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

4 August 2015

Teasing apart cooperation and collaboration

Clark @ 8:36 am

There have been a couple of recent proposals about the relative role of cooperation and collaboration, and I’m trying to make sense of them.  Here are a couple of different approaches, and my first take at teasing them apart.

Dion Hinchcliffe of Adjuvi tweeted a diagram about different types of working together that shows his take. He has coordination as a subsidiary to cooperation and on to collaboration.  So coordination is when we know what needs to be done, but we can’t do it alone. Cooperation is when we’re doing things that need to have a contribution from each of us, and requires some integration. And collaboration is when we’re working together with a goal but not clear how we’ll get there.  I think what’s core here is how well defined the task is and how much we contribute.

In the meantime, Harold Jarche, my ITA colleague, as a different take.  He sees collaboration as working together to achieve a goal that’s for the organization, whereas cooperation goes beyond.  Cooperation is where we participate and assist one another for our own goals.  It’s contribution that’s uncoupled from any sense of requirement, and is freely given.  I see here the discussion is more about our motives; why are we engaged.

With those two different takes, I see them as different ways of carving up the activities. My initial reaction is closer to Dion’s; I’ve always seen cooperation as willingness to assist when asked, or to provide pointers. To me collaboration is higher; it’s willing to not just provide assistance in clearly defined ways such as pointers to relevant work, answering questions, etc, but to actively roll up sleeves and pitch in.  (Coordination is, to me I guess, a subset of cooperation.) With collaboration I’ve got a vested interest in the outcome, and am willing to help frame the question, do independent research, iterate, and persist to achieve the outcome.

I see the issue of motivation or goal as a different thing. I can cooperate in a company-directed manner, as expected, but I also can (and do) cooperate in a broader sense; when people ask for help (my principles are simple: talk ideas for free; help someone personally for dinner/drinks; if someone’s making a quid  I get a cut), I will try to assist (with the Least Assistance Principle in mind).  I can also collaborate on mutual goals (whether ITA projects or client work), but then I can also collaborate on things that have no immediate outcome except to improve the industry as a whole (*cough* Serious eLearning Manifesto *cough*).

So I see two independent dimensions: one on the effort invested, just responding to need or actively contributing; and the other on the motivation, whether for a structured goal or for the greater good.

Now I have no belief that either of them will necessarily agree with my take, but I’d like to reconcile these interpretations for the overall understanding (or at least my own!).  That’s my first take, feedback welcome!

29 July 2015

The future of libraries?

Clark @ 8:30 am

I had lunch recently with Paul Signorelli, who’s active in helping libraries with digital literacy, and during the conversation he talked about his vision of the future of the library. What I heard was a vision of libraries moving beyond content to be about learning, and this had several facets I found thought-provoking.

Now, as context, I’ve always been a fan of libraries and library science (and librarians). They were some of the first to deal with the issues involved in content organization, leading to information science, and their insight into tagging and finding is still influencing content architecture and engineering.  But here we’re talking about the ongoing societal role of libraries.

First, to be about learning, it has to be about experience, not content. This is the crux of a message I’ve tried to present to publishers, when they were still wrestling with the transition from book to content!  In this case, it’s an interesting proposition about how libraries would wrap their content to create learning experiences.

Interestingly, Paul also suggested that he was thinking broader, about how libraries could also point to people who could help. This is a really intriguing idea, about libraries becoming a local broker between expertise and needs.  Not all the necessary resources are books or even print, and as libraries are now providing video and audio as well as print, and on to computer access to resources beyond the library’s collection, so too can it be about people.

This is a significant shift, but it parallels the oft-told story of marketing myopia, e.g. about how railroads aren’t about trains but instead are about transportation.  What is the role of the library in the era of the internet, of self-help.

One role, of course, is to be the repository of research skills, about digital literacy (which is where this conversation had started).  However, this notion of being a center of supporting learning, not just a center of content, moves those literacy skills to include learning as well!  But it goes further.

This notion turns the role of a library into a solution: whether you  need to get something done, learn something, or more, e.g. more than just learning but also performance support and social, becoming the local hub for helping people succeed.  He aptly pointed out how this is a natural way to use the fact that libraries tend to exist on public money; to become an even richer part of supporting the community.

It’s also, of course, an interesting way to think about how the locus of supporting people shifts from L&D and library to a joint initiative.  Whether there’s still a corporate library is an open question, but it may be a natural partner to start thinking about a broader perspective for L&D in the organization. I’m still pondering the ways in which libraries could facilitate learning (just as trainers should become learning facilitators, so too should librarians?).

 

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?

21 July 2015

Engagement

Clark @ 7:58 am

I had the occasion last week to attend a day of ComicCon. If you don’t know it, it is a conference about comics, but also much, much, more. It covers movies and television, games (computers and board), and more. It is also a pop culture phenomenon, where new releases are announced, analysis and discussion occur, and people dress up.  And it is huge!

I have gone to many conferences, and some are big, e.g. ATD’s ICE or Online Educa, or Learning Technology (certainly the exhibit hall).  This made the biggest of those seem like a rounding error.  It’s more like the SuperBowl.  People camp out in line to attend the best panels, and the exhibit hall is so packed that you can hardly move.  The conference itself is so big that it maxes out the San Diego Convention Center and spills out into adjoining hotels.

And that is really the lesson: something here is generating mad passion.  Such overwhelming interest that there’s a lottery for tickets! I attended once in the very early days, when it was small and cozy (as a college student), but this is something else.  I haven’t been to the Oscars, but this is bigger than what’s shown on TV.  It’s bigger than E3. Again, I haven’t seen CES since the very early days, but it can’t be much larger. And this isn’t for biz, this is for the people and their own hard earned dollars.  In designing learning, we would love to achieve such motivation.  So what’s going on?

So first, comics tap into some cultural touchstone; they appear in most (if not all) cultures that have developed mass media.  They tell ongoing stories that resonate with individuals, and drive other media including (as mentioned) movies, TV, games, and toys.  They can convey drama or comedy, and comment on the human condition with insight and heart. The best are truly works of art (oh, Bill Watterson, how could you stop?).

They use the standard methods of storytelling, strip away unnecessary details, have (even unlikely) heroes and villains, obstacles and triumphs). And they can convey powerful lessons about values and consequences.  Things we often are trying to achieve. It’s done through complex characters, compelling narratives, and stylistic artwork.  As Hilary Price (author of the comic Rhymes with Orange) told us in a panel, she’s a writer first and an artist second.

We don’t use graphic novel/comic/cartoon formats near enough in learning, and we could and should. Similarly with games, the interactive equivalent, for meaningful practice.  I fear we take ourselves too seriously, or let stakeholders keep us from truly engaging our learners. We can and should do better.  We need to understand audience engagement, and leverage that in our learning experiences.  To restate: it’s not about content, it’s about experience. Are you designing experiences?

15 July 2015

Locus of the Revolution?

Clark @ 7:37 am

If we’re talking about beginning to use IT in alignment with how we think, work, and learn, a question arises about who should be in the lead?  It could be HR, it could be L&D, it could be IT, or it could even be the business units that are taking advantage of the opportunity.  What makes sense?

In one sense, it’s about using IT well, and that theoretically is IT’s job.  They’re supposed to provide an infrastructure that supports the business. They typically have not only the back end engineers, but the front end designers for any custom applications, and should be evaluating any off-the-shelf solution for viability as well.  Of course, this typically isn’t the case, as an eminent IT guru opined to me that IT doesn’t understand people.  In general, IT folks are highly selected to be able to do things most people can’t, and they’re not necessarily valuable when they can think like other people.

Well, then, maybe it’s HR; the whole talent development perspective should include considering the tools to hand.  Unfortunately, HR isn’t particularly astute about people nor technology. They are more about administration and control than about empowerment and success.  The HR policies we  tend to see are almost antithetical to the culture that most promotes innovation.

It could also be the business units themselves; they are being seen to create solutions to self-learning and collaboration rather than wait for them to emerge from other environments.  And they certainly (should) understand their own needs.  Unfortunately, they’re not likely to really understand people or IT either.  Too often they don’t realize what is effective.

Let’s be clear, there are successes in all the categories above, but they’re typically more from an astute leader rather than a systematic organizational strategy.  And that’s not a repeatable approach. We need better.

Ideally, L&D should own it.  They (should) understand people, and be able to work with IT in a product relationship to develop a full performance ecosystem that integrates learning, performance support, and social into a coherent whole.  Where the environment is optimized for an organization to not just survive, but thrive. This comes from the people, but it requires knowing how to help people perform and deliver.

It requires new skill sets for sure, including working with IT, culture and change, facilitating innovation, performance consulting, and more (organizations like ATD & LPI are updating their competency definitions in these directions).  It requires getting strategic about metrics, impact, and business goals.  The vision of L&D being the critical core to organizational success through delivery of optimal execution and facilitation of continual innovation is what the Revolution is trying to achieve. This is a chance for L&D to move from the periphery to the center.  It’s worthwhile, but there isn’t infinite time; organizations need solutions, and they’ll get them wherever anyone can seize the opportunity to make a productive improvement. L&D has the opportunity, and here’s to hoping they don’t squander it.

14 July 2015

Being Deliberate

Clark @ 8:29 am

This past week, I took off a few days to get into the wilderness with some colleagues.  Five of us got dirty, smelly, and sweaty while hiking in the backcountry.  These are smart, successful, interesting, and funny folks, so the conversation was not PC™, but wise and witty.  And, of course, we got to places like this.1of10LakesSmall  But, in addition to beauty and wisdom, there was a lesson for me, too.

The first day out in the wilderness, the sky was threatening, and close to dinner time it suddenly turned worse. I was rushing to finish pumping water, couldn’t find the bag for the outflow (to keep it separate from the inflow) and didn’t quite make it back to the tent before the skies opened up.  I got a bit damp, and worse when the zipper on the fly wouldn’t close. Every time I reached out to try again, I’d get even more drenched. The worry, of course, is that you get your down sleeping bag wet, and it will lose all insulation capability!

Well, the bag stayed dry, and the next morning we dried everything out, and were fine for the rest of the trip.  The interesting opportunity for me, however, was how I proceeded from then on.

The next time I had to pump water, I took my time.  I very deliberately found a good place to sit, and took special care to work with setting up the inflow and then the outflow.  I did so similarly with firing up the stove and boiling water for dinner and breakfast. There was a pleasure in taking time to do it carefully and right.  Now, there are certain things I naturally do the deliberate way, and other things I rush through.   My realization is that there’s value in thinking more carefully about which things to do deliberately, and there’s an inherent pleasure in doing the things right that matter to you.

There are the arguments that the internet is making us stupider, and value in doing things the hard way. I think that the important thing is to choose for yourself which things to ‘outsource’ or do just good enough, and those which to take on and do a personally good job on.  For example, I used to work on my cars myself (I could rebuild a carburetor, gap a distributor, etc; skills that are irrelevant now :), but as things have changed it’s not a worthwhile role for me anymore.  So the lesson for me was to pay more attention to which things I’m doing carefully and which I will choose to decide quick enough is good enough (and which to have others or apps do).

 

 

8 July 2015

Emergent experience?

Clark @ 8:23 am

So I was reading something that talked about designed versus emergent experiences.  Certainly we have familiarity with designed experiences: courses/training, film, theater, amusement parks. Yet emergent experiences seem like they’d have some unique outcomes and consequently could be more valuable and memorable.  So I wondered how an emergent experience might play out to reliably generate a good experience, regardless.

The issue is that designed experiences, e.g. a Disney ride, are predictable.  You can repeat them and notice new things, yet the experience is largely the same.  And there can be brilliant minds behind them, and great outcomes including learning.  But could and should we shoot higher?

What emergent experiences do we know?  Emergent means having to interact with something unpredictable and perhaps even reactive. It could be interacting with systems, or it could be interpersonal interaction.  So, what we see in clouds, and experiences we have with games, and certainly interpersonal experiences can be emergent.  Can they repeatedly have desired outcomes as well as unpredictable ones?

I think the answer is yes if you allow for the role of some ‘interference’.  That is, someone playing a role in controlling the outcomes.  This is what happens in Dungeons and Dragons games where there is a Dungeon Master, or in Alternate Reality Game where there’s a Puppet Master, or in social learning where an instructor is structuring group assignments.

I’m interested in the latter, and the blend between.  I propose that our desired learning experiences should go beyond fixed designs, as our limitations as designers and SMEs will constrain what outcomes we achieve.  They may be good, but what can happen when people interact with each other, and rich systems, allows for more self discovery and ownership.  An alternative to social interaction would be practice set in a simulation that’s richer and with some randomness that mimics the variations seen in the real world that go beyond our specific designs.

By creating this richness through interpersonal interaction via dialogue and different viewpoints, or through simulations, we create experiences that go beyond our limitations in specific design.  It certainly may go beyond our resources: branching scenarios and asynchronous independent learning are understandably more pragmatic, but when we can, and when the learning outcomes we need are richer than we can suitably address in a direct fashion, say when we need flexible adaptation to circumstances, we should consider designing emergent experiences.  And I’m inclined to think that social learning is the cheaper way to go than a complex system-generated experience.

I’m just thinking out loud here, a tangent sparked by a juxtaposition, part of my ongoing efforts to make sense of the world and apply that to creating more resilient and successful organizations. Based upon the above, I think emergent experiences can create more adaptable and flexible learning, and I think that’s increasingly needed. I welcome your thoughts, reflections, pointers, disagreements, and more.

 

7 July 2015

2015 top 10 tools for learning

Clark @ 7:39 am

Jane Hart has been widely and wisely known for her top 100 Tools for Learning (you too can register your vote).  As a public service announcement, I list my top 10 tools for learning as well:

  1. Google search: I regularly look up things I hear of and don’t know.  It often leads me to Wikipedia (my preferred source, teachers take note), but regularly (e.g. 99.99% of the time) provides me with links that give me the answer i need.
  2. Twitter: I am pointed to many amazing and interesting things via Twitter.
  3. Skype: the Internet Time Alliance maintains a Skype channel where we regularly discuss issues, and ask and answer each other’s questions.
  4. Facebook: there’s another group that I use like the Skype channel, and of course just what comes in from friends postings is a great source of lateral input.
  5. WordPress: my blogging tool, that provides regular reflection opportunities for me in generating them, and from the feedback others provide via comments.
  6. Microsoft Word: My writing tool for longer posts, articles, and of course books, and writing is a powerful force for organizing my thoughts, and a great way to share them and get feedback.
  7. Omnigraffle: the diagramming tool I use, and diagramming is a great way for me to make sense of things.
  8. Keynote: creating presentations is another way to think through things, and of course a way to share my thoughts and get feedback.
  9. LinkedIn: I share thoughts there and track a few of the groups (not as thoroughly as I wish, of course).
  10. Mail: Apple’s email program, and email is another way I can ask questions or get help.

Not making the top 10 but useful tools include Google Maps for directions, Yelp for eating,  Good Reader as a way to read and annotate PDFs, and Safari, where I’ve bookmarked a number of sites I read every day like news (ABC and Google News), information on technology, and more.

So that’s my list, what’s yours?  I note, after the fact, that many are social media. Which isn’t a surprise, but reinforces just how social learning is!

Share with Jane in one of the methods she provides, and it’s always interesting to see what emerges.

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