February 2014: Creation Spaces

 

John Hagel tells us that “Answers can be helpful but they only have a fixed value. And answers, no matter how good they are, tend to become obsolete at an accelerating rate.  As conditions evolve, those answers that only a little while ago seemed so compelling and helpful now begin to seem stale and worn.”

Instead of answers, “… questions do something else that’s absolutely vital for influence – they rapidly build trust with the person posing the questions. The person posing these kinds of questions has just done something very important – s/he has expressed vulnerability.  S/he has acknowledged there’s something really important that s/he doesn’t know and needs help to solve.”

The most powerful networks would take the form of creation spaces that support the formation of tightly knit teams and then connect these teams in a broader space where they can seek out help from each other.

My colleague Charles Jennings says that to support learning effectively and engender behaviour change,  we need to create environments where emotional responsesrich experiences and social learning are at the forefront. These are prerequisites for Hagel’s creation spaces (and my own workscapes.)

In a series of articles, Jane Hart describes learning flows. A Learning Flow is a continuous steady stream of social micro-learning activities – accessible from the web and mobile devices. This is an important step beyond the course. Learning flows are another arrow in the workscape quill.

These are the top articles that passed through my screen this month.

 

JOHN HAGEL

FEBRUARY 24, 2014

The Big Shift in Influence

‘Influence is becoming more and more challenging.   It’s hard enough to attract attention, much less retain it or use that attention to shape the behavior of others. And yet, in a world of scarce resources and mounting pressure, the ability to influence others becomes more and more central to the ability to set big things in motion.

STEPHEN DOWNES: HALF AN HOUR

FEBRUARY 1, 2014

Theories Related to Connectivism

‘I was asked: But i have some questions about my research. First i need ten-year findings of connectionim learning theory, second i got confused with telling the difference between connectionism, connectivist because some Chinese translators/scholars have had their own versions.The version raises argumentation. Here is my own take on it.

EUEN SEMPLE

FEBRUARY 6, 2014

Case study porn

‘A while back I tweeted “Stop reading case study porn and get on with it”. Even all those years ago when we were getting started at the BBC there was a pressure to justify what we were doing with examples from other organisations. Best practice” is a dodgy idea that is increasingly discredited. It is so easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis.

CHARLES JENNINGS

FEBRUARY 3, 2014

Learning is Behaviour Change: why is it often so hard to help it happen?

If you didn”t, your time would end soon — a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?”
82 Tweets 18 Tweets 15 Tweets 33 Tweets

I have a dream

Dreamforce
135,000 people are attending Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. Mark Benioff, Salesforce’s exuberant CEO, proclaimed that the next big thing is The Internet of Customers.
Dreamforce
It’s going to be a 1:1 world. Every company will become a customer company, dealing with us as individuals. Mark pulled out his wifi toothbrush which reports him to his dentist if he doesn’t brush. He showed his Canon camera which has a help button for instantly calling for help from the manufacturer. We’re social. We’re mobile. We’re going to receive services directly form the cloud.

2/3 of all companies feel left out. They need a new platform. That’s the only way to go forward in a world where everything’s connected. And guess what? Salesforce has developed just such a platform, Salesforce1.

Substitute “learning” for “selling” and you’d have the backbone of a powerful enterprise learning system. Everything’s connected. It plays on any device. Chatter takes care of the social aspects. Personalization is 1:1. I’ve been calling this learning ecosystem a Workscape. Either way, it’s the platform on which future training programs, extremely short ones, will play.

Dreamforce Dreamforce

Dreamforce Dreamforce

I had never heard of most of the 350 exhibitors before. Everyone here is about boosting sales, even those I had heard of. How the sales task can be that complicated is beyond me.

Dreamforce

Dreamforce

Drunk Tank Pink

drunk

CLO magazine

In the late 1970s, scientists discovered that certain shades of pink calmed people who were agitated or angry. Walking into a pink room sapped the energy of difficult prisoners. Police painted holding cells pink. Some football coaches repainted visiting team dressing rooms pink. CLOs, whatever you do, don’t paint your classrooms pink!

drunk2A new book by psychologist Adam Alter, appropriately named Drunk Tank Pink, tells hundreds of stories about how this and of other factors shape our thoughts without our permission or knowledge. Alter provides examples of “hidden persuaders” lurking in names, labels, symbols, culture, colors, locations, weather, warmth, and the presence of others. For example,

  • People come up with twice as many innovative uses for a paperclip after a picture of a lightbulb is shown to them, even thought it flashes by too quickly for them to recognize it.
  • People contribute more to victims of a hurricane if their name starts with the same letter as the name of the storm.
  • Given a choice, right-handed people prefer words made of letters from the righthand size of the keyboard.
  • Tell teachers certain students are “academic bloomers,” and those students’ IQs rise 10-15 points over the course of a year.
  • Show an Apple logo to people subliminally and they think more creatively than people who are shown an IBM logo.
  • Mount a photograph of peering eyes in the coffee room, and fewer people cheat the honesty box.
  • When Japanese mounted blue lights in train stations, crime rates dropped and suicides ceased.
  • Olympic wrestlers are more likely to win a medal if they are wearing red.
  • People think it’s easier to drive south because it’s down, not up, on the map.
  • People reflect more intently on messages in difficult-to-read fonts.
  • People are more aggressive in hot weather and amorous in cold.

Like it or not, environmental factors like these have huge impact on how well or poorly people learn.

As work becomes increasingly fast-paced and complex, more learning takes place on the job. Wise CLOs will shift their attention to improving what I call the Workscape, the on-job locus of experiential and informal learning. They will invest in factors that once seemed superfluous to learning. (An ADDIE analysis won’t lead you to change the color or temperature of the room.)

People are complex adaptive systems. We’re subject to the same guiding principles as other complex systems, such as the weather. Tiny inputs can have outsized consequences. A butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can start a tornado in Texas. A drab room or creepy photograph on the wall can hinder learning.

Alter has a marvelous acronym for the culture of the West: WEIRD = Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratized. We managers in WEIRD cultures don’t tend to think of situations like Alter’s. We miss the connections.

We inherited our way of looking at the world from the ancient Greeks. Aristotle analyzed objects in isolation from their context. Think of logic. The Greeks focused more on the individual than the group, and we do likewise today.

Asian managers see things differently. They see objects in relation to what’s around them. They focus more on the relationship of the individual and his environment. One suspects Asian managers are more attuned to improving their organizations’ workscapes than their WEIRD counterparts.

In the 1950s, social psychologist Solomon Asch conducted an experiment on social conformity. A group of seven people was handed a slip of paper with several lines of differing lengths on it and Asch asked each in turn to describe what they saw. The first person said she saw four lines of equal length. So did  each of the next five people. (They were all shills who had been instructed to lie about what they saw.) 30% of the time, the last person reported he saw equal-length lines, too! Such is the power of social pressure.

If social pressure is strong enough to make you doubt your senses, imagine the impact it must have on attitudes toward learning. Shouldn’t we be paying attention to how workers feel about learning and what they say about it?

By the way, in a recent twist, Asch’s experiment was recreated with that last member of the group hooked up to an fMRI machine. Half of the people who reported seeing lines of equal length actually saw exactly that. Group pressure trumps the senses.

Don’t you want to join the CLOs who are paying less attention to learning programs and more to learning platforms?

Drunk-Tank-Pink-Shameless

#ITASHARE

Learning out loud

workscapeGo ahead. Peak into my brain. New thoughts are percolating but the outcomes are still fuzzy.

I’m soundly convinced that Learning Platforms are crowding out Learning Programs. This is an inevitable part of moving from Stocks to Flows, from Push to Pull, from institutional control to personal freedom, and from rigid industrialism to flexible, more human work environments. Focus on improving the learning ecology rather than tackle one event at a time.

“Learning in advance” doesn’t work in a realtime world, so learning and work have converged. Learning is simply an aspect of getting the job done. Learning new things — sometimes by inventing them — is an obligation of corporate citizens. Most of this learning takes place in the workplace. The learning platform is the organization itself, not some separate entity.

I call these learning aspects of an organization its Workscape. A Workscape is a metaphorical space. The Workscape can include the water cooler, the Friday beer bust, the conversation nook at the office, wi-fi in the cafeteria, the enterprise culture, in-house communications, access to information, cultural norms around sharing and disclosure, tolerance for nonconformity, risk aversion, organizational structure, worker autonomy, and virtually any aspect of the company that can be tweaked to enable people to Work Smarter.

This afternoon I’ve been trying to come up with next practices for Workscapes in general. What are the design principles for optimal workscapes? What aspects of good learning should migrate into the Workscape. A starter list:

  • All learning is self-directed. Give people the freedom to chart their own course. “I like to learn but I hate to be taught.” Set high expectations and people live up to them. Help people make sense of and prosper in the world and the workplace.
  • Conversations are the stem-cells of learning. Foster open, frequent, frank conversation both virtually and in person. 
  • Experiential learning is magic. People learn by doing. Encourage experimentation. Insure that managers and mentors understand the impact of “stretch assignments.” JDI. Broadcast opportunities and projects. 
  • Teach people the least they need know to tackle things on their own. 
  • Make it drop-dead simple to access people in the know, the lessons of experience, how-to information, and performance support.
  • Learning is social. Encourage participation in communities. Narrate your work and share with others. Communities and guilds create knowledge as well as consume it. 
  • We want what we want, no more. Whenever possible, provide choices. Give me the pieces to create personalized learning experiences. 
  • Learning is for everyone, not just novices and up-and-comers. You can’t expect to prosper without it. Make sure everyone’s covered.
  • Learning takes reinforcement in order to stick. Seek feedback. Blog, tweet, and otherwise share your reflections. Revisiting what you learn fixes it in memory.
  • Innovation is born of mashing up concepts from different disciplines. Encourage looking outside the box.
  • Provide feeds for what’s going on in the team, the department, the company, the industry, and technical disciplines.
  • People confuse learning with schooling. Build lessons on learning how to learn into the Workscape itself.

I’ll keep building the list but I’m hungry for more. I don’t want to get caught thinking small. What other aspects of sustaining the organization should be here?

Most of the value of organizations derives from Social Capital. (See my post Measure what’s important.) Were you able to deconstruct an organization into molecules of social capital, you’d have:

  • human capital – the know-how of the workforce
  • relationship captal – your reputation and ways of working with customers and partners
  • structural capital – processes, systems, and secret sauce

social capital

Thus far, my list deals with only human capital. Help me think through the role of the Workscape in leveraging relationship capital and structural capital as well.

 

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