Power Up Your Professional Development with Social Learning

As a leader and professional its critical to take charge of your own learning. Staying abreast of shifts in society and your industry and keeping up to date with research and evolving practices in your field are critical to remain relevant.  One of the most effective and flexible ways to do this is to connect and interact with others.

I am fortunate to co-host the Learning Uncut podcast.  At the end of every episode we ask our guests ‘What is the biggest thing you do for your own professional development?’

Many of them describe some form of social learning.  They connect with other people both inside and outside their own organisations.  They visit others in their workplace and look at how they work and discuss the problems and challenges they face.  They attend networking events and conferences as much for the conversations with other attendees as to hear from the speakers.

Some deliberately seek out people who are different in their background and thinking, introducing diversity into their network.  Many use social media to interact with others around the globe.  Your opportunity to engage with others is not limited by geography.

Get inspiration from what Learning Uncut guests have said about their social learning practices for your own professional development and that of the people you lead.

Tony Dunford

“Be as connected as you can with people who less corporate in their thinking and perhaps more radical in their views while being in the sort of learning space and so I have a number of connections with people in unions, people not in unions, people who work in startups, people are working in incubators and all that sort of stuff and someone I can’t remember who but there’s a great quote around the fact that if you look at your team and there’s not some awkward uncomfortable people who don’t look like they fit then you probably haven’t got the right people, and so I always like to make sure my network is a mix of all of that, who are challenging me to do uncomfortable things which is good because that’s what we need.”

Listen to Tony Dunford’s Learning Uncut Episode – Skills For Life

James Scoggins

“Well, at the moment, I’ll say Agile has been a real learning journey for me, so I’m a bit of a magpie. And there’s quite a few Agile team within BNZ. I just like to go and see how they work, so it’s going and spending a bit of time with them, looking at their visual boards and talking to them, what problems they’re facing. So, I think it’s just getting in front of other parts of the business and seeing how they’re doing things.”

 

Listen to James Scoggins and Renetta Alexander’s Learning Uncut Episode – Agile L&D

Kate Fraser

“For a long time I was a team of one and I know that lots of L&D practitioners are and so it was important for me to get out of our organisation and connect with other Learning and Development professionals. So that might be networking events I went to lots of those and also you know just finding out, key people to connect with and you know taking them out for lunch and having a chat and just being really proactive in speaking to others and learning from their experiences and trying to reciprocate where you can as well.”

I became quite active on social media for the same reason and I also participated in many, many, many webinars so that you know I was sort of keeping on top of you know what were the what were the key issues out there and most of it was about reaching out side of my organisation connecting with other L&D; practitioners and learning from their experiences rather than feeling like I had to do it all by myself.

Listen to Kate Fraser’s Learning Uncut episode – Making a Capability Framework Valuable

Gail Bray

“I’m a great believer in leading by walking around. So I tend to get out into the business and I’ll drive out to Sunshine Campus. We’ve got about five campuses and I actually go and talk to the teachers and I talk to the managers out there and we just chew the fat and how things are going. And I learn a lot from them. And I then bring that back into my team.”

 

Listen to Gail Bray’s Learning Uncut episode – Transforming Vocational Education and Training

Emma Weber and Marie Daniels

“I do invest in going to conferences. I also have coaches that I work with. But I think, going to a conference, you have the networking, the synchronicity of the people you might meet, you have the expos, you have experts, you have the keynotes. I think for me, it’s a really good investment.”  Emma Weber

 

“I’ve been lucky enough just to return from my first trip to the ATD. I was just blown away by the length and breadth of the exhibition hall. And just the sessions, and the line outside of the conference, the networking, and discussing sessions back with the Australian contingent. So for me, that being, maybe not the biggest thing, but the most exciting thing for my own development, probably in about the last three years.” Marie Daniels

 

Listen to Emma Weber and Marie Daniels’ Learning Uncut episode – Learning Transfer Bot

Your Turn

What will you do to connect and interact with others, powering up your professional development?

How could you support others to improve their own professional development practices using social learning?

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Getting to Grips with my Newsletter Tools – for Now

I had wanted to start a newsletter for over 12 months before I finally did it.  I had completed a newsletter ‘toolkit’ session with my mentor Katie Mac (from Katie Mac Publicity) over 6 months before I published my first one.  What stopped me was (1) making time to develop content, and (2) not having the skills to design and create the newsletter template.

I addressed both obstacles by engaging someone with the skills to co-design the newsletter look and feel and then set up the template in MailChimp.  Paying for this service increased my motivation to find and protect the time to develop newsletter content.  I tend to work best to deadlines, so created an arbitrary deadline of July 2018 to release my first monthly newsletter.

I’m currently working on content for my September newsletter (a little later than I had intended to, but will release it this week).  I decided it was time to take over the technical newsletter production tasks.  My designer provided an online demonstration of how to replicate a previous newsletter and update both the content and design elements.  It’s actually very straightforward.

I’ve also used Canva for the first time to edit titles for articles within the newsletter.  This is an unexpected bonus as I’ve been looking for a reason to learn how to use Canva.  I often see attractive visuals online that other people have created using Canva and have yearned to be able to produce my own.  Today I took my first baby step toward this goal.

The general approach that I’ve used to developing skills needed for my newsletter is one that I commonly apply to get things done in my business.  Where I don’t have the time to figure out how to do something myself I engage someone who can do some setup efficiently then get them to train me.

I also recognise that while it makes me feel good to master new tools it may not be the best use of my time.  Particularly as I am shifting how I work and adopting a business model rather than a solo practitioner model, my time will be better spent on strategic, high leverage activities such as business development, marketing and sales, product development and some delivery.  I may end up outsourcing technical newsletter production again or engaging a team member who does this work alongside other operational and administrative tasks.

PS: September 2018 newsletter theme is social learning.  Newsletter goes on on 21 September – sing up now on website to receive a copy.

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I Travelled to Get Unstuck

From January to August this year I lived on the road with my 13 year old daughter.  We travelled around the east coast of Australia, as far south-west as Discovery Bay in Victoria and as far north as Port Douglas in Queensland.  I drove around 12,000km as we moved from one Airbnb to another, or stayed with friends.

Our trip ended a month ago and we’re settling into our new city – Brisbane.

I’m currently writing my September newsletter, and want to reflect on what I’ve learned about my work in the introduction.  I was having trouble getting started writing this piece yesterday so turned to ‘travel quotes’ on Pinterest for inspiration.  Thanks to the Bohemian Bowmans blog I came across a quote that perfectly captured why I travelled.

Source: http://bohemianbowmans.com/20-travel-quotes-youve-never-heard/

While my imagination and capacity for enthusiasm hadn’t completely eroded, this quote got me started with my opening paragraph:

I embarked on an extended road trip because I felt stuck. I lived in a busy, expensive city. I worked hard on consulting projects to pay the rent.  I rarely socialised.  I was struggling to support my child contend with an alienating school environment.  I felt my choices, freedom and vitality being stripped away from me.  I travelled to get unstuck.

You’ll have to wait for (or sign up for) my newsletter for the rest of the article.

Spoiler alert – yes, I did get unstuck.  The extended period on the road has opened up new ways of working and new opportunities.  I’m currently in that ‘in-between’ stage, the ‘unfrozen’ stage, where I’m exploring possibilities and alternatives for how I want to work and reshaping my business model.  My mindset is open and expansive, and I’m excited about the options I’m exploring.  (More on this in upcoming Daily Dispatches.)

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What I Learned This Month – August 2018

Using Personas in My Work

I’ve noticed that I’m using personas, especially the empathy mapping component, more frequently and fluidly in my work.  I posted a daily dispatch about this in late August.  I often share this introduction to empathy mapping with others if they are curious or I want to use the tool with them.

Use of an Online Collaboration Tool

I recently project managed the refresh of the Learning and Performance Institute’s Learning and Development Capability Map (yeah – it’s a mouthful – #LPICapMap rolls off the tongue easier).  The updated Map will be live in October 2018.  Our process evolved during the project and we realised that we needed to engage experts and leading practitioners around the globe to write or update skill descriptions.  We had a limited timeframe for our 40+ volunteers to produce their deliverable.  I set up a Slack group and added a channel for each working group.  I’m convinced that using this tool was critical to enabling the working groups to effectively work together under tight deadlines, and we would never have me the deadline if we had used email alone.

A Quiz a Day

This is a non-work example of learning as a by-product of an activity that has many other purposes – amongst them a bit of family fun.  I recently stayed with my parents overnight.  My 92 year old grandmother lives with them.  After dinner every evening my mum gets the daily quiz from the newspaper and whoever is there joins in answering the questions.  It’s great with social bonding, helps keep my grandmother’s brain active, and we all get to learn a little something and feel closer in the process.  Thank you Mum!

Your Turn

What about you?  What is something you’ve learned recently?  How have you been learning?  What group activities do you build learning into or see it as an incidental outcome?

What could you share with others?  (Nudge for all the leaders reading this – sharing your learning with your team is a great way to role model and encourage continuous learning.)

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The Relationship between Employee and Customer Experience

Since it was published in March 2018 I’ve found myself dipping in and out of the excellent Deakin report ‘Enabling the Future of Work.’  It is a clear analysis of key trends impacting the future of work and implications for Learning and Development (L&D) professionals.

One theme in the Deakin report is the rise of human experience.  The obvious manifestation of this is the increasing expectations of customers.  Most organisations have customer experience as a key element in their strategy.  For this strategy to be truly effective there needs to be a parallel emphasis on employee experience.  (Refer to page 8 of the Deakin report for their thoughts on implications for L&D.)

I’m currently delving into the implications of Artificial Intelligence and the augmented worker.  I’d like to form a view of what AI means for how people work and how to support them to learn and perform into the future.  While jotting down some thoughts on this question last week I drew up a concept I called the ‘Experience Value Chain Continuum’ (yes, a bit clunky – but work in progress).  My diagram has employees/workers (noting increasing use of non-employees as part of many organisation’s workforce) at one end of the continuum and customers at the other end.

Yesterday Renetta Alexander shared an article via Twitter that did a much better job at describing the relationship between customer and employee experience.  Michel Hogan calls it the ‘employee and customer experience loop‘.  She depicts is as either a ‘doom loop’ or a ‘virtuous cycle.’

In the absence of a diagram in this article I’ve created a new one myself.  It’s a simple representation of the concept of an amplifying relationship between customer experience and employee experience.  (I’ve used symbology from the field of system dynamics which is a field that looks at the relationships of events or activities separated by space and time.  Could be the start of a bigger model looking at the interplay of these two dimensions of human experience.)

 

 

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Personas as an integral part of how I work

I’m noticing personas popping up more frequently in my work.  Two years ago I wasn’t using personas in my work.  A year ago I would have made a very deliberate choice to use a persona to explore an aspect of a problem or opportunity.  Now there is a fluidity to when and how I use personas that has embedded itself in how I work and think.  In part this is a consequence of having  developed and delivered the ‘From Order Taker to Performance Partner’ workshop four times with Arun Pradhan earlier this year.  Development of personas was a step in the performance-based process at the heart of this workshop.  Perhaps this level of exposure and repetition has just ingrained the value of personas as part my process.  They’re an efficient and effective way to undertake people-centred exploration of issues and opportunities.

Example – Thinking about augmented workers

Last week I got ‘stuck’ writing a blog post about Industry 4.0 and tacit knowledge.  When this happens it sometimes helps me to hand-write, exploring what I know about a topic and what questions I have.  As you can see from my note-book page below I started to explore what people need to learn to become an augmented worker (people working closely with robots and Artificial Intelligence).  I very quickly drew up a small human shape and symbols to prompt me to brainstorm what a person would need to think, feel and do to be effective as an augmented worker.  While this is just a rough first draft, it illustrates how I used a persona to get a human-centred perspective on my question.

 

Example – Designing a New Operating Model

In July I ran a workshop with a software training team whose leader wanted to define a more sustainable operating model.  I wanted to introduce them to personas as a tool for designing learning and performance solutions.  I also saw a personas as a useful way of exploring the needs and motivations of different groups important to design of a new operating model.  It is easy to overlook the experience of the team itself as a stakeholder – so this is where we started.  I facilitated development of a persona for a representative member of their team.  I used an expanded version of the persona for this where we identified their motivation, pain points and needs in doing their job and providing a service.

Where and How Are You Using Personas?

A number of recent guests on my Learning Uncut podcast have spoken about how they use personas in their work.  Although the tool originated in design of products and services, it is being adopted by more Learning and Development professionals.  Personas are rapidly becoming a mainstream tool in learning and performance solution design.  I note that Connie Malamed wrote an article about using personas for Instructional Design way back in 2009.

How are you using personas?

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LPI L&D Capability Map – Consultative Approach

Over the past three months I’ve project managed a refresh of the Learning and Performance Institute’s Capability Map for Learning and Development professionals…  Yeah, the full title is a mouthful.  It abbreviates to ‘LPI L&D Capability Map.’  I’ve been narrating my work on this project on Snapchat (where you can find me as @michelleockers6).  I’ve downloaded my daily Snapchat videos and intend to create a single video narrating the refresh process from my experience as the Project Manager.

For today’s daily dispatch I won’t give a lot of background to the project as it would turn this into a lengthy post.  The brief version ….  In 2012 the LPI development a Capability Map to define the skills required in a L&D department.  They published it on their website and made it freely available for people to self-assess.  In the six years since it was published there have been a lot of shifts impacting the role and skillset of L&D.  Recognising this, the LPI decided to refresh the Capability Map.

The approach taken has been highly consultative with leading L&D practitioners and people who have used the Capability Map around the globe.  Consultative mechanisms have included the following:

  • Open survey to gather feedback on skills described in the 2012 Capability Map.  Survey was sent to approximately 3,000 people who had self-assessed using the Capability Map.  It was also posted on LinkedIn with an open invitation for anyone interested to provide feedback.
  • Steering Group consisting of 22 leading L&D practitioners who reviewed feedback, provided guidance on changes required to the set of skills and shifts that needed to be reflected in skill descriptions.  The Steering Group also endorsed the updated Capability Map.
  • Working Groups consisting of approximately 50 people (including some Steering Group members) who drafted new or updated descriptions of skills within their area of expertise.  This was an intensive activity with Working Group members collaborating across countries and time zones to  complete skill descriptions in two to three weeks.

Continuing the approach, when the LPI L&D Capability Map is launched in October 2018 a four month ‘Consultation Period’ will occur where people using the refreshed Capability Map will be invited to provide feedback on usability.  This feedback will be used to refine (or ‘tweak’) the Capability Map.

All Steering Group and Working Group members are volunteers who recognised the value of the Capability Map to the L&D profession and were willing to contribute to the project.  It’s been an absolute pleasure to engage with so many people and to be privy to many good discussions about the skills needed now and into the next two-three years in the profession.

Note – look out for more on the updated Capability Map on LinkedIn and Twitter in October.  Posts will use hashtag #LPICapMap

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Performance Support vs Learning – degrees of difficulty

Today I listened the The Good Practice podcast episode 108 – a discussion with Nick Shackleton-Jones about ‘What is the proper role of L&D.’ It took me a little while to get a handle on where Nick was coming from, and I don’t agree with everything he said.  I am more optimistic than Nick regarding the power of L&D professionals to shift the perception of people in their organisations regarding their role.

One very useful idea that struck me was a distinguishing feature between performance support and learning.  As summarised in my sketch, performance support should be seamless to be effective, while learning experience should be disruptive and challenging.  The value of making learning difficult aligns with Robert Bjork’s research into desirable difficulty, a term he coined in 1994.

A recent example from my experience relates to navigating the streets in new towns I visited during a seven month long road trip.  I was staying in a different town typically for one to two weeks before moving on.  I was readily able to find my way in the car from my accommodation to local amenities using a map application on my phone.  However, I wanted to be able to navigate local streets without using the phone in case this was ever necessary.  Even after driving a route several times using the application I often got lost the first one or two times I navigated unassisted in a new town.  Reliance on performance support meant diminished my recall of local routes.  Of course, I learned from these mistakes and was subsequently able to find my way around – thanks to the challenging experience.

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My Weekly Personal Work and Learning Plan

In late April 2018 Helen Blunden wrote a blog post ‘Create Your Own Personal learning Plan.’  She included a downloadable template.  I wanted to try using her template, but was travelling at the time without ready access to a printer.  I hand-drew up her template in a notebook and started using it (I love starting fresh notebooks so this action gave me a burst of enthusiasm).  Each weekend I fill in the template in my notebook with the things that I feel are most important to accomplish in the coming week.

My first weekly template:

Of course, this template is incomplete as a planning tool for it does not include any scheduling or capacity management.  However, I’ve found it a useful part of my planning process.  It helps me to make conscious choices about what aspects of my work and learning to progress each week.  I supplement it with my calendar and to do list (for which I use the 2Do app).

I’ve evolved the template over the four months I’ve been using it to cover both work and learning.  It made sense to do this as the two are closely integrated for me (and many others, although not everyone recognises this).  I am constantly learning through my work, and find it important to have a project to apply new knowledge and skills to as part of my learning process.  In some instances that project is to create a piece of content (a blog, a video) that forces me to ‘sense-make’ and synthesise new knowledge with my experience and prior knowledge.

My current weekly template:

I tend to get very consumed by my work.  For balance I’ve included some categories specifically for personal, non-work activities.  Now that I’ve stopped travelling and am settling into a new city I will probably add a category for a hobby or relaxation.

I’ve had a couple of challenges using the template.  The first is that I put more on my list each week than I can complete.  At times I’ve simply extended the completion period to two weeks.  I may try to reduce the template to a single A4 page to force me to reduce the number of activities listed each week.

The second challenge is that having the weekly plan in a notebook reduces visibility.  Often I did not look at the completed template until late in the week, when I would realise that I had missed opportunities to focus on the items I’d listed.  In the past month I’ve started an informal ‘Mastermind’ check-in with a friend.  This session helps hold me accountable for the key actions I’d committed to in the previous Mastermind session, and to clarify what is most important in the coming week.  I now complete my template immediately after the Mastermind session, and am conscious of referring to it more frequently during the week as I feel a stronger sense of accountability to my Mastermind buddy.

New location for my weekly template:

 

Today I copied this week’s completed template and pinned it on a noticeboard that sits on my newly set up desk.  It’s definitely more visible, and I expect this will improve progress on the activities I list each week.

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Preparing to Facilitate Social and Collaborative Learning Essentials

Earlier this year I facilitated the Social and Collaborative Learning Essentials course for the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) for the first time.  This is an eight week online course that helps participants get more intentional with social learning.  The course is conducted using social learning approaches.  Participants engage with content, each other and the facilitator (me!) in a number of online platforms and a series of webinars.

It was the first time I had facilitated the course, which was designed and curated by Patrick Phillips in 2017.  As I start to prepare for the next session to kick off on 25 September, I’m reviewing lessons learned from last time.

The course includes an action learning project which is the critical to support participants to apply their learning.  This project asks participants to develop or update the social learning strategy for their organisation.  They can do this as a standalone strategy, or integrated in their broader organisational learning strategy.

Several participants were active in the course online platforms (Curatr and Slack) early in the program, discussing  the challenges and opportunities that they felt social learning may help address.  It was these participants who went on to create the most comprehensive and well-considered strategies.  Their ideas and approaches formed progressively throughout the course and they used each other and me as a sounding board.  I built on this by adjusting the fortnightly webinars to  be hosted discussions rather than content delivery sessions.

I was surprised by how well the participants’ strategies came together in the final two weeks as they synthesised the entire course content, their discussions and insights into their own organisational context.  Each presented their strategy in a different format and style, and emphasised approaches and techniques that suited their context.  I’m confident that the participants who actually presented their strategy in the final course webinar got the most value out of the course.

The next time I facilitate the course I shall present a summary of some of the strategies developed by previous participants in the introductory webinar (with permission of course).  My intent is to give people a sense of what is possible and motivate them to working on their action learning project.  I shall also adjust some of the discussion questions in the initial modules to help participants clarify the organisational issues or opportunities that they would like to apply social learning to address.

One aspect I’ll give more thought to in the coming week is how trust built among the participants who were more active.  I’d like to identify what factors or dynamics helped to build trust, and consider what I can do to nurture this among the next course cohort.

You do not have to be an AITD member to complete the course.  Register here for the next course.

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