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Informal Learning - Thinking Outside of the Box

September 9, 2010, Jason Stutt -

I was asked recently to do a presentation for an executive's kids ...okay it was for Bobby Yazdani’s (Saba’s CEO) boys and a couple of their friends! The goal was to explain and demonstrate what Saba does.

By all accounts very simple...just flash up our product and talk away. But then it hit me...these were pre-teen aged kids...how do I keep their attention and explain it to them in a way that will catch their attention and interest? The answer…informal Learning!

Using Informal Learning

I decided to grab a couple iPhones and an iPad. We would hold a virtual meeting (using Saba Meeting) as if the boys were sitting in various places around the world: one in Brazil, another in Australia, a third in Japan, all the while I’d be sitting in Toronto (I am Canadian after all).

[ LEARN MORE: Saba's Informal Learning Solutions ]

The kids completely understood and saw the value of being able to communicate important and timely messages quickly. They thought it was neat how we could interact by raising our hand or marking up a page. They enjoyed being able to laugh or clap (just never at the same time as it looks like your slapping yourself in the face). The kids loved the fact that they could do all this from these fun devices. It looked cool and frankly was cool! From there I went on to show them how our Saba People Cloud informal Learning product allows people to interact quickly and informally.

Benefits of Informal Learning

Bobby himself explained that he learns more about our organization through informal Learning than he ever did before. I showed the kids how I can give an impression or review on a colleague and how it's like receiving a gold star at school. They thought it was “totally awesome”! I demonstrated various other things about our informal Learning software solution...how I can share a link to a site I think others might have interest in, post a question and get a flurry of responses…or how I can write a blog and have others read it, bookmark it and share it with others. I showed them how we ourselves asked our customers to participate in the early release of Saba People Cloud and post up ideas. They immediately saw how we could innovate faster if we collected this type of customer feedback right from within the online collaboration tool. I talked about formal Learning and how important it is for companies to measure the performance of their employees.

With school just around the corner I'm sure it wasn't cool to them, but they did understand how Saba enables our customers do work better. I even jumped into a user’s profile and explained how important it was for our customers to know as much about their employees as possible...and how our Person Profile represents that in our product – blending formal data (like education history and training) and informal Learning data (like ratings received on content or number of followers) for a complete picture.

By then end of the presentation it dawned on me...kids might very well be our ultimate litmus test. If we can't demonstrate our products in such a way that a kid understands, then we haven't designed our products correctly. Kids see through fallacies and faults; whether we like it or not, they have little to no filter. We have to strive for SIMPLICITY. We have to assess every click and workflow in our Learning management system and make sure that anyone can understand them intuitively.

As is always the case for me in my life, whenever I interact with kids, I end up Learning more than they did. Pretty neat how that happens isn’t it? They reminded me – as a product manager – that our products needs to be so simple you can just put them in front of someone, and through playing with them they will figure it out.

We have a fantastic suite of formal and informal Learning products...it offers incredible value to our customers. Just ask Bobby's kids! Try it out sometime. Let me know your experience...better yet, ask your kids!