This morning I watched Gary Vaynerchuck’s 2016 video called Documenting Not Creating. That video and conversations with Sarah Stahl and seeing what she is doing with her 25 Day Learning Journey on Facebook Live and LinkedIn and some other people across social networks, seemed to meld a few things that were swirling in my head.
For the last six weeks, I have been working on a three-month employee contract at an insurance company and every morning when I come to work, there’s a poster on our team wall that has the suite of enterprise programs that the team looks after.
One little inconspicuous dotted line box on this poster has two words in it. Future Me.
Although I know nothing of what sits behind it or what it’s about, or what they’re thinking of what should be in it, it’s been niggling at me all this time. I keep thinking about Future Me. I have this sneaking suspicion that this is my lynchpin.
In what way? I’m unsure.
I just know as sure as I knew that “Activate” had to be in my business name when I first heard it as the name of an Onboarding Program in a previous employer and I registered the business name on the same day I heard it.
Future Me is giving me the same hee bee jee bee feeling about it.
Is this my raison d’etre? Here it is in simple, easy to understand and non-corporate, non-Learning & Development or academic terms – and finally, in terms that the general public understand.
In truth, I’m obsessing too much over this concept in my head. I should be focussing on the day-to-day task at hand that they’ve asked me to do which is to create tools, checklists and process maps to support the learning team to process and streamline requests for curation boards by the business. However, I can’t help but feel it in my heart and mind that the real power doesn’t lie with the curation platform (it’s never about the tools, tech or platforms) – the real power will lie behind that dotted box called Future Me.
Future Me is the WHY and the WIIFM for people – as it is for me.
You may have realised by now that I have a big dilemma in trying to pinpoint exactly what my value is to corporate clients. Work in the last couple of years has been fluctuating at the best of times and it’s been a journey of self-exploration as I tried to understand why this was the case. Was I doing something wrong? Was I behind everyone else? Why wasn’t I making headway?
While reflecting, I was coming up with the same obstacles of trying to explain what it was I do to people – whether they are IN learning and development (my field) or not.
I mistakenly thought that Learning and Development would understand things like social learning, working out loud, community building, workplace collaboration and taking charge of your own personal and professional development and how these are not pushed out to employees like any other training programs.
Some did, others did not.
I also realised that I was so ingrained in my own field that I lost the ability to communicate the WHY and WIIFM about social learning to people in general and simple terms.
Let’s face it, “social learning” is a meaningless term to many people.
The assumption is that just because I use social media to network and to learn that I’m a marketer.
I can’t tell you the number of times people have asked me to build their website, build their Facebook business pages; ask me about Facebook Ads.
Meanwhile, inside organisations, learning and development teams consider my work to sit more in the corporate communications or change management space because they don’t deal with looking at the development of the “whole person” or even consider using enterprise social networks as potential learning platforms.
There’s an entire missing piece about helping people to be continually developing themselves and then supporting and enabling them to do this at work.
People look at me quizzicly when I explain that I help people learn. How does one decide that they need a service to learn better? They’re asking, “people PAY you to teach them how to learn?”
Well, no they don’t and this may be part of the problem.
I don’t believe that many people think about personal learning the way I do. They’re thinking of outcomes, results and the end product of that learning. Not the actual learning process itself. Hence my frustrations at times to articulate the WHY and WIIFM in such a way that makes people think, “YES! I so need to do this for MYSELF! Help me do this for ME! I’m READY!”
Someone in my Snapchat community recently asked me, “So how’s the people learning biz going?” Others in my local community business networks smirk and ask, “how’s selling learning going?”
It’s a nebulous concept because there’s no end result, no outcome, no product – even worse, it’s continual, ever evolving, “unscaleable” (their term not mine – as this is not an indicator of personal success for me) and varies with each individual.
The thing is, they have a point.
- How do you sell learning?
- How do you sell a process?
- How do you sell something that doesn’t end? That’s constantly evolving and continual?
- How do you sell something that requires people to decide to just START?
- How do you sell something that requires risk and vulnerability because it means having to go through that personal journey of change yourself?
- How do you sell something that is all about changing your own behaviour and your mindset?
- How do you sell something that can’t be packaged in a neat product, 12 step plan, workshop or template?
I’ve been watching Sarah Stahl on Facebook Live do her personal 25 Day Learning Challenge. She set herself the challenge to learn live streaming on Facebook Live and share her learnings through that platform as well as learn more about LinkedIn (so she’s vlogging on Facebook Live and then sharing her learning on LinkedIn).
Watching Sarah go through the process of working things out in public and then engaging with the people who are watching her, we see the process. We haven’t seen the end result yet but I have a sneaking suspicion that we already know what it will be because we see her become more comfortable in front of the camera, more open to experimenting, laughing and engaging with her audience.
This is working and learning out loud – it’s what we need to do to achieve our “Future Me”
In organisations, I’m not going to lie, working out loud is difficult because it means putting yourself out there in public. The first step – starting – is always the hardest and in a majority of cases, we don’t know what we don’t know.
We have feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty and fear that we’d be made to look like fools if we come across that we don’t have our work look perfect and beautiful. This is akin to what Gary Vee said in the above video that some people worry too much about the “perfect lighting or the perfect photo”. In organisations that could translate to the perfect project, or the perfect product.
The thing is, the process is way more exciting and engaging to people than the perfection of the final product because in all honesty, it’ll never be ‘just right; just perfect’.
So how does this all link to Future Me?
I’m beginning to think that this is how I can sell my message of the importance of continual learning.
It’s all about planning what your Future Me – all the knowledge, skills, talents, experiences, education, network, training, conversations, research that you need to do to stay relevant in a changing world. However, the clincher is that your Future Me is not static, it’s evolving too.
Knowing that job security has for all intents and purposes disappeared and people move across roles and careers, is the new focus of Learning and Development away from job performance and more on self-development through continual learning to support the individual to best use their talents, skills and knowledge on what is most meaningful for them – and to just START because the time is right. Right now.
I’m interested in your thoughts.