The following is a guest blog by Tom Molyneux. Tom is a business process consultant at some of the largest enterprises in the world. His experiences in the strategic use of technology give him thoughtful insights into the rapidly changing world we live in. Tom is stepping in while Chris climbs in the Himalaya.
Old School Learning
Over a decade ago, my company sent me to a two day training course for a particular project management software package. The scheduling was based on the existing course schedule, and HR selected a slot for me based on availability. Great course – knowledgeable and enthusiastic instructor, interesting and motivated peers, good hands-on lessons. By the end of the second day I thought, “Wow, I really know this stuff – it’s easy”.
Then two months passed before I actually had to use the software in a project. When time came, I found that I was a beginner again – I had forgotten virtually everything I learned beyond the basics covered in the first half hour introduction. In a sense, my company could have obtained the same outcome by sending me to a half hour training session minutes before it was actually needed. We’ll come back to this point a little later.
Lest you think that I’m particularly forgetful, studies of the brain and how we learn and retain knowledge show this to be the norm. Indeed, as John Medina points out in Brain Rules, research shows “People usually forget 90 percent of what they learn in a class within 30 days. He further showed that the majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class. This has been robustly confirmed in modern times.”
The 1999 movie “The Matrix” gives us an idea of one vision of the future of learning might look like. In one scene, Trinity, the heroine, needs to fly a B-212 helicopter. She calls in the requirement on her somewhat retro cell phone. Two seconds later she’s hovering outside a skyscraper office unleashing a torrent of machine gun fire. What I think is really interesting about this, beyond the ability to “download” skills, is the idea of a system that delivers the required skills just before they are needed.
How might we move from the first example towards the second? If you’ve read The Two Second Advantage, you’ll see that this fits in with a much larger trend in how businesses and society are starting to use real-time information for a competitive advantage. In the old “database” world approach, companies would seek to provide mountains of training – 90 percent which research shows will be forgotten by the time it’s actually needed. In the real-time approach, the objective is to try to provide just the right training to the right person at the right time. How?
This is where process plays a critical role. It also gets to the heart of why training is provided in the first place. Most training is required to allow individuals to perform a specific activity (or set of activities) in the context of a process. Because BPM lets us know both the process being performed and who’s performing it, it’s not much of a leap to see how it also tells us what training must be provided at that specific point in time. This training could be as simple as the clearly readable process itself or as complex as a required certification or an existing course in an LMS. In this view, every process could not only have an input and output, but also some way to attach, embed or otherwise enrich it with “how” to perform the process itself.
BPM has the inate ability to answer the critical question that leads to 90 percent of the waste in training – “When?” Have you seen BPM systems used to enable on demand learning?