Last week I introduced the concept of EPowerment – capturing the terms Empowerment, Emotional Intelligence and Electronic communications. I received some nostalgic feedback like — “what did we ever do with “empowerment”? – “It was a great term that I have almost forgotten.” – “What a good time to be talking about this again.”
So as we approach 2010, a new decade, feeling like it was just 2000 yesterday, what are some lessons to be learned in specific regard to learning and professional development?
The first lesson is that the traditional ways of development have just not worked. By traditional, I am referring to mostly “event-based” learning models. An event is a workshop, seminar, conference, book, assessment, speaker, webinar – all short and constricted in time. While events are great for building awareness, they are not sufficient for true substantive learning and growth. The reason? Odds that a learner is (1) READY to learn what is being taught, (2) ready to learn in the MODE that it is being taught, and (3) ready to APPLY what is being taught on the particular day of a pre-scheduled event in most cases is … slim to none.
The three key necessities – need, learning, application- have to be as close together in time as possible for substantive learning to occur. The odds of success go way up when the learner learns over an extended period of time – say 6 months or a year. In an extended learning model, the constraints of timing and the effort of synchronizing all three points are somewhat eliminated because you are learning as you go – as your needs change. Another way of saying this is to think about “aha” moments. Aha moments are unorchestrated and result when the timing of need, learning, and application come together. This is why ASTD industry reports repeatedly show that over 70% of workplace learning occurs informally. We call this point-of-need learning. When you learn at the point-of-need — which can only occur in an extended model — then the odds of having many “aha” moments go up significantly.
As a result of the recent economic downturn, learning models like Action Learning or the 70-20-10 rule have gained considerable momentum. The latter prescribes that only 10% of professional development occurs in the classroom, 20% is experiential and 70% occurs — you guessed it — on the job or as I call it, point-of-need.
Some of you know I spent some time working in the healthcare industry. There has been a growing trend to convert medicine and care from a memory-based model (delivery of care based on what the clinician knows) to a knowledge-driven care model (the integration of both memory and best practices all available to the clinician at the point-of-care). So when you are in a physician’s office and being looked at, the physician, by having access to data on the patient and external sources, can give the best care to the patient. In light of the fact that most medical errors, a major cause of death in the US, are not caused by bad physicians, they are caused by good physicians who at the point-of-care do not have access to all the latest and pertinent information regarding the patient and the treatment. Why should this rationale not apply to ALL professionals? Why should working professional rely on that very unreliable tool called memory to make the best decisions for themselves and the companies they work for? Just like physicians have access to the best care, why can’t professionals not have access to best practices, case studies, articles, etc, so that at the time that they need it, they can access it and make a better decision? Most would respond to these questions by saying that physicians, unlike working professionals, make life or death decisions and therefore need it. I agree but look at the companies that are dying right now. Look at the companies that were successful but are no longer. If their learning models were point-of-need based in extended-learning models, could they have done better?
To sum up, my first principle in achieving empowerment is to give employees real-time access with point-of-need support through an extended learning model.