Highlight Symposium: The European perspective of HRD

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Subject Organisational innovation and learning: Challenges for the actors (Barry Nyhan)
Outline The other thesis which comes out of the work we have been doing (see contribution) is that the implementation of learning organisations raises serious challenges for vocational education and training and human resource development actors. The issues here are that organisational learning is something outside of the vocabulary of many people in education. Education is more about individual learning, qualifications and formal systems, so the concept of dealing with this chaotic organisational learning is something that for a lot of professionals in VET and also to a certain extent in HRD, is a challenge. For people engaged in the VET system, which is a rather complex system to start with and very heterogeneous, in future there has to be much more focus on engaging with untidy social environmental learning, where we have lots of complex relationships, complex ways of teaching, illustrated by what Nick was talking about (see contribution) and Alan came up with (see discussion).
     So there is this kind of rediscovery of all sorts of unanticipated learning. Learning is often taking place outside the training department. This raises issues about interdisciplinarity and boundary crossing between the world of VET and HRD. These two groups of people are often grouped together, but they have very different value systems and different practices and different interests. So the interconnectivity between these two groups in a pragmatic and not an ideological type of dialogue, which it often turns into, is an issue to be addressed. The whole business of developing social learning systems outside of the school system, like learning organisations in industry, but also in community systems, in educational and public systems, that's another issue to be addressed.
     Also, just a comment on the role of researchers. There is a tendency among researchers even though Alan Brown spoke about a different kind of dimension where the researchers are the innovators (see discussion) but there is a tendency among researchers to just adopt a purely critical role of being able to deconstruct what's going on. This is purely objectivist, a strong tradition of research: the researcher has to be detached from the question that is being researched. But there is another minor tradition which is for the researchers to be advocates. This dispels the neutrality of research which is a big debate and hotly contested issue. This entails researchers working with practitioners being a kind of critical reflector, being on the same side rather than just knocking the many failures that are going to take place when people engage in complex challenges like changing the way learning takes place. 
     Finally, and this is just a comment I heard from a Dutch expert in knowledge management. He was referring to all those 'gurus' who come in to a knowledge based company. They are not going to the HRD people, nor to the VET people. They are creating another world of interconnectedness, they are talking to some other strategic planners in the organisation. So it's a different concept of knowledge, of learning. The HRD people in this context are not participating in this new way in which knowledge is developed. There is an issue about a repositioning and reintegration of what I would call European values. I would be a strong advocate for the German Beruf concept as giving people a certain security in a chaotic social system. But obviously one has to be open to realities rather than holding on to something that cannot resist the inevitable change that is going to take place.
Reference Thesis: included in Manning 2002a; paper: Nyhan et al. 2002
Source Recording of the symposium
Descriptors D-HRD    EP07        V25
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO