Back in 2013 I participated in an open course (cMOOC) in Exploring Personal Learning Networks through Northwestern University Master’s Program Learning & Organisational Change run by Jeff Merrell. One of the standout features of this course was not only the excellent reference material on PLNs (which I still refer to) but that it made me realise the importance of my trusted PLN to my learning and my work.
The biggest lesson I learned from this course is how trust is such an important factor in creating, maintaining, building and using my PLN in my work – but also that I trust my organisation to do the same. Strangely, I couldn’t say that I could trust my organisation to value my PLN. With that, I felt at odds. I remember a strange feeling at the pit of my stomach when I made this realisation because it felt like I was picking sides – and the PLN was going to win, not my employer. Questions raced through my mind. How was this going to affect the way I worked? Did it mean that I had to deliberately keep quiet – not share what I know? Can an employer force me to share my work and learning? That didn’t sit well with me either.
I was protective of my PLN as the abuse of that trust meant breaking the bond and harming my reputation that I had built up over some years. Christina Pedulla explains it much better than I can in her article “It’s Not About Me: Individual Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Communities”.
I’m now excited to see that Jeff is back again with another open course commencing on 19 January called Exploring Innovations in Networked Work and Learning. It’s with anticipation that I once again will participate and learn from my previous course fellow attendees Helen Crump, Cedric Borzee, Tanya Lau, Keely Sorokti, Maureen Crawford, Essa Garland, Maha Bali and many others.
The course will focus on how new ideas and innovations transform the way we work and learn and explore how these may come about through either working or solving work related problems from business or management practitioners or through our organisational learning practices such as communities of practice, connected courses or MOOCs (to name a few). You can read more about the course on Exploring Innovation in Networked Work and Learning.
It feels like we’re a graduating class who are now coming back to study again but this time with more knowledge, experience and stories to share – and we all are invited to play a part.
What do I want to get out of this course?
Well, the first time I did the course I was working within an organisation. I was a contractor working in the Learning and Development department of a financial service institution.
The course and all the wonderful and robust discussions in the Google+ Community enabled me to reflect how important my PLN was to me. At times, I felt quite protective of my PLN. I was the one who built it, maintained it, nurtured it and valued it. It was personal – to me. But at the same time, I was confused. Was I abusing the trust of my PLN if my employer expected or demanded that I share what I learned when they themselves, hadn’t built that for themselves and were getting the kudos? Was that fair to my PLN? To me?
Now, however, I’m a freelance consultant and I’d like to see how this changes in particularly in two aspects:
- How does innovation occur when you are self-employed? How do I maintain the trust with my PLN because what I learn and share now with my ’employer READ client’ is now my livelihood. Does it change? Does it have to? How does this now impact the trust that my PLN has of me? Can I be authentic in this situation?
- How can I help my clients see the value of PLN’s for their employees and to value and trust them as an extension of good working relationships, organisational culture of openness and sharing and achieving strategic objectives. (This is covered in this article tweeted by Harold Jarche recently on How Collaborative Resiliency Can Save Your Company and Your Life)
It looks like PLN’s are becoming Personal in organisations:
Value me, value my PLN
Trust me, trust my PLN
Only now, can we help each other.
If you would like to read more about the Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC, here are the blog posts I had written:
It’s not too late to join us in this new open course. Why don’t you join us?