Archive for November, 2009

by Reni Gorman

Wikipedia describes Twitter as “a free social networking and micro-blogging service” that allows users to send “updates” (or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter website, via short message service (e.g. on a cell phone), instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook.” Twitter asks the following question: “What are you doing?” People can sign up and “follow” each other to submit and read these short updates in just a few seconds. In a work setting, such as that of a training consulting firm, I may find out that someone is “designing a new curriculum for advanced pharmaceutical representatives.”  I may read such an update from a colleague I would not normally reach out to. However, upon reading such an update I may contact this person to learn more because I may be doing something similar. This could open up an opportunity to brainstorm, learn and share. Maybe my colleague has a great research paper or framework they are using as part of their engagement that I could learn and benefit from. Maybe the person who shares a research paper is an industry guru or expert in another organization. Maybe they share knowledge with me indirectly: meaning they update their status message with something interesting like: “5 key qualities of leaders.” Perhaps they run searches to see who is talking about a topic of interest such as “astd” (American Society for Training and Development) and reply to my update because I “tagged” it “ASTD.” Maybe they respond directly to a question I post: “How do people find each other through Twitter?” There are many possibilities but these are some examples of how useful, helpful interactions can happen with Twitter. “Imagine a world where everyone was constantly learning, a world where what you wondered was more interesting than what you knew, and curiosity counted for more than certain knowledge.” (Locke, Levine et al. 2000)

How does Twitter as an informal learning tool apply to people in organizations? When knowledge workers are “stuck” in the task at hand, they seek advice and guidance from many places, one of them being colleagues and experts around them. In turn, their access to information and knowledge is only as good as their sources, generally only within their organization. What if knowledge workers could easily build networks of experts across organizations? What if they could access gurus in their field? What if they could create their own community of expert peers and gurus who they can reach out to for brainstorming or answering questions?



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by Rich Mesch

I remember years ago, sitting in a presentation by Nicholas Negroponte, where he insisted that in the not-too-distant future, we would all be wearing our computers. He was envisioning complex eyepieces and finger sensors with wires running up your sleeves. He had the right idea but the wrong form factor; he didn’t foresee that we’d be carrying our computers in our pockets and calling them “phones.” 

Mobile learning is on everybody’s to-do list, and why not? Who wouldn’t want learning that could follow an employee no matter where she went? But like so many emerging technologies, we need to look past the gloss of the possible to the reality of the useful. Today’s smart phones have nearly as many capabilities as our desktop computers, but that doesn’t mean we use them the same way. And when we try to deliver learning to a mobile device the same way we deliver it to a desktop computer, we miss the point of having a mobile device to begin with.

 When it became clear mobile learning was a reality, the first thing many organizations did was look at “re-chunking” their current content. If something made sense as a 30-minute e-learning program, they reasoned, it could be broken down cleanly into, say, 5 bite-sized e-learning programs for a mobile device. There’s a bit of tortured logic going on there; if something is brief and bite-sized, people will be happy to use it on their phones. And while there’s some truth to that, it misses the point. Mobile applications aren’t just about brevity, they’re about applicability. People “learn” from their mobile devices all the time, they just don’t call it training. Whether they’re pulling sports scores, GPS-ing the next leg of their trip, or sending some quick texts, people use their mobile devices to gain knowledge. So as learning professionals, why would we think they should get little e-learning courses? Why not leverage the methods they’re already using?


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by Sherry Engel

How do we expand our relationships with our clients from “order-takers” to trusted advisors? First, and foremost, we need to begin by changing our mindset that we always need to say “yes” to our clients. When our clients approach us about a specific training need, transition the conversation from solutions to open-ended probing questions, targeted to identify the true performance and business need. After all, what value are we providing to our clients if we provide learning solutions that do not impact their business results? 

Try something like this….

“I want to be sure that we provide you a solution that solves your business need. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions so I can fully understand the performance concerns that you have?”

To engage in a consultative interaction, we must think like our clients. Check out the book titled What the CEO Wants You to Know by Ram Charan. This book provides insight into the business acumen necessary for learning professionals to think like their clients and “talk their talk”. 

 Becoming a trusted advisor doesn’t happen overnight. We must gain credibility and trust with our clients through proven results. Don’t let your relationship with your client to “chance”. Plan how to grow and nurture your relationship. Think of ways to demonstrate the value add you can provide to them. Check out David Nour’s book, Relationship Economics for techniques on how to grow and nurture your client relationships.

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by Jean Marie Tenlen

I have been thinking about an essay I read that I had originally heard about on NPR called “The Internet is Killing Storytelling” by Ben Macintyre. The essay was referenced by Tina Brown, who runs a news aggregate site called The Daily Beast. The essay argues that with the advent of the internet, we are losing the ability to attend to and create narratives. Macintyre  argues that the internet is creating a reader who is only able to attend to a rapid and truncated style of communication – the ultra- soundbites of instant messages, Twitter, etc. Macintyre has a good turn of phrase, stating, “The internet has evolved a new species of ma gpie reader, gathering bright little buttons of knowledge, before hopping on to the next shiny thing.”  I liked this metaphor because the process by which I found this essay was evocative of a person finding and passing along shiny bits: written by Ben, found by Tina, discussed by Steve Inskeep, and now I am handing it off to anyone who reads this essay.

“But stories demand time and concentration; the narrative does not simply transmit information, but invites the reader or listener to witness the unfolding of events,” says Ben. I think Ben is a little reactionary. I am guessing folks have been bemoaning the audience’s ability to attend to narrative every time a new form of storytelling emerges. I can imagine bards concernedly talking about the lack of their audience’s ability to attend to their song-stories with the advent of print, and the theatrical folk worrying about the infringement of movies, and the movie folks worrying about TV sit-coms, and so on.


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pda ladyby Reni Gorman

Peter Henschel, former director of the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL), said: “People are learning all the time, in varied settings and often most effectively in the context of work itself. ‘Training’—formal learning of all kinds—channels some important learning but doesn’t carry the heaviest load. The workhorse of the knowledge economy has been, and continues to be, informal learning.”

The Institute for Research on Learning found that 80% of learning in organizations takes place informally and only 20% takes place formally. Yet, corporations spend 80% of their training budget on formal training and only 20% on informal. Deepak (Dick) Sethi, the CEO of Organic Leadership, said: “Informal learning is effective because it is personal, just-in-time, customized, and the learner is motivated and open to receiving it. It also has greater credibility and relevance.” However, in my experience of nearly 20 years in corporate learning and development, I have observed that implementing informal, just-in-time learning continues to be a challenge in many organizations.

Jay Cross, author of Informal Learning (2007) said: “If your organization is not addressing informal learning, it’s leaving a tremendous amount of learning to chance. Is that okay? Not any longer. This is a knowledge economy.” Social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are some examples of great tools organizations can begin to use to foster informal learning for people who work inside corporations that also offer formal types of learning interventions.

So, how do you create informal learning opportunities? Stay tuned, that’s what I’ll be talking about in Part 2!

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by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.

escher frogsIn my previous entries, I defined transformative learning and discussed how companies can apply it. This entry will focus on examples of transformative learning in practice. 

First, I’ll briefly review transformative learning in case you’ve just joined this series. 

For learning to be transformative, it must provoke a shift in mindset. Acquiring knowledge, developing skills – these pursuits serve an important function in any training curriculum. However, if an organization wants to foster a change in culture, establish new ways of working, and grow its managers into leaders, then knowledge acquisition and skill development are only two components of the overall equation. What’s missing is the third and most crucial component—critical assessment of one’s own frame of reference. 

Think about it…if our frame of reference or mindset is based upon our unexamined assumptions and expectations…and this mindset guides our behavior…we will continue to behave in the same way and come up with the same results. But if we challenge this mindset, call into question our assumptions, dialogue with others about the validity of our assumptions, shift our mindset, and act accordingly – well, we’ve just changed our behavior and came up with very different results. Real business value can be achieved through transformative learning.  (more…)

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by Dave Darrow


computer gamesFor the longest time, we’ve had to avoid using the “g-word” when describing things like business simulation and virtual worlds. As proved by Clark Aldrich and Karl Kapp, the tide is turning and the value in game-like experiences for learning is becoming more evident. This mindset is somewhat obvious for people like me who have played video and computer games since gradeschool so it’s nice to see it being validated. Because of this, I often try to look for common ground between game development and elearning design.

Recently, I read an article on The Escapist, a gaming blog, titled The Incredible Disappearing Teacher that described the challenges that game designers face in training end-users on how to play their games. The problem they faced was that the end-users don’t want to go through tutorials, yet would be unable to enjoy the game unless they obtained the information contained in the tutorial. With a catch-22 situation like this, they have devised clever ways to engage the end-user and keep them motivated to finish the tutorial. Sometimes the tutorials are woven into the storyline of the game, other times they are incentivized with in-game currency, additional in-game inventory, or rewards like badges of achievement. One particularly good example was Valve Software’s excellent Portal, which spends nearly half the game teaching you all the skills you need to complete the second half. It does not play like an extended tutorial, since the levels are carefully designed to help lead the player into discovering skills and solutions without spoon-feeding them the answers. This gives the player a sense of accomplishment each time, which does not seem much like “training”.

Do businesses face similar challenges? I think they do. Like game players, employees clearly benefit from the knowledge and skills they can learn in their employers courses yet are often reluctant to do so. If game designers have discovered ways to make training enjoyable, we should be examining them and finding new ways to do it for our own design challenges.

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