One of my students, Jeremy Bardet, just interviewed Sharif Shaalan,'s #1 Salesforce Community MVP (circled in the image below) for his blog. What hit me is that in both Jeremy and Sharif's situations, their organizations were willing to take a chance and let people learn on the job.  I'm thinking about the possibility of a mosaic approach to education a lot these days, so I was excited to hear this particular story. 
Their organizations have let go of the requirement that you already know how to do a task before you begin. Both Jeremy and Sharif got into Salesforce administration without deep technical backgrounds. Both took advantage of online learning to get the skills they needed as they needed them. As a result, both Jeremy's family business and Sharif's organization, Comodo (at the time he first got into Salesforce administration), had the benefit of inspired learners with solid backgrounds in the organization itself.
And there are larger benefits.

Are Those Who Learn Online More Likely to Share Their Knowledge, Online or Otherwise?

Jeremy is giving back by sharing his journey through his blog, Technologically-Challenged. The blog started as a independent study with me and has grown into great professional development for Jeremy and a learning opportunity for others. Sharif gives back through the Salesforce Success Community.

Opportunities and Challenges to Make versus Buy

Organizations benefit when they support people who understand the organization and have focused their learning on that organization's needs. (Take a look at Jeff Pfeffer's The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First for some background.) You also get the broader benefit of modeling good learning behavior for others in the organization. 
Certainly we also want to bring knowledge in from the outside to have diversity (deep academic take here), but when you have committed, self-learning, insiders, what a joy! Not only do you get the value of their knowledge, but having developed this knowledge in-house means that when you do bring in outside knowledge, your organization will make better use of it.
Thanks to Ted Cocheu for reminding me of the day-to-day value of this last idea, absorptive capacity. He and I are starting to work on how to share our own knowledge -- so stay tuned.
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