The L&D conference, starting today, has a wide variety of things going on. I’m actually impressed, because in addition to the asynchronous and synchronous sessions I knew about, there are a number of other things going on. Including things I’m in. So, do you wanna talk meaning, learning science, and more…? Here’s when and how.
In addition to the presenters who have prepared asynchronous learning experiences, and the live presentations by the same and others, there are other things going on. There are panels on, for instance, on diversity & inclusion, state of learning, learning technology, women in learning, as just a few. There are also debates on games, evaluation, to e- or not to e-, at least. Lots of interesting topics. But wait, there’s more!
There are also networking sessions, a quiz show, roundtable breakouts, breakfast/cocktail (depending on timezone) networking, … There are also some interviews with prominent folks, both specifically for the conference and some legacy ones courtesy of Guy Wallace (HPT guru). And there’s either or both of more I don’t know about, and more to come.
A special mention for the CrowdThinking project, in collaboration with IBSTPI. My colleague, Fernando Senior, will be leading an event to understand the current and anticipated requirements for L&D roles. And there’s a survey you’re requested to fill out regardless of whether you’re attending the conference. Please help!
As for me, first, my asynchronous session is on Learning Science 101. I’ve created some short videos that talk about, and illustrate, a number of things our cognitive architecture has to account for. And, hint hint, it presages something hopefully to be announced soon.
My synchronous sessions (two different times; they’re making a serious effort to reach out globally) are 3PM ET (noon PT) Wed July 1, and 11AM ET (8AM PT) on July 8. Here, I’ll be talking about what I think is a huge missed opportunity and addressable (tho’ not simple) element of our learning design. I’ll also be part of the panel on learning science (The State of Learning) 8AM PT July 9 and 11 AM PT July 17. And, a reprise of the great debate on evaluating learning or impact (4PM PT 25 June).
And, importantly, I’ll be holding some office hours where we can truly talk about learning science, meaningfulness, and more! So will the other presenters. (They’re still to be set; I’ll update here when I know!)
Of course, there is a host of other really great speakers. Have a look at this lineup! Also, guests for a variety of things will include people like Charles Jennings & Jos Arets, Paul Kirschner, and many many more. Most of the live sessions have two times, so there’s a good chance you can catch them sometime. And there’s no overlap (so far ;), but things going on every day.
If, by the way, you are thinking about attending the conference, but have some struggles with cost, get in touch with me. I may have a way to help out ;). I hope to see you there, whether you want to be talking meaningful learning, or for any of the other myriad reasons.
As you can probably infer, I’m interested in this. It’s not surprising, but most online events have mimicked face-to-face events. Webinars, basically. Here there’s more going on. I don’t expect all of it to work (though it all sounds good), but I love that they’re experimenting to find ways to go beyond. We’ll all learn from this initiative. Hope to see you there if you wanna talk meaning, learning science, and more…
As part of coping in this time of upheaval, I’m trying different things. Which isn’t new, but there seem to be more innovations to tap into. In addition to teaching a course on mobile learning, I’m one of the speakers at a new online event. And, what’s nice, is that they’re experimenting with conference design, not just moving straight online.
To be fair, the Learning Guild has had a continual practice of trying different things at their conferences, and it’s been good. And, so too, was the most recent TK by ATD. But this is different. Two of my colleagues organized it as a response to our ‘new normal’, Will Thalheimer and Matt Richter. And their stated goal is changing the way we conference.
The key, of course, is to leverage what’s different, and possible, online. It’s running from June 22 – July 31. That’s not a typo, it’s all of July and the tail end of June. That’s a long time! They’ve recruited a suite of experts from around the world (they’re really trying to do this across boundaries include time and geography). And, to let you know, I’m one (so take my comments with the appropriate caveats ;).
They’re also tossing out traditional ideas and open to new ones. Speakers are expected to build an experience that’s spread out over the time. Yet also designed so that you can come in late, or early, and drill into what you want when you want. They’re also planing on having synchronous events – debates, panels, socializing – again using technology.
Note that it’s not free. There are some free conferences being put on, mostly webinars. And those are good. This is different. It’s deeper. It’s a stab at looking afresh. And I’m not sure it could even have come from any existing framework.
And, we won’t know if it all will work. We’re designing this in the time between now and launch. There’re bound to be hiccups. Which, of course, means there’re bound to be learnings. I know I want to talk about Learning Science 101. And something else. Lots I could (I welcome suggestions). I’m inclined to think it might be Emotion and Learning. But it could also be LXD. (There are all linked, of course.)
But it’s a high quality group (er, mostly…they did let me in). AND, importantly, it’s focused on evidence-based content. There may be sponsors, or even an exhibit hall, but every presenter is honor-bound not to push anything that’s not legit. Most importantly, there’s enough quality that overall it’s bound to be worth it.
I’m excited, frankly. I have to come up with some different ideas. And I like that. I’m glad that they’re experimenting with conference design. We all win, regardless! It’s part of learning, challenging yourself. So, do yourself a favor. Check it out. It may not be for you, but keep an open mind!
In a document shared with me recently, there was this statement: “The assumption that there will always be a managed learning function”. I find that interesting to contemplate. If we ever get better about developing self-learning skills in school or university (ideally the former), could we eliminate the need for organizational courses? E.g. will we still need L&D?
The notion is that once folks are better at self-learning, the reason for organized courses could fade. If schools start developing learn-to-learn skills, wouldn’t everyone be able to take responsibility for their own learning? Alternatively, could the role of L&D ramp down?
David Geary has been identified as a proponent of a distinction between evolutionarily different levels of learning. The idea as I comprehend it is that we’ve evolved to learn certain types of things. The flip side is those don’t include man-made constructs like mathematics, economics, and such. Thus, our learning to learn first has to develop abilities in these new domains. But that could happen.
And then there’s the notion of bootstrapping in a new domain. We start as novices in new domains, and those may be some organizational proprietary material. The domain’s likely built upon some predecessor concepts that may be familiar, but can a motivated and self-effective learner get this in a reasonable amount of time, or will they benefit from a learning experience?
If, of course, we extend L&D to support informal learning (and I suggest we should), there’s another opportunity. Until schools also develop effective communication and collaboration skills, L&D would be useful. There’s the further issue of creating a learning culture, too, where people share and cooperate. The predisposition could and should again be developed in schools, but until then…
And one final opportunity is facilitating communities of practice to become responsible for development paths, resource curation and creation, and documenting and developing ongoing domain expertise. There’s the facilitation role here for L&D until that time, but it could become part and parcel of community practice.
So, conceivably, there’s a future without L&D. That is, individuals, teams, and communities are effective self-learners. That day, I fear, is a long way off. Moving in that direction isn’t a bad move for L&D, because worries about performing oneself out of existence are premature. Schools haven’t been effective in uptake of learning science, and pressures have reduced the curricula to a limited (and misguided) core. Until then, asking “will we still need L&D” is a far-fetched question.
So I think the demise of L&D is up to L&D. What I mean is that L&D can be just about (ineffective) courses, or it can move into a more valuable position to the organization. And, if we’re clever, we’ll have found our own continuing value proposition to the org before the demise of our existing role.
Ultimately, I believe that a unit in the organization responsible for maintaining alignment with how we think, work, and learn will always have a role. We just have to put ourselves in that position. Viva la revolution!
This was originally intended to be one of my Learning Solutions Mag columns (Quinnsights). Sadly, that platform is no longer an option. Guess this is part of the extreme times! It’s a bit long for my usual posts, but I didn’t want it to go to waste.
In 2004, I co-wrote a chapter with Eileen Clegg for Marcia Conner & James G. Clawson’s Creating a Learning Culture book to accompany the event they held on the topic. Eileen’s husband was doing research on ‘extremophiles’, organisms that survive in extreme conditions, and we were looking at biomimetic inspiration from those mechanisms. Titled The Agility Factor, I think the lessons we wrote about are all the more important now in these extreme times.
Sure, at this point everyone is touting solutions for working and learning at home. With most of the population under some form of lockdown, there are a lot of prescriptions, to the extent there’s already a backlash! Even I’ve been guilty. But here I want to talk a bigger scope than just learning. People are worried. Organizations are struggling.
At the time, our commentary was largely reacting to the crash of the internet bubble circa 2001. Times were tough, and organizations were wondering how to cope. Fast forward to 2020, and we’re in even more dire circumstances. While then we had economic turmoil, now we’re adding in a lethal disease. Uncertainly abounds. Our employees, our managers, our executives are all scrambling to make sense. And so, I thought it appropriate to revisit those lessons in this new era, and consider the technology/human intersection in these times.
Coping with Extreme Times
One of the main issues that contextualizes this conversation is that different organizations are at different places in their digital transformation. And, as I opined recently, it’s about getting the culture right first.
It’s easy to think of organizations that just haven’t yet started using digital, and are faced with the need to change. They’re going to struggle. There is a lot of guidance out there, but if you haven’t got your mind around the technology, or what communication, collaboration, and learning are all about, there’s more to it.
If you’ve started with some experimentation, it should be easier. You’ve tried out some things, and so you’ve had some technology experience. You may well have tried and failed, but the knowledge from losses should be useful too! That’s what a learning organization is all about.
Which means that another organization type that will struggle is the one that’s rigidly hierarchical. One that’s had all the thinking done up top, and filtered down. They may well have dictated technology practices, but they’re likely more about making things more efficient. And so, trying to be effective at scale at distance is a different issue.
Instead, the organizations that thrive are those that are continually experimenting, learning, and moving forward. I reckon many folks are wishing they’d tried out some things already, rather than scrambling. Of course, this is different not just quantitatively, but qualitatively, and that means we’re going beyond just adaptation. We need to go big in extreme times!
Across the globe, and presumably the universe, conditions vary from desiccating heat to crippling cold. Environments may have high toxicity owing to chemicals, salt, and more. And, as circumstances change, organisms need to adapt. And yet, life somehow exists in many of these circumstances. How? Through a variety of mechanisms. Not all are unique to extremophiles, but each is used and provides some insight. Here are the suite we talked about:
- Ionic bonds: while all organisms have proteins connected by ionic bonds, extremophile organisms have more and stronger bonds.
- Environmental monitoring: here, the organism is in tight coupling with the environment, the better to respond, though sometime the responses are unusual.
- Heat-shock proteins: special proteins are released under threat to help protect other proteins.
- Equilibrium: extremophiles can not only attempt to expel any toxicity, certain extremophiles work to neutralize the toxic element internally.
- Symbiosis: certain organisms create unique relationships that allow them to mutually coexist in extreme conditions.
For each of these there are organizational corollaries that we can consider, and then we can look at how technology and learning & development can help. We need to go beyond the usual and think about how to do these in a big way.
How do translate these? There are not direct transfers, but inferences we can make. Just as organizations been using inspirations from animals to guide new thinking in products, here we’re looking at inspirations for how to work together better. What do organisms that adapt to environmental extremes mean for organizations coping in extreme times?
First, strengthening the bonds is about building trust in the organization and believing in the organizational mission. First, of course, it’s about connecting people, so that they care about one another. And having managers work as coaches, using data to improve folks, not censure them. Then, as Dan Pink, in Drive, helped us know, it’s about connecting people to purpose. That means an organization has to have a meaningful purpose, one that people feel proud to align with. And everyone in the org needs to understand how their role contributes. Yes, this is all work, but the point is that these organisms invest extra effort to be able to withstand extraordinary conditions.
Environmental monitoring isn’t new, as most organizations track market trends, competitive analysis, customer sentiment, and more. Here it means going further, with everyone being active in their community of practice and actively monitoring trends in related fields for implications to improve practice. The organization needs to be sensitive to what’s happening in rich and deep ways. This has to not be done as a special operation, but permeate the organization.
Heat shock proteins suggest a proactive approach to trouble. One form is internal monitoring for problems. Health initiatives in the organization are not just promoting healthy behaviors, but also actively developing the skills to notice and watch out for your fellow employee. It’s about caring enough to look for signs of struggle and reach out and try to help. In times like this, it’s more, ensuring that as people face changes, they have support to understand, act differently, and persist until it becomes a new way of doing things.
Equilibrium is an interesting one that suggests taking in new ideas, trying them out, and seeing what they imply. Think “let’s try it out and see how it’s re-contextualized here and then what it might mean that we can do better”, not “that’s not how we do it here”. It’s about experimentation, and internalizing new ideas. It’s got to be more than just copying (e.g. best practices), and going beyond to understand the underlying ideas and modifying them to work in this context (e.g. best principles).
Finally, symbiosis implies working with other organizations in a radically more integrated manner. Instead of just consuming things, you look at the practices that were instituted by Toyota. They looked at their supply chain partners and assisted them in becoming more effective and efficient. It’s about radical cooperation.
L&D Technology Role
So, given that we’re about eLearning, what’s the role of technology here? At core, it’s about communication. It’s about moving to showing your work, including mistakes and lessons learned (always together). And there are lots of ways to do this.
One of the most important steps is to have bosses, managers and executives, share their thinking. I know, it seems risky, but it builds trust. If ‘the boss’ is willing to admit mistakes, it makes the environment feel safe. And that builds those bonds that will help an organization weather tough times.
It also means helping individuals develop active monitoring skills. There are tools that track outside news and filter it for particular interests. Everyone can tailor their own feed. And this is part of building your personal knowledge mastery. Everyone should be looking for new ideas to improve.
The new ideas need, of course, to be coupled with experimentation, such as equilibrium suggests. And this may involve collaboration to make it work. So collaborative tools are important to develop testing plans and evaluate outcomes. Building in an expectation of lessons learned, and having scheduled sharing events for these lessons, is a complement. And, if not digitally moderated, at least capturing and sharing the outcomes for others to learn from.
It’s important also to support people in these new ways of working. Don’t just expect them to get it, but build support into and/or around the tools. Don’t just train, but anticipate struggles and build support. And have support for unanticipated struggles! This also includes quick references about what to do when you’re worried about someone or even yourself. This is the heat-shock approach of preventing breakdowns during the transitions.
And, of course, building a network that includes your partners along the supply chain is the symbiotic approach. It’s about building a sharing community that can help them be better, and they can do the same for you. It’s also about collaboration, working together on problems rather than casting blame. This builds bonds with them too!
The L&D role is to facilitate all this communication and collaboration. In extreme times, L&D is part of the solution. Continual learning is required, and building a strong framework for keeping people together to work and learn is critical. We’re increasingly learning that working together is better; bake that into your own operations!
More and more, we’re working from home. This has important implications for organizations figuring out how to make that time productive. What are the best source(s) for remote working expertise? Here’re my recommendations.
I believe that applying the principles of cognitive science to how we think, work, and learn, is a good guide. There is lots known about how people are able to bring their best, alone and together. And, when that intersects with technology, we can find ways to equal, or surpass, existing workplace practices. We already know that many existing practices are contrary to the best outcomes, so this can be an inflection point. And, well, this is where I work and play. And yet, I’m certainly not the only; here are some more resources.
Two of my colleagues in the Internet Time Alliance (ITA) have expertise in working effectively. Jane Hart’s modern workplace learning, in particular, has useful guidance. While not specific to remote working, the principles generalize there very well. And Harold Jarche is one of the top thinkers about the intersection of work and learning. Increasingly work is learning, and his frameworks including Seek-Sense-Share are apt. Particularly when you’re working more alone. Both have worked with organizations to improve outcomes. Charles Jennings does as well, personally, but a lot of his work currently is more on design methodologies and corporate strategy.
I’m also a fan of Mark Britz and his work in thinking through the social aspects of learning (he’s an ITA Jay Cross Memorial Award winner). He looks at how to build a meaningful community within organizations, and that’s a critical part of being able to maintain cohesiveness when you are not together all the time. Jane Bozarth’s work on social, as embodied in her book Show Your Work, is a great guide to some of the core principles to enable more effective working.
Then there’s the whole collection of independents at Change Agents Worldwide. With folks like Simon Terry, Helen Blunden, Marcia Conner, and more, all are folks who collaborate with organizations to work more effectively. (Helen and Marcia are recipients of the ITA Jay Cross Memorial Award as well.) The Change Agents mantra: “We believe the Future of Work will involve: working like a network, organizing like a network, leading like a network, and learning like a network.”
Then there are frameworks that make sense in this era of crisis. I’m a fan of Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework talks about how to deal with different states of order. (Harold uses it a lot too.) The Community Maturity Model also can provide guidance about building effective work relationships. I immodestly like our ITA Coherent Organization framework as well.
I’m sure there are more good resources, but these are some ways to think about remote working expertise that I think stand up to scrutiny. I welcome your suggestions.
It was when I was living in Australia that I first heard the apocryphal Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times.” And, I have to say, the going’s gotten weird. A few reflections on the situation, all of course related to COVID-19.
I wrote some months ago about my spring schedule. And, well, as you might’ve guessed, things have changed. My trip to Boston has been postponed for a year (I’ll be giving a webinar for ATD NE). I had added a trip to Brazil in May, which I’d yet to tell you about since they hadn’t gotten a page up, but…it’s been postponed. And my trip to Belgium in June? Not feeling optimistic. (And this isn’t good, personally. As an independent, it’s gigs that pay the way. Need some remote work?)
Remote, because the entire SF Bay Area, where I live, is now on ‘stay home’ mode as of midnight last night. Only essential services and travel are on. Of course work-based travel is acceptable, but right now, no one wants to meet in person. And there’s actually a good reason for this…
This is a really wonderful diagram (ok, my poor rendition of it). It is the clearest depiction of the argument to take extraordinary measures. Simple, elegant. Our health system aims to cope with average levels of problems. We’re talking considerably more than that. This diagram, and the associated label “flattening the curve” really conveys the need for action. But this has really helped convey the necessity. I am using an adaptation to make the case for Community Emergency Response Team, a training initiative I’m engaged in. Which is also postponed.
I worry about much more, of course. We’ve seen weird behaviors (stockpiling toilet paper, an unsymptomatic response), as well as good ones (elbow bumps for greeting). Everyone, and I mean everyone, is weighing in on how to design learning online and how to work remotely. I wasn’t going to, but an editor for one of my columns asked. I at least got agreement to not just talk the basics, but about using the opportunity to rethink.
My biggest concern is the impact on people’s lives! Folks’ livelihoods are at risk. There’s a lot of financial activity that’s not going to be happening (dining, for instance). The implications for many people – diminished income, mortgages or rent unpaid – are a concern. One interesting aside that a colleague noticed: there’s likely to be many more people who know what good hand-washing means now. Please do learn it!
The main thing is to stay safe, for your sake and others. There’s a segment of the population that’s at higher risk, and that’s who we’re needing to help. And keep the need within capacity. We’re not only not equipped, but not supplied, to meet the possible demand when we don’t do enough.
I hope to see you at the other end of this, but stay tuned for all sorts of interim initiatives. We’re living in interesting times, and it’s an opportunity to be innovative, resilient, and humane. Here’s hoping that we become better as a consequence.
Is it the rising lack of trust in what anyone says? Have we turned into a society where any crazy marketing works? It certainly seems that way. It was only a couple of weeks ago I went on a rant, and yet, here we are again. A new twitter account (*not without controversy) @badlearning, has started taking on posts citing myths. And one caught my attention (not least because the stream mentioned the myths book ;). It got interesting when the marketing manager responded. Yet, I still will argue that it’s just more myths-based marketing.
*For context, it quickly got noticed amongst my colleagues. One colleague wasn’t sure that confronting myths was the appropriate approach. The particular issue (as several of us do that) was the anonymity of the poster. And blatantly calling out the flaws. You’ll note I don’t point to the perpetrator, just the error. I’m not going down the path of determining right or wrong, as I can see the concern, but also the potential for harm… For full disclosure.
Digital Natives/Generations (& Goldfish) Myths
The post in question was announcing a new initiative, specifically “nano-learning” to address the new generation with a plan for “digital native advancement”. And, to my surprise when I chased the links, they pointed to Pew Research Center data. Which I generally think of as a reputable group. And, they have their categorizations defined, and used Census data as a basis to do the analysis.
One problem arises in their definitions of generations. Their bands (e.g. 1965 to 1980 for Gen X) aren’t constant across different proposals for generations! How can you be claiming results for a group when there are fuzzy boundaries? I can create arbitrary boundaries and likely find differences.
And it’s also trying to define a category when it’s a continuum. One piece of data says the new generation will be more mixed. But isn’t that just a trend? Isn’t the US population becoming more diverse? Why try to attach it to a generation? What good does that do? Yes, our brains do want to categorize, but that doesn’t make it right. (See below.)
The other data is more problematic. For one, they refer to their own previous post. Um, er…And another admits it’s a marketing intelligence company. Like they have no vested interests in finding divisions they can promote and prosper from. Ahem. There’s even a post from Inc. that cites the goldfish myth, which has been shown to have been misapplied data. And they’re making that claim too, as the basis of ‘nano learning’!
But also there’s a presentation with a bunch of data but it doesn’t serve to differentiate between generations. It just says things like “young folks want to go overseas”. Without noting whether that’s different than previous generations. On the other hand, that source says that more Gen Z’s than Gen Y want to start their own business. But isn’t that likely to be a trend, too?
And…a representative of the organization weighed in: “I’m not sure I agree with you on all elements. Just like any generation shift in History, the new one has its own codes and vision of the world”. Er, that would be ‘no’. The problem is assuming the generations proposal, and working from there. The notion is fundamentally flawed. There’s so much variability in context, that it’s not neatly carved out that way. This is just more myths-based marketing.
Learning Styles myth
Just to add to the rant, another post called out by the same twitter account talked about the 65% of learners being visual. And that’s learning styles, but it turns out to be a whole separate myth as well. There’s a story, of course.
Tracked back by Jo Cook, the 65% figure has been retracted by the originator (much like the 7-38-55 myth). Yet it continues to appear. Not least by marketers pushing visual solutions. She points out that you can’t trust Forbes. There’s a cite, and it turns out that article goes down a rabbit hole of cascading web cites, ultimately leading to the now retracted claim, which isn’t really even in the data!
And, really, it’s a learning styles issue, because this is talking about how you learn. Which has been debunked. It’s not that learners don’t differ, it’s just that they vary so much by context (what/how/where/why/when they’re learning). And, there’s no evidence that adapting learning to learners is better.
Interestingly, the post author justified (not to me) the claim thusly: “Since you have never run a training dept/division or L&D or taught at uni, I. E. Never been in the real world and seen it in action, then you shouldn’t hide behind articles. I talked to other L&D and training execs and ID execs they all agreed with LS situational.” Um, I have taught at uni, and have a Ph.D. in cog psych. And I’ve researched this. As has Jo. And it’s wrong. And all the anecdotes from people (some who may have invested and thus have a vested interest in it being true), doesn’t change that.
Empirical research is tested on the real world. The problem with these things is, specifically, that it ‘feels right’. But it’s not. Worse, it’s harmful. It’s myths-based marketing again. And it’s not that we might not eventually be able to identify learning styles, but right now we can’t. And, we have a better basis for decisions anyway.
Avoiding myths-based marketing
There are many flaws in what’s transpired here. People are using bad sources, not researching, and making claims that justify their work. Which doesn’t make it right.
For one, they’re suffering from confirmation bias. That’s when you only look for data that agrees with what you want to believe. Here, there’s robust counter-evidence.
And they’re not using good sources. Just because someone claims something and has a link, that doesn’t count as good evidence. Anecdotes can be data, but triangulation helps. As does aggregation and assessment of alternatives.
And the reasoning about the data is flawed. For instance, we can create artificial boundaries, and cite trends. So, X has been going up steadily for Y period. I could break Y into two pieces, and say that the second period has a higher average X than the previous period, and therefore the two periods are different. But it’s a continuum. It’s artificial and arbitrary.
We need to do better, as an industry. You don’t see executives using astrology to plot business plans. You don’t see product managers using alchemy to determine the next market offering. We have to stop using pseudo-science, and start using the results of research on learning. We need to avoid more myths-based marketing. Please!
I have a persistent interest in the potential for myth and ritual for learning. In the past I sought a synthesis of what’s known as good practice (as always ;) in an area I don’t have good resources in. When I looked over 10 years ago, there wasn’t much. That’s no longer the case. There is now quite a bit available about signifying change with ritual.
Myth, here, is not about mistaken beliefs, but instead are stories that tie us to our place in the universe. Every culture has had its origin story, and typically stories that explain the earth, the sky, and more. Ritual is a series of repeated behaviors that signify your belief in those stories. And when you look at prayer, and transition ceremonies, you see how powerful these behaviors are in shaping behavior. Can we leverage this power for learning?
Barbara Myerhoff opined that ritual worked because your body bought into it before your mind did. Thus, the repeated behaviors build a ‘muscle memory’ that supports your purpose. And agreeing to perform the ritual at all is an implicit complicity in the story behind the ritual. Finally, having others also performing or having performed the ritual builds a social commitment.
There’s clear power, but can we do it systematically? The sources at the bottom suggest we can. My synthesis says the answer is yes. There are two important distinctions. One is whether it’s individual or collective. Are we having a single person commit, or having a group commit? In the former, they may be becoming a member of the community, but it’s about changing personal behavior regardless. In the latter, it’s about someone becoming a member of a group of practitioners. (And, to be clear, here I’m talking secular change.)
The other distinction is the scope of the change. Is this a small personal change, or is this a switch to an entire system of belief? Are we helping someone be more productive, or asking them to buy into our organizational culture? If we want to transform people, signifying the change seems important.
Wwhat makes effective ritual is having a behavior that indicates allegiance to a system of belief. It’s essential that the behavior signifies the change in some way. It might be a part of the actions that the new desired change incorporate. So you mimic rolling out dough to cement your understanding of baking. Or it might be an iconic representation of some aspect of the belief, so drinking something specific as preparation.
The actual structure is suggested to be some initiating occurrence, like another instance (new client), or a particular time of day. Then there’s a process to be followed, typically with a preparation, a behavior, and a closing.
As usual, the process includes identifying the necessary elements, prototyping, testing, and iterating. Does it work with the audience, does it feel authentic, is it easy to do, are some of the questions to ask.
The materials I’ve found suggest ritual can be helpful. Two obvious roles are to successfully acknowledge their new status and/or sustain necessary mindsets and practices. When people have transformed, we want to acknowledge the change. And we want to help them continue to maintain and develop the new ability. Signifying change is an important component. We should be intentional about making that happen.
I’ve been blogging now for over a decade, and one thing has changed. The phenomena is that we’re seeing a cultural comment shift; comments are now coming from shared platforms, not directly on the site. And while I try not to care, I’m finding it interesting to reflect on the implications of that, in a small way.
When I started, people would comment right on the blog. It still happens, but not in the way it used to. It wasn’t unknown for a post to generate many responses right in the post. And I liked that focused dialog.
These days, however, I get more comments on the LinkedIn announcement of the post rather than the post itself. And I don’t think that’s bad, it’s just interesting. The question is why.
I think that more and more, people want one place to go. With the proliferation of places to go: from Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn to a variety of group tools and Instragram and Pinterest and…the list goes on. People instead are more likely to go where others are.
And that makes it increasingly easy to just view and comment in a place where I already am. And since that’s possible, it works. I wish I could automatically post directly to LinkedIn, but apparently that’s not of interest (APIs are a clear indicator of intent).
I think the lesson is, as I was opining about elsewhere, is to go where people are. Don’t try to set up your own community if you can get people to participate where they already are. Of course, that also implies having good places to go. We’re seeing certain platforms emerge as the ‘go to’ place, and that’s OK, as long as they work. The cultural comment shift is merely an indicator of a bigger cultural shift, and as long as we can ride it, we’re good.