Monday, February 19, 2007

Freeing Chickens

As Harold Jarche points out, the conversations have been heating up recently in the bloggosphere around the notion of informal / free ranging chickens (...uh, I mean learning).

I read these essays with not a small amount of confusion, if only because my experience and reality seems miles away from the visions of Jay Cross, Stephen Downes, Tom Haskins, Tony O'Driscoll and others.

I think my confusion shows in my comments on some of these blogs.

Please pardon the following exhaustion and DayQuil driven rants. I've been fighting a nasty cold - but I gotta get this out....

1) I wonder whether, despite the noise in the management literature, CEOs and other managers are TRULY interested in having the training group as a strategic part of the enterprise. What executives seem to REALLY want is a training organization that allows their employees to learn what the executives want them to know by osmosis. No time in the classroom, no time away from their work, and to do it all for cheap/free.

Or even better....NO training organization since the employees are supposed to walk into their jobs knowing everything anyway - and figuring other stuff out through ESP.

2) I also wonder whether executives are truly interested in having a training group capable of encouraging their employees towards independent thought. Most organizations are organized by 20th century command and control principles: strict hierarchies, policies, procedures, etc. Despite platitudes about the need for innovation, creative ideas are squelched (lack of funding, lack of time, the creatively placed put-down....).

3) Even scarier - what if those employees want to learn something the organization DOESN'T (What are your financial numbers really........). Again - command and control.

4) And what if you are dealing with students / users / clients who are more familiar with this culture of fear....would they be willing to leave the "safe" confines of the fence and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for their learning? How many times have you heard someone say "But the trainer didn't show me....." even though you gave them all of the tools for making the necessary cognitive leaps? (And why is it the more educated people in the population who say this more often?)

I suspect that the only way around these issues is through subversion.

Quietly building the tools and resources for the escape from the barnyard...away from the evil Mrs. Tweedy and her pie machine......

Convincing the fellow chickens that there is a better world...

This will be a slow process. I can only hope that we can all get clear on what that world looks like.


Chicken Pics from Harley McAdams at

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