50 answers about the future of work

Don’t read this in one sitting, it’s long.

Health check to David D’Souza for prompting me to think about these questions because of his 50 questions about the future of work.

Let’s do this.

  1. What roles or tasks can’t be automated?

The one’s where you require human compassion / emotional intelligence. You can digitise a counselling relationship with a clever automaton. It doesn’t mean you should. You can train a machine to recognise human emotions based on body signals – that doesn’t mean it could respond in a way which builds and enhances a relationship.

2. What roles should be automated?

Wait, did I just answer this in the previous one?

3. Financial markets, left to their own devices, aren’t good at accommodating a greater social purpose – do we need to take more of an interventionist stance to ensure greater societal benefit?

I don’t understand enough about financial markets to know whether or not they already have a social purpose built in to them or not. Also, as with all the frustratingly annoying approaches to these things come about, what are we talking about when we say social purpose? One person’s moral crusade is another’s pain in the arse campaign.

4. At what point do we stop running out of corporate scandals? How can we get more proactive at asking difficult questions of organisations as employees and consumers?

I’m curious to know if we can design organisations and leadership in a way which means you can’t make a bad decision. That is, can we design in a set of principles or standards or something other which means that no decision can ever be a bad one because of the checks and balances are in place that omit human bias.

5. Does an organisation with a social purpose have an advantage or a limitation?

It’s only an advantage if people believe in it. If the organisation’s purpose is to unashamedly make money, and you are ethically doing it, is that any worse or better than an organisation with a strong social purpose such as the work of Oxfam or Shelter?

It’s possible to still be a good person and not have to work for an organisation which has a social purpose at its heart.

6.  What work might be most impacted by changes in international border policy or digitisation making borders redundant?

I don’t think I understand that question – I don’t think you understand that question.

What work might be most impacted by digitisation making borders redundant? Is what I’m going to answer.

At what point does a country’s law and order stop being relevant compared to global law and order? Does the UK need to have it’s own law and order, when law and order pretty much means the same thing in most countries across the world? If we lived against a common set of global standards, do borders then become redundant? Is that an answer to your question?

7. Who is accountable for my wellbeing?

Primarily, the individual. But the problem we face is that there is almost too much conflicting advice. The evidence, however, points to simple answers. Your health, is a result of what you do and what you eat. If what you do and eat are positive and supportive to your health, you’ll be fine. If they’re not, you’re in trouble.

Also, you might need people around you who help you make those decisions because you’ve lost the capacity to make healthy decisions.

8. If my employer is responsible for making sure I’m not under undue stress – then am I responsible for managing my diet to ensure I’m delivering peak performance?

This questions doesn’t make sense.

You’re always responsible for your own diet. An elite athlete doesn’t rely on chance, they examine every facet of their life to be elite performers.

And your employer is responsible for making sure you’re not under endue stress. These two things aren’t exclusively related as you’ve suggested in the question.

9. Can you automate creativity – and if so will we still only feel something is creative if it is produced by a human?

Creativity can be programmed. You can programme a computer to learn different artistry and for it to create something itself. That is creativity.

Where humans excel at this, though, is to break from conformity, from norms, from boundaries, from algorithms and create something new and unexpected. A computer is only ever defined by its parameters. Even AI will be subject to parameters, thus limiting its ability to be truly creative.

10. How do we balance the concepts of diversity with the drive for cultural fit?

You keep meshing things together.

Cultural fit is an outdated concept. People still trying to recruit people who are a cultural fit, aren’t looking for diversity. One is about conformity and the other is about actively seeking new and different ideas and points of view.

11. Is the Gen X,Y,Z & millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?

It depends on what we’re talking about. If I’m looking at generational differences, it might help me to understand why one generation has an undue influence over another in voting habits. If we’re talking about human motivation then it’s lazy stereotyping.

12. What’s the point of work? To get happiness? Make a difference? Recognition? Will the point of work change and how might it do so?

See all those extra words after the first question? That’s called leading an influencing.

The point of work, as Perry Timms said, is to provide.

The point of work will not change unless there’s a fundamental shift in what human existence is for. When work becomes about fulfilling personal ambitions and aims without the need to provide, that’s when it changes to be something better.

13. How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?

Some people do this willingly. Getting out of the rat race. Even you did it for a while.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the 9-5 construct. It can be exactly what people need. What’s wrong is the dogmatic practices that go with the 9-5 construct and not understanding how flexibility enhances working lives.

14. How much longer will income and wage inequality be tolerated by those on the wrong side of the stats?

For as long as there are people who misuse their power to wield influence over others. We are only facing inequality because we have built hierarchies largely based on outdated command and control thinking and based on privilege of the rich.

As above, if we completely rethink work and what we’re doing and why, so that work becomes about fulfilling personal (and social) ambitions, then inequality goes away.

15. How many more years of casual sexism in workplaces do we have before that dies a death?

We’re really only just understanding how prevalent casual sexism is. Explicit sexism, as Owen Ferguson said, is still a problem for many people. We’re a long way off this correcting itself. Best guess? 100 years.

16. If whole chunks of your life are viewable on the internet will we become more tolerating of mistakes at work?

Again with the meshing.

I can live an open life on the internet, that doesn’t mean people will be acceptant of my mistakes at work. That’s about an attitude and mindset where making mistakes is seen as a part of life that we can’t escape. Some industries have to have an impossibly high benchmark of never making mistakes – surgeons, pilots and the likes. But even there we accept that mistakes can and do happen. We can’t ever account for everything – life just has a way of presenting curveballs which we can only ever sit back and accept.

17. The image of everyone working on the beach is an attractive one – but what does this mean for introverts or people with mobility issues?

Is this where VR comes into being?

Introversion doesn’t mean people can’t enjoy being on the beach – it’s about where we seek our energy from. Even amongst a crowd of people, you can feel alone. And just because you have mobility issues, doesn’t mean you can’t make accommodations for you to enjoy the beach if that’s where you want to go.

By the way, that’s kind of a loaded ideal.

18. Do I own my daa or am I just a data point?


19. You can already automate ‘congratulations’ messages on Linkedin. How much effort can you remove from a gesture before it becomes meaningless?

I think of this the other way. With the Amazon Dash, they’ve essentially taken away the meaningless act of needing to buy toiletries and other essential items that no-one cares about. At the push of a button your problem is resolved. If that’s the case, theoretically, we’re free to then pursue other more healthy and beneficial activities.

So, if an automated congratulations message comes through, yes it’s become meaningless, but also it’s a recognition of how little many of those connections matter in and of themselves. I can choose to follow up any one of those messages where I see the genuine intention or my own intention.

20. If I can outsource work cheaply to another country is that simply the free market in action (and an easy decision) or should I care more about the wellbeing of people I already employ?

Free market.

And also, you should care about the wellbeing of people you employ. But they’re not exclusively related.

21. If work is to become more transient (the gig economy) then who takes responsibility for long term capability building of people? If I’m only with an organisation for 6 months then why would they invest in me?

We’re also just on the cusp of realising that our own learning and development and capability building was only ever in my hands. For all the succession plans and talent plans and the such like, it’s really only ever happened because of people’s ambitions – both stated and unspoken.

You can continue to invest in yourself if a company won’t.

22. The more we understand about the mind the easier it is to manipulate it. How do we build in ethical safeguards within organisations?

See answer to question 4.

23. How much do we really know about the organisations that curate the world’s information and present it back to you and how much do you need to know?

Sometimes we’re too smart for our own good. Zuckerberg created something amazing with Facebook. I doubt even he realises the true extent to which he holds data of billions of people, how to present it back and how much they need to know. It’s just too much data – when we talk big data, that’s big data right there.

Tesco, on the other hand, create amazingly targeted use of their customer data.

24.  Is happiness a legitimate business and economic outcome?


Happiness is only ever a transient affair. It is fleeting and too difficult to grasp hold of. But you can experience enjoyment. You can experience deep satisfaction in your work. You can experience a sense of support and trust with those you work with. You can feel sense of community and social good. When those things happen, we’re all better for it – productivity wise, economically and personally.

25. What is the best way for groups to create influence and make a difference in a digital age?

By having genuine open debate. Same as it always has been. Digital tools just give us a way to get out voices heard in a different way.

26. Why do organisational IT solutions still tend to be more expensive yet less useful than consumer solutions?

Because most companies still think they’re going to get attacked by bad people, and this happens on a regular basis. They have things to protect.

When we have design organisations and companies to focus on communal good, societal benefit, where IP doesn’t matter and no-one’s making a profit off anyone else, that’s when we won’t care about IT solutions and their expense.

27. Does the age of automation mean that a universal basic payment to all is required?

No. Universal basic payment is a beautiful ideal. We can do that.

28. When we do save time where does it go? For all the automation and efficiency I don’t hear many people saying they have more time to relax.

What we’re finding is that people don’t know how to make the best use of their time. For all the time On-Demand TV has saved me from going to Blockbusters, I still don’t use that 1/2 hour any more productively. We do with time what we place on the value of our lives.

29. What aspects of our behaviour is it appropriate to legislate for? Is restricting access to company communications after hours unnecessarily interfering or saving us from ourselves?

Different questions. Meshing. You and me need to talk about this approach to questions.

We legislate for those parts of behaviour where law and order are in question.

30. Will you ever want a consoling hug from a robot?

I dunno. Maybe. I remember back in A Level Psychology reading about this 11yr old girl who had never known human interaction. She couldn’t walk properly, couldn’t feed or wash herself, and knew nothing of human compassion. If a robot were her carer, would she know the difference?

31. Why are so many organisations already designed and led as though the workers are robots?

Because some group of people started a myth that emotions are bad for business and you can whip people to perform. So they did. The rest, is history.

32. What does not having to leave your home to work, socialise or shop do to fitness levels over time?

Kind of depends on what your life is like generally? If you have children, you’re kind of forced to be physically active. If you value physical health, you’ll find time to be physically fit and healthy. If you don’t, you’ll just be more unfit than most and most likely die early.

33. What are the chances the world left by this generation will be better than the one left to us?

By nearly all accounts, the world is a better place today than it was 20 years ago / 30 years ago / 40 years ago / 1000 years ago. It’s an upward trend. Sure, we’re facing some particular challenges of our time, but humans have consistently found a way to make life better for their future generations. We just do that because we’re kind of awesome like that.

34. Do children entering school need to read or write – or will those be surplus skills by the team they leave school?

We all need to read. That’s how we learn.

Writing in the future will look differently. My kids can use a keyboard just as well as they can write by hand. Soon enough, they just won’t need to do that. I’m ok with that.

35. What are the issues that we are sleepwalking towards now that we will regret not taking action on sooner? (thanks to Siobhan Sheridan at the NSPCC for this)

Immediately? Digital inclusion. Too many people just unaware of how the interwebs can help life be better in so many ways.

Later? Our overall health. We’re discovering unknown ways that people aren’t being healthy – not because new illnesses are arising, but because health is being compounded by so many things. Too many opinions and not enough evidence for what makes life better.

36. What are the opportunities that we will regret taking?

Wow. There’s a question.

We all have our own ambitions and motivations. As all the self-help writers will acclaim, it’s your own self-limiting beliefs and opportunities that you’ll always have regret for.

37. How much of our enhanced technical capability will be channeled into solving societal problems and how much into increasing profits?

Are you looking for like an exact figure here?

Some people and companies are doing this bringing together already. Others don’t know how to. Other’s are probably trying to figure it out. Some will be happy making profits for their own personal gain.

38. How do you get a mortgage in the ‘Gig Economy’?

I didn’t even know you couldn’t if you were in the gig economy.

39. Does the Sharing Economy really share – or does it just collect a smaller margin from a larger volume of workers that are dependent? If we called it the Snaring Economy would it be such a popular concept?

One of those times a question just goes right by you and you move on to the next one.

40. When Prof Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and others describe AI as a potentially extinction level threat why do people think they are overstating it? When did we start thinking we had a better grasp on big issues than Stephen Hawking?

People need to feel in control. When someone like Stephen Hawking is clearly so smart, those who don’t want to lose that control lash out in all sorts of ways – one of those being willful ignorance. We can’t escape that.

41. How confident are you really that the Financial Services industry is now running as it should – and what are the knock on risks given the fragility of the world economy?

Before I undestood how devastating it was for the Financial Services to fuck things up, I didn’t care about what they were doing. We’re no better at making this better. We’re slow to learn and quick to get back to making profits.

42. How can we help design roles and organisations that make the most of people?

By understanding humans are messy and complex and all things wonderful and brilliant. There’s no difference in getting the best out of a Creative Director to getting the best out of an Accountant or a Street Cleaner. We give the best of what we think we can. Organisations have a part to play in that where they help those roles be amazing. Unfortunately, that utopia also demands we have unlimited resources.

43. What are the implications of the current level of gender imbalance within the tech sector over the next decade?

Why the focus on the tech sector? There’s gender imbalance in lots of industries and sectors. As President Obama said in an interview recently, until governments start actively supporting and promoting a range of industries and sectors, we’ll always have natural movement in the more prominent areas. We’re facing challenges within tech because it was never articulate that women could do it too, until they did and now all those smart men have to deal with more than just being better than other men. It’s complicated stuff.

44. Much of the technology we utilise on a day to day basis would struggle to meet most people’s definition of an ethical supply chain. When do we start making different purchasing decisions?


45. What are the best sources of information on the changing world of work and how can we ensure the independent voices are heard when organisations with the biggest budgets will be looking to exploit this space?

You know, quite of a few of us respondents aren’t happy with this whole multiple questions thing.

Our academics are producing all sorts of brilliant work on the changing world of work. Not just those from universities, but those companies with research budgets too. We’re learning more and more about how to design workplaces in so many different ways, and as Julie Drybrough said recently in her blog, it’s all about relationships.

Independent voices get heard because of the value of their content. Dell completely surprised traditional PC retailers because they allowed customers to talk to them directly about their product without having to buy an off-the-shelf solution. They produced something of value. No matter how big your budget, that will still happen. Facebook didn’t know they needed Instagram or WhatsApp or Oculus Rift until they bought them.

46. People frequently talk about wanting more equality and higher living standards for others – yet how many people would give up, for instance, 25% of their salary in order to improve the living standards of others?

This could happen, if there were systems of fairness, open and transparency built in to how that works. If people become suspicious if their 25% is actually helping others improve their living standards, that’s when you question why it happens.

This is a good question.

47. How will we filter content effectively in the future and how open to abuse is that filtering process?

Wait, I’m meant to filter content?

48. How do the business role models of the future act?

Much like they do today and much like they did in the past. Some are humanitarians, some are philanderers, some are philanthropists and some are greedy.

49. People cry when their pets die. What will be the first piece of technology that you cry over the loss of?

I’ve never had a pet so I’ve never cried over one. No, that’s a lie. We had 4 fish. They died. I didn’t cry.

If I had a loss of limb, and tech enabled me to function fully again, and I lost it? I’d probably cry over that.

50. If you had one contribution to make to making things just a little better over the next decade what would it be?

To have this kind of ongoing open and healthy dialogue.

Thanks, David for these questions. Some were tougher than others to answer. I probably should have spaced my time to respond. I hope they add to where others may have offered different responses.

Learning Styles, MBTI, NLP and asbestos

The other week I wrote about morals and ethics of L&D models and interventions we choose to use. It’s an interesting one because many practitioners are wedded to their preferred models, theories, etc. 

In truth, I can be too. I find it increasingly hard to justify using MBTI as a tool because it doesn’t seem to have good reliability as a tool – that is, if you were retested on the tool there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t give you different results. That’s just not helpful. 

Decades ago, asbestos was used as a building material for its resilience and fire proof qualities. It was such a good material for use in buildings that everyone used it. No-one doubted that it shouldn’t be used.

Until people started falling unexplicably ill. So ill in fact it caused life long health problems with breathing, and in many cases, death.


For literally, decades, no one knew such a robust and resilient building material was so dangerous to human life. So they banned it as a material and we’re still having to deal with the fallout of its use in buildings across the world. 

What we thought was good and useful insight was deeply flawed. We wouldn’t, in good conscience, ever use asbestos when constructing a building ever again.

Learning Styles, NLP and MBTI are the L&D equivalent of asbestos.

They are all deeply flawed theories and models. Regardless that practitioners may respond that their clients report healthy insights and useful outcomes, these are still flawed. Insight from a flawed basis isn’t what we should be trying to defend.

I’ve personally moved away from these models and theories because I have no faith in their construction as tools, their validity for personal development, or their relevance in learning solutions. I will actively choose to not include these when designing learning solutions.

Which is why in recent years I’ve invested a huge amount of time and energy into learning about other models and theories where I can be confident that they have a solid research base. Approaches like emotional intelligence, positive psychology, cognitive psychology,  neuroscience, behavioural economics, adult learning theories, all provide much more relevant ways to design learning solutions.

It’s a tough one. And it’s hard to argue a right and wrong. Am I right in my assertions? For some people I will be. Am I challenging many practitioners in what they do and how they do it? Yes, that’s what I’m doing. Am I wrong? Quite possibly, and I’m really hoping to have a good and healthy debate about this.

Line managers and the learning conundrum

Years (read decades) ago, we lived in a world where our line managers were the be all and end all of all things progression / promotion / development / that extra thing for us. If you wanted a promotion, a pay rise, to go on training, pretty much anything that exceeded the job description, it was your line manager that held the key to any of those doors. We learned, as time progressed, that actually, as individuals we had far more control of our own destiny than we thought possible. At the same time, we learned that our managers are woefully under-equipped to manage others in ways other than command and control.

Coaching became a thing. Asking questions that helped people arrive at their own solutions. Challenging people to test their own assumptions as well as others. Encouraging and motivating people to achieve their own results in their own way.

Emotional Intelligence became a thing. Understanding more about human emotions and how they drive relationships. That you can develop your ability to empathise, to listen well and to respond with kindness and compassion.

Situational Leadership became a thing. That you might have to adapt your management style with each individual and not treat everyone in the same way. To understand their development need and use a style appropriate for that need.

Learning and development became a thing. That people could purposefully and strategically plan their formal development. That they could apply for funding for external courses.

And slowly, and steadily, we became more and more sophisticated in our understanding of the human condition. We understood more and more how to help people learn, what their natural processes are for learning, and how we can support people to learn and develop using modern learning techniques and adult learning principles.

At some point, the responsibility of the line manager to support the learning and development of their team members became less and less relevant.

I see many L&D practitioners who staunchly advocate that in order for L&D to be successful, you must have the support of the line manager. So in the year 2016 – when we’ve pretty much understood that the old command and control methods of management are ineffective – we’re trying to give the line managers back their control so they can command their team members once again?

Consider it. A person today has far more self-control and self-determination of what they do and how they do it. The role of the line manager has become less about controlling what information their team members have access to and more about how to help facilitate their thinking, their learning and their development. If they’re not capable of doing that, they’re ineffective managers. That’s not the responsibility of the team member to rectify, nor should they wait for their line manager to suddenly improve their skills.

I don’t doubt, for one moment, that if your line manager can have a helpful conversation with you about your personal and professional development that we should support and encourage that to happen.

The reality is that many people these days are seeking out their own knowledge and information to get on with their day jobs, and often independently of their line manager. Additionally, more and more L&D departments are learning how to facilitate learning at work using techniques and tools like communities of practice, online collaboration tools and webinars (amongst many many others). Nearly all of the modern ways of working and learning require little input from the line manager – so I’m confused why so many L&D practitioners keep trying to insist they’re a core component, when that stopped being true a long time ago.

What do you think?

Ethics and Morals in L&D

How often do we as practitioners consider the ethics and morals of what we do? What kind of ethics and morals do we need to consider as practitioners? What part do ethics and morals play in the design of learning solutions?

I don’t know how openly we discuss and debate ethics and morality in L&D. They probably feel like subjects which many would respond in quite a pithy way – “Of course I’m ethical”, “everything I do is about the care of others”, “I have a strong set of morals and would never waiver on these”.

And I’m left wondering, but really, how do we know if we’re crossing ethical and moral boundaries that we may not be clear on?

Let’s take ‘Learning Styles’ as an example. It is very widely reported and researched that Learning Styles as a design methodology for learning solutions and interventions is just ineffective. That is, if you design a learning solution by using Learning Styles as your approach and methodology, you may as well not bother. That’s because the research tells us that people just don’t improve their learning by using these design approaches.

And so the question is raised – should you continue to use Learning Styles, because you believe the theory to be useful and effective even though there is mountains of research saying that it is ineffective to do so?

If you choose to carry on using it, is that the right ethical choice?

This week, I shared on Twitter that I wanted to start a day of facilitation by asking people to draw a shield.

I had some useful and helpful challenge from David Goddin and Simon Heath who helped me explore this some more.

What came out from this for me was that I hadn’t fully considered the connotations of using a shield, even though I’ve done it before and no-one has ever raised a concern about the activity. Now, this was to be the first exercise in a day of facilitation with a group I was working with. It was going to be given time for people to complete and to share what they’ve done. Because of that, I had to be comfortable in what I was going to be asking people to use. The idea of using a shield feels like it shouldn’t be controversial. David helped share an article about how arms are defined. On reading this I realised just how prejudiced against women a shield of arms (or similar) is. The description is heavily aimed at men and in enforcing stereotypes and messaging about men that I think is unhelpful in the modern age. There is a lot written these days about gender politics – how one gender has more power than another, and how the language we use influences these politics in different ways. I was not comfortable in using a shield as a facilitation tool knowing that there are such connotations involved.

So the moral question becomes – should I use it anyway, knowing that I would be reinforcing gendered stereotyping, but would probably go unnoticed by the group?

I chose to not go with the shield. Instead I chose to go with an image of a window.wp-image-964173065jpg.jpg

Stylistically, it’s not too different from a shield. From a meaning point of view, though, a window presents a different interpretation for people – both literally and figuratively.

I updated my blog post yesterday to state that I want to be an ethically and morally lead facilitator.

I’m curious to know your reactions to this decision making I went through, what it encourages you to think about, and how you might want to challenge me on anything I’ve raised.

Open sharing: a day of facilitation

Today’s brief was:

A new service was started about 9 months ago. They’re a team of 7 including the manager. They were cracking on with getting the service rolling and creating processes as they went along. They needed a day to reflect on how they were working together, building relationships, handling change, developing better work processes, and maintaining high levels of client engagement.

*cracks fingers*

We started the day with an exercise in drawing a window with four panes that looked like this:

I changed my mind on how I was originally going to do this exercise. Instead of a window, I’ve previously gone for a shield. After sharing my thoughts via Twitter about the day ahead, there was useful challenge and conversation about the connotations a shield has. In particular, for me, were the strength of gender politics that are associated with a shield and this really made me uncomfortable in using it as a rapport building tool. There is always a decision we can make about the ethics of the methodology. I could have gone ahead with the shield and no-one would have noticed the difference. My decision on this was to be an ethically and morally lead facilitator. So I decided to go with a window and this worked really nicely.

The group drew their respective images, and did a great job of helping others know more about them as individuals.

From there, I wanted to open the group to a different way of understanding each other’s communication styles. I chose to go with four questions:

  • When you’re talking to me, I need to know…
  • When I’m talking, I like to express myself like this…
  • When we’re talking, I feel good when…
  • When we’re talking, I feel bad when…

Each person filled out the blanks for themselves and then had to move around the room and share their responses with others. What quickly (and I’ll admit unexpectedly) happened was a level of openness and unprompted feedback about what people were hearing and how they experienced the other person. Thankfully, it didn’t become nasty, and no-one was being offensive in their approach.

In doing this, we spent most of the morning just focused on this side of things.

After lunch, because of the good weather, I sent the group outside. They had to achieve four objectives:

  1. Find something interesting about the local area
  2. Do something kind
  3. Take a photo of something that made them smile
  4. Reflect on how local facilities could aid in social inclusion for their clients

When they came back, it was great to hear about what that time outside meant for them and what they chose to do to fulfil the different objectives. It also provided them with additional ways to understand their team members, and build that empathy with one another.

The final activity for the day was to list out the different things about their day to day work that needed improving. They came up with a list of about 11 items. Two were discounted as they were too big to be discussed and resolved. The other nine were split into three groups, and I split the group into three groups too. In trying to resolve the items they had to answer three questions:

  • What’s the current situation?
  • What does the ideal situation look like?
  • How do we get there?

They did so well on this. Because the items were shared out amongst everyone to resolve, they all had their own way of understanding what the problem was, what resolution needed to look like and how to suggest ideas for people to make things happen. Personally, when I see that people are involved in this kind of way, they not only have ownership, but they’re actively being given permission and authority to make decisions where they might not have that in a formal structure.

I was (and am) really pleased with how the day went. I wanted to share in this space to demonstrate how so much of what we write about with regards to being better facilitators and better practitioners can be designed in to the solutions we deliver. I purposefully set out to make inclusion a strong element of the day. Prayer rooms were organised, healthy food options were provided, a good environment for the day, useful exploration of the outside environment, healthy conversations with one another, collective and co-created actions for what needs to happen next. It was all there and I hope this write up serves as a way to see it in action (of sorts).

My PLN makes me smarter because of who they are

I mean, that’s pretty much my whole blog post in the title right there.

But as is my privilege, I’ll expand a bit.

I’ve been asked to give some insight into my career to date at a CIPD London meeting tomorrow night, and this is pretty much what I’m going to say.

I never knew that when I started out on Twitter and blogging that I’d be building a personal learning network. I didn’t even know such a concept like that existed. In my early days of being on Twitter and blogging it was all about trying to find like minded people who I could talk shop with. In those early days, I was in a pretty much stand alone role and knew that I just wasn’t being as effective as I could be, but didn’t know how to improve. I didn’t plan anything in using social media, it was a ll a bit of a punt to see where it’d go.

As time went on, I saw that there were others out there I could connect with that were outside of the organisation I worked for. They were in HR, L&D, OD, recruitment and coaching roles. This was cool. And not only were they out there, but they were actively discussing things to do with the broad profession – a set of discussions I could get involved with!

And as time continued to move forward, I started growing more stronger in my digital voice. People were appreciating what I had to say in the digital space and my professional opinions were gaining value because people told me as much.

What I didn’t expect to happen, though, was that I would actively start to learn through this group of people. As much as I respected my actual HR team I was working with, we never really spoke about the profession, where it was headed, why we did certain practices as we did, how to improve things – most of our conversations were about day to day things. In the digital space, I was able to start actively discussing things to do with the broader profession and engage with people from a range of companies.

As happens with these types of affairs, I met quite a few of these online types and got to know them better. We’d meet and talk and discuss things like we were friends – and of course we were, just not as we’d normally define those relationships as having been formed. This whole digital thing was redefining so much about day to day life that you almost forget to reflect on what that means.

And along the way, like I said, I really started to learn from this network of friends. It’s odd to describe them as such. But I trust quite a few of these people (more than a few in truth). When I meet these friends I end up discussing things like:
– my family
– my personal ambitions and motivations
– how I can be better
– discussing ethics
– their interests and their thinking
– digital life
– politics
– the profession
– and so much more that I can’t list it all

Professionally, I’ve grown stronger as a practitioner. I experiment and try things because of what I read about from my network. They help give me that confidence to go out there and be the best I can be, because they’re great at what they do. It’s no one person, and it’s not a homogenous group. There are people in my network who I actively talk with everyday, some I talk with regularly, and some who I just follow and they probably have no idea how much value I gain from them. I’m as much an active user of social media as I am a lurker (by the way, I really hate that word. It’s so surreptitious.)

My day to day practice has improved because of the people I know. Regardless if they practice what they preach, I can practice what I learn. I use social media to help me work things out, express my thoughts and do my thinking as I’m writing. I very rarely write things with a fully formed outcome. And the best part of all this is that I can rely on my PLN to help make me better.

Technology, learning and adoption

While at the CIPD Leaders in Learning event this week, Andy Lancaster shared some helpful insights about the role of technology in learning today. He first described how at the CIPD they’re bringing more of a focus to being a knowledge content provider as well as helping deliver qualifications to HR and L&D professionals. This was really welcome news on my part. The CIPD are a trusted organisation and for them to now be looking at how they can provide knowledge content for professionals is only a good thing. It signals an understanding about how content is used by people and not everyone needs to complete a course in order to understand things better.

The second helpful share was via Jane Hart. Jane regularly asks learning professionals what their go to choices are for learning technologies. She’s currently compiling the 2016 list. From previous years, the top ten tend to include Twitter, YouTube, Google, WordPress, Evernote and Google Drive.

From this you can see that in that top list are some familiar names like Twitter and YouTube. And it got me wondering about how they’ve been pretty consistently there for a number of years. In fact it got me thinking about the adoption curve.

We’re probably at a stage now with social networks like Twitter and YouTube where the late majority are ready to pick up those tools and start using them for their own learning and professional development. Actually we’re probably at a stage where the early majority are ready to start embracing digital technologies to provide learning through additional means.

I think this is helpful because I also see that in the networks I’m connected with there can be a lot of frustration about L&D not stepping forward and becoming modern learning practitioners. The other day I saw someone tweeting about a new group video streaming app and asking if anyone is using it in L&D. It made me think – most people are just about getting used to using Twitter as a way of connecting, for professional networking and for personal learning and development let alone a group video streaming app.

Sometimes in L&D we can be too restless. 

Yes, the world of digital consumer behaviour is moving at pace, and that means apps and websites that were once widely used slowly get overtaken by others. But, just because there are new players coming onto the scene, doesn’t make the older tools redundant or less relevant. It takes time for people to adopt new behaviours and more so when it comes to technology. We know this as L&D professionals and yet can be so disconnected from the workforce that we leave them behind in our drive to be forward thinking learning practitioners.

One of the biggest challenges we face in organisations today is helping people be digitally inclusive and digitally literate. Too many people still shy away from actively using technology to help them be better at their job. It would serve us well in L&D to remind ourselves that everyone is on a journey, and just because they may not be moving at the pace of some doesn’t mean that those at the front are better and it doesn’t mean those behind are missing anything immediately relevant.