Thursday, 29 October 2020

You never stop learning, but you should start teaching

In a learning organisation we are all learners, but over time each individual moves towards being a teacher as well

When an employee is very new to an organisation or to a topic, they are usually quite quiet in KM activities; in lesson capture meetings for example, or on community forums. They are still learning the basics, which they get from training, from the community knowledge base, and they spend 100% of their KM time watching, listening to and reading community discussion. They don't tend to ask questions  - their questions are still fairly basic, and if they do ask, the answer is usually a version of "read the manual".

After a while, and maybe quite quickly in some cases, the employee starts to face problems and issues that are not in the knowledge base. That's when they start to ask questions of others, and begin to use more experienced staff as a knowledge resource. They move from 100% lurking and reading, to (over time) 100% asking.

After a bit more time, the employees begin to find that they themselves can answer the questions of others. This can happen relatively quickly as well - I remember interviewing one guy who was less than 2 years into the company, and a question came up on the community forum which was related to a special study he had just completed.  He answered this successfully, and reported how pleased he was to be able to "feed something back" to the CoP.

The more experienced members may take on a leadership role for their topic, perhaps becoming a subject matter expert, with accountability for teaching and for owning some of the Knowledge Assets of the Community. 
However even the best expert never stops learning. Only last week I saw, in a busy community forum, an expert asking for feedback, comments and advice on a document she had produced. Even the most advanced expert should spend some time asking, some time answering, and some time teaching. And when you teach, you also learn. The best way to really learn a topic is to teach others. 

Remember, once you move out of the lurking phase, your responsibility to learn will begin to evolve into a responsibility to teach as well. 

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