Google’s approach to learning: research how people learn and design for that

Technology giant google says social learning is at the core of the company’s approach to learning and development.

Speaking at the CIPD L&D Show 2014, Aimee O’Malley, L&D business partner at Google, said that the role of L&D at Google was to ‘give colleagues the tools and infrastructure they need to learn and then get out of the way’.

This thinking extends to the design of office spaces which aim to facilitate purposeful fun and creativity as well as making serendipity more likely through shared eating areas and games areas and open offices.

O’Malley said all Google’s research shows learning is a social process so it created work environments to help foster conversation and for people ‘to bump into each other’. She then went on to look at the company’s six principles of individual learning. They are:

1 Know the user
The company asks colleagues how they learn and from that has discovered the number one approach is talking to peers. The company now focuses on making it easier to find and connect with people.

2 Embrace freedom and flexibility
Give people freedom and they will amaze you, O’Malley said. Google trusts all colleagues to take responsibility for their own development and self select what they need to learn.The expectation is for people to develop themselves.

3 Create personal accountability
The company is clear about what is expected of  colleagues. Project Oxygen identified the 8 character traits expected in managers, based on colleague feedback. The management curriculum is based on this.

4 Foster the network
The company is physically dispersed so developed what it calls ‘an ecosystem of peer learners’. The result is that 85% of internal courses are delivered by Googlers.

5 We are curators not teachers
L&D curates the content and builds in synchronous online sessions around it. The emphasis is on collaboration and content is Google Hangout friendly.

6 Learning agility rather than learning ability
Google supports learning agility in the following ways:

  • Starts with the fact there are many ways for people to develop
  • Provide customised content
  • Support diversity of thought
  • Build experiences – help people connect

 

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