Archive for the 'SocialLearning' Category

Avoiding flying upside down

11 May, 2011

I’m a big fan of the the West Wing, my wife and I must have watched it from beginning to end at least five times. It probably should come as no surprise then that after some reflection on what is going on at work this quote from the West Wing popped onto my head:

I was telling Josh Lyman about a friend who just got his pilot’s license. He told me the most remarkable thing. He said a new pilot will fly into cloud cover. There’ll be no visibility. And they’ll check their gauges, they’ll look at the artificial horizon, it’ll show them level, but they won’t trust it. So, they’ll make an adjustment and then another and another… He said the number of new pilots who fly out of clouds completely upside-down would knock you out. My office will make arrangements for me to endorse you in the morning. You keep your eyes on the horizon, Mr. President.

Three years ago we set out to create an environment where our members were connected to each other through series of communities of practice. These would enable them to share ideas, collaboratively solve problems and create opportunities to learn from each other. The problem is in recent months I haven’t been thinking about social learning or communities of practice, I’ve been thinking about technology platforms,  social media, marketing and brand exposure and building an audience. As a result while a little progress has been made on the  original goal it is not nearly as much as I expected by now.

How did I end up completely inverted?

Just like the pilots in the West Wing there has been not any single event that caused me to make an abrupt change in direction, instead it has been a series of tiny corrections as key staff left, new staff arrived and priorities shifted. This happens in all businesses all the time and these subtle shifts can be incredibly damaging; unlike when a conscious decision to change direction is made, we often think we’re still heading the direction we were originally. Because each shift is so small and often unrelated to the previous shift we don’t implement the controls that we do when we make a decision to go down a completely different path; simply because we often haven’t realised we are on a different path!

The only constant in any organisation is change, which means trying to achieve a long term goal is going to take persistence and commitment but more importantly it requires the team driving the change to keep their eyes on the horizon and ensure that the subtle shifts which are made to accommodate changing circumstances do not push them off course completely. If they do see this happening, they must stop and make time to question the new direction, the impact it will have on the old objectives, whether or not the original objectives should still be pursued and if they should; how will they be achieved in the new environment.


10 things for ’10 – part 1

19 January, 2010

Hello and Welcome to 2010!!

I wonder if my posting will be a little more regular than it was in 2009? Time will tell. I’ve decided to kick of the year with a to-do list of sorts. I’m a big fan of lists, every Monday morning, I flick back through my diary and my emails and figure out what I want to get done during the week, inevitably the list is far longer than what I can hope to achieve but it helps to keep me on track, and moving forward.

In this style I’ve decided to write my 10 things to learn in 2010 list. Like my weekly task list I possibly wont achieve every item, but I am going to give it a red hot go. The is is made up of a mix of work interests and personal interests, some seriousish, and some just plain fun. So far I managed to come up with 5, I’ll post the second five this week, if anyone has any ideas about what should be in it let me know!!

On to the list (I’ve not numbered them as I think they all have equal importance.


I’ve had ‘project management’ training on my Learning and Development schedule for 3 years now. I don’t harbour any desires to be a full time project manager, but there is plenty that can be taken from project management frameworks and applied to normal everyday work. Why Prince2 and not PMBOK? Simply our company is implementing a Prince2 framework… seems like as good a reason as any.

Design Thinking

This phrase has appeared all over the place in the last 12 months. I must admit for most of the last 12 months I dismissed it as yet another bullsh!t bingo buzz word that would disappear soon enough. Well it has not disappeared yet and from the little reading I have done it seems an interesting concept, more investigation and understanding is required.

Managing Complexity

I’m not even sure if that is the correct term. Simply put this is a phrase I have heard quite a bit around the traps and I don’t know much about it at all. It seems Dave Snowden is the place to start I saw this video he posted last year, so far that is all I know.

Taking decent photos

I’ve had a quiet desire to learn to take great photos for a few years now. Over Christmas, my lovely wife gave me a great book that covers a lot of the basics, you know all that stuff that we normally let the camera figure out, aperture, exposure, white balance etc. I want to understand how all of those things come together to create the final image.

Driving a race car

This seems a little odd, but isn’t as as out there as you think. I got hooked on over Christmas, it is an online racing simulator. If you listen to their marketing it is as about as real as you can get without either buying a race car or spending $190K on one of these. iRacing has an enormous amount of detail in the physics, tracks, cars and set up options. From what I have found in my first 3 weeks, it is bloody hard! You really do need to understand about how to drive a car fast, that is picking the right line through corners, breaking while maintaining momentum and getting on the power without inducing over/under steer. It is great (albeit very nerdy) fun but to do it well will require lots of learning – so it makes it to the list.

Teaching social media

28 October, 2008

In the last two weeks I attended two Social Media conference sessions at CPA Congress in Melbourne. The first was run by Micheal Axelsen and was called “Facebook, Myspace, YouTube & Flickr – managing and leaveraging the business impact of social networking sites”, the second was run by Keith De La Rue and was called “Effective organisational communication – blending traditional and Web2.0 techniques.”

Micheal’s session focused on managing the risks social media can pose to business and individual users when they are not paying attention. He provided a range of practical tips for keeping you and your brand safe online.  You can view the slide pack here.

Keith’s session was much broader, he looked at some ‘old skool’ communication techniques and strategies and contrasted them with their 2.0 equivalents. Interestingly I found myself writing loads of notes during the traditional tools section; it can often be very helpful to look back in order to look froward.

Both sessions in their own right were great but I looked around the room in both and saw a few blank faces, I don’t think this was the fault of either Micheal or Keith. I do reckon the conference producers could help by tweaking the program.  Micheal’s session was in the first week, Keith’s was that the end of the second, I don’t think there were any other delegates who attended both sessions. This meant that both Micheal and Keith had to spend time defining what many of the social media tools actually are. If your going to be organising training or a conference that will feature workshops on social media for newbies here is my proposed flow.

Workshop 1: What is Social Media and why should you care about it?

Spend this session focusing on why businesses should be interested in what Social Media can offer and provide an overview of the tools that they can utilise. (Keith covered a fair bit of this)

Workshop 2: Why are you going to get into Social Media?

Workshop to help participants identify the needs they are going to try to meet through social media

Workshop 3: How do you make it work?

This what Keith covered in his session this session would techniques for successful implementations, learning from ‘old skool’ projects and other social implementations.

Workshop 4: Being social and Safe

This is what Micheal covered, this is all about making sure that when you do engage with the interweb using social media, you don’t fall into some of hte traps many others have.

My point – tweak the program so that related sessions can flow from one to another and in the marketing, highlight the links between sessions.

…that said how many accountants are likely to go to four three hour sessions on social media?

Social Media in Plain English

3 June, 2008

I really like CommonCraft’s videos they have produced some great short sharp explanations of new and emerging tools. Their latest effort aims to explain the rise and rise of social media… I reckon they have done a good job!

An ‘ah ha’ moment

2 May, 2008

I’ve discovered something fantastic in the last couple days, this whole Web2.0, collaborative community thing actually works!

Ok now I sure you’re thinking ‘of course it works, you have been blogging about it for months now,’ so let me explain.

During the week I wrote about a few ideas I that had about growing a social network. As I mentioned at the time the idea for that post came from a discussion that had began to develop on Tony Karrer’s blog.

I had added another couple of comments to the discussion in the the day or so after after my post, there had been a few different perspectives on conference social networks and a some do’s and don’ts thrown around, I was really enjoying myself.

My ah ha moment came yesterday morning when i found that overnight (my time) three other people had weighed in on the debate, presenting a different take on the issue again. This has been a fantastic experience for me as it has taken the concepts of online community and collaboration out of the abstract realms of potential and into reality for me.

Typically, I have been a blog lurker. I read lots of people’s blogs but rarely comment. This experience has clearly demonstrated the benefits of jumping on and saying something, it may create opportunities you never knew existed.

I have read other people say things like that but I am only just starting to truly understand what they mean when they say “the best way to understand is to do it”.

I’ve always looked at blogging as a reflective learning experience but it can be much more.

Blogging is a lot of effort

1 April, 2008

I’ve been in my new role for about three weeks now. Prior to commencing, I thought I would have an almost inexhaustible flow of material to be blogged. As it turns out I moved from a relatively mundane, not overly challenging role to a creative and dynamic role that leaves me with heaps think about but no brain power left at the end of the day to write a readable post. (for example, I currently have 3 half written blog posts saved on my phone.)

I have spent the last three weeks meeting with stakeholders from all over the business discussing corporate uses for everything including blogs, wikis, social networking and social bookmarking, just to name the first few that spring to mind. It really has given me heaps to blog about but I have not managed to get it out!

This raises some points to consider if you’re looking at using blogging in a corporate or learning context.

  • Quality posts take effort
  • If you or your learners can’t put in the effort expect the experiment to fail.

Question 1: Facebook

5 March, 2008

FacebookMelbourne’s GPO

Question 1: What tools are available to facilitate social learning in a professional membership environment, and how can they add value?

I’ve written previously about our team’s Facebook experiments. These have been going on for about 6 weeks now; so far it has not created a storm of interest. I decided to look a little closer to see if we were just missing the mark.

My first step in writing this post was to search for Facebook in my Google reader. I turned up all sorts of articles, mostly news pieces talking about the outrage over privacy issues a few months ago. Although there were a couple that caught my eye, in “Where’s the ‘Working’ in Social Networking?” Tom Davenport said:

“So let’s agree to keep social networking social. No more prattle about business applications or corporate use of these sites. Fun is fun, work is work. “Hooking up” does not have a business meaning.”

To contrast Charlene Li strongly argues that social networks are wildernesses that should be tapped into

“So don’t write off social networking sites as merely social playgrounds for the young. Your customers, prospects, and employees are exploring and extending their relationships there.”

Ross Dawson goes as far to say that closing access to Facebook could actually reduce productivity

“Deloitte Australia, for example, actively uses Facebook inside its organization, encouraging its staff to use the application to connect and keep in touch. It’s likely that Deloitte’s business performance would decrease rather than increase if it suddenly blocked Facebook”

These and many others out there talk about social networking sites and their enterprise applications in glowing terms but I wonder if the ‘free’ sites like Facebook really are effective for enterprise use.

I was chatting with some colleagues in office about how the Facebook group was going and one of them remarked that “it really is a jack of all trades but a master of none.” I think he was on the money, Facebook is very be effective for meeting people and establishing networks. It can also be used for sharing online links and resources and can work well for facilitating discussions. The thing is it does not execute those secondary purposes brilliantly. If you have already got your network established, Facebook is a group of tools that are not quite as good as the individual versions (for example, social bookmaking, discussion forums, blogs etc). What we really need to work out is what do we want to get out of this?

There are two answers to that and it depends on which audience I am thinking about. I’ll start with our internal team, our experiments so far have been great. Facebook has provided a nice central place for our remote team to gather and share ideas and resources. It has not been an instant hit, but with time and more experimenting I believe it can find a niche in our day to day work. It will not revolutionise how we work or communicate but it will provide an extra channel that will allow us to share ideas or challenges with our current practice.

If I look external to our members and customers, Jeremiah Owyang provides some great questions we really should be asking ourselves before jumping into Facebook too deeply. I think there is a place for us in social networking sites but we need to figure out if Facebook is the place and if it is, how we are going to use it to interact with our members.

Blogging 4 Learning attempt 2

28 February, 2008
Eureka Tower - SouthBank - Melbourne VicTis time to kick off again. This time I have decided this time to set myself a series of questions I might need to answer in my new job. I’ll try to answer them using as many of the Blogging4Learning styles as I can.

On to the questions!

1. What tools are available to facilitate social learning in a professional membership environment, and how can they add value?

I imagine I’ll answer this through a series of discussion and review posts. It’ll be good to look at how each of the common Web2.0 tools can be used as learning or knowledge sharing tools and more specifically how they could work in a membership environment.

2. How can social learning change, enhance or even revolutionise professional development?

I have some ideas about this one but I think it will be nice to investigate what everyone else thinks and put together a well thought out argument.

3. What role does instructional design play in social learning?

This one follows on from this month’s Learning Circuits big question. I’m not really sure that I got to the social learning side of the question in my answer, I’d like to look into it a little more.

4. What are the barriers to social learning adoption and implementation and how can they be

This is the sixty four thousand dollar question! Not sure there will be any definitive answers but it’ll be interesting to look in to.

5. What will professional development look like in five years?

I’ll wrap up the month with my thoughts on where all this is going.

Now I’m off to work out which tools to include in Question 1’s response.

BTW – If you’re wondering what’s with the building picture in the middle of the screen. It’s a picture I took while going for a walk at lunch time. I figured while working with the theme of ‘From the tram’ I’d include tom some images of Melbourne for those that don’t know what it looks like. It is a brilliant city!

I’m Back!!

25 February, 2008

…and I have a new site name and look. I decided to follow some of the otherbloggers out there who’s site name is relevant to them or their writing process. For me the bulk of the content on this site has been planned and drafted on my iMate JasJam while sitting on the number 86 tram. ‘From the tram’ seemed a natural name new name.

So why did I need a new name? My world of learning was a nice silly name when I was planning on writing about all things learning. I enjoy talking about face to face training as much as I do social learning and e-Learning, I originally planned on talking about all of them! Things changed when I was offered my new job, as of two weeks time, I’ll be spending my days, brainstorming, troubleshooting, implementing, selling, facilitating and participating in social learning frameworks for my organisation!

It’s such a cool job, I’m psyched to have got it and can’t wait to get stuck into it! I figured it is going to give me heaps of stuff to blog about so I’m moving the focus to implementing social learning and networking programs in a membership environment. Effectively this blog will be my spot to record my thoughts on the tram on the way home.

Oh and I am feeling better now (in case anyone was wondering). If you ever get glandular fever listen to everyone around you when they say ‘take it easy for the first few weeks once you’re over it.’ It is VERY good advice.

Where to from here? I’m still committed to my blogging for learning challenge, I think it will be a good base to start the new job. Although I think I’ll do some planning in the next couple of days and kick off my month on Saturday 1 march.

Facebook as a Knowledge Sharing Platform

8 February, 2008

Like many work teams we have decided to see if Facebook can work as a platform for knowledge sharing. This is one of the first steps in our broader journey to create more social learning opportunities for our members. Hopefully it will provide an insight into the some of the challenges we will face when we attempt to roll these technologies out to our members. A month into our experiment I think it will.

I originally intended to write a full case study on this topic today but after giving the issue some further thought, I have decided to describe the situation and some of the challenges we are facing. I’ll leave the possible solutions for a couple of week’s time when I have got further into my reading and hopefully discussion.

I must flag before I go any further I am only a participant and observer in the project. Another team has been handling the planning and implementation, although if my interview goes well on Monday I will be involved soon :-).

The first step in establishing our platform was to create a private group and encourage everyone (approximately 15 people across 3 states) to create a profile.

The second stage was to try and drum up some interaction. A question inviting the team to suggest how we could make use of the group was posted and a couple of useful web links were posted on the group main page.

At this stage we got interest from those that were keen (myself and a couple of others), we added to the useful links, responded to the discussion and started some new discussions. The problem was not many others contributed.

The third stage was to introduce a weekly challenge. The manager responsible for the project asked everyone in the team to post one link they find very useful and describe why it is so great.

Here we started to get some action. Everyone in the team contributed at least one resource and described how it is useful to them. At this point I thought now it will happen; everyone will get involved and this will really take off. It hasn’t. A week later we’re back to the usual suspects.

That’s where we are at today. I’ll finish this post with a run down of some of the key challenges I think we are facing, then try and find solutions to those over the next 3.5 weeks.

Not mission critical

In its current state this project will not provide our team with any mission critical information. As a result they are not making the time to check the group or contribute to it.

Separate Goals

Our team consists of three separate groups, two that are focused on multimedia development, e-Learning and Social Learning and a third that is responsible for running the Library. I can post links to interesting podcasts about social networking all day but those in the library do not care, they want resources relating to them (which is reasonable… I don’t want to read about libraries! ☺).

Lack of Literacy

This is very common with these types projects, many of the team members have basic computer literacy; they have mastered Google, email and MS office but not too much more. I must admit sometimes I find it a bit difficult to figure out how to make things display in Facebook, for those that are not overly confident with the web it can be very intimidating.

Lack of Confidence

While on the topic of feeling intimidated, those that are not overly experienced are quite likely to feel very intimidated by what the experienced team members are posting. If you read my post from Wednesday would know I have been experiencing that same feeling of apprehension. It is very easy to think ‘how can I contribute something as good as that.’

Lack of value

This is probably a combination of the first two points but I think I am going to keep it separate for the moment. There is no clear value to logging in. There reason the team has at the moment is too contribute. I think we’ll need to come up with something more compelling than that.

That concludes my list of challenges, I might take the weekend to think them through and do some reading. Michelle Martin’s Blogging4Learning project may help me with a couple of these I’ll have to keep a close eye on how she is going. On Monday I’ll start discussing some of the broader issues in using social learning tools in a corporate environment.

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