We are both consumers and producers of publications, whether in print or online.
Publications are static containers for knowledge from the pre-Internet era. Even if they are now mostly digital, the ways in which we think about them remains tied to the past. Nevertheless, at their best, they provide a useful reference point, baseline, or benchmark to establish a high-quality standard that is easy, cheap and effective to disseminate. In the worst, they take so much time to prepare that they are out of date even before they are ready for circulation, reflect consensus that is so watered-down as to be unusable, and are expensive – especially when printed copies are needed – to produce, disseminate, stock and revise.
With respect to the knowledge we consume, some of us may heretically scorn formal guidelines and other publications. Reading as an activity “remains a challenge”. Others manage to set aside time to pore over new guidelines and other reference content, journals, or online sources. Yet others cannot justify such time because they prioritize their own knowledge production rather than its consumption.
The development of guidelines, training manuals, and other standards- and evidence-based approaches remains an accepted formal process of knowledge development that also embeds many of the benefits of informal learning, at least for its participants. When peers gather to think and work together, to figure out what should be put into the publication-as-container and why, this is often a dynamic learning process. Dialogue as real-time peer review mixes with more formal review, editing, and revision. Serendipity and creativity are not just possible, but more likely in those spaces, especially when there is one or more layer of social interaction.
So the challenge for learning strategy is to figure out how to capture not just the knowledge artefact of such a process, but also the community, affective, and other social dimensions that help build trust and relationships, to then keep this knowledge current and put it to work – for both the immediate participants and those learners who, in the past, were mere recipients or readers.
Photo: Read the news (Georgie Pauwels/flickr.com)