Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lance Dublin: Formalizing Informal Learning

[My notes from a webinar.  Missed the first 20 minutes…sorry!]

Lance Dublin:  Formalizing Informal Learning ….&#%!? Why? How?  Presented by Training Magazine Network

Diagram of the learning process:

  • Input: you can get input in lots of ways
  • Organize
  • Apply
  • Evaluate

(in a wheel – each of these is a subprocess)

Looking first at learning.

In a disconnected learning system:

Need. Learning. Performance

The Learning process is often disconnected from the need and the performance.

The Search Engine = “great big white box of hope.” (Lance’s trademark term!)

A High Performance Learning System has Need/Learning/Performance all cycling together.

How can we add more to Learning to get to high performance?

Need to think about New Learning Principles:

  • Rapid
  • Mobile
  • Collaborative
  • Immersive (we don’t want to be lectured at)

Formal vs. Informal – a spectrum

Examples of a formal learning activity:

webinar, classroom, lecture, etc.

What made it formal?

Structure. Planned with objectives…intention.

Examples of informal:

Water cooler, SoMe

Informal learning is never intentional.  Formal learning is intentional.  [I disagree with this! I use my blog/twitter with intention.

Lance asks:  What happens if you add intentionality to an informal activity?

It moves it on the contiuum.  It’s not black and white.  It’s not informal vs. informal.

Marcia Connor’s four-square chart from 2004 (pre web 2.0):

Formal (classes, elearning, meetings)/Informal (community, teaming, playing)

Intentional (reading, coaching, mentoring)/Unexpected (self-study, exploring, internet surfing)

The choice is not informal vs. formal.

Intentionally Informal:  reading a blog, twitter, etc.

Take Marcia’s view to 2009:

Formal/Informal vs. Intentional/Unintentional

Formal intentional:  classes, meetings, elearning, virtual experiences

Informal unintentional: social media, search, conversations, play, life.

Intentional Informal: reading and searching, coaching and mentoring, blogs, wikis, some, etc.  This is the sweet spot.  Taking tools and using them in a new way – add intentionality to them.

These are all tools – it’s how you use them.

Intention gives you metrics and measurement.

Non-formal learning can have objectives.

The opportunity is not formalizing informal learning, but rather working with non-formal learning.

You will lose the battle if try to come up with metrics around totally informal learning.

“Technology gives us more options.” (Kevin Kelly)  We used to have two options: formal and informal.  Now we’ve got all this middle ground.

If there’s no design, it’s informal.


Stage 1:  Get Organized (Leadership)

  • What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
  • What are the metrics? – think about them upfront, not at the end.  (Amount of time to move info through a salesforce – maybe the metric is time).
  • Stakeholders? 
  • Learner profile?
  • Approach? Given our problem, the metrics, the stakeholders – how are we gonna do it? 

 Stage 2: Get Oriented

  • What’s the scope?
  • Organizational factors?
  • What are the weaknesses?
  • What are milestones along the way?

[Note: still haven’t selected the technology or tool!]

Stage 3:  Get Smarter

  • Architect the solution (hmm…maybe twitter, maybe a blog…)
  • Develop the design
  • Integrate into larger system
  • Test, learn, iterate (rapid prototyping and quick cycles) – “fast and ok is better than slow and good.”  Today’s world is ready, fire, aim, ready, fire, reaim!

Stage 4:  Get Real (Develop-Implement)

  • Go right to Version 1 – forget the beta.  No one’s committed to a beta.
  • Continue to learn and iterate
  • listen and communicate

5 Key Principles:

  1. Speed.  Rapid.
  2. Action learning – nothing is certain.
  3. Integration – it’s got to fit inside a larger system.
  4. Pragmatism – leverage opportunities.  look inside the org and decide where this will make a difference.
  5. Working from right to left – keep the end in mind – first figure out what problem you’re trying to solve.  Don’t start with Twitter and then work backward.


  • No models
  • No roadmap
  • Layers of complexity (a classroom is actually pretty simple.  But this will have many things you can’t control or plan for).
  • Mistakes are inevitable
  • Surprises are given
  • Strong forces are working against you
  • Time is of the essence

And then…we ran out of time!


“If I annoyed you, I meant to.”  [I think he said that.  He did.] 

Side two of his business card = Creative Abrasionist – hoping to be provocative.  30 years in the learning industry.  People in the biz need to be open – it’s not either/or. 


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