This Guest paper series was originally published by the Cutter Consortium Agile Product & Project Management Advisory Service in 2009. It is reproduced here, with permission from the publishers (

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Part 2 published here October 2014.

PART 1 | Introduction | "Higher" Higher-Order Thinking Skills
Aligning the Organization's Educational Infrastructure | Conclusions | PART 3

Aligning the Organization's Educational Infrastructure

Whether recognized or not, indirect learning and social learning mechanisms are present in all organizations. Unfortunately, the learning processes are generally poorly understood and hence organizations have failed to leverage these learning pathways into an effective educational strategy. In some organizations, the failure to develop an appropriate strategy is actively working against them.

Where a lack of training and skills development has been allowed to propagate throughout the organization, expectations and social norms are set at a lower level. That is, at a lower level than they would within an organization that places a greater emphasis on the development of expertise. By setting the bar at a lower level, organizations cut themselves off from the pool of potential that exists and forever expose themselves to the elevated costs of lower productivity and poor levels of quality.

The starting point for breaking out of the cycle and tapping into the full potential of an organization's human capital lies in teaching managers to understand how higher-order thinking skills develop. This includes the roadblocks to learning that are inherent in project-based environments, and the mechanisms such as social learning that, if properly aligned, can help develop a team's capabilities. Once that level of awareness has been established, management teams are positioned to review the overall effectiveness of their educational infrastructure. And then they can devise plans to maximize the use of the resources they have at their disposal. That might involve activities such as leveraging the potential value of role models, embedding an educational component into the leadership roles, or setting expectations using samples.

For educational providers, there are also lessons to learn. Advanced training programs need to do more than simply provide information. Organizations need educators to help them develop expertise rather than just distribute information. Fortunately, there is a growing trend for academic institutions and training providers to move deeper into the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

By using more modern learning constructs such as comparative learning, pattern analysis, reflective learning, simulations, and systems thinking techniques, some training institutions have seen the light and are forging ahead with improved training programs. When these more advanced academic programs are supported by an effective social learning infrastructure within the organization, the necessary components are in place to allow resources to develop their capabilities to their fullest potential.

  "Higher" Higher-Order Thinking Skills

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