You Can’t Learn Surgery By Watching

Learning to perform a job by watching others and copying their actions is not a great technique for corporate knowledge transfer. Christopher G. Myers suggests a better approach: Coactive vicarious learning.

While some lessons can be learned by watching—a parent’s reaction after touching a hot stove can be a good lesson for a youngster on dangers in the kitchen—other lessons are harder to learn through observation alone. No matter how many times you watch a surgeon perform open-heart surgery, chances are you won’t ever learn how to pull off a triple bypass.

And yet, in business, companies routinely expect employees to pick up new job knowledge through vicarious learning—through reading descriptions of tasks in knowledge-management databases or by observing colleagues from afar. “The predominant analogy for vicarious learning is the photocopier,” says

 

Curated from hbswk.hbs.edu

 

   

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