Article: The learning frame and interdisciplinary thinking

Learning & Development

The learning frame and interdisciplinary thinking

It is time to design new organizational learning practices that promote interdisciplinary collaboration, that facilitate thinking and conscious decision making at all levels, and that focus on what we can solve rather than what we have learned.
The learning frame and interdisciplinary thinking

The pandemic has bestowed an unprecedented opportunity for organizations to take their learning philosophy to the future. Simplicity should take over the new learning design because there is no other substitute. This brings a singular clarity and urgency of purpose to experiment and design an entirely new organizational learning practice.

The long path to recovery presents us with two distinct choices. The first is to recoil back to normal, following the path of least resistance, reverting to old tested methods, predicted outcomes, settling down with yesterday’s results. This choice is less risky, but might result in middling performance or even failing in the new world.

The second choice is an exploratory path, to experiment, chart a new course in the new world. There is no normal to go back to and instead, we should explore and stop the gravitational pull of the older methods to capitalize on learning through the crisis. Following the second path, we can be guided by what I call the 'Learning Frame’.

The learning frame

The new Learning Frame should accommodate:

  • Forecasted and planned interventions
  • Integrated Learning approach
  • Pull Learning (Intrinsic Motivation)

It would promote interdisciplinary collaboration, creating compounded value, a sense of community, encouraging employees to learn new competencies.

Alongside the Learning Frame, we need to consciously construct an agile matrix with multidimensional role architecture by the name 'Climbing Frame'. Simplicity is another unexpected outcome of the pandemic and we need to redesign not just learning, but also recalibrate roles in the new future. The re-engineered learning philosophy—the Learning Frame—compliments the employee’s transition through the Climbing Frame.

The new cadence of learning is short, agile, and focused bursts of activities that are more energizing and engaging. We need to ask our employees relevant questions like:

  • What have you learned from the pandemic in terms of focus, faster decisions, and less bureaucracy?
  • Where have you deployed Agile teams?
  • Where do we retreat, adapt, and advance to be ready for the future?

Learning takes a new name and a shape every decade, and this decade belongs to Futuristic Learning. Having said this, where does the learning take the learner? To a future with possibilities or to the past where the learning can be inferred from?

The thinking loop

Learning is a loop that connects the past and the future in the present continuum. It is a continuous activity and becomes complete when the learner interprets his/her experience under the light of newly acquired knowledge and thus prepares himself for the future. This past-present-future connectivity creates a learning loop, which I call the Thinking Loop—a learning loop where the learner revels in the present, very much aware of future possibilities, and having imbibed the past lessons. The Thinking Loop completes the learning process and the newly imbibed information is now ready-to-apply knowledge. 

This transition, aided by reflection (thinking), is significant for a thinking organization. A thinking organization facilitates thinking and conscious decision making at all levels, unlike the ‘Few think and others execute’ type of organization. In a thinking organization, every role should be associated with a share of thinking: this should be the objective of learning.

Quantifying the personalized learning expedition

Learning is vision-driven and technology will help in realizing this vision. Technology aids in catering to different learning styles and in transforming the landscape of learning. There is a formula, the Individual Learning Disposition© or ILD, that can quantify employees’ interest to learn across domains and add capability.

ILD is driven by two factors:

  1. Aspiration - What one can learn
  2. Gratification - What one can gain from what one had learned

As a formula, it is written thus:

ILD = [ (What one can learn * How one can learn) * Gratification ] / Learning Frequency

Frequency is the number of learning instances in a year, calculated at 1 for once a year, 0.75 for twice a year, 0.5 for thrice a year, and 0.25 for every quarter. The more frequently learning happens in a year, the higher an individual's or organization's ILD score will be. This formula reflects that the most desirable state is for learning to happen across the year.

Individual and organizational learning efficiency can be similarly calculated:

Individual Learning Efficiency =  Actual individual learning man days / Desired individual man days

Organization Learning efficiency = Actual learning man days (collective) / Desired man days (collective)

Individual Learning Disposition can drive astounding Organizational learning efficiency. When we dematerialize the medium, the learning becomes unconditional and can happen by choice.

Non-linear growth through interdisciplinary thinking

Sooner or later organizations will realize that the career ladder is a limiting, regressive way to approach employee development. Linear growth is essentially a survival instinct and it forces a person to fit into molds of career options that are forged for people who sidestep risks and are hesitant to learn.

With the dawn of interdisciplinary thinking, we should encourage people to make career choices to help with non-linear growth. Employees can and shall pursue roles that need these crossbred competencies that are unique and builds strategic capability in the workforce.

We need to include social-learning components in our learning programs. These components include discussion boards, learner journeys and should focus on cohorts of people undertaking learning together, alongside self-paced learning of employees. These programs will enable a fully digital experience.

We also need to drop certain old practices such as: 

  • Ad hoc Interventions
  • Training in Silos
  • Push Training (External push)

We can begin at the educational level with Think Labs which would trigger “problem solving thinking” in graduates and facilitate the metanoia where they imbibe the requisite knowledge and apply in business simulations. They should be trained to reflect and exercise a degree of decision making vested on them through simulations. The idea is to engage them by sharing stories from the industry and setting the aspirations high. 

Measure what we can solve, not what we have learned

The “reframed” learning objective gives us an opportunity to rethink and design the learner’s end-to-end experience. We should focus upon human connections, creating intentional, meaningful interactions. We should aggressively adapt to new practices—to stay not just relevant, but focused on a cause and purpose. 

The learning ability of people and their interest shifts continuously with the advent of new technologies and skillsets. We need more thinking organizations to sort the clamor around us. Today, universities are extending interdisciplinary courses that interlink regular streams in the hope of producing a new world order that can sort out complex problems.

We should recalibrate our metrics and measure what one can solve from what one has learned. This is what we would need to measure if at all we want to measure. 

Learning takes a new name and a shape every decade, and this decade belongs to Futuristic Learning. Having said this, where does the learning take the learner? To a future with possibilities or to the past where the learning can be inferred from?


Know more about the latest trends in the learning & development landscape at the People Matters L&D Conference 2020 coming to your screens from 21st-22nd October. Click here to register.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #ReimagineLearning, #PMLnD

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