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Micro is the new BIG

If you haven’t noticed lately, it looks like anything micro, small or tiny is the new BIG.

We have the tiny house movement and research findings on the micro-behaviours that shape organisational cultures. There’s micro-expressions, also known as ‘tells’, that can give away clues on our thoughts. Fiction readers can thank Liane Moriarty’s novel, Nine Perfect Strangers, for introducing a wider audience to the idea of micro-dosing on LSD for optimal brain performance. Only this week in the Melbourne Age I was reading about research underway on the micro-inequities female surgeons experience in their workplace. You qualify as a micro-influencer on social media when you reach 3,000 followers.

And then there’s my favourite - the one that’s been flagged as a hot trend for the last couple of years in the Learning and Development profession - micro-learning. That’s learning through shorter and sharper activities or experiences.

New ways of working means new ways of learning!

Research tells us that by 2020, 50 percent of the workforce will be contractors, meaning that fewer people will be the recipients of employer-funded training activity. As we shift from scheduled, event-driven education to just-in-time and self-directed learning, it’s no surprise that micro-learning aligns with our digitally enhanced lifestyle and the way we now consume information via numerous channels. It eases the cognitive load of longer training events that deliver volumes of information.

We learn in many different ways. If you consider what you’ve learned in the last 12-24 months, and how you’ve acquired the new information, chances are high that a great deal of it has been through less formal learning, and more self-directed learning.

A model for modern learning

In this model for modern learning, by using the four quadrants we can plot our learning, from learning which takes place as face-to-face or eLearning formal programs that we have been directed to attend, typically by our employer, to the less formal and self-directed learning. The diagram shows examples of learning activity. Micro-learning can take place in each of these quadrants, but it’s interesting to identify where and how most of your learning is taking place.

Anytime, anywhere

Because most micro-learning is available via multiple digital channels, we can learn anytime, anywhere. Our brains like choices and options. Offering this level of autonomy to learners activates a reward response in the brain, making it more likely that they will participate in learning activity.

The ‘anytime, anywhere’ approach means that we learn when we need the information, rather than when it’s scheduled like a training course. The just-in-time learning means it’s more likely to be applied or tested immediately, further embedding the knowledge acquired.

Learn lots, learn fast, learn from others

Micro-learning aligns nicely with the practice of peer-to-peer or social learning. We learn so much from conversations with each other, or by simply observing. Often this type of learning in small chunks occurs incidentally, in an ad hoc way without schedules or plans. You can leverage this effective way to learn from peers in small chunks by scheduling lightning talks, also known as Pecha Kucha talks, in your teams and across the organisation.

Future forward learning

Organisations can do so much more to build capability with micro-learning. Dr Jen Frahm and I have developed program that features elements of micro-learning.

Our innovative change pick n mix approach respects that people are busy and considers the value of iterative learning in cycles. It’s an agile learning program designed to build change capability in bite sized chunks.

You can find out more about the Change Pick n Mix here. Or contact Dr Jen Frahm or myself.

Small things can make a big impact. Whichever way you look at it, micro-learning makes sense!

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