The Learning Relationship


It’s time to plant my backyard garden again. Nice thing about Spring it always returns around the same time. I was carefully interplanting my tomatoes and marigolds, lettuce and broccoli, the three sisters (corn, beans and squash), and I stopped to remember my neighbor Tom from many gardens ago.

Once day Tom was watching me put in a garden and asked me if I ever heard of interplanting. I had not, and he taught me what it involved and why it would help my garden grow. He had learned it from his grandfather who really was a farmer. After the WWII Tom’s grandfather decided he needed as much peace and quiet as he could find, and a farm in Nebraska seemed just like the ticket. He was visited by his friend, a fellow warrior, who had just taken charge of the local Agricultural Extension Service. They talked about a new approach called interplanting. Beating their swords into plowshares seemed to go with the harmony of interplanting, where your corn helps your squash, and your squash watches out for your beans.  This was well before corporate farming and monoculture, but not too long after the dust settled from the 1930’s. So Tom’s grandfather’s relationship with his ag service buddy leads to Tom and his relationship with me and the lesson about interplanting lives on. The sun beats down on my garden and my hat’s off to Tom’s grandpa, and the long line of lessons about interplanting that helps my garden grow.

There’s an old maxim about corporations that starts with find the smartest person in the company. The question then is “Who is the second smartest?” And the answer is the person sitting in the next cube or office. Real learning is, and always has been, about relationships. It’s not what you know, or know how to do, but who you know and what they can teach you. Learning has always been a participatory social endeavor. Most of us just didn’t have the tools until now to get back to what real learning means.

Brandon Hall Group has explored and explained the importance and value of relationship centered learning (RCL) in your company today and into the future. Their paper focuses on the ROI of RCL, the current state and the inevitable and irresistible future, To learn more about it, check out Relationship-Centered Learning here.

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