Friday, April 06, 2007

Learning Environments

Monday afternoon my son and I were having this fascinating conversation. He had borrowed my book Wikinomics and I knew he would be fascinated not only by the content itself but by all the insights and ideas that would fly through his mind because of it. Global collaboration might be a fairly new concept for those of us boomers, but for the younger up and coming generation who have been raised on technology, it's not so new (or so he told me about 10 times in the conversation).

Knowing his brain would be percolating, I asked him to throw some of those ideas at me so I could talk to him about them and perhaps write about some of them.

I have 3 pages of ideas to write about. (Thank you Mike for a wealth of blog content).

He spoke both of education and the work place and made a comment that stuck in my mind which was "The traditional education system is failing not because of bad teachers, bad kids or low standards but because the content is not interesting and the environment isn't stimulating, but the rest of the world is. The educational model as we know it has lost its relevance. People learn more in online communities. The physical environment is too structured and doesn't allow for individuality". We then spoke about open courseware and all the knowledge available online as well as increasing field trips etc.

I agree whole-heartedly. We then spoke of the work place and the anonymity of some of the places people 'live in' for half their day. I look at government departments where offices are a sea of cubicles with no individuality other than perhaps a plant or a picture as there is no room for much else. There are no walls per se so you're limited to what you can hang on a fabric covered metal frame. How in the world is a person supposed to be stimulated when surrounded by claustrophobic walls of blank fabric, poor lighting and air quality and when separated from others by sight but not sound. Many have to wear headphones to keep the noise out so they can think straight. We also spoke of lateral moves to other parts of the organization so you can learn and know what the rest of the organizational world is doing.

A while back I read an execuBook summary on "Seeing is Believing: How the New Art of Visual Management Can Boost Performance Throught Your Organization". It captured my imagination enough for me to run out and order the book.

"Imagine a workplace that's so visually coherent that it can instantly shape the impression or point of view of the outside world the minute a visitor enters. Visually, this would be a place that's special, a place that's filled with innovation and creativity"

Just reading that excerpt, what does it bring to mind for you? If you are working in an organization that's a sea of generic cubicles, could you imagine the difference in your energy and productivity if you were surrounded by an environment that nourished you instead?

I'd love to hear your three cents on this as well as would love to hear from anyone who decided to change their organization from visually and creatively stifling to one that packed a punch of energy and stimulating thought.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Some sites I really recommend for a wealth of knowledge and information are Open Courseware Consortium: Universities working together to advance education and empower people worldwide through opencourseware. And one of my favourites is The Wayback Machine: Archiving the Internet for future generations. You can browse through 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago.

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