8 Brain Shifts Define Dark Learning

What is Dark Learning?

Dark Learning represents a shift in how people think about and execute enterprise learning.

Dark Learning is an agile approach to learning that emphasizes transparent transfer of behaviors, skills and abilities.

Dark Learning is not a new approach to developing e-learning, instructor-led training and job aids.

There are eight characteristics of Dark Learning.

The eight characteristics of Dark Learning fundamentally change how enterprises respond to an identified need or request for training:

  1. Customer impact: Consider customer impact above traditional learning and business impact.
  2. Root problems: Solve root problems, rather than symptoms of problems.
  3. Analytics-driven decisions: Use modern analytics to drive no-nonsense decision-making and customer value.
  4. Context and personalization: Personalize and contextualize enablement to the learner’s reality.
  5. Innovation: Make effective use of innovations in technology, not just learning-specific technology, and processes to enable transparent adoption of knowledge, skills and behaviors.
  6. DYJADIR: Help employees, partners, and customers to “DYJADIR” (pronounced “didjadear”) – “do your job and do it right.”
  7. Reduced Learning Distance: Bring learners and experts closer to each other.
  8. Simplification: Borrowing conceptually from Extreme Programming, implement in the simplest way you can think of that could possibly work.

Dark Learning capitalizes on informal, hidden and natural approaches to transfer of learning.

Estimates of the prevalence of “informal learning” used to transfer skills and knowledge in the enterprise vary significantly, from 70-90% of all job-based learning.  Just as we find in the physical universe, the portion of what’s visible is much smaller – and sometimes even insignificant – when compared to what’s not visible; when compared to what’s “dark.”

This informal learning, then – the transfer of knowledge and skills from mentor to mentee, between peers, or within communities of employees who share specific interests – happens without formal pedagogy, time limits and test results; and they tend to be strategic to the goals of the learner.  Most skills, as it turns out, are acquired through informal learning.

Dark Learning emphasizes a transparent approach to learning.

To the extent possible, Dark Learning is part of the natural experience and workflow, rather than a separate event:

  • Rather than being taught not to open customer A’s files while on-site at customer B, Dark Learning suggests IT prevent the security breach from happening in the first place.
  • Instead of telling an employee how to behave, Dark Learning rewards positive examples with leaders recognizing desired behaviors.
  • Work-embedded learning provides tool-tips within an application as the person is completing their job, rather than requiring that they register for and take a Web-based training course.

These are just a few examples with many more to come. We encourage you to join the Dark Learning Community and share your ideas, as well.