Rethinking LinkedIn use – after 400 connections

I realized recently that I had passed the 400 connections point on LinkedIn.  I thought this a useful point to consider how I use the tool.

I have used it very inconsistently in the past.  Going forward I might be more systematic – if I have internal meetings I add the people present, previously I have been vary ad hoc how I have used it for internal networking.  I’ll also probably be more consistent with how I deal with those who attend events I have organized, a sensible approach would seem to be to encourage people to contact me there if they wish to – in the past I have added all delegates which is probably ‘a bit forward’ or not used LI to follow up at all.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the opening 400, a useful exercise as it has allowed me to remove a few people that I was not sure about:

Reflections on Learning Technologies 2015 (#LT15UK)

#LT15UK was my first Learning Technologies winter conference, rather than the summer forum or winter exhibition.  I’ve always avoided the conference due to the cost but it was really useful to spend a couple of days thinking, high level, about the nature of workplace learning.

Even a few days after the conference, I am still contemplating what was discussed and trying to draw my conclusions.  To a large extent it has reaffirmed my belief that most learning professionals are failing their audience (school, higher education, workplace).  However, whilst I would be keen to rip up the existing models (see my virtual school post as an example) the pragmatist in me was looking for ways forward in the shorter term.  By attending the conference, rather than the exhibition, it was such shorter term trends I struggled to pick up on.  Messages from the conference, for me, were more around how learning needs to be overhauled to recognize new ways of working and changes to the key attribute it has always existed for – empowerment.  I would argue that, by thinking of learning as empowerment, we can better think about learning if we put it in the terms of productivity and engagement in the workplace.  Of course this is very much thinking about things from my perspective (including educational informatics) and I’m deliberately putting these notes together before reviewing the event’s back-channel in any real depth.  Additional posts might be forthcoming based on that review.

So, why do I feel we need more of an overhaul?  Here are some key points and reflections from the presentations I attended:

  1. A brave new world: how the cloud is revolutionising our learning, Professor Sugata Mitra.
    • An update on Mitra’s projects since the last time I heard him speak (the main development since then being his new style schools are up and running).
    • I totally agree with him that for a lot of learning the learner, with access to the Internet, can lead the learning (and that a facilitator can provide positive reinforcement and support).  I would challenge him over how to ensure motivation to learn exists and also that people can be trusted with the technology.  Whilst I love his presentation style as something of a utopian, alas we have probably all worked somewhere where learning tech kit has gone walkies.
    • To an extent, the self organized learning environment (SOLE) of his model is parallel, in my mind, to the ideas of a full ‘learning organization’.  Specifically, like traditional teachers adopting SOLEs, L&D teams need to realize they can not manage learning but can support it to be as efficient as possible.
    • Mitra talked considerably about dematerialization.  I would agree that learning as a process may dematerialize one day due to a download, implant or upgrade to the human body but for now lets focus on facilitating it as best as possible via making learners acknowledge it is for them and they should be in control.
  2. #T5S1 21st century enterprise learning, David Wilson and David Perring
    • An attempt to “recalibrate” the future of systems and LMS conversations to today.
    • The argument was that, ultimately, admin and compliance have led to the main use cases for an LMS.  In this model there can be huge value to a business, especially if legal compliance is a requirement to operate, but the value is not for the learner.  As the presentation put it “the LMS is not the center of the business, work is”, hence it is not the most important internal system.  Personally, I see this as about the nature of work, can work be done in the LMS?  If not, can the LMS present learning at the appropriate point of the workflow?  If we are simply using an LMS for compliance then do that and be honest about it.  Let’s not pretend that we are tracking all corporate learning in an LMS, as 70/20/10 reaffirms, that’s not the case.
    • The presentation mentioned the move by systems to cover more of the 70/20 – I suspect this is too little too late for many organizations and we need to consider social and collaboration as part of a wider digital enterprise, not just a talent ecosystem (the presentation seemed to suggest we’ve gone from L&D centric, to wider talent – surely the next step is to properly support the digital workplace?).  For the talent cycle see slide 8 of the below presentation:
    • The presentation focused on the importance of innovation and I liked the two circles of functionality that LMS elements can be compartmentalized within: “operational performance” and wider cycle “optimized future readiness”.  The argument was that an LMS is still needed but needs to do better at fulfilling these circles.
  3. #T1S2 – Does instructional design have a future? Patti Shank
    • Having completed an MSc that specifically called out ‘instructional design’ as a key component (the only course I could find that did in the UK at the time) this session was of interest to me!  Whilst Mitra might argue for facilitation and the need to create curriculum from questions to fuel learner self direction, Shank argued that ID needs to focus on performance issues and improvement (the two positions obviously not being mutually exclusive).
    • There were familiar arguments for supporting an end to ‘order taking’ L&D and being more challenging to our stakeholders.  In addition, there were attempts to clarify the differences from content development and graphic design, related but not synonymous fields.  I mentioned, after the talk, a recent article from India which perhaps showed the different mindset in the booming ID outsourcing market:
    • The conclusion was that IDs have a lot of the skills to deal with performance improvement in the ever increasingly complex workplace and the Instructional Design Competencies model helps as a framework.
  4. #T4S3 – Building smart scenarios for great learning, Cathy Moore
    • I think most people would agree that scenarios can help get a message across, especially in training.  This session really just showed some key steps to ensure scenarios are too boring.
    • Firstly, use scenarios when you’ve determined there is a learning need that requires judgment not binary choices.
    • Three rules for stem:
      1. Give characters names (depends on situation if one character should be ‘you’ or not)
      2. Show don’t tell (easiest via actual dialogue – avoids generalization)
      3. Include cues (setup the decision/quiz options in the text – easy way to tell if too much text is if its boring when you read it)
    • I liked a point made that we should learn more from related fields.  Interactive fiction was mentioned as an area where IDs can take ideas from, such as links to optional back stories to increase mystery and empathy.
    • Tips for question options – get common mistakes out of the SME before the correct answer, helps build out the conversation.  Don’t jump straight to correct responses.
    • Feedback best practice – keep the story going, intrinsic not instructive feedback as dialogue.
    • Information needed to answer question – don’t present as slides, instead focus on what need to know – other bits can go into job aids, etc.
    • Overall, I thought the presentation had a lot of very sensible stuff in it and the little checklists above are useful reminders to consider going forward.
    • Good tool to use:
    • Handout:
  5. Day two: Keynote: The expanding mind, Professor Robert Winston
    • This felt a little rambling but, as you would expect from Winston, there were some hugely informative points and a lot to think about.  There were some commonalities in the presentation to others I have seen,  for example, he argued the most important technology has been the hand axe (akin to Donald Clark’s reminders that technologies have continually impacted on mankind) and the importance for L&D to consider neuroscience (as at BETT 2014 where Baroness Greenfield presented).

      Prof Whinston at LTUK15
      A packed conference on day 2
    • The key points with regards to learning included that, whilst learning can be difficult at first, we know that reinforcement and practice will bring results.  Indeed our environment, not our genes, impacts our exposure and ability to learn.  There were also mentions for some of the aspects that explain how we behave, for example I know I often unconsciously pickup phrases and actions from others – this is based on learning from others (so if we want people to learn values and correct behaviors we need to embody the values we expect people to develop).
  6. #T4S4 – Mobile delivery: putting the device in your hands to work, Geoff Stead
    • Information on Qualcomm’s use of mobile, including for learning (
    • Overall, this really reinforced the need to get going with mobile.  The idea of ‘guerilla learners’ was discussed, realistically I wouldn’t say they are guerilla – simply working in a modern world where L&D can not be everywhere.  Again, there were figures for ‘learning delivery’ %s which, I would argue, can only cover some of what is happening:

      Percentage shifts towards mobile at Qualcomm
      Learning delivery at Qualcomm
    • I really liked their approach – have an app store portal to aggregate what is available (including apps they have built and ones available to the company – such as the FT and Harvard Manage Mentor).  Whilst I would normally presume ‘learning’ would be one app (usually delivered through an LMS app) this may well be a more sensible approach – acknowledging that a big company will have multiple apps and that it is easier to deploy them individually via a portal (as Geoff said, the toolbox approach can scale better than the army knife).  Their vision for learning is “almost like a library” and this is obviously akin to my own background and belief in learning.
    • A number of apps were shown, including video and games based.  The one that jumped out at me was Pathgather.  It sounds like this tool allows for crowd sourced learning paths – this sounds outstanding as allowing for L&D to create recommendations of learning journeys but also allowing subject experts to recommend things based on their experiences.  If we want to empower people to learn as part of a learning organization then such tools are an excellent idea, no one knows everything anymore and socially sharing and collaborating around work (and learning is work) is key.

      Challenging budget, system, security, IT and legal blockers to mobile adoption
      Busting barriers to mobile
    • They are working with other organizations on ensuring SSO and other technologies are in place to ensure the system works the best it can for an organization.  They also tend to do web app first which I like as I’m still sure we do not need to build native applications for everything.
    • The presenter’s team is 50% mobile app developers – that is a really interesting one for everyone in learning I think in changing what we mean by learning (technology) professionals.
  7. #T1S5 – Mindfulness, learning and work, David Gelles
    • Mindfulness has been a hot topic for a while with David Gelles, of the New York Times, having brought a lot of attention to it.  It centers of giving people meditation time at work to improve well-being and performance.  This is often coupled with eating regimes and exercise, such as yoga.
    • Whilst I would not argue with his facts and figures, the evidence of improvement, from such schemes I would, however, say there are some underlying elements.  If these are implemented, without the ‘mindfulness’ aspects of meditation, I would expect them to still bring about some of the results – items such as ensuring people take breaks, don’t get made to feel stressed by their managers, given a chance to reflect and pause, etc.

      Mindfulness as a route to a less stressed, healthier, focused workforce
      Mindfulness benefits
    • The “being right here, right now” element is the aspect I need to look up more about as, if anything, I feel I do that too much and don’t plan ahead enough.  This is partly as my to-do lists tend to go out the window due to the work of others and that complexity is the challenge of the modern environment.
    • I also need to look up a suggested easy first step – the Headspace app.
  8. I skipped over the final conference session to spend some time in the exhibition and catch up with some old colleagues.

If we accept that the conversations here equate as evidence of best practice, the worrying thing would be that you see many manager/director posts in L&D that seem to be based around delivering training – not about wider talent, empowerment or engagement.  Indeed the number of organizations willing to empower learning by allocating time to it is probably not much greater than those willing to support the ‘mindfulness’ movement through meditation.  I know I tend to revert to Jarche on this site but I’m going to do it again in that a lot of my takeaways really reinforce my view that we need to be looking at learning much in the way outlined in this deck:

Overall, the conference has clearly got me thinking about how I would drive an organization forward (at least how I can push certain viewpoints from my role) and it was a much more pleasant way to attend the Olympia event (with lunch, coffee, places to sit, etc) than a day or two in the exhibition.  However, for keeping up-to-date with tools and the technologies themselves I would say a day or more in the exhibition and free seminars are possibly the better route – especially if I had money to spend on new tools and needed to attend demos and training sessions.  Perhaps the best of both worlds is attending the Summer Forum exhibition and then the winter conference.

Explaining my tweet on those two tweets

Don’s original post (link in the tweet above) brings together two tweets that, as he says, nicely summarize the state of L&D.  My tweet’s comment around the difference between L&D and external ‘training’ really comes from my own background – having moved from working for a training provider in the HE space to L&D.

I think we need to a much better job, as learning (technology) professionals working in different sectors to explain the value in continuous learning via:

  • day to day work activities (that will happen anyway and L&D can help support develop unconscious learning)
  • specific learning activities (with their added value of being a distinct activity away from work and often with some form of accreditation)
  • personal learning networks (for many graduates these will start to be built at university and everyone in formal/informal learning roles should be supporting PLN development by our people).  I would argue reflection is key in this, making people aware of their unconscious learning and adding value for others by communicating around this learning.

In 2015 we need to ensure the above all continue to develop and learning professionals support them appropriately to stay relevant.

Report season #KineoInsights and Brightwave #TotalLearning events

We have hit the pre-Christmas reports, awards and events rush in UK learning and development circles, a number of which lead to new developments and analysis at the big post-Christmas events such as BETT and Learning Technologies.

Awards in ‘the Learning Industry’

Personally I have never really been into industry awards, yes I can see the point of celebrating success but I am always suspicious of back patting that doesn’t directly come from your customers.

Recent reports/events

My involvement in all of this has really being limited to attending two events in the last week or so – some notes and reflections below…as always apologies to the presenters for any misunderstandings.

Recent events 1: #KineoInsights

The first of two events I attended really focused on three reports:

(1) Kineo’s “Learning Insights” Report


The presentation specifically focused on the report and ran through the 10 tips identified from the 35 contributing L&D managers.

The context for the report was explained as an increasingly digital one, quality of experience and appropriate mix of solutions are essential in this environment – mobile/digital/online/in person banking given as an example of an industry which has evolved quicker than L&D.

One line of argument was that Learning now has to prove value above and beyond compliance. Personally I wonder if the trick there is if compliance needs to prove its value beyond “we have to do this” – if we can crack that then other learning will immediately be recognized as more important?

I will not list the points from the report as, as you’d expect, the managers highlighted a number of current themes in L&D thinking as well as reinforcing many of the points that have been as around for a long time (work with the business, learning should be in the workflow, more mature blends, etc). I was pleased to see a general thread of decentralization from L&D in the highlighted report items through, for example, making learning more open including the use of peers (there was a plug for a new social tool coming to Totara) and managers/leaders/learners all being better embedded in workflows.

The main issue identified, and discussed a lot through the day, was the skills gap between L&D teams and what they need to offer. Marketing and communication are now very important but not key skills for most L&D staff, whilst the lack of CPD for our L&D teams was highlighted as a major issue. Personally I don’t always understand the CPD question, sure, there might not be a great podcast and courses (such as the one I did which has since been cancelled) are few and far between but we have plenty of blogs, events, etc to learn from.

Finally, there was a suggestion that L&D teams perhaps need to be bolder, stress the value of in-house standards and seek a quality balance between in-house teams and vendors.

(2) Towards Maturity’s annual report

Lot of data in the slides:

A similar, albeit larger, report to Kineo’s. Key themes in their received responses included the need to really kick on with actions towards modernizing learning whilst still often having to do more with less (although this year 33% reported they have an increased budget and will be recruiting).

Personally, I had seen quite a lot about the report including this LSG webinar, already but one interesting aspect was this year’s focus on the top performing 10%. Most organisations can now be seen as sharing three goals:

  1. Respond faster
  2. Build performance
  3. Continuous learning embedded in culture

Interestingly, when people are asked what the barriers to L&D supporting these three are there seems to be a blame culture of ‘aint us guv’ – with costs, user/learning skills and IT the top three scapegoats (this seemed pretty amazing to me considering user/learner skills is something L&D should be directly able to influence).

Items of emerging importance include better use of data in decisions making, with business leaders expecting analytics to review, leading to improvements and better decisions. However, the data shows only 32% of respondents work with business leaders on KPIs for learning. I am somewhat torn on this as whilst KPIs have been something of a ‘holy grail’ for business in the past I would rather work with a business leader who recognizes learning as something that should be fully embedded in the culture of the business and thus difficult to measure without looking at wider issues, not least engagement.

Lessons from the top performers included that learning need not present solutions, but understand learner preferences and act from there. In addition, learning has to be part of the wider talent agenda. Skills diagnostics, content curation, 70/20/10, micro-content and linking learning to career development are all useful but achieved by few organisations. In other words, L&D departments have aspirations to move the agenda on but only “the top deck” is achieving many essential elements. Some of the ways they have achieved this were mentioned, including L&D driving BYOD policies where mobile/social have been a success, having a communications policy in place and business agreed KPIs.

I asked if there were specific organizational traits that could be seen in the top performers, hinting towards my concern that ‘corporate universities’ have pushed L&D down a narrow focus. The response from the presenter was that top performers can be seen as those organisations that successfully foster strong networks for L&D professionals and often best performance is where L&D report into business units rather than an L&D/HR silo.

(3) Kineo’s onboarding/induction report



I’d read this report before so there wasn’t too much new for me in here but the figures on turnover and related costs from new joiners are amazing and really backs the argument for ensuring a good induction.

The idea of balancing ‘empathy’ for new joiners with ‘efficiency’ was a nice idea, i.e. value joiners as people, in balance with all the boring compliance stuff you have to enforce on them. This can include giving them a voice, for example at BP they have new joiners write a presentation on the future of the organization, senior people come to the event and answer questions the participants have. At Tui they have a just-in-time information focus on their eLearning platform, the idea being that it is a source of information for sales people which goes beyond what you can find on Google – making the use of information is what makes the sales people better for customers than booking online.

I particularly liked one idea that was mentioned – send a welcome card, signed by team members, to a new joiner before your first day. I would suggest extending this to LinkedIn invites so new starters can get to know who’s who, faces at least, and more detailed CV information too.

After this presentation, and in a number of other discussions on the day, there was a feeling of “only do eLearning it it’s good eLearning”. I think this is a valid point in that eLearning has become the standard approach for many L&D teams but is often unpopular with learners, however, I would say this is really based around SCORM packages rather than bespoke eLearning blends to solve the problem. eLearning courses in higher education, combining resources, remain ahead of the L&D SCORM-centric debate in many ways here. Interestingly, there was little talk of Tin Can which, I would argue, can have a place in Induction as we can get new joiners to develop an approach to reflection on the job which is more difficult for those who have been at a company a long time.

(4) Gamification at McDonalds

The third presentation on the day, prior to the onboarding presentation, was one looking at Kineo’s award wining gamification solution to McDonalds’ new till training. Interesting for me in that:

  • It was not massively advertised, going viral from the intranet.
  • Leaderboard technology wasn’t worked in, so teams could develop the level of sharing they were happy with – in store, by franchisee, by region, etc. This was interesting to me as I always remember the unpopularity of till speed tables at one of my early (supermarket) employers, the Kineo tool working in customer service questions to ensure it is not just a speed test.
  • Nice articulation of the essential gamification elements: goals, rules, challenge and interaction.
  • There is no set score for getting correct answers, it uses a more complex algorithm with ‘show me’ option if you get stuck.
  • Part of the success was that it offered a safe environment – a familiar theme to the old ‘walled garden’ argument for having VLEs/LMS.
  • I wasn’t horrendous at the game when volunteered to test it out in front of the audience J

Recent events 2: #TotalLearning


The Brightwave event started with Charles Gould commenting that many clients still look for eLearning solutions similar to what Brightwave encountered when he founded the company 12 years ago. His call to action was that L&D professionals need to better exploit the opportunities provided by technology.

David Smith (Global Futures)

Not happy to just point out where L&D are behind the times, the event started with a keynote speaker ( who outlined many of the changes society at large may see in the near future. This was a whistle-stop tour and, like with my futurist of choice Gerd Leonhard, no doubt only some of this research will come to fruition. As someone pointed out over lunch, 30 years ago we might have heard ‘are you ready to be living on the moon?’ Yes there has been huge change, but technology has only really been universal where there is money to be made.

Some of the main points were certainly valid though:

  • We tend to do old things with new technology, takes time for real transformation.
  • Sourcing skills is changing, old ways of work are disappearing, and not least as the growing world population cannot be maintained by traditional corporations alone.
  • For organizations to be a success they need to develop a ‘talent cloud’ around the network’s skills.
  • We should be moving to the post email era, with new collaborative technologies and ‘work swarms’.
  • Oculus Rift, virtual reality, an example, of a tech that has taken time to become monetized.
  • We need learning organizations to adapt to pace of change, not least new mediums of data (Internet of Things, etc)

Kim George (Getty Images)

A great example of an L&D team that appears to be fully embedded in helping their organization develop and achieve better results. The presentation focused on the ‘fastest path to value methodology’ which Getty’s technology teams adopted to be more agile but has spread, not least to the L&D team. Ultimately it was explained that their team’s approach boils down to: #get****done (which I love!).

Four key elements to fastest path:

  1. Immediate progress. Start now.
  2. Focus on learning.
  3. Fastest path to customer.
  4. With a focus on frequent, small, releases.

There were two projects presented as examples to how this was achieved, the second being a new SharePoint intranet which sits within L&D responsibilities, recognizing that all material has a learning purpose (although formal L&D material does sit on an LMS).

Overall their L&D team seems to be nicely positioned as internal performance consultants, beyond simply offering courses.

Nancy Kinder (Feverbee)

I had heard of Feverbee’s community consultancy work before and it was good to get a bit more detail on the way they recommend communities are built, measured and maintained.

In relation to measurement it was argued that you can analyze learning communities/communications in terms of increased revenue and reduced costs (including calculation of work time savings – for example, using answers as a knowledge base resulting in less help-desk tickets). People value comes in increasing the sense of belonging, greater influence of global teams and ease of upskilling.

Argued that, to successfully accelerated learning, you need three things:

  1. People
  2. Process
  3. Technology

People is the tricky bit and delegates in the room pointed to familiar barriers including billable hours and commission as blocking people wanting to get involved in such activities. The presenter argued that fear is the key barrier; the culture needs to be in place to support use.

A workflow for establishing the community can be:

  • Research objectives to meet
  • Analyze your people
  • Coach and let members influence success.

Processes for learning acceleration can include working in reminders around the fun stuff; ultimately it is all about relationships. The sense of community can be tested via survey and other quantification approaches.

I find the ideas around Communities of Practice within learning fascinating. Having been involved with them for a while including presenting at a conference on their possible irrelevance as well as being a keen supporter for CILIP Communities, on which I co-lead the ‘eLearning’ subject. However, as the presentation mentioned there is something of ‘critical mass’ and I suspect CILIP never managed that and the community manager on the initial project was missed once gone.

There was a nice three-step summary:

Research > Relationships > Report

In other words, know your audience/challenge(s), develop relationships and report the benefits. For reporting and other elements Feverbee make free help resources available on their website.

LearnerLab: How strong is your learning brand?

This was one of those conference/event sessions where I wanted to jump in at multiple times with challenges and questions. I didn’t but in, partly as some of the issues were dealt with in the presentation and I expected others to be tackled in the following session.

Overall, this was talking about how to get L&D advertised internally to promote the value of learning. The argument was that L&D needs to learn from digital experiences to improve learner engagement. L&D teams needing better communication to build the brand, drive purpose and engagement.

My concern was that this was very L&D-centric. I wondered how much, such a brand building activity would be for L&D staff to feel more valued rather than delivering better business benefits.

That all said, I would agree with a lot of the points made:

  • You need to know your stakeholders and plan for engaging with them.
  • Learning brands are easily marred by bad experiences, building trust is harder than destroying it, you have to be consistent in doing what you say you are doing.
  • Brand is an experience, not a logo. The users own the brand.
  • Mentioned learning needs to be ‘frictionless’ (although I’d query if brand is needed if you make learning totally frictionless and just part of day to day work).
  • Amplify stories to motivate, recognize successes and strategic contribution.

For me, there was one point though that really helped save the presentation – “Focus on outcomes not activities”. Overall we should not be selling courses/resources but rather what they mean for the learner/organization afterwards, this message should be inline with the corporate strategy.

Finished with a summary argument, that you need to “set your stall out” via clear communication to sell L&D internally.


This session focused on the award winning success of Tesco Bank, developing a learning culture to support their growth.

The presenter was excellent in arguing key aspects, a number of which challenged the ‘learning brand’ session:

  • Department exists for the business, not learning for the sake of it.
  • Knowledge does not equal power; is about an ability to find information via your personal networks.
  • People coming in need to be allowed to decide on what to learn.
  • Need a colleague brand, not learning, learning is just part of deal for colleagues as part of the organization’s nature.
  • HR need to act as marketers, have a Head of Employee Experience to tackle the challenges posed by desirable workplaces such as Google. Even if you can never tackle the physical environment.
  • L&D/HR need to be: business consultants, colleague experience support, storytellers, workforce planning (big data), digital adoption and facilitating access to information.
  • Need an agile environment in everything you do.
  • “Inspiring great performance” is the brand for their colleague proposal.
  • What you produce needs to be as highly quality as what you offer external customers (I would challenge this as I think quick and dirty is often actually best).
  • Don’t come up with your own metrics, use the ones business leaders use.
  • They do have an online ‘academy’ but it is for curation of external material. Tesello is used separately for graduate onboarding.
  • Recorded 12 “why learning matters to me?” videos as part of communication – tell stories!
  • Ultimately about abolishing ‘learning’, just something you do in the workflow. He has never written an L&D strategy – act faster (obviously a challenging point but I would agree, to some extent, that the end game is to have a pervasive learning culture where everyone can contribute).

I asked if compliance (considering the banking industry) breaks the model of people being bought into such a learning everywhere culture. The answer was that people know they have to do a certain amount, transparency about this stops other things being devalued, but they are starting to think about compliance in a different way.

Q&A Panel

I wont cover this in full but I liked one line – L&D need to be facilitators in a much broader sense. I thought this was an excellent point and really takes me back to my hinterland of the interplay of learning, tech and information (educational informatics) to achieve personal/organizational outcomes. This may mean the organization has to give up more time to ‘learning’ but you should be aligned enough for them to realize this importance.

Tesello at Unison

A brief presentation which showed quite nicely how well a CoP website can succeed. Using Tesello’s technology meant that organizational and personal development were both served via sharing tools and Learning Record Stores. One small point I thought was interesting was that they referred to their tiles as the ‘organising library’ – a nice wrap up from the futurist suggesting that we use new tech in old ways but also something of a confirmation for me that my ‘librarian’ background certainly still has relevancy today – after all curation is nothing new.


The blend organizations can now implement to develop the knowledge and skills of their people is far more complex (and as I’ve mentioned before doesn’t need to be size orientated) than even 10 years ago. The two events just really highlighted the different approaches L&D departments are taking to learning culture/communities and support for new ways of working beyond a focus on traditional approaches. In many ways neither day really discussed anything new, just reinforced (for me) that its better to drive change than to allow it to happen to you.

Moving beyond an LMS to support an ecosystem of learning (as recently covered by the eLearning Guild), be that McDonald’s Intranet based game or Brightwave’s Tessello, makes sense and is really about better supporting learning at large. We have never been able to ‘manage’ all workplace learning but we should at least be able to put in place processes and technology to help our people.

Overall, I would see this as an interesting time where there appears to be growing interest in workplace learning, as part of talent policies, as leaders fear the implications of attrition and global competition. Indeed such is the potential for change that we are seeing big money flowing into L&D (for example Xerox’s purchase of Intrepid Learning) in a similar way to the venture capture that has flown into education. Therefore, there is real potential for L&D professionals to seize the opportunities and put themselves in a position where they offer their organisations something valuable.

Office design

Partly due to the excellent The Brits Who Built The Modern World TV series, reflections on my own past experiences and changes in my current workplace I have become quite interested in all things ‘office design’ of late.  Part of my reason for this is that, as we consider the future of learning in the workplace, I am increasingly of the mindset that we can not separate this from where that learning may happen.

For example, one of my first experiences of eLearning was training during a brief stint working for B&Q (almost identical to Home Depot for any Americans out there).  To complete this training (mostly health and safety based from what I remember) I was sat, by myself, in a room which was predictably cold and dark (it was night shifts in Sheffield after all).  Now the training might have been fine but my memory is that room and nearly dozing off after a full day at university.  Forward on 10 years or so and many of our knowledge workers will find themselves in open, airy spaces – not locked away in little rooms – but the opposite problem will often happen.  Whilst the B&Q room was overkill in providing a quiet study space we now have call centers where, when you call as a customer, you cannot hear the operator over all the other discussions happening in the surrounding area.  The open plan office debate rages on.

‘Traditional’ eLearning though can realistically happen anywhere, the aspects of listening and reading being easily enough done on a bus (for example) provided it can be deployed to mobile.  My major concern is with virtual classrooms, whilst often deployed from the ‘safe walled garden’ of an LMS/VLE, we expect these platforms to offer a comparative environment to a classroom – engaging, full of discussion and activity.  Therefore, where in office design are we seeing spaces for individual activity?  Well here a couple of examples of what is possible:

I tend to support the idea of home based and flexible working where people can actively participate in an environment where they will naturally ‘open up’ – it also deals with the notorious question of what to feed people on training events!

So, if I come into the office, what do I need?  I would say two major things:

  1. An ability to ‘dock’ into a multiple screen display – much more efficient for multitasking such as video production whilst emailing, etc.
  2. Proximity to people I need to talk to regularly, realistically my direct team to learn from them and discuss current tasks face-to-face.  That proximity may be virtual for team members who are elsewhere – in which case ideally the office will not be so open plan that talking on the phone seems antisocial to other teams around you.

My most productive time in work was probably when I sat in a team of about 4 within a space than held about 8 desks (everyone in that room being part of my extended department).  This was small enough to be intimate but large enough that you still heard about what different teams were up to and not isolated in your particular task.  I’m increasingly thinking that the 8-10 people model may be the best – flexibility is no doubt key, as illustrated in some of the ‘trendy’ offices recently picked up on by BBC Business.

The recent PWC report suggesting traditional offices may start to disappear is something I agree with but I do think we need the better joined up collaboration, learning and workflow tools that I have mentioned in previous posts – only with this can the organization remain efficient in an increasingly distributed ‘office’.  Part of that efficiency will also be to consider how people remain engaged as things change, the impact of office (space) design of engagement should not be underestimated in my opinion, although pieces regularly call up Google for examples of good practice of course.