Continuous Learning: Boosting Individual and Organizational Productivity in the Web 2.0 Era

Today's talent-intensive workforce demands continuous learning and training. Most organizations have formalized their training activities, but only a few have formalized the process of continuous learning.

Continuous learning does not replace training. It has different aims and satisfies different goals.

Back in 1974, Peter F. Drucker wrote, "[Learning] satisfies the need of the employee to contribute what he has learned in improving his own performance to the improvement of his fellow workers’ performance, and to a better, more effective, but also more rational way of working."

Today, knowledge management gurus call Drucker’s crisp observation creating an informal learning organization, a community of practice, internal knowledge transfer, the teaching firm and sharing work experiences and best practices.

Drucker said, "The very fact that the knowledge worker, to be effective, has to be specialized, creates a need for continuous exposure to the experiences, problems and needs of others and in turn for a continuous contribution of knowledge and information.

Whether the knowledge work be accounting or market research, planning or chemical engineering, the work group has to be seen and has to see itself as a learning group."

Welcome to the P2P Internal Knowledge Transfer Revolution

Peer-to-peer communication within organizations has been facilitated by new technologies. Training can be viewed as "a one-to-many communications vehicle." Continuous learning can be viewed as a "many-to-many communications vehicle."

"Social media" technologies focus on sharing work-related experiences and best practices within organizations. Those technologies are increasing exponentially.

Continuous learning can be organized as a formal process, as done by Wal-Mart, which, according to the Boston Consulting Group, installed a video link that connects all its stores with corporate headquarters and each other. This enables store managers to exchange information via video conferences on new developments in discount merchandising, recent best sellers, flops and successful or unsuccessful promotions.

Continuous learning can also be informal. A simple lunch-time gathering held in a conference room with the expressed purpose of sharing success tactics among a telemarketing sales force qualifies as continuous learning.

While continuous learning can be formal or informal, it must be organized. And many internal training organizations now realize that increasing the productivity of knowledge requires increasing extraction of knowledge from individuals or groups.

Extracting and disseminating this knowledge is a key activity for all internal training groups. Indeed, internal training organizations are ideally positioned to organize continuous learning. Employee retention will go up. And individual and organizational productivity will improve dramatically.