Robert Paterson's Radio Weblog
What is really going on beneath the surface? What is the nature of the bifurcation that is unfolding? That's what interests me.

Learning in the Real World

Formal learning, sourced from traditional schools, is years behind best practice in the field. Universities and formal schools are trapped by the traditional methods of organization and cannot keep pace with rate of change that is pressing down on the workplace today.


Companies such as BP and organizations such as the US Army have recognized that only real-time organization-based learning can keep up with what is required in the field. In addition they have discovered that, by giving the role of teacher to their own workers, they provide an important ingredient in the new workplace – that of providing meaning and value to workers that is much more powerful than pay. Everyone in BP has knowledge that is of value to others. Few things are more affirming that to be heard and valued. 


BP Have set up a number of processes that “Connect” ( Connect is their Program name) individuals and groups within BP so that they can learn from each other. Every staffer has a personal web site and the whole ecosystem is connected by powerful search engines.


An important underpinning idea behind this process is that it is easier to find a person or a group that knows that to manage a huge database of knowledge. Practice in BP is to use their search engine to find a person or a team who can help you. This is where BP are ahead of all others who have taken a database approach.


Learning also occurs online through Facilitated Web Based Communities of Practice and in person as teams from one area spend time with the team that needs to learn more. This part of the system deliberately sets up cross functional communities of Learning to improve major processes. Imagine how for instance if, you ran a hospital, you could approach say Day Surgery or a health issue such as Cancer requiring many providers with such an approach?


What does this mean in practice? It means that all the BP drillers talk to each other around the world and that any new practice is instantly tested and installed everywhere. It means that those involved in managing BP’s entry into a new country can learn from country managers that have dealt with similar political issues. It means that when you have a question, you can put it out into the system and a real person will respond and help you.


Corporately it means that BP saved $700 million in the first two years from the practical implementation of this system. It means that the US Army achieved in 4 weeks in Afghanistan  what the entire Russian military failed to do in 15 years.


Importantly, BP and the US Army have learned however that it is not technology per se that has enabled BP to accelerate its learning, although the tools that they use are important. The key has been to unlock the mental blockage, so common in men, about asking others for help.  BP has found that the US Army’s After Action Review (The AAR) has been exceptionally powerful in making asking questions horizontally the norm. The AAR has supported asking for help and asking tough questions. It has therefore has unlocked the power of new web-based technology to connect staff.


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Last update: 05/01/2003; 3:22:14 PM.