I recently finished working at Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA). Those of you who have follow me on social media or read my blog know that I really enjoyed my job. So you may be wondering why I have decided to return to working independently.
The Job I Enjoyed
In November 2011 I started a 6-week contract with CCA to design a national approach to capability development in Supply Chain. One thing led to another and I joined CCA in early 2012 as an employee to lead the Supply Chain Technical Academy. At the time a completely decentralised model was in place for technical capability development with an independent, inconsistent approach in different locations. CCA had invested heavily in a range of equipment and platforms, and wanted to ensure that their capability to use these was sustained and improved. The introduced a robust national approach to developing core technical capabilities via blended learning utilising the 70:20:10 framework.
In early 2014 the Supply Chain business strategy changed. We updated our capability strategy to maintain alignment and strengthen governance. We also explicitly added continuous workplace learning to our strategy, which we defined as ongoing learning outside of structured programs. To execute this strategy we set about modernising our Learning & Development approach and capabilities.
My time at CCA was a period of significant professional growth – due both to my work experience and self-directed learning. In 2014 I transformed my professional development, as described in, and symbolised by, this blog. I have developed a strong global Personal Learning Network (PLN), adopted Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) and Working Out Loud (WOL) practices. This enabled me to step-up my strategic leadership and implement modern approaches to workplace learning. One business challenge I became particularly interested in is improving the use of knowledge and expertise to improve business performance.
At CCA I had the opportunity to be innovate. I felt I could make a positive difference to the daily work experience of people across the organisation. My role was a vehicle to impact individual, team and organisational performance. I worked with people I liked who were professional, reliable, and cared about what they did. For the most part I did work I enjoyed that gave me a sense of meaning and contribution. However, over time my strengths and interests shifted – and I wasn’t able to find a way to focus on those within CCA.
Why I am now Working Independently
Having realised that it was time to move on, I could have looked for another corporate role. Instead I have chosen to return to working independently. Here are the reasons for this choice.
1) To focus on work that plays to my strengths and interests – I want to pursue projects that focus on the things I am really good at and that bring me the most satisfaction. In a corporate job I would be in a weaker position to say ‘no’ to elements of the role that don’t meet this criteria. Working for myself increases my position to choose what I work on.
2) To have greater impact. Working independently extends my reach. My personal vision statement includes the aspiration: “I make a positive difference and leave people, places and organisations in a better state than I found them.” Working with more people and organisations increases my opportunity to make an impact.
3) To learn even more. When I last worked independently I found that working with a range of organisations accelerated my learning. I get to see what is working well and what could be improved in every project or task I work on. My capacity to create value constantly increases through exposure to a variety of organisations.
4) To be valued more – As my external profile increased through networking, writing, and speaking, people from other organisations sought me out. They wanted to know more about what I did and how I did it, or to use me as a sounding board for their work challenges and opportunities. This tells me that I have knowledge and experience that I can contribute to others in a range of organisations. As an employee people inside your organisation often value your contributions less because you are one of them and not an external expert.
As an aside, why do people leave it until someone’s farewell to say ‘thank you’ for your contribution and tell you what they appreciated about your work? Tell a colleague today what you value about their work and thank them.
5) To improve my productivity – I don’t need to spell this one out in detail – less corporate administration, less organisational politics, fewer distractions and interruptions, less commuting. I’m very good at organising myself and find it easy to focus when working independently.
6) To improve my lifestyle – I want greater flexibility to work when I want in the way I want. Working independently increases my capacity to create balance across the many roles in my life. Another consideration is that while I am still energetic and passionate about my work, I am closer to semi-retirement than high school graduation. I am in a better position to create ongoing income sources working for myself than for an organisation.
What I Will Miss Most
The thing I will miss most is the daily camaraderie and energy of my Academy colleagues. They are professional, reliable, willing to take a risk and try new things, and have a growth mindset. They supported, encouraged, challenged, guided, inspired and motivated me.
What About You?
What is your current work situation? Do you work for yourself, or are you considering this option? Why? Leave a comment to share your experience and thoughts on working independently versus being an employee.
On 31 August 2016 I had the good fortune of moderating a discussion on leadership. The event was a Fishbowl discussion organised by Trent Rosen of PSK Performance, and was held in Sydney. Trent had gathered an excellent set of panellists with relevant experience and expertise.
Nigel Paine – Nigel was the Head of Learning and Development with the BBC. He now does a lot of work with coaching consulting speaking.
Commodore Lee Goddard – Commodore Goddard (who asked to be called Lee during the discussion) commands Surface Force for the Royal Australian Navy. Based in Sydney, he commands Sydney 18 warships and 3500 people.
Cameron Clyne – Cameron is the Chair of Australian Rugby Union and ex-CEO of the National Australia Bank.
I was a little disappointed that there were no female leaders on the panel. However there was a really amazing diversity and depth of experience. One of the things I was really impressed with was just how down to earth and all three panellists were.
You can view my reflection on the discussion in video format or read the (slightly polished up) transcript below.
The format was called a Fishbowl. I sat at the front with the three panellists and there was an empty ‘hot seat’ at the end of the panellists’ row. The participants were in curved rows facing the panellists. If a participant wanted to join the discussion they could come and sit in hot seat. Although I did the introductions and had a set of questions, the success of this format is to get people into the hot seat to ask their own questions.
We had a good flow of conversation and range of questions asked. I’m going to share some of the key themes that came up. Views expressed below are my understanding of those expressed by the panellists.
Resilience came up quickly. A leader cannot have an off day, and behaviour under stress is the key to good leadership. A key part of building leadership is self-awareness. In order to build leadership you’ve got to know yourself. In an organisational context, the organisation has to understand itself as well in order to build leadership.
Visibility came out as a theme, particularly from Cameron. In his role as CEO at the National Australia Bank he said that information flow was critical. He wanted people to be able to tell him what was going on. To achieve this you need to strip away the hierarchy.
Nigel raised accountability and support. They are complementary – you have to support people and give them time to develop as leaders, and you also have to hold them accountable.
In regard to time, we talked a lot about behaviour change and forming habits. Developing leadership takes time. There’s no quick fix – you can’t just send people on a workshop for two days, a week or two weeks and expect that they come back its leaders.
As a leader its important to role model behaviours you expect of other leaders. Also, be aware that you will get from others the standard of behaviour that ‘you walk by.’ This relates to setting standards and holding people accountable to them. Related to role modelling is that people expect you to ‘act the part,’ to carry and conduct yourself as a leader. The conversation again returned to not having an off day – which is mostly about being resilient and managing yourself, which requires self-awareness (a recurring theme in the discussion).
Not only do others need to see you as a leader, you need to see yourself as a leader. Cameron told a story about something a coach said to him when he became CEO of NAB at the age of 40, at start of the Global Financial Crisis. His coach told him that he needed to ‘promote’ himself, meaning he needed to see himself as a senior leader before others would.
Nigel shared a lesson – he had to learn to coach others to solve their problems rather than solve the problems for them.
There was a question about developing trust in the online environment as a leader. I thought that Lee’s answer was the best of the panellists. He blew away some myths about the military, pointing out that the military is always at the forefront of technology, which includes and the online world is not different. He made the point that the virtual world consists of people and that, in fact, virtual / online has made communication and leadership more personal. I would have loved the opportunity to discuss this point for longer.
Some specific questions caught my attention.
First was the old chestnut about middle management being a blocking point for change. Terms commonly used to refer to this ‘group’ include ‘the Iron Curtain’ and ‘Permafrost.’ The common view is the you can’t change to flow down beyond middle management. Cameron made the point that this is not a homogeneous group and you need multiple approaches for different kinds of middle managers. You also need to understand the m as individuals. There was a great quote from Lee Goddard about co-creation – “Do leadership with people not to people.”
I asked whether Learning and Development (L&D) as a function is relevant to leadership development. I asked this question because the discussion had focussed on how a leader can develop themselves and other people’s leadership, but L&D had not been mentioned. It is a clear ‘yes’ for the military who invest a lot of time for each leader in leadership development every year. However, there were some question marks from the other panellists. Nigel’s point that it’s up to L&D to be relevant aligned with Cameron’s view that L&D should be integral to, and aligned with, the organisation. Although it was a bit sad, Cameron got a laugh when he said that he’s been in organisations where he wondered whether L&D was actually part of the same organisation.
A question on how sport is relevant to business got three very different responses. Nigel told a story to illustrate that lessons relevant to business could be derived from sports. The example he gave was the British 2012 Olympics Cycling team who focussed on finding 1% improvements. Lee spoke about the importance of sport to well-being and participating in sport to get to know your people. Cameron noted that in both sport and business, skill alone is not enough to success – there has to be a mindset for success.
Thank you Trent Rosen from PSK Performance for trusting me to moderate the Fishbowl discussion. It was a great experience both of the format and nature of the conversation that it generated, and in tapping into the experience of the three panellists. The only regret I have is that it wasn’t a lot longer because there were so many more topics we could have covered, and we could have delved deeper into the questions and themes that were raised.
Did you watch the video? If so, you may have noticed that the body of it was in portrait orientation rather than landscape. This is because I shot it in SnapChat to do a quick reflection shortly after the event and decided that I would use this footage rather than shoot it again. Many of you may not have seen SnapChat video before – let me know what you think of this style of video.
Please leave a comment or questions on the content of this post below. If you were at the event I’m curious if you got something different from the discussion – let’s continue the conversation.
Modernising our approach to learning in Coca-Cola Amatil’s Supply Chain over the past two years has been a gradual process. This shift has come about through parallel changes in our operating model alongside the mindset, practices and capabilities of our Learning and Development (L&D) function. (Note – We use the term ‘Capability’ to refer to the L&D function. The two terms are used interchangeably in this post.) Our Supply Chain Capability Community consists of:
- Technical Academy team – myself, four Capability Consultants, and a Coordinator; and
- State Capability Managers – seven people who plan, coordinate and support Capability development at operational sites around Australia.
In March 2014 members of our Capability Community attended an event where Charles Jennings spoke about practical approaches to workplace learning. We also had a private discussion with Charles about the application of these approaches in our context. Our discussion continued back in the office. Performance support was a sticking point – in particular job aids that people can access as they work. Most of the group felt that Operations was solely responsible for developing and publishing job aids.
Fast forward to late 2015. In several States the Capability Managers were helping to implement a system to host Standard Operating Procedures – job aids that form part of our Quality Management System. Their contribution included helping to define information architecture so that content is easy for people to access as they work. In mid 2016 our Capability team helped to develop job aids alongside Operations for a new Quality Control system. The Capability Community now sees performance support as a shared responsibility with Operations.
This story illustrates how our Capability mindset, practices and capabilities have shifted. The most significant shifts are outlined below, followed by a list of key resources, people and development programs that have helped us to modernise.
Evolution of Our Capability Strategy
CCA Supply Chain joined the 70:20:10 Forum in late 2013. Within a few months of joining the Forum I realised that while CCA had adopted the 70:20:10 framework a number of years previously, the organisation had narrowly interpreted it. We had developed blended learning programs that included theory (10), learning from experience (70) and others (20). An example of this is ‘CCA’s 70:20:10 Learning Solution for Equipment Operation.’
However, we were not purposefully enabling people to learn as they worked, or building social learning capability. As discussed in my post 70:20:10 Forum Value Creation Story, after attending a 70:20:10 Forum webinar on the changing role of the learning function I saw that the skills of our capability team needed to be updated. I also identified an opportunity to speak with key stakeholders about improving organisational performance more effectively if we adjusted our Capability strategy, mindset and practices. I built awareness of the broader scope of 70:20:10 using resources from the 70:20:10 Forum and attendance at the Charles Jennings event described earlier in this post. By late March we had updated out strategy.
The key change to our strategy was the inclusion of ‘Continuous Workplace Learning’ as an element, as per the diagram below. Our operating model now includes a range of new approaches to enable continuous workplace learning including Communities of Practice, user generated content, guided social learning and learning transfer support.
Our Capability Strategy Elements
The mindset shift from ‘training’ to ‘performance’ is reflected in the change in Academy tagline from ‘Creating Technical Excellence’ to ‘Improving Supply Chain Performance.’
In early 2014 performance consulting was not seen as a practice required by L&D. By mid 2015 performance consulting was a standard element of our L&D toolkit. This shift was assisted by the dual role that many of the State Capability Managers have as they are also part of the Operational Excellence (OE) team who work on continuous improvement initiatives. Some of the OE tools can be readily used for performance consulting, and this is now seen as a natural precursor to development of a performance solution that may, or may not, include training.
Similarly the Capability Community now see development of performance support mechanisms and content as a joint responsibility with Operations, rather than something that is outside of their scope.
We have put substantial effort into enabling social learning in order to spread knowledge and better utilise expertise across Supply Chain. In order to support social learning our Capability Community had to experience it ourselves first. We have done this through participation in external communities, including the 70:20:10 Forum and Modern Workplace Learning community (via participation in a range of guided social learning programs and the associated ongoing community). Although participation was optional, enough people have joined in to shift mindset and practices. All Capability Community members also participated in the first rollout of our internal Work Connect and Learn program which builds digital, networking and self-directed learning skills.
Our internal Capability Community has gradually matured, shifting our interactions from fortnightly teleconference catch-ups focussed on project status updates to a combination of:
- fortnightly catch-ups focussed on knowledge sharing (run using Skype for Business);
- narrating our work and learning via a log maintained in OneNote; and
- use of online discussion forums in SharePoint for collaborative work and sharing of resources for professional development and improvement of our practices. (Refer to how I use social tools with my team for more on this.)
In mid 2014 the Academy voluntarily took responsibility for SharePoint governance in Supply Chain. This has allowed us to shape the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) infrastructure to support connection and discovery, enabling knowledge sharing, collaboration, and hosting of user generated content. We have built several online hubs on the ESN to support the growth of Communities of Practice. In May 2016 a Supply Chain restructure was announced, including the expansion of Communities of Practice. This decision was influenced by the work our Capability Community has done to establish, build and advocate for communities.
Our progress in social learning was recognised in November 2015 by the Australian Institute of Training and Development who awarded our Systems Certification program ‘highly commended’ in the Best Use of Social / Collaborative Learning category.
Integrating Learning with Work
Several Capability Community members have undertaken certification through the 70:20:10 Forum. We have modelled some aspects of our internal Systems Certification program on their Certification program, emphasising participants learning as they work. In addition to completing a range of competency-based assessments, evidence requirements for Systems Certification allow participants to choose their own workplace projects and activities. Evidence is heavily focussed on recognition of learning on the job via activities such as process improvements, solving your own or others’ problems, and demonstrating system use to others.
As part of the Systems Certification program the State Capability Managers took on the role of ‘Learning Coach.’ The purpose of a learning coach is to support self-directed learning by providing assistance to identify learning goals, advice on suitable learning activities and accountability via regular catch-ups with individual program participants.
Development Resources and Activities
Here is a list of some of the resources, organisations, practitioners and programs that we have used to modernise our L&D capability. The list is in no particular order. In all instances participation was encouraged, but not mandatory. New ideas and information only translate to learning through experience. The most important part of modernising L&D in our organisation was to try out new approaches, reflect individually and as a group on what happened, then adjust and repeat.
70:20:10 Forum – This forum offers 70:20:10-related resources, tools, an online community, and a 70:20:10 Practitioner Certification program.
Modern Workplace Learning (MWL), led by Jane Hart. MWL offers a range of short programs delivered via guided social learning. You get the benefit of great content, peer discussion, and the experience of being a participant in a program that uses a range of modern approaches.
Charles Jennings – Charles defines his focus as “all things related to learning, performance and organisational productivity, and to the 70:20:10 model.” Charles has more recently founded the 70:20:10 Institute.
Helen Blunden of Activate Learning Solutions – We engaged Helen to help us establish our first Community of Practice. She helped us to analyse current state of connection, sharing, and peer-supported performance improvement in the target group; develop a Community strategy; and create the Work, Connect and Learn program. We’ve used this program in a range of formats to build networking, digital and self-directed learning skills in our organisation.
Towards Maturity – The Towards Maturity Benchmark is a useful way to gain insight on your current learning strategy compared to both other organisations and your own progress over time if you re-do the benchmark annually. Laura Overton and the Towards Maturity team publish a range of resources that provide research and evidence-based insight to help you identify how to improve your learning strategy and performance.
Working Out Loud Circles – We’ve recently run our first Working Out Loud Circles. They offer potential to build networking skills across our organisation, enabling self-directed and social learning.
Personal Learning Networks (PLN) – Everyone in our Capability Community has been encouraged to build their PLN. Having a PLN accelerates your professional development, and introduces you to new ideas and people who can support you as you learn and try new things. It also positions you to help others in your organisation to develop their PLN as a critical self-directed learning capability. Here’s one resource from Jane Bozarth on building your PLN – do an internet search to find more resources on this topic.
Conferences – I look for a mix of case studies presented by organisational practitioners and updates on industry trends and direction from thought leaders. The opportunity to network with other practitioners is also important. Some that we have attended are:
- Australian Institute of Training and Development National Conference
- Learning at Work
- Learning Café Unconference
- Knowledge Management Australia
This list is not comprehensive, and there are new resources, organisations and programs becoming available on an ongoing basis that could be added.
It Won’t Happen Overnight….
Shifting your L&D mindset, practices and capabilities takes time. The L&D team needs to first become aware of the possibility of operating differently, then experience new approaches themselves in order to figure out how to adapt them in their organisation, and how best to support them. Our story provides an example of how this change can evolve over time.
What’s Worked For You (or not)?
To all the other workplace learning practitioners reading this post – what have your tried for your personal or team development? How are you going with modernising L&D practices and capability in your organisation? What has worked for you? What challenges do you have? Let’s have a discussion and see what we can learn from each other.
Note: This post has been adapted from a post made on the 70:20:10 Forum as part of my Practitioner Certification
My practices for getting the most out of attending a conference include making the lists outlined below. As you read this post think about your tips for generating these lists. What other lists do you find helpful? Please share your replies in comments below this post.
In summary the lists are:
Make or start before the Conference:
Make during or shortly after the conference:
- Key Takeaways / Insights
- Relationship Follow Ups
Lists to make or start before the Conference
Complete this list before the conference begins. Ask yourself: “Why am I going to this conference? What do I want to get out of this conference?”
This list could include a general theme you will use to orient your activities at the conference, e.g. Collaboration, Strategy, Leadership, Science of Learning, Technology, Thought Leadership. For theme ideas consider your professional development plan / direction, work projects, topics you’ve been reading about recently, a recent or upcoming challenge / opportunity.
Include more specific outcomes, for example:
- To get ideas for enabling informal learning in my organisation
- To improve learning evaluation in my organisation
- To use learning science to improve learning strategy in my organisation
- To identify next steps in building my thought leadership
- To meet people with experience in XYZ
List a maximum of three specific outcomes to help you to focus.
Ask yourself: “Why do I want to interact with people at this conference? Who do do I want to meet or interact with?”
Start this list before the conference. Think about your WHY first – consider the following:
- Your conference goals – who or what type of people are relevant to these goals?
- Your professional network – are there gaps you’d like to fill or people you’d like to renew or strengthen your relationship with?
- Is there something you are involved with that you’d like to promote or advocate?
- If you Work Out Loud, look at your relationship list .
- What contribution(s) would you like to make to others at the conference?
Enjoying yourself and having a little fun is a good reason to interact too!
Be selective when making your list as you are unlikely to be able to interact meaningfully with everyone who is there. Use your WHY to develop and then prioritise your list if it is long.
Look at the conference website and program to view speakers / facilitators, organisers, advisory committee members, sponsors and exhibitors. Find out who is coming to the conference. Contact people in your network and ask if they are attending or know anyone who is. Do a Twitter search on the conference hashtag to see who is using it. Check the Twitter account of the conference hosts / organisers and subscribe to their Twitter list for the conference, or start your own event Twitter list.
What other ideas do you have for finding out who is going to the conference?
In addition to listing specific individuals, think about what ‘type’ of people you would like to meet. For example, people who:
- Have a specific skill or type of experience
- work in a certain type of role, industry or organisation
- come from a specific country, region or city
- Have similar conference goals to you
- are in a certain age bracket
- are in a different profession to you
- are different to you in some way
- write blogs or articles
Update your list during the conference as you discover new people, get insights from sessions and discussions, and referrals from other attendees.
Look at the conference program and pick what sessions you want to attend. Often exhibitors present informal sessions about their area of expertise or products and services, so look at these too. Assess relevance of sessions to your goals and whether they sound appealing to you. Read session descriptions and speaker biographies in the program or conference website. Search online for content that the speaker has created (e.g. articles, videos), interviews with them or information about their work.
Identify sessions relevant to your goals, or being presented by people that you’d like to interact with or learn from. If there are a lot of concurrent breakout sessions that you are interested in find out if any of them are being recorded so that you can view them after the conference. If you are attending the conference with colleagues or people in your network you could go to different breakout sessions and discuss sessions / share notes with them afterwards.
Consider attending at least one session that is on a topic outside of your normal field of interest – to be open to serendipity and the opportunity to learn something new.
Be flexible during the conference. You may get new information or an insight which changes your session choices. If you are in a session and not getting what you need from it then it’s okay to leave. Use the time to try another session, speak to exhibitors or meet with people.
Exhibitors help cover conference costs, so it’s good form to spend some time in the exhibition area. There may be some overlap with your People list, and the factors impacting which exhibitors you visit are similar to the People list. Think about what types of services or products you’d like to learn about to figure out which exhibitors to visit and what you’d like to achieve. This could range from simply thanking sponsors to a brief conversation and collecting literature or a product demonstration.
You could make an initial Exhibitors list before or at the start of the conference – whenever you have access to information on Exhibitors. At a large conference, walk right around the exhibition area and identify which booths you’d like to return to. You may need to prioritise this list.
Lists to make during or shortly after the Conference
Key Takeaways / Insights
Look through your session notes and identify a short list of key takeaways or insights from each session. See my post from Enterprise Collaboration TechFest for an example of what this might look like. You can do the same for your interactions with people and visits to exhibitors, as well as personal reflections on specific or overall experiences at the conference.
Putting these all into a single location helps you to synthesise what you heard and discussed in order to identify key themes or recurring ideas you picked up at the conference. It also makes it easy to review what you learned at a conference at a later point.
Definitely start this list at the conference while things are fresh in your mind. Make a list of all actions you are considering taking as a result of your conference experiences. Get it all down. Think of it as a someday/maybe list. Use whatever tool or system works for you – paper or electronic. After the conference read through your list and highlight anything you are committing to do. Look at your goals list before you do this to provide context. Move highlighted items to your regular action / to do list – then get on with it.
As an extension activity set up a learning transfer buddy agreement with someone at the conference. This is a great idea I picked up from Emma Weber of Lever – Transfer of Learning. I’ll update this post with a link to details of how to set up your agreement so you make maximum progress.
Relationship Follow Ups
Developing your network is a key benefit of attending a conference. Relationship follow ups are a special set of actions which warrant a separate list. You can include both specific actions you are committed to doing as well as possible future connections and contributions you could make to a person.
Again, start this list at the conference, especially if you make specific promises to anyone. Write down the name of the person, follow up action and target date. Ensure you have their contact details or know where to find them online. Add them to your online network as you go by sending them a LinkedIn invitation or following them on Twitter – or do this shortly after the conference if you prefer.
Make brief notes about who you meet and interact with, including valuable informal discussions. You could write key points on business cards. Look through your notes after the conference and add to your follow up list.
Make a list of resources that speakers mention which sound interesting and potentially useful. This will include books, articles, other publications, videos, podcasts, websites, organisations or associations, and tools. Add suggestions from exhibitors and other attendees.
Speakers sometimes provide access to additional resources via a hyperlink or email address. Even if you access these resources on the spot it can be helpful to add these to your consolidated resources list for future reference.
Where to make your lists
In a nutshell, wherever and however it suits you. You may have existing systems you use rather than making standalone lists. For example:
- Write goals in your electronic journal – I keep mine on Evernote.
- Create a Twitter list for people and exhibitors.
- Tweet key insights then use Storify to collate them.
- Add actions straight into your ‘to do’ software/app with a category or tag for the conference so you can sort and review them later.
- Curate resources straight to a social bookmarking tool such as Diigo or Pearltrees
There’s always an old-fashioned notebook or index cards. Whatever approach you use, make it convenient and efficient for you to use.
Over to you
What are your tips for these lists? Are there other lists you like to make before, during or after a conference?
Jane Hart runs an annual online survey of learning professionals to identify the Top 100 Tools for Learning. Twitter has been voted as the No. 1 tool in this survey for the past seven years. In the past two years it has transformed my professional development, and I take every opportunity to encourage others in my organisation and profession to use Twitter.
In this post I share some approaches and resources that I have used to help others to get started with Twitter. I have run informal group sessions inside my organisation, and a pre-Conference ‘learning lounge’ at the 2016 Australian Institute of Training and Development Conference. Recently I’ve included resources on why and how to use Twitter in a self-directed micro-learning program created to build digital and network skills and habits in my organisation. Additionally, on-the-spot opportunities frequently arise to discuss Twitter and show people how to get started.
Explain the Why
To the uninitiated, Twitter, along with other social media platforms, can appear to be a place where people go for gossip, celebrities and cat videos – in short, a waste of time. This is why it’s important to focus on the WHY and bust some myths before moving to the HOW to use Twitter. This is as true for group presentations as it is for spontaneous discussions. Helen Blunden of Activate Learning Solutions discusses this more fully in her blog post How Do You Start Out in Twitter? Find the Why First.
One Hour Customised Workshop
I ran my first one hour Twitter workshop as part of a ‘lunch and learn’ professional development series in early 2015. I searched for existing resources and found Helen Blunden’s post on How to Promote Twitter for Professional Development to Your Colleagues. I downloaded her slide pack, updated it to reflect changes to the Twitter interface since her post, and customised it. Customisation included stories of my own experience and the opportunities that had been created actively engaging with others on Twitter and building my network. I included Twitter profile pictures of the people involved in my stories, explaining how I had built my relationship with them and the way we had collaborated. This was the most powerful part of my presentation as it illustrated the spirit of generosity and reciprocity that can be generated in online networks over time. I could see the light bulbs going on for people. I also identified Twitter accounts relevant to my audience so I could suggest useful people and organisations for them to follow.
See Helen’s post for tips on how to promote and attract people to your event.
During the session I moved between the PowerPoint material, demonstrating things on my laptop, and supporting people to try things out on their laptop or devices. I had another experienced Twitter user present to help support people – it’s important to have enough support to get people hands-on during the session.
You can view my presentation below and download it to update and customise it if you would like to use it. If you compare it to Helen’s presentation you’ll see where I have re-used versus customised content.
Half Hour Pre-Event Demonstration
The AITD invited me to run an informal 30 minute ‘learning lounge’ on the morning of Day One of their 2016 conference. The intent was to encourage and equip attendees to join in the conversation on the backchannel. What a great initiative! Instead of just telling conference-goers that they should use Twitter, it equips them to get started and gives them an active conversation to join in so they can see benefits immediately.
I was unsure how many people would attend a session at 8.30am prior to Conference kick off. The session had been included on the conference agenda, and one of the AITD team told me that whenever they responded to a query about the conference they had encouraged people to come along. They must have done a good job at this – there was around 80-100 people at the session! I checked existing Twitter experience with the group and what they hoped to get from the session. It was great to see some active users who had come to support those new to Twitter. Others had signed up several years prior, but not known how to use the platform effectively. Several people did not yet have accounts. So, a mixed group.
Instead of using a slide pack I demonstrated directly from my iPad which I projected using a lightning to VGA adapter (a little pricey at AUD$75, but a useful tool). I chose to project from a mobile device rather than a laptop as attendees would be using mobile devices during the Conference. My goal was to quickly get people comfortable enough with ways of engaging with others on Twitter (e.g posting, replying, retweeting, quoting tweets, using hashtags) that they would follow and start participating in the #AITD2016 backchannel.
You can download the session run script. I followed it fairly closely and found that it flowed well. I had been concerned that there wouldn’t be enough content in the backchannel before the conference had started to demonstrate some of the functionality so had asked some of my Twitter buddies to post. It turned out there was plenty of content to use, so it was easy to demonstrate everything in the script. I only just got through everything on the script in 30 minutes, and didn’t have time to check that novices were hands-on trying things as I demonstrated. I did offer to provide individual help to anyone who needed it after the session, and provided a job aid for iOS mobile devices. Note that the Twitter interface does change over time, so suggest you check this job aid (created May 2015) before reusing it.
Although not in the script some people were interested in how to use Twitter lists, so I demonstrated this in an extra five minutes at the end of the session. Lists are a very useful filtering mechanism, although a little advanced for an introductory demonstration.
In my organisation we have been developing a self-directed micro-learning version of our Work Connect and Learn program. This program aims to build digital, networking and knowledge management skills and habits. Program ‘modules’ are shown below.
Twitter is included as a topic under ‘Online Networking Tools’ in the Connect and Network module. Justine Jardine has done a great job curating and presenting content in the program. We’ve applied a ‘less is more’ philosophy, providing just enough commentary to introduce a topic and links to resources for people to explore independently, plus suggested activities. (As an aside, a discussion forum is provided for people to respond to some activities and interact as they wish as they complete the program and try out new approaches and tools.)
The list of topics and links to curated resources is below, followed by the suggested activity.
- What is Twitter?
- Why Use Twitter?
5 Reasons Every Professional Should Use Twitter
- Mindset (open, sharing, collaborative)
- How to Get Started
Signing Up with Twitter
Getting Started with Twitter
New User FAQs
Twitter mobile aid
How to Twitter (infographic)
How to Use Twitter: A Simple Infographic
How About You?
Have you used any of these approaches to encourage and support people to get started using Twitter for professional development? Perhaps you’ve used other approaches? What are your observations and tips? Please leave a comment in reply.