Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The best laid plans

I'm a fan of almost all things Scottish.
Tonight across the world people will be celebrating Burn's Night. the Birthday of Robert Burns, a man who is essentially Scotland's National poet.
Lots of people will be drinking lots of Whisky and reciting lots of poetry including the Burns Classic "To a mouse"
Burns wrote that poem when he was plowing a field and his plow ran through the nest built by a mouse who scampered away.  The genius that Burns was, he used this to highlight the uncertainties of life for both Humans and Nature.
Towards the end is a verse that is often quoted (all be it in the modern English version)
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Now, what has this ancient rambling to do with 21st century learning? I believe that as Learning Professionals we far too often find ourselves making plans that have no chance of succeeding. I was coaching a colleague earlier this week who was piloting a class. The class was a Virtual Classroom and she was using a technology that she was not that familiar with to run the class.
We discussed just how much 'juggling' she was doing.
New Content - It was a pilot.
New Topic - New to her
New Technology - Again new to her.
With all of that she was surprised that things were taking longer than she planned. The further off timeline she went the more concerned she became.
I helped her to realize that with all the factors she had in place, she was bound to have some issues. I gave her a few pointers about letting go and being more prepared to let the learners set the pace of their learning.
My own ability with that was honed over years of seeing plans get adjusted. I recall hearing Thiagi say ‘Planning is essential; plans are useless’ The act of planning means you get an idea of what your scope is and how you might approach your task. But until you add in the final, critical and most varied ingredient (the learners) you can have no idea of what will really happen.

Happy Learning

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What do you really, really, really mean?

Paul Z Jackson is an old friend, a co-founder of the Applied Improvisation Network and one of the men who first helped me learn about learning.

He also blogs and in a recent blog he brought up an issue he had with facilitators who ask a question and then repeat it by adding the word 'really' to it.

He argues that adding the 'really' is tantamount to saying that we don't believe the first answer.

Another friend from AIN is Johnnie Moore. He blogged his reply. He recognized this as a trap that facilitators often fall into.  When we are looking for an answer different to the one that the participants give, we push to get that answer from them. 

Both of these are very valid points of view. And I would like to add a third idea to this from an experience I had that I found deeply engaging and very powerful.

At a conference several years ago I attended a session by Win Wenger. The session was on the Socratic method and Win modeled this by speaking for a total of less than 45 minutes in a whole day pre-conference.
We all had workbooks and he asked us to write in our workbook something that we could do that would make us a better trainer. We had about 5 minutes for that and when the time was up he gave us our next assignment. To write in our workbook something that we could do that would make us a better trainer. Yup exactly the same brief as before. But he added that this time he wanted us to not include anything we wrote the first time.
We had about 5 minutes for that and when the time was up he gave us our next assignment. Can you guess what that assignment was? Yup. To write in our workbook something that we could do that would make us a better trainer. Again not including things we had already written.

It forced us to go beyond the obvious, beyond the simple and, in what I suspect Paul would call an emergent way, I ended up building on ideas that I had had earlier but not been able to articulate. In Improv terms I 'Yes-And'ed myself.

To me, the point that differentiates this from the 'really' conversation above is that this was private rather than public. The only sharing we did was at the end of the exercise on how effective it had been and if we had anything we wanted to share that came out of our writing.

By keeping it private, Win stepped back from the role of someone controlling our (internal) conversation and instead prodded us to validate and push further.

I've said before in this blog that our job as Learning Professionals is to get out of the way of the learners doing the learning.

That is what 'really' matters

Happy Learning


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What my employers are saying about 2012

Readers of this blog will know that I've recently been reviewing various predictions for 2012 from Bersin, CLO magazine and others.
I even came up with my own.
Well I just saw a post on Linkedin from SumTotal systems.  The folks with whom I swap a paycheck every couple of weeks in return for my hard work in their Learning and Development area.  They have followed my posts with their own predictions for 2012. I must be a trendsetter!
To read them go Here and sign up. 
I guess you will get lots of spam useful information from them going forward if you do. I will say that I was signed up with them before I worked for them.
In short (if you don't have time to read it!) they say they are seeing 5 trends for 2012.
  1. Move to integrated solution  - that's handy they sell a suite!
  2. Social Learning - Pretty much the same as I said. They also have a social platform that they integrate into their technology. I always remember something that Jane Bozarth said along the lines that Social Learning is not about the platform, its about the people who are doing it anyway.
  3. Mobile - Although they don't talk about it in the white paper they support mobile within their LMS and their ToolBook development tool (that I am getting all too familiar with) supports iOS already. So the course I'm developing know is sized and designed with an iPad in mind.
  4. Software as a Service - They see more people going to it. They also point out that the bigger a SaaS provided system gets, the more customers it has and the more ideas come in to improve the system. This crowd sources enhancements. I've not heard that argument before.  Luckily most SumTotal solutions are available in SaaS
  5. Global - As Dan Pink talked about in A Whole New Mind "Abundance Asia and Automation" are three factors that are changing the working world.

So they have 5 compared with my 1, but they are bigger than me!

Happy Learning