What I expected vs. what I found.

I had great expectations coming into EDUC 689 and they were met. In the face of personal upheaval and crisis, the class kept me focused on what is possible, and how the use of social media tools could move the focus of learners closer to the job and what has to be done how. That is a short description for something very powerful. We have the capability to take advantage of the kinds of geometric progression realized through technology that we have seen for years and which now allows us to help support both learning and performance. I do think that one byproduct from the expert forums is shifting our focus to performance support. I also have a new respect for Facebook. It provided a key resource in working through EDUC 689 and forming online relationships with our classmates. Who knew? On another front, I have had a Twitter account for a few years, but mostly I lurked, following people that interest me, but not really crafting my thought into the 140 character format. I also found out about bit.ly, Tweetdeck and the practical use of Twitter. The Expert Forums were a fitting end to the last few weeks of study. I got to talk to Jane Bozarth! Wow! I already had her Social Media book and I have ordered Show Your Work. And I talked to her personally! I enjoyed blogging, it is a good way to share me, which I don’t always do. I tried to be forthright and honest, and reading back on my previous posts, I somewhat succeeded. Now I need to figure out a way to keep it up. In closing, thank you Jeannette for a great semester and thank you classmates. It was a really good experience.

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Jane Bozarth

What a great experience. I could have listened to Jane talk all evening, the hour flew by. I will base my observations on Jane’s responses to our questions:
1. How do we extend the idea of Communities of Practice beyond the training shop in our organizations? What is a good way to start?  Jane’s best idea in my opinion was to start small with people that are interested. She noted that nothing is worse than required participation. The people not interested will not contribute and will probably suck the energy out of the room.  The group should be self-selected and self-managed.  She also recommended articles she has mentioned recently.  She feels that in order to have a community of practice people need time and space, and one job of training should be to let people know that they have that time and space.  She also talked about her own CoP on stamping out bad training.
2. What are some practical ways to incorporate “Show Your Work” in training we develop? How can we leverage the idea to get it out to the rest of the organization? The idea of user-generated content is very much in the forefront of current thought.  She gave an excellent example at Cheesecake Factory.  They film exemplary employees performing skills to use as a training aid.  As trainers we need to focus on not just what but how.

3. Could you talk about your own Personal Learning Network and how you keep it current and manageable?  Social media expanded the reach of Jane’s PLN.  With social tools she started seeing responses from people she had read about or perhaps saw at a conference.  Her ideas included using a picture, not a logo.  This is human interaction.  Also don’t go looking for fights.  In general you need to give as well as you get in your PLN.  She said that she likes Twitter because it moves at the speed of Jane.  The important thing is to use a tool that makes sense for you, and solves a problem.  Everything is not for everybody.
4. In Social Media for Trainers you talk about the issue of boomer-age trainers being resistant to social media tools. Is this getting any better? Is this an opportunity for newly minted instructional designers to fill a void?  She stood by her example of boomer folks, but also said it is not just older trainers who are resistant to change.  Trainers are not in the classroom business, they are in the learning business.  Further, there are opportunities for new ISD grads, but they need to have used the tools and understand what they can do and not do.  She commented that many programs do not touch on informal learning and social tools.  She said that we should not fall into the “If you build it they will come” trap.  The tools have to solve a problem.
5. Could you talk about the idea of curation to filter social media noise?  She thinks that training can lead the way in showing the power or curation.  She also recommended talking further with David Kelley.  She said the information overload is actually filter failure.
6. What would you like to see different in the way Twitter works?  Her short answer was nothing.  She would like to get rid of spam bots.
7. What do you think is the “Next Big Thing.”  Narrating work is her thought.  Tacit knowledge in organizations is hard to capture.  There are learners interested in sharing what they know.

In closing, she asked us what we thought would be valuable in social media in a higher ed setting.  The consensus was the Cool Tool exercises and the use of Facebook groups in 689 were the best examples from our experience.

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Freedom of Knowledge, Value of Longevity

In both my recent work experiences, the face-to-face staff meeting is the still the number one vehicle for sharing information and knowledge.  Email is used to a lesser degree (and lesser effect for the most part).  In my mind, walking around the office, talking and asking questions is the most effective way to know what is going on.  My current organization is also very good about sharing weekly reports from the various entities, letting us get into the weeds a little.

My immediate past organization was geographically disbursed across Maryland, but still had both monthly and quarterly meetings where people came in from the field.  There was also a program of going out to the field pretty regularly.  There was a feeling of reasonable cohesion within the organization.

In both cases, however, I have not seen a significant use of mostly available technology.  Conference calls have been as good as it gets.

Longevity is a very different factor for me.  In my current position, there has been a huge turnover in the last year plus.  New folks far outnumber long term employees.  There is certainly reliance on long term people for what has happened in the past, but much of the emphasis is on a new model of service to and consideration of members.  On the other hand, my previous organization was highly partial to longevity.  In five and a half years I never felt as much a part of the organization as I did in my current organization almost from the start.  I think that much like the rest of life, longevity must be valued in moderation.  Longevity is very important in figuring out how you got where you are and what has worked or not worked in the past and why.  Paradigm shifts are better led by those with a little distance from the past.

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Organizational Center Redux

I have seen evidence of both organization- and network-centered activities, as I mentioned last week.  These activities are seemingly independent of each other.  I see tools set up to facilitate member-to-member discussions, problem solving and information sharing outside the confines of the organization.  I also see hierarchical control of the flow of information, concurrent with information sharing outside the organizational structure.  At times I am perplexed by the disconnect.  In thinking about this, I believe that is not so much where activities are centered, but more a reflection of the degree of control desired.  In rereading Shirky, I noticed the focus on “running the trains on time.”  His examples involve running large, complex organizations.  Perhaps it is because my organization has not experienced the kind of rapid growth necessitating a larger hierarchy that there is still a feel of ad hoc-ness about the operation.

I also think back to much larger organizations I have worked for.  There was a constant struggle to make things work and the answers developed were many and varied.  Shirky says “what ever methods help coordinate group action will spread, no matter how inefficient they are…”  That is true from what I have experienced.  Successful organizational entities built upon those inefficient methods, but there was always something that was there first, waiting to be improved upon.  The changes were driven by necessity and personal commitment to success.

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Where is my organization centered?

Admittedly, I work for a pretty small organization (<25 people) but what I see is the organization-centered activities and the network-centered activities going on pretty much independently. There isn’t any stopping the network activities in a membership organization, but there would be great benefit to bringing it into the organization fold. I don’t envy our Communications team in trying to pull this off. I am pushing for establishing a communities-of-practice-type structure for supporting the different members’ interests but there is tension between top-down control and bottom-up initiative. I see this as a challenge for training, but more so for the overall organization. The desire for control runs deep in most leaders, I believe. That is how they got where they are.

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Workscaping

Jay Cross and the end of formal training (sort of).

Learning how to cut up radishes would seem to be a skill better learned at the Culinary Institute of America than in a restaurant on Cape Cod. Indeed, Mr. Cross acknowledges that Anthony Bourdain saved years by going to school rather than apprenticing in a kitchen. His professional development was accelerated through training. That said, however, Mr. Cross goes on to call formal training wasteful and ineffective.  I don’t see the balance of formal and informal training recognized.  Both kinds of training are needed and both are effective when used in the right circumstance.  In my mind you can talk about the importance of informal training to learning the different aspects of a job and the ways to provide an environment supportive of informal learning without tossing all other kinds training (end of rant).

The concept of workscape as a means of supporting informal learning at all levels of an organization seems necessary for success in today’s organizations. By creating opportunities to collaborate, connect and form relationships, making communication easy, necessary and in all directions within the organization, fostering the right to failure as a learning experience, and encouraging innovation and the expression of contrary ideas, organizations will create the environment for informal learning. I am especially appreciative of ensuring informal learning at all levels of the organization, not just for the novices.  Through sharing and problem solving at more senior levels, results-oriented performance measures can be reached with a much higher payback than just knowing that a novice understands the basics of the work.

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