Informal learning : the Bene Gesserit way

benegesseritWhen you talk about social business, social collaboration, social learning, rapidly the question of informal learning come up. Informal learning is difficult to avoid, since 80% of learning in the company is informal in nature, as stated Jay Cross, author of Informal Learning. So does it mean, that we have nothing to do to try to improve it ? Here is my take through a quick bend by the famous Franck Herbert’s novel, Dune and his famous Bene Gesserit.

May be the first question is do we have to formalize it, seeing that it works pretty well. My point of views is yes. We can’t process everything, fortunatly, but organize few things can help sometimes even if it’s not official and more some good practices instead of a formal process. I will give an example that I know well : Consulting.

In a consulting firm, learning and transmission of knowledge is the core service provided by a firm. This peer to peer transmission is the guarantee that the firm retains the collective memory and expertise of all consultants spent by the firm (we find this idea in Dune with the Bene Gesserit’s other memory), despite an important turn-over for this profession. It becomes a reality in particular in the contribution of benchmarks that are related to the missions of various consultants which will be used for futur businesses.

Generally in the mission, there is a time dedicated to steering (especially if it is long). In this time of steering, it includes the debriefing with all the consultants. It is during this debriefing that each one brings his feedback and knowledge to others, so a peer to peer learning, made informally (this dedicated time is not really visible for the client). In an « unofficial way », there is a formalization of an informal learning. Unfortunatly, often no one takes time to do that and the sharing and transfer of knowledge is nonexistent and juniors do not really make progress. Similarly, as the steering time allows a control by the client, this time is also dedicated to fertilize, correct, improve, construct … productions of each consultant, but it is also a place of learning and sharing for the less experienced.

Without this unofficial formalization, there would be no transmission of knowledge. Worse, on the long term each one would take back existing deliverable without understand completely the meaning, impoverishing more and more the original thought and preventing any innovation and progress.

Moreover, when an project manager debrief individually each of its consultants, as its role is to assess the contribution (or non contribution) provided by the consultant, as he is also there to point the skills and knowledge the consultant was able to acquire during the mission. These are not still understand by the consultant, and this formalization through this interview of the end of mission is very important for the consultant, so that he can better capitalize on his experience and understand where he has capitalized on his experience.

In fact, even if it is not presented as learning, there are times and places for unofficial informal learning, the consultants « Water of Life« . In addition to the tools and methods that allow traditional KM, capitalize on the different products available, these are the times that make up this collective memory of consulting firms, the other memory of the Bene Gesserit.

In many company, not only consulting firm, learning moments exist. You just have to spot them and share them as good practices

  • Noah Raford

    Wow, are you really ripping off Dave Snowden this obviously without crediting him?

    Learning from the Bene Gesserit, by Dave Snowden (June, 2011):

  • Anthony Poncier

    Hi, honestly I didn’t know that Dave Snowden has got the same idea in June 2011. But this article is a translation of one of my own article in french written in march 2010, so one year before,
    So no ripping off, not from me and I am sure not from him too. But I am proud to know that such a smart guy thinks the same way. But web is huge and you can’t read everythinigBut I guess it would have been normal from you to check before denonce me on twitter. I hope you will proofread that quickly

  • Noah .. I know Anthony pretty well .. very smart guy, very erudite and a man of character as well. So I do not doubt him for a moment when he states that he will not have known of dave’s article, and I don’t doubt that he knew of and interpreted the Bene Gesserit as he has in this article.

    And I suspect that the two of you would enjoy each other’s company and perspectives much were the two of you to meet.

  • aponcier

    @twitter-13298:disqus we fixed that on twitter, anyway thanks a lot for your trust and « testimony » Jon