— Helen Blunden #AlwaysBeLearning🤔🧠🦉📚🥇 (@ActivateLearn) December 24, 2019
Q1: What is your interest in this subject that has triggered you to read this book?
Simon Fogg had sent me a direct message alerting me to the book and that it may be something I’d find valuable to read. In all honesty, in the last year, I have deliberately not read non-fiction books related to my field of learning and development preferring to read fiction as a way of forcing myself to think differently through learning about others experiences. A couple of years back I had read only non-fiction and found myself becoming impatient with the same references to reports, case studies and research that people in my field of Learning and Development were referring to so I refocused my efforts on listening to real life examples of personal growth from people and business through podcasts who were not in my field. Also many of these books were written as lead generation for other services so they were in effect, marketing products. This wasn’t such a big deal for me because well, we’ve all done that but I was more taken by stories more so over research.
However, at the same time I also realised that I needed to still be reading research reports so this year, I’m going to start with the non-fiction reading again – but not wholely a learning and development focus.
Why not start with the Expertise Economy?
Q2: What in your view causes an organisation to become obsolete?
To me, an organisation will become obsolete if its main driver is profit over purpose at the expense of their people.
(The book has a large section of it devoted to the idea of purpose driven organisations).
Q3: So we understand where each of us is coming from, what is your level of involvement in defining your or your clients’ organisations’ approach to learning and development strategy?
In my current role at Adopt & Embrace, I’m a Community Manager so my level of involvement in defining our client organisations learning and development strategy is not a factor. Instead, we are more about the adoption of technologies in the workplace and helping people use these to work smarter and more collaboratively. There is very little if any Learning and Development involvement in our work as our primary customers are the business, IT Managers and Change who are in the process of digital transformation. The irony is not lost on me that even though the focus is on change management and user adoption, it’s really all about learning and development – we just don’t use those words because to business people, these mean a department in their business which may not be playing an active role.
Q4: What are you doing, if anything, for your own personal development outside of anything that is happening inside your own organisation? If you are a service deliverer to organisations or to individuals, answer this question for yourself independently of those clients.
Personal development involved with job skills is critical for me. In the last couple of years, it’s been a massive learning curve (and it still is), to get myself up to speed with all things Microsoft 365. I had to completely relearn Windows, and then revisit the basic Microsoft packages because last time I used them, there were no collaboration functions. Having worked on Apple products and using the Google suite – these were my main focus. However, what I learned with these, helped me with picking up Microsoft relatively quickly. Thanks also to great colleagues who helped me out – and YouTube videos and a large part was my own training using Lynda.com resources and a great new network of in the massive Microsoft Tech Community. I had to start from scratch but the skills I learned around personal learning I used to immediately tap into the resources, networks and community to create my own learning plans to learn Microsoft Teams, Yammer (it’s changed since I last used it), Stream, SharePoint and many others.
Since then, my new focus in 2020 will be moving towards the skill of community management and once again, I’m using the same process to learn this new skill; connecting and tapping into the Australian Community Managers group on Facebook as well as the Community Roundtable resources. Learning and ‘doing’ community management in 2020 will be my prime focus.
Also, my plan is to become better at my video production and I’ve bought a new camera Canon G7x Mark III where I’m spending time, trawling through the product manual and YouTube getting my pictures and video to the point where they just look a little bit more polished. I’ve spent hours just taking photos in my back yard and experimenting with bits of video to feel comfortable with using the manual settings – I prefer to think about these rather than have the device do the thinking for me. I haven’t shared these out openly and publicly because for the first time in my life, I’m just happy to potter around with my own experiments without having conversations about them. The video and photos are just for my own pleasure – not for public consumption (and usually Private videos on my YouTube channel).
However, I’d also like to learn Adobe Premier Pro which will also be for work purposes too. We have a licence, so we may as well use it. I also am thinking about dabbling in livestreaming but as yet, the urge isn’t as strong as just asynchronous video and photography. In 2020, I’m also thinking of doing Sorelle Amoore’s Selfie course – again to take better portrait shots – not to be shared publicly – but which skills can also be used for work purposes.
Q5: What skills do you believe you increasingly need in your own world of work and more widely?
I know that the main skill that immediately jumps out as being CRITICAL and growing with time is critical thinking. I need to have a means of understanding and questioning what I’m reading especially when algorithms are feeding us stuff that you don’t know where the source comes from.
I also think sense and meaning making through curation and reflection are also skills that I need to hone in on – especially the latter. This year, I’m thinking of adding video reflections like how Philip Guo does his. I stumbled upon his reflection videos recently and thought to myself that this is something I can also add to my repertoire. The intention is not to build an audience – but simply to capture my thoughts and reflections (knowing it’s going to be a jumbled mess of words).
Q6: Assess yourself and those in your organisation against the skills listed in this part of the book.
today’s vital skillset for success includes:-
1. learning agility – learn new things quickly
- I think I do this well enough but it’s maintaining my interest for the long term which is the difficult thing for me. Also I want to learn stuff that interests and motivates me.
- Once again, this is something that I love and learn the best way when I’m collaborating with others. Lots of my projects and activities were collaborations with others outside my field and they were the best learning experiences of my life. Stand out ones were being part of a team to create a fake news channel, CNT Newschannel on Snapchat and YouTube that ran for a couple of years where we did two series and a spin off series – over 50 episodes – a definite highlight of my life; also writing the book on Microsoft Teams this year with my colleagues so now I have my name in print; and of course, being a film crew member of an Intergenerational Team where we wrote, filmed and edited a short movie that was aired at a cinema in our local community – and which was supported and paid for by our local council.
- I think this is where I need some work. Despite working and collaborating with others in teams, even as part of a team, I’m fairly solitary and like to do my own thing. I love being in a team but I also need to have the autonomy to define the way I work within that team. I’m the one who usually puts the strange spin or quirks into the team work. I don’t think many people understand me – or think me strange most of the time – something doesn’t “click” with them about me. They like my ideas, they like the way I think but there’s always some “distance” or “disconnect” between the way I think versus the way they thought the project or activity should be like. Lucky, I’m also ones who tows the party line. I’ll throw my weird ideas out there knowing full well, that they won’t be picked and people will have a laugh but we’ll usually go with the consensus – the safest option – and I’m okay with that.
- Massive failure here. I’m not someone who perseveres despite adversity. Frankly, I can’t be bothered. If I’m not getting anywhere with it, if it’s somehow making me depressed, angry, I’m losing sleep or worse, money over it, I’ll stop it. Time to try something else. I also lack willpower. These two traits are indeed, my worst ones.
- That’s my middle name. I think I have this in spades – to the point of paralysis at times.
6. ability to question the world around you
- It may be age related as I’m now in my 50s, and questioning every single thing. I can say my bullshit detector is working overtime and actually, I’m liking it. I come from a family where discussion, debate and conversation around the dinner table was a must. History, Arts, Philosophy, Politics, Religion all were ripe discussions that generated into heated arguments and shaped my thoughts as they are today. The bullshit of corporations, advertising, marketing and big business allows me to see through all of it now to discern which of these are pulling the wool over my eyes. The biggest turn off for me are people who refuse to educate themselves outside of their own world and to not question anything.
- My most DUMBEST thinking is long ago, I used to think that being in corporates for work was the best career move someone could make. I used to look at my creative and artistic parents and think, “no way, would I go into creative arts because I don’t want to be poor like them for the rest of my life”. I was a stupid schmuck to think this way. If anything despite having a tough childhood, in hindsight, now that my creative side is unfolding – it’s the only way – the truth reveals itself over time, experience and hindsight. It’s lucky I learned this in recent times otherwise I would have been the poor sod living ground hog day in corporate life. That’s the definition of dying every day for me.
Q7: Respond to the question “do you, and how do you, learn every day?”. Take your answer anywhere you would like to go in one stream of writing.
I try to. If learning means reading, writing, viewing and consuming every day – it’s what I’m doing every day. However, for me it also means CREATING something and also REFLECTING. I do these every day in some way. Most are not shared publicly but I do use this blog and my YouTube channel as the portfolio of work. The rest of my work is expressed in my home and clothes (through my artistic and crafty endeavours).
Q8: For whatever organisation is most relevant to you, does your organisation have captured anywhere:-
1. the skills it needs,
2. who has those skills
3. and how proficient are they,
4. what best builds those skills,
5. what are our current learning and development plans?
Yes, in the last couple of months, Adopt & Embrace have been writing up Success Profiles for each role. I wrote mine as a Community Manager and it was a great activity to do to really think about my role and what I wanted to achieve in it.
I started with a vision of what I wanted to achieve. In my head I pictured a few of our clients sharing a story up on the world stage at Microsoft Ignite like the ones I saw recently at that conference that CEO Microsoft Satya Nadella referred to. My aim is to help my community members share a success story of user adoption and the value of community on the world stage.
I worked backwards from that and created my own success profile and determined what I thought I would need to achieve this aim. It’s going to be a long haul because the first step is to learn how to BUILD that community and then inspire it enough to be able to CO-CREATE something that they can test out in their companies and get value from it.
One step at a time…
Q9: For yourself, answer the following:
1. what are my job or career goals?
2. what skills do I need?
3. where am I strong or weak?
4. where can I best build the skills I need?
5. how can I measure and prove my skills?
For now, my focus at Adopt & Embrace is the community and I’ve got my fingers crossed that I am doing a good job that warrants me staying there as long as possible. I love working for A&E, love working with my colleagues and love the remote work of it all. I think it suits me working three days a week because I can focus on the work tasks but also spend two days a week focussed on my own activities – like the video editing, community learning – which then also feeds back into my job.
My focus is mainly goal orientated towards a vision – not a career. I have the plan as I mentioned above where I’m going to dedicate my focus (building the community); but it’s not about career development. In all honesty, my plan is to retire from work in 5 years time and dedicate my time solely to more active civic community service as well as more international travel and experiences. I can see myself participating in the University of Third Age and doing various courses and retirement pretty much spending looking after my parents, focussed on artistic and creative pursuits and community service.
Q10: What is your view, if you have one, of where the Learning and Development function should sit in an organisation?
It’s aligned to what was mentioned in the book that it must sit alongside and with Corporate or Business Strategy – and not where it is today, usually sitting under HR or OD.
Q11: What do you understand by the term self-directed learning?
Using your own frameworks; using your own ideas; using your own resources and networks to plan out in your own way, what you’d like to learn, how, when and why.
Q12: Would you say you are or are not a self-directed learner and why?
I’m very much a self-directed learner and this blog is pretty much evidence of this – along with all the evidence across my social networks.
Q13: What are your own preferred ways of learning? Take your answer anywhere you would like to go in one stream of writing.
Self-directed – however, I need to also dabble a lot. That is, I do consume a lot of information but I find it sticks best when I take notes, I create something from them (eg a new blog post; a video; an artefact of some sort; or when I apply it to work projects). I’m very much into DOING, REFLECTION AND RE-CREATING – I like creating my own spin on things that others hadn’t thought about.