Archive for the 'Education' Category

Week 2 reflections: No one is born “a creative”


It’s the 2nd week of Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations and the focus this week has been on individual constraints to innovation. According to Owen’s there are three main individual constraints to innovation: perception, intellection, and expression.

I’ve taken a cue from the last course I took (#edcmooc) and I’m making an attempt to define what I’ve learned this week visually (see the image above). But what I’ve really taken away from this week’s content are the following three bits:

Lesson 1: “There is no such thing as a creative personality.”

In other words, creative people aren’t born, they’re made or developed by their learning and experience. Numerous studies have shown that children are naturally open to experience and creative. But arguably our education system and life experience shapes or constrains this ability to be creative. We are taught the proper way to solve problems or how to keep our ideas and thoughts in check.

What Owens does argue is that there are personality traits conducive to creativity, and these are:

  • Agreeableness
  • Extroversion
  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness
Personality traits conducive to creativity

If neurosis is so bad for creativity – how does this explain Woody Allen?

Logically, if you are open-minded to multiple ways of seeing a problem you’ll come up with a number of different ways to solve it. If you’re agreeable and able to connect effectively with others, you’re better able to explain your solutions to them.   Neurotic behaviors and thinking on the other hand can negatively affect one’s ability to be creative here’s an example of how neurotic thinking can prevent creativity and innovative problem solving.

“I can’t share that solution or express that that in front of others, they’ll think I’m a.)wrong, b.)stupid and I’ll just embarrass myself.” 

In order to be a truly effective at innovation, you need to be able to share your ideas freely without fear of being judged.  Perhaps that’s ultimately what makes Woody Allen one of the most creative storytellers of our time. He’s portrayed himself as the lovable neurotic, but he has never flinched at attempting to portray this neurosis in stories that examine the human condition from different perspectives.

Lesson 2: It’s important to always approach the problem from multiple perspectives.

In reading through Chapter 2 of “Creative People Must be Stopped, I ran across the story of a playwright who purchased different “odd magazines” for hobbies or topics foreign to her. Her purpose was to “see” things from that particular magazine audience’s views and therefore reinterpret what might be seen in her own vision portrayed in her plays.  Of course, your savvy marketing professional would simply call this focusing on your target markets, but there’s something so simply empowering about this approach to seeing other’s views of the same situation or problem you’re attempting to solve.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re analyzing a problem:

  • How would someone who is completely polar opposite to me see this problem? How would they describe it?
  • Why might they not see it as a problem?
  • What solutions may they came up with?

Lesson 3: It’s not how cool your idea is, it’s how you sell it to your audience.

Inarticulate but might be right

Sometimes, and I admit I’m guilty of this as well, when you come up with what you think is a ‘great idea’ its logic seems to inherently obvious to you and therefore everyone else should see it that way. However, other’s way of viewing things may NOT be aligned with your own.  I feel that this is one of my greatest Individual Constraints to innovation. I’m not always adept and explaining or selling my solutions to others.  In actuality, I am really the Asian guy in the image above from Kathy Sierra’s blog post from years back. I often have hunches or feelings about when things are right or wrong, but I’m not always able to explain them to other people around me. This is where exercises and questions from my previous lesson would come in handy. Or…

Developing a ‘common language’ might be helpful.

Reminds me of that meeting game "B.S. Bingo."

Reminds me of that meeting game “B.S. Bingo.”

I had to laugh when Owens made a dig at using ‘buzzwords.’ As he noted, they may make you feel important, but they’re not a great way of gaining common understanding of both the problem and your proposed solution.  At one of my former jobs, a former colleague of mine and I played a game called B.S. Bingo in meetings that seemed like more verbal exposition than development or planning (or action).  Though arguably, these same buzzwords are the common language used by people in the corporate world to talk with each other. I do agree with Owens that when they’re bandied about to elevate your business klout or savvy they’re simply about posturing. However, I should consider that if this is the ‘speak’ that’s being used by people who are using this language, I should develop translations of my ideas in this language.

I’ve decided to create a template for writing out my ideas to better articulate them. It’s pretty simple. I would take the idea as I see it and then translate it into at least three or four different perspectives including the intended audience or end user, my peers, my boss, and my boss’s boss. This may take a little more discipline than I’m used to.


Image of worksheet

Click the link above to view/download the worksheet

Final Reflections on the #edcmooc experience


I wasn’t joking when I tweeted this. And here I am about to take another MOOC course.

Though I still feel like a cocoon, I’d like to get here eventually.


Reflection on my own engagement during this course

Learning is rewarding, but it’s tiring too.

This MOOC has been one of the best learning experiences in my recent life and I think it had such an impact on me because it required me to apply what I was learning creatively. This wasn’t a typical course with a set syllabus where you could check assignments off a list.

I probably should have engaged more in the other channels, but for some reason I found Twitter to be the easiest to engage in.  I’ll confess that this is most likely due to convenience. In my next course, I would probably choose a different social media to engage with others in the class. But not Facebook. Call me a curmudgeon, but I’d like to keep Facebook in a separate place in my life… like off. Is it right that I don’t want to use it? Or should I succumb and become part of the entity?

To be frank and I may lift some of the learning & reflection I’ve taken from the #edcmooc, Facebook does not make me feel human.  I don’t feel like I want to know small details from other people’s lives or share private parts of my life and thinking with others and if I do maybe on my own terms. I like hearing about people tell me about their lives and their children in person. Maybe this makes me less of a digital native. that I want to carve my own little cubby corner where I can still think and be on my own, so be it.  I read recently in a tweet or blogpost of a classmate that they felt that the #edcmooc was both an enriching and lonely experience.  I can see that. For me it was less lonely, but by then end I was really jonesing to be ‘disconnected’ for a bit.

I am glad the designers of the course didn’t settle on one channel of social media. If it had been only Facebook I would have been SOL, but I guess that’s part of the point to have multiple channels in which to learn.

The flow of good information and thoughts shared by others in this course was overwhelming. I’m still reading through blogposts I favorited from the second week of class. I may never get to all of them, but I am inclined to read the posts of people I connected with in the Twitter feed going forward. This is probably the greatest value I got from the course: connecting with and learning from others.

I’ll be honest about one more thing. I took this course, more for the experience of being in a MOOC, not as much for the subject or the prospect of getting credit. This was my first experience in such a large course. I wanted to experience it and analyze it from an Instructional Designer’s perspective. I was incredibly curious about how such a course would work, and for the most part it seemed to do just that. Whether it gave use the ‘traditional’ higher-education experience that was academically rigorous is another matter. You could make that age old argument: “It is what you make of it.” While this may apply, I still feel that guidance and feedback from instructors even on a broad scale. On a regular basis would have been more helpful. I did notice a few facilitators really engaging with students in the Twitter and in replies on the forums, but I felt somehow that their feedback wasn’t always there. Or maybe i missed them like I keep missing the Easter Bunny.

Would I do it again? Yes. Would it be as engaging and as much fun as in the #edcmooc course? I’m not sure.

The artefact experience and consuming custom created content

I’ll admit I probably put more into my artefact that I should have. I was dealing with a topic that I feel passionate about and probably didn’t spend enough time killing my darlings. I’m glad that I was able to learn about tools I hadn’t used before for creating content like Prezi or Wallwisher.

As I watched many of the videos outside of the assigned clips I realized how much YouTube has been commercializing content, some of which was not meant have a  home despot ad attached to it. It reminded me that even though we’re creating this content for free, if it’s popular, it’s becoming a commercial vehicle for someone else.

When you share things online whether it’s a quip or a carefully crafted video, you’re providing fuel for the machine. Whether it’s data to be harvested or attractive electronic flypaper (if your creation is ‘good’) you’re still contributing the lucrative value of web-content. This world of free-wheeling sharing may all seem wonderful and open right now, but I wonder how long this will last. Or will people’s expectations and demands for easily accessible content that is ad-free trump the engines that demand ad capital. I’m not sure.

Where do I go from here?

Things I learned about learning from this class:

  • Learning is messy. Thanks to @EleniZazani for the image
  • Learning makes me feel human
  • Learning with others and from them is powerful
  • Learning may not bring us to utopia, but it may help us get there
  • Cultures need to continue to put a higher value on lifelong learning

I still have links to use, and tools to learn as time permits. I want to use sort my Pearl Trees and really use Storify. I want to explore every tool or website I bookmarked or favorited. And as I wrap this up I realize that I’ll probably still be learning from this course three months from now.


Learning is Messy. Moocing is messy too

Image by @EleniZazani

Digital artefact: The future of learning #edcmooc

I think I’ll have more time to reflect and comment on my artefact and the experience of making it in a few days, but for now here it is.

Frontpage of digital artefact for #edcmooc

Digital Artefact for my “Elearning & Digital Cultures” class

Technology Can’t Replace Teachers – Week 3 Image #edcmooc

An attempt at a digital image for Week 3. I was inspired by Week 2’s Twitter Chat’s question:

Q2: Is the future teacher a computer or a human?

Screen shot 2013-02-10 at 4.36.52 PM

Technology is Magic. Stop Thinking in 19th & 20th Century Metaphors Already! #edcmooc

Our relative view of the magic

Arthur C. Clarke’s third law states that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Don’t you think someone born 300 years ago would think this is magic?

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 10.18.32 PM

How about someone alive 30 years ago (including myself). Wouldn’t I think this is magic?

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 10.18.01 PM

For nerdy little me… it’s this dream come true:

Screen shot 2013-02-09 at 7.09.08 PM

When I watched the films from this week’s resources: A Day Made of Glass & Productivity Vision of the Future, Clarke’s law repeated in my mind. Glass becomes a tool that people use to access information, view entertainment & learn. The other thing that struck me was how incredibly antiseptic & affluent both views of the future were.

As we are fixed in our time and reality, technology that is unfamiliar may seem like magic to us, but because we live in times where things are changing rapidly and imagining the future and it’s technology is a normal part of our culture. Thinking about my relative understanding of technology as magic got me to think about my own education and understanding of how things have developed even in my lifetime. I decided to create a timeline of my own education and compare it to the development of technology in that time. It’s in rainbow colors because I was a child of the 80’s.

My Digital Timeline

Click to view in full size

So just by looking at this timeline that spans over forty years, claims made that technology pundits that technology is developing and advancing at a more rapid speed. The ways and tools that we can use to learn and whom we can learn with has expanded even in my lifetime.

Will Technology Replace Teachers?

Many science fiction depictions of both utopia & dystopia paint a view of the future in which humans have been replaced by technology. Similarly, I’ve seen this question come out of several discussions in the #edcmooc class: Will technology make the teacher obsolete? As is evidenced in numerous forum posts, tweets from students in this class. The act of making order out of the chaos of a learning experience with so many people and so many learning tools has required guidance, the human kind. If not from a facilitator, from the other students. We still need teachers and guides. Every learner is different and how the learn best is unique. Can we assume that technology will devise a mechanism, automaton or script functions like a combination Yoda & “Electric Grandmother.”

I think what’s more likely, is that learners are learning how to adapt to use the tools and technology for learning to their best advantage. We learn to use tools online that help us filter and use content. Here are a few tools, some of which were new to me before I took this course. But here’s the thing… no tool is perfect. Again, it’s all about diving in and finding out what works for you.

Twitter Feed → Tweetchat, TweetDeck,

Content Curation (Bookmarks) →, Storify, PearlTrees – pearl trees provides a visual map of what you’re curating or sites your saving online.

Blogs → Quadblogging (to connect and reach your audience) edutopia article on

Stop Using the Classroom Metaphor to Describe the Online Learning Experience!


I know that metaphors are powerful in explaining and introducing the strange and foreign to the natives. But is it just me or am I the only one who’s tired of hearing this metaphor used to describe online learning. Perhaps my irritation and other’s indicate the obsolete nature of the metaphor. This bothers me just as much as my last boss insisting on using the logo below to indicate a phone contact for an audience of 20 somethings:


Here’s why we’re not in a classroom anymore:

  1. You might be sitting at a desk but not looking out a window wishing that the teacher would stop droning on and on
  2. You don’t have to have your attention fixed only on the teacher. In fact the other students can provide just as much information and knowledge as the teacher
  3. You’re not learning from a text book that has gum stuck to the cover or doodles from the previous owner anymore; texts and media are available online

I could go on…. but most importantly, when you’re learning online you expect to be able to share, re-mix, create content. Like these kids:

My Technological Timeline #edcmooc

I’m still working on this and probably will have more comments on this subject, but as I was watching all the ‘utopian’ videos I thought about Arthur C. Clarke’s third law & wondered how advanced does technology have to be for it to appear to be magic to me. This started me thinking: how much has technology developed since I was born.

By the way I admit, I’m no graphic artist and I put this together  in less than 30 minutes using Google Docs. It’s my way of sketching because I can’t draw 🙂 Also, I’m not claiming that this timeline is historically precise or accurate, after all it’s based from my memory.


Click on the image to see an easier to read version

Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 7.29.08 AM

How to Build A Strong Online Classroom Community in a MOOC (A Beginning) #edcmooc

tag: #edcmooc

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have recently exploded on the Internet.  Currently participating in the “Elearning & Digital Cultures” Coursera MOOC has been both an exciting and enriching experience so far. Many of my classmates have noted that it’s difficult to connect or even find what you need. I see that. If I haven’t had experienced both participating in and designing smaller online courses, I think I might have run screaming from this class. I decided to take this class to learn more about the MOOC experience and because I knew a course like this would attract a great many folks who can teach me more about online learning and collaboration. And I’m not just speaking about Digital Vikings or Digital Experts ;).

To some extent, online learners do have to take a bit of responsibility in learning how to use the tools, discovering the rules of etiquette and how to use the content creation options (Storify, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Prezi, Storyline, etc.). It’s like taking Dr. Who’s advice about Time Travel… it “ is like visiting Paris. You can’t just  follow the guidebook. You’ve got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs… “

Part of the fun of engaging in an online course is taking a few risks. And because we don’t get the interpersonal and facial cues from being in a classroom, you have to adapt and sometimes overcompensate when communicating with others online.

I have a few suggestions from my initial experience in this MOOC, and as I continue to take this course over the next few weeks I’m sure I will have more:

1. Provide a digital tour  with a facilitator narrating it that walks through the major places to contribute in the course. This can include guidelines for  using the forums and subforums correctly. You’re not going to prevent everyone from posting to the top threads instead of using the search to find the appropriate ones, but you’ll cut down on a great deal of the clutter and chatter

2. Provide a way for the newbies to practice using and develop confidence using the communication tools.  At the TCC Education Technology Conference they allow all participants to play in ‘sandboxes’ in Illuminate. This allows them to get comfortable with the tool and engage. In a former life I designed a chat activity for our LMS chat tool that incorporated an online scavenger hunt. Students were directed to share thoughts and links on a topic and discuss. Integrating the learning about the tool in an activity that uses it while allowing students to practice helps them both master and become accustomed to online modes of communication.

3. Leverage the skills of  the Digital Natives & Proficient Digital Immigrants to help get the newbies up to speed.

4. Have a learning manifesto that defines what you feel the learning should look like. Encourage the students to contribute to it. It looks like the University of Edinburgh has one... but I didn’t see it linked in our actual #edcmooc. Having a manifesto personalized by the facilitators & students of the course can help everyone start.

5. Provide a mechanism or place in the course for people to join cadres where they stick with each other throughout the course. Provide some general guidelines for providing support in the cadres. If possible have folks who are more experienced with tech volunteer to lead each Cadre. Give them guidelines to help start conversations. Encourage fun competitions between cadres that help build team spirit.  I know this can be rather challenging in a course with tens of thousands of people, but I think perhaps setting up the space and modeling the behavior for the cadres is a start. I see that in our course there are some self-generated study groups, but how do they know what to do or even study online without some amount of guidance?

6. Require that students have a blog. They can build one specifically for this course or use one that exists already. The blog is a way for folks to reflect and have larger thoughts about their experience with the course and topics.

How about you? Add your ideas on how to improve the MOOC Experience at this Wall on Wallwisher

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 9.52.37 AM

Go to the wall and add your own comments.

How Technology Can Fuel a Culture of Lifelong Learning #edcmooc

In another assignment or response to the resources for this course we are asked to choose which of the perspectives below most resembles our views on the relationship between technology and pedagogy. We are asked to answer the question:  Can you point to instances in society or in your own context where this stance is necessary or useful?

  1. Uses determination: technology is shaped and takes meaning from how individuals and groups choose to use it. Technology itself is neutral. An example of this way of thinking can be seen in the educational mantra: ‘The pedagogy must lead the technology’.
  2. Technological determination: technology ‘produces new realities’, new ways of communicating, learning and living, and its effects can be unpredictable. This is the position Chandler explores in detail in our core reading.
  3. Social determination: technology is determined by the political and economic structures of society. Questions about ownership and control are key in this orientation.

The Pedagogy must lead the technology or do we find the technology and use it as we see fit?

This sounds about as stuffy and patronizing as a grammarian berating you for ending a sentence with a preposition. But if I take the view at face value it really means that the needs of the students to achieve the stated learning objectives must drive the design and use of the technology. Online learning has really been through some experimental phases in the last ten or so years so it actually seems that stance #2 or the idea that “technology produces new realities” (or learning environments is the case.  Let’s take the example of online forums and chat and their adoption as learning environment tools. Forums and chats were really developed more as a way for people online to carry on social conversations. One only needs to recall the days of the AOL chatrooms as places to meet like-minded folks. Developers of online learning courses adopted these tools as areas for discussing course topics and content. Later as the Internet became the spawning ground of many social sharing tools like YouTube, SlideShare, online communities, wikis, blogs and self expression tools like Glogster many tech savvy teachers saw the potential use for these tools as ways for students to develop expressive content in response to whatever they were learning. So it seems that both teachers and learners online were adopting the technologies as they existed rather that requiring that technologies be designed to meet their needs.  Most of the time pedagogy and the need to educate formally was NOT requiring or driving the formation of these tools and widgets.

Technology is determined by the political & economic structure of society. Copyright is King. So What’s a Mashup Maker to Do?

The third position maintains that technology is determined by the political and economic structures of society.  You could rephrase this in the argument that the market demand or the government may determine the development in one area of technology. One might argue on one hand that in a society where the government regulates application of technology via patents, is stifling innovation. On the other hand this same government could be protecting the interests of those who invest their resources in research and development of these technologies.  I’m of the view that stringent control will only stifle open exchange that leads to more innovation. Great ideas and the next disruptive innovation will most likely be based on ideas or products that are already out there, and to plant the seeds for this innovation the ground needs to be fertile with exchange, exploration and application of existing technology. Some of the most innovative and creative works are often derivative of past works and content, as Kirby Ferguson so effectively points out in his video series, “Everything is a Remix.” As Ferguson illustrates film makers such as Quentin Tarentino often borrow and reinterpret classic movies that inspired them early on. Tarentino’s Kill Bill series references many of classic Asian Martial Arts films while the recently released Django Unchained re-imagines and brilliantly combines elements of both Spaghetti Westerns and 70’s Blaxsploitation. Both Kill Bill & Django Unchained are remixed products that are completely unique and do what film should do & they do it well: they entertain.

But the creative process that relies upon being able to reference, re-hash or remix older works may be under threat. As content has become more easily shared on the Internet and corporations learn that there’s a demand for this content some may see opportunities in mining for content that has potential. As the European powers staked out land for their colonies entertainment corporations will lay claim on classics in the public domain. Watch out Dickens fans. Currently some major music labels are claiming copyright on public domain songs. Lobbyists for the copyright industry continue to push for laws that extend copyright claims.

Online resources for public domain works that provide a rich source of educational resources such as Project Gutenberg may be at risk in the future, and so is the ability to use content on the Internet creatively to learn. Several years ago Internet sharing helped give birth to the Mashup which allowed many people including students to do some remixing of their own.  If I were still teaching in a classroom, Mashups present the kind of learning opportunities that would excite me as an educator. They allow the student to really internalize the content and reinterpret it, which if I’m not mistaken prove that learning has occurred on the higher end of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  It makes a lot of sense that in this Coursera class, we’re being asked to create a Digital Artifact as our final project. It’s a way of proving whether we got the major points of the class, but not in some old fashioned way like writing an essay. We’re embracing the new way of measuring learning: making our own content to express and demonstrate how we’ve internalized what we learned.

While intellectual property laws are meant to protect everyone who creates content, it seems that eventually the only parties that IP laws will benefit will be the companies that have the resources to bankroll the legal teams it takes to enforce and defend. I could be wrong, but it seems that these opportunities for engaging in creative learning experiences may be at risk.

Which position do I lean towards?

Perhaps the question isn’t worded correctly or at least to my liking. I don’t feel like I lean towards any of these positions. Seven years ago, I felt that the Internet and sharing and content creation technologies opened a wonderful playground for learners, the kind of playground that would get people to fall in love with learning.  The tools and access to information and material allowed people to engage, learn and create their own content. But I have to admit I felt that we were living in the “Wild West” where possibilities were endless. It also seemed that my biggest wish as a child had been answered. From a very early age, I wanted an “Answer Genie.” This would be a genie that could answer any question that I had. The Internet seemed to provide me with something that’s just about as good, a philosopher’s stone. But this technology is changing me and everyone. As the economy and markets drive corporations to claim ownership of more, I can’t help but see them as this Leviathan that will sweep us away.

I can’t predict how things will develop. However, unless more people become more active producers of content instead of passive consumers of it, or if they realize the potential the Internet has as a learner’s gold mine, then we may not be able to take cues from anyone other than the companies that claim to own the content.

Kirby Ferguson Points Out: Nothing is Original

Additional Reads:

Copyright Monopoly Trends and Predictions for 2013

Discussion: Major Labels Claim Copyright Over Public Domain Songs

Technological Determinism is Beside the Point #edcmooc

A number of my fellow students in this course have been taking a similar stance when it comes to Technological Determinism.  As I noted in my previous post about dystopian views of society and technology, such thoughts are fantasies. These fantasies originate from fearful reactions that technology may change our world and ourselves for the worse. These fears stem naturally from our apprehension of the unknown possibilities that new and unfamiliar technology pose.

In Technological or Media Determinism, Daniel Chandler argues that Technological determinism can lead us to develop erroneous conclusions that insist that technology plays the driving role in the development of society and culture.The theme of Technological Determinism’s negative effect can be seen countless times through human history each time a disruptive technology appears on the scene. From Socrate’s lament that writing would ruin human thought and reason to today’s pundits claims that obsessive texting renders youth into socially retarded bumblers, the an establish and usually older group takes up the  argument that a new and attractive technology will have deleterious consequences on the normal function of people and society.In most cases, new technologies are adapted from generation to generation despite the railing of the older folks and the establishment.  Despite the reticence of some to adopt technology, it advances.As educators, we need to objectively determine if any claims that new technology may have a negative effect on our students and how they learn. Though in designing online learning experiences and environments, we need to always aim for helping students achieve mastery of the topics we teach and not be dazzled by the potential of technologies.We need to test these technologies on ourselves and explore learning via these tools and platforms and assess whether or not they will work.

One of the major complaints around online learning is the overwhelming stream of discussion as well as information overload that comes with having seemingly unlimited access to information… not all of which are reputable resources for information. Thus, it’s our responsibilities as educators to help our students, young and old develop the skills and ability to be both discerning consumers of content as well as effective curators of what they find online.

Ia this where we're headed?

Is this good or bad? What do you think? Image found here

That 20% (What you can do if you don’t get it or give it)

Forward thinking and moving companies usually give their employees actual time to think, learn and innovate. In companies that foster a culture of innovation, this isn’t just some imaginary time-allowance that gets built into the employees’ unpaid overtime, it’s actually built into their schedule. This time cannot impede upon employee’s productivity, but savvy leaders and managers know that innovative and creative employees need time and tools to develop, learn and investigate the answers to problems that interest them.

Google encourages their employees to use a percentage of their time to solve problems or develop products that pique their interest or that they feel a genuine need for. Many of these tinkering efforts resulted in some of the signature products that Google is known for today such as Gmail, Google News and Adsense to name a few. In fact, the company estimates that at least 50% of Google’s products are a direct result of this “20% time.”

Unfortunately, not all companies can aspire to be Google, but with help and guidance management and employees can create their own culture of learning for innovation’s sake. There are at least five things they can do to foster this in their own organizations.

  1. Make learning a part of the professional development process
  2. Give employees easy access to learning resources
  3. Call out life-long learning as part of the company’s charter
  4. Model life-long learning
  5. Reward employees who demonstrate the behaviors of life-long learning

1. Make learning part of the professional development process:

Some workplaces actually allow employees to identify areas of interest for professional development in their own yearly development plans. For many employees with heavy workloads, it’s difficult to find the time they need to explore these interests unless they can be directly applied to their work.

Managers can help their employees develop their business plans by helping them identify their professional interests and working with them to integrate these interests in both their current work plan as well as helping them finding opportunities to apply their interests to efforts that may help current business goals.

2. Give employees easy access to learning resources:

Management can also provide ready access to learning tools and resources. Not just internal documentation and training, but content that is available from external resources. Some examples include:

Skillsoft Books 24×7

For the self-directed learner Skillsoft Books 24×7 presents a virtual treasure trove. This collection has books and periodicals for management, IT professionals and other job areas. Employees can learn just about everything from programming in Ajax to applying the principles from the Book of Five Rings into their work practices. Their company or organization has to pay for the subscriptions, but even if one paid the $459.00 out of pocket, access to this collection is like being able to take almost any book out of Powells, Barnes and Noble and Amazon at any time.

At $25.00 a month for a subscription to a huge library of online tutorials complete with demonstration/simulations. You have to pay a larger premium subscription rate to have access to the development files for say a Flash course. Though arguably you can learn just as much by creating the development files on your own.

3. Call out life-long learning as part of the company’s charter:

Peter Senge, author of The Learning Organization, coined the term life-long learner. According to Senge the life-long learner spends their entire life acquiring skills and knowledge. Senge also maintained that organizations can embody life-long learning in their culture and practices.

An organization can write the goal of establishing a culture of life-long learning into their own mission. This goal can be embodied both explicitly and implicitly in the company values, but the company or group needs to define a list of examples of behaviors and accomplishments that demonstrate the achievement of this goal.

4. Model life-long learning:

Leaders of an organization need to be the first to model this behavior of constant learning. Demonstration of their efforts can be presented to their employees both subtly and directly in their communications. They can provide examples in sharing their own professional development goals with their employees in addition to explaining what they wish to achieve with these goals both personally and professionally.

5. Reward employees who demonstrate the behaviors of life-long learning:

Sharing one’s own aspirations for professional development may provide an example and possibly inspire employees to take up the cause of learning on their own. However, calling out an employee’s success in implementing their own learning can provide positive reinforcement for the behavior. Management can be coached to give this feedback by giving positive feedback to their employees when they see it developed.

They can also recognize employees who exhibit the behavior in staff meetings or perhaps even designate specific awards for employees who demonstrate life-long learning. Here’s an example of one such employee:

Jeanie, a web developer in the IT department, expressed an interest in learning more about usability testing. Jeanie took it upon herself to review books and articles from the company online library. She also took some time to take advantage of external sources from the web including community forums on usability.  Jeanie then created a proposal for implementing usability tests throughout different parts of the the web development process. With her management’s approval she was able to implement a simple paper prototype test as well as a formal usability assessment.  Her testing efforts and knowledge gained resulted not only in a more efficient and pleasing user experience for customers, but also the start of a testing process that was later implemented by other staff on the web development team. Jeanie’s manager recognized her learning efforts in a staff meeting by presenting her with a “Life-Long Learner” award and a $50 gift certificate to a local bookstore.

While it may be difficult to adopt the Google 20% practice, organizations and companies can still take steps to build learning for innovation into their culture and practices. Not all employers are ready to adopt Google’s 20% rule. Their company culture may not be ready for such a shift, or they simply many not be able to readily adjust their business process and goals to accommodate spending this much time to what they consider research and development. Perhaps Google’s other secret to success is that they seem to be skilled at hiring people who are inquisitive, life-long learners, and natural experimenters.  These are people who take to using the 20% time to explore and discover the same way a duck takes to water.


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