The chief learning officer is the primary architect of the learning organization, and he or she must design learning interventions and solutions that support individual learning, as well as organizational learning. Typically, business leaders think the learning function provides more traditional learning solutions. The 21st century, however, offers many effective learning approaches that go far beyond traditional learning solutions — it is a primary task of the CLO to articulate a compelling vision of the role learning can play in strategic success and marketplace results. Doing so will ensure that business leaders understand the critical contribution learning can offer at the organizational level by employing new and creative learning solutions.
Reflecting on learning theory and practice, I have developed a simple framework that has proven useful in demonstrating the extensive portfolio of potential learning solutions to business leaders.
This learning capability framework looks at two dimensions of learning. The first dimension includes formal learning programs, which are created to support specific learning objectives and typically include instructional design approaches. Some examples include:
The second dimension of the learning capability framework is self-directed learning, which does not require specific instructional learning design and supports informal learning. Self-directed learning solutions include:
Ideally, both these dimensions of the framework are integrated with learning on the job, which many identify as the most valuable and important source of learning. In this area, communities of practice (CoP) are perhaps the self-directed learning solution most directly linked to immediate, relevant and applied learning that enhances on-the-job performance. CoPs have been gaining much interest recently, primarily because of the potential offered by the Internet to build an interactive, vibrant community dedicated to learning.
The concept of a CoP refers to the process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, find solutions and build innovations. CoPs have become associated with knowledge management, as people have begun to see them as ways of developing social capital, nurturing new knowledge, stimulating innovation or sharing existing tacit knowledge within an organization. The CoP now is often considered a means of developing and maintaining long-term organizational memory.
Until recently, learning professionals defined ï¿½blended learningï¿½ as the blend of classroom events with e-learning. The truly valuable blend combines all the learning solutions described in the learning capability framework.
In the place of blended learning, I prefer to use the phrase ï¿½extended learning experienceï¿½ when working with business leaders.
CLOs can use the learning capability framework as a road map to enhance learning solutions and to build a true learning organization. Partnership with the business leaders relies on a mutual understanding of the issues and the solutions, a shared language reflecting the strategic value of learning.
The learning capability framework illustrates and describes the multiple solutions available for both formal and self-directed learning, thus enabling this common language and clarifying the shared vision of a robust learning continuum, which blends multiple media and methods to achieve top performance.
Nick van Dam, Ph.D., is global chief learning officer for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. He is founder of the e-Learning For Kids Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org