Method and madness – Disconnect between learning & knowledge

I’ve oftened wondered about the organisational disconnect between Learning and KM/Documentation areas. For years the model has perpetuated a sort of ‘doubling up’ on effort around the information people need to perform on the job. Learning has the role of ‘teaching’ or embedding in memory, while KM ensures all procedures are captured and delivered(usually within the business). The gap between the two can resemble the Grand Canyon – or perhaps Sydney Heads is a closer example. Yet whileorganisations invest time and money in both, they don’t always talk to each other.

Why can’t we combine the two? When change occurs for new systems, products, processes etc, target audiences must feel like they’re caught in a hailstorm – there’s “support” information raining down on them from all directions. Too often we leave it up to them to make sense of and integrate all this information into something usable and useful on the job. I’m reminded at this point of my own induction experiences into new organisations
: forms, glossy brochures, staff benefit handouts, structure charts and classroom sessions provide information overload on steroids. Aren’t we doing the same to our employees by not integrating the support functions that deliver information? Internalcommunications fits into the same category. 

We seem to be telling the same stories over and over again but from different perspectives. Someone on the receiving end can quite rightly ask “what am I meant to remember?” and “what can I leave for later when I need it?”

So, by saying that we need to get the integration of all this information sorted before anything is delivered, it raises an interesting point. Given the high level of interest in un-structured informal learning and just-in-time performance support, Is there not an opportunity for the typical Learning and Development function to link arms with the business and bring some method to this madness?  Method and madness – Disconnect between learning & knowledge


  1. Some great thoughts here Peter. The realisation we (Learning and Development) need to place significant focus on “performance” has taken long enough, and will take more time to become apparent!

    With an emphasis on performance and efficiency of delivery/presentation to the user rather than course throughput and short term learning I’m certain we will, into the future, see a merging of disciplines. In terms of your discussion it’s learning design, information architecture and interface design. That is challenging enough! But add work design to the mix and it gets really interesting!

  2. I enjoyed reading this, Peter.

    Knowledge Management and informal learning go together. The former powers the latter.

    I totally agree that we need to get the integration of all our information sorted before anything is delivered. For me, that should always be the first step. The “training” can then be considered value-add for those who need it.

  3. Thanks Ryan, What amazes me is how often this doesn”t happen though. I can name any number of current projects large and small where learning and knowledge have engaged separately and are designing and developing separately. Integration between the two may amount to little more than formal training referring to the fact that documentation will be there on the job.

    Our challenge is to begin the next project with a discussion about how to develop an integrated learning and knowledge solution. One that will prepare people for change and properly support them before, through and after the change. Organisational boundaries need to be challenged, skill sets compared and contrasted, and diverse expertise brought to the design table with a common goal in mind – performance.

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