The volume and velocity of information infiltrating our work and personal lives is expanding exponentially. This environment is arguably the most intensely stimulating period in history, with distractions coming from every direction in the form of social media, mobile devices and other Internet-based applications.
Conventional instructional design, however, does not reflect this reality and can no longer solve the problem of bringing precisely the right information at the right time to the right employee. Information in today’s business world simply changes too rapidly, and the training and learning process is too slow to keep pace.
Rather, the answer lies in creating and consuming learning in a much leaner fashion. Instead of asking employees to digest massive amounts of soon-to-be-outdated information, the concept of lean learning gives employees the opportunity to find the instruction and information they need exactly when and where they need it. This on-demand learning protects employees from spending time learning things that aren’t relevant to their jobs. It also reduces content development costs that add to data overload for workers.
The gap between conventional instructional design and workers’ inability to absorb all the relevant information has nothing to do with the learning professionals’ prowess or capabilities or the learning itself, however. It is simply that yesterday’s learning design, development and delivery process doesn’t fit today’s world — it was designed for a time of less information with more time to consume it. All of this points to learning professionals’ need for a new playbook for learning.
The Lean Learning Playbook
Lean learning can be implemented in several ways, including at the point of need via technology. It can also include performance support and social networks designed to connect corporate knowledge masters and colleagues who may be on the other end of the knowledge spectrum. As a result, the organization can gain insights into gaps and connections that would not be apparent in the absence of a collaborative exchange.
Another successful form of this learning style is game-based learning, also known as gamification. This entails the use of game mechanics in non-game environments to improve the user experience and participation. The same incentives that inspire game players to strive for the next level in a computer game can also inspire employees to reach for a higher level of performance and engagement.
A key built-in advantage to game-based learning in the business setting is that game scores become a form of learning assessment by driving suggested learning activities based on detailed user-specific analytics. For all of its entertainment value, game-based learning in the corporate setting is very structured, albeit on a more individualized level, and it allows users to direct their professional development based upon their own strengths and interests.
Examples in Innovative Education
Many companies are experimenting with the lean model. A large credit union that requested confidentiality struggled to help its call-center staff gain a confident understanding of the breadth and depth of the organization’s mortgage services. At the same time, it was tightly managing associated heavy staff training requirements.
Slalom Consulting (Editor’s note: this article’s authors are consultants with the firm) tested incorporating games into the company’s traditional learning philosophy. Employees generally had a high level of confidence and retention after completing the game. They also liked the interactive nature of the method, which allowed them to test their knowledge in a way that incorporated quick reviews.
Another example of lean in action comes from the business of retail wireless technology. Overwhelmed by the rapidly changing and growing body of product knowledge, another Slalom Consulting client struggled to deliver the right information to staff members at their points of need. Through a game-based platform, the business was able to simultaneously increase employee engagement and more effectively deliver information.
Staff members started with a basic game for core concepts; they then unlocked more advanced games by demonstrating understanding of increasingly complex, mission-related concepts or skills.
This focused, on-demand training approach is projected to result in better-educated wireless sales reps, increasing employee engagement and retention. Equipped with the right knowledge, the company says its sales representatives are now better able to serve their customers, boosting sales and creating more cross- and up-sell opportunities.
Lean learning has huge potential to drive business efficiencies. By its very nature, the practice of lean includes a constantly evolving set of processes and tools to change and adapt with the workforce, as well as emerging instructional technologies and resources.
Joe Kuntner, Jonathan McCoy, Ray Pitts and Peter Talmers are part of Slalom Consulting’s organizational effectiveness practice leadership. They can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.
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