Supporting Narration – from Role Modelling to Guided Learning

For a number of months I have been using a strategy of role modelling, encouragement and positive reinforcement to support others in my work team to narrate their work.  I have written previously about the Working Out Loud 3 Habits experiment that I tried.  This strategy has had mixed results.  Three of the ten group members are posting on our ESN at least once a week.  On one hand, a 30% online community participation rate is relatively good.  However, we are aiming to build online communities and encourage people across the business unit to share their expertise via narrating their work.  As the Capability Community are key learning change agents, it’s important to increase their online narration as part of shifting their mindset and skills to enable them to lead and support others.

Recently I’ve been working with support of an external consultant, Helen Blunden of Activate Learning, on analysis and planning of a Community of Practice (COP) for our maintenance and engineering teams. During discussions with team members we have asked them about their view of narrating their work.  Their responses have been similar to feedback from the Capability Community.

Narrating ReactionsPeople don’t necessarily see the point of narrating their work.  They’re unsure of the benefit to themselves or others.  They can’t see how to fit it into their work flow when they are busy and it just feels like another task to do.  They don’t know how to do it – either how to use the online tools or how to talk about their work.  There are also psychological barriers – concerns about what others will think of them and read into their motives.

After discovering John Stepper’s Working Out Loud blog I have been thinking that a guided mastery approach could help to address these common barriers.  Last week in her Learning@Work keynote address on learning in a social workplace, Jane Hart provided the term I have been looking for to describe the approach that we shall adopt – Guided Social learning.  This semi-structured approach ‘scaffolds’ an online social learning process for participants providing them with some content/guidance and activities to get them started connecting with others and narrating their work.  The intent is to enable them to transition to continuous, autonomous online social learning either as a team or individuals.

We shall be designing and developing our Guided Social Learning program which we will launch internally in early 2015.  Although the program will include curated resources from the internet, it will be customised to our organisation – our tools, people and context.  I’m looking forward to working on this as I complete the Guided Social Learning Experience Design Program offered by the Modern Workplace Learning Centre this month.

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  1. #1 by tanyalau on January 25, 2015 - 8:36 pm

    Hi Michelle, thanks for sharing your journey with this – really interesting to read about the common challenges encountered when undertaking a project like this – and the strategies you are trying, and the outcomes. It’s always fascinated me, this building of virtual communities. It’s a lot of behaviour – and mindset – change to encourage people to adopt (not just skills and knowledge, but a whole new way of working…it’s essentially cultural change). It’s the long-game.
    We had similar conversations relating to PLNs in organisations in the ‘exploring PLNs’ mooc – one of the things I recall from it is the importance of leadership support in building this type of cultural change. But it’s also complex – people, and leaders need to understand the value themselves, through experience, of working this way. And it can be an extremely fine line between encouraging, modelling and imposing this type of mindset change on people.

    Don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but this post by Simon Terry offers a valuable perspective on approaching ESN use in organisations: . His point is not merely to focus on adoption alone when trying to introduce ESNs – but on personal value creation, and in encouraging individuals to change their work practices in ways that make sense to them.

    Thanks for sharing – hearing about how you experiment with different strategies is always inspiring. Look forward to learning more of the journey as you progress.

  2. #2 by Michelle Ockers on February 8, 2015 - 9:09 pm

    Yes, my experience is that it is a long-term behavioural change game. Getting enough good quality interaction going on is important so that those taking a look and considering whether to join in can see potential value. In an ESN your population is obviously a lot lower than in open spaces on the Internet, so you’ve got to find some champions and change agents to get the ball rolling. Another approach we are now about to launch is a guided social learning program to kick start a community in our Maintenance and Engineering teams (approx 180 people invited to participate). By doing activities together through the program we hope that enough of the group will see value that they will continue interacting and Working Out Loud. And of course we will facilitate the community, seeing it as a long term game.

    Simon Terry’s blog post has been very useful to shape our messaging about value. We have adopted “Connect, Share, Collaborate as a tagline, and used his diagram in early stages to talk about the WHY.

    I’ve recently started using the Wegner-Trayner value creation framework to discuss how networks and communities add value. There is a really useful diagram in Jane Bozarth’s article at link below. The article also includes a link to the full framework, which I think is essential reading for organisational practitioners serious about promoting networking and communities within organisations.

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