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

28 July 2015

The New Business Imperative

Clark @ 8:27 am

Learning is the new business imperativeIt is now an indisputable business reality: companies must become more nimble and agile. As things move faster, new processes arise, and the time to copy a new business approach drops, it becomes clear that continual innovation is the only way to not just survive, but thrive.  And this doesn’t, can’t, come from the status quo.

And if the answer isn’t known, as is inherent in situations like problem-solving, trouble-shooting, new product/service creation, and more, then this, too, is a form of learning. But not the type addressed by training rooms or eLearning courses. They serve a role, but not this new one, this needed approach,  We need something new.

What we need are two things: effective collaboration and meta-learning. Innovation comes, we know, from collaboration.  Collaboration is the new learning, where we bring complementary strengths to bear on a problem in a process structured to be optimally aligned with how our brains work.  And we need to create a culture and set of skills around continually learning, which means understanding learning to learn, aka meta-learning.

Accelerating the development of these capabilities means doing things different and new. It means sowing the seeds by instigating a learning process that develops not only some specific needed capabilities, but also the meta-learning and collaboration skills.  It means understanding, valuing, and explicitly developing the ability of people to learn alone and together. It means making it safe to share, to ‘work out loud’. And finally it means scaling up from small success to organizational transformation.

This is a doable, albeit challenging move, but it is critical to organizations that will excel. Learning is no longer a ‘nice to have’, or even an imperative, it is the only sustainable differentiator.  The question is: are you ready?  Are you making the new learning a strategic priority?

23 July 2015

A Nurturing Culture #blimage

Clark @ 8:34 am

My colleague Jane Hart dobbed me (and several other colleagues) in for the #blimage challenge.  I usually resent when someone publicly asks me to do something, but fortunately this is easy and, well, it is Jane ;). She presented the following image and our task is to blog about it:

So my take is how things grow in a nurturing environment.  Here plants are flourishing under the energy of the sun.  This to me is a metaphor for the benefits of creating a culture in which learning can flourish.  I’ve earlier detailed what the research says about the elements of a learning organization, and it’s clear that you  need a culture with several elements.

First, learning independently has to be enabled. The resources to learn need to be there, as does the time for learning. Further, the ability to learn on one’s own shouldn’t be taken for granted; identify, model, evangelize, and develop these abilities.

In addition, learning is social.  The possibilities to learn together need to be facilitated.  There need to be ways to find individuals with complementary skills to learn together. This in particular means collaboration: learning while innovating on solving new problems, devising new solutions, and more.  It also means being willing to share. It has to be safe to ‘show your work’!  Again, don’t assume skills for learning together, but scaffold the development of these abilities.

It is really important that leadership reinforces learning, both by supporting and more importantly by practicing visibly! There’s evidence that when leadership doesn’t share, others won’t truly believe it’s valued.

So there’s my blog on the image.  Two colleagues also were challenged with this image and have replied; you can see what they came up with:

Jane Bozarth

Charles Jennings

Rather than dob in anyone in particular, I will simply recommend that you take your own stab, and here’s a proposed image:

Maze

I hope to hear what you come up with; drop a link in the comments if you do!

 

22 July 2015

Trust and betrayal

Clark @ 7:59 am

I’ve been part of several online communities for some years now, and one just blew up. From the reasons why, I think that there are lessons to be had that go beyond personal to implications for L&D.

The thing that was critical to the success of the group was trust; you could trust it was safe to share opinions, seek out others’ help, etc.  People ‘let it all hang out’, and that was a good thing. While it was risky, it worked because everyone was open and honest. Or so we thought.

Then something happened that broke the trust. What had been safe no longer was.  And that undermined the very basis upon which the group had been valuable. If what was said wasn’t safe, the group couldn’t be used to share and learn from.

The bigger implication, of course, is that trust is a critical part of a learning culture, one where the best outcomes come from. And trust is a fragile thing.  It only takes one violation to make it hard to rebuild.  And if you can’t share, you can’t benefit from working out loud, showing your work, and more.  It’s back to the Miranda organization, where anything you say can and will be held against you.

The take-home here is that it’s hard to build a learning culture, and easy to undermine.  It takes committed leadership. The upside is of considerable value, but you have to get buy-in, and walk the walk. It’s doable, and even recoverable in many instances, but it won’t happen without work.  I’ll suggest that it’s worth it; what say you?

1 July 2015

Social Media Policy?

Clark @ 8:08 am

So what’s your social media policy?  It’s not something you should do lightly, or haphazardly, it seems to me. In fact, such a policy really is part of your personal knowledge mastery.  While your systems may vary, your results should be sources for you to find information, present yourself in your various communities, and to share your thoughts.  Let’s do this by platform.

Facebook, is for me, the place I be me. Clark Quinn, not Quinnovation.  The people I connect to there are a relatively small group that I know through various phases of my life: there are people I’ve known since kindergarten through college, neighbors and friends through various of my various residences, and some professional associations that have also become friends.  And a few others that are hard to categorize other than that they interest me. Largely, it’s people I trust enough to let me be me. If I don’t connect to you there, it’s not a reflection of you, it’s that I just don’t know you well enough to connect.  I can see a B2C company using Facebook, but that’s not me, so it’s not a biz place.

Oddly, I used to connect to almost anyone related to elearning on Facebook, but I realized that was a mistake.  I determined that LinkedIn was where I should harbor professional connections, so I trimmed my Facebook connections down and offer most anyone connected to elearning to connect to me on LinkedIn.  I even choose to connect to people I don’t know (rightly or wrongly).  On the other hand, I also get connection requests from bankers, real estate people, and others that I see no connection with. Typically I’ll ask why they want to connect, and when I do get responses, it’s typically a scam (you know, “dying and want to give you my millions”; yeah. right). They get the appropriate treatment. And a caveat, if there’s biz dev or sales in the title even if it is elearning, I sign but also respond that if the first thing they do is pitch me their services, I’ll disconnect. And do.

Twitter, of course, is where I follow folks of interest professionally, personally, or even politically. It’s a place to get pointers to new things and of course to reciprocate.  It’s timely, short, and often fun. And there’re the various chats that I participate in around learning (e.g. #lrnchat, which I was recruited to be one of the original moderators, though I’ve finally stepped away, and a few others I join when I can), as another learning channel.  During those times I’ll generate and share a fair bit of tweets, otherwise it’s more opportunistic.

And, of course, this is my blog, for deeper reflections. Like this.  I believe that if you find someone interesting, and follow both their blogs and their tweets, you can see what they’re tracking and then their reflections, and use them as a mentor.  A stealth mentor, as I like to call it ;).  And I follow a number of my colleagues who I think have demonstrated the ability to regularly contribute independent thoughts (not just rehashing others) and are tied into sources of real value (not just hype).

I confess I’m not yet on Pinterest, Instagram, and others. With finite time, I have to find things that offer real value. And I have my own blinders, just like others.   I’m not facile with video (I also don’t have the attention to watch long things, I think I’m coming to grips with a touch of ADD, with all the good and bad that comes with it).

Other social media tools I use for specific things include Yammer, Skype, and of course dedicated tools like Google Docs of various sorts, Doodle, and more.  And I use IFTTT to send blog announcements to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I’m not a big user of Google Plus, but if IFTTT did have that as a recipe, I would post there too.

Others have other strategies. Some are more closed on LinkedIn, I have friends and colleagues, don’t use Facebook, etc.  The point is to be conscious in your use, and understand the tradeoffs (e.g. the filter bubble).  I want to have a place to share with folks I’m not proximal with, but not professionally. And a place to connect with my professional colleagues. I need a place to follow pointers, and a place to reflect.  This is my social media learning strategy.  What’s yours?

18 June 2015

Why Work Out Loud? (for #wolweek)

Clark @ 8:06 am

Why should one work out loud (aka Show Your Work)?  Certainly, there are risks involved.  You could be wrong.  You could have to share a mistake. Others might steal your ideas.  So why would anyone want to be Working Out Loud?  Because the risks are trumped by the benefits.

Working out loud is all about being transparent about what you’re doing.  The benefits of these are multiple. First, others know what you’re doing, and can help. They can provide pointers to useful information, they can provide tips about what worked, and didn’t, for them, and they’re better prepared for what will be forthcoming.

Those risks? If you’re wrong, you can find out before it’s too late.  If you share a mistake, others don’t have to make the same one.  If you put your ideas out there, they’re on record if someone tries to steal them.  And if someone else uses your good work, it’s to the general benefit.

Now, there are times when this can be bad. If you’re in a Miranda organization, where anything you say can be held against you, it may not be safe to share.  If your employer will take what you know and then let you go (without realizing, of course, there’s more there), it’s not safe.  Not all organizations are ready for sharing you work.

Organizations, however, should be interested in creating an environment where working out loud is safe.  When folks share their work, the organization benefits.  People know what others are working on. They can help one another.  The organization learns faster.  Make it safe to share mistakes, not for the sake of the mistake, but for the lesson learned; so no one else has to make the same mistake!

It’s not quite enough to just show your work, however, you really want to ‘narrate’ your work. So working out loud is not just about what you’re doing, but also explaining why.  Letting others see why you’re doing what you’re doing helps them either improve your thinking or learn from it.  So not just your work output improves, but your continuing ability to work gets better too!

You can blog your thoughts, microblog what you’re looking at, make your interim representations available as collaborative documents, there are many ways to make your work transparent. This blog, Learnlets, is just for that purpose of thinking out loud: so I can get feedback and input or others can benefit.  Yeah, there are risks (I have seen my blog purloined without attribution), but the benefits outweigh the risks.  That’s as an independent, but imagine if an organization made it safe to share; the whole organization learns faster. And that’s the key to the continual innovation that will be the only sustainable differentiator.

Organizations that work together effectively are organizations that will thrive.  So there are personal benefits and organizational benefits.  And I personally think this is a role for L&D (this is part of the goal of the Revolution). So, work out loud about your efforts to work out loud!

#itashare

19 May 2015

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Clark @ 9:44 am

Is there an appetite for change in L&D? That was the conversation I’ve had with colleagues lately. And I have to say that that the answer is mixed, at best.

The consensus is that most of L&D is comfortably numb. That L&D folks are barely coping with getting courses out on a rapid schedule and running training events because that’s what’s expected and known. There really isn’t any burning desire for change, or willingness to move even if there is.

This is a problem. As one commented: “When I work with others (managers etc) they realise they don’t actually need L&D any more”. And that’s increasingly true: with tools to do narrated slides, screencasts, and videos in the hands of everyone, there’s little need to have the same old ordinary courses coming from L&D. People can create or access portals to share created and curated resources, and social networks to interact with one another. L&D will become just a part of HR, addressing the requirements – onboarding and compliance – everything else will be self-serve.

The sad part of this is the promise of what L&D could be doing. If L&D started facilitating learning, not controlling it, things could go better. If L&D realized it was about supporting the broad spectrum of learning, including self-learning, and social learning, and research and problem-solving and trouble-shooting and design and all the other situations where you don’t know the answer when you start, the possibilities are huge. L&D could be responsible for optimizing execution of the things they know people need to do, but with a broader perspective that includes putting knowledge into the world when possible. And L&D could be also optimizing the ability of the organization to continually innovate.

It is this possibility that keeps me going. There’s the brilliant world where the people who understand learning combine with the people who know technology and work together to enable organizations to flourish. That’s the world I want to live in, and as Alan Kay famously said: “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Can we, please?

12 May 2015

A new ‘turn to your neighbor’

Clark @ 7:40 am

So, I was continuing the campaign for the Revolution, and wanted to expand the audience interaction. I could’ve used the tired ‘turn to your neighbor’ technique, but I had a thought (dangerous, that).  Could it be improved upon?

As I may have mentioned, there has been a backlash against ‘brainstorming’. For example, the New York Times had an article about how it didn’t work, saying that if you bring people into a room, and then give them a problem or topic, and then get them to discuss, it won’t work. And they’re right!  Because that is a broken model of brainstorming; it’s a straw man argument.

A real model of brainstorming has the individuals thinking about the problem individually beforehand, before you bring them together. When you have them not have a chance to think independently, the first person to speak colors the thoughts of the others, but if people can come up with their own ideas first, then share and improve, it works well.  The room is smarter than the smartest person in the room, as the quote has it, but the caveat is that you have to manage the process right.

So how does this relate to the ‘turn to your neighbor’?  It occurred to me that a clear implication was that if you thought to yourself first, before sharing, you’d get a better outcome. And so that’s what I did: I had them think for themselves on the question I presented, then share, and then stop.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t have time to ask for all the output, instead I asked who had come up with ‘formal’ for a question on what supports optimal execution, and who came up with facilitating the flow of information as a solution for supporting innovation. So we have practical limits on what we can do with a large audience and a small amount of time.  However, I did ask at the end of the first one whether they thought it worthwhile. And I asked again of a subset of the audience who attended the next day workshop (“Clark Quinn’s workshop on Strategic Elearning is awesome” was a comment, <fist pump>) what they thought.

Overall the feedback was that it was an improvement. Certainly the outputs should be better.  One was “energized”. The overall take of the large audience and the smaller one was very positive.  It doesn’t take much longer, because it’s easy to do the quick thinking bit (and it’s no easier to get them to stop sharing :), but it’s a lesson and an improved technique all in one!

So, now you know that if you see anyone doing just the ‘turn to your neighbor’, they’re not up on the latest research.  Wonder if we can get this to spread?  But continue exploration is a necessary element to improvement, and innovations happen through diligent work and refinement.  Please do try it out and let me know how it goes!  And, of course, even just your thoughts.

6 May 2015

Trojan Mice?

Clark @ 1:15 pm

One of the mantras of the Learning Organization is that there should be experimentation.  This has also become, of course, a mantra of the Revolution as well.  So the question becomes, what sort of experiments should we be considering?

First, for reasons both pragmatic and principled, these are more likely to be small experiments than large.  On principled reasons, even large changes are probably better off implemented as small steps. On pragmatic reasons, small changes can be built upon or abandoned as outcomes warrant.  These small changes have colloquially been labeled ‘trojan mice‘, a cute way to capture the notion of change via small incursions.

The open question, then, is what sort of trojan mice might be helpful in advancing the revolution?  We might think of them in each of the areas of change: formal, performance support, social, culture, etc.  What are some ideas?

In formal, we might, for one, push back on taking orders.  For instance, we might start asking about measures that any initiatives will be intended to address. We could also look to implementing some of the Serious eLearning Manifesto ideas. Small steps to better learning design.

For performance support, one of the first small steps might be to even do performance support, if you aren’t already. If you are, maybe look to broadening the media you use (experiment with a video, an annotated sequence of pictures, or an ebook).  Or maybe try creating a portal that is user-focused, not business-silo structured.

In the social area, you might first have to pilot an exterior social network if there isn’t one. If there is, you might start hosting activities within it.  A ‘share your learning lunch’ might be a fun way to talk about things, and bring out meta-learning.   Certainly, you could start instituting the use within L&D.

And with culture, you might start encouraging people to share how they work; what resources they use.  Maybe film the top performers in a group giving a minute or two talk on how they do what they do.  It’d be great if you could get some of the leadership to start sharing, and maybe do a survey of what your culture actually is.

The list goes on: in tech you might try some microlearning, a mobile experiment, or considering a content model (ok, not actually build one, that’s a big step ;).  In strategy, you might start gathering data about what the overall organization goals are, or what initiatives in infrastructure have been taken elsewhere in the org or are being contemplated.

The point is to start taking some small steps.  So, I’m curious, what small steps have you tried, or what ones might you think of and suggest?

30 April 2015

Activities for Integrating Learning

Clark @ 8:11 am

I’ve been working on a learning design that integrates developing social media skills with developing specific competencies, aligned with real work.  It’s an interesting integration, and I drafted a pedagogy that I believe accomplishes the task.  It draws heavily on the notion of activity-based learning.  For your consideration.

Activity ModelThe learning process is broken up into a series of activities. Each activity starts with giving the learning teams a deliverable they have to create, with a deadline an appropriate distance out.  There are criteria they have to meet, and the challenge is chosen such that it’s within their reach, but out of their grasp.  That is, they’ll have to learn some things to accomplish it.

As they work on the deliverable, they’re supported. They may have resources available to review, ideally curated (and, across the curricula, their responsibility for curating their own resources is developed as part of handing off the responsibility for learning to learn).  There may be people available for questions, and they’re also being actively watched and coached (less as they go on).

Now, ideally the goal would be a real deliverable that would achieve an impact on the organization.  That, however, takes a fair bit of support to make it a worthwhile investment. Depending on the ability of the learners, you may start with challenges that are like but not necessarily real challenges, such as evaluating a case study or working on a simulation.  The costs of mentoring go up as the consequences of the action, but so do the benefits, so it’s likely that the curriculum will similarly get closer to live tasks as it progresses.

At the deadline, the deliverables are shared for peer review, presumably with other teams. In this instance, there is a deliberate intention to have more than one team, as part of the development of the social capabilities. Reviewing others’ work, initially with evaluation heuristics, is part of internalizing the monitoring criteria, on the path to becoming a self-monitoring and self-improving learner. Similarly, the freedom to share work for evaluation is a valuable move on the path to a learning culture.  Expert review will follow, to finalize the learning outcomes.

The intent is also that the conversations and collaborations be happening in a social media platform. This is part of helping the teams (and the organization) acquire social media competencies.  Sharing, working together, accessing resources, etc. are being used in the platform just as they are used for work. At the end, at least, they are being used for work!

This has emerged as a design that develops both specific work competencies and social competencies in an integrated way.  Of course, the proof is when there’s a chance to run it, but in the spirit of working out loud…your thoughts welcome.

7 April 2015

Labeling 70:20:10

Clark @ 8:42 am

In the Debunker Club, a couple of folks went off on the 70:20:10 model, and it prompted some thoughts.  I thought I’d share them.

If you’re not familiar with 70:20:10, it’s a framework for thinking about workplace learning that suggests we need to recognize that the opportunity is about much more than courses. If you ask people how they learned the things they know to do in the workplace, the responses suggest that somewhere around 10% came from formal learning, 20% from informal coaching and such, and about 70% from trial and error.  Note the emphasis on the fact that these numbers aren’t exact, it’s just an indication (though considerable evidence suggests that the contribution of formal learning is somewhere between 5 and 20%, with evidence from a variety of sources).

Now, some people complain that the numbers can’t be right, no one gets perfect 10 measurements. To be fair, they’ve been fighting against the perversion of Dale’s Cone, where someone added numbers on that were bogus but have permeated learning for decades and can’t seem to be exterminated. It’s like zombies!  So I suspect they’re overly sensitive to whole numbers.

And I like the model!  I’ve used it to frame some of my work, using it as a framework to think about what else we can do to support performance. Coaching and mentoring, facilitating social interaction, providing challenge goals, supporting reflection, etc.  And again to justify accelerated organizational outcomes.

The retort I hear is that “it’s not about the numbers”, and I agree.  It’s just tool to help shake people out of the thought that a course is the only solution to all needs.  And, outside the learning community, people get it.  I have heard that, over presentations to hundreds of audiences of executives and managers, they all recognize that the contributions to their success came largely from sources other than courses.

However, if it’s not about the numbers, maybe calling it the 70:20:10 model may be a problem.  I really like Jane Hart’s diagram about Modern Workplace Learning as another way to look at it, though I really want to go beyond learning too.  Performance support may achieve outcomes in ways that don’t require or deliver any learning, and that’s okay. There’re times when it’s better to have knowledge in the head than in the world.

So, I like the 70:20:10 framework, but recognize that the label may be a barrier. I’m just looking for any tools I can use to help people start thinking ‘outside the course’.  I welcome suggestions!

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