If you’re over a certain age, cast your mind back twenty or so years if you will. Do you remember how we used to get information? We were reliant on books and talking to people, accepting that there was a limit to what we could find out. Remember microfiche film? Carbon paper? Apart from exposing that she’s a bit ancient, Lucy would like to take a moment to reflect on where the Internet has brought us to, where it’ll take us next and what that means for people development.
When I started to think about how different the working world was when I started out just a few (okay, quite a few) years ago, I realised how much we take the Internet for granted. It’s been a huge enabler of communication and information gathering, and with it, a different style of social interaction has evolved. In my recent blog, ‘Get your face out of your phone’ I lamented about the number of people who can be spotted in any public space peering at a screen of some sort, so I was really interested in a TED talk I found called ‘An internet without screens might look like this’. In it, Tom Uglow describes ways in which we might still be able to have all the information we’re now used to having at our fingertips but in objects rather than on screens. I love the idea of being able to interact more with the Internet and I think that opens up opportunities for people to do that together in contrast to the isolated experience that is currently the norm. This is already starting to happen in gaming with the launch of Pokémon Go, where players are required to go outside into the real world to locate Pokémon characters.
In our world of people development, human interaction is key to pretty much all of what we do. On the other side of the coin, the accessibility of information online has led to a boom in the availability of e-learning. The Internet offers a perfect medium for people to gain knowledge and offers flexibility of location and timing for people to learn as it suits them. I worry, though, that, in the way that email has become the default method of communication, often without due regard to its suitability, e-learning is sometimes seen as the holy grail of learning and development. Once developed, there is no need for skilled facilitators to deliver it and those who might see learning as a ‘nice-to-have’ like the reduced commitment it might demand of them. However, there remains only one way to develop skills for people to work together and that is to physically involve people. Whether it’s improving a team’s effectiveness, developing leadership skills or understanding how to communicate better, there is no substitute for having conversations and sharing insights.
In this world of convenience, with an expectation of instant gratification (see Nicki’s blog ‘The virtue of patience’) and increasing time pressures, I have sometimes been asked if I can create ‘bite-sized’ learning. Yes, it can be done, but the clue is in the name. What people will get will be ‘bite-sized’. Personal development shouldn’t be compromised. E-learning and short sessions absolutely have their place for knowledge transfer, but there remains a better way to develop skills and behaviours. I believe the enlightened are those who are confident enough to preserve the value of people working together to create those wonderful light-bulb moments as they enjoy the discovery of how they can be more effective in their working lives. Technology can support that but cannot replace it.