For most of human history, skills have been passed from master to apprentice on an "as needed" basis. As the apprentice encountered a problem, the master would demonstrate the solution and the apprentice learned.
Early academic institutions operated along similar lines. It's only in the last century that learning has moved to a "book-and-exam" model. But many researchers have questioned the effectiveness of this method of learning for skills that involve contextual variability. Instead, they advocate developing communities of practice, mentoring and other options to replicate the master and apprentice approach.
The problem with these approaches is timing: Can the master be available when needed by the apprentice? Most of the time, it seems the answer is no!
Project management involves a very high level of contextual variability, particularly in the area of interpersonal relationships, motivation and leadership -- the so-called soft skills. Learning these skills in the "school of hard knocks" is not fun and has significant costs for the inexperienced project manager and organizations that rely on them.
Advances in modern technology may offer a solution. Intelligent agents can already deliver context-sensitive information based on what an application has learned about you.
Looking forward a year or two, it's not difficult to envisage applications on your iPad or smartphone that can understand the knowledge you're likely to need for each task or meeting. It could make the one or two relevant items in the organization's knowledge management system available to you as needed -- plus, of course, the relevant project information. If the context is not clear, advanced links could even find a "knowledge master" who's immediately available for additional advice.
The smart systems then learn from your interaction and update the corporate knowledge banks. Add the ability for you and your colleagues to then input lessons learned and you have the basis for a true learning organization.
Many of the elements are already in place. The question is, are we, as a profession ready to make effective use of the potential?