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Work as Improv Theater: Teaching the Right-Brained Learner

improv-learningThe idea that right brained thinkers will dominate business in the coming century has been gaining momentum since it was first popularized several years ago by Dan Pink in his bestselling book A Whole New Mind.

The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate.

I’ve often wondered what all this right-brained thinking means for the learning industry.  Won’t it be difficult to ‘corral’ all these creative thinkers?  How will organizations get them to adopt new business processes, procedures, or software systems when necessary?

To start answering these questions, we have to acknowledge that formal learning, as we know it today, will not be effective in the future.  Instead, we will need to put the workers themselves in charge of their own learning.

This position is well-articulated in this post by Jay Cross at his Informal Learning Blog.  Cross writes:

Once upon a time, people were paid to follow instructions. We thought we could train them to do their jobs. Now, work is more like improv theater. Workers have to solve problems on the fly. They confront situations no one has encountered before. They must perform on the spot. And the only way they can keep up is by learning for themselves. Learning has become the work.

If you question whether organizations can succeed by treating employees like members of an improv theater troupe, just look at Google – where employees are encouraged to spend one day a week working on “own” projects.  As it turns out, this practice has produced more than half of Google’s current offerings, including Gmail.

In the coming years, successful learning professionals will not be those that focus on traditional training methods.  Instead, they will focus on organizing and tagging information, and creating systems – technical and social – that let individuals learn how and when it’s best for them.

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I have been involved in enterprise learning, in big companies and ... less big companies, for more than 20 years. My learning philosophy: don't make people tote around loads of information in their heads just so you can say you trained them. Instead, tell them where to get the information they need, when they need it. I like to read, make films and play guitar (in private). I am a member of the Dashe & Thomson running and biking teams, and captain of its small but emerging chess team. More about me here.
  • http://www.magenic.com Rob Mueller

    Very interesting post. Good content. Out of the box thinking is what makes the new world go round and round…