Curating & coordinating learning opportunities for the workplace

learn-64058_640Next public online workshop runs: 6 JUNE – 1 JULY 2016

It is no longer necessary or even possible to create everything your people need, so this 4-week online workshop considers a number of different ways to provide a wider set of learning opportunities in the workplace – through curation and coordination of internal and external content and people.


  1. Curation: the why, what and how
  2. Presenting curated resources: usability and relevance
  3. Ongoing curation in learning flows
  4. Coordinating live events (in a Learning Lounge or Learning Network)

All participants will receive a free copy of the PDF version of the MWL book and membership of the MWL Association

About this workshop

  1. This is not a traditional course, where I provide all the content and then test you on it! It is a social experience hosted in a private Yammer group. Each week you are invited to work on a practical activity and then share your thoughts and your work with the rest of the group.
  2. Nothing is compulsory, but you will find that the more you “work out loud” with the other participants, the more you will get out of the workshop. Even showing “raw” examples of your work is valuable for others to see, it doesn’t have to be a perfect product. And of course, it is also helpful to comment on each others work as well as consider how their ideas might work within your own organisation.
  3. You will probably want to commit a couple of hours a week for this workshop, but once again it is up to you how much time you devote to it, and also when you do the work. The workshop is totally asynchronous.


“Thank you so much Jane for facilitating this. I have learned so much from you and the other participants. I look forward to implementing these great ideas at my company and feel inspired!”

Workshop fee

  • £99 for payment by credit card or PayPal using instructions below
  • Corporate rates apply for payment by invoice. Contact for more information

Payment instructions

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Heading in the right direction

Most of our educational approaches – K12, Higher Ed, and organizational – are fundamentally wrong.  What I see in schools, classrooms, and corporations are information presentation and knowledge testing.  Which isn’t bad in and of itself, except that it won’t lead to new abilities to do!  And this bothers me.

As a consequence, I took a stand trying to create a curricula that wasn’t about content, but instead about action.  I elaborated it in some subsequent posts, trying to make clear that the activities could be connected and social, so that you could be developing something over time, and also that the output of the activity produced products – both the work and thoughts on the work – that serve as a portfolio.

I just was reading and saw some lovely synergistic thoughts that inspire me that there’s hope. For one, Paul Tough apparently wrote a book on the non-cognitive aspects of successful learners, How Children Succeed, and then followed it up with Helping Children Succeed, which digs into the ignored ‘how’.  His point is that elements like ‘grit’ that have been (rightly) touted aren’t developed in the same way cognitive skills are, and yet they can be developed. I haven’t read his book (yet), but in exploring an interview with him, I found out about Expeditionary Learning.

And what Expeditionary Learning has, I’m happy to discover, is an approach based upon deeply immersive projects that integrate curricula and require the learning traits recognized as important.  Tough’s point is that the environment matters, and here are schools that are restructured to be learning environments with learning cultures.  They’re social, facilitated, with meaningful goals, and real challenges. This is about learning, not testing.  “A teacher’s primary task is to help students overcome their fears and discover they can do more than they think they can.”

And I similarly came across an article by Benjamin Riley, who’s been pilloried as the poster-child against personalization.  And he embraces that from a particular stance, that learning should be personalized by teachers, not technology.  He goes further, talking about having teachers understand learning science, becoming learning engineers.  He also emphasizes social aspects.

Both of these approaches indicate a shift from content regurgitation to meaningful social action, in ways that reflect what’s known about how we think, work, and learn. It’s way past time, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep striving to do better. I’ll argue that in higher ed and in organizations, we should also become more aware of learning science, and on meaningful activity.  I encourage you to read the short interview and article, and think about where you see leverage to improve learning.  I’m happy to help!

A richer suite of support

While it’s easy to talk about how we need to support the transition from novice to expert, it might help to be a little more detailed.  While it’s easy to say that the role of formal learning wanes, and the role of informal learning ramps up, what are the types of support we might look to?

I expanded a core diagram I’ve been using for quite a while, based upon earlier diagrams from others.  It’s also been used by others, and the core of the diagram is clear, but I wanted to elaborate it. The underlying point is that as individuals gather expertise the value of formal learning drops, and the value of informal learning increases.  Ok, but what does that mean?

InFormalSpaces It means that courses make sense for novices, who don’t know what they need nor why it’s important. As they start performing however, their needs change. They start knowing what they need, and why it’s important, and they start just needing those resources.  They can be designed or curated, but they are either performance support in the moment or learning resources that develop understanding or abilities.  For the former, we’re talking about how-to videos, checklists, lookup tables, etc.  For the latter, we might be talking documents, documentaries, diagrams, or more interactive elements such as simulations.

At this stage we also need coaching and/or mentoring, and chances to communicate with our colleagues.  It’s the social work that will play a role in the development of the learner through interactions. Obviously, you can be doing communication in courses as well, and reflecting and collaborating at the practitioner stage as well, these are continua, not boxes as portrayed here.  The point, however, is that the nature of the necessary support and the activities change.

And, of course, once an individual advances far enough, there’s little anyone can be providing for them, instead they need the ‘creative friction’ of interactions with other experts and ideas to generate the new understandings that will advance the individual and the organization.  Reflecting together, solving problems to gather, and more, are all part of the activities that individuals undertake.

These activities don’t always happen well, and can be facilitated in many ways.  There are cultural factors as well.  There is a clear need for someone to be undertaking ensuring that these activities are happening in optimal ways in a conducive environment. It doesn’t have to be L&D, and it won’t be if all they do is focus on training and courses, but it should be someone who understands a bit about how we think, work, and learn.  And I don’t know another group that is better placed.  Can you?

50+ things you think if you have an old workplace learning mindset

The difference between those organisations who are really moving ahead in the new world of workplace learning and doing things differently and those who are just tinkering with the traditional workplace training model is a new mindset.

Here are 50+ things you think if you have an old workplace learning mindset compiled my colleagues in the Internet Time Alliance – and embedded in the post below.

Previous posts in this series:

1: Professional Ecosystem
2: Chatbots

L&D in the Modern Workplace Challenge starts Monday 30 May

challenge-300x131This is just a reminder that the next L&D in the Modern Workplace Challenge takes place over 12 weeks from 30 May – 19 August.

This Challenge consists of 12 Activities (some of which contain more than one task). Part A is designed for you to experience a range of different learning approaches, so that in Part B you can consider how to put them into practice in your own organisation.

PART A: PERSONAL LEARNING PART B: professional practice
  1. Getting started with the Challenge
  2. Learning from daily work
  3. Learning from other people
  4. Keeping up to date
  5. Managing your own career
  6. Addressing performance problems
  1. Enabling flexible and social content
  2. Guiding social learning experiences
  3. Supporting social learning and social collaboration
  4. Promoting independent learning
  5. Working with managers
  6. Reviewing the Challenge

Here’s some feedback from participants on the last workshop:

“Jane Hart’s L&D challenge takes you through all of the steps for implementing a shift in the role of L&D towards facilitating social and everyday learning, both at personal and organizational levels. I took part in most of the activities, which are relevant and interesting (and fun!) but there is no obligation to participate if something isn’t relevant to your organization or if you don’t have time that week. This takes away the guilt I often feel when I participate late or not at all during a course and so I never lost the motivation to continue working through it. I highly recommend it to everyone – beginners and experts alike.”  Carolyn Gregoire

“If you’re in Learning & Development, you know that you need to change. Traditional Training won’t cut it any more. You need to shape and support modern workplace learning – informal, social, beyond the course and LMS. Jane’s Challenge takes this from an abstract, scary task and makes it possible. The interactions with other professionals are invaluable – you realise you’re not alone and everyone’s willing to help each other out with ideas and practical tips. You’ll come through the challenge with a fresh set of insights for reinvigorating your approach to supporting your business. Highly Recommended.” Stephen Walsh

“The Challenge is a unique learning experience. I would recommended it to anyone in L&D who would like to understand not only where the role of the L&D Practitioner is heading but who also wants to be involved in shaping the role too.

I enjoyed experiencing first-hand one of Jane Hart’s modern approaches to learning – the Guided Social Learning Experience – which is the way in which The Challenge is structured. I think it is both an effective (and enjoyable) structure and I learned a huge amount by completing the weekly Challenge activities and by learning with others on Yammer.

I found Jane’s MWL book (provided as a resource in the program) to be thought-provoking and an excellent read and one that I have continuously referred to. I also found the links to the articles, blog posts, tools etc. written and/or provided by Jane for the activities to be both current and of the best quality.

I will definitely miss receiving the weekly Challenge activity. They not only made me think but they also gave me the proverbial ‘kick’ to try out new activities and tools, and to develop new personal and organisational learning skills and habits.” Justine Jardine

Find out more about the Challenge and how to sign up by clicking this link.

The Human-Centered Organization

As I talk about aligning work with how we brains think, work, and learn, I realize I’m talking about something bigger.  While I want L&D to lead the way (as those are the folks I know), it’s really about leading the way to an organization that’s aligned with us, with people.  And I think that’s something bigger, and definitely better.

The point being, as we reorganize work to tap into the best of us, we’re creating organizations that are humane in a very specific, and hopefully deep, sense.  Humane for all employees, and further.

The industrial era organization, quite simply, wasn’t. The mechanization of human work, the drive for more efficiency at whatever cost, the top-down imposition of rules, and more, are all contrary to what brings out the best in people. It’s demeaning and unhealthy, but even from a business perspective it’s rigid and inflexible.

Instead, when we talk about having work with purpose, and socially aware organizations, with tighter coupling to the market, and greater empowerment of employees, we’re talking about our finer human elements.  And, the evidence seems to be that such organizations are more successful.

Interestingly, I searched the term “Human Centered Organization”, and came across this proposal. (And, in fact, it’s now an ISO standard, 27500:2016, not that I’ve made it past the paywall to view the whole thing.) I found the principles from the summary to be a a good starting point:

  • capitalize on individual differences as an organizational strength
  • make usability and accessibility strategic business objectives
  • adopt a total system approach
  • ensure health, safety, and well-being are business priorities
  • value employees and create a meaningful work environment
  • be open and trustworthy
  • act in socially responsible ways

All of these reflect different areas I’ve either touted or am aware of specific work (and workers) in the area. I’d add that this should not be just internally-facing; this should reflect work with partners and customers as well.

Frankly, many companies I interact with seem driven to confuse me to the point that I make decisions that favor them. I don’t like that, and try to avoid them. A few organizations, instead, offer simple services with clear benefits.  Interestingly, when I engage with the people in the straightforward organizations, they seem to like their employment circumstances.  When I can engage one of the others to speak to me honestly, or I know them through other channels than a business relationship, they admit they don’t like what they have to do.

OK, so I can be an idealist (and am a native Californian :), but it seems to me that organizations that move to a more humane approach are going to be the ones that will last.  There are known concrete steps to get there, but the path will vary by organization. I suggest that you start thinking about your strategy. Are you ready to get human?

Online Community Management (Workshop)

circle-159252_1280Next public online workshop runs: 30 MAY – 24 JUNE

Setting up and running an online community takes time and effort. In this online workshop we look at how to support the planning, launch and running of an online community.


This 4-week online workshop covers the following topics:

  1. Planning the community
  2. Launching the community
  3. Encouraging engagement
  4. Measuring success

All participants will receive free copies of the PDF versions of the Social Learning Handbook and the MWL book as well as membership of the MWL Association

About this online workshop

  1. This is not a traditional course, where I provide all the content and then test you on it! It is a social experience hosted in a private Yammer group. Each week you are invited to work on a practical activity and then share your thoughts and your work with the rest of the group.
  2. Nothing is compulsory, but you will find that the more you “work out loud” with the other participants, the more you will get out of the workshop. Even showing “raw” examples of your work is valuable for others to see, it doesn’t have to be a perfect product. And of course, it is also helpful to comment on each other’s work as well as consider how their ideas might work within your own organisation.
  3. You will probably want to commit a couple of hours a week for this workshop, but once again it is up to you how much time you devote to it, and also when you do the work.


“Recommend this @C4LPT got me started, I never looked back.”

“I’ve really enjoyed the course and now feel much better equipped to plan and manage online communities.”

“Thanks for your gentle guidance and the very helpful resources in this course, Jane. I’ve really enjoyed the course and look to the future with confidence :-)”

“This course has provided me with plenty of resources and ideas to guide my future online activities in a more considered and strategic manner. Thanks so much for the content, and thanks to everybody who commented with their own examples!”

“Thank you Jane for making this program available and for the resources you have provided. It has been really valuable for me and will allow me to take a far more strategic approach to the community. I certainly have a better foundation to build on and I’m much clearer on my objectives. Thanks also to all participants. I’ve appreciated your thoughtful comments and insights along the way. All the best with your various projects.”

Workshop fee

  • £99 – for immediate payment by credit card or PayPal. Follow the payment instructions below.
  • £149 – for payment by company invoice. There is a 10% discount for purchase of 10 or more places (not necessarily on the same workshop/challenge). Contact for more information

Payment instructions

Click on the Buy Now button below, and you will be taken to a page at the PayPal site to pay.

  • You can pay in two ways:
    • By credit card: select Don’t have a PayPal account in the right-hand column, and complete the form with your credit card details. You can also print a receipt here too. Note: our merchant name is Tesserae Ltd, and this is the name that will appear on your credit card statement.
    • By PayPal: enter your PayPal details in the box shown.
  • Click Return to Tesserae Ltd to return to this site.
  • You will then receive an email from us, with a link and password to get started
  • If you do not receive the email within 24 hours, please contact

Reading List additions

I’ve been reading a few other books, and have written up some book reviews on two of them.

For the Revolution Reading List, I strongly encourage you to read Amy Edmondson’s Teaming, it’s a great review of the needed changes for organizations to embrace innovation.  My eLearn Mag review is here.

For no specific list, but as a book that was really transformational for my thinking, Todd Rose’s The End of Average really helped point out the problems with our current obsession with simplistic evaluations of people.  My review for eLearn Mag is here.

And some thoughts on Doug Engelbart, a visionary who’s contributed greatly to our thinking can be seen in this article for Learning Solutions, here.

As always, I welcome hearing your thoughts on these, or your own recommendations!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Future of Work and Learning 2: Chatbots

robot-1339192_640In my previous post I looked at how I believe Professional Ecosystems are the future of work and learning, and how organisations (and L&D) might support them.  In this post I want to look at how individuals might make use of chatbots to build smart Professional Ecosystems, and how organisations might use them to provide intelligent access to their own content and services as well as offer personalised support to individuals.

Why chatbots?

First a bit of background: two things have happened recently that are considered to be big turning points. Firstly, use of mobile devices has now exceeded use of desktop machines to access the Internet, and secondly, people are now spending more time in messaging apps than in social networks.  This has led to predictions that messaging apps are destined to be the platforms of the future, but more than that, it is also considered that it will be through bots rather than apps that users will access all sorts of services.  In fact some go as far as to say that bots will cause a “near term disruption in how businesses interact with customers, and a long term paradigm shift in how people will interact with machines“.

What actually is a bot?

A bot, or as it is more commonly known, a chatbot, is a piece of software that’s designed to simulate a conversation with a (human) user in the interest of giving you information that you want or enable you to complete a transaction (source).

Conversational or chat bots, often make use of artificial intelligence and natural language processing technologies, and they’ve been around for some time. Take for instance, Alice and Evie. Their purpose is also to learn from you as they chat with you so that they can provide you with better answers to your questions.

It is true that a lot of the mobile chatbots that are to be found in messaging platforms are very primitive in comparison, as they only offer a strict set of preset commands to connect with a user. In other words they won’t “understand” anything outside of that command set, so, they certainly wouldn’t pass the Turing Test. But even these simple bots can provide some useful functionality, in as much as they can offer a level of automation or personalisation to content and services that was not so easily achievable before – for example they can make it easier to find something without having to do a Web search, or open up multiple apps. It’s clearly early days for bots, so this is just the beginning of what it is going to be possible in the future.

How you can incorporate bots into your Professional Ecosystem?

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 09.32.10Well, you could use them to interface intelligently with the content and service providers you already use (as I highlight on the diagram (right) I used in my previous post). Examples of their use might therefore be to ..

  • search for relevant or customised content (or courses) on say YouTube, Wikipedia or Coursera
  • receive relevant or customised news automatically (from news sources, blogs feeds, Twitter accounts)
  • receive customised productivity support (e.g. alerts, reminders, etc)
  • or to have an intelligent personal assistant (like Viv, which goes beyond the capabilities of current personal assistants like Siri and Cortona)

Where can you find bots?

More and more messaging apps are supporting bots, e.g. Facebook Messenger, Slack, Kik, WeChat, Skype and Telegram. There are even SMS bots, and Microsoft, Apple and Google are working on them too. (Note: WhatsApp doesn’t (yet?) have a bot platform)

Although Telegram is a less well known messaging app, it is considered to be much faster and more secure than Messenger or WhatsApp, and it also has a great little bot platform which means you can easily try out bots to see their potential. I have been using Telegram for a while now, and I am finding that it a useful platform to integrate a lot of the sources and tools in my own Professional Ecosystem. If you are interested in finding out more about Telegram, then here’s my Quick Guide to Telegram.

What about creating bots – who might do that?

Facebook considers the future lies in business to consumer apps, so 3rd party content and services providers will now be looking for ways to provide smart bots for users to access their offerings via Facebook Messenger apps. There are already bots for property searchesgetting up to date news bots, as well as for booking hotels.

But individuals might find a use for creating their own bots too, e.g. Esther created her own resume bot.

When it comes to the workplace, there is now talk of the “conversational office” (which Slack is spearheading) and how messaging bots will change workplace productivity over the next five years.

When it comes to L&D how might bots fit into their work? Well, they could be created = as I highlight on the diagram from an earlier post – to provide …

  • personalised recommendations about internal or external courses and training
  • a personalised feed of relevant curated content
  • on demand personalised productivity and performance support
  • a virtual learning coach or assistant (see this example of a university teaching assistant)
  • a virtual learning concierge service (perhaps something along the lines of this Radisson Blu hotel concierge bot)

So how do you create a bot? Well although creating bots that make use of sophisticated AI and natural language processing requires a high level of programming skill, many of the messaging app platforms have opened up their bot platforms for 3rd party developers, so building simple, command-set driven bots is now within the reach of many people.

What this means is that organisations can now create bots for popular messaging systems so that employees can connect with organisational systems using their own preferred messaging apps. That would mean a big change in the workplace – where systems would now adjust to people; not people to them!

Moving forward

I’ve argued before that there’s a pretty clear path forward for organizations.  The necessity to become agile means that the old ‘command and control’ approach won’t cut it any longer. What’s required is tapping into the ability of people to work together.  The new structure is focused on teams (stayed tuned for my review of Amy Edmondson’s Teaming) that are given the tasks to solve problems, trouble shoot, design new products and services, and generally continue to adapt.  In short, to learn. And I want to talk about the L&D role here, at least the potential one.

Certain elements are required.  The teams need a number of things to be effective.  They have to be given meaningful tasks, to have the freedom to pursue them, to have the ability to experiment (and fail) as necessary, and to be accountable.  To collaborate successfully to accomplish their goals, they need certain features internally: they need to have diverse representation, be open to new ideas, have time for reflection, and it has to be safe to contribute.

This takes a new approach from the organization. It takes leadership to make such a culture, and the culture itself has to make it possible for these to occur and to get people to be motivated to contribute. Two elements really contribute: contribution, and transparency.  People need to know what each other is doing, and be willing to chip in and assist.  This happens both within teams and beyond.

So what is L&D’s role?  First, to model the desired behavior. L&D should be practicing what it preaches in experimenting and continually improving. There should be teams assigned to tasks, and the practitioners should be acting as members of their communities.   They should be evangelizing, piloting, and sharing their successes with this approach, while continually learning more.

Then, L&D should be working with others as teams to meet their client needs.  They should be working to innovate around the solutions.  They should be promoting and executing on pilots that get fleshed out.  And they should be gradually raising awareness about the processes and the culture.

Done well, this movement reduces turnover, increases engagement, and produces better outcomes.  It’s not trivial; there are nuances and challenges that will have to be addresses.  On the other hand, evidence is converging that this is the future of business. So are you preparing for it, or waiting to be blind-sided?  If you’re looking for guidance in getting going, I’m easy to find.


Two separate systems?

I frequently say that L&D needs to move from just ensuring optimal execution to also supporting continual innovation.  Can these co-exist, or are they fundamentally different?  I really don’t know, but it’s worth pondering.

Kotter (the change management guru), has begun to advocate for a dual-operating system approach, where companies jointly support an operational hierarchy and an innovation network that are coupled.  I haven’t read his book on the topic, but it seems to be a bit extrinsic, a way of bolting on innovation instead of making it intrinsic to the operation.

On the other hand, there is quite a bit of expression for more flexible systems, a more podular approach. Teaming or small nodes are increasingly appearing as not just for innovation, but ongoing operation. However, it’s not clear how the various different areas are coordinated, so how marketing across pods maintains coherent.

CoherentOrgExpandedThis is what led to our Coherent Organization model.  The notion is that the teams are coming in from, and reporting back up through, their communities. And their communities are communicating both within, and outside of, the organization.

It’s not clear to me whether the team approach can scale to a global organization, or whether you need the hybrid model.  I can see that the hybrid model would appeal to existing business folks who would be concerned about optimization in execution.  I can see that the new model would at least require fundamental changes in mechanisms, and perhaps a willingness to tradeoff absolute perfection in execution to maintain continuing innovation and customer-responsiveness.

While intuitively the more biologically inspired approach sounds like the longer-term solution, it’s non-trivial in terms of creating cultures that are appropriately conducive.  I think that organizational operations may be at an inflection point, and there does seem to be data that supports more radical flexibility.   I think a performance ecosystem coupled with a learning organization environment is likely going to be the way to move.  How you get there is part of the revolution that’s needed. Start small, scale out, etc. And I hope L&D can help lead the way.

The Future of Work and Learning 1: The Professional Ecosystem

“Each of us is the center of the universe. So is everyone else.” e e cummings

In my previous post I looked at the individual’s perspective of workplace learning and included a graphic showing how individuals learn at and for work in 10 main ways.

profecosystemEssentially, I was describing a Professional Ecosystem (PES) – a set of organisational and personal, interconnecting and interacting elements – content, people, software, services, apps, etc – that helps an individual

  • do their job
  • solve performance problems
  • communicate and collaborate with others
  • self-improve (for their existing work and/or future career), as well as
  • keep up to date with what is happening in their industry or profession so that they remain relevant and marketable.

The graphic above is an example of the tools and services an individual might make use of as part of his/her PES. But the point to make very clear is that a PES is not a prescribed entity – so everyone’s PES will be different. It is also not a fixed entity – organisational elements will change as the individual changes jobs, and personal elements will change as the individual adds (or removes) external people, content and tools in order to maintain an ecosystem that best fits their needs. A PES, therefore, lies at the very heart of Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) process.

A PES is therefore all of the following, but much more than any of them individually:

  • a Personal Learning Network (PLN) – a network of trusted connections with whom an individual interacts (and learns from) on a regular basis
  • a Personal Learning Environment – a personally organised system of elements (both people and content) for learning) – after all it isn’t just about learning, but just as much about doing a job
  • a Personal Performance Support system – to help an individual find answers to learning and performance problems
  • a Personal Career Coach – to guide you in your career development

binary-1332894_640So why do individuals need a PES?

There’s no longer such thing as a job for life; people are constantly moving around, and we are now seeing the early-stages of the so-called Freelance or Gig Economy. Individuals need to be ready to drop in and out of jobs with up-to-date skills and knowledge, as required. In order to do that they need to take responsibility for their own career development; they can’t rely on their company to support their career aspirations – so they need to be constantly learning in many different way not just for their current jobs but for their future jobs. This means they need a strong set of personal elements so they can learn continuously learn from e.g. exposure to people and from a flow of new ideas and resources. But more than all this, taking personal responsibility for one’s own PES brings the immense benefits of autonomy, mastery and purpose, which Dan Pink points out, in his book Drive, are the key motivators for personal and professional success. In other words, a PES (underpinned by PKM skills) puts individuals back in control of their lives and careers.

So how do PESs fit into organisations?

Organisations are no longer like they were 50 years ago; people are constantly moving around in their careers, and this is set to continue. So whereas training was originally done to people at a time when it was about training people to do a job for life, it is increasingly clear that conventional training practices are becoming outdated; individuals mostly want to learn what they need for their current job,  as and when they need it – and L&D can’t possibly provide everything everyone needs. What is more people learn in many different ways – not just through organised L&D activities – but everyday, inside and outside the workplace.

Furthermore. all this learning is actually “managed” by the individual him or herself, so trying to track everything everyone learns in a corporate LMS is not only an impossible task, it is becoming an increasingly irrelevant task in an age of a constantly changing workforce. It therefore makes more sense to focus on helping individuals build their own PESs to enable them to (a) do their jobs effectively, and (b) improve themselves in the ways that suits them best – and supporting them as they do this. I believe Mark Britz was thinking on similar lines when he tweeted …

Providing individual support has, up to now, not been scalable, and hence this is the reason why large organisations have resorted to one-size-fits all e-learning solutions. But things are beginning to change; the enabling technology is already here. So in my next post I want to talk about how bots can not only help an individual build a smarter PES for themselves, but how organisations can use them to provide intelligent access to their own content and services as well as offer personalised support to individuals.

Learning in Context

In a recent guest post, I wrote about the importance of context in learning. And for a featured session at the upcoming FocusOn Learning event, I’ll be talking about performance support in context.  But there was a recent question about how you’d do it in a particular environment, and that got me thinking about the the necessary requirements.

As context (ahem), there are already context-sensitive systems. I helped lead the design of one where a complex device was instrumented and consequently there were many indicators about the current status of the device. This trend is increasing.  And there are tools to build context-sensitive helps systems around enterprise software, whether purchased or home-grown. And there are also context-sensitive systems that track your location on mobile and allow you to use that to trigger a variety of actions.

Now, to be clear, these are already in use for performance support, but how do we take advantage of them for learning. Moreover, can we go beyond ‘location’ specific learning?  I think we can, if we rethink.

So first, we obviously can use those same systems to deliver specific learning. We can have a rich model of learning around a system, so a detailed competency map, and then with a rich profile of the learner we can know what they know and don’t, and then when they’re at a point where there’s a gap between their knowledge and the desired, we can trigger some additional information. It’s in context, at a ‘teachable moment’, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be assessed.

This would be on top of performance support, typically, as they’re still learning so we don’t want to risk a mistake. Or we could have a little chance to try it out and get it wrong that doesn’t actually get executed, and then give them feedback and the right answer to perform.  We’d have to be clear, however, about why learning is needed in addition to the right answer: is this something that really needs to be learned?

I want to go a wee bit further, though; can we build it around what the learner is doing?  How could we know?  Besides increasingly complex sensor logic, we can use when they are.  What’s on their calendar?  If it’s tagged appropriately, we can know at least what they’re supposed to be doing.  And we can develop not only specific system skills, but more general business skills: negotiation, running meetings, problem-solving/trouble-shooting, design, and more.

The point is that our learners are in contexts all the time.  Rather than take them away to learn, can we develop learning that wraps around what they’re doing? Increasingly we can, and in richer and richer ways. We can tap into the situational motivation to accomplish the task in the moment, and the existing parameters, to make ordinary tasks into learning opportunities. And that more ubiquitous, continuous development is more naturally matched to how we learn.

Showing my age, er, experience

I’ve been reading What the Dormouse Said (How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry), and it’s bringing back some memories.  Ok, so most of this stuff is older than I am, but there are a few connections, so it’s reminiscing time.  I’ve said some of this before, I believe, so feel free to wander on.  This is me just thinking aloud.

I was taking some computer science classes because I’d found out that biology was rote memorization and cut-throat medical (which I did not want to do; I was hoping for marine bio), and a buddy was doing it.  Given that I was at UCSD at the time, I naturally learned UCSD Pascal (as well as Fortran, which I fortunately forgot almost immediately, and Mixal likewise). I enjoyed algorithms, however, and could solve problems. I also was enchanted with AI (despite my first prof).  And I was  tutoring for some extra pocket money, math and science (even classes I hadn’t taken yet!).

Then I got a job doing the computer support for the office that did the tutoring (literally carrying decks of cards in Algol to run through the computer center). And a light went off; computers for learning!  There was no major then at my school, but there was a program to design my own major, and I found a couple of professors willing to serve as my advisors (thank you, Hugh Mehan and Jim Levin). They even let me work on a project with them (email for classroom discussion, circa 1978; we had ARPANET, the predecessor to the internet).  It eventually even got published as a journal article.

I called all over the country, trying to find someone who needed a person interested in computer learning.  I even interviewed at Xerox PARC with John Seely Brown, courtesy of Tom Malone (I didn’t get the job; they wanted something I’d done but I didn’t know their term for it!).  After a small job doing some statistical work for a research project, I managed to get a job designing and programming educational computer games for DesignWare (you can still play some of  the products here, the magic of  the internet).  We went from Basic to Forth (for speed and small size), though I later moved away from coding with the demise of HyperCard ;).

And the main connection to the cool stuff, besides the interview at PARC, was visiting the West Coast Computer Faire.  It was cool in and of itself, but there I met David Suess, who along with Bill Bowman was starting Spinnaker, a company to do home educational software.  DesignWare had been doing games to go along with publisher offerings, and I was pushing the home market.  After a conversation, I introduced David to my boss Jim Schuyler (Sky) and off we went. As a reward, I got to do FaceMaker. Eventually, DesignWare started doing it’s own titles, and I also did Spellicopter and Creature Creator before I realized I wanted to go back to grad school.

Along the way I also read Byte magazine and tracked efforts like SmallTalk and folks like Alan Kay.  I’ve subsequently had the pleasure to meet him, as well as Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson, so I’ve somewhat closed the loop on those heady days.  There’s much more between then and now, but that’s enough for one post. And most of my counterculture experiences were behind me by that time, so I didn’t really get a chance to see those connections, but it was an exciting time, and a great exposure to the possibilities.

Workplace Learning: The Individual’s Perspective

A few weeks ago I published a series of posts that looked at how you learn a work and how you can support these different ways of learning. This was a very L&D-centric view of workplace learning, with training at the centre and the outer – and larger – concentric circles containing the other ways of learning at and for work.

In this post, however, I want to consider the Individual’s Perspective of Workplace Learning. First of all, please note, I have not used the word Learner here, because for the Individual – the employee, the worker – it is clear it is not all about the learning but about the work. It’s primarily about getting their work done, addressing performance problems, and being part of a functioning team – and in fact learning is often an unconscious activity here! But it is also about personal improvement through both company-organised and self-initiatives, and about keeping up to date with what is happening in their industry or profession so that they remain relevant. So, here is a graphic that shows 10 ways how an individual might learn at and for work.

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 08.51.12

Of course, the amount (%) of learning that happens in these different activities will vary from person to personal – dependent on their job, their needs and interests. For example, as an independent consultant I learn mostly from my daily work (2) and from external activities (8-10), whereas a high achieving, company-employed knowledge worker will undoubtedly learn from a wider spread of both internal and external activities.

Although the organisational focus on workplace learning has up to now been on developing an individual (through training (5)), the work of workplace learning professionals (L&D) is now expanding towards supporting the individual at work as well as helping an individual develop him/herself as the graphic below illustrates. And it is very much about the Individual – one-size no longer fits all!


Consequently to support an individual effectively in these different ways requires new professional L&D practices (it’s no longer just about creating, delivering and managing training. What is more, it is clear (from my work with organisations around the world) that this can only come about if those L&D practitioners are mentally and personally ready themselves.

“Never get sucked into the ‘company knows best’ approach to your career”

road-sign-798176_640The quote in the title of this blog post comes from my favourite post in April 2016, When it comes to career. it’s up to every individual to stay relevant (Talent Management and HR, 25 April). Here’s a longer quote from that article.

“The workplace of today is changing, and workers’ skill sets must keep pace with employers’ expectations. However, who determines that expectation if your livelihood is dependent on some employer to make the right strategic moves? They lose, and ultimately, you lose.

For this reason, every one of us must have a career strategy, and that strategy should be guided by your industry’s trajectory. You should be fine-tuned to the intricacies of your profession. You have no choice. You have to self-develop to stay relevant. Always remember that YOU are in charge of your career  Never get sucked into the “company knows best” approach to your career.”

Here are a few other blog posts and articles I enjoyed in April – with some short quotes from them too.

Bring your own network, Harold Jarche (4 April 2016)

“In today’s digital economy, you are only as good as your network  … When work is learning, and learning is the work, organizations need to look at how good people are at actively engaging in learning networks. The network they bring may be much more important than the individual skills they have. Today, job interviews should include a note to ‘BYON’.”

People won’t grow if you don’t think people can change, Monique Valcour (Harvard Business Review, 21 April)

“Believing that employees can change doesn’t just make managers more willing and able to coach; evidence also suggests that it makes them more accurate judges of improvements or drops in performance. Leaders with a fixed mindset are less likely to notice a change, especially in someone whom they’ve judged (either favorably or unfavorably) in the past. And this behavior can alienate top performers and undermine motivation. The people who are most committed to learning are likely to leave or disengage if learning opportunities are scarce or if their growth goes unrecognized. On the other hand, when leaders do demonstrate a belief in people’s ability to grow, research shows that employees are more motivated to improve their performance, more satisfied with their jobs, and less likely to quit.”

What value do you in L&D bring to your organisation?, Clark Quinn (Learnlets, 5 April)

“My perspective is that the role of L&D could (and should) be about improving performance and facilitating development. If, instead of just providing courses, P&D were focused on making sure people could do their jobs, using performance consulting and developing the appropriate solutions – whether job aids, contextual support, coaching, or what have you – they’d be contributing to optimal execution. If they went further, and were also facilitating the ability for the organization to continually innovate – fostering communication and collaboration via tools, practices, and culture – they’d be key to getting people to provide their best. And this is increasingly important.”

You Can Never Empower People, but You Must Engage Them, Chuck Blakeman (Inc, 26 April)

“Don’t waste time trying to empower people. They already are. Just give them a reason to be engaged, give them the resources they need to grow, and get out of the way. And watch your company take off.”

Finally, a reminder of my own blog posts in April 2016