Posts Tagged Continuous Learning

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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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 This Month – 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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