Thursday, 26 November 2009

KnowHow to KnowNow

What a difference one letter change makes to that old term “knowhow”. KnowHow meant retaining knowledge in your head so you could apply it at some undefined point in time in the future. While clearly there are basic skills and knowledge that we need to retain internally it is often a fallacy to think that short term, event driven training will be retained long enough, and in a good enough state, to be actioned confidently and competently at the point of need.

As we firmly move into an always online world our old assumptions of having to carry everything in our heads can and is being fundamentally challenged. Knowhow shifts emphasis from retaining facts and more to knowing how to find and fetch what you need when you need it. I call that “KnowNow”. That “N” that makes all the difference is the Network: the network of knowledge sources, people and tools that enable us to perform more reliably at precisely the time we need to. It represents a firm shift towards real time ubiquitous performance support.

Is this science fiction? Not really. Just look at the behaviour of anyone with an iPhone loaded with apps. On the immediate horizon is Augmented Reality – which in real time adds digital support to the immediate location you are in. All driven through your smartphone, which if you don’t have one now, you will do within 2 years.
KnowNow also represents a deeper understanding of how our memories really work and how technology can be used to support better long term recall. By simply bringing learning closer to the point of action and acquisition of experience, then it inherently becomes more memorable. Harnessing the spacing effect also helps cement the key learning drawn from that experience.

While much of education and training still dwells on digitising traditional practices, the real prize is in fundamentally reinventing the way in which we support learning. Rather than get in the way with our “learning interventions” (a descriptive phrase that is all too true for all the wrong reasons) we should be building ways to nurture natural learning. This can only be done economically by putting available technology at the heart of our education and training systems, and not as some digital appendage to longstanding, unchallenged, habitual methods.

KnowNow – spread the word.

10 comments:

David Jennings said...

"Rather than get in the way with our “learning interventions” (a descriptive phrase that is all too true for all the wrong reasons) we should be building ways to nurture natural learning." Beautifully expressed! Hope you don't mind if I borrow that sentence (with attribution, of course).

hchristensen said...

There are many lines worth borrowing in this short piece. Lars, you've done a great job of expressing the core performance support beliefs clearly and concisely. Unfortunately, the "longstanding, unchallenged, habitual methods" you mention dominate far too many of our organizations. Perhaps the smartphone and GPS technologies will will finally force that challenge and enable the KnowNow conceptual breakthough that many of us have been hoping and working for over the last 20 years.

Thanks for keeping the torch aloft.

Hal

Dan Peay said...

Spot-on Lars! You have captured the heart of learning that relates directly to performing. I realized the other day that I could not recall two of my children’s cell phone numbers. I’ve never had to, because I have always had immediate access to them. A Carnegie Mellon study concluded that in 1986, workers could retain in memory as much as 75% of what they needed to know to perform their job. By 1997, knowledge retention dropped to 15%-20%. In 2006, it was estimated retention is as little as 8%-10%.

I love the “KnowNow” term. It inspires me to assess my approach to learning and readiness.

Will Thalheimer said...

Lars, I agree that we need to do things fundamentally different. Part of this is tightening up what we already do (creating formal learning programs) and part of this is leveraging other modalities, including things like job aids, and also on-the-job learning opportunities.

Also, we need to develop better feedback loops for ourselves, so we can get better at what we do. So we can learn.

elearning guy said...

"Rather than get in the way with our “learning interventions” (a descriptive phrase that is all too true for all the wrong reasons) we should be building ways to nurture natural learning." Beautifully expressed! Hope you don't mind if I borrow that sentence (with attribution, of course).

- i agree... well thought... :)

Lars Hyland said...

Charles Jennings has written a good article on trainingzone:

Less is More

I added a comment as follows:

The ability to find, access and connect with other people trumps internalising large volumes of knowledge. Except we mustn't forget that the very process of internalising knowledge improves cognitive ability and leads to more effective learning later in life. That said, this process is highly inefficient as Ebbinghaus' Forgetting Curve illustrates. Hence the need think carefully about how we structure our learning.

Back in 2006 when we scoured the US for evidence of innovative learning practices, I tried to summarise a key failing in training practice in this phrase - Less Learning More Often. As I said then:

We continue to design training as discrete events with little or no follow through. We ask people to attend one/two/three day training courses and then expect them to put this into practice back in the job. Indeed, most e-learning ends up being consumed as a single hit session of one/two/three hours with little additional support.

This is still the vast majority of training activity yet we have now access to technology, cognitive science and other learning research that tells us we should be doing things very differently.

Instead of propping up "KnowHow" we should be supporting KnowNow. That “N” that makes all the difference is the Network: the network of knowledge sources, people and tools that enable us to perform more reliably at precisely the time we need to. It represents a firm shift towards real time ubiquitous performance support.

While much of education and training still dwells on digitising traditional practices, the real prize is in fundamentally reinventing the way in which we support learning. Rather than get in the way with our “learning interventions” (a descriptive phrase that is all too true for all the wrong reasons) we should be building ways to nurture natural learning.

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