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Browsing through a stack of unopened emails, I recently came across one from Khan Academy.  I remembered subscribing to their email list a few years back. Since then I had paid little attention to them.

As with all such email subscriptions, I have them routed into one of seven Airmail Smart Folders for browsing sessions like this one during those moments between tasks. It keeps my daily in-basket much less cluttered.

Today one particular email caught my attention because I had been seeking ways to help my youngest daughter with High School Geometry. And by “ways to help” I really mean “ways to save face.”

It’s been a few years since I sat down with Pythagoras and the guys, and I feared being rather useless as a dad-tutor. Those words really don’t go together anyway – dad and tutor. If you’re a father to a teenage daughter, you know exactly what I mean.

But this email piqued my curiosity enough for me to peek at the app they were promoting.

 Khan Academy App

Turns out, I already had it installed on my phone, but had totally forgotten about it!  I’m sure I have a lot of other lonely apps gathering kilobytes of dust on my phone.

I clicked on the app and quickly discovered a virtual paradise of lessons on High School Geometry.  Dad my boy, you are brilliant!

Of course, I just used two more word pairs that are never used together in the Hobbs household. Paradise and Geometry. Dad and brilliant.

But the moment reaffirmed both the need and the opportunity for a kind of learning that happens regularly, whether we realize it or not – just-in-time learning.

Just-in-time learning.

Most of us have been through school under the “just in case” mode of learning.  A degree program, classroom instruction, and now a few online tools to assist.

Contrast that with “just-in-time” learning which is more granular in approach, and addresses the needs of the moment.  We initiate it’s stores of knowledge only when we are ready for it.  In return, it provides immediate real-world training at just the right time.  

A little Googling – one of my favorite forms of JIT anything – helped me understand the differences in these two modes of learning.(1)(2)(3)

Just In Case Learning
Just-in-Time Learning
  • Instructor-led, “sage on the stage” classroom delivery by elite credentialed experts – physical or virtual
  • Virtual instructor-led classroom content
  • Pre-Packaged Content
  • Off-the-shelf Learning Programs
  • Limited in time and scope to what is delivered in the classroom
  • Written FAQ’s
  •  Online courses, tutorials, and tools created by information entrepreneurs and ‘normal people’
  • Social media communities with content, case studies, and cool hacks to get things done
  • Phone, chat and other virtual communication methods
  • Ongoing subject matter training with ‘conversational customization’ by a coach or mentor.
  • Open to social media groups who have similar experiences and needs

It is unlikely that either will replace the other in the foreseeable future. Both have their place and role in the shared mission of eliminating ignorance and developing the skills and abilities necessary for an individual to grow and for a society to thrive.

In this digital age of endless information at our fingertips, our learning options are truly unlimited. They can also be very personalized.  What becomes more important than the mode, is the skill of learning how to learn amidst all the choices.  This is the uberskill that is foundational to them all.  

For job-seekers, being teachable is one of the most sought-after traits by an employer. Those who have been teachable in the past are the ones that now have the best skills in the present.  It’s a habit that will keep producing returns in the future.  

Just-in-time learning is vital in this day and age. It has emerged as the front-runner among methods of acquiring and developing relevant skills and putting into practice the things that create value. It’s part skill, part attitude, and part paradigm shift in the way we acquire and develop the knowledge and skills we need to be successful in business, work, and life.

Here are five simple ways to begin transforming your mindset into a JIT learning laboratory.

  1. Browse.  Know what is out there.  Browsing can lead to serendipitous discoveries that become relevant later when the time is right.  Acquiring an advanced knowledge of search engine queries is helpful.  Learn how to search, and budget time to browse.
  2. Clip and save what may be useful in the future.  Save your brain cells for what you need right now; store everything else in a personal digital library.  I use Evernote with Skitch largely for this purpose. That way it is searchable in the future. A cool feature of Evernote in a Chrome browser is your relevant Evernote notes about a search topic will come up alongside your Google search results.evernote_organizatino_tips2_-_google_search
  3. Organize your learning library. Again, Evernote is second-to-none, especially accompanied by Drop Box. The key here is being able to quickly access relevant information when you need it. Taking a few extra seconds to set up a file folder system, and a simple system of tags can increase the speed of accessing critical materials when you need them.  It does take some effort to make just-in-time, just in time. 
  4. Learn by doing instead of just by reading and thinking.  To some, this is a no-brainer.  But I’m a reading and thinking junkie.  Literally to a fault.  I have to be reminded often that you really can’t ponder your way to success in any discipline.  You ultimately have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.  We learn best by doing.
  5. Find a coach or mentor.  Every top professional has a coach.  This is someone who can come alongside you to multiply the impact of what you learn.  They can also help translate those things into practical, actionable insights that must be in play in order for mastery to happen.  

Regardless of what business you are in, or the size of your organization, just-in-time learning can be your new go-to way to keep yourself and your team well trained and fit for scaling the mountain of success in front of you.

It’s a necessary skill to have, a great attitude to cultivate, and sound practice to invest time developing.

Even if it’s been years since your last Geometry class.


Image credit: rvlsoft / 123RF Stock Photo

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