Informal Learning Insight of the Week: Osmosis Is Not On-the-Job Training

In a recent column in the New York Times, entrepreneur Paul Downs admits that he failed to train people:

“At that moment, output was much more important than training. I was putting a lot of pressure on my cadre of experienced workers to get jobs out the door — and at the same time dumping a crew of inexperienced warm bodies on them.

“I told the old heads to train the new people, but I didn’t relieve anyone of their production responsibilities. And I didn’t put a single person in charge of training. “

Later, he admits:

“Frankly, I was stupid, and I was setting up all of us for failure.”

Yes—even on-the-job training needs some level of oversight.

Tip: See Chapter 4 of Informal Learning Basics for some guidance on how to avoid this trap.

(To see the entire column, visit


One comment

  1. sylviemarieheroux · · Reply

    Hi! I don’t know how often I tell people that learning doesn’t happen through osmosis. I said that in a session about mentoring young professionals just last week. I agree it also applies to informal learning.

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