Thursday, February 23, 2012

What do I do?

There are lots of Memes going around with 6 pictures
What my friends think I do.
What my mom thinks I do.
What society thinks I do.
What (someone or something related to the meme) thinks I do.
What I think I do
What I really do.
See here for more stuff on this.

I think it might be missing an important question in there.
What do I want to do?
I got asked that recently and after some thought came up with this, which I now share with you, my loyal, unknown, never responding to please for comments, multitude of readers.


I want to make a difference, to the people I lead, to the people I help train and to the company I’m part of.

My Team

I have found so many people in the workplace learning arena seem to have got there by default. They were good at something and got asked to show someone else. They were good at that and enjoyed it and so they became a trainer. For me Workplace Learning and Performance is a profession. We have a responsibility for our own professional development. Ever since I moved into the field I have continuously been a part of professional organizations, SEAL in the UK and then IAL and ASTD in the US. I have learned about learning, attending conferences and other professional development opportunities, and last year I dedicated a considerable amount of time and money to obtaining my professional certification. The Workplace Learning and Performance field is changing all the time. Areas such as Social Learning and Mobile Learning that were virtually unheard of 2-3 years ago are today’s hot topics. As professionals we need to know about the trends in our industry and look to use the best tools to serve our learners and other stakeholders. When I lead a Workplace Learning and Performance team I’ll do everything I can to ensure that they grow and develop.

My Learners

Simply put I get a kick out of helping people learn. When they start the class they don’t know how to do something (or often don’t know that they know) and when I’ve finished with them they do. The new knowledge and skills they have allows my learners to expand their lives. From being able to use the software on their computers easier or better to do their work, to being better able to communicate and interact with their colleagues or customers, these things improve people’s lives. I love being a part of that.

My Company

We are seeing a seismic shift in the workplace. The generational changes in the workplace mean that organizations are faced with an increasing challenge to find and retain talent. Millennials see the world, and the workplace, in very different way than the generations before them. If companies are to succeed over the next several years they have to take this into account. I’m not saying that companies will have to change entirely to meet the wishes of the new workforce, but rather that they will have to meet those wishes part way. If they fail to then they will find themselves constantly hiring short term talent and seeing career and succession plans in jeopardy. These things will impact a company’s ability to meet and exceed whatever their business goals are. I firmly believe that Learning & Development has a crucial role to play in meeting these challenges.
  • Firstly L&D can help managers learn to adapt to their new workforce.
  • Secondly as Millennials see development as a key difference when looking at organizations, a strong L&D function will meet the development needs of the employees.
  • Thirdly, and most importantly, L&D needs to be a part of the business. People who lead an L&D function need to meet with the senior executives of a company and ask what the business needs L&D to do. We need to understand what initiatives the company is perusing and look to see how we can help those initiatives succeed.
The classic Kirkpatrick model of evaluation has four levels. The highest of which looks at the impact on the business results. We always need to have those in mind when we design, develop or deliver and workplace learning.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I take on CLO Magazine who take on some Myths

On Page 14 of this month’s CLO magazine Doug Lynch does some ‘Mythbusting’ around what they call some Learning Myths.
The ‘myths’ he takes on are The informal Learning Ratio. Learning Styles and ROI.  Personally I have some issues with his article.
He challenges the ratio on informal learning but does not supply an alternative. Look around and you will see informal learning happening all around the workplace all the time. When a Millennial Googles the answer to a question; When someone leans over a cube wall to ask a colleague how something is done; when an elearning  developer posts a question on Twitter with the #Articulate hash tag and gets responses from their active community; when someone throws a question out on a Linkedin group. The list goes on and one and on. If he has a team of graduate students at his beck and call I’d far rather have them go out and research a ratio than tell me that the one that is out there is a load of hooey.  Even better I’d love to see research on best practice to leverage BOTH types of learning to work in harmony.
His next target is Learning Styles. I first learnt about these 20 years ago when I started in the L&D area. At that time I had taken over running a programming training school for a UK Financial institution and my predecessor was and Accelerated Learning advocate. They made sense to me, and I am someone who is happy to use anything that works.  I chose to share some of that with the students who came through the 12 week program and we did a learning styles evaluation of all the students in their first week. In one particular case we had an ex plumber who had worked his way through community college to get some programming experience and joined our school. His evaluation showed a very heavy Kinesthetic preference. In the same class I had someone with a very high preference for Auditory Learning. She had done great at school and university and ended up working as a rocket scientist (well an engineer at a UK Aerospace company but ‘rocket scientist’ sounds way cooler.) They were the two strongest learners I had in the class.  The reason for that I freely hand over to their intelligence and drive to succeed.
Where I will take credit though is that I designed the courses and supporting learning activities to encompass ALL learning styles and tried to hit multiple intelligences as well (I’m expecting to see that one in CLO next month). It’s just intuitive to know that people think and learn differently. Making sure your learning design (or even better their learning design- see my thoughts on R.I.D.) caters to your learners needs and strengths just makes sense.
His final target was ROI. Again he does a lot of tearing down and little contributing. We know that training on its own will almost never ‘move a needle’  but to simple dismiss it as being too complicated to measure (as he appears to do) is not what I want to read in a magazine that is aimed at learning leaders. In the knowledge economy very little has a clear and easy ROI. If we are going to try and be partners in the businesses we are a part of or support then our job is to look for ways that we can identify how the investment in time and money they put in is going to pay off.
Happy Learning

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Brainstorm in a Teacup?

In the Gym this morning I was reading an article in the New Yorker called Groupthink, the Brainstorming Myth. In this article (sadly it's behind their subscription paywall) they basically say that research has shown that people come up with more ideas working alone than when brainstorming together. They even quote one of my favorite authors Keith Sawyer to prove their point.  Now I can't say for sure but I suspect that they may have taken the quote a bit out of context. Keith is a HUGE supporter of the concepts of group creativity. He recently wrote a blog post defending group creativity from an article in the New York Times.
In the article they talked about an experiment where they had 3 groups try and come up with solutions to a problem.
Group 1 worked individually
Group 2 were told to brainstorm using the classic 'no criticism' rule
Group 3 were told to brainstorm and told that they were allowed to argue about the ideas.

This struck me not as an issue about if brainstorming works but more an issue of how people DO brainstorming. As an improviser I am wedded to the Yes-And concept. It's how we create the reality of a scene. As an Applied Improviser, I am wedded to the same concept. It's how we tap into the the ideas of others to move something forward.  In improv there is a structure to how a game is played or a show is put together. People learn about those structures and learn to play within them (and sometimes just outside them). When you go to an improv class it's the structures that you learn and practice. If you are part of an Applied Improvisation experience, you will likely be given some structure to work within.

If you are only told half of the rules or given half of the structure you are going to try your best to work within that but you are not likely to get as far as if you are told all of them.

The classic Osborn-Parnes Creative Problems Solving process is just that, a process. It has a divergent step that is meant to generate lots of ideas and then a convergent step that is meant to look at the ideas critically to see which have the most merit. If you only teach people about the first part then it's no surprise that they don't do the second part well if at all. And it's no surprise that following half the process is less useful than not following it at all.

If you want people to get the most out of well established and hugely productive process, then make sure they know the WHOLE process. They might have to learn about the process before they start it.

Happy Learning