When we read about just-in-time learning, we are sometimes amused at the hype about generational differences. There has been an avalanche of blog articles and “research” papers about how millennials are different – demanding, digital, and distracted. They are described as the narcissistic “me” generation.
Having been a participant in and witness to the state of work life before digital gives us a different perspective. From our view, millennials are what baby boomers would have been if they had the technology. Those who marvel at millennials’ narcissism didn’t see the crass self-indulgence that drove the 60’s “Revolution.”
Millennials are not the driving force behind just-in-time learning. It is technology.
JIT Before Tech
We have been using just-in-time learning in one form or another for decades. In the Navy, we had maintenance guides for every piece of equipment from typewriters to jet aircraft. In Finance, we had thick manuals covering every conceivable type of transaction.
In Human Resources, in the 1990s, we had complete guides for practitioners on CD-ROM. They were useful only if you knew the taxonomy and had plenty of time to find what you needed. Before long they sat idle while we used the internet.
Curation and Delivery
Mobile learning has changed all that. Sales operations are improving their results by delivering information at the point of need, and their practices are finding their way into the entire knowledge economy. The difficulty we have now is managing the unending stream of knowledge.
Before leading corporate learning operations caught on to our self-directed learning, we were our own source seekers, curators, and learning providers. We shared our experience on wikis and SharePoint sites.
With the growth of learning management systems into what Josh Bersin calls the “consumer-like TV channel of corporate learning,” we now have content curation capabilities and mobile delivery that make JIT learning commonly available. The capabilities are built into current LMS offerings from vendors like Workday and SumTotal, and we see rapid growth in the number of content curation solution providers.
We now have the ability to provide contextual learning with just the right information, instantly and anywhere. The challenge is to manage it.
8 Steps to JIT Success
The vast amount of information available today has democratized learning. It is easy for people to pursue their interests in learning without our direction. Our job is to lead them to achieve business objectives. Improving organizational performance with JIT learning requires a disciplined approach. Here are our eight steps to success.
- Attack one problem at a time. Learning content is as varied as job roles. Each role has its unique body of knowledge, and there is no generic solution.
- Don’t lose sight of your purpose. It is to improve organizational performance, so work with your business leaders and help them solve their performance issues one at a time.
- Chunk your information. People who are solving a problem want enough information to solve it and no more. Make it bite-size so people can digest it quickly and get on with their work.
- Tag your chunks. Using tags will enable you to make vast amounts of content searchable. Make it easier for your users by teaching them how to search using multiple tags to refine their results. The ultimate goal should be for users to find what they need on the first page of search results.
- Allow people to create content. With a little support, experts can create a quick “how-to” videos with a mobile phone or create one-page step-by-step guides. Build in a review and curation process to manage user-provided content.
- Market the solution and train users.
- Don’t throw out your formal training methods. Organized, structured training is appropriate for many learning situations. JIT mobile learning will not replace compliance certification, discussion groups, or role-playing.
- Measure your results and claim your successes.
We wish you success in harnessing your mobile technology to improve business results. We hope our steps to success will prove useful to you.
Monzon, Mike. Webinar: “Why Just-in-Time Learning is Your Best New Sales Weapon.” Inkling. August 12, 2015.
Bersin, Josh. “Workday Introduces Learning: A Fresh Approach to the LMS Market.” Forbes. September 30, 2015.
“Just-in-Time Technology.” SkillPill®. June 27, 2014.
Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.