Category Archives: Working Smarter

Through the Workscape Looking Glass

Your Workscape is everything in your organization except the training department. It’s where work is done and where people hone the skills they need to add value. It’s the biggest frame of the big picture. It’s relationships and culture and secret sauce. It’s the organization as organism. To prosper, you need to nurture it, plant seeds, pamper the ground. It’s your job to help the system thrive.

Learning Ecosystem, Learning Ecology, and Learnscape mean the same thing as Workscape. I don’t use the word learn with executives, who inevitably think back to the awfulness of school and close their ears. “Let’s talk about performance.” 

ecology

The Workscape is a systems-eye view of the workplace. Everything is connected. Rather than try to control nature, we do what it takes to keep the environment thriving.

In the same vein, I talk about Working Smarter instead of informal learning, social learning, and so forth. Some people denigrate informal learning but nobody’s against Working Smarter.

Your organization already has a workscape where people are learning to work smarter. That’s where all the informal and social learning we hear about is taking place. The problem is that the learning processes are haphazard, often a paving of the cow paths. Many employees and stakeholders miss out—and stumble. Most companies’ systems fail to get the job done. Our Workscape ecologies are entering a do-or-die phase like global warming. Management is demanding that the workforce be more effective. “What got us here will not get us there.” We must nurture the Workscape or face corporate meltdown.

Global warming signals in Workscapes

clarkWe hear that if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” yet most corporate learning and development is broken. 77% of the senior managers surveyed by the Corporate Leadership Council reported they were dissatisfied with L&D. 76% said L&D was not critical to business outcomes. Only 14% would recommend working with L&D. Clark Quinn’s recent book, Revolutionizing Learning and Development, slams L&D, which should be named Performance and Development, for seriously underperforming.    

Time is speeding up. More happens in a day than your grandmother experienced in a week. Keeping sharp and up to date is now a continuing part of everyone’s job. Corporate learning must expand from focusing on the classroom, which provides at best 10% of learning, to the entire organization  where learning while doing is the rule. Training a novice may lead to  productivity gains in the future. Helping an experienced person impacts the bottom line immediately. Little wonder that the training department is underperforming: they only touch a minority of employees, most of them newcomers.

transformationAs many as four out of five large multinationals report they are undergoing a digital transformation. It goes by many names, from Enterprise 2.0 to Radical Management or simply Going Paperless. Altimeter Group defines digital transformation as: “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”* The digital transformation of workplace learning involves moving from the limited training department to the holistic Workscape framework view of the world.

The input may be establishing social learning networks; the output is improvement in the business overall.

Scope of the habitat

Put on your ecologist hat. Let’s examine the diversity of species among those people in your Workscape drawing paychecks:

Novices and newbies have been the main focus of training. This includes new hire on-boarding and provision of basic and technical skills (we’re all novices at something). This minority uses a disproportionate share of the training department’s resources and mindshare.

Experienced producers bring home the bacon yet training departments overlook them. Training departments have single-shot solutions: courses. Courses are rarely appropriate for experienced workers. Many old hands will not tolerate them nor learn from them if they do. They know that experience is a better teacher. Tuning the learning environment to make systemic changes for this underserved population has fantastic upside potential, perhaps enough to get CLOs a real seat at table in the C-Suite.

Top performers are the 20% of the team that generate 80% of the results. A 1% improvement at this level makes waves. This species needs special handling, sometimes including personal service.

Compliance is a red herring that people point to when discussing how deep “training” goes into the organization. However, compliance is not learning. Sure, it’s required, but no body’s expecting much performance improvement in the area, particularly in its present primitive form.

Alumni are an overlooked opportunity in many organizations. IBM invested in keeping former IBMers abreast of what was going on back at Big Blue. The alumni connected over social media and saw demos in Second Life. The result? An on-going flow of leads from true-believers and those who contract with IBM.

Subspecies. L&D has traditionally focused on the needs of employees on the payroll exclusively, disregarding the fact that partners, customers, subcontractors, temps, service agencies, outsourcers, suppliers, and others are equally part of the value chain. Take the Workscape view. Let’s go up to a balcony overlooking a model of your business. Look at the flow of business. You can see that the product is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. Think carefully about who you want to be co-learning with.

extendedenterprise

The Workscape should address the needs of learners throughout the extended enterprise.

Theoretically, your Workscape — the realm where you’ll be wielding your influence on performance and learning — could stretch way beyond your firewall to include nearly everyone the organization interacts with. Imagine how much cooperation will improve if they all read from the same page.

Reading the temperature

The climate for Workscapes is changing, forcing a re-think of how things are connected.

Decision-making is migrating from institution to individual, from training to pull learning, and shifts “power to the people.” This is how digital transformation works: digital democracy first. Digital citizens exploit connections and take power. Making the shift is an enormous change management task.

Informal, experiential work is three times more effective than formal, top-down training. Experiential earning is migrating into the workflow at a very fast rate. Spread the footprint of the Workscape to the optimal size.

Workscapes are complex and unpredictable, in perpetual beta. Experiments are cheap. Plant lots (hundreds, thousands) of Workscape experiments and nurture those that catch on. Watch out for monoculture (using only one solution) and the echo effect (making judgments from a narrow spectrum of reality).

Nurturing the Workscape requires competencies such as business problem analysis, collaboration experts, community managers, and moxie. I foresee learning process SWAT teams attacking connection gaps. You don’t have these people on board now.

Forget about the traditional way you’ve trained people. Unlearn your assumptions about courses and top-down learning. Break with the present by looking ahead five years. Start with a blank piece of paper. Take a Workscape perspective. Assess the organizational benefits of:

  • embedding learning in work, covering a much larger audience
  • setting up learning as a continuous activity, not an event
  • leveraging self-sustaining processes instead of one-time courses
  • pinpointing high-return activities such as manager coaching
  • embracing social and experiential learning
  • changing the learning philosophy from push to pull
  • employing business metrics to gauge success
  • canvasing the organization for opportunities instead of waiting for requests
  • focusing on overall business outcomes
  • building self-sufficient teams
  • extending the Workscape to cover partners, customers, and outsourced services
  • making learning a driver with business impact

The learning conservationist toolkit

L&D’s collaboration experts and SWAT teams are digital MacGyvers who weave techniques like these into Workscapes:

Make Management responsible for development

  • Issue stretch assignments to grow staff
  • Mentors, coaching
  • Action learning

Personal Learning Network

  • Collaboration and cooperation
  • Friends and colleagues provide answers
  • Peer learning

Performance support

  • Job aids, bookmarks,
  • FAQs, aggregation, curation

Access to information

  • Wiki, inhouse YouTube, internet
  • Self-study catalog, portals

Enterprise social network

  • Activity stream keeps one up to date
  • Platform for conversation
  • Opportunity to share knowledge

Communities of Practice

  • Professional growth
  • Knowledge repository
  • Create knowledge

Blogs

  • Individual publishing (Learn out loud!)
  • Follow thinking of others

Social learning

  • Make conversation easy
  • Collaboration

Mobile

  • DIY

Performance feedback

  • Is it working? How can we do better?

Microlearning

  • Learning in tiny bites

Instead of taking requests, the traditional role of training departments, learning conservationists actively seek out opportunities where learning will have the most impact.

One group of L&D special agents posted this set of beliefs to explain how it worked to its internal clients:

  • We are open and transparent.
  • We narrate our work. Need to share.
  • We support continuous learning, not events.
  • We value conversation as a learning vehicle.
  • We drink our own champagne (or mimosas).
  • Business success is our bottom line.
  • We are not a training organization.
  • We value time for self-development and reflection.
  • We establish business metrics for every engagement and report back publicly on outcomes.

workscape

Changing the physical environment can improve learning.

The staff will use any tool available to improve learning, right down to moving the furniture. A computer manufacturer discovered that its chip designers learned from overhearing conversations among their peers. They replaced a cube farm with comfortable sofas, rolling white boards, and espresso machines — and watched the production of innovative ideas skyrocket.

Environmental impact report

In a 2011 book, A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown described the kind of learning necessary in this new environment as “whitewater learning”—the ability to acquire useful knowledge and skills while at the same time practicing them in an environment that is constantly evolving and presenting new challenges. They argue that our learning environments need to match the speed and degree of change happening in the world around us.**

The emancipation of both nature and the human imagination depends first on the capacity to ‘unsay’ the world and, second, on the ability to image it differently so that wonder might be brought into appearance.***

Over a hundred CLOs told us what they were currently doing was insufficient to prepare them to deal with the future needs of the business. Obviously it’s time to do something different.

Our People Growing Fast Enough

One way to accelerate people’s development is to optimize learning by looking at the organization as an organic, unpredictable, complex system. It’s time to fix the big picture by working on the level of the Workscape.

________________

*Digital transformation by any other name, Jason Bloomberg in Forbes

**Aspen Institute, The Learning Ecosystem

*** James Corner, “Ecology and Landscape as Agents of Creativity,” in Ecological design and planning, George F. Thompson and Frederick R. Steiner, editors, (New York: John Wiley, 1997), p.99. quoted in Design Education and Innovation Ecotones by Ann Pendleton-Julian

________________

Research funded by Litmos

Flip your meetings


American business people attend 11,000,000 business meetings every day and half of it’s a waste of time.

Knowledge workers spend three hours a day in meetings. Senior executives spend more. Four out of five of us have brought other work to do during a meeting. One in ten of us admits to daydreaming. Four in ten have fallen asleep. What a waste.

Bringing people together face-to-face is a catalyst for innovation, collegiality, and rewarding conversations. Collaboration has its intrinsic rewards. It is sinful to waste this time together aimlessly or passively listening to presentations.

Over the course of a career, you will attend tens of thousands of meetings. It adds up to years of meetings. They could be great or they could be horrible. The choice is yours.

You can re-jigger your meetings to make them relevant, challenging, and fun by adopting an approach that is revolutionizing secondary school learning.

It’s called Flipping the Meeting. Flipped meetings focus people’s face-to-face time on working with one another to solve problems. You prepare in advance at your own pace with resources framing the business issue. When people convene, they spend their time collaborating to solve a problem. Conversations cross-fertilize ideas and fuel learning. In the flipped meeting, you focus on making the decision before the bell goes off.

Two teachers pioneered the philosophy of flip starting back in 2007. Students read their homework before class and use the classroom for discussion, not presentation. Grades go up, as does retention. Millions of students have signed up for flipped instruction through The Khan Academy. This is the same philosophy that underlies the Flipped Meeting. Be prepared to be inspired and listen to the founders of the flip:

How to Conduct a Flipped Meeting 

Provide the content and purpose beforehand, use face-to-face time for interactive problem-solving. It flippin’ works. Your flipped meetings will be characterized by::

  • Faster decisions
  • Better allocation of time
  • Action-oriented
  • More engagement
  • Innovative thinking
  • Shorter meetings

Tell your colleagues you want to experiment with a way to save time and improve performance in company meetings. Tell them about Flipped Meetings. Point them to this post. Get folks to agree to experiment for a few rounds. You can do it. It’s not rocket science.

Before the meeting

At least 24 hours in advance, tell participants what problem the meeting is expected to solve. Provide links to relevant documents and reference materials.

Make the problem a specific task, e.g. “create a plan to cut costs 20%” or “design new assessment strategy.” Here’s a sample invitation.

This simple step of sending background material in advance addresses the most frequent complaint lodged against traditional meetings: We don’t know the purpose of this meeting.

By the way, Amazon has banned PowerPoint as a way to explain the nature of the problem.

During the meeting

Facilitator encourages interaction and progression to solving the problem.

Don’t spend time talking about ideas or initiatives you know you won’t take action on.

Good practices:

  • Appoint a recorder.
  • Collaboration rules. Perhaps sit in a circle — or stand up!
  • Diversity is good. Encourage it.
  • Use Twitter as a backchannel for communications.
  • Solve the problem before departing.
  • Leave as soon as the problem is solved.
  • Final 30 seconds: How was this session? Would you recommend it to a colleague?

After the meeting

Share recorder’s notes and all notes, drawings, PostIt notes, and artifacts from the session.

Ask yourself, was this meeting worthwhile? Could we have accomplished our work in half the time? Overall, could we benefit from more 15-minute meetings? Half-hour sessions?

Why not experiment? Flip some meetings. It will improve your quality of life.


Research sponsored by Litmos.

Falling behind

fastenough

72% of eighteen Fortune 100 CLOs told me their people are not growing fast enough to keep up with the needs of the business. 

Granted, it’s impossible to predict the future needs of the business in this volatile world, it’s still troubling that most big-company CLOs don’t feel what they’re doing is adequate to prepare the workforce for the future. That’s the job, right?

If what you’re doing isn’t working, you need to do something else. Internet Time Alliance advises CLOs to shift learning out of the classroom and into the workplace, embrace pull learning, get managers on board, focus on business performance, and support continuous learning. It’s more than informal or social learning. I call the package Enterprise Learning.

Faced with the enormity of shifting the organization’s culture to pull, social, sharing, open, beta, fault-tolerant, collaborative, and reflective, many CLOs are dabbling with change rather than taking it on whole hog.

This reminds me of two stories.

Intel’s Craig Barrett said “We’re racing along the highway at 150 MPH and we know there’s a brick wall up ahead but we don’t know where.”

Napoleon told his generals to plant trees bordering each major road out of France to provide shade for marching troops. “But Emperor, it will take decades for the trees to grow to maturity.” Napoleon’s reply: “Better start today.”

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Wisdom 2.0: Mindfulness and business

Wisdom 2.0 Conference, San Francisco, February 27 – March 1.w21

Billed as “the intersection of wisdom and technology,” the Wisdom 2.0 conference drew 2,500 people who spent $625 for two and a half days of secular Buddhism.

I am interested in the interaction of mindfulness and business. Mindfulness – the opposite of mindlessness – is a natural component of Working Smarterw2-2

I generally sit in the front row at conferences. You can see better and often get to schmooze with speakers. But this time I opted for…w2-11

…the bean bag chairs in front of the front row. I spent most of the main stage sessions on my back, Mac balanced on my knees.

w2-5When I got tired of the main sessions, I’d head to Inspiration Village.

w2-3

Part of the Village was set up as summer camp. Let’s play.

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In the hallway outside, four Tibetan monks made an elaborate sand mandala. w2-10

Jack Kornfeld seemed so authentic and emotion-laden, not what I expected from a meditation leader. “Quiet your mind.”

davidson

Richard Davidson spoke on Well-being as a Skill. He reported on progress in neuroscience, a field that has come a long way in 20 years. What’s important?

  • neuroplasticity. need to intentionally cultivate it. take advantage to if.
  • genomics. epigenetics: how genes are expressed. can change this through experience. eights hours of practice is enough to change the brain. had thought brain was fixed.
  • bidirectional highway between mind and body. how alterations in the body will feedback back to the brain. data are clear. cultivating well being will change the brain in ways that change the body.
  • we come into the world with innate basic goodness. Animals demonstrate basic goodness as well.

Well being is a skill. You can get better at it.

47% go through life without thinking about what they’re doing.They report as unhappy.

Which kinds of people need which type of practice?

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Sherry Turkle, advocate of face-to-face communications, ironically the only person to use PowerPoint, had this unscientific view of artificial reality. The slide drew applause.

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Eileen Fisher advised us all to shut our eyes and take a deep breath. She rang finger cymbals to bring us back.16065114033_26cc9aa59b_z

Eileen has a daily practice. At age 64, she feels more energetic than twenty years ago. Her aim: to feel totally in my body.

Her employees take two days a year for spiritual retreats.

Blackrock, at $4.7 trillion and 12,000 employees, is the world’s largest asset manager. They’ve popularized meditation sessions 30 minutes, taking place in conference rooms around the world. Employees receive weekly emails with tips. Mindfulness is a topic at leadership off sites.

How do we bridge the gap between mindfulness and business?

Starbucks is the “perfect environment for exploring mindfulness.”

Their mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

(see mission statement)

100% said the campaign was very effective. Partners are hungry for mindfulness. Able to make it real, mesh authentically with others.

Barristas love it. It’s taking a life of its own. Bubbles up, organic.

16477779127_836797b6dc_zNeed a break? Visit the Meditation Studio.

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Flashing lights and booming noises didn’t help me meditate. For $249, you can try it for yourself.16498921319_1ce0164f4d_z

BuHaGirl, which appears to make yoga bangles, was a major sponsor and had an exotic tent set up in the Inspiration Village.16065117023_24fd67b993_z

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The Mandala nears completion.

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Googler Chang-Meng Tan

Born at Google and based on brain science, SIY uses the practices of mindfulness to train Emotional Intelligence skills, leading to resilience, positive mindset, and centered leadership. In the midst of complexity, it’s about finding the inner capacity to create, to thrive, to lead. And it’s surprisingly fun. Backed by some of the world’s leading experts in neuroscience and mindfulness, SIY is changing thousands of lives in over a dozen countries.

With that vision in mind, Meng connected with Daniel Goleman and Jon Kabat Zinn to develop a unique program for Google. He then assembled a team that included mindfulness teachers, business executives and scientists. The Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program was born and launched, refined and tested over four years at Google, where it is currently one of the most popular, impactful and highly rated programs focused on wellbeing and sustainable high-performance.
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Mindfulness in Business

“Once upon a time I was young….  I joined a startup called Google.”

Mindfulness day. Search Inside Yourself.

All leaders in the world are wise and compassionate, thus creating the conditions for world peace

Need to define wisdom + compassion.

Wisdom.

  • Clarity and insight to know what to do.
  • Calm mind. Leadership: the ability to think under fire.
  • Self-awareness. Seeing beyond self

Compassion.

  • Beautiful intentions (do no harm, ahimsa). Generosity.
  • Loving kindness. (The wish for others to be happy). Create inner joy. It’s born of kindness. 
  • Compassionate action.

All of these are born of mindfulness. Self as process.

Business at its best is about helping people.

The best leader makes the team shine. They practice wisdom, impersonate

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Video of the event is here.

Does mindfulness have a place in business? Not yet but it’s inevitable.

pendulumThe focus of business is shifting from Institutions to Individuals. Mindfulness helps individuals perform better — and be happier and more fulfilled.

Mindfulness shares many values with Working Smarter, digital transformation, social business, and Product Knowledge Mastery, for example openness, transparency, and self-determination.

Years ago, a professor named Herbert Benson wrote a book and a compelling article in Harvard Business Review on The Relaxation Response. He met with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Here’s the message: repeat a mantra; assume a passive attitude. A best seller in 1975, this Buddhism-without-the-Buddha book has faded from the scene but it leaves us a valuable lesson: putting the mantra in English makes the practice of meditation more acceptable to business people. (Benson’s medical school colleague had refused t meet with the maharishi.)

Mindfulness will go mainstream; it’s that essential a practice. I don’t think it’s going to win executive hearts and minds until we separate it from the Tibetan monks, BuDaGirl bracelets, and Patchouli oil.

Conference Board Presentation

beta

advice

Introduction 4:25

In the next 40 minutes, I’ll share the Internet Time Alliance’s advice on implementing informal learning and Working Smarter in a large organization. Change is inevitable. Three out of four CLOs say what they’re doing now is inadequate to prepare people for the future.

Internet Time Alliance 4:21

When I say we, I’m talking about the Internet Time Alliance. We are first movers. We developed the world’s first online MBA program, the first software learning game, the first business curriculum for the University of Phoenix, and first use of the word eLearning. Now in its seventh year, the Alliance is a think tank and community of practice. Our clients learn ahead of the pack.

Power of Pull Learning 4:15

Experiential learning is three times more effective than traditional learning. Support Pull learning. Foster conversations – the “stem cells of learning.” People learn to do the job on the job. 

Enterprise Learning 5:52

The Workscape is the infrastructure for working smarter. It’s undergoing a transition from courses and information sources we design and control to setting up continuous learning processes like social networks and communities of practice. 702010 is an example of such a framework.

Stake Out Your Vision 6:29

You’ll need a clear plan to convince the organization to go along with the transition. Work and learning are merging — learning is becoming the work — so they much take place simultaneously. Don’t leave out suppliers, partners, customers, alumni., and your producers. Knowledge resides in networks.

Implementation 8:43

Start with your own organization. Plant lots of seeds. Don’t neglect the individual who needs to know what to do given freedom to act. Product Knowledge Mastery. Chefs as a community. Examples from Danone and Lego.

Resources 4:54

How to find this presentation, the Internet Time Alliance, the Informal Learning Center, and Jane’s 100 Tools list.

I am still chopping and editing the video, experimenting with editing inside YouTube. There’s some overlap; the actual presentation is shorter. Help me improve this. Leave a comment or ebetamail me at [email protected]

As the ultimate work out loud, I may make this into a free coaching piece to introduce the work of the Alliance.

jay2

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STEPHEN DOWNES: HALF AN HOUR

APRIL 21, 2014

Connectivism as Learning Theory

‘I think the students in the Building Online Collaborative Environments Course has an almost impossible task. Here is their effort to prove that connectivism is a learning theory. Connectivism has a direct impact on education and teaching as it works as a learning theory. They sat in desks, read from a textbook, and completed worksheets. Gibson.
JOHN HAGEL

APRIL 24, 2014

Personal Narratives: Insight and Impact

‘We all have a personal narrative, even though few of us have made the effort to articulate it.   That’s a shame because our personal narrative can be a source of deep insight as well as a great way to amplify impact. Done right, they can be a powerful weapon in helping us to escape from the dark side of technology. What can I accomplish?
EUEN SEMPLE

APRIL 15, 2014

Feeling trapped

‘I often worry about coming across as a smart arse, sniping at organisational life from the sidelines. It”s easy for me, I work for myself. have a degree of agency that many would envy. But I remember. remember the creeping feeling that something”s not right but that you can”t do anything to make things better. Then I read. still do.
IRVING WLADAWSKY-BERGER

APRIL 2, 2014

Innovation Hubs in the Global Digital Economy

a paper by UC Berkeley professor John Zysman.  It creates opportunities and challenges.”  . Others have tried to become the Next Silicon Valley.
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