Monday, January 6, 2014

Learning Portfolios: evidence your own greatness

More and more front line managers ask for evidence of learning that doesn't interrupt the day-to-day functioning of their teams, but still adds value. Usually, this is after we've gotten over the speed hump that is realising the validity of informal, on the job learning. And of course the other great speed hump: self-directed learning. So, how does one provide evidence of learning that is supposedly entirely aligned with work? By asking for evidence, isn't the learning becoming more separated from the 'real life' situation?

All those big questions aside, let's say you just want to start doing this. Good for you! George Couros has a great resource that can help explain how blogs can be used as portfolios of evidence for both learning professionals and everyone else. Bear in mind Couros' background is school education, but a lot of the ideas still apply for workplaces.

Check out George Couros' resource list for blogs as portfolios here.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Tangent: Design Matters

I mentioned it in my write up for the ElNet Congress, but it's good enough to mention on this blog too: Debbie Millman's Design Matters podcast is the business.

Debbie Millman is an incredibly gifted interviewer, educator, writer, speaker and personality in the design world. She writes about branding, design, strategy, appreciation for variety and excellence and anything else that might captivate the average (and not so average) design nerd. Even if you've never considered yourself interested in design, I challenge you to give this show a listen and not enjoy it. Each episode features a different interview and delves into those people's personal careers, their most valuable insights, important work and commentary on design and branding over time and tons of other more juicy things to boot.

I regularly listen to this show driving home from work or from the gym. It helps remind me that everything we do is a design of some sort, and therefore can be crafted in an effective, deliberate, beautiful, engaging way. Without being painfully onerous and academic, the weekly interviews inspire me to keep thinking broadly about problems inside organisations and how I might use my own skills to help solve them.

You can subscribe via iTunes here.

Or watch some stuff from Millman on YouTube here.

Design Matters is also a part of a bigger design publishing group, Design Observer.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Is self-directed learning at odds with the 70/20/10 model?

The traditional 70/20/10 model is another way of expressing that learning at work should be self-directed. Jane Hart writes about this as self-organising. There is a lot of reference in workplace design, workforce design and architecture about 'activity based workplaces'. The cynic looks at these concepts and sees a business creating an environment that implicitly creates downsizing opportunities. However, if you try to look at these ideas with a view of aligning work and learning, there are some great windfalls to be had.


  1. The 70/20/10 model recognises most learning takes place on the job - away from formal instruction.
  2. Self-directed learning involves individuals selecting what they will learning, and seeking solutions themselves
  3. The 70/20/10 model acknolwedges the limits of control that facilitators, trainers and anyone else involved in formal learning have
  4. Self-directed learning puts a greater emphasis on the individual controlling the direction, purpose, objective, length and format of any learning activity.
  5. The 70/20/10 model is often used to describe the resourcing pressures that L&D functions within businesses experience when looking at staff ratios. The ratio always varies, but the message remains the same: L&D people are greatly outnumbered, to a point of inefficient learning, by staff.
  6. Self-directed learning involves individuals taking advantage of their autonomy, instead of using it as an obstacle to their learning
Normally at this time of year, teams try to reevaluate their strategy, thinking of newer, fresher, more powerful ways to express what they believe is going to be the most effective way of using learning to achieve business outcomes. I would argue that this might not always be the most useful activity. If we constantly look for a newer model to appropriately express how we think learning takes place in this brave new world of work, we could be spending a lot of effort on esoteric activity, all while staff and departments are waiting for assistance. Prioritising needs and reallocating resources in a way that takes advantage of the self-directed learner could save time and effort in the long run. If the model ain't broke, why are we trying to fix it?


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Employee Development is Not my Job

Well, employee development really is my job. However, I've been reflecting on the opinion of others lately, that seems to be something along the lines of 'I'm just a front line manager, I have no real decision making power and cannot control how big or small my budget is year to year, so I do not feel that I should be taking the primary responsibility for my employees' development'. It's a pretty bleak outlook, but not rare.

So how do OD, L&D and HR staffers re-engage managers who feel disempowered, so that they in turn can empower their staff? It's a tall order, and not something I've yet got down to a formula. However, I have found a few commonalities between basic adult learning principles and ways to engage with staff (managers and employees alike) on the idea of 'doing' development.

  1. Authenticity - deciding to be genuine in all relationships invites reciprocity and brings a level of reality to situations. It also cuts out most of the weasel-word justifications that fill up so much of business meetings and bad news emails.
  2. Ownership - both communally and individually, this is essential if anyone is to feel like they can effect their career trajectory. Recent graduates, line managers, HR business partners and whole teams should feel ownership over *something* other than their ability to write a letter of resignation.
  3. Accountability - the flipside of ownership is definitely accountability. Where accountability to someone else exists, regardless of how noble our individual intentions are, there is a greater motivation to achieve.
  4. Transparency - by extending the concept of accountability, I believe transparency is important. Decision makers can help engage those less involved by being transparent about the decision making process. It can also help to manage expectations and build a sense of authenticity with those that you might not have the chance to build an individual relationship with. For under-resourced, time-poor professionals, this is all too important. By allowing others to discover your authenticity for themselves by being transparent, there is much more likelihood of moving a little further away from disengagement and a little closer to self-directed development.