I’ve been teaching myself how to edit video. While it’s a skill that no one at my workplace is demanding of me, knowing video editing principles will help me create better learning products, and ultimately, be a valuable skill set for our company. Sure, I have a team of developers who know how to edit video, but I want to know the basics.

How do I go about learning video editing? Like many of us, I subscribe to several learning platforms, such as Lynda.com, Skillshare.com, and Udemy.com. And I refer to the Final Cut Pro lessons, storyboarding lessons and embedded tutorials inside my editing software. I love taking quick lessons during my downtime. It’s far more efficient and life-style supportive than having to enroll in a university or driving through traffic to take in-person lessons in a dark editing studio.

The point is that video editing is a focus for me. It is entirely self-driven. I am leaning into it. I am excited about it. I have a spark.

How do we as L&D professionals encourage this kind of passion in our learners? Currently, we create content that maps to organizational priorities and business objectives. We give our learners a rich and overwhelming array of learning opportunities. But is that enough to ignite the spark to learn something informally and let ingenuity blaze into a newly developed skill set that supports our business goals?

There’s a lot of talk in our industry about informal learning (learning that is driven by self-interest, not accountable to the organization). Studies have found that 70 percent of knowledge is learned on the job, 20 percent is through peers, and 10 percent is formally delivered by those of us in training and development (called the 70:20:10 model). But this article focuses on how to get more value through organic learning – that has the organic quality of self-directed learning but is shaped to the needs of the organization. While there are numerous learning approaches, here are some key ideas to harness the organic quality of informal learning to organizational needs.

Prepare the Ground

It is impossible to learn something if we don’t value it. Value can be quantified in business terms such as, “this learning will help us reduce costs or increase profits,” or in personal terms, “gaining skills in this area will lead to a promotion and pay raise.”


Set expectations and goals. As L&D professionals, our role is to connect the learning content to what our learners value by:

  • Setting expectations: “We expect that you will learn these skills to the required level.”
  • Setting goals and targets: “We expect that our team’s output will exceed last quarter’s production by 10% because of this retraining.”

Another way we can connect, or contextualize, our content to our people’s organic learning process is to replicate best practices from today’s learning platforms, which enable “findability” through robust search.

Findability requires creating a thoughtful and usable taxonomy (a hierarchy of agreed-upon words that describe content) for everything in your learning library. You will want to include both the words your learners use when they search and the language of your corporate business objectives.

Ask your learners how they find what they want to learn. Sit with them and observe how they use search engines. Then apply those words as “tags” to the learning content they were seeking (and maybe did not find).

Another way to revitalize your content and make it findable is to break it into smaller, topic-based chunks. It may not be feasible to redo your learning modules, but anyone can create a topic outline and include it with the documentation. If your learning module is video-based, include time codes so that learners can zoom directly to their topic.

Consider creating a meta-content map of all of your content organized by topics across different modules. Imagine how useful it would be, for example, if a learner wanted to find all the places where “handling objections” was taught, whether it was in a slide presentation, e-learning or webinar recording.


Leverage what your learners know by asking them to share what they are learning organically. Curate this content by topic, audience or business initiative. Most modern learning management systems have the ability to upload a variety of content types. Create a process for submissions and reward your people for taking the initiative to share what they are learning on their own.

A sample content submission form might ask:

  • How is this content relevant to your position?
  • How could this content help your team?
  • How is the content connected to our company’s business objectives?
  • Does this content have an expiration date?
  • What is the source and format of the content?
  • What keywords or tags would be helpful to find this content?

Water the Plants

For most of us, learning took place in school. Then life, family, work and play got in the way. Sometimes, adult learners need to be coached and reminded how to learn. Instead of underlining, highlighting, or rereading, encourage your learners to practice these proven methods for making learning stick:

  • After learning something, ask yourself: “What did I learn?”; “What was hard to understand?”; “What seemed unclear?”
  • Flash cards really do work, if you use only one word per card. Test your understanding of terms in intervals after learning: two days, two weeks, two months. The more you make your memory strain to remember, the more you retain the information.
  • After going through some learning content, stop and explain it to yourself or another person in your own words.
  • Think about metaphor and analogy. For example, “This sales methodology is like a GPS. It doesn’t tell me what to say, but it tells me how to find what I need to say.”


Remember when you brought home a “gold star” on your homework and showed it to your parents? Being recognized makes people feel good. What incentives do you offer to people in your organization who take the initiative to learn on their own? Consider offering recognition for:

  • Submitting learning content to your staff for curation
  • Sharing expertise with peers
  • Asking questions and letting everyone see the answers
  • Making mistakes, conducting post-mortems, documenting the learning and making it accessible for all

In some cases, competition, through gamification or contests, can fuel a sense of esprit de corps and more peer-to-peer learning.

Harvest Time

Everyone benefits, and everyone should have a stake in supporting organic learning. To reap what you’ve sown, gain support for organic learning in the organization from the top down to line managers. The process doesn’t have to be a huge revamp of everything. You can start with small tweaks that make a big difference such as:

  • Start tagging your learning content
  • Offer text versions of video content
  • Break long content into smaller chunks
  • Give learners a map of where to find related content across different platforms
  • Provide a focus for organic learners by communicating what they should look for, why they should seek it and when they need to know it

Enjoy the Bounty

I think of learning as a seed. When well-tended, that seed grows into knowledge and skills that bring good things to every individual in your company. Throughout the organic learning process, it is our job as L&D professionals to prepare the ground, water the plants and harvest the growth, so that it provides both personal value to the individual learner and business value to the organization. Nurturing continuous learning is boosted when you maximize the organic nature of informal learning.