The un-domestication of learning

dog

I read a recent article on the Coywolf.  It’s a new breed born from cross-breeding of North American Timberwolves, feral domesticated Dogs and Coyotes.  As a result, this breed is now the best of 3 types: doesn’t fear man as much as it used to so it ventures into more urban areas; wiley like the Coyote in being a master of opportunism and the pack mentality of strength with the Wolf.

It’s becoming an interesting study into nature’s way of breeding and ways of being that is adapting to its new environment.

It got me thinking that we are seeing a new breed of learner in the workplace – a kind of Coywolf learner.  One who has adapted to a little learning in a pack; a little guile and ingenuity in assembling their learning tactics and a compliant, loyal learner knowing the things they HAVE to learn and be good at.

Learning has been a VERY domesticated pursuit for a long long time.  Classrooms/training rooms, conferences, qualification routes and coaching sessions have been very “dog”.

We are now seeing some slightly wilder, Wolf-pack mentality with unconferences, hackathons, alternative methods like Montessori teaching.

And we’re seeing adaptive, opportunistic and guileful learners be like the Coyote – using social networks and unexpected sources of learning like art, music – no-one’s teaching them – they’re learning through experiences and constant discovery.

So this Coywolf is all the above and, therefore, is adapting better to a changing environment that the dog has because of domestication – but in the wild they struggle a bit.  The Coyote snatches at survival but is smaller and less pack oriented so doesn’t cover every base.  And the wolf’s habitat and prey are shrinking so competition is fierce and only the strongest and most adaptable are surviving.

So our learners are becoming Coywolves is my assertion.  No longer domesticated, totally pack wild or wiley guileful.  A mix of all of these.  Their environment has changed.   Work demands have become the new survival and their needs aren’t being served by their traditional ways.

SO what is the learning profession doing?  70:20:10 is a useful model.  It describes the landscape the learners are in and the ways the world is serving their learning.  Yet 70:20:10 is not the content, not the outcomes; not the pressures; not the entire ecosystem.  So it’s not the answer.

An adaptive learning profession that knows it’s dealing with Coywolves will become the successful learning profession serving this new breed.  Understanding the habits of a previously domesticated or totally wild entity is essential.  Where to place learning that’s needed to appeal to the Dog.  How to enable the learner to become the wily Coyote.  And how to appeal to the pack learner that is the Wolf.

Sure we need domesticated support from the amazing guide dogs, police, tracker, guard, sniffer dogs and sheepdogs.  We shouldn’t lose the way the amazing impact our packaged and consistent learning has on these folks.

If we keep trying to domesticate all our learning and learners, though, the new breed of adaptive learner will slip through our fingers and this super learner’s leverage ableness and ingenuity may well be misdirected, or lost to the successes in life, work and our future we all need.

Be more Coywolf I suppose.

 

About Perry Timms

Perry is a chartered CIPD member; facilitator & coach, he has led technology-driven business changes for over 20 years as a corporate Head of Learning, Talent & OD. Energy, passion and insight around people development are his trademarks.

He combines Director - People & Learning at digital agency Media Zoo with his own enterprise - PTHR - aiming to transform work/learning through use of digital & social technologies; innovation as usual; more soulful leadership; and being an always-on learner for a range of his clients in all sectors.

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