Chief Meta-Learning Officer?

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Tony Karrer’s post guided me to this article in CLO magazine by Jay Cross and Clark Quinn, in which they urge CLOs to become Chief Meta-Learning Officers.

The article advises CLOs to look for learning patterns in their organization and to set up an organizational culture, structures, processes, and resources that support sustainable learning. Jay and Clark suggest several signs and elements for CLOs to watch for in the rapidly changing workplace learning domain. What’s especially useful is their categorization of these elements which, together with several pointers, provide a kind of framework to help define the role of CLOs in the coming years.

In his post, Tony looks at how the article uses the term ‘meta-learning’, and then asks “Is meta-learning a good term to encapsulate what we are talking about?” In my opinion, probably not. As per Wikipedia, meta-learning means learning about one’s own learning. How do I learn? And by extension, how can I improve how I learn? The term Chief Meta-Learning Officer, however, suggests a focus on controlling others’ learning processes rather than one’s own. As Donald Clark says in his response to Tony’s question, Meta-Learning Officer sounds wrong—something like “…I will control all your learning processes”. That doesn’t sound right to me either.

A simplified take on the CLO article could be: Fundamental changes are taking place in workplaces and in how employees and organizations learn. CLOs need to take these changes into account and ensure that workplace learning continues to take place as required and desired.

So that doesn’t really change the CLO’s role itself; it just changes some of the tasks they’ll need to carry out and some of the tools they may need to employ to achieve learning goals. In the last decade or so, as training moved to the web, CLOs have adapted to new tools and methodologies, but that did not necessitate any change in designation. That’s why I feel that for the future too, at best we need to take out the CLO KRA sheet again and probably include or move up items like Social Learning, Informal Learning, etc.

I would imagine one good reason to have a new designation (and we can use Chief Meta-Learning Officer in the sense of guiding or helping others to develop their own learning processes) would be to urgently bring into focus the huge amount of changes happening (and predicted) in the workplace and in the workplace learning domain and the need to act quickly to match the speed of changes themselves.

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