Monday, August 8, 2016

SMART Goals in a SMAC World

Back after a long and deliberate break from blogging! Probably my longest thus far... Looking forward to writing and conversing with my community once again.

A couple of days back, I came across the article, The Scientific Reason Why Setting Goals can Backfire in Inc written by Rohini Venkatraman Replete with relevant data and insights, the article calls out the dangers of specific goals (SMART goals) which were and still are the darling of the corporate world, especially with the advent of MBO (Management by Objectives). Goals are cascaded down or rolled up, as the case may be. Individuals are measured against the goals achieved or not achieved (as per the manager/reviewer). The Bell Curve's existence depended on goals and still does. Organizations made and still make goal-based and goal-driven quarterly plans. This trend or practice is propelled by a strong desire to keep a control on the outcome, ensure stock prices rise, shareholders are happy, and predictability reigns. However, we also know that "predictable” jobs will be the first ones up for automation and robotization as Martin Ford mentions in his book, The Rise of the Robots.  

This process of setting goals and going all out to achieve them work very well when a large part of the external ecosystem is predictable or changes at a pace that does not have an immediate and drastic impact on the work being done. Like it was for the past fifty years till the advent of the World Wide Web, ubiquitous connectivity, and SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud). And now we are entering the age of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Chatbots. The coming of the digital world is changing organizations and the nature of our work at unprecedented speed. Predictability is giving way to ambiguity, uncertainty and volatility. In this context, trying to pre-define rigid goals can only lead to disaster and to being blindsided, as Rohini Venkatraman very aptly points out in the article.

Does that means we strike the death knell of Goals just as many organizations are doing or have done with the Bell Curve? IMHO, perhaps not! What we do need is to be aware of the dangers and the downside of rigid goals and creating a reward-structure based on stringent goal adherence. Authors of the Harvard Business School working paper, Goals Gone Wild, mentioned that the “systematic downside of goal setting has been disregarded for a long time”. This could perhaps be because setting goals and chasing them are easier than exploring and staying with ambiguity, learning on the go and remaining open to multiple and emergent realities. The challenge is exacerbated by the fact that most management schools excel at churning out command and controlbring predictability to the unknownharness and leverage all resources kind of a mindset as opposed to exploration, staying curious, and collaborating to solve complex challenges. In a world of wicked problems, complexity and emergence, rigid goals do more harm than good. Without the leeway to browse and explore, under pressure to deliver impossible targets against a deadline, the best of leaders turn into efficiency-driven, blinkered project managers. And the outcome can often be missed opportunities, rising frustration, and even the downfall of the business should the trend continue long enough.

The question then is, what is the formula for success in a volatile and complex world? Is there a formula at all?

Let’s take a look at the Cynefin framework as a point of reference. In the Complex domain, it is evident that practices are emergent and ambiguity rules. Specific goals give way to an overarching outcome. The current world we operate in falls in the complex domain. 

Against the backdrop of this shifting paradigms where the known is replaced increasingly by unknown unknowns (as seen in the Complex domain of the framework), goal setting can often be a futile exercise. Defining or envisioning one or more desired outcome, getting everyone involved, and enabling collaboration among groups of cognitively diverse and skilled individuals may be the route to get work done in this era. The critical question to ask then is, “If goal setting is not the way forward, what is”? I do not have the answer but I have attempted to provide some alternatives to goal setting in this post.

The nature of work and projects are changing. Work will increasingly get done by a set of dispersed and distributed individuals who are experts in their own space/field, and are cognitively diverse from each other. This set of individuals will likely come together within an organization to form a project team (much like a movie team comes together) and disperse once the work is done. They may also be individual freelancers coming together to complete a project bringing their expertise to the table. These individuals are not likely to be driven by rigid goals set by someone somewhere unknown to them. They will work in a collaborative manner very akin to a closed community to deliver a project outcome (in the manner of Wikipedia and Linux). As we move forward, projects and outcome desired will become increasingly more complex requiring cognitively and creatively diverse individuals to come together to deliver value. Goals will be set around the project rather than at an individual level. The success of the project will signify success for the team. An organization that fails to foster an environment where such communities can come together will very likely flounder. And those that enable such communities will innovate and thrive in the VUCA world.

I have highlighted some of the pitfalls of following rigid goals as I see it:

Can kill exploration -- Predefined goals often block the ability to see around it, especially in times of stress. Yet, it is during the most challenging times that we need to see beyond the obvious. Often, an overly narrow focus can be detrimental to innovation and  can lead to missed opportunities. Most of the well-known innovations of our time came from tinkering around and perhaps failing at some seemingly important task (remember the Post-It Notes!). An over-emphasis on goals can also take the joy out of the process, the journey towards achieving the dream.
Can reduce collaboration –- When individuals are driven only by their own goals, a culture of competition sets in. Furthermore, when bell-curve like performance management systems rule, adhering to and meeting one’s goals become even more critical often to the detriment of the overall organizational culture. This leads to a very common syndrome seen in organizations where everyone has apparently done what they had set out to do, but the client is not happy or the project outcome is not what it should have been. The whole somehow becomes less than the sum of the parts. 
Can reduce intrinsic motivation -- Goals, when rigidly defined, can reduce intrinsic motivation. The latter arises out of a combination of autonomy, mastery and purpose (as defined beautifully by Dan Pink). Stringent goals -- especially when set by someone else -- lead to reduction in inner motivation although external milestones may drive the person for sometime. But an over-fixation on goals can make people lose sight of their passion and  purpose.

Goals definitely have their values. But in a complex and changing world, enjoying the process, developing skills like pattern sensing and a learner's approach is of greater value. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Six Obstacles to Building Communities in Organizations


Rachel Happe begins her latest post, 10 Trends for the Future of Communities, with a comprehensive description of the various intersecting and intermingling streams and characteristics that inform communities, and I am quoting her below:
Communities sit at the intersection of a number of trends; social media, digital transformation, a generational shift to prioritize purposeful work, the future of work, change management, leadership and social learning.   
This is one of the most inclusive descriptions that captures the various threads and reasons for building communities in organizations. Yet, this is where organizations are struggling. In this post, I want to explore a few reasons for this struggle. I have written before about the fallibility of trying to have social learning as a bolt on strategy, on the role of social technology as an avenue for building communities in organizations, and the importance of building communities to facilitate emergent learning

The role of a Community Manager is becoming well-established with communities being perceived as platforms that have the potential to reduce the cost of communication, bridge organizational silos, facilitate cross-team conversations thus creating opportunities for innovation, knowledge transfer, expertise location, and more. However, despite of the various tangible and intangible benefits of communities, organizations are in reality discovering that establishing thriving communities and building a social business is challenging on various fronts, calling into question some of the very fundamental principles and frameworks on which organizations have been created. Here are some of the challenges:

1. Proliferating Platforms - Organizations, especially large, globally distributed organizations suffer from what I call the "unconscious silo syndrome". Most often, the inadvertent unawareness of what is happening in the rest of the organization give managers, decision-makers and other employees a feeling that "we are the new age torchbearers" and once it works in this team/project/business function, the initiative can be taken to the rest of the organization for an enterprise-wide implementation. Needless to say, it is human for all to want a bit of fame that comes with being the trendsetter and a possible organizational visionary. In reality, this leads to pockets of experimentation and duplication of effort without a holistic view of or alignment with the organizational strategy and business goals. The result is of course a less than desirable state of platform overdose, and an amplification of the offline silos onto a now online medium.

2. The "Bottom-Up" Approach - Many organizations tread on the conservative and cautious side and stay away from a big-bang launch for various reasons including skepticism at the leadership level, lack of skills in putting together a strategy for community building and management, fear of investing too much time and money without a clear idea of the intended results, and so on. The general approach usually adopted is to put in place a platform, do a bit of word-of-mouth marketing, and hope that people will start conversing and engaging on the platform. The initial few weeks, or even months, may see some traction, but it is usually scattered, disconnected and directionless. Very soon the enthusiasm of the initial few die down, the platform either becomes a ghost town or a land of thousand flowers and the expected outcome of communities and collaboration do not materialize. As Andrew McAfee, et al. highlight in their book Leading Digital...:
"...we saw no successful transformation happening bottom-up. Instead, executives in every Digital Master steered the transformation through strong top-down leadership: setting direction, building momentum, and ensuring that the company follows through." 
3. Policy-Driven Paralysis - When a decision is made to embark on a community and collaboration journey on the duly selected enterprise collaboration platform, organizations become suddenly fearful of all the possibilities of information leakage, open expression of sentiments by irate employees, sharing of sensitive and politically incorrect information, and so on. The reaction is to begin by creating guidelines and policies trying to encapsulate and articulate everything that employees cannot and should not do on the platform. The result is anything but inspiring or conducive to open collaboration. It is akin to tying people up in chains and then expecting them to do a tango. IMHO, it is time to let go and show more trust in the very employees that the organization has selected through well-defined recruitment and interviewing processes. 

4. Collaboration Conundrum - While we keep hearing the impending death knell of the bell curve, the truth is that a large percentage of organizations still abide by it for various reasons - lack of another system, familiarity syndrome, alignment of business and operational processes, management capability (or lack thereof in handling a new way of appraisal), HR and leadership lethargy, and more. The result is the creation of a tension between a competitive and a collaborative mindset. To be absolutely honest, it is very hard to be collaborative and share openly if an employee knows that s/he will be judged and measured against their peers when the appraisal time comes around. It is difficult for a manager to justify and facilitate open collaboration, and then do a rank and yank to fit a designated set of high-performers in the bell curve. And woe betide the manager who has too many high-performers and collaborators in his/her team. This false system of forced ranking eliminates collaboration, creates a sense of scarcity over abundance (be it for a specific rating or that prized project), and turns team members into opponents. Bye bye communities and collaboration!

5. Leadership Detachment - Many a times, something as critical as the building of a collaborative culture and thriving communities are left to the HR and L&D departments to drive. It is posited as "let's see if collaboration & social business works because everyone is talking about it". Senior leaders and C-suite members feel they are too time constrained to dabble in activities like communities when issues of graver import like shareholder profit, top line and bottom line figures, M&A's are awaiting their attention. However, the reality today is that without a connected, collaborative and resilient organization, all other strategy is likely to fail. Times of intense change and ambiguity as we are living in today demands collaboration and a strong leadership who will walk the talk. 

6. Dearth of Digital Skills - It is not that people do not know how to tweet or post pictures on Facebook or create a Pinterest board. IMHO, digital skills go beyond the common activities that almost everyone with a smart phone can indulge in today. Digital skills are closely related to a digital mindset, which I define as "the ability to understand the power of technology to democratize, scale and speed up every form of interaction and action." Very often, organizations -- this includes employees, leaders, managers, and everyone comprising the ecosystem -- lack this inherent capability of using technology to facilitate the building of PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) and communities. Digital skills include capabilities like working out loud, pattern sensing, sharing and connecting openly to develop a rich and diverse PLN, collaborating with a defined purpose, using technology with an awareness of its potential to promote self-driven learning, democratization of information, and so on. This mindset requires a degree of comfort with ambiguity, willingness to make mistakes, adopting a beginner's perspective, welcoming of diversity, and a willingness to learn from all possible sources. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Uberizing Organizational Learning – Thinking Beyond Courses

Designing courses is passé! In a world where the shelf-life of knowledge and skills are rapidly shrinking, where best practices of yore yield increasingly little or no return on investment, where exceptions are the norm, and constant change and flux the new normal, designing set courses using SME-defined content is like trying to build a dam to rein in the surging waves of a tumultuous ocean. We have to think agile, instant, accessible, contextual, micro-sized, real time… We need to uberize organizational learning.

Uberization” has taken off as the new term that according to me has come to stand for – disruption, innovation, lean operating model, harnessing of the affordances of the sharing economy, and a hyper-connected world driven by imagination and creativity where everything is a mobile-click away – including learning. I agree that’s a string of nouns and adjectives and sounds like I have thrown together a set of buzz words. But it’s not. If we do a bit of Googling, we’ll see the term cropping up in every conceivable context with posts talking about Let’s Uberize the Entire Economy to The Uberization of Money.

I am taking uberization more as a concept that encapsulates the characteristics listed above and, IMHO, L&D has a lot to learn from this. The concept of uberization is shaped “by combining smart-phone connectivity with voluminous real-time data on supply and demand”. Let’s pause a bit and think what this would mean to the L&D world in any organization. I’m not getting into the economics of how Uber operates; however, it is worthwhile to remember in the L&D context that Uber owns no “assets”. Agility and pull lie at the heart of uberization. Users – with a single tap on the app – can get a ride. Uber taps into existing resources providing people – both the suppliers and the buyers – with a platform to connect. The economy of “surge pricing” defines the cost. Whether that is good or bad is beyond the purview of this post. So, what do I mean when I talk about uberizing workplace learning? And what role does L&D play in the process?

Before I delve into some of the characteristics of uberization that we can extrapolate to workplace learning, here’s a few guidelines to keep in mind wrt expectations from L&D. I increasingly see a trend where we’ll have to: 
  1. Do more with less – less time, less resources, less funding 
  2. Deliver customized, just-in-time, easily accessible learning interventions and support on a continuous basis 
  3. Talk business outcomes and business performance, not learning 
  4. Assess and prepare the organization for skills needed in a VUCA world influenced by the forces of social, mobile, analytics, and cloud 
  5. Take a consultant’s approach as opposed to that of an order taker 
  6. Be the torchbearers for the new skills in the workplace (digital skills for the networked era
  7. Partner with leadership to build an agile and continuously learning organization 
  8. Tap into available resources and enable network to do the work 
  9. Build and manage communities to harness the organizational hive mind 
  10. Develop a learner’s mind – curious, exploratory, informed by a growth mindset

None of these will happen if we continue to sit in our isolated ivory towers designing courses, managing training calendars and count the number of days of training we have delivered to each employee. Business can and will ask, “So what?” We have to get out there, get our hands dirty, talk to business, read the company’s Annual Report, and figure out what is happening on the business front. I wonder how many L&D folks go through Annual Reports and Balance Sheets; however, this is where the crux of business can be understood. And whatever impacts business should and must impact how we function. Against this backdrop, technology is providing us with an opportunity to re-imagine and redefine workplace learning and our role as business partners, thought leaders, and change agents.  

Here are a few things we can start doing immediately using Uber as inspiration, if we are not on the path already.

  1. Take a mobile-first approach – Just as a ride is a tap away on the Uber mobile app, make learning just as accessible and instant. Users are increasingly expecting all interactions to happen via their mobile devices. Learning is no exception. Just as the Uber app allows a user to track the route, a learning app should allow the users/learners to see their learning roadmap personalized to their role and growth path. L&D’s focus needs to shift from designing one-size fits all courses to consulting with individual learners, their managers and HR, and carving out learning roadmaps for them. By making what matters to employees available on mobile devices of their choice, we can remove multiple barriers and enable them to pull what they need to traverse their learning journey. We can take a leaf our of platforms like Udemy or Coursera that offers a gamut of courses – all accessible via an app. Today’s workers expect a similar integrated experience – the freedom to pick and choose what they want to learn, where and when.
  2. Build communities – We are in the midst of the sharing economy which is all about open data, user-generated content, crowd-sourcing, shared value co-creation, collaboration, and more. It is no longer possible or feasible – in the face of unforeseen change – for L&D to formally design and develop all that will be needed to keep an organization at the cutting edge. It’s time to acknowledge that the learners are active participants in the system, and not just consumers of courses. L&D must move to becoming facilitators and enablers in a sharing economy and provide the right technology, tools and support necessary to allow users to collaboratively co-create value. This will not only enable organizations to tap into the collective wisdom of the crowd but will also move the organization towards becoming a truly learning org. People are at the heart of a sharing economy, and people are at the heart of a community. Organizations can no longer hope to thrive in a VUCA world without enabling the coming together of their people. I have written extensively about building communities in organizations in earlier posts here and here and here, and will continue to explore this theme further this year. The more I reflect, the more I strongly feel that the sustainability of an organization depends on giving up control and letting the network do the work. This fundamental principle lies at the heart of the success of Uber as well. L&D and the organization’s role will be to provide a highly-efficient sharing system and encourage participation. This calls for a radically different kind of thinking where the managers, leaders, L&D and HR – the gatekeepers of organizational resources including knowledge – collectively move over to the role of facilitators who inspire and empower open sharing, conversations, co-creation, and cooperation.
  3. Curate from existing sources – Tap into MOOCs, and other existing OERs. L&D needs to don the curator’s hat – a critical 21st Century skill – that requires an ability to seek, sense and share (Harold Jarche’s PKM model) relevant content for a defined target audience. Note that content creation – so far the forte of most L&D folks – is not a part of this. However, curation requires an even greater effort at creativity and an ability to connect the dots, make sense of disparate information, and pull these together to form a cohesive whole. It is not an easy skill to build and requires constant honing, deep diving into the designated area of focus, talking to and following experts in the field, using appropriate filtering mechanism to remove the chaff from the wheat, and then presenting the curated content in a format that will appeal to the end user. Moving from content creation to content curation requires Uber-like thinking – create no asset, tap into networks, connect the dots. I also liken it to developing a service-mindset over a product-mindset.
  4. Build a culture of feedback – Uber relies heavily on the ratings provided by users as well as the drivers. This mutual rating system ensures that the standard is maintained more effectively than any policing or management could do. L&D can definitely apply this to how learners/employees rate their experiences of the learning, of the engagement on the community, and encourage feedback. A culture of feedback encourages transparency, highlights inefficiencies, and make improvements an ongoing process. However, organizations with the help of L&D will have to define what constitutes feedback as opposed to baseless criticism, rants, and complaints. Genuine feedback comes with the intent to help improve, provide insight, and either reaffirms a practice or encourages change. The overarching intention is to make better. The ability to give and receive feedback is another critical skill we need to develop to thrive in a world in flux.
  5. Make it an ongoing effort – Uberization takes away the comfort of creating a one-time product (a course), launching it, and moving on to repeat the process. Uberization comes with a service-mindset. It is an ongoing effort that should eventually become the new way of doing things. It requires a constant scanning of the ecosystem – within as well as without, and gauging how external changes can impact the organization ranging from the need to re-skill existing workforce to recruiting scarce talent.


In summary, the world of L&D has dramatically changed. Just as the rules of business and leadership have changed in the networked era, so has the rules for how to enable employees to deliver with efficacy. The L&D department can no longer sit in an isolated bubble designing courses for skills that are fast becoming redundant. It is time to build an entirely new set of skills in oneself as well as in the workforce.    

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Top 11 Most-Read Posts of 2015!

Sometimes it is the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination! ~ Drake 
As the year draws to a close, I want to wish all my readers a joyful, learning filled, wondrous 2016! And I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to all who kept inspiring me to write, who continued to support me, and kept me on my learning journey. The year's end always makes us reflective. In keeping with the mood of the day, I thought I would make a list of the posts that garnered the most views and comments and shares this year before moving on to write a new one. Maybe, I should keep the new one for the first day of the new year. 

Even as I scrolled through my posts, I realized that somewhere along my blogging journey, I have shifted from a pure L&D focus to a more holistic organizational learning and social business focus. I am going to focus more on the latter in the coming year...I'm researching and reading up books, articles, and blogs related to social business, complexity science, systems thinking, disruptive technology and overall organizational development. I'll continue to use my blog as my platform for learning, sharing, reflecting, and ideating. 

Here's the list of the top 10...I hope you will find it useful:
  • Integrating Social Learning in the Workplace - The post discusses some of the fundamental requirements--both culturally and strategically--that an organization must take into consideration when planning to integrate social learning in the workplace learning blend. 
  • Social Learning Cannot be a Bolt-On Strategy - This post, a continuation of the earlier one, highlights some of the key strategic and leadership requirements necessary to make collaboration and sharing a success in an organization. Trust-based collaboration--in turn--leads to the building of an innovative and learning organization. 
  • Working Out Loud 101: Some Thoughts - Dion Hinchcliffe, in his Today's Critical Digital Workforce Skills identifies Working Out Loud as one of the key skills. My post designed like an FAQ attempts to address some of the fundamental challenges people face when asked to begin practicing working out loud to share and collaborate. 
  • 7 Strategies to Facilitate Working Out Loud - I firmly believe that working out loud will increasingly become a valued skill that will enable teams to stay connected and work together effectively despite the barriers of location and time zones. It will help a distributed workforce and a geographically dispersed organization to bridge silos and tap into the tacit knowledge of a cognitively and culturally diverse workforce leading to a more innovative and resilient organization. This post outlines some of the key strategies that can enable the culture of working out loud in an organization. 
  • Workplace Learning in a World Beyond Automation - This post was written in response to an HBR article called Beyond Automation (a must read) that describes the advent of automation through the ages, and talks about the rise of smart machines. My post is an attempt to extend this thinking into the workplace and the impact it is likely to have on the nature of work, learning and human relationships as we move towards 2020. Will the world be radically different from the one we inhabit today? Will robots be our colleagues? How will this impact workplace learning, HR policies, and the nature of the organization?
  • Social Technology, Community Management, and Organizational Development - Written in response to a diagram that Dion Hinchcliffe (yes, he's my online guru for all things social business) had created to show how Technology and Business are Co-evolving into the Future Organization, I have highlighted the role of technology in building communities in organizations. I've gone on to discuss how communities will change the nature of organizations and organizational learning. This is an area I intend to further deep-dive into, explore and write about in 2016. I believe that communities are cornerstones of social businesses and that will be my key area of focus in the coming year. 

  • "Digital Mindset": What is it All About? - This post explores what it means to have a digital mindset going beyond mere digital and tech savvy to emphasize characteristics like agility, openness, trust, respect for diversity and comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty. This is one of my personal favorites and again an area I will delve into more often in 2016. 
  • The Top 6 Things Organizations Must Do to Enable Emergent Learning - An emergent and VUCA world calls for an emergent learning strategy. This post highlights some of that at a high level. I will be writing more about emergent learning in the context of organizational learning and rising complexity in 2016.
  • Becoming a Social Business: Beyond Culture Change - While the corporate world is abuzz with "social learning," "social business" and all things "social", I have tried to reflect upon and unravel some of the common terms and phrases typically associated with organizations that impact our discourse on social. The very words we use could be influencing and propagating certain deeply-rooted organizational practices that may prove counter-productive to the building of a culture conducive to facilitating a social business. 
  • Demystifying Working Out Loud - I often have people asking me about the practices involved in working out loud and what do they imply. This post is a short attempt to highlight what it is and also what working out loud is not
  • L&D's Role in a Purpose-Driven Workplace - I do believe that organizations will no longer be able to attract or retain valuable and talented employees by just focusing on shareholders' value increase. They will have to articulate a purpose and the intention of a greater social good to thrive in today's evolving and complex economy. The current and coming generation are likely to enter the workplace with a different set of values that will call for a different approach, and possibly a redefinition of what an organization implies.  

I hope you enjoy reading the posts. I'd love to dialogue with you and hear different perspectives. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Becoming a Social Business -- Beyond Culture Change

A paradigm shift occurs when prevailing mental model has so many egregious anomalies that it “breaks” and a new mental model of the world is perceived to be a better explanation of how the world works. ~Steve Denning
Our words define our worldview. We use the vocabulary available to us to describe and analyze our experiences and perceptions. The founder of the idea that language and worldview are inextricable is William von Humboldt, the Prussian philologist. The German word Weltanschauung—used to represent the mode of apprehending reality of a community—was first used by Kant and later popularized by Hegel. Weltanschauung represents the collective consciousness of a community of a certain experience.  

In this context, I had a bit of an epiphany. Over the past few years, the need to become a social business and to promote enterprise-wide collaboration have taken hold in many organizations. The usual approach is to launch an enterprise collaboration platform (technology first being easy to do) and hope that people will engage and contribute with a bit of cajoling and coercing. But a majority of these endeavors fail leading to skepticism and finger pointing. The usual culprits are the hapless organizational culture closely followed by hierarchy and leadership lethargy. We have become accustomed to blaming the culture of an organization for the failure of any initiative, and more so when the change calls for redefining and re-imagining how people work and interact. Before I proceed further, let me clarify that these culprits are not blameless. A fair number of mistakes can be attributed to them. I only want to say these do not invoke the complete picture. We have to dive deeper to understand why organizations across the world – from the Americas to Asia – are apparently making the same mistakes.

We have to take a step back and examine the metaphors and the discourse that organizations abide by and are described by. The crux of the problem lies in our inability to see how the culture of organizations stem from and is shaped by the very discourse of management that we have collectively subscribed to ever since the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing era. No matter how hard we try to change the culture – and I do believe that leaders and managers are trying – the discourse we use lets us down. The words become reality. Currently, our management discourse is permeated by the language of two metaphors – the military and the manufacturing. The business model and operating principles in today’s organizations hinge on “making” profit through the deft use of limited resources in an organized manner. The military metaphor dominates the world of business – right from “staff”, “line”, “chain of command”, to “war for talent”, “competitive strategy”, and “line of fire”. The assumption is that doing business is akin to waging war and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Organizations thus begin to behave with an almost “military” mindset – valuing planning over innovation, dwelling on constraints over opportunities, giving in to enforcing over enabling, compliance over collaboration…

Underlying this military and manufacturing discourse is an insidious and difficult to pin down aspect – the scarcity mindset – be it of money, skills, information, time, talent, and so on. A world defined by scarcity is driven by the ethos of competition, hoarding, survival of the fittest, suspicion, exclusion, elimination of the other, and fear. These concepts are fundamentally opposed to the principle and values that support cooperation and collaboration – the pillars of social business and authentic communities. As long as our organizations are operating under the principle of scarcity, we will continue to struggle to get people engaged and motivated enough to collaborate. The words we use not only reflect but also reinforce and reproduce the reality. The words become reality.

Now, let’s look at the words that come to mind when we thing “community” which has its root in the Latin word “communitas” meaning things held in common. Community elicits in my mind words like commune, abundance, love, wholeness, trust, belonging, authenticity, creation, safety, inclusion… and other similar words. As anyone who has ever been or aspires to be a community manager, we know that these are the emotions that we have to inspire in our users for them to become engaged and collaborative community members. However, the discourse that defines community within organizations get subsumed under the larger discourse of the organization itself which, as I have already mentioned, is defined by scarcity and competition. When the two discourses clash, the larger one signifying the organization as a whole inevitably wins. The words become reality.

Let me make a disclaimer. This clash is not the fault of managers or leaders taking the organization forward – in most cases, it is done in good faith. Controls are put in place to prevent information from going to competitors; non-compliance is punished; transparency is censored to prevent general dissent. And we simplistically club all of these under the umbrella of an amorphous and ambiguous culture and dismiss it by saying that “the culture of the organization is not conducive to collaboration”. We have to identify the words that run counter to authenticity, trust and transparency and replace them with a different set of words when speaking about organizations. Words carry their own denotation and connotation and define our consciousness. It might seem like a trivial matter, but it truly has deep implications for the kind of transformation organizations need to go through in order to become authentic communities.

The discourse of communities doesn’t and cannot hinge on and around scarcity. We need to redefine and reimagine the very description of an organization itself. What if we were to define an organization like a community: “Self-organized network of people with common agenda, cause, or interest, who collaborate by sharing ideas, information, and other resources...” (Wikipedia). We have to shift from the old ways of working that was driven by extrinsic motivation – bonus, salary hike, promotion, and other tangible rewards to one that is driven from the heart, that engages people intrinsically by giving them the autonomy, providing the purpose and creating a sense a belonging. Jeremy Scrivens writes in his post, The Future of Work is Social Business at Scale, “…authenticity is not only the foundation of collaboration and innovation, it is the very experience of being well - being who you really are - Being! not just doing.”

Tangible rewards are limited, and hence automatically lead to competition and fight for survival. In contrast, intrinsic motivation, authenticity, trust, and kindness stem from a deeper source of abundance. Organizations need to shift their paradigms and transform at a far deeper level than we are currently addressing. To see real impact, and deep and lasting transformation, we have to attack the root, and reimagine the organizational metaphor.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Inimitable Jay Cross


I had the good fortune to meet Jay in 2011 when he, along with Clark Quinn came down for EDGEx – The Disruptive Education conference. That was the first time I met him face to face, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Apart from the fact that I was totally in awe and had to muster the courage to go and speak with him, I think I was expecting a serious individual, the distinguished author of many books who had coined the term “e-learning” and led the thinking in the field of learning. An iconic figure in my mind… The individual I encountered was full of zest and spirit, fun-loving with a quirky sense of humor, and a warm, affectionate heart. I was bowled over. I think I behaved a bit like a star -truck teenager but that is understandable when you meet Jay Cross in person for the first time. 

My introduction to Jay had been through his book Informal Learning. Needless to say, it had become my bible to understand what social learning is and could be in the context of workplace learning. In those days, I was just a rookie instructional designer trying to write storyboards and grasp the basics of e-learning. I stumbled upon his book and him (virtually) on Twitter. I still remember the excitement I felt when I read Informal Learning and subsequently Working Smarter. Jay infused a new way of looking at how learning happens. For a learning-hungry person like me, it was like manna from heaven. I understood the concept of workscapes for the first time:   
A workscape is a platform where knowledge workers collaborate, solve problems, converse, share ideas, brainstorm, learn, relate to others, talk, explain, communicate, conceptualize, tell stories, help one another, teach, serve customers, keep up to date, meet one another, forge partnerships, build communities, and distribute information. ~ Jay Cross
There were so many Aha! moments as I journeyed through Jay’s books and thoughts. They are too innumerable to list down. I consider myself absolutely privileged to have been included as a part of the advisory board for his latest book – Real Learning! I don’t know what value I added, but I know I got a tremendous amount just by going through the draft of the book, interacting with Jay and other thought leaders in the group. I keep learning from him!

Jay’s excitement and enthusiasm was infectious. He had an almost indefatigable zest for learning, for enjoying life, and a childlike curiosity for exploring. As little as a fortnight ago, he was contemplating different platforms for hosting the Real Learning community. He never stopped thinking of new ways of looking at things, of learning and helping others learn better. We will go on learning from him and reaping the benefits of all that he has left us with – a veritable legacy in how we approach informal and self-directed learning!

Thank you Jay! Real learning will live on and continue to inspire…

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Top Six Things Organizations Must Do to Enable Emergent Learning

“…changes in mindset are more important than changes in hardware or software.”
~Steve Denning
What is common across the learning modes and methods mentioned? 
  • Social learning via an enterprise collaboration platform 
  • Mobile enabled learning accessible anytime, anywhere, on any device of the user’s choice 
  • MOOCs which straddle the line between social learning and e-learning with learner communities

While an organization can facilitate these, the onus lies with the users/learners. These are essentially “pull” and collaborative learning modes and cannot be imposed. These forms often intersect with one another, and are used in various combinations depending on the organization’s need, users’ comfort and the capabilities required to design the ecosystem. Having said that, a major percentage of organizations today are striving to put in place one or more of the above-mentioned modes and tools of learning. This is leading to a shift in the role of the L&D department – from managers and disseminators of formally designed programs to facilitators and enablers of collaboration and communities. I have written about the new skills that L&D and HR needs to make this transition in my posts here and here. In this post, I am going to explore six key requirements necessary from an organizational and leadership standpoints to make collaborative and emergent learning work. But first, 

What is emergent learning?

Emergent Learning is a condition and an outcome of organizational culture, strategy and purpose

It arises out of a combination of networked leadership, HR and L&D efforts, and meaningful work. It leverages the powers of networks and social platforms, and the affordances of mobile and cloud to build an interconnected and continuously learning organization. When fully realized and supported, emergent learning provides autonomy, mastery and purpose to learners and agility, adaptability and resilience to organizations. It empowers learners to build their personal learning networks (PLN) and personal knowledge management (PKM) by leveraging technology to connect a distributed and diverse workforce. Emergent learning by definition takes place in the workflow; it is always contextual, collaborative, and beyond the norms of formal learning. Emergent learning cuts across formal organizational structures and siloes and brings out the inherent tacit knowledge and ongoing collective experience building a shared journey for all concerned. In this context, it is important to remember that technology is an enabler, an amplifier and connector. It is there solely to serve the purpose of the users, to empower them to explore and engage.

Thus,
Emergent learning = Nurturing Evolving Human Potential by giving individuals the power to learn the way they want to.

When any organization or institution shifts from a hierarchical, top-down mode to a horizontal, peer- and user-driven one – be it in management or learning – culture plays a huge role in the success or otherwise of the endeavor. “The DNA of “peer trust” is built on opposite characteristics – micro, bottom-up, decentralized, flowing and personal” (The Changing Rules of Trust in the Digital Age). This is perhaps the biggest mind shift that organizations have to make in the digital era and to facilitate an environment of continuous learning. While the pace of change and the need for constant re-skilling has adeptly shifted the onus of learning away from institutions to individuals, this comes with a new set of responsibility and change in mindset. IMHO, these are the six key changes organizations need to make to enable emergent learning. 
  1. Shift from networks to communities. The affordances of ubiquitous connectivity, pervasive mobility and cloud, and the prevalence of social media ensure that organizations today are connected. However, facilitating networks is not enough albeit it’s the necessary precursor to building communities. As Henry Mintzberg points out in the HBR article, We Need Both Networks and Communities. “At the organizational level, … effective companies function as communities of human beings, not collections of human resources.” The article resonates with my belief that organizations today must foster trust-based peer communities to encourage collaboration and cooperation. It is in communities that knowledge is exchanged and challenges solved. 
  2. Give up hierarchical, command and control mindset. While we are wont to blame the management models of the Industrial Era and their continuing prevalence today for the lack of trust and transparency we see in many/most organizations, we have to understand that this model served its purpose when scalable efficiency and productivity were the desired outcome. Today in the face of rapid change and technological evolution, this same model is failing us; it’s becoming a roadblock to seamless collaboration and flow of information. Managers schooled in the hierarchical system find it difficult to give up control. Even the physical design of organizations (although many are changing) with its corner offices, and other visible symbols of hierarchy reinforce the order. It’s not enough to espouse a belief in an open culture; it requires redefining the way leadership functions and their external manifestations. 
  3. Make employee engagement an outcome, not the goal. IMHO, it’s an organization fallacy to make employee engagement the goal. Employee engagement is not a set of isolated and random activities. It is an outcome of a number of collective activities, organization culture and overall employee experience. These experiences begin even before an employee joins an organization and continues till the time they leave, and even thereafter in the firm of alumni communities. Every step of an employee’s journey wrt the organization from the interview process to project allocation to interactions with management and peers adds up to define the culture which in turn drives employee engagement or lack thereof. Emergent learning is a key outcome of employee engagement. Engaged employees feel valued and respected; this leads them to collaborate and cooperate in the interest of the organization as well as their own development. Disengaged employees neither learn nor share. 
  4. Make the purpose bigger than shareholder value creation. In the new world, shareholders’ value will continue to exist but not as a primary driver for organizations that seek to attract, retain and build a community of talented individuals or make an impact on the world. An authentic and purpose-driven organization that is seen to give back to society is more likely to attract and retain employees. Purpose and shared value creation are strong drivers of learning inspiring people to share and collaborate towards the achievement of a bigger vision. 
  5. Stop viewing individuals as replaceable resources. Even today, well into the second decade of the knowledge era and the creative economy, organizations still treat individuals as resources. While no one would clear an interview if they said, “I am just like everyone else, and have no unique qualities,” it is precisely what organizations strive to do once you are in. Kill the uniqueness and make one fit a mold. And then perversely complain that people are not creative, innovative, or using their brains. Basically, it’s a dichotomy! What organizations need and want are being fundamentally curbed by their very systems and processes created to uphold uniformity, predictability, and homogeneity. The leaders and managers are as much a victim of the system as the employees. The systems and processes established 200 years ago were created to augment human brawn with machines. They are ill-equipped to support a world that revolves around the uniqueness of the human brain. It calls for transformational leadership and cultural mind-shift. Individuals treated like replaceable cogs will behave like cogs; not self-driven learners
  6. Celebrate diversity in all aspects – cognitive and otherwise. Learning and insight take place when diverse thoughts and ideas collide. “I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me,” Dudley Malone had famously said. And it is partially at least true. Diversity and inclusion cannot only be a part of HR policy anymore; it is necessary for the very survival of organizations as we enter the VUCA world. Emergent learning cannot happen unless diverse ideas and experiences find a place to converge and come together. Hence, the communities that organizations facilitate – online or offline -- should consciously enable the coming together of diverse individuals.  
All of these feel like massive changes and they are. I’ll go a step further and say that collectively put together, these moves lead to transformation. Change is primarily tactical, process-driven with a known outcome that one drives toward. Transformation is revolutionary! It takes us from the known to the unknown in the nature of an explorer embarking on a journey of discovery in a bid to find a new world. Here’s a telling excerpt from an HBR article that I’ll end with:

“Change management” means implementing finite initiatives, which may or may not cut across the organization. The focus is on executing a well-defined shift in the way things work.
Transformation is another animal altogether. Unlike change management, it doesn’t focus on a few discrete, well-defined shifts, but rather on a portfolio of initiatives, which are interdependent or intersecting. More importantly, the overall goal of transformation is not just to execute a defined change — but to reinvent the organization and discover a new or revised business model based on a vision for the future. It’s much more unpredictable, iterative, and experimental. It entails much higher risk. And even if successful change management leads to the execution of certain initiatives within the transformation portfolio, the overall transformation could still fail.” We Still Don’t Know the Different between Change and Transformation

Monday, November 2, 2015

#BNLF - 7 Key Takeaways and Other Impressions from Day 1


#BNLF I've learned means Blog Now, Live Forever. Pretty cool I thought! 

This weekend—31st Oct and 1st November -- was spent at the #BNLF conference held at The Lalit, Mumbai. Intrigued by the name and impressed by the lineup of speakers consisting of people like Purba Ray of the A-Musing fame (I have always been intrigued by that hyphen), Arnab Ray, the author of May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss, better known as the @greatbong, Anshul Tiwari, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Youth ki Awaaz, Christoph Trappe, the writer of The Authentic Storytelling Project blog, Jeff Bullas whose blog I have been following from years, Preeti Shenoy and none other than Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden – decided how I would spend my weekend. This post is a summary of my impression of Day 1.

This was my first BNLF, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the blogging fraternity. I had somehow assumed that a hundred odd people would turn up and most would be fans of writers like Arnab Ray and Purba Ray… . I turned up at The Lalit well-ahead of time as I’m wont to do, and was ready to meander in the lobby when I encountered at least 300+ people generally hanging around – some in clusters, some alone and some evidently #BNLF organizers wearing the hashtag T-shirt. Hmm! Not quite what I had envisaged for sure. Within a span of 15~20 mins, the 300 swelled to 500+ with more coming. And registration was yet to start. I learned that this amorphous bunch of people consisted of #BNLF regulars as well as the uninitiated like me. “Welcome to the tribe,” someone said. “Are you’ll all bloggers,” I asked? “Yes, of course,” was the somewhat astonished response. That shut me up for sure!

Purba Ray on Stage

There were bloggers from all over India—from Delhi, Chandigarh, Pune, Kolkata, Banglaore… There were bloggers writing on every kind of topic imaginable—from gardening to lifestyle, urban yoga to urban homes, from quilling to political spoofs – if you can think of a topic, there was probably a blogger there writing on it. There were bloggers ranging from 21 year olds to folks in their 50’s. I couldn’t have been more mistaken in my assumptions. And everyone had come to learn, to improve their blogging skills, to pick-up techniques and methodologies to take their blogging to the next level. I was impressed and a little bit awed.

Being used to conferences like #SHRM, #HRTech, and other corporate affairs, I was in for another dose of shock when we entered the main venue post registration. It looked nothing like a conference room. It resembled a rock-show arena with a brightly lit, kaleidoscopic stage, laser lights doing their thing and various musical instruments (I don’t know all the names so won’t get into the details) casually strewn about. The long hall held rows and rows and rows of white chairs – at least a 1000 it seemed -- and looked somewhat surreal to me. I quickly grabbed one in the first row and settled down. The day began with rock music—yes! no corporate affair this one! 700+ people were on their feet rocking and swaying and clapping to “We don’t need no Education” and other favorites. What a start!


The day maintained the momentum and the speakers didn’t let us down either. Each had their unique story and perspectives to share. I’ve made a holistic list of my key takeaways from the day that I felt would be worth sharing for other bloggers like me. 
  1. Bring Constancy and Commitment: This theme cropped up in everyone’s talk and the masterclasses that followed on Sunday. More about these in my next post. Without exception everyone spoke about being committed and regular with one’s blogging schedule, to post on a specific day of the week, and even at a specific time. The trick is to have a set of posts ready and scheduled to publish. This not only helps loyal readers keep track of your writing but also helps in search engine rankings. While I theoretically knew all this, I had not gotten around to being this disciplined. Coming from some of the most respected bloggers and writers, it was a hard-hitting message for me. 
  2. Keep it Conversational: Apparently, while we all like to sound erudite and believe that obfuscating points make them more interesting, it is not true. I pondered a while and realized that the blogs I like in my domain are all written in the simplest language without any loss of depth or impact. The first example that came to my mind was @AbhijitBhaduri ‘s blog! So, keeping it simple, using short words, and writing as if we were explaining a concept to a friend is a good approach to follow. 
  3. Make it Authentic: In their various ways, each of the speakers emphasized this with Christoph Trappe making it the core of his piece. Of course to be authentic, it is essential to feel deeply and passionately about our domain of blogging. It is impossible to be authentic without being passionate. It also implies being vulnerable and open, considering readers as friends. A stilted and fake voice will neither get us loyal readers nor make us feel satisfied with our writing. 
  4. Re-purpose Content: I often forget that I can use my blog post to create a SlideShare presentation, craft unique tweets or use the images for Pinterest boards. Re-purposing content across different social media channels in different forms not only ensures a wider and more constant reach but also addresses varied audience preferences and needs. 
  5. Keep an Eye on the Headline: According to research, listicles are a great way to get attention for primarily three reasons -- 1) provide a container around content pieces; 2) make it easy for the readers to keep track, and go back and forth; and 3) make it easy to recall. While definitely not all my posts can have a title beginning “7 ways to…” and “9 things to keep in mind…”, it is an advice worth remembering. Headlines are very critical, especially in this era of content abundance and attention deficit. Headlines should clearly tell readers what they can expect from the post. 
  6. Remember the 60-30-10 Rule: This specifically struck a chord with me. Christoph Trappe mentioned that successful blogging is defined by this rule of time and effort breakup – where 60% is devoted to creating authentic and original content; 30% should be given to listening and conversation because blogging is not a siloed activity; and 10% effort can be spent on sharing and linking on different social platforms. This is a good rule of thumb I intend to practice more consciously. 
  7. Don’t be Over-Dependent on Social Media: Jeff Bullas emphasized the importance of focusing on search and doing keyword research for those serious about growing their readership. Good content is of course a must and a given. According to him, the power of headlines, images and email lists should not be ignored. I’m going to explore these one at a time and test for impact.

All in all, Day 1 gave me plenty of food for thought and action. I know consistency is going to be my key issue, with procrastination my Achilles’ heel. Look out for posts on the Day 2 Workshops and other unique moments. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Demystifying Working Out Loud

“When people leverage collaboration platforms to contribute and to build relationships, that appeals to their intrinsic motivators of autonomy, mastery, and relatedness.” ~ Working Out Loud-Better for You; Better for the Firm
Working out loud has been steadily gaining popularity and has become a topic of conversation on many forums including the Facebook community of the same name. In the post 5 Gifts for the HR Department, John Stepper describes working out loud as a “different kind of talent program” writing, “as more employees work out loud, more of their work is visible along with public feedback on it”. Dion Hinchcliffe in What Are the Required Skills for Today’s Digital Workforce?, mentions working out loud as one of the “genuinely transformative new digital skills”, and as seen in the diagram below, it heads the list of critical skills for a digital workforce.
I have been writing about working out loud as a practice for some time now. Here are some of my older posts: Working Out Loud 101, 7 Strategies to Facilitate Working Out Loud, and Working Out Loud: Using the Tools We Already Have. In this post, I want to demystify working out loud and highlight the organizational as well as personal growth that accrues from the practice. I am a huge believer of the practice because I have experienced the effect first hand. It has helped me to develop my personal learning network (PLN) and enabled my PKM. However, individuals for whom it’s a seemingly new way of working are still beset by doubts, and some may even express outright skepticism. Given this context, I have tried to explain what #wol entails for those like me who might be trying to spread the approach, believe in the fundamental philosophy of transparency and open work, and wish to empower everyone with a simple yet powerful learning tool for self-driven learning.

First let me clarify what working out loud is NOT… It is not any of the descriptors given below:

  • A tool/methodology to boast about oneself
  •  A mindset that can stem from selfish interests
  • An approach that implies networking for personal benefits
  •  A methodology that can flourish under very controlling and hierarchical organizations
  • A process to be mandated by management/supervisors/organizations with defined rules
I’m going to take a step back and examine the world we live in today and how the notion of work has changed. 

  1. Work has become location agnostic; workplace is no longer defined by a brick and mortar building 
  2. The 9:00 am to 5:00 pm notion of work is all but vanishing, at least for the knowledge workers 
  3. The workforce today is not only globally distributed but also contingent giving rise to the notion of the extended enterprise 
  4. The workforce is ubiquitously connected, networked, and mobile 
  5. The ecosystem we operate in is volatile with rising complexity & ambiguity – the quintessential VUCA world 
  6. Five generations are working side-by-side (often virtually) 
  7. The baby boomers are retiring taking their tacit knowledge and experience with them 
  8. We live in an age of information abundance but lacking in insight and wisdom; it is almost impossible to make sense of it as an individual 
  9. Exceptions are the norms; making sense of exceptions require a coming together of cognitively diverse individuals 
  10. Disruptive business models are upending traditional org structures


Demystifying #WOL: Some questions I have encountered when discussing working out loud in forums & conferences or with colleagues:


Q. Does working out loud need digital technology in the form of an online platform or tool?
Fundamentally, one doesn’t need any tool to practice working out loud. However, in an era of distributed, dispersed and global workforce, an online platform becomes a necessary connector and amplifier. It is perfectly possible to share one’s experience over a “lunch & learn” session; however, if that session can also be aired on Hangout, the impact is amplified tenfold. I would say that a platform that facilitates easy and seamless interaction, forming of groups and threads, a powerful search mechanism and a way to aggregate conversations across topics (#) would be ideal for working out loud effectively.

Q. Why should I work out loud when my immediate team sits right next to me?
Organizational silos form because we don’t know what the teams across the hallway are working on leave alone being aware of what other business units and divisions are doing. Thus not only do we lose out on diverse inputs and knowledge, we also proverbially reinvent the wheel many times over and feed into systemic inefficiency. An organization that shares openly –successes and failures, learnings and insights, explicit and tacit knowledge – learns faster, builds an ambient awareness and paves the road for serendipity. The practice of working out loud across and beyond the borders of a conventional org chart leads to a much higher probability of expertise location, talent discovery, innovation, cross-pollination of ideas, and a resilient and constantly learning organization. It is an excellent method for bridging those very gaps and silos – the white spaces – between the defined boxes of the org chart. To illustrate this, I have slightly modified Dion Hinchcliffe’s diagram (see below) to show how the process of #wol can benefit all of us – employees as well as the organization.



Q. It’s not natural for me to post whatever I want to say or think online. What are some of the compelling reasons that will make me do so?

Given this VUCA world, it is imperative for and incumbent on all of us to remain learning agile and relevant. A distributed workforce requires a digital platform for connect. When we refuse to acknowledge that the fundamental paradigms that defined organizations of yore have changed, we kill our chances of personal development and growth by continuing to operate in silos and with people who are cognitively aligned. We run the risk of suffering from a “frog in the well” syndrome and fail to see signs and symptoms of change. Today’s work requires us to collaborate with folks we have never met, often from the other side of the world. These call for an adoption of some fundamental digital skills of which #wol is one.

However, it is not all gloom and doom! While the practice may seem novel, it actually taps into the basic human nature of sharing, learning and collaborating – aspects of humanity that traditional organizations suppressed in the name of efficiency, economy of scale and productivity. What working out loud requires is for us to collectively go back to the days when we swapped stories sitting around a fire, the only difference being that the fire has been replaced by a participative medium like a social collaboration platform, communities of diverse individuals and a global mindshare. Just as we would not have survived as a species had our ancestors not swapped those early stories, our survival and relevancy as individuals and organizations today may well be threatened if we fail to tap into the wider network of diverse and global intelligence. A complex world requires collaborative and cooperative problem solving.

Q. I deal with sensitive information and data. Why should I post it for all to see?
First of all, the definition of sensitive information is changing as organizations morph from complete control and hierarchy into more flatter and networked organizations. Having said that, there may well be data like employees personal information that must be protected. Working out loud does not imply exposing sensitive information. #WOL is a lightweight way of doing open work, i.e., sharing one’s learning, asking questions, sharing resources you may have found useful and hope others will too. It is based on the fundamental principles of generosity, a growth mindset, leadership and a desire to build a purposeful network. The latter is one of the most profound and meaningful outcome of generously working out loud. Consistent practice leads to a network that is open, diverse and deep. The image below (came across it via the Facebook Working Out Loud community) captures these core characteristics succinctly and beautifully.



Q. I barely have time to finish my tasks; when will I share and work out loud?
Working out loud is not an extra activity we do over and above our regular work. It is how work will get done as digitization and globalization become driving forces. On an average we send out more than 30 mails in a day and receive ten times that number. If we pause to think, how many of those mails are in search of that elusive information, that particular PowerPoint presentation or that one person we know who has experience in the current problem scenario. The same ask posted on an open network is ten times more likely to throw up more relevant information at a much faster pace, reduce all the back and forth, and also help us to locate that expertise much more quickly. This reduced time and cost of coordination that #wol facilitates is one of the key drivers to practice the approach. We need it more than ever now – because we don’t have time. It is one of the ways to save us those precious hours while also building our network and meta-learning skills for the digital world.

Q. How will working out loud impact my professional development?
Working out loud enables us to practice and hone skills like reflection, synthesis, evaluation, online collaboration, co-creation and so on. No one will argue that these are invaluable meta-learning skills – especially in an era characterized by complexity and exceptions. Working out loud not only helps us to make our work visible to others in a way that they can find useful, it also helps us to build crucial skills. By sharing openly, we demonstrate generosity that invites others to share with us thus building a virtual cycle of giving and learning together. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the practice of #wol lays the foundation for other skills depicted in the diagram on top – skills like building one’s PLN, becoming adept at digital collaboration and letting the network do the work. The diagram below summarizes the different ways that working out loud manifests itself.

  

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