Archive for category Michelle Works Out Loud

Thoughts on Thought Leadership

Last year I was part of Thought Leaders Business School.  I undertook this program to help me figure out how to build an independent business practice where I help others whom I want to choose to work with to create value in my field based on my expertise, insight and experience.  However, I didn’t tell a lot of people I was undertaking it.  I felt uncomfortable about the ‘Thought Leader’ part of the title.  I was concerned that because I was undertaking the program it would sound like I was wanting to claim the title of ‘Thought Leader’ for myself.  It’s a label that has a lot of negative connotations if someone applies it to themselves, and it made me cringe a little.

A recent post by Helen Blunden titled You Are Not a Thought Leader touched a nerve with me.  She described how she had “begun to tire of the self-claimed accolades of “thought leadership” ” which she characterises as being about people building a following through publishing and speaking in order to gain credibility and a reputation in their field.  I had to read her post a few times to get beyond my emotional reaction and see that it is the superficial reputation-building through slick marketing that she is criticising.  Her response is for people to build credibility through action, and to let their body of work and the impact that it makes on others be the basis of their reputation.

I agree with Helen’s view that credibility and reputation need to be earned through valuable contribution.  However, we live in a society with a bias to action and we struggle to make enough time and space to think.  The success of Nancy Kline’s book series ‘Time To Think’ is indicative of how we struggle to create conditions conducive to thinking.  There are people who make the time and effort to think deeply in a way that challenges the status quo who make a valuable contribution and impact upon others.  Harold Jarche’s body of work on Personal Knowledge Mastery and Jane Hart’s on Modern Workplace Learning are examples of this.

A month after Helen’s post I came Dr Liz Alexander’s perspective on thought leadership.  This was via one of Tanmay Vora’s wonderful sketch-notes, which he created after interviewing Dr Alexander about her book on thought leadership.  Her definition of a thought leader is someone who disrupts others habitual approaches to issues that concern organisations, industries or society at large.  Like Helen, she asserts that if you are calling yourself a thought leader you most likely are not one.  “It is other’s assessment based on your ability to shift their thinking.”

I’ll leave you to read Tanmay’s interview with Dr Alexander for yourself.  What struck a chord with me was the spirit of intent she ascribes to thought leadership – that it’s about curiousity, courage, and challenging established points of view in order to provoke meaningful change.  Ironically, this is a spirit I see in Helen.  It is also a description that would make me comfortable to one day truly earn in the eyes of others.

(Please have no doubt that this post is not a disguised plea for others to tell me I am a thought leader.  Think of it more as a post exploring my aspiration to become a much better thinker in my field so that I may be part of a network of people who are contributing to positive change.)

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The Power of Continuous and Consolidated Reflection

I’ve read several end of year blog posts about ‘What I Learned This Year.’  I enjoy reading them as I’m interested in how others learn, and also find that it sparks ideas for my own development.  When I sat down to write a similar post about what I learned in 2017 I made a list of areas I had developed in, and was surprised by how long it was. It’s been a year of rich learning, and I don’t have time right now to sit down and cover everything in a single post.  Actually, given my list of projects and priorities, I’m not sure when I would make time for this.

The second realisation I had was that in most instances my learning in different areas / topics is incomplete – it’s a work in progress.  This makes sense as learning is continuous, and is part of being human.  While you may protest that you know someone who never seems to learn, as humans we can’t not learn – just some people do it more consciously and effectively than others.

The continuous nature of learning is why it’s important to reflect often, and one of the reasons that narrating your work and learning is so valuable. I learn quicker and better when I think about what I am doing and how I could do it better on a daily and/or weekly basis.  Recording my narration in writing or on video (generally via Snapchat) leaves a trail that I can follow to see how I moved from one point to another, including all the meanderings, double-backs, side-tracks and dead ends along the way.  By recording my narration I create a resource for further reflection and learning.  This record helps to fill in the gaps and inaccuracies in my memory of what I did, how I did it and what the experience was like as I was doing it.  It informs my future direction and next steps, as well as my learning methods. Where I choose to Work Out Loud and share some of this with others I have the opportunity to deepen my learning via feedback and discussion.

There is also benefit in looking at my progress and patterns over a longer chunk of time.  This helps to consolidate my learning and look ahead to how I can apply this and what I want to learn and create next.  I find three months is long enough time to gain useful insight, particularly when combined with a quarterly planning cycle.  The transition from one year to the next is a point where many of us slow down a little and is a natural point in the calendar to review and plan.  This is why there are so many ‘what I learned last year’ and ‘my goals for the coming year’ style of blog and video posts.

Instead of one long post to mark the passing of 2017 and arrival of 2018 I will do a series of shorter posts focussed on one specific topic per post.  I may chunk it down even further and post about one aspect of what I’m learning about a topic….

Wait!  I think I just said I’m going to Work Out Loud on an ongoing basis.

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Podcasts for Learning & Development Professionals

I find podcasts an interesting and easy way to stay abreast of trends and developments in Learning and Development (L&D).  When scrolling through episodes of one of my regular podcasts recently I noticed a “You Might Also Like” feature on the Podcast app which suggested other podcasts that I might be interested in.  This has nudged me to expand my listening menu.  I’ve subscribed to the set below (some old favourites, mandy new) and am listening consciously to several episodes of each podcast with the intent of writing a review.

I started this process about a week ago and have two immediate observations.  The first is that it’s easy to identify ‘hot topics’ in the industry as they are being covered by different podcasts.  These topics include Virtual Reality, curation and xAPI.  The second is that a varied listening diet is healthy.  Although there may be some common topics, each podcast brings different perspectives to it based on the people who feature on the podcast and the style or tone of the show.

Please let me know if there are other L&D podcasts you like to listen to so I can try them out too.




My Learning Plan for #LT17Asia

I’m attending Learning Technologies Asia conference in Singapore 7-8 November 2017.  Part of mypreparation for any conference is to set goals and make  some lists to help me get the most out of the conference.

This is my first conference in Asia, and I will be speaking as well as chairing two sessions. These factors open up some additional opportunities for me at #LT17Asia to meet and learn from people I would not normally be in contact with, as well as deepening existing relationships. When I prepared my lists I noticed that my goals and opportunities are influenced by my recent work, especially the Learning Technologies Review I conducted for a client, as well as projects I’d like to tackle in my own business.


  • Deepen my knowledge of learning technologies, building on the recent Learning Technologies Review I completed for a client
  • Get ideas for content curation strategy for my business
  • Discover new case studies and examples of good practice
  • Find something helpful to share with each client I have worked with in 2017
  • Share session notes via Twitter backchannel and my blog
  • Make a video about the conference
  • Trial conference action plan template from Arun Pradhan’s Learn2Learn app


  • Build my network in Asian region
  • Connect effectively with 20 new people on LinkedIn
  • Get to know other speakers, especially panellists
  • Learn about being a digital nomad from Ant Pugh
  • Discover something new about other attendees that I already know
  • Informally mentor someone who is attending from a client organisation


  • Be of service as chair for Helen Blunden’s session on curation and host of panel discussion on enterprise learning
  • Provide participants in my Working Out Loud (WOL) session with a clear understanding of the benefits of WOL, practical examples of what it looks like and approaches to getting started with WOL in their organisations. Help them to identify at least 3 specific actiins they will take on WOL after the session
  • Attend sessions I’ve selected, make great notes and share them via Twitter and blog


  • Talk to any VR and AR exhibitors about learning solutions they’ve developed
  • Find out which exhibitors are using xAPI and how
  • Find platforms that use adaptive learning and understand the underlying mechanics
  • Enter all competitions and pick up giveaways for my daughter

Oh, I also want to swim in the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands, and eat chilli crab.


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Learning To Learn – Easier than Ever with Learn2Learn

Arun Pradhan has recently released the Learn2Learn app.  I was excited when I trialled a development version of this app a couple of months ago, and felt this same excitement today when I downloaded the released version to my phone.  Please note that I have no commercial interest in this product. I am encouraging people to use it because sound learning skills are vital to thriving and I believe this app is a high value tool to help people to be more powerful learners.  I’ll be using it to improve my learning skills and habits – and expect to blog about what I’m learning when ‘nudged’ by the app.


Here’s a testimonial I’ve sent to Arun:

Continuous learning holds the key to staying abreast of change, identifying opportunities, adapting, and taking control of our careers.  Most of us could be more powerful learners.  Perhaps you need to improve your mindset, learning skills and techniques, take specific actions or develop better habits to boost your personal learning. The Learn2Learn app addresses all these aspects in a crisp, clear, concise and actionable way.  The beautiful visual design and easy-to-use interface make this app a joy to use. There is considerable flexibility in how you explore the content and lots of options for practical application.  With the additional references for deeper learning, and encouragement to share your learning with others via social media and an online community this app will fuel your learning on an ongoing basis, regardless of your domain.  The Learn2Learn website describes it perfectly as “a course, coach and cheat sheet in your pocket.”  Get this app, use it, stretch yourself and see yourself grow.  This is an awesome investment in yourself and your career.

Would love to know what others thing of this app.

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Use Data to Start Conversations

I attended a vibrant webinar today where Laura Overton presented a high level overview of the first Towards Maturity regional benchmark study of Learning and Development (L&D) in Australasia.  The webinar was hosted by the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD).  I’ve compiled the tweets from the webinar (via Storify) if you want to get a flavour for key points.  Keep an eye out for the webinar recording to be posted by AITD.  Even better – download the report from the Towards Maturity site.

Early in the webinar Laura made the statement “Use data to start conversations.”  I’m not sure if she was trying to encourage the webinar participants to get active in the chat box – I don’t think she needed to as the group were already exchanging views, and the conversation picked up even more as the webinar progressed.  In the coming week as I read and think about the data in the report I’ll post about the findings and invite others to join in discussion about the data.  I expect that LinkedIn will be a good place to do this.

Today I’m thinking more about the use of data to start conversations and some of the ways I’ve seen this done recently.  Those who follow my Working Out Loud page and Twitter account will know that I have used the Towards Maturity benchmarking process and tool in my work at both Coca-Cola Amatil and Qantas.  I have also encouraged other L&D practitioners to complete the benchmarking in order to reflect on their goals, strategy, results and practices and inform action.  Of course, to turn data into action requires conversation in order to gain insight from the data.  One of the interesting conversations we had at Qantas as a result of benchmarking was to compare maturity of tactics used by different L&D teams and ask ‘what are the teams doing differently from each other, why, and how could we improve our practices’ (i.e. what can we learn from each other).  If you’re curious you can read more about what Qantas learned from benchmarking.

We also used the Learning Landscape Audit at Qantas – a ‘learner voice’ survey that provided insights into things like what and how people were learning, how they wanted to learn, use of technology in work and learning.  One piece of data that has started many conversations was that over 65% of the 1,400 Qantas employees who completed the survey use their own devices to access resources for work and learning.  This greatly exceeded expectations, particularly for workforce segments such as baggage handlers.  It opened up conversations exploring what this means for the delivery of performance support and learning solutions.

Of course, if you have an LMS you have lots of data you could probe into and look at from different angles.  For instance, what’s the average attendance at your face to face learning sessions?  What if you were to find that you had courses being delivered face to face where the average class size was less than two people (yes, this is a real example).  This sparked some discussions about why this is the case and what could be done differently.

Two weeks ago, during the conduct of a learning technologies review for a client, I familiarised myself with xAPI. The real value in using xAPI is the opportunity to transform data about work and learning into a common language and analyse it to gain a wide range of insights including what top performing people in a role do differently in both their work and learning, and what learning interventions actually make a different to workplace performance. I have become very excited about xAPI and they potential insights we can gain using it and the opportunity to embed more learning into the workflow.  Imagine if you could gather evidence of compliant behaviours through analysis of people’s work instead of pushing lots of people through mandatory recurrent training and assessment to demonstrate compliance.  Of course, a lot of conversations would be required with stakeholders around the data in order to get to this point.  So, I’ve digressed a little here -> this is my ‘half-baked’ Working Out Loud space after all.

If I’ve aroused your curiosity about xAPI, here are a couple of introductory resources that I found helpful:

Is it time to move from SCORM to xAPI – from Workstar (download their White Paper on xAPI while you are on their site)

Change your life with data: an introduction to xAPI – from Kineo

Would love to hear from others about how they are using data to start conversations (not restricted to the domain of Learning and Development).



Five Moments of Need and Learning Technologies

I’ve just started work on a review of technologies for learning design and delivery for a large corporate organisation.  The output of this review is a high level 3-year technologies implementation plan.

One of my first steps is to prepare a set of requirements that the selected technologies should meet.  I also wanted to frame some generic use cases that could be used to help select and screen a suite of technologies.  The 70:20:10 framework may have been adequate for this purpose.  However I was concerned that it may limit the range of technologies considered.  Instead I’ve used the “Five Moments of Need” model described by Bob Mosher and Contrad Gottfredson, in their 2011 book, Innovative Performance Support.  The authors summarise these moments in an eLearning Industry article as:

1.  New: Learning something for the first time

2. More: Expanding knowledge of what has been learned.

3. Apply: Acting upon what has been learned. This can include planning, remembering, or adapting.

4. Solve: Using knowledge to solve a problem in a situation when something didn’t work out as expected.

5. Change: Needing to learn a new way of doing something. This requires giving up practices that are comfortable for practices that are new and unknown.

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Mapping Technologies to the Five Moments

Below is my initial mapping a range of learning technologies against the five moments.  I’m sure that this mapping will be refined as I work through the review and consider more specific use cases and delve further into technologies that I’m less familiar with.

Notes on mapping:

  1. The technologies are not mutually exclusive e.g. video may be used as part of eLearning, virtual online sessions or social learning.
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a label that seems to be applied to a range of functionality from basic automation of processes to more sophisticated adaptive and personalised learning.  I need to clarify what forms of AI are in scope.

Initial observations on mapping

The map points out the relative inflexibility of eLearning and Learning Management Systems across the range of moments of need.

I’m sure that there are some boxes that could be marked with a cross in the table, even if a little creativity would be required to use them to meet a specific moment. Even so, there are a lot of crosses entered, suggesting that some of the technologies are very versatile.   To ensure that the mapping assists in discriminating between technologies I may update it to highlight the moments that each technology is particularly strong in meeting.

Your thoughts?

I’m curious about whether others have a different view from that shown below as to whether / how a technology can be used for different moments of need.

I’m also open to questions you may have that I could potentially answer as I undertake this review.

I look forward to your thoughts in comments against this post.



The Sacred Duty of Recording how our (L&D) Strategy has Evolved

It’s been almost 12 months since I returned to working independently.  Very shortly after leaving my last role as an employee I started a two month assignment at Qantas to undertake a strategic review of the current state Learning and Development (L&D).  It was a pilot focussed on three L&D teams which developed into a Group-wide review, and then into a transformation program.  Twelve months later the program is well underway and several internal people have been appointed to Project Lead roles.  It’s time for me to handover to the new Project Leads, complete some specific deliverables (including a learning technology road map and an L&D Capability framework) and to step back from day-to-day project involvement.

My primary task this week has been to prepare “handover packs” and start on boarding one of the new Project Leads.  I’ve spent most of my time this week using OneNote to compile the handover information.  It’s the same tool I used in September 2016 to finalise handover to my team at Coca-Cola Amatil.  Again, I’m finding it a very versatile way of compiling history, current state, and next steps for a range of strategic and tactical work items.  However, this post isn’t really about OneNote so I’ll move on.

This post is about the importance of having a documented history, something that captures the arc over time of how and why your strategy has evolved.

For example, at Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) I recorded how the Supply Chain Technical Academy had been set up in early 2012 with a mission to develop frameworks and programs to develop technical capabilities for new platforms that the business had invested in heavily over the preceding three years in order to ensure sustainable capability development and reduce reliance on equipment manufacturers.  By early 2014 we had largely met that mission, and the business strategy had been refreshed to focus more on efficiency and business continuity.  Our maturity as a learning organisation had developed, and our strategy expanded to include continuous workplace learning, with a particular focus on improving business continuity through knowledge sharing.  As I approached the end of my time at CCA the business strategy was shifting again and it was unclear at that point how the capability strategy should adapt to best support this shift.  The team member who was stepping into my role had spent a significant amount of time in Indonesia setting up a new Academy to support CCA’s local operations so there was a gap in his experience of how our strategy had evolved in the Australian operations, what had worked well, and the lessons we’d learned.  I felt significant responsibility to bridge that gap as best as I could, and spent time telling him stories about what had happened in addition to writing up this history and preparing presentations that would help him to link the future strategy to the past.

When I started preparing handover notes for the Qantas project I was aware that there had been several key shifts in insight and direction over the 12 months we had been grappling with the question of how to set up a higher impact L&D operating model.  And this was where I started – the arc of how and why the operating model had evolved.  The past seven months in particular on this project have been a period of intense activity with well over 25 workshops conducted, a LOT of stakeholders engaged, and  range of surveys and analysis of existing data sets undertaken.  We’ve spent too little unstructured time just ‘thinking out loud’ and making sense of all of these discussions and analyses.  Rather, we’ve been thinking on the run with a shifting cast of stakeholders.  It felt like a sacred duty as the one person who has been involved in this program from the start to retrace the path and document it to inform the thinking of others.

We have such a bias to action, an emphasis on delivery, in today’s organisations that we make too little time to think – to look back and look forward, connecting the two, making sense of where have come from in order to inform where we are heading.  This is as true of me as most people.  I make too little time to pause, reflect, and record how I got to a particular point and how this links to where I am headed next.  It’s time to reinstate and improve upon the personal quarterly reviews I used to undertake as part of my personal routine.  Don’t wait until a ‘handover’ or transition point to capture where you’ve been – it’s a good argument to both work out loud on a continuous basis and also to periodically reflect on and record whatever is important to the ‘big picture’ in your world.



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Michelle Works Out Loud – Crown College L&D Case Study

Today I attended the Forward Government Learning Conference (#govlearn) held in Melbourne, Australia.  It was an intimate event, with fewer than 30 participants.  This meant we had more opportunity for interaction and discussion than at larger conferences.

I take notes on conference sessions using Evernote, and post a link to my notes on Twitter.  In 2017 I have replaced my old habit with a high volume of short tweets during presentations with focusing on taking better quality notes, polishing these up a bit and adding links to relevant resources, writing up my key takeaways and reflections on each session, then sharing these more comprehensive notes.

There were some excellent case studies at #govlearn today, most of which were new to me.  I’ll post all of my notes in the next few days.  Meantime, here is a taster with my notes from a case study presented by Shane Thomas from Crown.  What I especially liked about Shane’s work is how he had deepened his understanding of his business, built credibility by adding business value, and now has excellent stakeholder support.

Summary of my takeaways / analysis

  • Value of building and leveraging a brand for L&D.  In this case Crown College (as an RTO) is the brand.  Building L&D brand around strong Crown business brand has worked well given the industry turnover and need to attract Allen.  Also, having own RTO suits this business and industry (see noes below on industry).  In this case Shane used industry awards to build the brand, both internally and exernally.  you need to figure out what brand and approach to brand-building will suit your business context.
  • Importance of business buy in, especially at executive level.  This is evidenced by high involvement of leaders in programs, especially leadership programs.  Linkage has been created to business outcomes in leadership programs via workplace projects (see detailed notes for more)
  • Importance of L&D developing a deep understanding of their business.  There is a virtuous cycle in evidence where Shane has sought to understand the business, hence been able to better meet their needs, building credibility, and earning a ‘place at the table.’  Given Shane’s long tenure and deliberate efforts to understand business context, drivers and financials, and add business value, he has been able to build deep relationships with senior leaders in the business.

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Michelle Works Out Loud – A Tool to Capture & Communicate What You Know

Today’s daily dispatch is about a tool I use to help me record and communicate things I know.  It’s called a pink sheet.  I was introduced to pink sheets in a business school program that I’m currently undertaking.  After several months of using them I’ve finally gotten the hang of the template and am finding it a useful way to capture my body of knowledge in a subject area and figure out how to communicate it in a more rounded way.

The template is shown on the left.  The idea is to convey a single key point on one page in a range of ways.

Moving vertically through the template from top to bottom the point is presented from big picture through to detail as follows:

  • Context – big picture, what’s it about
  • Concept – what does it mean, explained using a brief statement followed by a short explanation of the statement
  • Content – detail and specifics that illustrate the point

Moving horizontally, left and right brain thinking are covered as follows:

  • Left  –  studies, statistics and a model
  • Right – metaphor and stories

Here is a completed template to illustrate how the elements come together.  You can take a closer look at a PDF version of this pink sheet.  Note that it’s not ‘perfect’ – it’s a working document that can be used as source content for a range of purposes.  As I use the material I can continue to refine and improve it.  When I find new research or a better metaphor for instance I can add it to a pink sheet.

I can also ‘layer’ pink sheets, going deeper into a specific element of a high level pink sheet.  For example, there are several different elements in the model on this sample pink sheet.  For each of these elements one or more further pink sheets can be created to drill down into these elements.  Over time a set of interconnected sheets is built up.

Another very elegant aspect of pink sheets is that I can combine different sets of pink sheets in a subject area as required to create a presentation, a workshop, a paper, even a mentoring program or, in time, a book.  It becomes very efficient to repackage what I know in a range of formats and communicate it.  All in all, a very useful tool.

This post is part of my daily dispatches experiment, inspired by Austin Kleon.  This is Daily Dispatch Number 4.






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