Couple of weeks back I was asked to submit an assignment for my doctoral program regarding informal learning. It was the hardest thing I’d have ever done. I had to think really hard what my most significant learning had been and where did it actually occur. I call myself a life long learner but I realized the true meaning of it, only once I reflected upon my informal learnings. Couple of weeks back, l wrote an article on thinking process, emotions and productivity. The anecdote I had shared there, links perfectly here because it talks about my informal learning process, within a medium.
We all learn experientially throughout our lives. Information is thrown at us through every corner but informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way, by which most of us are able to talk, react and generally function. Informally gained knowledge fills a void that formal learning creates.
Informal learning is like catching a flight. The passenger chooses the destination and the route, if the passenger wants, they can choose a detour, to admire an intermediate destination or halt awhile or just reach the final destination directly. While your pursuit might be different you are still indulging in informal learning.
People acquire the skills they use at work or in personal life, informally, to maximize potential in different domains. Some might prefer to be coachable to read coaching blogs like these, while others might acquire a new skill online, or through TED talks or similar.
Never stop learning, to grow personally and exponentially at work. This how you can continue, through:
- Experiential reflection: Reflect within and think about the experiences you might have had in life. The experiences could be in your adulthood, adolescent life or childhood. Every experience, interaction, almost everything, leads to an introspective learning, which adds to your knowledge base. For instance, recall your first experience of driving a car or using a device for the first time? Doesn’t it tell a lot about your brain reflexes and the way your brain functions? Every experience accounts for our brain cells to adapt and function more productively.
- Social talking: We’ve heard it umpteen number of times that man is a social animal and we truly thrive on social interactions. Today, with social media, even more so. Every individual is unique and there is much to learn from our day to day interactions, whether online or through face to face communications. Good interactions enable us to align our mentality and practices with the best sought behaviors. Though social learning is picking its pace, it is still not entirely focused on learners adopting and learning newer things from others, such as to unlearn and relearn some of the traditional notions, related to the learning style or preference. When we interact with different people to gain knowledge in different areas, we broaden our horizons.
- Observation and listening: Whether you watch a movie, view TED talks, or just do people watching in another city, you observe people and listen to information, which then adds value to your learning curve. This is the most crucial method for informal learning whether in your workplace or personal life. Of course, we all choose information we want and filter things we don’t think is appropriate for us. This enables the best learning, which transforms us individually in different spheres.
- Trial-and-error: Now, you cannot really learn formally or informally, until and unless you have tried to apply the knowledge. Application of information and knowledge can only be made possible once you try it out. Trial and error is the most crucial method for success and allows a person to test how they can put their learning to use for any skill or activity.
- Simply working with people in the know: While this is a mix of trial and error, observation and social interaction, it is only by working with people in the know, that we gain newer skills. It is through working with people that we learn, social, cultural, behavioral and other skills, which are key to successful personal and social life.
Formal training and workshops account for only 10% to 20% of what people learn at work or in personal life, the rest is informal learning. Most corporations and individuals over-invest in formal training while leaving the more natural, simple ways we learn to chance.
This article contains tried and tested information. It has taken a lot of research and development time to bring this piece to you. If you get value from it, then do share it with people you think might benefit from it. I would truly appreciate it!
How do you learn informally and how does it shape you? Write it in comments below! 🙂
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