiterating what Confucius said a long time before that. His original version was, ‘I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand’.
In the article we posted on conferences, we suggested that the days of someone standing on a stage pontificating should be a thing of the past – clearly it is something that the ancients pilloried back in the day. But it still goes on. You can’t beat ego now, can you?
Unfortunately most of the learning we are subjected to throughout our lives is top down: the industry expert pacing the stage, a teacher standing at the front spouting something from a book, or your parents passing down a piece of sometimes ill-conceived advice. It’s all top down. Nowadays we live in a world where some people can stand at the front and shout into the loudspeaker that is social media, ‘educating’ the masses and making them vote for something that they may later regret. While social media can be blamed for some of social and political cock-ups of the recent past, it also has the ability to harness this power to do good.
Learning is following the path of society, which is more divided than ever before, and creating lovely little cliques and niches for those who can afford to pay for online courses and subscriptions. If you have a bit of spare cash, then you can put yourself through any level of education you want and subscribe to a plethora of online courses and publications. But if you don’t have any spare cash after you have finished your 60-hour week, sent your money home to feed your family, and kept what little you have left for yourself, what are you supposed to do?
Companies, of course, provide training – not learning – programmes; the difference between the two needs to be made clear. Learning is about involvement and providing intellectual stimuli, whereas training is about teaching a skill. But seriously, how good can a company’s training programme actually be? Firstly, their aim is to produce a better performance from the employee, not produce a better employee. Secondly, it is more about a company seen to be doing something rather than actually doing something for the employee. Can someone please tell me the last time they heard someone say, ‘Yeah mate I went on a (training never learning) course today and it was ace.’ Umm, never.
But why should it be the responsibility of the company to provide learning programmes for their employees? Training I get because there are certain processes, skills or programmes that the employee needs to master as part of their role in the company, but learning is a completely different ball game.
The company exists to make money for its shareholders by providing a product or service that customers want to buy while controlling its costs. Lately, a notion has developed that the company should provide a load of services to make the individual feel all cosy and warm, and thereby miraculously do better work than before. Please don’t steam up and confuse a designer having a sofa day and a glass of prosecco with a factory worker in slavish and hideous conditions. The company should provide decent, humane, fair and ethical working conditions but it doesn’t need to provide fizzy pop.
So who should provide learning, if not the company? Well actually those who create learning, and social media. Conferences have a whole shoal of learning swimming around in a room populated by people who probably know most of what is being talked about anyway. Delegates need to be there to help cover the conference fees, but really, they are there to meet old mates and share a bit of gossip. The actual information stays in the room and, over time, just fades into obscurity. So why can’t this learning be packaged up and shared? It’s not going to devalue those who were fortunate enough to be at the event, but it will allow for the information to permeate through the industry and benefit those who were not so fortunate to learn too. The chances that they will appreciate this learning more than those who were there in the first place are greater.
Social media has a role to play too. It stand alone today as the voice of the global media industry, and as such has a huge part to play in democratising learning. LinkedIn has started another pay platform for its learning programme, but again, that is just another product aimed at those who can. So why can’t Twitter or Facebook have a learning section that is free for all? There are contributors all over the place, writing journals and reports, creating presentations, speaking at conferences and so on, so why can’t all these inputs be organised into a free learning platform? I cannot think of a better way of democratising learning and making it available to all.
So going back to Franklin, if conferences provide the ‘tell me and I will forget’ approach and companies are the ‘teach me and I may remember’, then social media sits firmly in the ‘involve me and I will learn category’. I know where I would want to be.
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