Informal learning means different things to different people. For some, it's the 70 percent of the 70/20/10 model, with a heavy focus on experiences that build skills and knowledge. For others, it's access to online, on-demand resources. Another group of people may say it's a self-directed, DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to learning.
But the truth is that life offers an endless supply of moment-by-moment opportunities to learn... for those who are receptive. This awareness unlocks the possibility of ultimate informal learning, a self-driven process by which individuals consciously mine their own experiences for insights that can drive development and performance improvement.
What does this ultimate informal learning experience look like?
- Lucy knows that a recent product development presentation didn't go well. She seeks out a couple of trusted colleagues who were there to get their feedback and coaching for the future.
- Ramon audits his calendar at the end of each day, reviewing how he spent his time and the results he achieved. He identifies his highest impact activities and plans the next day accordingly.
- Mina just had another tense exchange with a vendor and is tempted to write him off. Instead, she reviews her notes from several previous conversations, identifies where the pain points emerged and creates a very different game plan for the next conversation.
None of this is sexy or flashy; it's just day-to-day life presenting sometimes obvious but often subtle and unremarkable opportunities to learn and grow. This ultimate informal learning represents the most pervasive, cost-effective and sustainable form of development available to organizations... if it can be properly inspired and harnessed. Which it can.
Where ultimate informal learning lives
You can find ultimate informal learning at the intersection of three critical workplace practices.
Mindfulness is all about presence, awareness and focus. It boils down to being willing to slow down enough to pay attention. Individuals can only take advantage of the informal learning opportunities around them to the extent that they can pause, notice and pick up on the cues.
Reflection refers to the mental processes that are applied to our experiences and observations. Too frequently, we let learning just pass us by. Sometimes it's because we fall into patterns that take us down reactive paths; other times, we're just moving too fast. Has this ever happened to you? Whatever the cause, the solution is a pause. Performance and results would skyrocket if everyone took even a few moments each day to ask themselves, "What did I learn from that?," "How could I approach this differently?" or "What's the message for me here?" Short pauses and simple questions are the keys to extracting lessons and learning from day-to-day experiences.
Experimentation is a mindset that, when teamed with mindfulness and reflection, can deliver unbeatable results. Especially in today's volatile and uncertain world, it's essential to help learners understand that perfection is an unrealistic standard and that failure is not fatal. Learning has traditionally been about replicating ideal models. But when we reframe it in terms of "trying something new and seeing how it goes," people relax, opening themselves and the organization to new possibilities, innovation and results.So, when you think about it... should tight budgets or lean resources be an excuse for limited learning? Of course not. Development opportunities abound for those who know how to squeeze lessons from life through ultimate informal learning