Connecting learning ecologies to work
Harold Jarche has many interesting perspectives on learning in the modern era and they are relevant to these ideas on ecologies of practice for learning and performance.
Learning and the Future of Work
Both complex and creative work require greater implicit knowledge. Implicit [or embodied] knowledge, unlike explicit knowledge, is difficult to codify and standardize. It is also difficult to transfer. Implicit knowledge is best developed through conversations and social relationships. It requires trust before people willingly share their know-how. Social networks can enable better and faster knowledge feedback for people who trust each other and share their knowledge. But hierarchies and work control structures constrain conversations. Few people want to share their ignorance with the boss who controls their pay cheque. If we agree that complex and creative work are where long-term business value lies, then learning amongst ourselves is the real work in any organization today. In this emerging network era, social learning is how work gets done.
Work is learning and learning is the work
Established practices work when the environment is simple or complicated. For complex problems (where the relationship between cause and effect can only be seen after the fact) there are no easy answers. We need to engage the problem and learn by probing. This requires a completely different mindset from training for defined problems and measurable outcomes
- Our world is getting more complex as everything gets connected.
- Complex problems require more implicit knowledge.
- Implicit knowledge can only be shared through conversations & observation.
- Collaborative and distributed work is the norm.
- Knowledge-sharing and narration of work make implicit knowledge more visible.
- Transparent work processes foster innovation.
- Learning is part of work, not separate from it.
Ecological world view
Viewing learning/social learning as an ecological phenomenon is consistent with Harold Jarche's propositions about working and learning in a complex, networked world. An ecological world view goes beyond the networked idea because it engages with the material and psychological worlds as well as the social world and imagines our organisations as complex ecosocial systems.
The idea of mapping our ecologies of practice for learning and performance support the ideas of ‘narrating work to make implicit knowledge more visible’ and making ‘work processes more transparent to foster innovation.’ Making a map becomes a powerful prompt for personal reflection about how, why, when,where and what we learn and create – it’s important self-knowledge for learning in an ecological world.