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The future of learning is performing

Jane Hart, thé worldwide social learning thought leader, introduced the catchphrase “the future of learning is social” a couple of years ago. When I had the privilege to meet her personally in 2011, I responded “ the future of learning is performing”.

“The future of learning is performing” sounds a little odd though, doesn’t it? How can performing be learning? The fact that we find it so hard to wrap our heads around this, has a lot to do with the ideas and preconceptions we have about learning. We see learning as one thing and performing as the application of said thing. Two worlds and - definitely - not “one”. Well, that’s no longer really true.

There are two reasons we need to change our paradigm of learning in favour of performing.

One has to do with the speed at which we do business. Rapid globalisation and strong competition shorten our horizons. It’s no longer viable to make medium and long term plans and keep them as a more or less fixed guideline for their intended durations, our VUCA contexts demand us to live in an ‘extended now’. In that ‘extended now’ we need to become both inventive in order to become lean & cost effective and innovative in order to grow, renew and strengthen our margins. Shrinking our timeframe between learning and doing to zero, will definitely help. We simply don’t have the luxury to learn for longer stretches, while someone, somewhere in one of the BRIC countries achieves mastery and takes his or her business(model) from there.

The second reason is that our brains are very good at one thing: forgetting. Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, pioneered the ‘forgetting curve’ in the 19th century. The simplest summary of his finding is that we forget 50% of what we learn within 1 hour, unless we practice what we learn within that hour.

Ebbinghaus forgetting curve


Ebbinghaus’ research stems from 1885: what would he have to say of the current speed at which we have to do business?

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Tags: high impact learning, performance improvement, 70/20/10, innovation

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