Following is an excerpt from our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy (Chapter Four).


Push training is a siloed, top-down, management-driven approach that sends people to formal training events Minds-at-work-150where they receive nice-to-know information—as in, it will be nice to know someday. People are not connected to one another during or after the training event, and do not collaborate. The focus is on showing up (attendance), participating (raising your hand), and passing or failing (testing). If that sounds famil­iar, that’s because it’s school transposed onto the workplace. It is a static system created to control and manage hands.

In contrast, pull learning is a learner-driven, bottom-up approach that enables people to access the information they need when and where it is needed. People are able to collaborate and make the best use of the supporting technology that links them to one another and sources of information. The focus is on performance (what you can do), sharing knowledge that leads to better performance (collaborating), and provid­ing two-way feedback about the information that affects what others will learn (communicating).

Imagine people facing a new situation in which they require more instruction. Using the push model, no one is sure where to go to get the information they need. They attended a training program, but it did not cover all the possible situations they would encounter, and they have already forgotten most of the content. With pull learning, people can quickly and easily locate and access the most up-to-the-minute infor­mation in a variety of ways, when and where they need it. They can call a co-worker who has already learned what is needed, talk to an expert, or search an interactive site for the latest ideas from other people. The pull model of learning is performance-based. The focus is on what you can do when you need to get it done. 

Event-based learning On-demand learning
Delayed response to changing needs Immediate response
Knowing Doing
Instructor-centered Learner-centered
Delivery of programs Delivery of results
Top-down centralized Bottom-up decentralized

Replacing push training with pull learning is a transformative step toward supporting and sustaining a company. It is managing minds and placing a mission-critical value on learning. By taking a managing minds approach, a company can provide relevant, usable, and on-de­mand access to the knowledge and skills people need to perform their jobs. This includes technical, operational, and managerial knowledge and skills.

Corporations that make the commitment to manage minds and emphasize pull learning experience measurable, significant, and sustain­able increases in on-the-job performance, talent-retention, sales revenue, and innovation. They are more agile, and more able to respond instant­ly to the ever-changing requirements and demands of a fast-paced, hyper-competitive marketplace. Their employees can quickly access the technology and support to find what they need to know, when and where it is needed.