Learning 101 with a quick, slightly soggy, metaphor
Learning 101 with a quick, slightly soggy, metaphor
I’ll come clean from the start, I’m an enthusiastic practitioner and advocate of 70:20:10. I’ve found it to be a liberating framework that delivers performance based solutions and helps to break L&D out of the confines of… well, L&D.
In addition to the underlying mindset shift, it’s opened a treasure trove of techniques, tools and possibilities to support lasting positive change in organisations and people. But before we pop the champagne and enjoy life with crowds of continuous learners joyfully working in performance boosting ecosystems, I’ve got to admit there have been challenges.
So, in the spirit of #WorkOutLoud, here are my top 5 reasons why 70:20:10 solutions can fail (and what can be done about it):
A training culture might be seen as a positive, but it pales in comparison to a learning culture. Pete Senge popularised the idea of learning organisations, which he defined as places “where people continually expand the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.” (Senge, The Fifth Discipline, 2006)
With greater demand for innovation, customer centricity and agility the need for organisations, and therefore people, to grow and transform has become more relevant than ever.
Too many organisations have been struck by the blight of a ‘training culture’. L&D must take some responsibility for our role in fostering a sense of passivity, where people, hungry for development, believe that they are dependent on courses and events, but the problem runs much deeper. From our youth, schools told us that we learn about the world in a classroom, rather than presenting the world as our classroom. It’s no wonder that a culture of continuous learning can sometimes feel elusive as a result.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Companies wanting to overcome the training blight and become learning organisations have an urgent need for a more holistic (read 70:20:10) approach, of which formal training plays an important role to help introduce ideas, prime mindset, and develop conceptual frameworks, but it’s just one element of a broader on the job and social experience.
We can begin to moving to a holistic approach by:
The oft quoted Learning & Development 2003 Employee Development Survey identified that direct reports of managers who are most effective at development out perform others by 25 to 27%. The same report noted similar benefits to retention, satisfaction, commitment and adaptability.
Fully engaged managers can:
One of the earliest 70:20:10 solutions I helped design required Managers to play a proactive role in an onboarding process. Despite assurances that these Managers were primed and able to provide support, in practice a significant minority didn’t engage. The lack of executive support saw this problem grow to the point where the program was a shadow of what it could have been. This experience left me with a simple takeaway:
Build it and they will come (but only if they’ve got a switched on Manager who actively supports them).
WHAT WE CAN DO:
Having managers who are unable or unwilling to support engagement in 70:20:10 solutions represents a fundamental problem, yet it’s an all too common scenario. These days, we consider a range of options to address possible gaps in motivation and ability of Managers, including:
Einstein once said, “The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” Similarly, as we break from our L&D ‘knowledge obsession’ we can move to focus on performance support.
This might involve new tools, checklists, quick reference guides and micro-learning that can be accessed just in time and just enough to allow someone to efficiently complete a task or project, while minimising cognitive load and unnecessary memory requirements.
People might not engage with relevant micro-learning or performance tools for a number of reasons:
WHAT WE CAN DO
There are a few ways we’ve tried to address this challenge:
Currently, many 70:20:10 solutions take the form of blended learning solutions, but as Charles Jennings pointed out, while this is on the right road, it isn’t the end of the journey. Blended learning is a great start but, in many ways, it’s more useful to create solutions as campaigns or ecosystems.
Many organisations aren’t ready to logistically rollout innovative blends let alone supporting ongoing campaigns or ecosystems.
We learnt this when a blended learning solution I helped design for a large Australian company gained positive learner reviews but drew the ire of the company’s operations team. They were concerned with handling the complexity of multiple short webinars, the ‘bitsy’ nature of on the job toolkits, and struggled with hosting the suite of micro videos we’d produced (it sounded like putting them on the LMS was as effective as putting them on a USB and flushing it down the toilet).
WHAT WE CAN DO
There are a number of things we do to handle such challenges:
“Organisations with strong informal learning capabilities, including social learning, are 300% more likely to excel at global talent development than organisations without those competencies.” (Bersin by Deloitte, March 2012)
Embracing the power of informal learning is a requirement for a culture of continuous learning and sustained high performance.
Learning is too often considered a commoditised product that must be defined, packaged and managed. Simultaneously, organisations and L&D departments often use success metrics such as knowledge-based assessments, attendance to learning events, and traffic on an LMS.
While many people implicitly understand the power of informal learning, the above factors make it challenging to fully embrace. As a result many 70:20:10 blends are pressured to bend the stick towards formal, to satisfy key stakeholder expectations about ‘what a program should be’ and to ‘deliver something tangible’.
WHAT WE CAN DO
The obvious answer here is to focus on performance rather than learning outcomes but that is unsatisfying for many, because we don’t live in a lab and the causes for increased performance are often interlinked, complex and slightly intangible.
Ironically, that’s the point.
Informal learning supports performance because at its best it’s interlinked, complex and slightly intangible. It involves people pulling learning as they need, learning through collaboration, and reflecting on experience.
On one level this should align with a ‘bottom line’ approach of many executives because the focus is on business metrics. As the late great Jay Cross put it: “Executives don’t want learning; they want execution. They want performance. Informal does not mean unintentional. Those who leave informal learning to chance leave money on the table. Informal learning is a profit strategy.”
Still, in my experience, this is one of the hardest challenges to overcome and does tend to require an initial leap of faith to get started.
Perhaps you’re a seasoned 70:20:10 practitioner who found this all pretty basic. I’ve got one thing to say to you, if you told me about this years ago I could’ve picked this up from the 20 instead of the 70. I forgive you, but start working out loud already!
Maybe you’re someone who’s begun to play with 70:20:10 and have experienced some of these challenges. I hope this, and the comments it might spark, contribute to you having a smoother ride.
Or maybe you’re still focused on traditional courses and aren’t sure whether 70:20:10 is worth the effort. To you I’d say beware, as the road ahead will be bumpy, and there’ll be unexpected turns and challenges. And, despite all of that, the journey is definitely worthwhile.
Like it? Then feel free to share it. Use the options (left).
What’s in store for learning? An infographic exploring the not too distant future of learning ecosystems, xAPI and augmented reality.
This infographic was first posted on my LinkedIn page in October 2015.
A co-design process to focus on the learner and create human centered learning solutions.
this infographic was originally posted on my LinkedIn Page on November 2015.
We’re sorry, but it’s over.
It’s not you, it’s us. We’ve changed, but we’ll always value what we had together.
Do you remember how we first met? That summer day when we gently crafted our first elearning module? Or how we stood, full of trepidation, as we prepared to deliver that face to face workshop? We were so young.
There were times when something seemed amiss, but you always knew how to reassure us. You were so confident, with your Flashy smile and concise learning objectives. You promised so much. We were going to change the world together, one course at a time…
Listen, there’s no easy way to say this. We’ve met someone else. Let’s just call them ‘P’.
P doesn’t make empty promises, they just deliver. You can’t believe what a relief that is after decades of being with you.
And don’t get us started on how rigid and formal you are in comparison. It’s like you have two gears: ‘on’ and ‘off’. The worst part is when you’re ‘off’ you expect us to wait, frozen in time.
P isn’t like that. For a start, P fits in with our work and life rather than insisting we spend dedicated time away from the rest of the world. P is always there, encouraging us in ways we never even considered.
Sure we can’t control everything, but we’re not trying to anymore. P doesn’t care how long we spend together, or about ticking meaningless check boxes… P just cares about making a difference.
So yes, this is the end of our… what did we have exactly? A long term affair? A marriage of convenience? Whatever it was, it’s over.
Please don’t be angry, and don’t go posting those embarrassing photos of us… you know the ones when we were dressed up and did those role plays? You don’t want to burn any bridges. Besides, we still want to be friends. There’s a place for you in our life, only a much smaller place than before.
How much smaller? If you had to push us for a number, we’d say you can have 10%… that’s all you ever needed anyway!
We’d better go, P’s calling.
P’s full name? You really want to know who stole our hearts? Well, we probably owe you that much.
It’s Performance. We know, probably French or something.
Goodbye Training. We’d say ‘thanks for the memories’ but frankly, even they tend to fade away when once you’re out of sight.
Broken Hearted L&D Professionals
P.S. We’re keeping the dog.
This post was first published on my LinkedIn site in September 2015.
Here’s a quick recap for those just tuning in…
70:20:10 has shone a spotlight on the limits of formal learning. In contrast, social and experiential learning continue to be veritable goldmines of productivity, placing learners at the centre of their story and demanding a major shift from Learning & Development professionals.
Skip ahead and we find ourselves faced with an amazing opportunity. We can shed our obsession with isolated formal learning and embrace the real question: how can we best support organisations and individuals to develop a culture of continuous learning and high performance.
Central to this cultural shift is the understanding that learning happens bylearners, not to them. When we really let that sink in, rather than just forcing attendance at a workshop or completion of an elearning module, the focus becomes creating a context that will encourage and support learning and high performance.
That’s where learning ecosystems come in. More than a fixed environment, the word ‘ecosystem’ implies complex interactions and continued growth which might include:
Such ecosystems represent rich, fluid environments that continue to develop and evolve based on peoples requirements and the needs of the organisation. The underlying aim is to help people develop in ways they need, when they need to, in the ways that are most effective to them.
Sounds idyllic, but even if it seems a distant dream we can begin to move in this direction with a few relatively simple steps.
“Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” – Katrina Gutleben
To embrace informal learning we must empower learners to play a central and proactive part in the process. Particularly because this runs counter to our previous approach, we need to actively encourage intrinsic motivation via a ‘positive marketing’ approach that establishes clear benefits and WIIFM (I like John Keller’s ARCS model for formal aspects of this).
Beyond engagement, we can support a growth mindset (as per Carol Dweck’s work) via a range of techniques including ‘learn to learn’ tips or by incorporating a sense of possibility and progress into the reflection and coaching process.
“By putting a measurable business goal — a high-level evaluation — first and making it the center of everything we do, we publicly commit to improving our organization’s performance and demonstrate our value.” – Cathy Moore
I still find myself using variations of Cathy Moore’s classic Action Mapping approach to identify which key levers (knowledge, skills, motivation or the environment) will impact on performance and therefore broader change. Her system walks you through how to target real outcomes rather than transferring knowledge for knowledge sake. As a result, it will often lead to creating performance tools rather than courses.
“We don’t learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey.
Reflection is an easy yet all too ignored tool that must be integral to any learning culture and ecosystem. It can be supported via journals, group/individual coaching, mentors, ‘win/learn/change’ processes or elements of social learning.
Charles Jennings recently identified three simple, powerful questions for reflection which were (paraphrasing) ‘what have I done?’, ‘what would I do differently next time?’ and ‘what is the key lesson from this?’
Scaffolding consists of less than 10% of a building but take it away too early and you’re more likely to be left with a rock pile than a building. Similarly, formal learning can help shape and direct informal learning.
Properly integrated into a broader journey, formal learning can prime learners by providing a WIIFM or context; focus attention on key aspects before and during an experience; flip content to efficiently deliver knowledge requirements; frame a learning experience; and provide micro learning just-in-time resources that can be accessed at the point of need.
Like scaffolding, the aim should be to use formal learning to encourage and support a culture of learning so when the formal elements are removed, learners still thrive through experiential and social learning.
If we accept that much of our learning happens on the ground and with people then it’s obvious that managers play a crucial role. In fact a much quoted figure is that effective managers can have a 25% impact on staff performance improvement.
An effective learning ecosystem must engage managers and arm them with toolkits and support structures. This might include just-in-time video guides, elearning simulations, communities of practice, group coaching, observation grids, checklists or debriefing sessions. Any investment here has a massive cascading effect to the rest of the organisation.
If you throw people into a social environment it’s unlikely they’ll click into a thriving and supportive community of practice of their own accord. Similarly, it’s not enough just to provide a social platform and sit back waiting for magic to happen.
We can’t structure or even schedule social learning, but we can seed it by providing real value on social learning platforms. This might include linking it to projects that participants care about; leading discussions that actually help address issues of concern; and using the platform to distribute key resources and information. Similarly, other events or tools can promote a social aspect (e.g. a just in time video explaining a communication technique can encourage learners to view and contribute to the discussion forum on the same topic).
I hope these steps help you move your organisation away from a passive culture and towards one that empowers learners to embark on their own learning journey.
Which ones resonate for you? What other steps would you recommend or have you had success with?
Please add them to the comments.
This post was first published on my LinkedIn site in August 2015.
When talking about technology and learning it’s hard not to think about elearning modules. They’ve been the bread and butter of digital learning solutions for decades and the industry behind them has helped many, including myself, feed our families. So I take no joy in predicting that elearning modules will inevitably be murdered.
‘Who would commit such a horrific crime?’ I hear you yell as one… well, I’m sure one of you at least thought it… maybe.
Anyway, lets start our investigation with the unassuming victim.
The best of today’s elearning modules have learnt from past excesses. They still embrace an engaging, highly visual approach but also incorporate recent understanding of cognitive load, strategically combining text, audio and images for greater effectiveness.
From an instructional perspective, they use knowledge checks, scenarios, branched narratives and gamification. They extend rapid elearning tools to the limit so they can increase interactivity and reduce the dreaded ‘Next’ button fatigue. Some even allow learners to assess first, so they can access the support they actually need rather than going through the entire ‘sheep dip’ experience.
In effect, elearning modules have matured through their heady ‘Flash driven teenage days’ and are in the prime of their life… which makes their inevitable demise even more tragic.
It represents a growing understanding that learning is not something that primarily happens to people at events or in front of elearning modules, it’s something that people own and experience continuously, with other people, in their life and work.
Learning and Development professionals are beginning to support this change — creating learning ecosystems that empower learners by deepening experiences and reflect on them, while encouraging rich interactions with peers/ mentors/ and coaches.
Many in L&D have embraced the fact that formal learning doesn’t do the heavy lifting in learning, but let’s not swing the pendulum too far because formal learning still has an important role to play.
In part, formal learning must become the scaffolding to support learners as they develop the mindset, skills and culture to be continuous learners. But more than that, the real challenge lies in how we can liberate formal learning from its existing confines (in an LMS or classroom) and allow it to seep into the moments and places where learners actually learn: in their workplace, with their peers, and in the time of need.
Done right, formal learning can add tremendous amounts to a blend, including:
Those of you paying attention might have noticed the clue to our murder case… we now have motive.
Consider your own experience. You’re about to do something new or challenging – where do you go for help? Maybe you’ll ask a colleague? More of us would Google it. From there we’d seek out summaries, tips or even short instructional videos.
Have you ever, in your life, used an elearning module as a just-in-time resource? Have you ever voluntarily gone back to do an elearning module just to reinforce its learning? I’ve been asking these questions of clients and I keep getting a resounding ‘no’.
It’s not the elearning modules fault, it’s hard not to look cumbersome and tired in a world where:
Having rattled off those amazing advances I’m going to highlight the obvious pitfall: we won’t create 70:20:10 experiences by focusing on technical fixes, but they’ll certainly play their part in supporting the required changes.
From a personal perspective I’ve found that my work designing digital elements of 70:20:10 inspired blends at DeakinPrime has begun to lead us down the path of mobile apps rather than traditional elearning modules. But even from a low tech perspective, I’ve found myself focusing on creating online checklists, cheat sheets and short videos.
An elearning module might serve as the initial container of these resources — providing context, motivation and a demonstration of how they might be used via an engaging scenario — then, like cracking an egg, the module is disposed of and the assets become part of the learner’s ongoing toolkit.
eLearning modules, despite their many strengths, seem too ‘closed’ and inflexible to fit into the more pervasive learning era we are striving towards. They’ll probably live forever in small pockets such as compliance, but for large blended programs that support 70:20:10 I’m starting to think that the trigger has been pulled and their days are numbered.
This post was first published on my linkedin site in June 2015