Informal Learning – Learning By Chance

After having done dozens of CAD – Curriculum Architecture Design projects by the mid-1980s for Fortune 500 firms, I had termed the gaps of the CAD designs as “Unstructured OJT” or “un-structured-on-the-job-training.” U-OJT.

Now the”U-OJT” concept, within an instructional context, is being given a new name, a new label: Informal Learning.

Back to that in a moment. BTW- I still use the phrase U-OJT after the 74 CAD projects I’ve done since 1982. It communicates to my clients. Especially when I suggest that many things can remain that way. And should. Because of ROI…as in negative ROI. That’s what CAD helps the T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management suppliers decide in collaboration with their customers. In fact, the customer drive the suppliers process, making business decisions all the way.

CAD design efforts…

After a quick but thorough Performance analysis with a team of Master Performers who then used that set of data to systematically derive the enablers and who then met to design the Curriculum Architecture Design with me, after we in the T&D group would have assessed all existing T&D content for its reuse potential…producing T&D Paths…leaning continuums…that are “as rigorous as required and as flexible as feasible” that showed where any existing T&D content could be used “as is” or “after modification.”

Those T&D Paths showed the T&D that existed and would be reused…and it showed in a visual way, the gap T&D that “could be.” Not necessarily what “should be.”

After all, just because we can determine a training/ learning/ knowledge management “need” does not in and of itself, justify meeting that need. Only the business measures and current “hurdle rates” for ROI or ROA or RONA and/or other metrics can help determine the correct business course of action and investment.

All of the gaps of the new CAD were being handled currently by the Target Audience, in absence of any formal T&D content, as U-OJT…my label, now becoming popular as Informal Learning.

Management somewhere had recently decided enough is enough and we can no longer tolerate the informality of our approach to “performance competence” with this target audience, or these target audiences. And so I was brought in to plan and conduct a CAD effort with them and their clients/key stakeholders organized into a formal Project Steering Team…and that group’s handpicked Master Performers and other SMEs as required, on my formal Analysis and Design Teams. Collaboration. Command and control and empowerment. Because there was a business need.

I’ve read recently that most “learning” in corporations is of the Informal Learning kind. Over 80%.

Yes, necessity IS the mother of invention. Again and still.

And motivated, driven people won’t let the lack of formal corporate content get in their way. Never have. But the others, the non-Master Performers, what about them? The ones who can’t or won’t. Can we help them by providing a little guidance in the wild and woolly world of Learning Content in today’s Enterprise? Or should they “sink or swim?”

I say, it depends.

They should ONLY be helped indirectly – that is the correct answer…unless they belong to a group designated as a PUSH Target Audience. Where Informal Learning or Learning by Chance is no longer tolerable to their management and they now want to address this.

Then we would go after all of their needs and do so in such an “instructional design” manner so as to create a lot of valid, modular content that other, non-PUSH Target Audiences, those that I label as PULL Target Audiences, might find performance-relevant to themselves as well.

First we serve the PUSH targets and then all others as an indirect benefit. And the shareholder is doubly (or more) served.

If your ECA – Enterprise Content Architecture is designed for intuitive searching/mining by the PULL audiences (and the PUSH too, because some of their needs may be better served) by things both inside and beyond the Enterprise…and out in the Internet…then you can provide low-cost content to everyone by targeting your investments initially for the high-payback needs of the PUSH Target Audiences. And that the content you are providing them is performance-relevant and performance impacting. Leverage.

And yes almost any Subject Matter Expert and/or Master Performer can become an author of content if given a template that will at least foster an initial attempt to be instructionally sound. And then let feedback from the marketplace…the PUSH target audience learners…govern. Further leverage.

Feedback from PULL audiences might be interesting. But by definition they are not critical enough to address. They are left to informal learning…un-structured OJT…U-OJT.

The next step up from that is S-OJT…structured OJT…with or without a coach or mentor. But that’s another Posting.

And regarding KMS – Knowledge Management Systems…

I believe that Best Practices are meant to be instructional. And that Lessons Learned are meant to be instructional. And that Performance Support Systems are meant to be instructional, whether electronic or paper. And that all worthy instruction is intended to develop performance competence in the enterprise processes, whether for routine, planned processes that occur often or random. Or for the processes that are “planned responses” to predictable, even-if-unlikely and somewhat unpredictable catastrophes.

And all instruction, of any and all blends, is intended to first protect AND then improve the enterprise.

When the Informal Learning approach, the U-OJT approach that you are currently using, is too risky for the critical processes’ performers in your internal customer’s situation, think about a Curriculum Architecture Design effort to engage both your customer and their key stakeholders with you in a predictable ISD process.

And let everyone else in the Enterprise win as well when you build and/or buy the gap content in a prioritized manner post-CAD! Leverage for all – by always focusing on the critical.

You can learn more about CAD and the 2 other ISD methodology sets of my PACT Processes for T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management at my web site: and in my book: lean-ISD which is available as a free PDF on the site as well.

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