Tuesday, August 09, 2016

What Does Social Learning Look Like? Pokémon GO

This month's "Nuts & Bolts" column examines social learning as it happens naturally, organically, as people go about their day:
It’s not about ‘doing social.’ It’s about supporting workers as they work by giving them the time and the right space to talk about it. It’s about listening. And it’s about using social tools to support conversations and performance already in progress.
upporting workers as they work by giving them the time and the right space to talk about it. It’s about listening. And it’s about uScenario A: An international company rolls out a new product. The trainers are thrilled with it and, despite some technical glitches, eagerly hop on to learn more about it. There isn’t much user support, so understanding more about specifics of the product proves to be a collaborative proposition. Trainers working with the product run into each other and talk, sometimes teaming up to work together.
The company hasn’t provided any collaboration tools, so the trainers across locations begin talking in places like Facebook groups, Google communities, and Reddit. They share tips via text posts as well as screenshots, audio commentary, and video clips. A few create video tutorials about product features or shortcuts.
Something like a community of practice—in which people work together to get better with the product—develops, showing hallmarks like a common vocabulary, accountability to the effort and each other, and in-jokes. There’s fun and energy around conversations. Master trainers emerge: Some commenters try to game the system but are mostly shut down by the other trainers. Some post wrong information, but it’s caught and corrected. The company keeps an eye on the activity and announces it will make adjustments to the product based on feedback gleaned from the community.
Scenario B: An international company rolls out a new product. The trainers are thrilled with it and, despite some technical glitches, eagerly hop on to learn more about it. The company sets up an internal social platform that allows for text posts and photo attachments.
Trainers are assigned to “communities”—separate discussion areas—based on their geographic location. The initial post on all forums is a disclaimer from HR advising trainers of guidelines for participating in discussions and reminding them of company communication policies. Each forum has a designated manager who facilitates conversation by supporting, redirecting, and if necessary deleting comments.
Few people participate, and when they do they’re usually just posting a hint or two, complaining about a problem, or asking for help. Responses are sporadic, and back-and-forth conversation is minimal. People report glitches and offer ideas for improving the product, but the developers are not members of the communities, so the feedback never reaches them.
Scenario B describes most failed initiatives at companies attempting to “do” social.
Scenario A is … Pokémon Go.*

You can access the rest of this article at Learning Solutions Magazine .

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Transforming Classroom to Online: What's the Reality?

“When you’re looking at ‘converting’ classroom training to an online format, try to actually get to the classroom event. Get clear on what really goes on there, as opposed to what you might hear in a meeting or via document review. Talk to the trainers or facilitators who run classroom events, and ask them about any tricks or special adaptations they might employ. Then work on ways to bring the richness—and maybe even fun—to the worker’s online experience.”
Though I rarely do traditional classroom work now, I’m still around it all the time, as it’s what my co-workers do all day, every day. Our halls are full of people here to attend classes. I hear them before sessions and during breaks, talking to one another or on phones calling home or back to the office. Often they are enjoying the class they’re in. And often they complain that the sessions are good, but not quite realistic, or not always relevant to their needs. In the classroom, a good trainer can adjust on the fly, a luxury not available to the eLearning designer. This month's column explores some common issues and ideas for overcoming them.

What's Happening in the Classroom? 
When we're in the classroom this is how we work on customer service skills for van drivers.  Can you guess why? What happens in the classroom is sometimes worth knowing. 

Compared to other service providers, a van driver’s situation is unique in a few ways:
  • The driver always has his or her back to the customer
  • The driver makes eye contact through quick glances in a mirror
  • If there’s a problem, the driver has to get the van off the road, to a safe spot, and notify a dispatcher about the issue
Want more? You can access the full article at: 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Temple Grandin Keynoting Training 2017: San Diego, January 30

I speak at many conferences and over the years have been lucky to see -- and often meet-- some remarkable presenters. I am thrilled  that Training Magazine has booked Temple Grandin to keynote Training 2017.

Wikipedia: "... an autistic American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, world-renowned autism spokesperson and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. She is widely celebrated as one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism. She is also the inventor of the "hug box", a device to calm those on the autism spectrum. In the 2010 Time 100, an annual list of the one hundred most influential people in the world, she was named in the "Heroes" category."

From the online conference brochure: 

Dr. Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Her achievements are remarkable given at age two she had all the signs of severe autism. Many hours of therapy, and intensive teaching enabled Temple to speak. Mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt motivated her to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer.

She obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College and has received honorary doctorates from McGill University, University of Illinois, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duke University.

She has published hundreds of technical articles, and 12 books including "Thinking in Pictures", "The Way I See It", and "The Autistic Brain".

HBO has made a movie about her life starring Claire Danes. The movie received seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award.

In 2011, Temple was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Positive Deviance in L&D

A follower who'd attended my "Tips for the Positive Deviant" webinar asked on her Facebook page how ideas around Positive Deviance (PD) might be applied specifically to L&D. I answered in this month's Nuts & Bolts column
“In every group there is a minority of people who find better solutions to the challenges at hand. … Even though they have access to exactly the same resources as the rest of the group, their uncommon practices or behaviors allow them to flourish.”—Jerry Sternin
While “positive deviance” is a fun, alluring term, it’s not about just breaking rules. The “deviance” must have a positive outcome. It’s not quite just innovation or creative thinking, though those can certainly be part of it. It’s not just a random act of kindness, like paying for the coffee of the next customer in line. It’s more about deploying uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies to achieve some better result.
While there are individual positive deviants who work alone, a key factor is working with the community to surface, spread, and sustain solutions rather than try to force outside-in answers—as is so often the case with training. … Leveraging social tools and workplace communities, and encouraging people to show their work, can help to surface and spread solutions and to sustain application of new learning to the workplace.
In 1990, Jerry Sternin, director of Save the Children in Vietnam, was tasked with finding a sustainable solution for overcoming the problem of child malnutrition. At the time, 65 percent of the children under age five in Vietnamese villages were malnourished. Prior attempts to implement solutions—such as supplemental feeding programs—did not succeed for long. Along with his wife, Monique, Jerry looked at a question that researchers were working on at Tufts: “Why, with all resources being equal, are some children in a community not malnourished?” Working in four communities, the Sternins turned to the members of poor villages who seemed to overcome the malnutrition problem and have healthier children. There emerged a group of positive deviants, the families who, despite identical resources, were able to achieve better outcomes through doing things others did not. It turned out those families were giving more frequent meals than was the custom, and were feeding items—such as brine shrimp and crab—considered inappropriate for young children.

It isn’t about imposing solutions, but helping the community surface the solution it already has

You know the drill: Organization has a problem. Organization brings in “experts” to study the problem, devise a solution, run a pilot (which may mean a training program), and then leave. Organization members quickly revert back to old behaviors.
The solution in Vietnam was sustained precisely because the solution was not just imposed on the villagers. The Sternins didn’t go around lecturing about feeding more frequent meals and unusual foods. They leveraged the help of community members—the mothers of the healthier children—in working directly with other families to spread the different practices. Ultimately, the initiative cut childhood malnutrition by two-thirds because the families sustained the change.

A quick start? Flip the question

As you saw with the Sternins, a key behavior of positive deviants is their ability to reframe the question. Instead of asking, “Why are so many children malnourished?,” they asked: “Why are these other children not malnourished?”
Other examples:
  • Not “How can we stop distracted driving?” but “How can we make cars safer?” Even inexpensive new cars have sensors that prevent following too closely and that offer help with staying in lanes.
  • Not “How can we get money?” but “What can we do with no money?”
  • Not “How can we force people to finish courses?” but “How can we make the courses more interesting and worthwhile?”
Years ago, I was working with a hospital for adults with developmental disabilities, where I supervised the staff who taught emergency response courses. All workers were required to be regularly recertified in standard first aid, and we had a terrible time getting this done. In most instances, the ever-present nursing staff handled emergencies, so other staff did not perceive recertification as a high priority. Getting people to class involved a lot of foot-dragging, endless floor-coverage issues, last-minute cancellations, and even threats. One of my staff suggested that we start adding on infant and child CPR at the end of the training day. It didn’t cost us anything, as we already had staff and equipment to do it, and by trimming down breaks we didn’t extend the day by much. It solved our attendance problem overnight, as the training was suddenly seen as more valuable to the parents and grandparents who constituted a huge proportion of our audience.
The related field of appreciative inquiry offers similar flip-the-question approaches but is more specific, asking us to look for and build on the positive case or “outlier.” Is there someone in the community already exhibiting the desired behavior? What is enabling them to outperform? What resources are they tapping into that others are not?
  • Not “Why are staph infections so high in the hospital?” but “Why are staph infections lower on the third floor?”
  • Not “Why are sales down in Regions 6 and 9?” but “Why are sales up in Region 4?”
  • Not “Why do so few graduates of our leadership academy get promoted?” but “Why did these seven graduates get promoted?”
  • Why is the accident rate lower in _______? Why is the turnover rate lower in ______? Why are there fewer ethics complaints about ______ division?
For more on key characteristics of positive deviants, and ideas for applying PD principles to L&D, see this month's Nuts and Bolts column in Learning Solutions Magazine. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Webinars? About That Whiteboard...

From this month's Nuts & Bolts column:

I’ve been working in virtual classrooms since 2003, back when I first met Insync Training’s Jennifer Hofmann, who pretty much invented using virtual meeting software to support instruction. My job involves a workforce with many issues: geography, availability/coverage, and work shifts. These are frequently compounded by a lack of travel funds for moving people or instructors around for face-to-face training events. I saw so much potential for the technology then that I shifted nearly all my live instruction work to the virtual classroom.
Of course, it didn’t take long for the technology to be leveraged for the worst possible applications: One thousand people enrolled in the name of “efficiency,” with presenters only pushing slides while disabling collaboration tools like whiteboard annotation, participant text chat, and breakout rooms. As with the struggle to differentiate “presentation” from “training,” I tried to distinguish better use of—and my approach to—virtual classroom-based instruction with language like “live online session.” Let’s face it: There’s nothing positive about the word “webinar.”
Over the years I’ve developed or picked up a lot of little tricks for making the environment more collaborative and engaging and thought I’d share some of what I learned. This month I’ll talk a bit about using the whiteboard as a working space instead of just a screen for displaying slides.

You can read the complete article here

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Read Up!

I thought I knew a lot about my field—I’d been there a decade, after all, and was a voracious reader of trade journals and business books (back then it was EQ and the tail end of the TQM movement) and a member of a very active community of practice (CoP) for trainers. But grad school, in what I recall as often exhilarating moments, also introduced me to a whole world of academic writing I didn’t know existed. There were studies that shed light on my unease with popular things like personality type-assessments. There was a whole body of literature that explained my sense of breathing better air when at a CoP gathering. There were research-based explanations from Richard Mayer that helped me articulate—finally—why we didn’t want to narrate every word in every online learning program. There were entire books on evaluating training programs and initiatives—like those beloved and institutionalized by my then-employer without any real rationale—and not just single classes. While I’m not interested in arguing about whether people need to get degrees to work effectively, I would argue that a practitioner can benefit from learning more about the academic work in their chosen field.

To start?

I spend a lot of time in online conversations, most often on Twitter, and I love that this puts me in the path of other, often newer, practitioners. I’m still surprised when they are surprised to hear that there is, for instance, a pile of empirical studies on the topic of “learning styles” or extensive academic, research-based discussion of the role and value (or not) of a community “lurker.” So in the spirit of “Nuts and Bolts,” here are some ideas for exploration:

This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in Learning Solutions Magazine.
You can read the rest here

Friday, February 26, 2016

What Did You Learn Today?

I've written quite a bit over the past few years about a certain disconnect we have with our learners. We tend to think about "Learning" with a capital "L", as some rather abstracted high-minded pursuit, a lifelong systematic interconnected journey of brain enrichment. (Heck, I have a doctorate in that. Don't get me started.) But the rest of the world thinks about "learning" as "solving a problem" or "getting an answer" or "figuring it out" or "looking it up". And really, even those of us in the business are bad for not always paying attention to our own learning -- we handle an issue or task and then move on to the next thing.  

So: Lots of credit to #lrnchat founder Marcia Conner and her team, who years ago set the question "What did you learn today?" as the opener for every #lrnchat. It's a nice little warmup conversation starter sort of thing, meant to be answered in just 140 characters. I especially love that it helps, in a rapid-fire chat that as often as not includes new people or people who otherwise aren't very tightly connected, give just a bit of insight into the human behind the Twitter account: what interests them, what energizes them, what they struggle with. Also what expertise or specialty they might have.  And whether they're funny. Or exasperated.

Answering "What did you learn today?"  can also serve as a great, quick way to show your work/work out loud.  My own organization had great success with this some years back when I convinced then-management to change a line item on our weekly reports from "Research" to "What did you learn this week?" Not only were people working out loud a bit more, but the question helped teach them to reflect on their own learning and to better recognize it when it happened.

Here are some answers from the February 25 #lrnchat

Answering "What did you learn today?" can help generate conversation and connection (the fun "baby goats" comment got a lot of attention). I do a workshop on "music and learning" so was interested in what Tricia was saying. And "What did you learn today?" can help you tie conversations together or help people find additional resources: as I told Kim Maston, the March 17 scheduled #lrnchat topic is "resilience" so that might be of special interest to him. It can also point to an organizational problem, or an issue in the industry, or maybe something with which many others will empathize: 

Answering "What did you learn today?" has been valuable for me, personally, too: I'm a #lrnchat moderator and try to participate every week. I know the question is coming. Still, I sometimes struggle to answer it. While I'm sure I must have learned something new-- even if just some factoid from reading -- I have found that can get lost in the clutter of a busy day, Knowing the question is coming forces me to think back over the past few days, and I can always find something-- something-- to say in answer.  Answering the question helps to sharpen the saw. (Interested in reflective practice in general? See this article from a couple years back.)

We've recently started including the wrap-up question, "What did you learn tonight?" or "What will you do differently as a result of this #lrnchat?" (or some variation on that theme) to encourage our community to think intentionally about their learning and growth. As one of the other #lrnchat moderators, Jeannette Campos, says, "This can make learning less accidental. It's also a signal of commitment; we're sharing our plans and intentions with a group.  This is the power of learning with and through a community. Because if we aren't learning, what's the point?" 

So: Come to #lrnchat (Thursdays 8:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm PT, Friday 12:30 pm AEDT) and tell us what you learned that day. Or put the question on a post-it stuck to your office light switch and ask yourself as you leave at the end of the day. Or include the answer  in whatever TPS-reportish document you submit. Just take a minute to answer it. You might find it energizing, or challenging, or funny, or at least satisfying in an I-did-that kind of way. Do whatever you can to build a bit of reflection into your practice and workday regardless of what kind of work you do. Among other things, it will help build mindfulness and awareness of your learning.

By the way: They're all good and it's not a contest, but my favorite answer lately to "What did you learn today?" came from my fellow #lrnchat moderator Kelly Smith: