Just in time learning, house renovation and the problem of general vs specific knowledge
January 16, 2014 2 Comments
As some of you are aware over the break (hence the lack of posts) I finalised the purchase of a new house and over the last 5 days have done a renovation on the interior with the help of my wife and some friends. Now none of use are tradespeople although one of our friends is a civil engineer, but has not done any hands on work for years so there was a need in a number of cases for just in time learning while doing some activities around the renovation.
As I am sure most of you are aware there are 1000’s of videos on YouTube and other places which can tell you how to do any piece of house renovation that you would like to have an attempt at. This makes it really easy to find out things like how to sand and polish floors, lay tiles, lay floating floors etc. The problem is that all of the information available is by its very nature generic, so while it provides a spectrum of information it may not be information that is specifically useful to your situation. To give an example; there are a number of video’s available on how to sand floors using a drum floor sander, all of the sanders are operated in a very similar manner to the one which we hired to do our floor, except for the fact that rather than tilting the sander as in the videos, there is a lever to raise and lower the drum. Now was this a significant problem, no, as the person from the Hire Shop at Bunnings explained exactly how their model worked and how to use it, but it reminded me of a ‘quote’ I read ( I am not sure of the source of the exact wording, but it is something I have heard a couple of times now) ‘My company doesn’t need an L&D function, if people need to know how to do something the can look it up on google.’ The problem here is that while generic information is useful, organisations need their staff often to have specific information about equipment, processes, policies and procedures, that generic information may simply not give them. It may not give them the full picture or it may in fact give them wrong information. Which is where the value of specific knowledge and application of that knowledge is vital.
The other problem is one that I have mentioned a long while ago, and that is have I really learnt anything from watching the videos on how to sand a floor, and by learnt I mean will I be able to do it in the future again without having to access the tutorial. My answer here is probably not (at least after a couple of weeks) and certainly not (at least after a couple of months). Again in many situations this may not be an issue at all, but in others it may well be.
We need to make sure that if our staff are going to access generic information about undertaking their roles (either provided by the organisation or externally in one form or another) that there is specific information or specific processes for those staff to be able to access the how to apply that knowledge within the organisation piece of work easily and quickly.