Whether you are sitting out in the provinces or in a cube at HQ, one thing is certain: what you know now is good for now, but might be completely outdated by tomorrow. This means there's a constant need to learn new skills and get information quickly.
This creates a challenge for people as well as the organizations they work for. Who is responsible for deciding what information is relevant? What's mission critical, and what is "nice to know"? More importantly, who pays for that development?
This isn't a conversation that is restricted to the warm and fuzzy corridors of the HR or Training departments, it's one that goes to the heart of the education debate. Is the same information, taught by the same professor of any lesser or greater value if it's taught on a university campus as opposed to online?
While academics and the brains trust at ASTD figure this out, a lot of managers and their teams are desperately trying to figure out how the new software works, how to run a project more efficiently and where they look for history on a sales account.
Part of the problem is that people think they need "training" if new skills or knowledge are called for. That brings to mind registration, sitting in a classroom, and long days in a Ramada conference room (or a Westin if your company has the budget). What people need is to learn. Training is simply one way that learning occurs.
Here's the difference (and this is completely unscientific but it's good enough for this conversation):
Learning is acquiring necessary information to do your job. Learning can be formal or informal, a big deal or simply getting a question answered. You can learn by taking a class, or just leaning over and watching a more experienced colleague do their job. The problem with learning is that it's difficult to quantify for a performance review or checklist.
Training is a way to acquire useful skills. It involves acquiring the skill, practice and accomplishing specific objectives. You can have a live instructor, take a course online asynchronously, or go at your own pace. Formal training is easily tracked and quality can be maintained by choosing courseware and instructors that fit the organization's criteria and have been screened for relevance and quality.
So when you or your team need to learn something, do you need training? If it's just information and context, odds are you can get that information just as well from a million sources: blogs like this one, podcasts, websites, magazines, books and the guy in the next cube who is some kind of savant on the ordering software.
When you need to develop skills or meet internal requirements, training is probably the answer. You can go through your organization, or you can find it on your own. The big question is "who pays for it?". This means that a lot of people consider themselves in Limbo - they know they need skills but the company isn't providing what they need. What are you going to do about it?
Some companies offer low-cost solutions that individuals can enroll in on their own and get reimbursed (or not) by their employer. Some partner with the companies to deliver training in-house.
Podcasts, blogs ,books, magazines, experienced co-workers - the opportunities for learning are endless. Share them with your teammates and colleagues. Get on with it. Training is important, and there are solutions there too. Don't let a lack of skill or knowledge get in the way of your project or career.