collective learning through blogs

28 11 2006

loretta donovan and i co-authored an article that was published in the october issue of ieee’s learning technology newsletter.  this issue of the newsletter was focused on "blogging as an educational technology."  in our article entitled realizing the potential  of collective learning through blogs, loretta and i propose that we’ve only scratched the surface of the potential  blogs have as a component of a workplace learning systems.

blogs have developed a unique character of authentic personal dialogue that is unencumbered by time or location.  we suggest that this opens up opportunities in workplace learning that have not yet been exploited. 

Take a look at what we’ve proposed.  If you have any reactions you’d like to share with us, please do so as comment to this post.

are motivation and drive innate or learned?

27 11 2006

on his blog, david maister has sparked a nice dialogue regarding how some people seem to be driven and others are more satisfied to put in their 9-to-5 and pick up their paycheck.  while a number of his readers picked the question about motivation – what is it and who has it, david re-focused the group on a second question of where it comes from:

Do you think there are any generalizations we can make about why
some people have the will, determination and drive to excel, while
others do not? Genes? Parenting? Social Background? Paranoia and

And what does you explanation / hypothesis say about
building an organization (of any kind, commercial, governmentall,
not-for profit)? What kind of selection processes should organizations
use to identify such people?

this was my comment in response.  what do you think?  i’ve included some links at this end of this post to previous posts of mine that are relevant to this discussion:

fair enough to call us back to the original question, david.  i
guess i skipped it because it’s really a question that no longer fits
the answer.  the nature vs. nuture question is a relic because brain
science, child learning, biology, and cognitive science have all come
to similar discoveries.

it’s both and…..

we are born with rudimentary knowledge and skills and a very curious disposition.  this initial base of knowledge and skills is
added to and molded by experience.  the process of adding to our
knowledge, reflecting on what we know, what we’ve forgotten and what we
need to learn (or relearn) continues on throughout our lifetime.

perhaps, if all environmental inputs were identical for all of us, we’d
all end up in the same place.  but life presents us each with a unique
set of experiences.  some experiences move us ahead, some hold us back. some of us are born with a silver spoon in our mouths with every
advantage and end up holding up banks at gun point.  while some of us
are born into the direst socio-economic conditions, denied education,
imprisoned yet end up a freely elected leader of a country and a world
recognized humanitarian.

it seems we have an innate motivation to learn and grow that is either
encouraged or discouraged by the events of our lives.  this would mean
that managers do have a role in increasing (or decreasing) employee
motivation.  what is encouraging to me about this understanding is that
we don’t have to create the core motivation – it’s in us from birth.

throughout life, we amass "cognitive rubble."  this might include major
issues like prejudice or resentments.  but it also includes minor
issues like blindspots in our network,  biases in work processes, fear
of change, unidimensional styles, bad habits, lack of knowledge or
skills, lack of experience, unclear goals, misunderstandings, etc. helping to clear the rubble from the mess created by our individual
pasts and then keeping things clear so that employees can find and
nurture their innate drive to grow and learn is definitely part of
manager’s role.

certainly, if I’m a hiring manager, i will try to find an employee who
has the smallest rubble pile.  it just makes sense.  but i hope i would
have also identified those key factors of the job and what character
traits fit and don’t fit the position.  if the job calls for 75%
travel, i better probe to see what the candidate thinks about being
away from home.

but no hiring process is going to find out every character quirk of
each employee.  So organizations need to be built in a manner that
fosters diversity of style and character.  that draws strength from
differences.   the goal is to enable individual employees to bring the
best that they are to the table for the benefit of the organization.

related posts on e e learning:

brain and learning principles

how team leaders show support

tearing down strawmen

criteria for evaluating our work

24 11 2006

in his new blog, growing changing learning creating, tom haskins posts a set of seven criteria which he suggests we should use to question how we’re using instructional design models like addie, isd, and hpt:Orange_no_drawer_2

  • avoids a misdiagnosis of the need for training
  • learns from each learner
  • responds to each trainee uniquely
  • improves our design processes
  • considers the transformation of context
  • gets the desired outcomes
  • gets buy-in from leadership.

i suggest to tom in a comment to his post that this is a very solid rubric to judge the effectiveness of all business behaviors.

A side note to this set of criteria is that tom attributes his decision to create growing changing learning creating to the conversations he had while participating in The Big Question.  Now that’s about as big  an endorsement of distributed  learning  as you can get!

are we forgetting the forklifts?

9 11 2006

in a comment on the home post to the learning circuits blog’s the big
, tom haskins raises  an interesting and compelling point
regarding the two radically different ends of training/learning.  as he states it:

The hardware/brick & mortar parts of the economy don’t mess around.
There is one rig
Orange_no_drawer_1ht answer for every detail. There are costly mistakes.
Experts provide accurate content to port into instructiona
l designs.
Compliance training needs to get results. Procedures are linear and
need to be followed
in sequence.


The software/Web 2.0 part of the economy does mess around like
crazy. There are so many right answers that a great search engine
cannot find them all even if they are tagged and aggregated at one
address. Mistakes are easily forgiven and forgotten by bloggers,
subscribers and serial entrepreneurs. Everything is in flux and rapid
evolution. SME’s become learners and learners generate new content.

definitely is the more amorphous, change oriented learning that is
happening.  leadership and innovation may well be best served by
learner-centered Web 2.0 approaches.  It seems that in discussions of learning and development, this area is the major focus. 

but what about mechanical training?  legal compliance training?  the
learners cannot control the content of sarbanes-oxley training.  if you think about it, sox is, in part, is about saying there is no choice here.  you do it this way or you go to jail.   giving
learners control over how to use a metal press or freedom to experiment
with ideas on how to dock a river barge would result in deaths and loss
of property. (although our friends in the simulation and gaming world will say we can let learners have trial and error learning in these areas as well.)

i always found it both humorous and sad that at a large retail company I’ve done work for
that has over a dozen warehouses in the u.s., there was no one in the
corporate training group that knew that the company conducted training
on how to drive a forklift.

why is it that our conversations regarding  training often leave out
procedural training.  do we assume that it’s being done correctly?  have we outsourced it so we don’t have to worry about it?  is it not sexy enough?

worse yet, have we in-sourced it?  Have we left it to the business unit
to handle this educaton because we in "learning and development" don’t
get our hands dirty doing that sort of training?

tom has raised issues that we need to think about.  are we thinking about all the employees in our companies?  do we need different models for different types of training?

addie? isd? hpt? – adapt or die!

6 11 2006

the november the big question is an interesting and potentially volatile one.   are isd / addie/ hpt relevant in a world of rapid elearning, faster time-to-performance, and informal learning?   i think the answer is rather obvious, sure thOrange_no_drawerey are.  at least to some extent.

but i think the bigger issue is what about them will remain relevant and what needs to change.   also what must be kept in order to preserve our professionalism and content developers, designers and deliverers.  will those particular sets of letters be what we are being certified in the use of 25 years from now?  it all depends on if they can adapt.

the future holds a number of pressures that will put our current models to the test.  they include:

greater amounts of and more sophisticated technologies

what does this meanbusinesses will have more capability to conduct and measure their products and processes. everything will become more transparent.

what does this mean for learning – we will have to know when and how to implement tools for which we understand their specific impact in any given situation.  there will be no more hiding behind the black box of roi calculations or the "fact" that there are too many variables to really understand the specific impact of learning.

more learner independence and responsibility for their own learning

what does this meanperformance management, organization design and learning will be integrated to provide every employee with a clear understanding if what is required for them to be prepared for the future and the options available in their particular situation.

what does this mean for learning – we will need to have a deep understanding of where the business is heading and what the workforce needs in order to meet those needs.  the requisite learning situations  will need to be in place prior to employees coming to the point at which they will need the information, skills, or abilities.

greater need to guide and shape the direction of informal learning

what does this meantrue competitive advantage will be gained by companies who can develop knowledgeable, skillful, and empassioned workforces.  the drive to excel will be fueled by open, collaboarative environments where each employee has the resources they need or knows how to find or create them.

what does this mean for learning – a constant and pervasive learning environment is vital to such an environment.  we will be required to maintain standards of excellence, focus on drivers of intrinsic motivation.  we will need to know our businesses and the employees who constitute them as intimately as possible.

the need for our models to incorporate aspects of the business models of our companies

what does this meansystems across the enterprise are being merged and unified to create more efficient and effective workflows. 

what does this mean for learning – it will not be sufficient for our processes and technologies to integrate with the HRMS or ERP systems.  we will need to understand the various systems and technologies used throughout the enterprise to the level that we can identify opportunities for learning and have the ability to create the mechanisms to seamlessly deliver that learning.

the speed of business is accelerating

what does this meanthe time from identification of a need or opportunity to the moment that that need must be fulfilled or else failure occurs or the window of opportunity closes is getting shorter and shorter to new global competitors who can out flank us and processes which are being refined to their bare minimal states.

what does this mean for learning – demand for the creation of learning programs in shorter and shorter periods of time with greater expectations regarding quality and execution seem headed for an critical point of impossibility.  what will be required is a radical shift to building from what is already in place and, when able, preparing and repairing for known but yet unspecified needs.

learner-generated content and experiences will be more of the mix

what does this meanmanagers will be more and more responsible for the development of their employees and will be expected to meet this objective on an ongoing activity – often day to day.  In the process they will create materials to augment, replace or create what the learning function provides.  In addition, as learning becomes more embedded with the employees work, their work product will become their learning content, their work area will become their learning environment.

what does this mean for learning – we will be expected to understand these intimate workspaces and understand the work product of our learners.  This understanding will need to be so deep that we can insert ourselves and our content with little impact on the workflow.

obviously, the impact up on each of us as learning professions will be tremendous.  it will mean learning radical new ways of thinking and behaving.  many of us will not be able or willing to make such  radical changes.  but i’ll maintain that those of us who are able and willing will be able to draw upon the core characteristics of the current instructional models.  The specifics will  certainly change, but i don’t see the core concepts of needs assessment; utilization of appropriate content, tools and context; and constant and thorough evaluation of both actual change versus desired change and of the effectiveness of learning programs changing.

in the end, i have no doubt  that instructional models will exist.  The question is, will we?