Collaboration and Learning in the Flow of Work

If the recent changes to our work environments have taught us anything, it is that when being faced with a challenge, we can rise to it. Thinking about learning in particular, before COVID-19, we often saw hour-long courses to help us learn how to work remotely, how to keep engaged, how to use a certain software or tool. But all of a sudden, we have to know how to do these things, and organizations adjusted on the fly and started to curate more content on the above topics instead of building new courses from scratch. Companies started to look at what communication tools they already have available and pushed out content accordingly. In all of this, it’s extremely important though to not just start pushing out content and start using tools to easily connect remotely, but to also think about the strategy behind all of this, and hopefully, keep up this new way of working once we’ve fought off this pandemic.

Learning in the flow of work

One strategy to consider in this new age is learning in the flow of work. Workflow learning differs from traditional L&D approaches. Traditionally, we often overwhelm employees with heavy content pieces focused on knowledge transfer either in eLearning modules or hour-long workshops. Learning in the flow of work however, puts the employee in touch with the right resources at the right time and right place. Workflow learning is designed to really drive business outcomes and performance, and focus on the learner. There are a multitude of ways to achieve learning in the flow of work. From using tools already available in an organization, such as Microsoft tools and apps, think MS Teams, Yammer and SharePoint, to integrating outside resources, such as LinkedIn or Twitter to help create community.

Collaboration as one key to workflow learning success

Another way to create community and allow employees to learn in the flow of work is collaboration. This refers to collaboration within a team, a project team, an organization, but can also mean collaboration outside of an organization. We see lots of collaboration happening right now. Within organizations, teams have virtual coffee breaks to connect and brainstorm ideas. Outside organizations, individuals cast a bigger net within their industries to come up with innovative ideas to help fight COVID-19.

Interestingly enough, when asking different people about collaboration, we see different definitions:

  • Collaboration happens when two or more people work constructively to create a result that extends beyond the limited vision of each individual. (Steven Bleau, Instructional System Designer)
  • Collaboration is the powerhouse of behavior change. Any collaboration in learning should give you the chance to gather new ideas/thoughts/concepts, test your ideas on others, and build something that is better than you could build on your own. (Vanitha Krishnamurthy, Sr. Learning Experience Designer)
  • A group of two or more people working together by contributing a variety of inputs including ideas, discussions, and files to achieve something greater than if they’d done it individually. (Renee Brisson-Khan, Instructional and Learning Experience Designer)
  • Collaboration goes beyond working together in silos to achieve an end result. It requires a team that is open to input and ideas of others for every element of the product to ensure it is not representative of just one individual, but of the team. (Katherine Hill, Instructional and Learning Experience Designer)

What does collaboration mean to you?

What’s common in each of these definitions though is that there seems to be a bigger purpose that collaborators work towards in order to achieve lasting change. This is very powerful and we would act amiss if we didn’t integrate collaborative aspects into everything we design! As people collaborate, they organically learn from one another through mindfulness, watching and listening to others, and reflection. Circling back to the main purpose of workflow learning, help drive performance, it is easy enough to see why collaboration should have its place in learning.

What is your definition of collaboration and how would you build it into your L&D programs?

One comment on “Collaboration and Learning in the Flow of Work
  1. Dan Albright says:

    In Naval Nuclear Power School in the 60’s, if your grades weren’t up to snuff, you were required to go to stupid study. There were no rules, just a time requirement. After days of sitting alone reading over texts and my notes and agonizing over the fact that Nothing was sticking, I wandered into a classroom where a number of my peers were hashing out concepts using the chalkboard to explain themselves while others added their understandings until most of the group built their confidence in their abilities to explain the agreed upon concepts.

    This experience was foundational in my life and I try to share it when I can as to the advantages of collaboration as part of the learning process.

    I try to tell my students to try to explain to others what you have learned, but to be open to critical feedback.

    A story I tell my students is that before I first went to college they sent me a book entitled “How To Study”, but I didn’t know how to study and that is one of the reasons I dropped out of college after 3 semesters with a 1.41 Cumulative Average.

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