Category Archives: Ideas

Some of my ideas that I would like to share with you.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a SuperLearner!

Over the past decade the story of enterprise learning has increasingly been dominated by the rise of the “learning” part and a de-emphasis of the “enterprise” part.   It’s kind of an adaptation of a famous line from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address:  Ask not what training experiences your organization can give to you, but what learning and knowledge you can give to your organization.

But the move to bottom-up learning is no easy evolution.  It’s not an either/or question.  Increasingly, conversations among learning executives are dominated by the discussion of balance: when does a company need to tell and when does it need to listen?

Fortunately, there is a certain type of learner that eases these challenges, emerging spontaneously within the workforces of many companies: they’re what we call “superlearners.”  Unusually self-reliant and media savvy, superlearners are leading the way for their companies by exemplifying the attributes, learning behaviors and collaboration-based activities needed to win in this current era of never-ending change.

But superlearners present some challenges of their own companies.  They’re more apt to become frustrated and leave the organization.  They challenge accepted ways of doing things; they have no great love for authority and may flout the rules.  Yet harnessing their energy and the manner in which they multiply the availability and value of knowledge across the enterprise will increasingly become a task of learning and HR executives.

Read more: CLO Magazine Article about SuperLearners

How social media is shaping the workplace of the future

This podcast by Teemu Arina effectively illustrates the imperative for change and how social media are shaping our future workplace.

Do We Need Sweeter Carrots and Sharper Sticks?

Learning or professional communities are “healthy” and beneficial to the organization when its members are intrinsically motivated to participate and contribute. Members of a learning community must have a desire to network, collaborate, and share information or the community will not thrive and will not drive business value. What will intrinsically motivate community members? Which types of rewards are cost-effective?

When I talk with organizational leaders about creating healthy learning communities I am often asked “how do we motivate and make them participate and contribute?”

One fundamental problem with this type of discussion is the notion that there is an “us” and there is a “them.” This position assumes that “we’ are better than “them” and “we” must force “them” or make “them” participate and contribute in the learning community. “They” do not understand what to do or “they” are too selfish to contribute, share, and help other community members.

The organizational leaders I speak to often suggest different ways to incentivize community members like the provision of gift points and other little presents to motivate them. What about the old adage “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink?” Do you believe we are able to “make” learning community members participate and contribute through a “carrot and stick” strategy? Are rewards and punishment schemes affordable and sustainable?

Some research findings and “experts” suggest that rewarding community members for meeting networking, collaboration, and information sharing targets (or punishing them for failing to meet such targets) is detrimental to quality, motivation, and attitudes. The main argument is that a rewards and punishment scheme is manipulative and will often destroy collaboration, blindly promote a single solution, deter risk taking, and reduce creativity.

Watch this 19 minute “Ted” presentation of Dan Pink who believes that we are punished by rewards.

Dan Pink

Dan presents a case to prove that contingent motivators (i.e., “if you do this then you get that”) will work for tasks that are mechanical, routine, rule-based, and that are organized around a clear destination or outcome. Contingent motivators will not work, according to Dan, and often cause harm when applied to cognitive tasks that require creativity, the resolution of complex and novel issues, and where the final destination or result is unclear. Rewards and punishment will narrow our focus, concentrate the mind, and lead to poorer performance. Rewards and punishment are detrimental for work tasks that lack a pre-defined and clear destination or solution, or a pre-defined and clear path to the destination or solution.

Dan claims that this is one of the most robust findings in social science and one that is often ignored by business leaders. In other words, there is a mismatch between what the science knows and what the business does.

What should we do if we want to intrinsically motivate and encourage members of a learning or professional community to participate or contribute? What else can we do besides roll out a rewards and punishment scheme?

Dan says that a new operating model is required and that we should not look for sweeter carrots or sharper sticks. He says that we should look at different building blocks: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is an urge to direct our own work. Mastery is a desire to get better and better at something that matters to us.  And purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Autonomy: Managing and governing a learning community is good if you want compliance. Autonomy is better if you want engagement. One way to intrinsically motivate your learning community members and to achieve higher levels of community engagement is to permit the members to have more responsibility over their governance. Another way is to allow the community members to decide what information to share. Do not create and assign targets for members to fill up defined subject areas with content. Allow community members to network, collaborate, and share information on anything that they want.

Mastery: What about mastery? Do community members believe that the community matters to them? Do organizational leaders want community members to have a stronger affiliation to their community than to their formal hierarchy? Do community members believe that community networking, collaboration, and information sharing will lead to higher performance and success on the job? One way to intrinsically motivate community members towards mastery is to help them become better community connectors and carriers. Not every community member needs to be only a content expert or contributor. Effective learning communities need only 10% of the members to regularly make content contributions. Learning communities will also matter to more members if there are enough helpful connectors and carriers. It’s not all about content. Especially in environments where there is a lot of change, the work is complex and the solutions must be novel and surprising, and where collaboration is critical to success.

Purpose: Learning communities will fail if too few content experts have a sense of purpose or a yearning to share their expertise in the service of their community. Many content experts try to hold on to their power and job security by making sure people have no other option but to come to them for answers and advice. Why would content experts want to store their expertise on the “system” in the form of a podcast, knowledge document, blog, or discussion thread? Most people are not that altruistic and would not willingly sacrifice their career in order to help their learning community. Content experts might have a stronger sense of purpose after contributing to their community if it helps them become a more valuable employee. Content experts who share their expertise more widely and more efficiently will likely receive more feedback and ideas from more people. This might help content experts to more quickly and more effectively shape, grow, and refine their expertise. The content experts would also grow and improve their networks making it easier for them to more quickly and more effectively test new ideas, find new ideas, and share new ideas. A “smarter” and more “connected” individual is a valuable asset to most organizations. Sharing ones expertise might be a purpose worth pursuing.

Rather than simply providing monetary gifts so that community members focus and concentrate on narrow targets such as sharing a certain number of podcasts or knowledge documents during each quarter, we need to explore new ways of intrinsically motivating learning community members using building blocks such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Please let me know how you believe we should encourage and motivate members of a learning community.

The Rise of the Corporate Multiversity

In a recent CLO article written by Craig Mindrum, it is said that the most prevalent model for adult education is the corporate university – in terms of practical educational effectiveness. The article suggests that the corporate university has moved streets ahead of the traditional university. That the traditional universities have stood still for too long and that they have become irrelevant for people who want to pursue professional careers in the business sector.

We are now living and working in an era where the answers to a majority of our questions are 0.27 seconds away via a search engine. Do you believe that the heritage of a traditional university, as a “brain dump” by renowned professors is irrelevant? Will the government sponsored programs that create alliances between corporate universities and traditional universities deliver the expected results and produce a more competitive workforce? Do the graduates of traditional universities know how to continuously learn and are they capable of collaborative and interactive working behaviours? Do traditional universities too often produce graduates for which there is no market?

Craig suggests that given the deficiencies of the traditional university, corporations should transform their corporate university into a “multiversity”. A multiversity is a learning organization built on a series of multiples: serving multiple needs and goals, offering multiple curricula, serving multiple career paths and using multiple delivery methods and technologies. Those multiples are at the heart of the distinctive value proposition of corporate learning and are reshaping the way that companies, governments and even many traditional universities think about the role of education in creating the workforce of the future.

Here is a link to the CLO article: The Rise of the Corporate Muliversity

Finding In-House Experts Isn’t Easy

Why is it so difficult to quickly find someone in my organization to answer a pressing question, provide advice about a procedure, explain how to use some software, or tell me where to find an expert, course, or document?

I rely on my network to connect me to other people and information because I cannot know and will not try to know everything.  I use the internal “knowledge management” and “learning management” systems.  I am not completely helpless.  But sometimes I just don’t know what I don’t know and I need input from an expert.

I know there are in-house experts in my organization.  What can my organization do to help me connect to and leverage these experts more easily?  Experts with specialized knowledge and skills are an invaluable resource for me.

No t leveraging the in-house experts seems like such a waste.

How many problems go un-solved, how many new ideas never get imagined, how many experts feel underappreciated because people like me cannot easily tap into the in-house pool of experts?

My organization deployed a “expert locator” and “social networking” system in order to help employees quickly find and leverage in-house expertise but these systems provide a half baked solution.  I need to know more about the experts and not just their organizational affiliation, work experience, competencies, and certifications.  I also need to know some “softer” qualities such as their trustworthiness, communication style, personality traits, and willingness to help others in need.  I would also like to know how others feel about the experts when they tapped into them.

What do you look for in an expert and what “tools” are best suited for conveying the information you want to know about experts?

Dorit Nevo, Izak Benbasat and Yair Wand conducted a study to answer this question.

Dr. Nevo is a professor of management information­ systems at Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto. Dr. Benbasat is a Canada research chair in information­ technology management at Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Dr. Wand is a Canfor professor of management information­ systems at Sauder School of Business.

This following illustration (click on “key findings”) summarizes the key findings of the survey distributed to users of “expert locator” systems:

Key Findings

Some key conclusions from the research:

  • Activities and interactions that occur in blogs, wikis and social networks naturally provide the cues that are missing from current expert locator systems.
  • A search engine that mines internal blogs, for example, where workers post updates and field queries about their work, will help searchers judge for themselves who is an expert in a given field.
  • Wiki sites, because they involve collaborative work, will suggest not only how much each contributor knows, but also how eager they are to share that knowledge and how well they work with others.
  • Tags and keywords, which are posted by employees and serve as flags for search engines, can reveal qualities in an expert that are far from transparent in any database or directory.

I like this study because it demonstrates the hidden value of blogs and wikis.

This study also helps us further understand that the formal organizational chart and company designated experts are not necessarily the best “maps” for finding expertise or the most qualified experts in the company.

Social media such as blogs and wikis will help us to identify the established and emerging experts and to go beyond the “usual suspects.”

Here is a link to an online article with more details: Source for this post

Free, High Quality, Reusable Content

What would you say if I told you that I know where you can find some FREE, HIGH QUALITY, and REUSABLE courses, modules, and lesson plans?  I guess your answer depends on who you are.  A company or person that sells “course or module” development, books, and “training” courses might not like knowing that their “competition” is giving “it” away for free.  People who have the words “learning and development” or “training” in their job title might not like knowing that someone else is willing to do “the job” for free.  Heads of learning and ministers of education will most certainly have interest in knowing this because it will help them stretch their “training budgets” and deliver more value back to their respective company or community.  People that want to learn (the learners) in business and educational settings (or from home) would have high interest in using FREE and HIGH QUALITY “training” and “education.”  Educators will also generally have high interest.

The fact is that there are over 40 places (websites) that offer FREE and REUSABLE courses, modules, books, and lesson plans.  I cannot yet say if the QUALITY is high across the board because I have not yet performed a detailed investigation.

I can tell you that I have purchased, seen, and experienced a lot of really bad “courses” and “books” that cost a lot of money.  There are some commercial guarantees for paid training or education but I would not argue that paid training or education is always better than the free training or education.  In fact, I would argue that training or education developed in an open source (or collaborative) manner is more likely to be more effective, more accurate, and of higher quality as compared to “materials” developed in the “traditional” manner.

My dissertation investigated whether educational materials developed following instructional design principles were more effective and more readily adopted as compared to materials developed by subject matter experts.  I found that the materials developed following instructional design principles were statistically more effective but not more “attractive” to buyers or consumers of such materials.

So, why do I say that subject matter experts are now more likely to develop effective training or educational materials in an open source environment?

Firstly, instructional design principles are embedded in many of the readily available “content development” tools.  These tools come pre-loaded with templates, workflows, samples, and guidance.  Secondly, open source methods provide peer-to-peer reviews, a continuous formative evaluation process (in the form of ratings, comments, discussions, and reuse), and provide more opportunities to “tailor” the content to local settings and individual needs.  Lastly, the open source methods do not let only designated or well known subject matter experts contribute – it is more inclusive – and this brings in some fresh and new ideas (and some “bad” or “incorrect” ideas).

Subject matter experts are not always the smartest people on earth.  There was a time when a majority of the subject matter experts stated unequivocally that the earth is flat.

We cannot always know what is “bad” or “incorrect.”  My dissertation proved this.

There are some things we can do to help people in an open source environment increase their chances of selecting HIGH QUALITY content.  A common technique is to separately show the content that has been endorsed or approved by a credible and objective third party.  Another is to show community ratings and comments.  A third technique is to report back evaluation results.

As consumers we constantly judge quality.  Some of us take more time and have more knowledge than others, and might do a better job of identifying a HIGH QUALITY “product” or “service.”  The beauty of an open source environment is that we can always tap into our networks and ask others (people we trust and respect) to share their opinions.

I know there are some circumstances when a business cannot afford to take a risk and let their employees take any “training” they want – from any source.  A highly controlled and managed process is not required for all types of training and education.

Does this mean that open source methods to content development and sharing will bring an end to “formal” education and training, put all “training providers” and “traditional publishers” out of business?

No.

I think “we” will still have a need for a degree or for a certification (that comes as a result of a pre-defined and tightly managed curriculum), some bespoke (or custom) education and training, and some training and education from well-known experts.

We will not need to throw out the baby with the bath water.

We need to embrace open source methods for “content” development and sharing, leverage it wisely, and find more and better ways to learn from our networks or communities.

Unfortunately, the post to the educational resources no longer works.

Tw-elicious Tweets

I tend to write very “serious” blog posts – all business for me!  Today is different.  “Why not”, I asked myself, “write something humorous – something a bit less serious – whilst still making sure it’s something with a lesson or teachable moment”.

Don’t bother reading this post unless you know about or use Twitter – you wont’ get it!

Some Tw-elicious Tweets

Tw-izza:  Oh watch out for these tweets – you can easily consume more than you need because they taste so good.  They’re cooked up really fast, take a while to get through, and are quite filling (tend to take up a lot of your precious time).  You should only read these when you are hungry for tweets.  They usually go down better when chased with a good beer or glass of wine.

Tw-im Sum: A generally uncommon tweet that you typically see about once a week.  They tend to get served up in small groups or bundles and might be too hot at first too touch.  I suggest you put this type of tweet aside for a few minutes, let them cool off a while, and then take them in one bite at a time.

Tw-eggs:  I like these tweets.  Good at almost anytime of the day and tend to go well with other tweets.  Usually quite straightforward, understandable by most people with varying perspectives, translate well into different situations, and quite easy to store away.  Be careful because these tweets do tend to break apart if handled too often.

Tw-ish and chips:  One of my favorite tweets because they look so good when first served up.  I like to listen to music when I read these tweets and typically prefer them on cold days or evenings – especially when it’s raining.  This type of tweet is quite filling and tends to leave very little room for you to consume any other tweets for the rest of the day.  They really occupy a bunch of brain cell ativity.

Tw-orridge:  Good wholesome tweets that are best read first thing in the morning.  They tend to stay with you most of the day.  This type of tweet really clears the head and you feel much better off after reading them.  Watch out for the ones that just need a few minutes of thought.  They look like the ones that require a bit more reflection (or cooking) but they’re not as good for you.

Tw-alad:  Fresh, light, honest, and very helpful tweets.  There is nothing in this type of tweet that will hurt you or cause you to toss and turn at night.  Usually best to consume during lunchtime – but not too bad once in a while later in the evening whilst drinking a bit of tea.   You cant’ survive alone consuming just this type of tweet.  They tend to leave you hungry with too many unanswered questions.

Tw-ushi: Best to read this type of tweet along with controversial (or spicy and salty) tweets.  This will help bring out or emphasize the main messages.  Be careful because some of these tweets might be undercooked and not yet ready for consumption.  On the other hand, it’s the raw nature of these tweets that make them so appealing and unique.

Tw-urrito: This type of tweet is very filling but not as much as a Tw-ish and chips tweet.  There are some after effects to keep in mind (I won’t go into much detail here).  Let’s just say that it’s best to make sure you are not with too many people a few hours after reading this type of tweet.  You might say things that you will later regret.  This type of tweet is best consumed during lunchtime or during the early evening hours.  From the outside, the generally look the same.  On the inside you can find almost anything and that’s what makes this type of tweet so special.

Tw-andoori: Complicated, sometimes a bit dry, and not the type of tweet that you want to read too often.  You really have to be in the right mood for this one.  I never make this type of tweet my main meal so to speak.  They do tend to bore me after a while and taste better when accompanied by other tweets.  One good thing about this type of tweet is that it is still good even the next day after you read it (i.e., good leftover tweets).

Tw-ocolate: Hmmm sooooo goooood.  Just can’t get enough of these babies.  Mostly I like to dwell on them for a long time.  Every once in a while I consume them very quickly and all at once.  There is never a bad time to read this type of tweet no matter what anyone else tells you.  They lift you up when you are feeling down, they add that special spark to your day, they never let you down.  Just don’t over do it.  You can get a major headache if you try to process too many Tw-ocolates not to mention a real guilt trip.  What the heck.  You only live once – right?

What are some of your favorite tweets?