Conference

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Energy Injection

How to inject energy into your events…

Recently we were asked what tools we could use when facilitating a behavioural and cultural change event, in order to inject energy and help creativity.

It’s funny how when you get asked these questions the mind often goes blank: the tools that are second-nature to us have become so ingrained in our work that we don’t really think about them anymore.

Yet when we started sharing these tools with the client and discussing as colleagues the different tools we used, we all benefited and all picked up new ideas too!

So here is that insight shared with you too: ideas for injecting energy into a group, breaking people out of ‘stuck’ thinking and getting more creative….

Visualisation – this is about painting the picture of what it would feel and look like to have something change. We ask the question, “if some miracle happened overnight and you came to work tomorrow and this had already changed, what would be the first sign to you that things were different? What would you see / hear / feel? What else?”

What will it not be? With our naturally critical brains, we often find it easier to say what we do not want than to talk about what we do want.

Even in a personal example of preparing for a difficult conversation or presentation, we might think to ourselves, “I don’t want to come across like a nasty person,” or “I don’t want them to think I’m not an expert.” Getting people to say out loud what they do not want can be a great starting point for then switching things around and asking, “if that’s what you want to avoid, what would you want instead?” or “what would help you avoid that outcome you do not want?”

Improvisation – to break people out of logical and analytical problem-solving mode and move them into a more creative space, improvisation is a great tool. Using the “yes, and” game means taking something simple like, “what could we do for our next team social?” and asking people to apply “yes, and…” to every idea.

Someone might start with, “we could have it at the pub,” and the next person could say, “yes, and we could invite Beyonce to sing there,” on to, “yes, and we could have a space for people who don’t like loud music to sit and relax,” followed by, “yes, and we could put the pub on a space rocket and fly to the moon…”

Once we’ve played with that, we can then apply the same concept to ideas raised for the specific issue at hand, encouraging more building on ideas than critiquing.

List 50 ideas – when we are asked to come up with 5 ideas, we often get stuck at 3.

When we are asked to come up with 50 ideas, we might get stuck at 20 or 30, so this is a simple tool to get people thinking fast and throwing out as many ideas as possible. In an attempt to get more ideas out, people come up with more and more crazy ideas, which may not be practical at all, but they might spark inspiration for something that is practical.

Getting a high volume of ideas out without judgement can lead to us spotting the potential in a whacky idea and seeing how that might work.

Switch seats – just getting people up and moving often provides a different perspective, so give yourself permission to make people that little bit uncomfortable and move them around. You could also add in a specific perspective for this by say having an empty chair in the room that is the “customer’s chair” – or key stakeholder, shareholder etc.

Ask someone to sit in that chair and share their perspective, as this can drastically change the direction of the conversation.

Get outside – if it’s feasible in your venue and given the weather, ask people to discuss the idea / issue in pairs on a walk outside. The fresh air, exercise and different perspective will often raise very different ideas that can be brought back into the room and shared for consideration.

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Learning Technologies Event Pt.2

LT-Totem 400x265Part 2 of our little jaunt to the Learning Technologies event

In case you missed the first part, you can find it here.

Blame Taylor

We can all be guilty of thinking that problems can be addressed with a one-size-fits-all solution.  With an elearning course or even a blended learning journey – it’s “we design, you consume.”  Saffron Interactive spoke at the event of Taylorism – the principles of management devised by Frederick Taylor (not to be confused with the fandom of Taylor Swift!).

Taylorism worked really well in the early 1900s manufacturing world, where working out the most efficient and effective way of doing something, then teaching everyone else to do just that, in that way, gave great results.  As decades, technology, lifestyles, attitudes and ways of working have moved on, Taylorism has all but disappeared, except, this speaker argued, in L&D.

That sounds rather harsh – are we really saying that L&D teams sit in a dark room working out what people need to know and how they should learn it, then force out that model for consumption?  There have certainly been examples of this, but we see plenty of examples of the opposite too: L&D professionals working with people to identify the root cause of an issue and generate solutions together that suit each person.  There is also the challenge of making individually-tailored learning and problem-solving solutions scalable.  We can’t deliver something bespoke to every person in a global corporation, can we?

Totem Lollipops

Playlists

One suggestion of how this individually tailored approach might work was from Saffron Interactive.  They seem to have taken what works well in the consumer world – YouTube channels and iPod history – and presented the idea of playlists for learning.  This works particularly well if your online learning system is a curated set of user-generated insights, on top of the L&D-generated material.  The idea is that an individual’s line manager would look at the content and suggest a playlist for someone in their team.

You would hope that playlist would be based on the individual’s recent reviews, goals, strengths and development needs – as well as interest areas.  Then the manager has been directly involved in the development journey and encourages the individual to use the content recommended.  When the individual looks through that playlist, views content, rates it as useful, adds their comments, recommends it to others in their team – there we start to see the level of engagement with learning we might dream of.

Work problems not learning needs

But does all this miss the point, that we don’t think we need learning?  Another study conducted by Scott Bradbury highlighted that managers are highly confident in their abilities as people managers.  They consider that they have plenty of experience – and it’s this experience that is most beneficial when someone faces an issue, not external best practice insight or learning.  Now that’s a challenge: If someone doesn’t think they need any development, why would they choose to login to a learning system at all?

Perhaps this brings all of these considerations back to the overall trend in learning and development: We need to be helping people with their work challenges, not offering them learning.  Rather than a “leadership programme” we need to be offering “what to do when you’re pushed to deliver more with less.”  So does that mean you should stop all elearning?

That seems a bit drastic considering the content could be useful.  But certainly there is a need to reposition what’s on the system as helping with challenges rather than giving learning.  And if your system is mostly used for compliance training, there is a far wider question to be explored about the culture of the organisation and the behaviour that is encouraged – is it in line with, or counter to the content of the compliance training?

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Learning Technologies Event Pt.1

Totem-LT-Logo1 400x265“Stop your elearning!”  Wait, what?

There was plenty of myth busting going on at the Learning Technologies event, some well-founded and others perhaps a bit too harsh.

“Forget 70:20:10, there’s no empirical evidence for it” was on the harsh side, given that the idea of 70:20:10 was never published as a proven theory for how we learn, more a sensible approach for supporting learning in the workplace.

“Stop putting compliance training online, it doesn’t work” may be one we need to pay attention to.  We saw the bankers of 2008 (who it has been pointed out will have all completed their compliance training) following a set of behaviours that were certainly not in line with that training.

And the 2012 HBR article stating that “diversity training doesn’t work” made some very good points about emphasising difference rather than developing good communication skills and understanding.

But should we stop providing elearning altogether?  Here we’ll explore the different evidence and theories on why elearning doesn’t achieve what we want it to, and consider some recommendations for L&D teams as a result.

Just Google it – obviously!

A few firms have carried out research to understand where and how people learn when they need to.  A key point here was to ask people what they do when they face a challenge they don’t know how to work through – as that’s a more relevant question than “how do you learn?”  Ask the latter question and people think back to education, not everyday life skills.

Good Practice shared their finding that the most frequent things managers do when they face a new challenge are to have a conversation with their colleagues and do an internet search.  Looking at in-house online learning or resources was 5th on the list.  Considering an internal or external face-to-face course came 10th and 11th on the list.

Why is that?  Why don’t people use the resources L&D have provided for them?  The suggestion, from both further data and anecdote, was that we all want to use things that are quick, easy and relevant.  In fact ease of use was the greatest determining factor in deciding what or who to go to for help (not how useful the insight might be!).  Isn’t it easier to ask someone, or Google it, than it is to log in to the company LMS, search for a course and find the specific aspect relevant to the particular challenge faced?

Good Practice recommended a test for your elearning, intranet or LMS: Ask someone to think of a challenge they might face at work, then time them finding something that will help them with that on your system.  Now time them finding a pair of shoes they would like and getting to the point of purchase.

That’s the difference perhaps summed up most beautifully: Our experiences as consumers teach us to expect everything to be easy to find, relevant to our needs and quick to buy.  Our experiences with company learning systems and intranets is that they’re hard to navigate through, it’s difficult to find what we want and it’s slow.

There’s a further update from this remarkable event and it can be found here!

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Lessons from Akabusi

Kriss AkabusiLearning from a Legend

I recently had the privilege of joining a client’s annual conference at the ICC in Birmingham and seeing Kriss Akabusi give a motivational speech, perfectly aligned to the company’s vision and strategy.

Kriss kept on repeating the need for passion, pride and a can-do attitude as he told stories of his life and prompted us all to be an inspiration for others.

Here were his big messages…

I believe in you

Has anyone ever said those immortal words to you? Have you ever said them to anyone? Imagine the impact we can have on our families, friends and colleagues when we tell them we believe in their potential.  Who could you go to today and say “I believe in you”?

What does ‘success’ mean?

Roger Black totally transformed Kriss Akabusi’s way of thinking.  Before Roger, Kriss always thought of going to the Olympic games as a great success.  Then Roger came along and asked what the world record was.  He wanted to win, and win big.  What do you define as success?  What could be a totally different view that might change your thinking?  Could you dream bigger, or even dream a different dream altogether?  Who could challenge you to think differently?  And who could you challenge to redefine success?

We’ll cross the line together

If you weren’t there to remember it, you’ve probably seen footage of the amazing and heartbreaking moment Jim Redmond joined his son Derek on the race track.  Derek Redmond was all set to break the World Record when his hamstring snapped in the third race.  His definition of success suddenly transformed… Now instead of the world record, all he wanted to do was cross the line.  Father Jim raced to his son’s side to tell him he didn’t have to do this, but Derek was set on it, he had to cross the line. “OK son,” Jim said, “we’ll cross the line together.”

When things get really tough, what would it mean for you to get alongside your family, friends or team, and cross the line together?  Are there people you know who could do with that support right now?  How could you help?

A great speaker, and a brilliant message.  And one final thought – Kriss put up a challenge for us all…

The past is for reference, not for residence.

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Gaming for Talent

Totem-Talent 400x265Can games engage, retain and train talent?

There’s a lot of noise about gamification, serious games and playlists.  What do these mean and how could these concepts be useful for us in talent, learning and assessment?

The Learning Technologies event is a great place to hear about current and future developments in the world of interactive learning and assessment.  Whilst the definitions and usefulness of gamification varied slightly according to which exhibitor or seminar speaker we spoke to, there was some general themes which we found really helpful in understanding the difference.

Gamification is about taking what we already have and making it more like a game – ie “gamifying” something.  This has its roots in the unconscious drivers that motivate a lot of our behaviour – like a need to achieve and peer comparison.

If I’m on an elearning system and I can see I’m 48% of the way through a course and my peers are at 88%, there’s a good chance I’ll feel motivated to do more of the course.  Likewise if I’m awarded ‘badges’ or points for completion and passing confirmation of learning tests, this is likely to prompt an unconscious feel-good factor of achievement.

Many Learning Management Systems or elearning providers already have all this data – so by making that data public, and displaying it like game statistics, there could be some benefits to you motivating people to complete your online learning.

But be warned, there are also some big watch-outs with this idea.  First off, people are quick to feel patronised and this is a big switch off – so be careful with badges and achievement points, that people don’t feel like they’re being treated like children.  “Woo hoo you scored 5 bonus points for ticking this really boring health and safety box” is not likely to be motivational for people.

Jelly Bean Diversity

Duolingo and Headspace are known for their easy-to-use, somewhat childlike (but nobody seems to mind) completion % markers, daily practise streaks and comparisons with other users.  Maybe this works well because users have chosen to complete the learning, so this gamification encourages them to keep going.  Whereas in a business setting, being told we need to complete online learning puts us in a different mindset.

The combination of being told we must do something, then seeing childlike points and badges that we view as patronising, could be a recipe for disaster, resulting in non-completion and low engagement.

In the wider context of the challenge: Stop your elearning – you could argue this is all a moot point.  However there does appear to be some benefit in acknowledging those unconscious drivers of need to achieve and peer comparison.  If we all stopped sending out system, process and compliance elearning courses, and engaged people in a daily learning practice to help them do their jobs, then our offering would be more like Duolingo and Headspace, and it could be worth us adding in the gamification elements.

But as it stands right now, we risk simply adding to the feeling of being patronised.

Serious Games are a different animal.  Whereas gamification is taking what you already have and ‘gamifying’ it, serious games are the creation of an adventure or experience, which has a learning outcome and useful result.

Take for example a project management game, which might look like any other X Box adventure, but challenges the user to engage principles of best practice project management.  This provides a safe environment for application of learning and practice.

You could therefore consider adding serious games into your learning journey.  Common sense, Kolb’s learning cycle and even Kolb’s critics all point to the importance of practice when it comes to embedding learning.

Totem Gummi Bears

The best option is often to just get right into the day-job and use what you’ve learned, try it out, then reflect and work out what to do better next time.  But that’s not always possible or attractive.  What if I’m learning how to deal with a certain kind of crisis that is extremely rare?  Or what if I’m learning a skill that I might consider risky to try out at work?  Even coaching skills can feel scary for managers trying it out for the first time, as it can be such a departure from what the team are used to.

So perhaps serious games – just like scenarios, role plays and practical exercises have historically done in learning – give us an extra opportunity for practising new skills.  And the benefit of serious games online, is that like the X Box game, you can be anywhere in the world, playing a leadership or teamwork game, together.

An interesting reflection may also be how these games could be used for assessment.  Many firms are wanting their assessment and selection processes to be different, more engaging, reflecting a more 21st Century employer brand – so could we add in serious games?  It certainly seems like the potential is there, for a game purposefully designed to test leadership skills, assessors can observe behaviour and see how people really react under pressure.

So whatever way you look at gaming applied to talent assessment and development, there’s no doubt there is value in the idea.  Perhaps like all of the messages we heard at the Learning Technologies event, they key is to make sure you get the result you’re after, rather than simply run toward the latest fad or gadget.

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