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Abundance in the workplace

September 29, 2011







I am reflecting on Martin Weller’s A pedagogy of abundance as shared in #change11 this week and wondering what it looks like in the workplace.  Consider a typical organization in which career ambitions were (are) realized through the power of withholding information, of being the ‘go to’ person who can make a tough decision, develop a policy, launch a product, design a program or lead a team.  Information like that was traditionally classified, held in a locked file and kept out of the newspaper or competitor’s hands if necessary.

Now information is plentiful and ‘knowable’ by anyone in the organization who has access to it through email, shared drives, intranets and, more recently, SharePoint or other data management systems.  The person at the top has a hard time keeping up.  Yet many workplaces remain siloed, risk-allergic (particularly in tougher economic times) and generally reluctant to share.  As a result, staff are now working around their IT departments by accessing knowledge on FaceBook, Twitter and other applications from non-sanctioned handheld devices, regardless of what their employer’s official policy has to say about it.

Reading between the lines in Weller’s analysis, we can start to question the need for instructors, for physical classrooms, campuses and lectures.  We recognize a seismic shift in power and expertise from teacher to student.

For me, the parallels are obvious in questioning the role of formal training in the workplace.  What is the role of a Chief Learning Officer in this new environment?  How should trainers and training designers contribute?  Do we need a learning and development team?  Why invest in a learning management system?  Why spend 90% of our learning budget on travel to a physical classroom when as little as 10% of our learning takes place there?  Do any of these pillars of the industrial age make sense in the participation age?

These are scary questions for those at the top of the food chain in any organization.  We are fundamentally questioning their existence and their practices and they clearly don’t like it.  These are the kinds of questions that could end up in a newspaper headline, aggregated in a news reader and retweeted throughout the country.  Then the shareholders, competitors or taxpayers might have something to say about it.


From → Smarter worker

  1. paul martin permalink

    “Where’s the beef” was a classic Wendy’s burger ad when Xerox invented the PC; IBM may have crystallised it in a form that brought computering to the executive suite but really despite protestations to the contrary little has really changed over the past decade or so as we are well past the tipping point. The purpose of University is for the middle classes to get therir kids off their payroll, the purpose of College is to give people a second chance by giving them skills they can apply in a job: vacation vs vocation. There may be an abundance of information but news, if it’s important will always find you. So what is important is no longer the message and more and more not the medium its the messenger.

    I disagree with the your first reference …. there is NO shortage of talent. And I clearly disagree with your second that IT departments are redundant/siloed or whatever. In our modern times people need to find their role, not everyone needs to know the whats and whys of the Higgs Boson or Chris Brown but …. owh er oooops felt off my high horse

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