Share this

Learning At Work Week

Learning at Work Week runs from 16-22 May and aims to put the spotlight on the importance and benefits of learning and development. It promotes an inclusive approach and supports the extension of opportunities to learn to all employees.

At Symposium, we recognise the importance of learning at work and run training events throughout the year to help you help your employees develop and grow in their jobs.

But learning and development is a demanding and ever-changing environment and the democratisation of learning is the way forward.

What is the democratisation of learning?

Perry Timms explains all…

I was invited to speak at an event in 2014 with a bit of an all-star cast of other speakers that included Lynda Gratton and Lord Knight (a former Education Minister). I was there talking about the more social side of learning – largely using social media – and it was an area I had begun to build some reputation in so it went well.

The entire event was around the democratisation of learning. A whole day dedicated to this. To some, it was a journey through modern thinking while to others it was a case of “What’s all the fuss about? We’ve been doing this for years!”

Playing catch-up in an ever-moving world

Two years later, I am STILL coming across corporate L&D teams who are only just making this shift. I’m not being critical of people who have learners who still want, need and demand boxed-up, competency-mapped learning and development solutions. Just like people still want physical newspapers rather than an app. Just like people still want a real book and not an e-reader. Just like people want to go to a concert and not just listen to their MP3 player or watch YouTube.

However, we cannot ignore how much the socialisation and digitisation of the world has led to an abundance – and it’s this abundance that gives us availability and an openness associated with the core tenets of democratisation. And, so it is with learning.

In the past, learning was locked into brains and text books/journals and taught/consumed in classrooms and libraries. OK, not all learning: there were experiences and experiments from which we learned but largely we were taught. This wasn’t so much a case of any democratic learning more prescriptive pedagogy.

So what IS democratic learning?

Learning At Work Week

It’s voted for by the people – i.e. the choices of what you learn; how you learn; when you learn are all down to you the learner. It’s your freedom to learn and express your learning much like the freedom of speech is given in a democracy.

It’s the opposite of “done-to” learning in many people’s minds. You know, the stuff you get conscripted to. Whether you feel you need it or not.

Democratic learning is where you exercise your right to choose and spend time, cognitive power and spiritual energy on.

It’s learning set free. It’s people choosing and voting with their head, hearts and professional desires. It’s no longer “Here’s the catalogue, what do you fancy this year?” It’s more a case of situations, aspirations and career destinations.

It’s the liberation of people to learn for themselves and apply that to their professional and vocational working lives. It’s people using all the range of tools available to them and not have to wait in line for the sheep-dip to come around to them.

It’s timeliness – we’re in a faster moving world and the wait for a designed up course programme is not serving us well in all cases. It’s variety – we’re in a tapas world; no longer a 3-course meal. It’s fitness – all the theory of regularity and creation of good habits keeping you in shape – learning is following suit with a range of smaller workouts aggregating up into a learning fitness regime.

It’s your learning so it’s your voting that decides on what you get and how you use it.

We clearly have to think about relevance, validity and making sure the time spent is well spent and results in improving how people feel, think and act are the right ones.

So it feels like the accessibility to information and the desire to craft something by us for us, is challenging learning paradigms and creating a democratic approach to what, how, when and where we learn.

Liberte, egalite, fraternite in learning. Vive la revolution!


For more information on Learning at Work Week, visit and follow @lawweekwire and #learningatworkweek on Twitter.

See our training events page for more details. A sample of upcoming sessions include:

Mental Health Awareness, London, 6 June
Enables you to recognise, support and manage mental health illness in the workplace.
Mediation Skills Training, London, 7 June
Identify, address and resolve workplace disputes.
Core Values & Human Resources, London 14 June
Learn how values support a healthy organisationsal structure.



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.

View All Posts