Learning Inspirations from MLK, Jr.

Today is a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birth. While visiting my family in Georgia for the holidays recently, some of us visited the MLK Jr Center. visiting my family in Georgia.

There’s a plaque in the exhibition hall that has a fantastic paraphrase of some of MLK’s words. It uses Rip Van Winkle as an example of sleeping through a revolution. Obviously it is referring to the far more signifiant issue of political and human rights revolution, but I thought in a small way, it is relevant to the technical “revolution” impacting the learning world, especially around social media and user generated content.

One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. 

In our domain of organizational training, learning, knowledge management, etc….I am thinking of the points made by many in the blogosphere that there are a lot of managers, execs, learning professionals, etc, who are clinging to the need to control knowledge, prescribe and define training needs, push out what they think workers/learners need, and so on. I am thinking of the  instructional designers and trainers who remain wary of learners posting their own content, even within enterprise social media platform.

Again, nothing comparable to what MLK was referring to, but are we not in a paradigm shift in our field? Just pick up books like Here Comes Everybody, the Power of Pull, and the Wisdom of Crowds. Things are rapidly changing.  And do we not have our own protectors of the status quo?

My question for us then is, are we sleeping through it? 

The eternal flame burns before the crypt at the King Center on the the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. JOHN SPINK, JSPINK@AJC.COM

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