Last week at the Learning Technologies conference, I was glad to have chaired sessions with Harold Jarche and John Stepper. Both are well known in the field of L&D, particularly via social media. I’ve followed both their works for some time and it was helpful to hear about their work from themselves. If you’re not familiar, Harold often writes about Personal Knowledge Mastery and John about Working Out Loud.
Harold talked about how the connected world can create serendipitous outcomes that we may not have not known about before, and that there may be a way to cultivate those connections which helps us achieve the outcomes we seek. He explained that the ease with which we can connect to individuals from across the world creates a natural network of people we may never have known were great to be connected to.
I can attest to that. I’m connected with people in other countries because of my blog and Twitter who I wouldn’t know otherwise. They help me understand not just cultural differences, but also how the world of L&D looks and feels in other countries. That’s a kind of knowledge I can’t google or see if Wikipedia has an answer for.
Harold said that it’s through open knowledge sharing platforms like blogs and social media that opens us up to being connected with like minded people. That’s a boon as much as it’s a challenge, as it means the same opportunities are available to those with bad intentions/motivations as those who want to do good in the world in various ways. Through blogging – and now through other means like podcasts and vlogging, we can write expressively and explore topics of interest. This reflection and exploration method is helpful to becoming better learners ourselves. It helps because we refine our thinking by committing to sharing and articulating what we think. It’s a critical thinking process as much as it is to share and reflect.
He also described how forming communities of practise can help to strengthen those types of knowledge that you didn’t know you needed to strengthen. He gave the example of knitting. There are thousands of videos of people showing their knit work, and this is a highly valued community of practise who unknowingly created it! It also shows that through very accessible methods, we can bring people together to share their learning, support one another and build their practise.
In an organisation, that can and does happen around things like project management, presentation skills, and coaching skills. If there are individuals trained in those respective skills, providing a forum for them to come together, to discuss what they know, what they experience, what they learn they learn and what they want to know more about is a highly valued form of learning and highly relevant to the individual and their performance at work.
In his talk, John took some elements of Harold’s talk and expanded on them by talking about a concept he developed called ‘working out loud circles’. Using this approach, individuals can come together, in a supportive group, complete established weekly tasks, and be on the path to succeeding their goals after a 12 week period.
It’s an interesting approach as it puts the onus of completion and participation firmly in the hands of the individual and does not need or require direct involvement from line managers or L&D or other formal structures.
He has made the methodology completely open to use for anyone on his website. I appreciate that approach as it means he’s less interested in licensing and charging for usage around his technique, and more interested in people taking charge of their own learning and goal achievement.
I didn’t know before the session that forming circles requires about 4-5 people, and that they can be any group of people – they don’t have to all be from your function or line of work or any other common factor. In fact he encourages the more diverse a group the better for dynamics and the variety of support you can gain.
Some of the elements we might think we know around working out loud, such as blogging, and sharing our work with others in open and transparent ways, for John are important activities in themselves, and part of the circles methodology.
I haven’t fully thought through how I might myself use the above insights and I hope this is useful sharing. I’m interested to know what it makes you reflect on and what it gets you thinking.