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

28 September 2016

Reflecting practice

Clark @ 8:05 am

Someone opined on yesterday’s post that it’s hard to find time for reflection, and I agree it’s hard. You need to find ways to make it systematic, as it’s hard to make persistent change. So I responded with three personal suggestions, and thought I’d share them here, and also think about what the organizational response could be.

Individual

So my first suggestion was to find times when the mind is free to roam.  For example, I have used taking a shower, exercising, or driving.  My approach has been to put a question in my mind before I start, and then ponder it.  I typically end up with at least one idea how to proceed.  Find a time that you are awake and doing something (relatively) mindless. It could be in the garden, or on a walk, or…

Another idea I suggested was to bake it into your schedule.  Make it a habit.  Put half an hour on your calendar (e.g. end of the day) that’s reflection time. Or at lunch, or morning break, or…  A recurring reminder works well.  The point is to set aside a time and stick to it.

Along the same lines, you could make a personal promise to publicly reflect (e.g. blog or podcast or…).  Set a goal for some amount per week (e.g. my goal is 2 blog posts per week).  If you commit to it (particularly publicly), you’ve a better chance.  You could also ask someone to hold you accountable, have them expecting your output.  The pressure to meet the output goal means you’ll be searching for things to think about, and that’s not a bad thing.

Organizational

Of course, organizations should be making this easier.  They can do things like have you set aside a day a week for your own projects, or an hour of your day.  Little firms like Google have instituted this.  Of course, it helps if they require output so that you have to get concrete and there’s something to track isn’t a bad idea either.

Firms could also put in place tools and practices around Working out Loud (aka Show Your Work).  Having your work be out there, particularly if you’re asked to ‘narrate’ it (e.g. annotate with the thinking behind it), causes you to do the thinking, and then you have the benefits of feedback.

And instituting systemic mentoring, where you regularly meet with someone who’s job it is to help you develop, and that would include asking questions that help you reflect.  Thus, someone’s essentially scaffolding your reflection (and, ideally, helping you internalize it and become self-reflecting).

Reflection is valuable, and yet it can be hard to figure out when and how.  Getting conscious about reflection and about instituting it are both valuable components of a practice.  So, are you practicing?

6 September 2016

Out of touch

Clark @ 8:10 am

Imagine, for a moment, that you are on a remote site doing work.  To get work done, we are increasingly learning, that means working with others.  Other people, and other information.

So, for example, you might need to find the answer to a question.  It might be work related, or even personal but impacting your effectiveness.  However, at the site, they don’t use the same information tools you do.  So you might not be as effective, or effective at all, in terms of getting the answers you need.

Similarly, what if their social tools are different? Your network might not be accessible, and while received wisdom from a search is one part of the knowledge ecosystem, so is what is in the heads of your colleagues.  The situation might be unique or new enough not to have a recorded answer. The answer might be within a few nodes of connection, but you can’t reach it. Again, if you can’t connect to the shared wisdom, you are limiting your ability to succeed.

For ideas to advance, for innovation to occur, you need access to information and others.  If you filter it or shut it down, you are limiting the chances to improve. While internally you may be very effective, there’s still more outside you could benefit from. You’re missing out on the opportunity to be as agile as increasingly we need to be.

If you’re not connected to the broadest opportunities, you could be missing out on the ‘adjacent possible’ that’s a key component to innovation. Your tools may be even quite good, but they’re still not optimal.  You’re quite literally, out of touch. And, on that note, I’ll be ‘out of touch’ for a few more days, so understand if you haven’t ‘seen’ me around.  Email is best.

31 August 2016

Collaborating when it matters

Clark @ 8:09 am

A dear friend and colleague just wrote about his recent (and urgent) chemo and surgery.  I won’t bore you with the details (the odds are you don’t know him), but one thing stuck with me that I do want to share.

As context, he discovered he had a rare and aggressive cancer, and this  ventured into the unknown, with a sense of urgency.   He fortunately had access to arguably the world’s best resources on this, but the ‘rare’ bit means that there wasn’t a lot of data:

“The treatment options were unclear because they didn’t have enough real data to know what was most likely to work..I didn’t know that the lack of data was so profound that intuition and personal experience, not data, would play a central role in the decisions.”

Collaboration was critical.  There were two different domains in play, and they had to work and play well together. An oncologist and a specialist in the location were required to determine a course of action:

“If you’re ever in a situation like this, having world-class experts is so critical! I could see the mental wheels turning, the quick parlay back and forth between the experts, leading to the suggestion…”

And, interestingly, his voice was an important one:

“Amazing how much the decision seemed to also rest with me, not just with the experts.”

They knew they didn’t know, and they wanted to understand his preferences.  He had a voice, instead of being told what to do. If you don’t know, look for preferences.

This is what decision-making looks like when it matters and it’s new: open collaboration. This also reminds me of Jane Bozarth’s story about her husband’s situation, where again expertise and preparation matter.  The details are not trivial, they’re critical.

And these situations are increasing. Whether life-threatening or not, and even with the power of data, we’re going to be facing increasingly challenging decisions.  We need to learn when and how to collaborate.  One person following a script (which should be automated) is increasingly less likely to be the answer. An individual equipped with models, and resources including others, is going to be the minimal necessary solution.

2 August 2016

Being clear on collaboration

Clark @ 8:01 am

Twice recently, I’ve been confronted with systems that claim to be collaboration platforms. And I think distributed collaboration is one of the most powerful options we have for accelerating our innovation.  So in each case I did some investigation. Unfortunately, the claims didn’t hold up to scrutiny. And I think it’s important to understand why.

Now, true collaboration is powerful.  By collaboration in this sense I mean working together to create a shared representation. It can be a document, spreadsheet, visual, or more. It’s like a shared whiteboard, with technology support to facilitate things like editing, formatting, versioning, and more.  When we can jointly create our shared understanding, we’re developing a richer outcome that we could independently (or by emailing versions of the document around).

However, what was on offer wasn’t this capability.  It’s not new, it’s been the basis of wikis (e.g. Google Docs), but it’s central.  Anything else is, well, something else.  You can write documents, or adjust tables and formulas, or edit diagrams together.  Several people can be making changes in different places at the same time, or annotating their thoughts, and it’s even possible to have voice communication while it’s happening (whether inherently or through additional tools). And it can happen asynchronously as well, with people adding, elaborating, editing whenever they have time, and the information evolves.

So one supported ‘collaborative conversations’.  Um, aren’t conversations inherently collaborative?  I  mean, it takes two people, right?  And while there may be knowledge negotiation, it’s not inherently captured, and in particular it may well be that folks take away different interpretations of what’s been said (I’m sure you’ve seen that happen!).  Without a shared representation, it’s still open to different interpretations (and, yes, we can disagree post-hoc about what a shared representation actually meant, but it’s much more difficult). That’s why we create representations like constitutions and policies and things.

The other one went a wee bit further, and supported annotating shared information. You could comment on it.  And this isn’t bad, but it’s not full collaboration.  Someone has to go away and process the comments.  It’s helpful, but not as much as jointly editing the information in the first place, as well as editing.

I’ve been a fan of wikis since I first heard about them, and think that they’ll be the basis for communities to continue to evolve, as well as being the basis for effective team work. In that sense, they’re core to the Coherent Organization, providing the infrastructure (along with communication and curating) to advance individual and organizational learning.

So, my point is to be clear on what capabilities you really need, so you can suitably evaluate claims about systems to support your actions.  I’ll suggest you want collaborative tools as well as communication tools.  What do you think?

5 July 2016

The Inaugural Jay Cross Memorial Award winner is…

Clark @ 8:00 am

Reposted from the Internet Time Alliance website:

The Internet Time Alliance Jay Cross Memorial Award is presented to a workplace learning professional who has contributed in positive ways to the field of Real Learning and is reflective of Jay’s lifetime of work. Recipients champion workplace and social learning practices inside their organisation and/or on the wider stage. They share their work in public and often challenge conventional wisdom. The Jay Cross Memorial Award is given to professionals who continuously welcome challenges at the cutting edge of their expertise and are convincing and effective advocates of a humanistic approach to workplace learning and performance.

We are announcing this inaugural award on 5 July, Jay’s birthday. Following his death in November 2015, the partners of the Internet Time Alliance (Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Charles Jennings, Clark Quinn) resolved to continue Jay’s work. Jay Cross was a deep thinker and a man of many talents, never resting on his past accomplishments, and this award is one way to keep pushing our professional fields and industries to find new and better ways to learn and work.

The Internet Time Alliance Jay Cross Memorial Award for 2016 is presented to Helen Blunden. Helen has been an independent practitioner at Activate Learning since 2014. Her vision is to help people stay current in a constantly changing world of work and do this by working and sharing their work and learning in a generous, open, and authentic manner. Helen started her career within the Royal Australian Navy across two branches (Training Development and Public Relations) as well as working within Service and external to Service (with Air Force and Army and Defence civilians), then with the Reserves. Helen later worked as a Learning and Development Consultant for Omni Asia Pacific, and subsequently with National Australia Bank as a Social Learning Consultant. Helen is an active blogger and is engaged professionally on various social media platforms.

Here is Helen in her own words: “In my observations, it’s not only learning teams in organisations or institutions that need to change and recreate the traditional ways of training into learning experiences. It’s wider than that. I have smaller businesses, some of whom are vendors who offer training products and services to the public or to organisations who are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get ‘into the 21st century’ as their clients ask for more blended programs – shorter programs – but still achieve the same outcomes. Dare I say it, the tools that Jane Hart offers as tools for professional development are not for learning people alone – they’re for everyone. This is where I’m grappling to understand the enormity of the change and how, for the first time, you’re not only helping a client design and develop the learning experience – but you need to teach them how to use the tools so it becomes part of their social behaviour to build their own business, brand and reputation.”

Helen will be formally presented with the award in her home city of Melbourne by Simon Hann, CEO of DeakinPrime, the corporate education arm of Deakin University.

It is with great pleasure that the partners of the Internet Time Alliance present the first Jay Cross Memorial Award to Helen Blunden.

helenblunden

23 June 2016

Ambiguity Denial Syndrome?

Clark @ 11:05 am

I was talking with a colleague at an event one of the past weeks, and I noted down the concept of ambiguity denial syndrome. And I’m retrospectively making up what we were talking about, but it’s an interesting idea to me.

FractalSo one of the ways I start out a talk (including later today for a government agency) is to talk about chaos. I use a fractal, and talk about the properties a fractal has.  You know, that it’s a mathematical formulation that paints an image from which patterns emerge, yet at any point you really don’t know where it’s going to go next.

I use this to explain how our old beliefs in an ability to plan, prepare, and execute were somewhat misguided.  What we did was explain away the few times it didn’t work. But as things move faster, the fact that things are not quite as certain as we’d believe means we have to become more agile, because we can less tolerate the mistakes.

The point I’m making, that the world increasingly requires an ability to deal with ambiguity and unique situations. And our learning designs, and organization designs, and our cultures, need to recognize this. And yet, in so many ways, they don’t.

At the individual level, we’re not equipping folks with the right tools. We should be providing them with models to use to interpret and adapt to situations (explain and predict). Our learning designs should have them dealing with a wide variety and degrees of certainty in situations.  And we should be testing and refining them, recognizing that learners aren’t as predictable as concrete or steel.  Instead we see one-shot development of information dumps and knowledge tests, which aren’t going to help organizations.

At the interpersonal level, we should be facilitating people to engage productively, facilitating the development of viable processes for working and learning together. We know that the room is smarter than the smartest person in the room (if we manage the process right), and that we’ll get the best results when we empower people and support their success. We need them working out loud, communicating and collaborating, to get the best. Instead, we still see top-down hierarchies and solo work.

In short, we see people denying the increasing complexity that the world is showing us.  Implicitly or explicitly, it’s clear that many folks believe that they can, and must, control things, instead of looking to adapt on the fly.  We have new organizational models for this, and yet we’re not even seeing the exploration yet.  I acknowledge that change is hard, and navigating it successfully is a challenge. But we have lots of guidance here too.

Too many processes I see reflect industrial age thinking, and we’re in an information age. We have greater capacity amongst our people, and greater challenges to address, with less tolerance for mistakes.  We need to address, even embrace ambiguity, if we are to thrive. Because we can, and we should.  It’s the only sensible way to move forward in this increasingly complex world. So, are you ready?

14 June 2016

What’s Your Learning Tool Stack?

Clark @ 8:11 am

I woke up this morning thinking about the tools we use at various levels.  Yeah, my life is exciting ;).  Seriously, this is important, as the tools we use and provide through the organization impact the effectiveness with which people can work. And lately, I’ve been hearing the question about “what’s your <x> stack” [x|x=’design’, ‘development’, …].  What this represents is people talking about the tools they use to do their jobs, and I reckon it’s important for us to talk about tools for learning.  You can see the results of Jane Hart’s annual survey, but I’m carving it up into a finer granularity, because I think it changes depending on the ‘level’ at which you’re working, ala the Coherent Organization.  So, of course, I created a diagram.

Learning stack: personal, team, community, organizationWhat we’re talking about here, starting at the bottom, are the tools you personally use for learning. Or, of course, the ones others use in your org. So this is how you represent your own understandings, and manipulate information, for your own purposes.  For many people in organizations, this is likely to include the MS Office Suite, e.g. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Maybe OneNote?  For me, it’s Word for writing, OmniGraffle for diagramming (as this one was created in), WordPress for this blog (my thinking out loud; it is for me, at least in the first instance), and a suite of note taking software (depending on type of notes) and personal productivity.

From there, we talk about team tools. These are to manage communication and information sharing between teams.  This can be email, but increasingly we’re seeing dedicated shared tools being supported, like Slack, that support creating groups, and archive discussions and files.  Collaborative documents are a really valuable tool here so you’re not sending around email (though I’m doing that with one team right now, but it’s only back forth, not coordinating between multiple people, at least on my end!). Instead, I coordinate with one group with Slack, a couple others with Skype and email, and am using Google Docs and email with another.

From there we move up to the community level. Here the need is to develop, refine, and share best principles. So the need is for tools that support shared representations.  Communities are large, so we need to start having subgroups, and profiles become important. The organization’s ESN may support this, though (and probably unfortunately) many business units have their own tools. And we should be connecting with colleagues in other organizations, so we might be using society-provided platforms or leverage LinkedIn groups.  There’s also probably a need to save community-specific resources like documents and job aids, so there may be a portal function as well. Certainly ongoing discussions are supported.  Personally, without my own org, I tap into external communities using tools like LinkedIn groups (there’s one for the L&D Revolution, BTW!), and Facebook (mostly friends, but some from our own field).

Finally, we get to the org level. Here we (should) see organization wide Enterprise Social Networks like Jive and Yammer, etc. Also enterprise wide portal tools like Sharepoint.  Personally, I work with colleagues using Socialcast in one instance, and Skype with another (tho’ Skype really isn’t a full solution).

So, this is a preliminary cut to show my thinking at inception.  What have I forgotten?  What’s your learning stack?

7 June 2016

The 3 Social Media Things You Ought to Avoid

Clark @ 8:04 am

At least, that is, with me. Frankly, I wonder if you even bothered to read this after a title like that! Or at least are highly suspicious at this point. It (should) be just the type of thing you would not expect from me. And there’s a reason for that. There are 3 egregious social media things you shouldn’t do, and the title is related to one of them.

As context, because of this blog, I get occasional emails offering to write guest posts for me. Now, these aren’t really learning folks, these are marketing folks who would want to put  in links to their site.  This used to happen a lot, so much so I even wrote a post about it.  And I point people to it when they get it (for a number of certain types of requests I’ve made up canned responses I just cut and paste).

So I just got one, and it was nice, because it actually listed the company, pointed to examples of their work, and listed some sample titles.  However, the titles just didn’t sound like me:

The Four Social Media Perversions You Should Capitalize On

7 Tips to Clickbait That Will Guarantee Results

Posts That Generate Revenue: Using the Words You Can’t Say On Television

(Ok, I’m exaggerating a wee bit :).  However, this leads to the first thing to avoid:

1. Don’t offer guest posts that don’t match the tenor of the blog

Now the second case is implied by a bit of the above. Recently I’ve gotten requests about placing links that are much more, er, mysterious. To paraphrase: I work for a client that works in a related area and I’ve written lots of posts and I’d like to do some for you, and there might even be a small bit of money available.  Read: I’m too ashamed to admit who I work for, I won’t show you an example of my work, and I’ll try to entice you with a mention of money.  Somehow these folks haven’t heard about what builds trust on the net (hint: it’s spelled ‘transparency’).  So:

2. Don’t give  vague offers with unsubstantiated particulars

I’m more susceptible to people who actually do inquire what it would take to place an ad, but so far I haven’t gone there (I once asked and folks seemed to prefer it without).

Along with this, there are always people who want to show me their product (because it’s in my space) and give them my feedback.  That is, they want me to give them my years of expertise for free. On top of that, they need enough of my time to present their product first.  My response is always “I talk ideas for free, I help someone personally for drinks/dinner*, but if someone’s making a quid, I get a cut”. The point being, I’m not giving my free time and expert opinion (hey, that’s how I feed the family). I’ll offer them my services, and a time or two that’s actually happened. But mostly they plead poverty and move on.

This is a well-known problem. There are other examples as well: “can I pick your brain”, offers of ‘exposure’ in return for speaking, and it’s not on. In fact, it’s ripe for parody.  Thus:

3. Don’t try to get free work

There’re more, I’m sure, but these seem to be the most frequent. It’s really bad social media behavior. If you want something, tell me what it is, and make the value proposition clear.

And let’s be clear: there are offers I do take up, but these are clear about what is required as well as the benefit is to me as well as to them, and I can make a conscious evaluation.

So please, feel free to hire me, but don’t expect me to work for free. Fair enough?

(*Sometimes I just request they pay it forward, if they’re a young person, since I benefited so much from intellectual generosity when I was a neophyte.)

25 May 2016

A richer suite of support

Clark @ 8:08 am

While it’s easy to talk about how we need to support the transition from novice to expert, it might help to be a little more detailed.  While it’s easy to say that the role of formal learning wanes, and the role of informal learning ramps up, what are the types of support we might look to?

I expanded a core diagram I’ve been using for quite a while, based upon earlier diagrams from others.  It’s also been used by others, and the core of the diagram is clear, but I wanted to elaborate it. The underlying point is that as individuals gather expertise the value of formal learning drops, and the value of informal learning increases.  Ok, but what does that mean?

InFormalSpaces It means that courses make sense for novices, who don’t know what they need nor why it’s important. As they start performing however, their needs change. They start knowing what they need, and why it’s important, and they start just needing those resources.  They can be designed or curated, but they are either performance support in the moment or learning resources that develop understanding or abilities.  For the former, we’re talking about how-to videos, checklists, lookup tables, etc.  For the latter, we might be talking documents, documentaries, diagrams, or more interactive elements such as simulations.

At this stage we also need coaching and/or mentoring, and chances to communicate with our colleagues.  It’s the social work that will play a role in the development of the learner through interactions. Obviously, you can be doing communication in courses as well, and reflecting and collaborating at the practitioner stage as well, these are continua, not boxes as portrayed here.  The point, however, is that the nature of the necessary support and the activities change.

And, of course, once an individual advances far enough, there’s little anyone can be providing for them, instead they need the ‘creative friction’ of interactions with other experts and ideas to generate the new understandings that will advance the individual and the organization.  Reflecting together, solving problems to gather, and more, are all part of the activities that individuals undertake.

These activities don’t always happen well, and can be facilitated in many ways.  There are cultural factors as well.  There is a clear need for someone to be undertaking ensuring that these activities are happening in optimal ways in a conducive environment. It doesn’t have to be L&D, and it won’t be if all they do is focus on training and courses, but it should be someone who understands a bit about how we think, work, and learn.  And I don’t know another group that is better placed.  Can you?

18 May 2016

The Human-Centered Organization

Clark @ 8:04 am

As I talk about aligning work with how we brains think, work, and learn, I realize I’m talking about something bigger.  While I want L&D to lead the way (as those are the folks I know), it’s really about leading the way to an organization that’s aligned with us, with people.  And I think that’s something bigger, and definitely better.

The point being, as we reorganize work to tap into the best of us, we’re creating organizations that are humane in a very specific, and hopefully deep, sense.  Humane for all employees, and further.

The industrial era organization, quite simply, wasn’t. The mechanization of human work, the drive for more efficiency at whatever cost, the top-down imposition of rules, and more, are all contrary to what brings out the best in people. It’s demeaning and unhealthy, but even from a business perspective it’s rigid and inflexible.

Instead, when we talk about having work with purpose, and socially aware organizations, with tighter coupling to the market, and greater empowerment of employees, we’re talking about our finer human elements.  And, the evidence seems to be that such organizations are more successful.

Interestingly, I searched the term “Human Centered Organization”, and came across this proposal. (And, in fact, it’s now an ISO standard, 27500:2016, not that I’ve made it past the paywall to view the whole thing.) I found the principles from the summary to be a a good starting point:

  • capitalize on individual differences as an organizational strength
  • make usability and accessibility strategic business objectives
  • adopt a total system approach
  • ensure health, safety, and well-being are business priorities
  • value employees and create a meaningful work environment
  • be open and trustworthy
  • act in socially responsible ways

All of these reflect different areas I’ve either touted or am aware of specific work (and workers) in the area. I’d add that this should not be just internally-facing; this should reflect work with partners and customers as well.

Frankly, many companies I interact with seem driven to confuse me to the point that I make decisions that favor them. I don’t like that, and try to avoid them. A few organizations, instead, offer simple services with clear benefits.  Interestingly, when I engage with the people in the straightforward organizations, they seem to like their employment circumstances.  When I can engage one of the others to speak to me honestly, or I know them through other channels than a business relationship, they admit they don’t like what they have to do.

OK, so I can be an idealist (and am a native Californian :), but it seems to me that organizations that move to a more humane approach are going to be the ones that will last.  There are known concrete steps to get there, but the path will vary by organization. I suggest that you start thinking about your strategy. Are you ready to get human?

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress