The majority of learning for IT Pros doesn’t take place in a formal environment. Often, being busy professionals, we use a “just in time” approach.
“Just in time” learning is where you have a problem you need to solve and then you learn enough to solve that problem. You don’t start the day intending to learn how to perform a particular task, it’s just that you hit a road block and you need to find a way around it.
Just in time learning involves:
1. Figuring out what the problem is
2. Figuring out what we need to know to solve the problem
3. Doing some research
4. Solving the problem
Of course we’ve all had that moment where we’ve solved a problem without being entirely sure how we solved the problem. That’s not really learning. It’s just dumb luck.
Most seasoned technology professionals don’t take a systematic approach to learning. That is that they don’t set aside time to learn a technology. They often just start playing with it, try to figure it out as they go along, and then, if they are really stuck, read the … fine ... manual.
When you’re performing just in time learning, you generally learn enough to solve the problem and then stop learning. I’ve met many technologists who are completely unaware of a feature that has been in a technology they work with for years simply because they know only enough about the technology to perform their regular tasks.
It’s a bit like that joke about a dullard being a person who goes to look up a word in the dictionary, and only reads the one entry. Our ability to zone in means that we only look up what we need to know.
Search engines are great for zoning in on what we need specifically. But what we miss is all the other information about the topic that isn’t relevant to the query. For example, if I’m trying to solve a problem about permissions on a certificate server, I’ll zone in on that problem. I won’t find out about configuring certificate templates or recovering certificates from the certificate server database because I’ll only be learning about the things I need to solve my problem.
In the next post, I’ll discuss the benefits of structured as opposed to “just in time” learning.