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

2 April 2014

It’s (almost) out!

Clark @ 6:42 am

My latest tome, Revolutionize Learning & Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age is out.  Well, sort of.  What I mean is that it’s now available on Amazon for pre-order.  Actually, it’s been for a while, but I wanted to wait until there was some there there, and now there’s the ‘look inside’ stuff so you can see the cover, back cover (with endorsements!), table of contents, sample pages, and more.  Ok, so I’m excited!

RLnDCoverSmallWhat I’ve tried to do is make the case for dragging L&D into the 21st Century, and then provide an onramp.  As I’ve been saying, my short take is that L&D isn’t doing what it could and should be doing, and what it is doing, it is doing badly.  But I don’t believe complaining alone is particularly helpful, so I’m trying to put in place what I think will help as well.  The major components are:

  • what’s wrong (you can’t change until you admit the problem :)
  • what we know about how we think, work, and learn that we aren’t accounting for
  • what it would look like if we were doing it right
  • ways forward

By itself, it’s not the whole answer, for several reasons. First, it can’t be. I can’t know all the different situations you face, so I can’t have a roadmap forward for everyone. Instead, what I supposed you could think of is that it’s a guidebook (stretching metaphors), showing suggestions that you’ll have to sequence into your own path.  Second, we don’t know all yet. We’re still exploring many of these areas.  For example, culture change is not a recipe, it’s a process.  Third, I’m not sure any one person can know all the answers in such a big field. So, fourth, to practice what I’m preaching, there should be a community pushing this, creating the answers together.

A couple of things on that last part, the first one is a request.  The community will need to be in place by the time the book is shipping.  The question is where to host it.  I don’t intend to build a separate community for it on the book site, as there are plenty of places to do this.  Google groups, Yahoo groups, LinkedIn…the list goes on. It can’t be proprietary (e.g. you have to be a paid member to play).  Ideally it’d have collaborative tools to create resources, but I reckon that can be accommodated via links.  What do you folks think would be a good choice?

The second part of the community bit is that I’m very grateful to many people who’ve helped or contributed.  Practitioner friends and colleagues provided the five case studies I’ve the pleasure to host.  Two pioneers shared their thoughts.  The folks at ASTD have been great collaborators in both helping me with resources, and in helping me get the message out.  A number of other friends and colleagues took the time to read an early version and write endorsements.  And I’ve learned together with so many of you by attending events together, hearing you speak, reading your writings, and having you provide feedback on my thoughts via talking or writing to me after hearing me speak or commenting on my scribblings here.

The book isn’t perfect, because I have thought of a number of ways it could be improved since I provided the manuscript, but I have stuck to the mantra that at some point it’s better out than still being polished. This book came from frustration that we can be doing so much better, and we’re not. I didn’t grow up thinking “I’m going to be a revolutionary”, but I can’t not see what I see and not say something.  We can be doing so much better than we are. And so I had to be willing to just get the word out, imperfect.  It wasn’t (isn’t) clear that I’m the best person to call this out, but someone needs to!

That said, I have worked really hard to have the right pieces in place.  I’ve collected and integrated what I think are the necessary frameworks, provided case studies and a workplace scenario, and some tools to work forward.   I have done my best to provide a short and cogent kickstart to moving forward.  

Just to let you know that I’m starting my push.  I’ll be presenting on the book at ASTD’s ICE conference, and doing some webinars. Bryan Austin of GameOn Learning interviewed me on my thoughts in this direction.  I do believe in the message, and that it at least needs to be heard.  I think it’s really the necessary message for L&D (in it, you’ll find out why I’m suggesting we need to shift to P&D!).  Forewarned!  I look forward to your feedback.

21 March 2014

Cathy Davidson #LSCon Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 9:19 am

Cathy Davidson gave us an informative, engaging, and inspirational talk talking about how we’re mismatching industrial approaches in an information era. She gave us data about how we work and why much of what we do isn’t aligned, along with the simple and effective approach of think-pair-share. Very worthwhile.


18 March 2014

Serious Conversation

Clark @ 5:25 am

We’ve already received the first request for an article on the Serious eLearning Manifesto, and it sparked a realization.  We (my co-conspirators are Will Thalheimer, Julie Dirksen, and Michael Allen) launched the manifesto last week, and we really hope you’ll have a serious look at them.  More, we hope you’ll find a way to follow them, and join your colleagues in signing on.

What has to happen now is people need to look at them, debate the difficulties in following them, and start thinking about how to move forward. We don’t want people just to sign on, we want them to put the principles into practice. You may not be able to get to all from the beginning, but we’re hoping to drive systematic change towards good elearning.

The Manifesto, if you haven’t seen it, touts eight values of serious elearning over what we see too often, focusing on the biggest gaps.  The values are backed up by 22 principles pulled from the research. And we’ve been already been called out for it perhaps being too ‘instructor’ driven, not social or constructivist enough.  To be fair, we’ve also already had some strong support, and not just from our esteemed trustees, but signatories as well.

And I don’t want to address the issues (yet), what we want to have happen is to get the debate started.  So I didn’t accept the opportunity to write (yet another) article, instead I said that we’d rather respond to an article talking about the challenges.  We want to engage this as dialog, not a diatribe.  Been there, done that, you can see it on the site ;).

So, please, have a look, think about what it would mean, consider the barriers, and let’s see if, together, we can start figuring out how to lift the floor (not close off the ceiling).


3 March 2014

Conference advice

Clark @ 8:31 am

David Kelly of the eLearning Guild has a series of interviews going on about attending conferences.  The point is to help attendees get some good strategies about how to prepare beforehand and take advantage after the fact, as well as what to bring and how to get the most out of it.

Today’s interview is me, and you’re welcome to have a look at my thoughts on conferences.   Feedback welcome!

26 February 2014

A little bit better

Clark @ 7:04 am

I have never really cottoned on to the practice of photo-bombing.  While it might be a fun trick to play on a friend, otherwise it seems to me to be selfish.  Could there be something better?

One of the things I’ve been doing is something that I call ‘reverse photo-bombing’. When I see a picture being taken, instead of getting in it, I get behind the photographer, and at the right time, I put up bunny ears behind them (or something else silly).  What happens is that the audience laughs, and they tend to get a much better picture.  And then I slink off, hoping no one noticed (except the photographees, and they’re too busy).  It’s hard to get the timing right, so it doesn’t always work, but when it does I think it’s a boon to the group.  Though it did embarrass my daughter when I did it while out with her one time, but I think that’s in the parental job description anyway…:).

I think this is a good thing (though I’m willing to be wrong); I think that the world can use more good in it.  What I  am looking for is more ideas of how we can be quietly adding value to what’s going on, instead of detracting. I’ve heard of nice things like buying someone else’s coffee, or providing extra change. Are there other ideas we can be using?  I welcome hearing yours!

19 February 2014

Explain versus describe?

Clark @ 6:45 am

I’ve been watching the Olympics, at least select bits (tho’ I’m an Olympics widower; the full panoply is being watched in the house). And I enjoy seeing some of the things that I can relate to, but I realize that the commentators make a big difference.

The distinction seems to come down to a fundamental difference (aside from the ones that drill into uncomfortable zones with a zeal that seems to be a wee bit inhuman): the ones who describe what’s happening versus those who explain.  Let me explain.

Description isn’t a bad thing, so when I watch (American) football, a guilty pleasure, the play-by-play commentator tends to describe the action, helping to ascertain what’s happened in case it’s confounded by intervening people, bad camera angles, interruptions, what have you.  Similarly, I’ve been listening to Olympic commentators describe the action in case I have missed it. And that’s helpful.

But in football, the color commentator (often a player or coach), interprets or explains what happened, and interprets it.  Similarly, the good commentary on Olympics has someone explain not just what happened (X just made a spectacular run), but why (Y was absorbing the forces better, minimizing the elements that would detract from speed). And this is really important.

I have a former mentor, colleague, and friend who is now part of an organization that enhances sports broadcasts with additional information; it’s a form of augmented reality showing things that started with first down lines in football but now includes things like wind and tracking information in the America’s cup.  Similarly, I have loved the overlays of one person’s performance against another.  The point is providing insight into the context, and more importantly the thinking behind the performance.

The relevance I’m seeing is that showing the underlying concepts help inform the exceptional performance, help educate about the nuances, and help support comprehension. This relates so much to what we need to be doing in business.  Working and learning out loud is so important to transfer skills across the organization. Showing the thinking helps spread the understanding. Whether it’s breaking from the pack in snow cross, or closing deals, having the thinking annotated is essential for spreading learning.

Whether it’s a retrospective by the performer or expert commentary, explaining, not just describing, is important. Does my explanation make sense? :)

11 February 2014

Smarter Than We Think Review

Clark @ 6:35 am

In Smarter Than We Think, Clive Thompson makes the case that not only is our technology not making us stupider, but that we have been using external support for our cognition from our earliest days. Moreover, this is a good thing. Well, if we do so consciously and with good intent.

He starts by telling the story of how – as our chess competitions have moved from man against man, through man against computer, to man & computer against man & computer – the quality of play has fundamentally changed and improved. He ultimately recites how the outcomes of the combination of man and machine produce fundamentally new insights.

He goes on to cover a wide variety of phenomena. These include augmenting our imperfect memory, the benefits of thinking out loud, the gains from understanding different media properties, the changes when information is to hand, the opportunities unleashed by crowd-sourcing, the implications for education, and the changes when you have continual connection to others. This is not presented as an unvarnished panacea, but the potential and real problems are covered.

The story is ripely illustrated with many stories culled from many interviews with people well-known and obscure, but all with important perspectives. We hear of impacts both personal, national, and societal. This is a relatively new book, and while we don’t hear of Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning, their shadows fall on the material. On the other hand we hear of triumphs for individuals and movements.

I have argued before about how we can, and should, augment our pattern-matching capability with the perfect memory and complex calculation that digital technology provides, and separately how social extends our cognition. Thompson takes this further, integrating the two, extending the story to media and networked capabilities. A good extension and a worthwhile read.

4 February 2014

Jill Bolte Taylor Training 14 #trg14 Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 3:18 pm

Jill Bolte Taylor gave a rapid fire overview of our cognitive anatomy and insights about how we act and why. Most importantly, she gave us a powerful message about how we can choose who and how we can be.


BJ Fogg Training 14 #trg14 Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 10:39 am

BJ Fogg gave a lively and focused presentation. Seen him before, but great to renew, and there were further extensions. Very worthwhile!


3 February 2014

Shawn Achor Training 14 #Trg14 Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 10:35 am

Shawn Achor gave a rapidfire, amusing, and engaging presentation about the benefits of happiness and ways to cultivate it.


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