Eric Duffy

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In Pursuit of the Invisible Hand of Learning

Articles L&D

Imagine for a second that you’re standing in a room along with 200 or so of your colleagues.  Your task is to make sure each of these individuals learns exactly what they each need to grow, improve, and reach their full potential.

Quite an important task!  You might even say that the present and continued success of your company depends on you being able to make it happen.  If you’re an L&D or HR professional, this might be the kind of challenge you’re faced with every day.

So, how might you go about helping these busy individuals get the learning they need?

First up is to acquire the learning content that’s best suited to your workforce. Considering the vast number of resources served up by numerous learning vendors as well as the wealth of information scattered around the web, this can prove quite lengthy and costly.  Chances are you’ll opt to choose a learning library vendor or two, and hope that what they’re offering is effectively taught and up-to-date.

Once you have the content, you then have to get it to the right people.  Since doing this all yourself is almost certainly out of the question, you could try dividing the room into groups and putting one member from each group in charge of managing the others.  This would allow for more precision, but it also creates another layer of bureaucracy to keep track of – now you have to monitor the performance of these supervisors in addition to that of the actual end-learners.  In some cases, this could prove as difficult a challenge as doing everything yourself.

So how about letting individuals manage themselves?  It’s true that no one knows an individual’s needs better than that very individual, so you might decide that the best approach is to simply let learners log into a system and search for learning content themselves.

One of the many flaws in this approach is that, while people do know themselves well, they don’t know the content they’re searching through, so choosing the ideal resources is little more than a guessing game.  Even if they were to find the right resource, it’s extremely difficult to stay motivated and on target when you go it alone.

Instead, Pathgather was founded on the belief that by decentralizing the act of learning management and radically increasing transparency (the ability for learners to see and interact with one another), you can turn each of your employees into a learning ambassador just by taking part in the system.

In this kind of decentralized, transparent learning environment, the crowd becomes the curator, coworkers become content evangelists, and peers can provide accountability and motivation – all without the direct or intentional effort on any individual’s part to do so.  You can think of it as Adam Smith’s invisible hand applied to online learning – allowing employees to pursue and benefit from pursuing their own goals, and the whole will flourish.

Categories: Articles L&D

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