I recently discovered Life in Perpetual Beta, a blog written by organizational consultant Harold Jarche.  The blog focuses on ways to “work smarter” in an era of constant development and change.  Jarche is a true believer in the importance of integrating effective learning techniques throughout the workplace, which definitely resonates with us at Blackboard. Life in Perpetual Beta is a great blog for leaders who are seeking new ways to revitalize their organizations through strategies in learning, and would especially appeal to those who aren’t afraid of change. An emphasis on social learning Naturally, some of my favorite postings in the blog are on the positive impact of social learning in the workplace.  In one post entitled “Social Learning, Complexity, and the Enterprise,” Jarche emphasizes one of his key ideas: since modern organizations are often “model[s] of constant change,” companies need to be creative and agile in order to keep up with continuous development.

However, when you look at the modern organization, it is moving to a model of constant change, whether through mergers and acquisitions or as quick-start web-enabled networks. For the human resources department, the question becomes one of preparing people for jobs that don’t even exist. For example, the role of online community manager, a fast-growing field today, barely existed five years ago. Individual training for job preparation requires a stable work environment, a luxury no one has any more.

Jarche argues that social learning, which embraces the full benefits of the collaborative process, is the most effective way for professionals to exchange ideas and reach solutions efficiently.  Another important benefit is that of capturing the knowledge and retain it for others to continue the legacy of others. Training should not happen in a vacuum nor should it be forgotten.

How are you taking stock? Jarche’s blog also caused us to ask how organizations can take stock of the information being exchanged through social learning. The web enables connections, or constant flow, as well as instant access to information, or infinite stock. Because of this connectivity, the Web is an environment more suited to social, just-in-time learning than the outdated course model. With social learning becoming a key facet in the professional learning environment, it is important to empower the sharing of knowledge and experiences.  This not only allows for a more efficient way of accessing information on-demand, but also for adapting to what information is most relevant in an ever-changing environment.  As Jarche points out, “Change is continuous, so learning must be continuous.”

The continuous learning environment Jarche uses the term “perpetual beta” to reflect the constant change and development occurring in today’s workplace.  He believes that organizations will be most successful when they embrace this dynamism through an adaptive learning process. For the future of workplace learning, this means that organizations must focus on creative response and innovation in order to stay ahead of the times.  Learning can no longer occur in a strictly top-down, classroom-style environment to be effective. At Blackboard, we believe that a continuous learning environment is the best way to foster this type of organic, self-directed learning.  Through products such as Blackboard Learn, individuals can close personal learning gaps while developing emergent practices with their peers, empowering them to take ownership of learning to best achieve organization-wide goals. To sum it up Jarche compiles some of his key posts on a single page, which includes a link to his Working Smarter Fieldbook.  Author Daniel Pink says that the Fieldbook will turn “your old notions about training, work, and learning upside down and inside out…”  I’m intrigued already!

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