Thinking about critical thinking

 

Critical thinking is a “complex process of deliberation, which involves a wide range of skills and attitudes”. I first became aware of critical thinking as a practice many years ago as an undergraduate at university, when producing assignments for assessment.

It developed, what has become for me, a life-long habit of questioning:  who is telling me what, why, and what are they not telling me?

As well as constantly asking questions, I learned that critical thinking involves checking for bias. One of the few books I remember from university days is Darrell Huff’s How to Lie With Statistics, which I thoroughly recommend.

So what else is it?

I have always worked at post-graduate level with senior executives, never with undergraduates. As a matter of priority and up-front, I spell out the assessment criteria and critical thinking abilities that people will be expected to develop and demonstrate, including how they will be expected to meet the assessment criteria.

Critical thinking at post-graduate level is about engaging with complexities, dynamic interactions and uncertainty. It is above all about constant challenge and awareness of alternatives. In more detail, critical thinking is:

  •  a systematic approach to scoping and identifying the interacting elements of a strategic problem
  •  assessing risks in the process
  •  challenging assumptions (our own and those of other people)
  •  evaluating strategic options from among alternatives
  •  identifying and defending selection criteria
  •  reflecting on effects of paradoxes, constraints and incomplete knowledge
  •  using evidence to draw valid and justifiable conclusions in making a case for action.

The content the executives were learning about was always a means to an end in my view. The whole reason for undertaking a postgraduate programme of learning is to develop higher-level thinking skills, and to learn to work within communities of practice with peers at the forefront of complex knowledge.

A skill for work and life?

The ability to think critically is obviously vital in being informed about all manner of things that affect our lives, from what news media and advertisers want us to believe to what politicians tell us. What is the truth? Where are the hidden agendas? Are we being manipulated?

Critical thinking is a fundamental set of skills that ought to have been learned for anyone who has been to university. Why then, when so many people are university-educated, does critical thinking and challenge appear to be in short supply within so many organisations?

The on-going global financial crisis provides a fertile source of historic evidence to show that social and cognitive barriers to critical thinking and acting are deeply embedded within our own individual tendency to avoid conflict, in slow-to-change social habits, and in rigid organisational structures.

Individual barriers

Cognitive bias is a problem. Our biases (that we are often unaware of) and the assumptions we make based on those biases, influence the conclusions we arrive at and decisions we make.

Another individual barrier is the tendency to make decisions that are driven by emotions or ideology, which can then be rationally post-justified.

Barriers from group dynamics

Group dynamics can lead to groupthink, when it becomes difficult to oppose a dominant view or to challenge the status quo. Challenging those in power is not for the feint hearted. For those who do have the courage to go against the grain and speak out, they run the risk of public denunciation.

Gillian Tett of the Financial Times is reported to have said that at the 2007 economic form at Davos:

 “One of the most powerful people in the US government at the time stood up on the podium and waved my article, the article that predicted the problems at Northern Rock, as an example of scaremongering”

Silo structures and mental models

The combination of rigid mental models and organisational structures present deep-rooted and system-wide barriers to critical thinking. They constrain perspectives within silos, rather than across an organisation or eco-system of organisations.

Gillian Tett spoke about the effect of silo thinking in the Guardian article referenced earlier. Financial analysts concentrating on their own expertise were unable to see the bigger picture. For me though, it is the example of the failure of the CIA and the defence community in the period leading up to the 9/11 atrocity that is the most eye-watering.

John Farmer was senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission. In his view, old attitudes and ways of operating from the Cold War era prevailed within the intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Defence. Unwillingness and inability to share information within and across agencies were systemic failures and outcomes of systems that were “flawed by design”. Farmer says:

“The boundaries between and within departments separated knowledge gained domestically from knowledge gained overseas; knowledge gained through human intelligence from knowledge gained electronically; and knowledge gained through the investigation of criminal conduct from knowledge gained for the purposes of situational awareness as general intelligence … each boundary amounted to a fault line, an opportunity for the system to fail.”

He also reviews subsequent failed responses to Katrina in 2005 and, in an afterword to the second edition of the book, the attempted bombing of an aircraft out of Schipol Airport in Amsterdam bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. Of Katrina he says:

“The bureaucratic unwillingness or inability to cooperate across departments crippled efforts to anticipate and respond to Katrina no less than it had crippled efforts to interdict and then respond to 9/11, preempting the possibility of a unified chain of command.”

If this unwillingness to co-operate and inability to change mindsets from a previous, outdated bureaucratic era can arise in the defence of a nation and a city, it can certainly happen in the pursuit of profit.

Daring to disagree

It is against this backdrop that Margaret Heffernan describes ‘wilful blindness’ in this TED talk, Dare to Disagree, which is where people choose not to see or know. Confronting blindness means developing skills of challenge and disagreement but, she says, doing this goes against a neuro-biological drive that compels us to seek out people like ourselves. She also says that most people are instinctively afraid of conflict. She concludes that we need to develop the skills, habit and moral courage to engage in challenge and overcome our fear of conflict.

Practice makes possible

Like any skill, developing critical thinking and acting skills takes considerable and deliberate practice. Challenging the status quo is never easy but it can and must be done. I know it can be done because I have worked with remarkable people who have challenged the status quo to transform the performance cultures in their workplaces.

One of my objectives for the still-in-early-alpha Smart Work Company open-learn community is a place where critical thinking skills will emerge in a safe place through experimenting, reflecting, sharing and talking together. We will practice disagreeing with each other – without of course being disagreeable! That is going to be a trick to pull off.

The examples given here are all on a large scale, with far-reaching consequences but we all face similar challenges in thinking critically and acting appropriately when making decisions within increasingly complex business contexts. Margaret Heffernan talks about gaining moral courage from allies. I am hoping that supportive relationships develop within the open-learn community, encouraging those who need it to seek out help from allies within their own workplaces.

 

 

Anne Marie McEwan Entreprise Collaborative Ecollab Contributeur

Anne Marie McEwan is founder of The Smart Work Company Ltd. This is a start-up business providing innovative and practical learning programmes for people who want to know how to develop high-performance work environments, and also want to know how to make the transition to new ways of working. She has over the past decade helped to pioneer practical work-based learning for senior executives in the UK and Russia, who were taking their businesses in new strategic directions. Her new book "Smart Working : Creating the Next Wave" will be published by Gower in January 2013. Her work as co-facilitator of the Johnson Controls Innovation Network since 2007 has given her insight into the crucial role of workplace in new ways of working, and she is currently exploring the practical implications of The Learning Workplace.

 

 

 

Interactive competence and flash communities

 

All of us have at some point in our lives experienced performance appraisals where we as individuals were evaluated. This approach to judgment was the same in school and at work: individuals separated from other individuals.

As a result of recent developments in psychology and sociology, we are now leaving behind the preoccupation with the autonomous individual and beginning to appreciate the importance of relational processes and interdependence. The way we perceive organizations is changing accordingly. Rather than an organization being though of as an imposed structure of separate, autonomous functions, today’s organization arises from the interactions of individuals who need to come together. An organization is a continuous process of organizing.

This shift in the way we see organizations changes the way we perceive competitive advantages. The new competitive edge comes from openness and interactive capacity: the ability to participate and connect, as and when needed.

Live organizations and open, live information

Similarly produced products with the same product features are used by different customers in different ways. Just because a product is a commodity doesn’t mean that customers can’t be diverse in their needs and the way they use the product.

Companies used to have no mechanisms for connecting with the end users in order to understand and influence this. Social media and mobile technologies are now changing this.

Organizations are creative, responsive processes of communication. All creative, responsive processes have the capacity to constantly self-organize and re-organize. Change is not a problem or anomaly. Solutions are always temporary and contextual.

In this view, it is information that is the energy of organizing. Or, as Gregory Bateson wrote, “information is a difference, which makes a difference”. When we see information as a power plant that has the ability to organize and change the organization, we realize the power of openness. When information is transparent to everybody, people can organize effectively around changes and differences, around customers, products and new technologies.

When information is transparent, different people see different things and new interdependencies are created, thus changing the organization.  The easier the access that people have to one another and to (different) information is, the more possibilities there are.  What we have still not understood is that people need to have access to information streams that no one could predict they would want to know about. Even they themselves did not know they needed it – before they needed it. Thus information architectures can never be fully planned in advance.

Engagement and participation

No one person or function can meet today’s challenges alone. We need a community of people who willingly participate and provide their insights to address increasingly interdependent issues. Collaboration is necessary because one person no longer has the answer. Answers reside in the interaction, between all of us.

Therefore the challenges of today are engagement and reducing the transaction costs of participation. Widening the circle of involvement means expanding who gets to participate, comment and contribute. It is about inviting and including relevant, new and different voices.

The unfortunate misunderstanding is that engaging people requires managers to let go. As managers contemplate widening the circle of involvement they sometimes believe that it means to have less ability to provide input based on their knowledge and experience. Paradoxically, engaging more people requires more from managers than the current management paradigm.

Instead of being responsible for identifying both the problem and the solution, they are now responsible for identifying the problem and identifying the other people whose voices need to be heard. Who else needs to be here? How do I invite people who do not report to me? How do I invite customers and other people from outside our organization?

Success today is increasingly the result of skilful management of participation: who is included and who is not. Who is needlessly excluded from the information streams and the subsequent interaction?

A common misunderstanding is that productivity will suffer if larger numbers of people are involved. The new social platforms and interaction technologies have dramatically reduced the cost of communication and participation. Temporary, flash communities can be formed to solve a problem or to tackle an opportunity more easily, more cheaply and faster than ever before – if there is openness and people are invited and if people want to engage. It is about distributing the intellectual tasks at hand and integrating the contributions of many resulting in creative learning.

Creative learning is the new productivity. In creative, interactive work, productivity cannot be measured in quantitative terms or as a difference between input and output, but as the speed and quality of learning.

The management task is not to understand people better, but to understand better what happens, and can happen between people. Our world is co-created in relations.

 

 

Esko%20kilpi%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeurEsko Kilpi is the founder and principal of Esko Kilpi Ltd, a leading research and consultancy firm working with digital, network based work.

The organization is based in Helsinki, Finland. In addition to his work as an executive adviser Esko Kilpi takes part in academic research and lectures on the topics of interactive value creation, agile methods, relational view of the firm and Internet based technologies in Europe, Middle-East, Far-East and USA.

This article was originally published in eskokilpi.blogging.fi

Why E2.0 and Social Business Initiatives Are Likely to Remain Difficult ?

Horizontal networking often creates dissonance in the vertical enterprise

The vertical structure of knowledge did not foresee the coming of horizontal networking tools now shaping today’s workplace.


Today, there's a lot of chatter about bottom-up versus top-down, the collective wisdom of the organizational crowd, and various related themes.  However, there’s also ongoing dissonance or competition between the methods behind structured, highly-defined organizational forms and activity and the growing world of hyperlinked flows in which knowledge and meaning are built layer by layer, exchange by exchange (all those hyperlinked interactions that increasingly make up what we call "knowledge work") which social computing enable.

At the heart of the issue is the way work is designed and the organizational structure that contains the work.  A primary tool in designing work and structure is job evaluation (and derivatives like accountability mapping and redundancy analysis).  The methods used today were created in the mid-1950's and haven't changed much since then.  Their core assumptions are directly derived from, and have helped embed, Taylorism at the core of the modern organization.  

I don’t mean job evaluation as in assessing a person's performance on the job – I mean the function usually managed by HR departments that 'measures' or 'weighs' jobs, and assigns them to levels and pay grades based on job “weight” with respect to skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions (the legal criteria for assessing pay equity). I believe that these tools and their underlying assumptions are used to create the skeletal architecture of hierarchical organizations, the pyramid we all know. 

Dissonance in job requirements

The methodology of job evaluation is a very useful place to look at some of the key critical reasons for the ongoing dissonance and resistance to change we are seeing and will continue to experience.  The methodology of job evaluation situates jobs in the organizational hierarchy and creates pay grades, pay practices, thresholds for entry into bonus schemes and often is the main criterion for distinguishing between management and non-management jobs.

Fundamentally, job evaluation (work measurement in the professional jargon) relies on the core assumption that knowledge is structured, and used, hierarchically.  It follows that she or he (and the job requirements) who has more of the knowledge —on paper—is she or he who deserves to be "higher up" in the organization.

Redesigning work requirements

There are four or five major, well-known methodologies for measuring work.  They all use very similar factors (sometimes described a bit differently semantically, with a couple more or less factors or sub-factors) and they all essentially measure the same thing.

These fundamental principles of work design need to be examined and re-conceived if the significant power of social computing is ever to be realized. As an example I will use the measurement factors used by the Hay Guide Chart Method, as I know them the best.  I have also worked with the other major methodologies - they are essentially all the same: the Aiken Plan, and the Towers Perrin and Watson Wyatt job evaluation methodologies (now Towers Watson) in the past.

The Hay Method describes work as having three phases—input, throughput and output—and it employs three core factors to measure that input/throughput/output:

1.  Know-how (input) - knowledge and skills acquired through education and experience.
2.  Problem-solving (throughput) - the application of the said knowledge to problems encountered in the process of doing the work.
3. Accountability (output)- the level and type of responsibility a given job has for coordinating, managing or otherwise having impact on an organization's objectives.

There is a fourth factor called working conditions, but in many cases this is treated almost as a throwaway factor, especially when it comes to knowledge work.  It typically relates to physical factors such as lighting, air-conditioning, the presence of fumes or chemicals, outdoor exposure, dangerous physical conditions, unusual exogenous stress, etc.

As noted above, the core assumptions of these methods are derived from the philosophy of Taylorism (aka scientific management) and the divisions of labour and packaging of tasks that have underpinned the search for efficiency and scale ever since the beginning of the 20th century. On the face of it, they seem eminently reasonable and the Hay Method (and the related ones cited above) have since the mid-50's largely served organizations quite well for segmenting and dividing labour, identifying necessary expertise and specialization and, in effect, designing one or another particular hierarchical pyramid.  Today these methods are put into practice along with other key assumptions from that industrial era when organizations grew and prospered - mid--50's to approximately 2000. 

Changing assumptions about knowledge 

These methods set out a fundamental, foundational assumption about the nature of knowledge. They assume that knowledge and its acquisition, development and use is relatively quite stable, that it evolves quite slowly and carefully and that knowledge is based on an official, accepted taxonomy - a vertical arrangement of information and skills that are derived from the official institutions of our society (Jane Jacobs has a fair bit to say about this in Chapter 3 titled Credentialing vs. Educating in her last bookDark Age Ahead, as do others like John Taylor Gatto and Alfie Kohn, and as does David Weinberger’s Everything Is Miscellaneous – the power of digital disorder).

Above I have offered an example (paraphrasing the Hay Method's semantic scales for measuring a job's knowledge).  It describes a vertical arrangement of Know-How (knowledge) and the method creates, supports and sustains vertical reporting relationships.  The other two factors (problem-solving and accountability) derive from, and reinforce, the know-how factor. For example, the rules of job evaluation are such that you cannot have a problem-solving or accountability factor assessment that is of a higher order than the know-how slotting.

The definitions of the know-how (knowledge and skills ) factor levels are paraphrased from the semantic definitions on the actual Hay Guide Chart.

A - Unschooled and unskilled
B - Some school, some skill
C - Basic high school, routine work
D - Vocational school, community college, trades, senior administrative
E - University graduation, senior trades, managerial (reads the books)
F - University plus 10 years experience, grad school (puts the books to use)
G - Deep knowledge and expertise (writes the books)
H - God (has others write the books)

These methods did not envision or foresee the Web, hyperlinks and the exchanges of information which have spawned and carry the bit-by-bit layering and assembly of knowledge and peer-to-peer negotiation of results and responsibilities we are seeing emerge with greater frequency in this new networked world. 

Multiple ways to structure knowledge

We are beginning to understand that the main way we have structured knowledge isonly one way, and that this way is captive to core assumptions about the ordering and classification of information as created by some of the great thinkers, organizers and classifiers of information and knowledge who helped build up our growing understanding of the world around us (Linnaeus, Darwin, Dewey, etc.).

What we have developed into solid and maybe seemingly unassailable beliefs about knowledge are built upon the principles we have inherited from a time when human progress benefited greatly from regular and related discoveries about the world around us, both natural and man-made.

For example, it’s clear that there was a proliferation of written / printed material from the 1600’s through the 1900’s, containing amongst other things much codification of discoveries of the knowledge we use today in a wide range of domains and disciplines. More and more (too much ?) of this knowledge is accessible very rapidly on today’s Web in ‘fragments of one’ (nod to Dave Snowden’s assertion that the brain works most effectively with fragments of information) connected by search engines, hyperlinks and a range of easily used publishing platforms.

So ... now let's look at how information is shared and exchanged in order to build and use knowledge amongst networked individuals or groups.  The use of knowledge in a networked context is very often much more horizontal, sideways and based on accessibility and collaboration - much more so than is the (official) use of knowledge in formally structured hierarchies. 

Linked knowledge

What we know today is that people with vastly different types and forms of knowledge can be or are linked together for a wide (and potentially limitless) range of purposes (though clearly we are learning quickly about the limits to cognitive attention as lessons in social cognition surplus are offered up to us almost every day).

In networks-of-purpose, addressing Purpose A connects individuals with Skill and Knowledge Set B, Interests and Knowledge Set B, and Connections and Knowledge Set C (and of course the second-order concentric ring of connections each of them brings to any given network in which any of them participate). Each of them subscribes to different sets of feeds and has access to different sources of flows of information than each of the others, but can forward to all those in the on-purpose network anything that comes across their attention that may be pertinent to the purpose at hand.

In the dynamics of attention, flow and circulation of pertinent and relevant information such as this comes the power of social computing that KM practitioners may have been noticing as Web 2.0 tools, service and capabilities become more firmly ensconced in knowledge work in the guise of platforms for collaboration—the domain increasingly called Enterprise 2.0.

I think it is (very) safe to say that problem-solving or accountability is assigned or accepted in that situation based on negotiation of ‘who knows what’ or ‘how to get something done’, and often a call (Tweet, blog post, Skype chat, email) is put out to find and access some additional skill or knowledge that is required, and accountability is negotiated based on the constraints of the purposeful activity at hand.

Any of us familiar with medium to large sized organizations can begin to see, I believe, that the fundamental Taylorist assumption that knowledge is structured vertically and put to use in siloed pyramidic structures and cascaded down to the execution level must be straining at the seams in the increasingly highly-connected social networks in which many people work today. 

Social computing – first dissonance, then participative flow ? 

Thus, it seems clear that the introduction of wikis, blogs and RSS feeds (and now micro-blogging a la Twitter) for project work, for analysis and planning, for research and development and for other knowledge-intensive work is likely to introduce some reasonable levels of dissonance into the common and accepted organizational dynamics (or "organizational sociology") of formal, traditionally structured organizations. 

This is an area where David Weinberger's phrase from the Cluetrain Manifesto — “hyperlinks subvert hierarchy” (or expose it, which may be better)—is likely to have real impact. 

Take Weinberger’s additional concept of first- , second- , and third-order organization of emergent knowledge (outlined in his "Everything Is Miscellaneous"), combine it with hyperlinks and spaces designed for interaction based on core usability principles and you have a potent recipe for looking at the design of socially-networked work groups.

In some senses, we’ve been here before … social interaction with other knowledge workers is the foundation of (for example) Fred & Merrilyn Emery’s theory and method of Participative Work Design and is at the heart of socio-technical systems (STS) methodologies for organizational development and change.  These theories and methods by and large reflect “getting the whole system into the room”.

Of course, with the arrival of the Internet and the advent of the interactive participative environment that is generally called Web 2.0, “the room” is larger and “the whole system” increasingly does indeed mean everyone, or at least the whole of the organizational crowd that makes up that organization.

Reams have been written about the Internet’s potential to democratize the access to and use of information. It does seem clear that the use of the Web, collaboration platforms, software-as-a-service, and cloud-based social computing by organizations that see information, knowledge and responsive innovation as mission-critical are core factors enabling the growth of network-based ways of creating pertinent and useful just-in-time knowledge and putting it to work. 

Vertical knowledge disrupted

This causes dissonance and ambiguity because typically performance objectives, job assignments, compensation arrangements and bonus schemes are generally almost always predicated on causality derived from the vertical arrangements of knowledge and its use in planned and structured initiatives.  As more and more knowledge work is carried out by people communicating and exchanging information using hyperlinks in social networks (where knowledge lives ) and routing it to where it is needed at any point in time, vertical arrangements of knowledge are disrupted, if not subverted. 

Call for organizational redevelopment

Based on the notions I have explored above and in previous writings, I believe there is a rapidly-growing need for what I call eOD (enterprise Organisational Development).  With greater fanfare It's also been called Social business. As social business initiatives continue to proliferate, I cannot see how the latent dissonance I have tried to articulate will be avoided. I think it will have to be addressed by using new design principles for knowledge work.

Many parts of knowledge work have been routinized and standardized with the ongoing marriages of business processes and integrated enterprise information systems. What has not changed much yet is the adaptation of structures and culture to permit easily building flows of information into pertinent, useful and just-in-time knowledge, or fanning out problem-solving and accountability into networks of connected workers.

I think many executives and senior managers sense massive challenges to the power and status relationships (the core of yet-to-change organizational structure) that exist in most of today's larger organizations.  This sense of a growing challenge is behind many senior managers' and executives' struggles to understand or become enthusiastic about the possibilities of Enterprise 2.0.  There is no Guide Chart yet about networked know-how, problem-solving or accountability.

Never mind that there is much rhetoric about the need for leadership at all levels, or about the empowerment and democratization of workers in organization X or Y.  Performance management, grade levels and compensation have yet to recognize how work gets done in networked environments and in a networked world.

And if any of you have any experience with performance management programs or in assigning someone in a job to a different grade level, or in making changes to levels of pay or bonus schemes, you know what a minefield those can be.

 

Jon Husband Entreprise Collaborative Ecollab Contributeur

Jon Husband is a recognized expert on social media and social networks and their impacts on the established institutions of our society and the workplace of the future. He carries out research into business strategy, organizational structures and work design in the interconnected Knowledge Age, and consults to select organizations in Canada, the USA and western Europe

 

In the past Jon has been a banker and a Senior Principal for Hay Management Consultants in Canada and the UK where he specialized in work and organizational design and change initiatives for large multinational companies. In 2003 he co-founded a leading blog-related software company, and from 2004 – 2008 delivered workshops about the dynamics of interconnectivity and participation for clients such as Athabasca University's Executive MBA program and the Banff Centre's Leading Innovation program.

 

In 2007 he co-authored a book titled “Making Knowledge Work – the arrival of Web 2.0” and 2010 co-authored with Michel Cartier the book “La Société Émergente du XXIe Siècle”.

 

He writes and speaks about social media and social networks, and is an active speaker in Canada and internationally about the Web’s growing impact on enterprises and the societies in which we live, work and play.

 

The Future of Learning – How should your company adapt and encourage constant learning?

 

Learning Organizations: New ways of managing

Ecollab Learn To Learn

As companies grapple with the effects and opportunities of the Internet, social media and the smartphone, internal organizations are having to adapt and transform to accommodate new ways of communicating, new marketing methods and metrics and, in sum, new ways of managing.

An organization’s ability to learn and to adapt to the changing environment is fundamental for long-term sustainable success.  Constant learning means recognizing one’s errors, learning from one’s mistakes.  It also means be willing and agile enough to shift courses; all part of an optimized Learning Organization.
 

Creating a successful Learning for Development program

A founding piece of this learning and change can – and should — take place through the internal university or Learning for Development (LFD) programs. [I have written extensively about the notion of a Brand University.]  There are three principles that must underpin successful change through these internal universities :

  1. Management must not only actively support, but positively identify – even remunerate — contributing staff;
  2. Learning must be ongoing, with a before – during – after, whereby management’s message and style is consistent and coherent with the LFD content;
  3. The style of teaching, as well as the tools and content, must model the behavior that the organization wishes to adopt.

Future of Learning

Here’s a video I produced recently, exposing the “future of learning.”  Please do give me your feedback.

 

Learner focused

Today, education is about educating you. In the jargon, we call this being learner focused. Teaching cannot be about just passing along MY messages. Pedagogy and learning are in mutation, pushed by a new understanding of learning, a new generation of tools, and a new crop of students, familiar with collaborative tools and the “web 2.0” spirit.

Distance learning

Whereas teaching was once the singular domain of classrooms – as is mostly the case in offsite seminars – there is now the opportunity for accessible and effective distance learning. Learning on the job can and is happening on the road, thanks to the portability of the computer, access to the internet and the mobile phone or even the ipod. The options and formats for distance learning are multiple.

Interactivity is the lifeblood of learning

Nonetheless, distance learning is not the complete panacea. It takes time, money and a real expertise to develop – without which one is often left wondering about the applicability and effectiveness. Too often, the eLearning is rich in content because of the obsession with transmission of information, but it is bereft of interactivity, the lifeblood of learning.

Moreover, learning is not just happening in classrooms or on the desktop terminal. It is happening elsewhere, all around us. There are new tools, sources and locations. Learning is and has always been happening informally, via the conversation in the corridor, at the cafeteria or at the famed water cooler.

Moving outside the classroom

It is said that 70% to 90% of all learning happens socially and informally. The tragedy is that LFD departments continue to focus on the remaining 10% to 30%. Moreover, too often, that training remains one-way, professorial and uninviting in style.

New tools exist today that can facilitate more widestream learning without exaggerated costs or massive changes in workflow – an essential ingredient to make informal and distance learning succeed in the workplace.

Four types of learning

There are four types of learning :

  • classroom
  • distance learning (or eLearning)
  • blended learning (a combination of classroom and distance)
  • and, the last but not least, social learning. Certainly, social media can be a part of this mix, but there is of course much more to social learning.

Companies need to choose and enable the right tools – infrastructure is a strategic consideration, a veritable investment with a viable return, not just a cost. Organizations need to invest in distance learning platforms — such as Cross Knowledge or Omega TV — but also allow for webinars, podcasting, teleconferences, group work, etc. Moreover, the attractiveness of an organization, from a new employees perspective, is heightened when learning is an integral de facto experience. Critically, managers must learn to be coaches.

Constant learning

I finish with a quote from Jay Cross: “Working smarter is the key to sustainability and continuous improvement. The accelerating rate of change forces everyone in every organization to make a choice: learn while you work or become obsolete.”

Powerful words. Learning For Development should be a corporate-wide endeavor; it must reinvent itself and gain the full thrust of upper management’s support to help the organization transform, to be ready for tomorrow’s fast changing environment.

 

Minter Dial Ecollab ContributeurMinter Dial is a Professional speaker, coach & consultant on Branding and Digital Marketing. After a long and successful international career at L’Oreal, he created TheMyndset Company to help senior management teams to adapt to the new exigencies of the web-enabled marketplace.  Minter has worked with world-class organizations to help them – and their executive teams — improve their digital literacy and catalyze a change in mindset, necessary to adopt the new digital landscape.

 

Minter combines years of senior multi-cultural leadership experience, management of Redken (US #1 salon professional brand) around the world and a deep involvement in the Internet.  In the 1990s, he was a pioneer, creating L’Oreal’s first ever professional web site.  With this experience, Minter helps brands to capitalize on the digital opportunities by providing proven methods to drive the mindset change necessary to make a digital strategy succeed.

 

What is social learning? Part Three: the future of social

 

 

In this series of three articles, we first explored the experience of the individual, looking at how social capital is increasingly important: the ability to survive and thrive in online spaces and how this differs from the past. Next we looked at the challenges for the organisation, around legal and ethical issues, as well as the role of the moderator. Today i want to look to the future, to indulge in some wild speculation around where social learning may take us going forward.

 

The ways that we learn are changing. We used to learn things and keep them in our heads for later: today, it’s more important to know how to find things out and to know how to synthesise that knowledge into meaningful and transformative action. Your ability to get things done at speed, to collaborate, to produce quality work and to provide both challenge and support to others are probably more important than simply knowing things.

This means that the skills required for success today are different from those skills that were required yesterday. We have to adapt. The methodology that we use for designing and delivering learning needs to adapt too. Today, learning is more spread out: whilst there is still a need for formal training programmes, we increasingly surround those experiences with semi formal and informal layers.

As we move further away from the core, formal, learning space, the layers become more conversational, more fluid. Truth is something that emerges rather than being presented as fact. It’s healthy to have this range: core learning in a curriculum and progressive layers of debate that surround it. For example, theory and demonstration may sit within the formal space, but ways to implement the learning in the business day to day may be built within the semi formal space that surrounds it. This will happen through discussion, debate, challenge and the drawing together of disparate ideas.

Moving into the future, i think that the types of community in which this discussion and debate take place will become more of a feature of our work, more likely to be the first place we turn to for support and help. Instead of being limited to getting support from managers or HR departments, we will see the natural place to turn to be with our community. And we are unlikely to have one community that serves all our needs, but rather a range of specialist ones: a leadership community to turn to for challenges around running our team, a sales community to help us develop sales strategy and a gardening community for helping us grow better peas. These communities will be typified by engaged individuals and sharing of knowledge, debate and discussion that will happen at speed.

In some communities we will see a more formal element, maybe through the moderation and drawing together of knowledge to provide a legacy from debate. Other communities will remain informal, sociable as well as social learning spaces. Initially we will see that communities will spring up around distinct topics, but i think it’s likely that, over time, the communities will become more permanent, being bought to bear around specific challenges, rather than being linked to one specific project. To be truly functional, a community needs differentiation of roles, and for this to happen takes time. In more transient communities, we tend to get stuck at the forming stage, with everyone jostling for position.

Having more permanent groups that apply their muscle to specific problems will be one way to avoid this. There is a flip side though, in that roles are likely to be more fluid: leadership, subject matter expertise and challenge are likely to come from different quarters for different subjects. The formal structures that typify formal environments are less likely to persist in agile online learning spaces.

This does highlight what may be perceived as more of a challenge though: the disenfranchised learner. As your social capital becomes more important, those who lack it will miss out. Whilst some people take to social learning like fish to water, others will be left behind. Unless we spend time and effort in engaging with these learners and addressing their very real concerns, we may simply make learning the preserve of the capable and engaged majority, but lose sight of the silent minority. There are many reasons why some people won’t engage online, many of them good ones. Often the reason is that there is no perceived value, it’s just seen as people wasting time or venting frustration. This is often a feature of emergent communities.

We need to move beyond the initial venting of steam and into productive discussion, which can come down to the role of the moderator. Another reason people won’t engage is if they don’t get the etiquette. This is apparent with a channel like Twitter: if you don’t understand hashtags and tagging, if you don’t get the semi stylised format of the communication, it’s daunting to engage with it.

In longer term approaches to the adoption of social learning within the organisational strategy, we should be able to address this through targeted programmes designed to engage with all learners. This does mean having a clear view of how people will be rewarded for participation, after all, what gets measured gets done. Are we measuring quality or quantity of discussion? Are we looking at the roles that people take, rewarding people who offer support or challenge, or are we going to leave the community to it’s own devices and simply view it as an additional, but informal activity?

A mature organisational view will be one that is fluid, able to utilise social learning in different ways in different contexts, just as the mature learners will engage in different spaces to different levels at different times. Indeed, with social learning there is a good argument for making all communities transient, or at least only semi permanent. It’s true that many forum spaces become stale or stagnant over time, so a good clear out never hurts, although it’s nice to combine that with the ability to build a legacy. I feel that a good role for the moderator is to draw out the stories and present them back to the group in terms of narrative documents, kind of informal white papers that summarise group learning if you like.

Social learning is here to stay: the old days of abstract formal learning and then being pitched back into the fray are gone. Whilst it’s not clear what the future will hold, we know for sure that the technology is mature, but that it will take more than just technology to make a difference. Social learning skills will be crucial, and our ability to nurture and develop these key.

 

Julian Stodd Entreprise Collaborative Ecollab ContributeurJulian Stodd is E-Learning Director for GP Strategies and a prolific author in the fields of social learning, e-learning and mobile learning, writing daily on his Learning  blog.

His current book 'Exploring the world of social learning' looks at how both organisations and individuals need to adapt to the changing nature of formal work environments and informal social ones, as the gap between the two disappears. Julian runs an active research community through LinkedIn and Twitter and collaborates widely, running a series of popup learning sessions each year, as well as consulting and delivering innovative e-learning solutions.

Based primarily in the UK but working globally, Julian is a strong believer that technology only facilitates learning, it doesn't guarantee it. Creating high levels of engagement through great storytelling and understanding the everyday reality of the learner is the way forward.

 

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Creating Value from Social Learning

Stories.articles.entreprise Collaborative   Creating Value From Social Learningnsp 350

  Social learning — namely, the use of social media in the workplace to foster learning, collaboration, networking, knowledge sharing, and communications — has taken on...

L'avenir de la formation et Mars

Stories.articles.marsnsp 350

 No translation available   Depuis plusieurs années, Mars a suscité l'intérêt des chercheurs. Des robots sont envoyés sur cette planète pour détecter des signes de vie et...

Social Learning, Social Media: Brothers in Arms

Craig%20weiss%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

    Is it me or does it seem that most vendors in the LMS/LCMS market still believe that with some smoke and mirrors, you won’t realize...

Social Learning: Take Me To Your Experts

David%20mallon%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

  Quick Question:  How easy is it to find another employee in your organization with a specific expertise?  Let me ask the question again another way:...

Social Learning, Collaboration, and Team Identity

Stories.articles.larry Irons   Entreprise Collaborative   Ecollab Contributeur Copiensp 350

  Harold Jarche recently offered a framework for social learning in the enterprise to outline how the concept of social learning relates to the large-scale changes facing organizations...

Learning to Learn in the modern Enterprise

Stories.articles.collaborative Enterprise Learning To Learn In The Modern Enterprisensp 350

  The last few days in Hong Kong have been incredible -- I saw some great sights, participated in some interesting activities and backed all of...

The Lean IT applied to the e-learning

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  The Social Learning is based on the sharing of knowledge between each individual people. Everyone can bring something into the knowledge pool of its colleagues. The fixed...

Gossip, Collaboration, and Performance in Distributed Teams

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  What do you think the typical manager might say if you told them their employees don't gossip and engage one another enough in social interaction...

What constitutes a Social Learning Culture?

Socialearning%20 %20un%20social%20software%20quest Ce%20que%20cest%20jen%20ai%20dj%20plein%20les%20mains

  I've often thought of social learning as a very culture dependent phenomenon. A few weeks back I read an interesting article by Thierry de Baillon, his...

At the Corner of Assertiveness & Cooperation: Collaboration

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  What do we meet at the corner of Assertiveness and Cooperation? The Thomas-Kilmann assessment suggests that it's Collaboration. Their assessment, which is the basis for many others, explores different...

From Competition to Cocreation - and Back Sometimes

Stories.michelle James   Entreprise Collaborative   Ecollabnsp 350

  How do you approach working with others? What is your resonant mode? Here's my two cents: Competition - "I win if you lose." Cooperation - "I will agree...

Why Best Practices Don't Work for Knowledge Work

Stories.luis Suarez   Entreprise Collaborative   Contributeurnsp 350

  I don’t recall having put together a blog post over here on the specific topic of capturing "Best Practices"; so after reading last Friday’s blog...

The Collaborative Curve

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  Now that I’m on a mission to merge the terms Social Business and Enterprise 2.0 and rephrase asCollaboration, I thought it would be a good...

Formalizing the Informal: Been there, done that

Donald%20clark%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

  @Ecollab asks, “Can we formalize informal learning ?” My answer, “We've been there, done that.” Except for perhaps compliance learning programs, formal learning processes are...

Learning to formalize informal learning

Tom%20haskins%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

    When we don't already know how to formalize informal learning, there's a lot to learn. We can welcome the challenge if the process of learning...

From Social Media to Social Business: The social learning as missing link

Thierry%20de%20baillon%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

  I am often puzzled by the way organizations and agencies tackle social media, as if conversational marketing and Enterprise 2.0 were living in separate worlds,...

The Real Secret to Social Learning Success

Stories.entreprise Collaborative   The Real Secret Of Social Learning Succesnsp 350

      For years training and development departments have struggled to compile the data they need to show value to their organizations. However, we will find ourselves...