Should we in L&D be focussed on improving job performance and hence all learning is focussed on that or should we be looking for people to be inspired to learn more and be more self-directed?
I spent some time in July writing my book, “How not to waste your money on training” and during the week I had a few philosophical moments. One was about the difference between education, training and learning. I often speak to L&D professionals about the difference between a training needs analysis and a learning needs analysis. How the former always leads to training whereas the latter leads to something broader than just training; it could be learning in many different forms.
In a similar way I was thinking about how my degree in chemical engineering and fuel technology was a good education. It prepared me for the world of work and also began a lifelong desire to learn more. When I moved from engineering to IT training with IBM we were called “instructors” and I worked in the IBM Education Centre in St. John’s Wood. Was what people received when they came to us there, an education? I am not so sure. I would hope the delegates were more prepared for their world of work and that they were inspired to learn more. But how broad was that inspiration? Did they become self-motivated learners keen to go beyond the traditional training course to further develop themselves?
This leads me to the present day; my title changed from instructor to trainer to L&D professional/facilitator. How do I define though whether I am educating, training or helping people to learn?
A few years after I gained my Certificate in Training Practice, I began working with trainers, delivering the CIPD Certificate in Training Practice, then the Certificate in Learning and Development Practice. Through my accelerated learning programmes, I further worked with L&D professionals to help them learn more about an approach that has been taking shape over many years. An approach that helps me focus on organisational needs as well as learner requirements. Programmes that took 8 months of weekly 4 hour sessions, were delivered in 8 one day sessions moving to a well-known learning provider. Now I deliver a 6-week programme, which includes a 2 day workshop and I cannot possibly ‘cover’ all I used to.
Leading by example and walking-the -talk have been driving forces in our organisation “How to Accelerate Learning”. Facilitation is practiced and runs like an invisible thread through the programmes. Inspiring resources and innovative ways of learning through gamification, create a different feel to the programme, leaving many people “inspired” – their words not ours. Even hardened trainers with years of experience under their belts talk of how different it feels.
This has not always been a deliberate intention, but a on occasions, a happy and accidental one. One that we persist with because of the results we achieve and the feedback we get. We put effort into:
- Drilling deeper into needs to see if learning is the appropriate course of action
- Delivering learning via a blend of activities not just training
- Helping people to gain confidence in stepping out of their comfort zone – to experience new ways to help people learn
- Using unusual materials and resources to inspire a different approach
- Following up the learning so it is not just a one-time event
So, I don’t feel like it is training in the traditional sense; not like when I was a VM Instructor. Nor do I feel that it is just learning because of the feedback we get. So are we educating and is that now the remit of L&D?
Yesterday I had the honour and privilege to stand amongst giants in our industry. The place was Olympia, the CIPD L&D Show and it was the final session of the day – the IGNITE LAB. For those not familiar with this format, each person presents 20 slides in 5 minutes, with the slides automatically advancing every 15 seconds.
Having settled on a topic, “How to be Agile in L&D”, I created some hand drawn slides and I pretty much thought it was going to be a doddle. The nearer it got to the day and the more I practised, the more I realised how hard it was. Give me a day or half a day to facilitate some learning and that’s not a problem, but 5 minutes to just present! It felt very unnatural and forced and the nerves were starting to kick in.
As the line up for the IGNITE LAB was revealed, we engaged in an exchange on Twitter where we shared similar feelings and the nerves were apparent. Some suggested they were going to use prompt cards, which I had ‘discarded’ as an idea, but when Julie Dryborough assured me I could “distill” the essentials in this way (I was waffling quite a bit in my practice runs), it convinced me to to do the “practice, tweak, repeat” advice offered by Niall Gavin.
Having tweaked, distilled, honed and transferred my notes to prompt cards , I was set. It felt much more comfortable knowing I would have the right words to fit the 15 second maximum for each slide.
So here is how it the event unfolded for me (in order) for me:
Niall Gavin – opened beautifully, with a heart-felt (see what I did there?) story relating to redundancy. No cards just him some slides and a great story.
Sukhvinder Pabial – followed. Confident, articulate and ever the professional, spoke about marginal gains and how we in L&D could take the lead front eh British Cycling team to improve L&D’s performance.
Krystyna Gadd – once I was up there and looking into the whites of their eyes (there were so many lovely people that I knew there!) I couldn’t look at my prompt cards. The slides progressed and it all came flooding back to me. Note to self next time – ditch the cards and fly solo!
Andrew Jacobs – popped his IGNITE cherry and did a sterling job beginning with learning not being built on firm foundations
Marco Faccini – amazed us all that he had rewritten his presentation that afternoon, making it real and showing us the money!
Amanda Arrowsmith – was unfairly plagued by the PowerPoint gremlins and Julie Dryborough volunteered to advance them but not before “ghosting it”. My hat goes off to Amanda who was neither shaken nor stirred by all that seemed to happen (or not) – a veteran deliverer presenting an engaging and memorable session!
Blake Henegan – rocked his first IGNITE, challenging us to be kinder to ourselves by reflecting and connecting more and thus reducing overwhelm
Julie Drybrough– wowed us on creating a thriving culture by lighting up the shadows and understanding our git self. Sounds like good advice!
Phil Wilcox – what an amazing ending to the session with a poem about “Who am I?”- you are officially awesome Phil, be you!!
What was lovely, was being amongst these L&D giants, sharing our vulnerabilities, cheering each other on and applauding the achievement of “just” speaking for 5 minutes though 20 slides… easy eh….. we did good!
And we are all available for future speaking engagements at a very modest fee…..lol
Storify of the tweetage care of Donna Hewitson
OOPS I designed it again – how to avoid reinventing the wheel in learning design
Would you like to make design of learning interventions easy? Would you like to be able to reuse activities so that design becomes much more modular? Would you like to design multiple programmes quickly and tailor for specific groups of performers? So in this article I will introduce to you a methodology not dissimilar to something used in programming, which helps you to achieve this.
Some of you may already know this but my first degree was in Chemical Engineering and Fuel Technology. As part of my degree we learnt how to program in Fortran and basic. This was to be very helpful when 6 years later I made a career change and became an IT trainer.
Just lately I have been making connections with a certain type of programming and how I have been developing the Learning Loop, a brand new way to do Train-the-trainer. When I first launched the Learning Loop Programme, I promised it to be:
- Tailored to the individuals attending
- Activity led and not content driven
- Suitable for L&D people of any level of skill or experience
- Creative and business focused
Object Oriented Programming (OOP) requires a different mind set. Instead of using the traditional approach to programming, where you start at the beginning and work your way through to writing the (sometimes unwieldy) programme, you start to recognize parts that are reusable and generic. Thus coding becomes more about using those generic parts and then adding the odd bit of customized code. This principal can also be applied to designing learning interventions.
When creating a new Learning Loop for an open workshop or a new client, it always starts with the objectives- making sure they are SMART using Robert Magers’ PCS framework. Once the objectives have been outlined then the design can begin. Initially there would be more design, but now every time I run a new workshop, after writing the objectives I can then reuse a good deal of the activities. The key is in determining the correct level and scope of the learning – whether it is skills, knowledge or attitudinal. Not designing too broadly is also key, then you can mix and match activities from the library you create over time.
This can be applied to designing multiple leadership programmes for different levels of leader. Write clear learning outcomes from the organisational ones. Select from your library the generic activities you can use at each level. Select for the higher levels additional learning activities and maybe then also design some new additional ones required to tailor at each level.
If you would like help to use this approach, then get in touch for a free 30 minute telephone consultation today: firstname.lastname@example.org
In February this year I attended my very first unconference in Manchester, organised through an online community @LnDConnect and I loved it so much, that I attended my second this September. “So what on earth is an unconference?” you may be wondering…. so I will use bits and pieces gathered from here and there, as well as some graphics to try and describe what I have experienced and why I think they are marvellous!
Firstly there were some great people to network with in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. There was no agenda, which was a little curious (I have been to a few conferences, so this meant I didn’t know what I was in for) but also a little exciting. We were going to co-create the agenda together as a group.
Of course there had to be some initial instructions on how the day would pan out, otherwise it would have been chaos. The facilitation team guided us and informed novices like myself about the process. There is something about skilled facilitators that create a great open space, that really draws you in and gets you thinking right from the start.
As we were invited to come up wth topics we were interested in exploring, it sparked off thoughts about which sessions I would like to attend, which I could best contribute to and what I would like to explore myself. Topics were then grouped and an agenda emerged: 4 time slots and roughly 3 or 4 different topics per time slot. Quite a choice in a very short amount of time.
So what was it actually like? Apart from the initial nerves because it was new, we had some great discussions. Rather than one “sage on the stage” to draw from, there were many views, which made it a really rich and thought provoking experience. I took from it some real nuggets, which had really disrupted my thinking. I left having made some new friends and explored ideas from a rich pool of talent. I heard real life stories and experiences from many practitioners; successes as well as failures (you don’t often hear about those in a conference!) I went away feeling listened to, encouraged and uplifted, having listened to many experts (though they may not be widely seen as these).
In the graphics I have tried to summarise briefly, what an unconference is like and what happens. What I would really urge you do to is go and attend one; be prepared to listen, share and learn! You won’t regret it!
Whatever profession you are in, there will be things that drain you and things that fill you. In the L&D profession, I feel that it is important to be able to inspire people and wonder, if you are “drained” how is that ever going to happen?
In the last few weeks I have learnt lots from unexpected places and had a chance to reflect on how I normally “do things”. In these reflections, I have come to ponder on which things take a lot of effort and may drain me, as opposed to some things requiring no effort and invigorating me.
Last week I was at Learning Live in London and it took virtually no effort as I:
- Was not exhibiting
- Was not leading a session
- Was helping point people to the Creativity Zone (easy peasy!)
- Took the train down and was able to chill out by reading
- Stayed in a serviced apartment virtually across the road
Things that really invigorated me were:
- Scribbling some of my thoughts on the various sessions onto my iPad and sharing with people
- The subsequent feedback I got about my “scribblings”
- Chance conversations that I had with people at some of the sessions
- Reconnecting with people I knew and had not seen for a while
- Connecting with people I had only ever connected with virtually
- Little “nuggets” I gleaned from the speakers that will make a difference to me
- Having time out to just “be” and stop “doing”
So this has made me think about what I consciously do in my normal working week to keep “filled” and sustained, rather than feeling drained by the end of the week. The collage above contains all those things which “fill” me:
- Great views
- Felting (the wet and dry types!)
- Being with my family and friends
- Having great learning experiences with clients
- Having an outlet for my artistic cravings
So my intention, is that at the start of every day/week I plan in those things that keep me topped up and sustained, and intersperse them with those essential things that I need to do, but do drain me. I love to be inspired and I hope that this helps me inspire others to learn, so I am committed to giving this a go…. will let you know how it goes….
I took part in a very interesting #ldinsight discussion on Twitter (@LnDConnect) last Friday and it made me think deeply. David D’Souza* was the one promoting this proposition and it really got me on the defensive. In defense of L&D that is.
*what David actually said was “Help them to learn how to learn & help others learn. Then disappear like mist.”
So in theory, if in L&D we did our jobs really well, we could help people to learn how to:
- Recruit the best people
- Learn on the job as well as other channels
- Pass on knowledge and skills where needed and when
- Adjust attitudinal misalignment through coaching
……just as a starter for 10
So in this Utopian world I could completely buy this, believing that 100% sustainable learning is achievable across the board, but these are the realities:
- People start to drift back into their silos, looking out for themselves and not the greater good
- Egos start to drive competition and not collaboration
- “Stuff” starts to happen in one area that others don’t notice
- We believe that how we have learned in the past is the absolute best way to learn in the future
……just a few little things…but that is why we need L&D to:
- Challenge when the drift starts to happen
- Remind people of common goals
- Infiltrate the organisation, so we have an overview of what is happening
- Keep abreast of new and better ways to learn in an ever changing world
Going back to David’s original tweet, I do agree somewhat… L&D should “disappear like the mist”, but not permanently, just waiting in the wings, to help, coach, support where necessary. My defensiveness around David’s statement was because his approach, is a philosophy and I am very much a pragmatist. Back to the original question though….. “Should L&D aim for obsolescence?”. If we take this on board as a philosophy, will that change our approach? I believe it might do….
My own approach to L&D is strongly in favour of everyone in an organisation being empowered to learn and I have blogged about this approach previously if you are interested in reading about it.
I mainly train trainers, facilitators and SME’s but just recently, in an exciting new project I worked with a team of team leaders, helping them to understand the whole of the learning cycle so they could develop their teams more effectively. This was a pilot and we are waiting to measure the outcomes to see the impact. One objective was to give these non L&D people enough knowledge of L&D so that they stop prescribing training as the only solution. L&D will be at hand though to help them in the trickier tasks of doing more detailed needs analysis, when they need it. Would David approve of this in theory I wonder?