2 Simple Reasons Why Your Organisation Should Invest in Informal Learning
Informally Informed: The Power of Informal Learning at Work
If you’re interested in learning, then the digital world is your adventure playground. Content is available through seemingly endless channels and, if you are so inclined, you can teach yourself practically anything you want to. But should your organisation invest in this less structured approach? Here are two simple reasons why your organisation should invest in informal learning:
1. You’re a Natural!
Informal learning isn’t a fancy concept or inaccessible theory. In fact, you’re already learning informally in your daily life. Think about what happens when you want to buy a new product. Just like workplace learning, there are the formal ‘learning opportunities’ available, such as a manufacturer’s TV advert. That advert is useful – it gives you much of the information you need to make your decision. It might even let you know how and where you can buy the product. Great! That’s convenient and simple. However, should that be the end of your learning? Of course not. Before you buy the product, you’ll probably speak to friends, read blogs or reviews, and watch a few YouTube videos. This all counts as informal learning, and it’s equally effective – perhaps even more so when you consider the variety of opinions and advice available. If informal learning is something we do naturally and effectively, then adopting it in a workplace environment makes perfect sense. As the late Jay Cross, the man often credited as the ‘father of e-learning’, said:
“Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs. Informal learning is like riding a bicycle: the rider chooses the destination and the route. The cyclist can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or help a fellow rider. Most corporations over-invest in formal training while leaving the more natural, simple ways we learn to chance…there are many ways to encourage informal learning and they boost the bottom line.”
2. Better Return on Investment
According to the 70:20:10 theory, only 10% of workplace learning is formal, leaving 90% to learners’ own devices. Informal learning can take place at any time, and be completely unplanned. It happens as we observe everyday goings-on. It happens during corridor conversations, when we casually ask for opinions on business challenges. So while formal learning will always be important for compliance and qualification, it’s clear that there is a huge amount of valuable informal learning out there that remains untapped.
The right blend of formal and informal is the key to training staff in a cost effective way. Informal learning is cheaper to create. It is easier to utilise existing assets from within the organisation and it has the added bonus of being organisationally relevant.
So why aren’t organisations doing more to tap into this natural, less-expensive learning experience?
The truth is that many organisations are beginning to understand its value, but few have harnessed a truly effective way of signposting, storing, delivering and facilitating relevant informal learning. While informal learning is everywhere, it varies in quality. Busy professionals do not have the time to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s where a purposefully-designed content repository, like the one in thinqi, comes to the fore. In one intuitive place, it enables a perfect blend of top-down official and bottom-up user-generated content publishing, all geared around your organisation's business challenges and discoverable through its bespoke taxonomy. Enabling your staff to rate, review, tag and discuss learning resources also ensures the best ones rise to the top, giving everyone access to a vast range of relevant, appropriate and peer-reviewed informal learning resources.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our blog series on e-learning design. It’s the perfect place to start if you’re thinking about creating informal e-learning.