For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mulling over what I’m going to talk about at LearnTec2020 which will be hosted in Karlsruhe in Germany next year on 28-30 January.
I was kindly invited to speak at this conference by Jane Hart whose work I have followed, shared and respected for many years now. Her work served as a switch in my brain when I was in corporate Learning and Development to radically rethink my work as a learning consultant. She was also one of the few people on social media who offered practical advice and tips on how to do this. Her work not only encourages individuals from across any business to take charge of their own personal learning and professional development but there’s also support for managers too grappling with how to help their people to learn from each other and with each other to achieve business outcomes. A big element of her work also focusses on the changing nature of Learning and Development as a function and role in organisations and what people in these teams can do to also do the above…for themselves.
The session I’ll be facilitating at LearnTec 2020 is called Integrating Learning into Work and admittedly the examples I’ve seen in recent times have been what situations I come across in the role of Adoption Consultant (and now, Community Manager) for Adopt & Embrace, a Microsoft referral partner. Working here has been enlightening because we are a remote team with a manager who understands modern workplace. Every day working here, is a learning opportunity – I’m literally learning something new and different every day from my peers. We actively show and share our work, what we have learned or are learning – and we use the same tools that we use for work to do this. I’m happy to say, that I’ve hit the jackpot when it comes to the type of work I wanted to do – the type of people I wanted to work with – the type of flexibility that I wanted – the development, learning and subsequent…growth into new areas, new networks, new industries and new functions such as business, IT and change.
I’ve been reflecting on what I wanted to share in my session in LearnTec and made several iterations. I only have an hour and a half and the intention is to make it a hands-on practical session for most of it rather than me just talking.
Initially, I drafted my ideas out as mindmaps which has been my way of brainstorming and note taking for a while now (after listening to Tony Buzan talk about this process at LearningTech in Singapore back in 2017).
My first mind map was a dump of ideas in pencil. It was only to get a muddle of random thoughts out of my head and onto paper (yes, I use paper mainly because I feel the tactility of a pen and texture of paper and the feel of the bottom on my hand skimming across the paper and the noise of pen to paper provides me with the full sense of being able to immerse myself into the process of thinking. I also want to see my mistakes on the page – and cross them out RATHER than deleting them. Seeing your errors and marginalia also shows you how your thinking has evolved and the tangents that you decided not to take. However, that’s not to say that I use paper all the time – I don’t. I can just as easily scribble notes online on say a OneNote page or Whiteboard app – the only difference is that I have to go SEARCHING for my Surface pen in my bag. That’s time wasted for me. Whereas, I have abundant coloured pens, pencils, texta markers that I’m surrounded with at my desk that is simply more immediate at hand – and countless paper note pads, books, journals in every room of the house where I can just pick up and scribble things in).
The second iteration of mind map evolved a bit more but I felt that it was waffling a bit too much. There’s simply too much content there for an hour and half to do it justice. I know L&D people and they like to get their hands dirty and want more activities so I had to radically rethink my session. Also I didn’t want to just talk about my examples (although I’m going to share a ‘a ha’ story of recent times that will set the scene.
I’ve had a couple more iterations of the mind map since this one but I decided to focus on some key lessons I learned about learning and development based on what I’m seeing in organisations nowadays – and how they’re doing their work while they are under “digital transformation”.
I focus on some key lessons I learned (and that I had to admit to myself that I was doing all wrong in L&D previously) which will serve as a starting point for rethinking how we can help our organisations and its people for managing change and complexity in their work using the tools, methods and media that are around them.
As I plan the session, it becomes evident to me (well, it has for a long time), that really there’s no ONE framework that will help organisations do this; there’s no ONE solution. The only solution is to have a change in mindset in how people communicate, collaborate and co-operate with each other to do work – and to be in an environment that supports them to do their best work – the the way they want – together.
I believe ultimately that the best skill a worker in today’s modern workplace needs to have is the ability to reflect on their performance; to question how they can continually improve at work; and to build better relationships and networks.
— Helen Blunden #MSIgnite Community Reporter 🎤📸🤳 (@ActivateLearn) October 12, 2019
In the last week, I started to get these thoughts down in PowerPoint and the thinking had evolved once again to something different again. I had thought about all the times when I want to learn something new and thought about my own process – and it came down to these major questions I ask myself.
These questions are now quite standard for me – I do them quite naturally – without thinking – until I have to think about them (the sense making and reflection such as what I’m doing here). They also don’t have a “place” – that is, it’s the same thinking for learning something work related to something that is say, a hobby like learning how to do some new knitting pattern. I seem to flow in and out of networks and communities, have people from across a broad range of industries, get in and out of various social media, explore a variety of online and offline resources because there’s an ultimate goal in mind. I look for experiences where I can immerse myself into learning more with a group – just as easily as I’m happy to explore on my own (but amusingly, I note that I still share my learning adventures publicly!).
Yesterday, I sat down and wrote down my process of learning and I came up with this. Some of the immediate gaps I see is that I don’t talk about restrictions such as thinking about “how much is this going to cost me in terms of money and time?”
Money and time simply don’t factor in my learning process anymore. I also don’t think about how my employer will pay for my development. I simply have to prioritise these to ensure they fit within my day based on their importance to me. For example, I only work three days a week so that means I have to learn new systems, tools and technology WHILE I’m doing my day to day work. If I can collate a whole heap of these below into a task or an activity that also will help me improve the way I work, I’ve killed two birds with the one stone.
For now, I’m going with this and will now have to create an activity on my session. I’m thinking about looking at particular work scenarios or work flows that we come across at work on a daily basis (but the focus will be on NOT HR or L&D roles) that we can explore how to integrate performance improvement in the workflow.
I don’t like using ‘avatars’ or ‘profiles’ when it comes to work like this – we’re all different and I hate the idea of someone boxing me and making assumptions about me as the “50+ woman” then determining what THEY think I need or how they will “deal with me” for learning.
Instead, we will look at actual work and types of environments that people do work and how to help others rethink their work so that they continually derive some personal satisfaction that they are developing and growing in the work and in the team around them – and feel that they are the ones controlling how they do this with the support of their manager and colleagues around them.
So that’s the next step now….let’s see how it goes!