Monday, August 31, 2015

From Dependence to Interdependence: The Changing Role of Learning Consultants

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the concept of the Maturity Continuum. He discusses seven habits that are designed to help individuals move from Dependence to Independence (Self-Mastery) to Interdependence (the highest level of maturity). While the book is designed for individuals to become more effective in their personal lives, the ideas translate well into all aspects of life. I have been thinking about how these ideas can influence the design of learning and our role as learning consultants.

Internet and easy access to information is changing the role of a learning designer. The advancements in the social and technological environment of learning are redefining what we must do. There is still a need for identifying learning gaps and providing the right solutions but the solutions are not necessarily in the form of courses. Whether we embrace it or not, learners are more in control of their learning than ever before and learning is becoming more social and personalized. I don't think we are 'designing' learning in the strict sense of design anymore. Instead, I find myself acting more like a consultant who is facilitating the process of learning and working towards delivering performance. 

From creating learners who are highly dependent, I am moving towards a role where my relationship with my learners is transforming into interdependence. 

In the act of consulting and designing learning experiences, I want to encourage learners to take responsibility for their own learning and guide them as they find the solutions to their performance problems. In this environment, I see my role as a facilitator of the process of learning and not necessarily the provider of information or knowledge. I see myself as the seed for learning conversations through which I can enable my learners to connect with other learners, their peers, and experts in their personal learning network. In that sense, I am a node in the learning path; and hopefully a critical one. I see myself as the one that connects learners and creates opportunities for interaction and engagement. 

There is a greater need for content curation and presenting information in the context of learning and performance. There is a need for identifying the right learning and performance metrics and gathering evidence in support of performance improvement. There is a need for becoming an agent for change. 

The way I look at it, my goal as a learning consultant is to help learners move along their maturity continuum and help them define and follow their path from dependence to interdependence. 


  1. Interesting this concept of interdependence. It didn't strike when I read the book, but that's long ago.

    How does it relate to maintaining a sound PLN, a network of peers. That could be interesting chat topic.If I get it well you see your job as to move them across Mastery, Independence, Interdependence. Does it involve interpersonal skills to acquire, digital skills, self-organizing skills?

    This idea of adding a learning tagging to curated content is interesting as well. Most curation work done today is essentially showcasing and identifying content from the point of view of being informed, aware more then acquiring identified skills or affecting behaviours. When we see how posts starting with "How to" or numbers skyrocket we can suspect that most readers are essentially trying to learn transferable knowledge. So the need is there, the offer is not.

    1. Thank you for the read and the comment Bruno. My job is to lead the learners and help them move across a continuum – from being dependent on me/others for their learning, they need to gradually move towards being interdependent where there is a symbiotic give-and-take with peers, teachers, trainers etc. And self-organizing skills, interpersonal skills, thinking skills, etc. are all a part of this transition.
      The same is true of how I see my own growth as a learning professional. Therefore, I encourage myself to focus on creating and developing my PLN to move towards interdependence. And moving along my own continuum is all about maintaining a sound PLN and a network of peers, as you rightly said.
      I think there is far too much effort these days that goes into curation. But sometimes, I am not able to see the point of it all. Yes, the information is available, organized and structured but so what? I feel that there is a need to tag this knowledge/information with a purpose – the learning need, the problem statement, the performance solution. It might find more use then – and that’s where I see the role of learning professionals; not just to curate but to present this knowledge in a form that’s useful for learning.
      In short, we need to train our learners to make better connections – in thoughts and with people and other aspects of the environment. But I must start with myself first.