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?

14 September 2016

Kaihan Krippendorff Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 6:29 am

At a private event, I had a chance to hear Kaihan Krippendorff talk about thinking differently about innovation.  He used an 8P’s model as a framework to illustrate how to think differently.

He started by pointing out that the myth of entrepreneurial innovation is overblown, and that innovation comes from moving outside ‘business as usual’.

In an engaging way, he used several examples for each of the Ps to show how companies succeeded by rethinking around this element (speaking too fast to capture them!).

krippendorffkeynotemindmap

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.

24 August 2016

Trying out videos

Clark @ 8:06 am

DevLearn, the elearning conference I’ll be attending in November, has suggested adding videos to promote your talks.  I haven’t done much with video (though I did just do this <6 minute one about my proposed learning pedagogy), but I’ve found the ‘narrated presentation’ capability built into Keynote to be of interest, so I’ve been playing with it.  And I thought I’d share.

First, I created this one to promote my talk on eLearning Myths. It’s a fun session with a MythSmasher format (e.g. the possible myth, the appeal, the damage, the method, the results, and what you can do instead if it’s busted) . It’s important, because if you’re supporting the wrong myths you can be wasting money and vulnerable to flawed promotions. Here’s the pitch:

Then, I’m also running an elearning strategy workshop, that’s basically the Revolution roadmap.  In it, we work through the elements of the Performance Ecosystem and not only make the case for, but workshop a personalized roadmap for your organization.  As things move forward, there’s an opportunity for L&D to lead the charge to the adaptive organization!

I welcome hearing your feedback on content or presentation, and of course invite you to attend either or both!

3 August 2016

The probability of wasting money

Clark @ 8:04 am

Designing learning is a probability game.  To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, you can lead a learner to learning, but you can’t make them think.  What I mean is that the likelihood that the learning actually sticks is a result of a myriad of design decisions, and many elements contribute to that likelihood.  It will vary by learner, despite your endeavors, but you increase the probability that the desired outcome is achieved by following what’s know about how people learn.

This is the point of learning engineering, applying learning science to the design of learning experiences.  You need to align elements like:

  • determining learning objectives that will impact the desired outcome
  • designing sufficient contextualized practice
  • appropriately presenting a conceptual model that guides performance
  • providing a sufficient and elaborated suite of examples to  illustrate the concept in context
  • developing emotional engagement

and so on.

And to the extent that you’re not fully delivering on the nuances of these elements, you’re decreasing the likelihood of having any meaningful impact. It’s pretty simple:

If you don’t have the right objectives (e.g. if you just take an order for a course), what’s the likelihood that your learning will achieve anything?

If you don’t have sufficient practice, what’s the likelihood that the learning will still be there when needed?

If you have abstract practice, what’s the likelihood that your learners will transfer that practice to appropriate situations?

If you don’t guide performance with a model, what’s the likelihood that learners will be able to adapt their performance to different situations?

If you don’t provide examples, what’s the likelihood that learners will understand the full range of situations and appropriate adaptations for each?

And if you don’t emotionally engage them, what’s the likelihood that any of this will be appropriately processed?

Now, let’s tie that back to the dollars it costs you to develop this learning.  There’s the SME time, and the designer time, and development time, and the time of the learners away from their revenue-generating activity. At the end of the day, it’s a fair chunk of change.  And if you’re slipping in the details of any of this (and I’m just skating the surface, there’re nuances around all of these), you’re diminishing the value of your investment, potentially all the way to zero. In short, you could be throwing your money away!

This isn’t to make you throw up your hands and say “we can’t do all that”.  Most design processes have the potential to do the necessary job, but you have to comprehend the nuances, and ensure that the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed on development.  Just because  you have an authoring tool doesn’t mean what comes out is actually achieving anything.

However, it’s possible to tune up the design process to acknowledge the necessary details. When you provide support at just the right places, and put in place the subtle tweaks on things like working with SMEs, you can develop and deliver learning that has a high likelihood of having the desired impact, and therefore have a process that’s justifiable for the investment.

And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?  Being able to allocate resources to impact the business in meaningful ways is what we’re supposed to be doing. Too frequently we see the gaps continue (hence the call for Serious eLearning), and we can only do it if we’re acting like the professionals we need to be.   It’s time for a tuneup in organizational learning.  It’s not too onerous, and it’s needed.  So, are you ready?

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?

26 July 2016

Quinnovation Fall 2016 Schedule

Clark @ 9:51 am

My fall  schedule is coalescing, so I thought I’d provide pointers to when and where I’ll be for the rest of this year:

I’m doing two  webinars for a government agency, one at the end of August, and one at the end of September.

I’ll be in Beijing running a mobile learning workshop on the 6th of September, and keynoting the CEFE conference on the 7th.

The week after I’ll be keynoting a private event in Connecticut.

And I’ll be delivering a virtual keynote for a different government agency in November.

I’ll be running an elearning strategy (read: Revolution) workshop at DevLearn in Las Vegas come mid-November, and presenting on elearning myths.

Then, on the very last day of November, I’ll be running an elearning design workshop at Online Educa in Berlin.

So, some availability  in late September through October, or mid-December, if you’d like access to Quinnovation as well.

I hope that if you’re near Beijing, Las Vegas, or Berlin, you’ll be attending. If so, say hi!

 

20 July 2016

The wrong basis

Clark @ 8:08 am

Of late, I’ve been talking about the approach organizations take to learning.  It’s come up in presentations on learning design, measurement, and learning technology strategy.  And the point is simple: we’re not using the right basis.

What we’re supposed to be doing is empirically justifiable:

  • doing investigations into the problem
  • identifying the root cause
  • mapping back to an intervention design
  • determining how we’ll know the intervention is working
  • implementing our intervention
  • testing to see if we’ve achieved the necessary outcome
  • and revising until we do

Instead, what we see is what I’ve begun to refer to as ‘faith-based learning’: if we build a course, it is good!  We:

  • take orders for courses
  • document what the SME tells us
  • design a screen-friendly version of the associated content
  • and add a knowledge test

Which would be well and good except that this approach has a very low likelihood of affecting anything except perhaps our learners’ patience (and of course our available resources). Orders for courses have little relation to the real problems, SMEs can’t tell you what they actually do, content 0n a screen doesn’t mean learners know how to or will apply it, and a quiz isn’t likely to lead to any meaningful change in behavior (even if it is tarted up with racing cars).

The closer you are to the former, the better; the closer to the latter, the more likely it is that you’re quite literally wasting time and money.

Faith may not be a bad thing for spirituality, but it’s not a particularly good basis for attempting to develop new skills.  I’ve argued that learning design really is rocket science, and we should be taking an engineering approach.  To the extent we’re not – to the extent that we are implicitly accepting that a course is needed and that our linear processes are sufficient – we’re taking an approach that very much is based upon wishful thinking. And that’s not a good basis to run a business on.

It’s time to get serious about your learning.  It’s doable, with less effort than you may think.   And the alternative is really unjustifiable. So let’s get ourselves, and our industry, on a sound basis.  There’s a lot more we can do as well, but we can start by getting this part right.  Please?

12 July 2016

Web trust

Clark @ 8:05 am

I get asked to view a lot of things. And sometimes, particularly when there’s a potential tangible relationship, I will actually go visit sites. (BTW, I tend to avoid what comes unsolicited, and instead trust to what comes through my social network.) And one of my strategies often fails, and that, to me, is a warning sign.

When I go to sites (not from familiar companies, but new ones), one of the places I’m very likely to visit is the ‘About Us’ page or equivalent. There’s a reason I do that: I want to know something about who is behind this, and why. They’re linked, but separable.

There’re a couple of reasons to be clear about who’s behind this. One is for authenticity: is there someone willing to put their name to what this is and what it’s about?  And why them?  What background do they have that makes them credible to be the ones behind this endeavor?

And the why is about what motivates them? Are they doing this because of a passion, or because they think it’s a good business opportunity?  Either’s acceptable, but what you want is coherence between the people and what they’re doing.  Ideally, it’s a good story that links them.

There are sites that are clearly out to make money, and some that are out to meet a real need. There are some that have been created by folks who have an idea but not necessarily a clue, and then there are those created by those who should be doing it. And when you get both together, need and clue, you have a site you are willing to investigate further.

It may seem overly harsh or naive, and I’m sure someone could spin a good story and fool me (and has ;), but I think this is a good heuristic, a good reality check, on any site that’s looking to interact with others.  If my search fails to find the requisite information, my antennas start quivering, and my defenses go up.  A personal opinion, of course. Do you agree? Do you have other checks that you like better?  Eager to hear your thoughts.

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