Most of the blogging about informal learning appears to be going round in circles. It's a reaction to the "over-structured exploration" and "lack of improvisation" that characterizes formal learning. This debate is fueled by the new tools of eLearning and Web 2.0. Yet it's structured as a chronic feud that will never be resolved. Informal vs. formal learning perpetuates a vicious cycle.Informal learning is a kind of process, not a result. If the debate shifts to desired outcomes, the balance and combination of informal and formal methods will resolve itself. Yet, framing the intended outcomes as "skill transfer", "take away value" or "job performance metrics" maintains the premises of content-centered instruction. The intention remains a question of designing and delivering expertise. It's business as usual; trying harder inside the box.
There's a different kind of training outcome that resolves the tensions between informal and formal learning: contagious competence. Rather than measure how much the skills transferred or the metrics improved, contagious competence questions how the outcomes spread virally. New questions are considered:
How did the competencies catch on naturally?
How contagious were the learning experiences?
How fertile a breeding ground was created and nurtured?
How prolific was the spontaneous replication of expertise?
How many receptors became infected with the efficacy?
How scale-free was the emergent network of reliable system nodes?
How open was the system to evolutionary pressures and feedback?