Posts Tagged Continuous Learning

How I Decided on My One ‘New’ Activity for 2019

Earlier this week I came across Jacob Morgan’s suggestion to do one thing every year you’ve never done before.  He recommends this as a way to keep growing and learning.

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I frequently take on more than I have capacity for.  The appeal of Morgan’s suggestion is that it improves focus and likelihood of getting really good at something.  The downside is potentially forgoing other activities that are interesting and valuable.  However, Morgan doesn’t say not to do other things.  My interpretation is to make one thing a key focus and put more effort into mastering it.

Without consciously applying this concept, in 2018 my one new thing was the Learning Uncut podcast.  I also did other things I hadn’t done before.  This included running a public workshop series and managing a highly collaborative global project virtually.  Each of these activities required development of new skills.  Each exposed me to significant learning opportunities.  However, the podcast stands out as it required the most sustained effort, and is I will continue to do it as a foundational element of my work.

To decide what my new focus activity is for 2019 I started with a short list of options.  They are actually all things I’ve done previously but, as I mentioned in a previous post, not all to the standard I would like.  The short list is:

  • Webinars
  • Dangerous Blogging
  • Online course(s)

I rated each from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high) using the following evaluation criteria:

  • Business Impact – Will it have a positive impact on my business success (sales, cash flow, profit)?
  • Contribution – Will it help others?  Over what time-scale?
  • Learning – Will it stretch me and help me to learn new, useful skills?
  • Joy – Does it spark joy for me? (An adaptation of Marie Kondo’s key question about possessions in their book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying)

My initial numerical evaluation failed to discriminate adequately between the options.  However, it did provide one critical insight.  I initially rated all options low against Joy.  To sanity check this I picked three activities that had brought me joy in 2018.  The common thread across these activities was collaboration and connection with others.  These were all activities I had undertaken with at least one other person and which allowed me to interact directly with many others.  This is something I have come to appreciate about myself in 2018 – collaboration is a critical ingredient of my best, most enjoyable work.  It also accelerates my learning.  So, whichever option I choose I should find a way to collaborate and connect as I do it.

I was still unsure which option to choose, so wrote a brief qualitative evaluation of each.

Webinars

I ran three webinars in late 2018, all with another person.  They are a good way to share knowledge and ideas.  Done well, they encourage action and support change.  They are versatile e.g. could be used for building capability, generating change and marketing.  I enjoy developing and delivering them.  They are a good way to connect with others and create an ongoing conversation.  I could so some in partnership with others, and some solo.  The technology and cost to get started is low and I could rapidly build upon my existing skills to deliver great webinars.

On the con side, a lot of webinars are delivered for free so it could be difficult to monetise them.  But not impossible.

Dangerous Blogging

This style of blog writing is about generating change in an area that matters to you.  The intent is to highlight what isn’t working now and share a vision for a different future.  My quest is to transform approaches to learning in organisations.  I’ve been blogging in this way under the guidance of a mentor, Katie McMurray, for two years.

This is different to my daily dispatches (one of which you are reading right now).  The purpose of a daily dispatch is to show a piece of your work for the purpose of learning and improvement in work practices (your own and others).  I find dangerous blogs much more challenging to write.  The stakes are higher and the effort to gather my thoughts and convey them more demanding.  I use a mentor for motivation, accountability and improving technique.  Katie Mac is also a source of good ideas and advice on other profile / publicity activities.  She provides a different perspective on my relevance and potential contribution.

I sometimes want to give up Dangerous Blogging.  I find it a lonely, occasionally frustrating activity.   I persist as I see tremendous value and potential to create change if I do this well and consistently.  It’s a longer-term play.  Belonging to Katie Mac’s Dangerous Blogging community connects me with a supportive group of fellow bloggers – we encourage and learn from each other.  Participating actively in this group is an important support mechanism, and takes the edge off the loneliness.  I could lean in more.

Online Course

I’ve developed online courses as part of a team inside an organisation and updated a largely curated course for a client.  However, I’ve not created any online courses in my own business.  Creating an online course requires a wide range of skills – all of which I could build or source through others.  Technology selection would require research and/or assistance.  I may require technical support with the build and/or hosting.  The commercial risk is higher on a course than a webinar.  Research and a lean development approach would help address this.  I could use webinars as part of my research and development.

Final Rating and Decision

I reviewed numerical ratings after completing a written summary.  Written reflection helped to clarify my thoughts and refine my ratings.

My decision on each option is:

  • Webinars – My focus activity for 2019
  • Dangerous Blogging – keep going, write regularly (one morning per week), participate actively in Katie Mac’s Dangerous Blogging community, build mastery over time
  • Online Course(s) – Assess in light of my progress in other areas and capacity in July 2019

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Questions to Help You Identify Your Development Goal(s)

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Today I created a preparation guide for people joining me for a Professional Development Planning session.  I am offering 1 hour mentoring sessions to help people accelerate their development with a plan that will keep them future-ready.  We will use transformative approaches fit for today’s networked, digital era.

Note: I am currently running a competition to win a 1 hour Professional Development mentoring session.  Two winners will be drawn at 8.30am AEDT on 4 January.  See here for details of sessions and the competition.

Here are the prompter questions I’ve included in this guide to help people to identify their development goal.  Feel free to use and share these – with acknowledgment of their source

1.  What goal or project do you have in the coming 12 months that will really stretch you? What specifically will it demand of you that will be a stretch?  What knowledge or skills will you need to acquire or improve?

2.  What is changing in your industry? What opportunities does this create?  What knowledge or skills do you need to acquire or improve to be successful?

3.  Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years? Which of the following (if any) would you like to change:

  • Organisation
  • Position
  • Industry
  • Employment status (e.g. employee, contractor, freelancer, business owner)

What knowledge or skills will you need to acquire or improve to make these changes?

4.  Can you access a current capability/skills framework for your profession or industry? What insights does this give you regarding knowledge and skills you could develop?  If you are a Learning and Development professional I recommend the Learning and Performance Institute’s L&D Capability Map.  You can view the framework and do a free self-assessment here.  (Note – the assessment will take you 45-60 minutes if you read the skill descriptions properly.)

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Do One Thing Every Year That You Didn’t Do The Year Before

I’m refreshing resources in preparation to run mentoring sessions to help people develop a Professional Development Plan.  I want to give people a different perspective on what it means to take charge of your own development.  To unleash greater creativity and boldness.  To help transform approaches to professional development.  To help people stretch and build future-ready learning skills and habits.

I checked on Jacob Morgan’s YouTube channel where he posts about the future of work.  Some of his videos are aimed at employers and leaders, other at individuals.  I was looking for content talks about why continuous learning is an essential skill and habit for individuals.  I discovered one I hadn’t seen previously which excited me. It’s something I think I would benefit from applying.  My reaction is an indicator that it’s worth sharing with others.  It contains one key idea.

Morgan’s ‘One Rule to Keep Growing and Learning’ is to do one thing every year you haven’t done before – and to do it really well.  He’s talking about something big that you embed as a foundational element in the way your work and think (I would add ‘learn’ to this list of verbs).  While Morgan talks about this in the context of building his personal brand (which can be inside an organisation or outside), it is completely relevant to your professional development and future-proofing your career.

Looking back on 2018 the one big thing I did was to launch Learning Uncut podcast with my colleagues Karen Moloney and Amanda Ashby.  Of course, it wasn’t the only thing I did that I hadn’t done before, just the one that was the biggest stretch and took the most effort.  It will also continue so is now a foundational element of my work.

I have several options to decide between for my one new thing for 2019.  “Do I really need to limit myself to one?”  If I want to do it really well … the answer if probably yes.  Morgan’s point is about becoming great at one new thing.  It’s about focus.

I’ve been hesitating to name my one thing as there is an opportunity cost.  Putting effort and resources into one thing means less investment in other things.  After leaving this penultimate paragraph unwritten for several hours I realise that I’m not quite ready to pick my one thing.  I have short list of options.  All are things I have done before.  However I’ve not done any as well as I would like.  None of these skills or practices have reached the standard I aspire too.  I’m going to vary Morgan’s advice.  Rather than doing one new thing, I’m going to pick one thing I’m already doing.  Then I’m going to do it regularly, frequently – and become really good at it.  I’m not yet sure which to pick.  I’ll create evaluation criteria and rate each option.  I’ll also speak with some trusted advisors before finalising my selection.

Watch Morgan’s video below and let me know what you think of his advice.  Will you be doing one thing in 2019 that you haven’t done before?  What is it and why did you select it?

 

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What I Learned in 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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Is there a better word(s) than ‘learners’?

Words have power.  They shape perceptions.  They trigger emotions.

This morning I was reviewing a capability framework, reading skill descriptions aloud.  One statement contained the word ‘articulate.’  When I read it the word just felt satisfying with it’s hard edges emphasising the sense of clarity that it alludes to.  I tweeted about how it felt to say this word.

Articulate is also the name of an eLearning development package, so it had a very different association and emotional impact on someone else as their reply indicates.

As an aside, I like the word malarkey too.  What pictures form in your head when you read this word?  I think of a group of noisy cockatoos.

On a more serious note …

The words we use to label objects and groups of people can convey messages or be perceived by others to contain meaning that perhaps we had not intended.  In another Twitter conversation occurring simultaneously someone was talking about ‘learners.’  Debate about use of the word ‘learners’ within organisations is not new.  One ground for objection to the word is the point raised by Nigel Young below that learning is pervasive and simply a part of being human.

Picking up on the ‘learning is pervasive’ point, I grapple with the word ‘learner’ because it reinforces the mental model that learning and working are separate activities.  Clinging to this model is the antithesis of continuous learning.  It impedes the critical adoption of more agile ways of learning for businesses to maintain the momentum in today’s volatile, fast-paced environment.

Despite my aversion to the label ‘learners’ I find it challenging to find a suitable alternative when I need to describe a group of people whose performance and learning I’m endeavouring to support.  The tweets below give some options.

 

Interestingly, one of the participants in this conversation was from academia and had a different view on the label.

My final insight is that choice of the most appropriate label depends on context.  In an organisational context I shall continue to find words other than ‘learner’ wherever I can as I think it goes to the heart of a very important shift required for Learning and Development practitioners to let go of control and support continuous learning as a core part of their role.

What words (if any) do you use to replace ‘learners’?  If you still use the word ‘learners’ what is your rationale?

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Capability Framework – Opportunity to Engage Managers

A recent episode of my Learning Uncut podcast generated some discussion on LinkedIn.  It was an interview with Kate Fraser of Standards Australia about how she has made a capability framework valuable.

Today I had a video call with a person that I’d exchanged comments with on the LinkedIn discussion thread about this episode.  She is concerned about the practical implementation of the capability framework that has been developed in her organisation.  When I dug a little deeper the real issue she is grappling with is how to encourage people to engage in development activities.  It struck me that this issue existed independently of whether a capability framework was in place.  However, she believes that the rollout of the framework in her organisation will overwhelm people who are very busy in their job roles.  The framework implementation could be used to as an opportunity to promote continuous learning practices.

While today’s conversation covered a range of strategies that she could use to implement the framework, one key aspect that we focussed on was the role of managers to guide the development of their people.  The Towards Maturity 2017 benchmark report showed that amongst the top three barriers to achieving a learning culture are:

  • Lack of skills amongst employees to manage their own learning (65% of respondents)
  • Reluctance by line managers to encourage new ways of learning (58% of respondents)

A high leverage activity for any Learning and Development (L&D) team is to support the development of continuous learning skills.  In particular, helping managers to build skills, strategies and habits to provide development support for their team members is critical.  This is even more so in a hierarchical, bureaucratic organisation such as the one described to me today.

This evening I re-read a 2017 post by Ryan Tracey on Reframing the Capability FrameworkThe following comment made by Tanya Lau could have been lifted straight out of today’s conversation:

“Whilst L&D might play a role in developing the capability framework and identifying how it aligns with particular roles – their manager really should be the person identifying capability gaps and providing development support for addressing these gaps for individuals and across the team…particularly since capability development is most impacted through on the job development opportunities more than – or at least in addition to, formal training. Perhaps L&D can add the most value by supporting managers to develop this capability.”

In the Learning Uncut podcast Kate Fraser described how she closely supported managers to use the capability framework for a range of purposes. Eventually they became adept at using it without ongoing hand-holding.  Of course, engaging managers early to create use cases for the capability framework and help develop the framework generally increases their buy-in and the usefulness of the end product.  For the person I spoke with today it is too late for this.  Her opportunity is to engage managers in implementation.  I suggested that she assemble a small group of managers to assist with implementation planning.  A useful first step would be to create a persona to represent a typical manager and identify their motivations and pain points in relation to developing their people.  Then consider how the capability framework could be implemented in a way that aligns with their motivations and addresses their pain points.

Note: I have recently project managed a refresh of the Learning and Performance Institute’s L&D Capability Framework. The framework will be launched in early September.  Over the coming month I shall post more about both this specific framework as well as capability frameworks more generally.

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What I Learned in July 2018

To encourage others to learn continuously a leader can role model what this looks like.  A simple way to do this is to follow in the footsteps of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadell – create and share a monthly ‘What I Learned’ video.  I’ve added this practice to my ongoing learning routines, and have created my first monthly video.

My three lessons for July 2018 and associated resources are summarised below.

Strategic Procrastination

I’ve been reading Originals by organisational psychologist, Adam Grant. In chapter 4 of this book and his TED Talk titled ‘The surprising habits of original thinkers,’ he outlines research undertaken by one of his students into the link between procrastination and original thinking.  This research helped me to recognise and improve a pattern in my own creative work where I work on something for a short period, then put it aside and pick it up again closer to the deadline.  I find that in the interim I’ve gained new insights and am able to generate and synthesis ideas into a better quality output.  I can now deliberately use this insight in my creative process.

Working with Experts to Define Skills

I’ve been working on a project to refresh a Capability Map to define the skills required by a Learning and Development professional or function.  I’ve noticed that it can be challenging for people with deep expertise to clearly identify and describe the skills required in their domain.  In the video I describe a questioning technique I used to guide an expert to achieve this.

Impact of Tracking My Time

I’ve started tracking my time using an app called Toggl.  Tracking my time has improved my focus and reduced distractions.  I’ve found Toggl easy and relatively unobtrusive to use.

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