Archive for the 'Performance' Category

CEOs: Scratch the learning from the past. Embrace lifelong learning in your workpace

This environment did not train the workforce we need today and tomorrow:

OldSCHOOL

 

We need to start fostering a learning environment and culture within our own organizations that encourages life long learners. Without this culture & environment we will not be able to generate the innovation and solutions that allow us to be leaders in the market yet alone keep up the pace demanded by changing technologies and a public who demands inter-connectivity via technology. 

Learning organizations both grow and attract star innovators and performers. Organizations that refuse to change wisely & rapidly often fade or fail. There are no magic bullets when it comes to developing a learning culture and environment. It’s really damn hard work, that doesn’t seem to pay off immediately, but it does require a vision and courage to change.

 

Slideshare: Meeting the Needs of a Rapidly Changing Workforce with the Learning Organization of the 21st Century

You’ve got diamonds in the rough, you just have to look for them

Sorry for the long hiatus from my blog life.

Wow, that’s an understatement, at almost 10 months with no writing or sharing.  I hope to be more attentive to this blog in the near future. It’s been too long.

Since I have been fascinated with the idea of the odd man out in corporate culture since I started working there over 15 years ago, I started crafting a story/presentation on the value of “Outliers & Misfits” within a corporate setting.

If you’re to summarize the message in three lines it would be this:

  • If you’re a CEO, manager, or leader, learn how to appreciate the value that these outliers can bring to your company or organization. Learn how to engage or entertain alternative perspectives.
  • Understand that their misfit energy & ideas should be channeled according to your business goals, and learn how to do so.
  • If you’re an outlier or misfit, then learn how to communicate clearly so that your ideas align with organization goals. And don’t forget to find a champion.

 

 

Fighting Management Preconceptions about Social Learning

I just found this wonderful preso on Social Learning. I kept on slapping thigh laughing as I read… “Oh yeah, that’s a good one!” For me the highlights were:

Yes, Play is OK – you need it to grow innovative, collaborative and fast-adapting employees.

“Control is an illusion” – Okay… this is where I slip into incredulous teenager mode: Duh! You can control what people are learning and sharing about as easily as you can keep water in a sieve.  The presenters note that “80% of learning happens outside” of formal learning systems in their control. This is “Informal Learning” in action. The faster leadership realizes that building a company culture where learning is valued, the quicker they will start fostering a truly effective organization. Also, it’s very important to build the expectation that employees are really responsible for learning (their job and how to enhance their work).

People already share bad information – no kidding. Everyone has experienced the grapevine effect in a workplace. Human beings honestly seek knowledge about the goings on, some need it to function and work effectively without fear. They will even speculate on management’s behavior when they have no information, which is why transparency is less dangerous than keeping your lipped buttoned.

I also really liked the fact that they provided some solutions for measuring ROI (Return on Investment).(CRUD: I actually wrote this section but it got lost in the blog ether when I was trying to save my post)  I think it’s possible to tie a company’s increased success to social learning initiatives through anecdotal stories.  Also, connecting increased levels of innovation could also be possible. Think James Burke’s Connections (the show from the early eighties). Much of the show argued that the worlds most famous and influential innovations such as the combustion engine would not have happened if people did not make connections with each other.  I think if you analyzed the history or development of a particular innovation at your company you can actually trace the connections that were needed to make the innovation happen. You may be able to identify whether or not these connections would have happened with the social networking  efforts in place.

Some excellent points were made, but I suspect that no amount of brilliant arguments will convince the hardcore curmudgeons that insist that Social Learning/Networking is bad and evil. My only question… Can I work for the folks who made this presentation?

What Does the Ideal Virtual Workforce Look Like?

I was talking to my manager the other day about writing some sort of article that highlights the skills and talent needed to manage a virtual team. Last year I was able to briefly describe the ideal virtual employee. I decided to come up with characteristics for both virtual managers and virtual employees.  This is what I came up with so far… I’m still working on it.

Ideal Virtual Workforce

Click on the image to view the full sized mind map

I based the qualities and behaviors of managers on several of the managers I’ve had in the past whom I felt to be highly effective. In a nutshell, I really liked/like working for these people and I’d pick up another job with them in a heartbeat if it was available.

Honestly, I feel that the first thing an effective manager of a virtual team does is hire ‘the right people.’  In a sense, half the chore of managing a team is done once they’ve hired the correct type of person. This isn’t easy, because good employees are often hard to come by, and I speak from my own experience on hiring panels in a corporate workplace. Often interviewees have been coached to “talk the talk,” and a hiring manager needs to be able to see through this. A good virtual manager will probe employees to see if they can truly demonstrate the qualities and behaviors of the “ideal virtual employee.”  Moreover, a virtual manager will request and thoroughly review a portfolio of the prospective hiree’s past work before the actual interview. They will aslo ask pointed questions about how the interviewee accomplished or made these portfolio items.

To be honest, when I enter an interview, I actually look for the behaviors I described above in the hiring manager.  I want to know that the person who’s leading me is capable of managing me and the whole team effectively. There’s nothing worse that being hired into an extremely dysfunctional team. I’ve often thought of scripting scenarios that take the best moments from interviews I’ve had with managers.  I’ve even thought of taking the best coaching moments I’ve experienced and sharing them.  So many of us have in the past worked for or currently work with poor managers, sometimes It’s good to know that there are good ones out there. While the economy is bad right now and many people might be willing to put up with working in a dysfunctional workplace, it’s still important to hire good managers (virtual or not) who encourage productive innovation. Innovation and the ability to change and adapt readily is what helps companies survive in succeed in trying times.

Addendum… thanks to Twitter, I’ve found a number of interesting articles on virtual workers:

Lifelong learning is important for 21st century living

I found this great piece on Nethack: 15 steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning

I thought that this list had some nice suggestions for keeping the passion for learning alive.

UNESCO characterizes 21st Century education as being education geared to developing  lifelong learners.  It’s no secret that these types of learners are usually the best innovators, problem solvers, etc. I suspect an indirect consequence of being a lifelong learner is that you are able to solve not only professional issues but personal ones as well. Well, at least we can only hope.

I started putting together a list of characteristics of lifelong learners. It’s not complete, but it’s a start.

Lifelong Learner Characteristics

  • Are insatiable knowledge seekers – they continually seek learning experiences or opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills
  • Are social learners – Lifelong learners learn both from and with others. The will take classes or look for social groups. They usually seek out acquaintances who are better or more knowledgeable in fields than they are
  • Don’t simply just take in information – they analyze, synthesize and or apply what they’ve learned
  • Are teachers themselves – lifelong learners usually openly share what they know because they understand that having open networks actually gives them more access to the information from others.
  • Never think of themselves as the ultimate expert in anything
Characteristics of Lifelong Learners - Click on the image to view a larger version

Characteristics of Lifelong Learners – Click on the image to view a larger version

 

Future-teach

Why we still need teachers despite the internet

As I was sitting and listening to lectures at the SALT conference I heard a comment that most of the younger generations don’t have the patience to sit through lectures when they can look up answers and information so quickly on the internet. First, let’s note that not all lectures or lecturers are as painful to sit through as listening to someone conjugate Latin verbs in all tenses. You can still get valuable information from a lecture; however, it’s nice to be able to learn via different media or methods. Second, I’m a little wary of the idea of just expecting students of any age or discipline be able to search for information via the net without little or no guidance. If you read any of the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories or comics from the Tarzan series, you’ll remember that there was this assumption that Tarzan learned how to read on his own by reading through the books without the help or guidance from a teacher. Can we assume that students can learn everything they need to know by just having the almost all the information placed in front of them via the internet? Of course, after many trial and error attempts they might be able to function or apply the information they absorbed correctly. Even with all the information and resources in front of you, you still need a teacher or instructor as a guide to help you determine what’s good information and what is not.

Even within the university setting, this type of learning and validation from an expert must occur. Pre-Net we had libraries. Students would often use the libraries to compile information in the form of papers or studies thus augmenting what they learned in class. Now this will probably date me, but I used the index card method of gathering information from my sources. The professor, instructor or teacher would verify if we got things ‘right’ by giving us a grade on the paper. Though, that’s not always the case if you have a professor who is incompetent or even one who dislikes you and gives you a bad grade as a result.

I still believe that teachers are absolutely necessary to perform this function of validator and guide. However, the traditional model of teacher lecturing and students verifying that they got the information via a paper needs to be augmented. Note, I did not say get rid of writing papers. We all need to learn to form our thoughts and apply critical thinking in writing. It helps integrate what we’ve learned as well as learn to articulate our thoughts in a structured format. I do think that the written paper assignment tends to be overused in learning situations because it’s easy for the instructor to assign, and not so bad to grade as long as you have a teacher’s assistant.

socrates.jpgIf educators of the future are to follow a model I’d say let’s follow tradition way back and return to Socratic Methods of teaching your role must evolve from the guy or lady who likes to talk a lot at the front of the classroom to the mentor who watches the students progress, prompts them with though-provoking questions that would help them learn to apply the information that they’re learning successfully. But this is hard work isn’t it? And in a normal classroom environment of any age level it’s logistically impossible to get to all students and personally monitor their activity and ask them these questions.

I believe the answer to this lies in harnessing collaborative learning with student peers. At SALT I attended an excellent talk where the professor/instructor actually had students work together to post their learnings (and subsequently discussions) on topics via a wiki. The result was that students were able to quickly share what they learned and provide examples via links (if the information was available via the net) to each other. Using this method of collaborative/peer learning is powerful, especially if you couple it with assignments of well though-out questions that get students to think about applying what they’ve learn as well as looking at it with a critical eye.

computer_group.jpg

Social and collaborative learning is the key, but the instructor need to trust the students and let them drive their learning for a change.

Give your employees time and tools to grow

I think I may have written about this in the past, but the forward-moving companies usually give their employees actual time to think, learn and innovate. And this time isn’t just some imaginary time-allowance that gets built into the employees’ unpaid overtime, it’s actually built into their schedule. Don’t get me wrong – this time cannot impede upon their productivity, but SMART leaders and managers know that in order to be truly solutions oriented and innovative their workers need time and tools to develop and learn. Now for those learners who are not as self-directed… curriculum and more directed development plans may be necessary.

Some tools I’ve found really helpful in the past and present are:

Skillsoft Books 24×7

One of the best resources of online books ever. For the self-directed learner this is a virtual treasure trove. The have series for business, IT (Tech) professionals and more. You can learn just about everything from Ajax to Senger. Unfortunately you’re company or organization has to pay for the subscriptions. But even if you paid the $459.00 out of your own pocket it’s virtually being able to take almost any book out of Powells, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon when ever you want and you don’t have to waste any trees in the process. More… other people in your organization in all parts of the world or country and view and learn from the same book as well. Imagine the learning power. True, for those people who like to print out things and read them they are S.O.L, but to learn and grow more you sometimes need to make adjustments to your learning style.

Lynda.com

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. But being cheap I usually create the development files myself, plus it gives me a great opportunity to reinforce what I learn by practicing. More, I tend to take an active approach to practicing what I learn after each tutorial segment by creating my own version of the lesson output using my own images and text. If I dont’ have time to create text I look for things that are in the public domain like (Project Gutenberg). Right now I’m using the Action Scripting 2.0 tutorials.

bloomsm.jpg

Photo from dieraecherin : http://www.morguefile.com/archive/?display=166079&


Why?

My place outside of work to explore and make connections with the ideas and things (sometimes work-related) that I'm passionate about.

My Tweets

Blog Stats

  • 294,930 hits