David Guralnick: Learning, Technology, and Design

Isn’t it Time to Move Past the “Information Age”?

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We’re well into the Information Age.  And we’re in the Web 2.0 Age, in some form or another.  All of which, taken together, tells us that virtually any piece of information that anyone might care about can be found online–you can either Google it or, if that fails, use your social networks to find someone who knows.  And there you go–all information, all the time.  So companies are asking themselves why they even need training anymore–can’t you just find out anything you need to know?

On the surface, the “just-look-it-up” approach has some merit–in fact, I’ve often found in my consulting work that companies tend to do more training than needed and not enough just-in-time performance support, to help people while they are on the job.  But all of this discussion really brings us to a different question:  when we look at training, is that all there is?  Does training–or education, for that matter–simply mean “getting information”?  Is information all you really need to perform a task?

Think about a task you perform in everyday life, such as driving a car, and how you first learned to drive.  While the knowledge of information is certainly necessary–at a minimum, you need to know how the car’s controls work, you need to know the laws regarding driving, such as stop signs and traffic lights–it seems far from sufficient!  Imagine being asked to drive a car–for real, on a road under normal conditions, with other cars, pedestrians, etc.–if all you “knew” was the relevant information about cars.  You’d have a lot of information, but would you know what to do with it?  Would all of those facts in your head, even assuming you remembered them all, enable you to successfully drive?  Of course not–along with facts, you’d need to understand concepts (How does a car work, at least from the driver’s perspective?  How should you interact with other drivers? ), and you’d need to practice (imagine if the first time you got behind the wheel of a car, you drove on a highway).

Now suppose you’re a new salesperson for a high-tech company, or a cashier at a retail store, or a technician at a cable company–you may well need some training, at least in the ways to perform your job according to your company’s special cases and best practices. But that training should come in a form that helps you acquire skills, not just recall information.

Isn’t it time we moved past the “Information Age”  and started applying all of that information?

Written by dguralnick

August 14, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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