Learnlets
Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

27 April 2016

Moving forward

Clark @ 8:14 am

A few weeks ago, I posted about laying out activities in a space dividing the execution side from the innovation side, and in the head from in the world.  None of you took the bait about talking what it meant (I’m so disappointed), but it continued to ponder it myself. And at least one idea came to mind.

LearningSpaceImplicationsSo what I’m thinking is that the point is to not be using our heads to be doing simple execution. Machines (read: robots or computation agents) are very good at doing what they’re told. Reliably, and repeatably.  They may need oversight, but in many ways we’re seeing this play out.

What we should be doing is trying to automate execution. We aren’t good at doing rote things, and having us do them is silly.  Ideally you automate them, or outsource them in some way.  Let’s save our minds for doing important work.

Of course, many times the situations we’re increasingly seeing are not matters of simply executing. As things get more ambiguous, more novel, more chaotic, we’re really discovering we need to have people handle those situations in innovative ways. So they’re really being moved over regardless.

And, of course, we want that innovation to be fueled by data, information in the world being made available to support making these decisions. Big analytics, or even little analytics are good basis, as are models and support tools to facilitate the processes.  And, of course, this doesn’t have to be all in one head, but drawing upon teams, communities, and networks to get solution.

The real point is to let machines do what they can do well, and leave to us what we do well. And, what we want to be responsible for.  As I see it, the role of technology is to augment us, not replace us.  It’s up to us to make the choices, but we have the opportunity to work in ways that align with how our brains really think, work, and learn.  I reckon that choice is a no-brainer ;).

19 April 2016

Revolution Reading List

Clark @ 8:13 am

I’m still a book guy (whether print or ebook), and have been reading a number of tomes of late. And, more and more, we’re seeing books that talk about the revolution itself or relevant components.  Here’re a few that have come to my awareness of late, and I have perused in some depth, relative to my own Revolutionize Learning & Development:

Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning is an excellent complement to my book, with detailed descriptions of a rich suite of practices that foster a learning workplace.

Another ITA colleague, Harold Jarche, has his Perpetual Beta book series, which is a curated collection of his posts about the changing nature of work that make the case for the revolution and and covering personal knowledge mastery skills that are a necessary accompaniment.

And Charles Jennings, along with Tulser colleagues Jos Arets and Vivian Heijnen, have 70:20:10: Towards 100% Performance which is a (very) detailed set of processes to address performance needs from go to whoa but working backwards from the ongoing support, not forward from the course.

Jane Bozarth’s Show Your Work is a valuable (and beautifully designed) book that talks about the why and how of showing your work (an important component of the Revolution), peppered with examples.

Nigel Paine has penned The Learning Challenge, a book that takes a similar stance as my own Revolution book, but with some changes in emphasis.  A slightly different way to look at the changes.

Bill Bruck has published his own tome, Speed to Proficiency, which similarly covers some of the problems and recommendations as the Revolution book.

We should not forget some classics, e.g. Jay Cross’s game-changing book on Informal Learning, which really altered the way we think about workplace learning.

A classic on the social side, Tony Bingham & Marcia Conner’s The New Social Learning is in it’s second edition.

Of course, Marc Rosenberg’s early Beyond eLearning was a landmark in going beyond the course to a performance ecosystem.

BTW, I’ve requested Amy Edmondson’s Teaming, so that may join the list.

Which reminds me, I’ve previously talked about 3 books on team structures, and 2 on changing culture (here and here), also relevant.

I don’t agree with all that appears in all the books, but they all help illuminate the ways we need to be thinking. And if you want help implementing, you know who to contact.  So, what’s on your wall?

 

13 April 2016

Work Experiment

Clark @ 8:08 am

At a point some days ago, I got the idea to map out different activities by their role as executing versus innovating, and whether it’s in the head or in the world. And I’ve been playing with it since.  I’m mapping some ways of getting work done, at least the mental aspects, across those dimensions.

LearningSpace

I’m not sure I’ve got things in the right places.  I’m not even sure what it really means. I’ve some ideas, but I think I’m going to try something new, and ask you what you think it means.  So, what’s interesting and/or important here?

5 April 2016

L&D Value

Clark @ 8:12 am

This past week, my colleague Jane Hart has been asking the question: “What would happen if there were no Training/L&D department?”  (And I recommend you send her your answer. ;) I suspect, of course, that she’s looking at lateral ways to think different about L&D, but it’s an intriguing prospect.  As an interesting contrast, Noel Hurst quotes me from the Learning Solution conference as saying “L&D has the opportunity to be the most valuable part of your business.” Are these ideas incommensurate?  Or is there a reconciliation?

So, Jane states that the responses from her question fall into two categories: (1) orgs can’t do without L&D (2) orgs w/o L&D do things differently. And she admits that she’s interested in the latter.  What would orgs do differently if they didn’t have the existing baggage of L&D?  This interests me from a perspective of what would orgs eventually figure they might want to invest in across the enterprise to facilitate improving their ability to execute and innovate.  What I suggested as a response to her question was that individuals and communities would take over responsibility for learning, and work to create environments to support a richer variety of learning. Eventually, orgs would look to do that more efficiently across the communities.  And that’s my starting point.

This is what I meant when I made the claim that Noel noted. My perspective is that the role of L&D could (and should) be about improving performance and facilitating development. If, instead of just providing courses, P&D were focused on making sure people could do their jobs, using performance consulting and developing the appropriate solutions – whether job aids, contextual support, coaching, or what have you – they’d be contributing to optimal execution. If they went further, and were also facilitating the ability for the organization to continually innovate – fostering communication and collaboration via tools, practices, and culture – they’d be key to getting people to provide their best. And this is increasingly important.

The old adage that people are an organization’s most important access is increasingly becoming true.  The ability to execute optimally is being increasingly outsourced, as my colleague Harold Jarche aptly points out, and the only real value in the organization is going to come from the knowledge work, the important decisions, that will come from people. Together.  The main element of success for organizations, going forward, will come from developing their people and having them co-create and deliver the ongoing nature of the business. And P&D should be the ones who understand how people think, work, and learn, and support that.  That’s the opportunity on the table. Successful organizations will find ways to make this happen, with or without L&D.  I just think that it’s an opportunity L&D should grab. So, are you making the move?

30 March 2016

Socially Acceptable

Clark @ 8:07 am

I was talking with my ITA colleagues, and we were discussing the state of awareness of social learning. And we were somewhat concerned that at least from some evidence, there’re some misconceptions around about social learning. So I thought I’d take another shot at it.

First, let me make the case why it’s important. There are number of  reasons to be interested in social learning:

  • it’s more natural: our learning mechanisms were social before they were formal
  • it’s deeper learning: the processing that goes on through knowledge negotiation leads to more flexible and longer learning
  • it’s about innovation too: with problem-solving, trouble-shooting, research, design, etc, you don’t know the answer before you begin, so it’s learning, and the outcomes are better when done socially

This is only a start, but I reckon if those don’t make the case that you should be taking a serious look at incorporating social business into your organization, you are not really concerned.

Then, let’s clarify what it’s not. Social learning is:

  • not about (just) formal: as suggested above, social extends from formal out to informal to being an essential part of how business gets done.
  • not about social media: social media is  a tool to support social learning, but it’s not the focus
  • not a discussion forum available during a course: you need people interacting around artifacts – posts, pages, videos, etc – to generate meaningful outcomes
  • not about getting people together to discuss a problem without proper preparation

So what is good social learning?  Good social learning is driving interaction around work (whether real or designed for learning). Good social learning is:

  • communicating by pointing to relevant new information
  • curating resources, not just for yourself but also for others
  • being transparent about what you’re doing (and why), showing your work
  • discussing different ways of getting something done
  • collaborating to develop a shared response
  • tapping into the power of people
  • developing a shared understanding of how to work and play well together, and using it

At core, it’s really about performing better.  And that should be your focus, no?  So, are you ready to get real about social learning?

22 March 2016

Aligning with us

Clark @ 8:05 am

One of the realizations I had in writing the Revolutionize L&D book was how badly we’re out of synch with our brains. I think alignment is a big thing, both from the Coherent Organization perspective of having our flows of information aligned, and in processes that help us move forward in ways that reflect our humanity.

In short, I believe we’re out of alignment with our views on how we think, work, and learn.  The old folklore that represents the thinking that still permeates L&D today is based upon outdated models. And we really have to understand these differences if we’re to get better.

AligningThe mistaken belief about thinking is that it’s all done in our head. That is, we keep the knowledge up there, and then when a context comes in we internalize it and make a logical decision and then we act.  And what cognitive science says is that this isn’t really the way it works.  First, our thinking isn’t all in our heads. We distribute it across representational tools like spreadsheets,  documents, and (yes) diagrams.  And we don’t make logical decisions without a lot of support or expertise. Instead, we make quick decisions.  This means that we should be looking at tools to support thinking, not just trying to put it all in the head. We should be putting as much in the world as we can, and look to scaffold our processes as well.

It’s also this notion that we go away and come up with the answer, and that the individual productivity is what matters.  It turns out that most innovation, problem-solving, etc, gets better results if we do it together.  As I often say “the room is smarter than the smartest person in the room if you manage the process right“.  Yet, we don’t.  And people work better when they understand why what they’re doing is important and they care about it. We should be looking at ways to get people to work together more and better, but instead we still see hierarchical decision making, restrictive cultures, and more.

And, of course, there still persists this model that information dump and knowledge test will lead to new capabilities.  That’s a low probability approach. Whereas if you’re serious about learning, you know it’s mostly about spacing contextualized application of that knowledge to solve problems. Instead, we see rapid elearning tools and templates that tart-up quiz questions.

The point being, we aren’t recognizing that which makes us special, and augmenting in ways that bring out the best.  We’re really running organizations that aren’t designed for humans.  Most of the robotic work should and will get automated, so then when we need to find ways to use people to do the things they’re best at. It should be the learning folks, and if they’re not ready, well, they better figure it out or be left out!  So let’s get a jump on it, shall we?

2 March 2016

Content isn’t a silo

Clark @ 8:13 am

I mentioned in my previous post that I was talking at the xAPI camp about content strategy, and on the way in I created a new diagram to convey a concept I wanted to discuss.  Of course one of the things I agitate about for the revolution is that L&D can’t hide away but has to start engaging across the business.  And, let me add, that’s only increasing.  Our silos are breaking down. To wit:

ContentStrategyHere I was trying to think of activities that cross silos.  So, of course, the overall role of the business aligns and integrates the separate actions of sales, marketing, IT, etc.  And, to suit my campaign, I looked for others.

Obviously, data is coming out across the organization.  As I mentioned in that last post, we can only look at the impact of L&D on performance if we can start working with data from the business units, but data from customer service influences marketing, and so on.

The web, too, is a channel for many activities. Units that reach customers, for instance, include customer service, customer education, sales & marketing, and more.  Heck, the supply chain is increasingly connected by the web, and data.

Consequently, so too is content.  Content is used in many ways, whether via apps, through the web, or print.  And for many purposes: sales, marketing, tech support, and of course learning.  And there’s a point to all this.

L&D, with it’s hard-wired content, needs to pull on the big kids pants, and start getting with content systems: content engineering, governance, and strategy. Truly, if you want to be part of the strategic picture going forward, you have to work with information tools. Industrial age methods won’t cut it. So, are you thinking about how to move to a content strategy?

1 March 2016

xAPI conceptualized

Clark @ 8:11 am

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the xAPI Base Camp, to present on content strategy. While I was there, I remembered that I have some colleagues who don’t see the connection between xAPI and learning.  And it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a good diagram that helped explain how this all worked. So I asked and was confirmed in my suspicion. And, of course, I had to take a stab at it.

xAPIWhat I was trying to capture was how xAPI tracked activity, and that could then be used for insight. I think one of the problems people have is that they think xAPI is a solution all in itself, but it is just a syntax for reporting.

So when A might demonstrate a capability at a particular level, say at the end of learning, or by affirmation from a coach or mentor, that gets recorded in a Learning Record Store. We can see that A and B demonstrated it, and C demonstrated a different level of capability (it could also be that there’s no record for C, or D, or…).

From there, we can compare that activity with results.  Our business intelligence system can provide  aggregated data of performance for A (whatever A is being measured on: sales data, errors, time to solve customer problems, customer satisfaction, etc). With that, we can see if there are the correlations we expect, e.g. everyone who demonstrated this level of capability has reliably better performance than those who didn’t.  Or whatever you’re expecting.

Of course, you can mine the data too, seeing what emerges.  But the point is that there are a wide variety of things we might track (who touched this job aid, who liked this article, etc), and a wide variety of impacts we might hope for.  I reckon that you should plan what impacts you expect from your intervention, put in checks to see, and then see if you get what you intended.  But we can look at a lot more interventions than just courses. We can look to see if those more active in the community perform better, or any other question tied to a much richer picture than we get other ways.

Ok, so you can do this with your own data generating mechanisms, but standardization has benefits (how about agreeing that red means stop?).  So, first, does this align with your understanding, or did I miss something?  And, second does this help, at all?

24 February 2016

When to gamify?

Clark @ 8:10 am

I’ve had lurking in my ‘to do’ list a comment about doing a post on when to gamify. In general, of course, I avoid it, but I have to acknowledge there are times when it makes sense.  And someone challenged me to think about what those circumstances are. So here I’m taking a principled shot at it, but I also welcome your thoughts.

To be clear, let me first define what gamification is to me.  So, I’m a big fan of serious games, that is when you wrap meaningful decisions into contexts that are intrinsically meaningful.  And I can be convinced that there are times when tarting up memory practice with quiz-show window-dressing makes sense, e.g. when it has to be ‘in the head’.  What I typically refer to as gamification, however, is where you use external resources, such as scores, leaderboards, badges, and rewards to support behavior you want to happen.

I happened to hear a gamification expert talk, and he pointed out some rules about what he termed ‘goal science’.  He had five pillars:

  1. that clear goals makes people feel connected and aligns the organization
  2. that working on goals together (in a competitive sense ;) makes them feel supported
  3. that feedback helps people progress in systematic ways
  4. that the tight loop of feedback is more personalized
  5. that choosing challenging goals engages people

Implicit in this is that you do good goal setting and rewards. You have to have some good alignment to get these points across.  He made the point that doing it badly could be worse than not doing it at all!

With these ground rules, we can think about when it might make sense.  I’ll argue that one obvious, and probably sad case, would be when you don’t have a coherent organization, and people aren’t aware of their role in the organization.  Making up for effective communication isn’t necessarily a good thing, in my mind.

I think it also might make sense for a fun diversion to achieve a short-term goal. This might be particularly useful for an organizational change, when extra motivation could be of assistance in supporting new behaviors. (Say, for moving to a coherent organization. ;) Or some periodic event, supporting say a philanthropic commitment related to the organization.

And it can be a reward for a desired behavior, such as my frequent flier points.  I collect them, hoping to spend them. I resent it, a bit, because it’s never as good as is promised, which is a worry.  Which means it’s not being done well.

On the other hand, I can’t see using it on an ongoing basis, as it seems it would undermine the intrinsic motivation of doing meaningful work.  Making up for a lack of meaningful work would be a bad thing, too.

So, I recall talking to a guy many moons ago who was an expert in motivation for the workplace. And I had the opportunity to see the staggering amount of stuff available to orgs to reward behavior (largely sales) at an exhibit happening next to our event. It’s clear I’m not an expert, but while I’ll stick to my guns about preferring intrinsic motivation, I’m quite willing to believe that there are times it works, including on me.

Ok, those are my thoughts, what’ve I missed?

17 February 2016

Beyond Consulting

Clark @ 8:11 am

I was at a retreat this weekend, consorting with colleagues. And one of the persistent perceptions of me came up that I was reflecting on, and thought I’d do so ‘out loud’.

So, once consulting became my way of life, I realized I needed to get better at the bits I don’t know.  I’ve got deep theory, and considerable practical experience, but I never was a ‘businessperson’. That is, I didn’t have sales experience, or marketing knowledge, and deal-making. As part of the solution, I found Robert Middleton, who is basically a consultant to help other consultants market themselves.  And I paid attention to his recommendations.

One of the  interesting things was a model he had that pitted your depth of information against your ability to implement.  A high information person was an expert, a high implementation person was a hard worker, (low on both was a salesperson ;), and he suggested your goal was to position yourself as an ‘infoguru’, high on both.

ConsultantI was reminded of it, and realize I see it slightly differently. So I’d put someone high on the theory/information side as an academic or researcher, whether they’re in an institution or not.  They know the theories behind the outcomes, and may study them, but don’t apply them . And I’d put someone who can execute against a particular model as a contractor. You know what you want done, and you hire someone to do it.

Then I see consultants in general as those who go beyond contracting to doing analysis up front, and sorting between models to determine which are relevant, and then assist the client to act. And I definitely lump myself in that category, having a very large set of models I draw upon, and lots of experience applying them or developing new ones to help meet real needs.  Creative, yet practical solutions. Reliably.

However…

I was chatting with some colleagues, and their feedback was that while I was perceived highly on the idea side, I didn’t position myself on the expertise side as well.  And it’s true that I talk ideas, models largely, because they are the frameworks that give you traction to solve problems. And, of course, more solutions will occur if people have models to use.  I naively believed that showing I knew the models would help assure people that I can assist.  And so, while I develop new and/or useful ones to help frame things so they can be solved, perhaps I don’t help make clear enough that I also work with people to figure out what models make sense to take them forward.

I don’t talk enough about the projects I’ve worked on, nor the results I’ve had. Sometimes it’s because of confidentiality (you don’t want me talking about your secrets, either). And it can be hard to talk quantitatively, because too seldom does L&D actually measure what they do, but I’ve helped folks with game design, mobile strategy, learning process improvement, L&D revolution, and more.  Heck, I had a really good track record while I was an academic for doing interesting projects developing learning and performance solutions. And so far, I’ve been feeding the family for 15 years now as a consultant, so I reckon I’m doing something right ;).

Still, I’ll try to do a bit better in linking the two, because I don’t want you to think what I natter on here isn’t directly applicable to improving what you do. I’ve revamped my website a bit, talking about helping at the learning design or strategy level (feedback appreciated).

You’re welcome to attempt improvements on your own, but if you want assistance in making the move faster with fewer hiccups along the way, I have been assisting folks for a long time now, and would welcome doing it with you. Whether it’s vendors finally wanting to address better learning design, or organizations looking to go beyond the ordinary, I’m here to help. This is what I do!  I find it really rewarding to work with folks and collaboratively generating great outcomes, and I’m looking for more opportunities to assist. So a question for you: am I missing something in helping folks see how I can help them?

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