How Alexa could solve the isolation problem

I was in a meeting this week and we were discussing how digital technology is enabling lots of innovation to take place.

In particular, I got to thinking about how connected technology, like Amazon’s Echo, can enable people who aren’t digitally savvy to be connected with service providers, and never having to worry that they’re not digitally connected as we might think they need to be. This is nothing more than a thought experiment – but one that could have legs if someone picked it up (and if someone does, the kudos being passed my way would be appreciated). (Also, I may have missed that some of this is either already in play, or is being developed)

One of the ongoing challenges with our connected world is that if you’re not connected, you miss out on a lot of advancements and improvements to the world of consumer and customer services.

A societal challenge we face is there are many people who are isolated from others. That’s due to a number of factors, and it’s also one of the hardest to know how to resolve.

At some level, some people argue – we just need to be more humane. And yes, that’s a response, and I think the answers will need to be multi-faceted. Some people will want to do the person to person knocking on the door thing. Some people will want to provide at food shelters, and food banks, and shelters and all sorts. We absolutely need those souls, because they help us know what humanity is like when people are facing their hardest times.

I’m thinking, how do we use the connected technology available for an older person to be less isolated. And here’s where I think things can take a dramatic turn.

Mrs Miggins lives by herself. She’s fairly self sufficient for a 70 year old. She’s physically able, and isn’t suffering any serious health issues. She has a pension helping her to get by week by week. Sadly, though, she’s fairly isolated. She lives in a block of flats and her children have passed away. She has no siblings and other relatives lost contact with her. Her neighbours are regularly changing so she’s not built any real connections. She goes to church once a month. Recently, her housing provider installed WiFi in her home, and gave her an Amazon Echo device. This is what started happening next.

A week after the installation, she went to turn on the hot water, and it was coming out cold. After a couple of hours of trying, she walked into her living room cursing a bit louder than she normally does. Alexa recognised the distress in her voice and said “Is there something I can help with?”. Mrs Miggins was told this might happen, and she responded “My hot water isn’t working.” Alexa replied, “Shall I contact the housing provider and inform them?” Mrs Miggins responds, “Erm, yes.”

An hour later, her phone rings. It’s the repairs team at her housing provider. “Hello Mrs Miggins, we’ve had an alert to let us know that your hot water isn’t working. Shall we get someone to come and look at that for you? We could be there this evening about 6pm?”.

Mrs Miggins didn’t have to log on to anything, she didn’t have to remember her details, she didn’t have to ring anyone, and she didn’t have to find the contact details for her housing provider. The connected system made it happen for her.

Here’s another thing that happened.

She was sitting in her living room watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, and she said aloud “I miss talking to someone”. Alexa heard and responded, “Shall I ring someone you can talk to?”. Mrs Miggins responded, “Erm, yes.” An hour later, she had a call from Timothy from the social support team from her local authority. “Hello Mrs Miggins, I’ve had an alert to get in touch and say hello. My name’s Timothy, how are you?” And they had a phone chat for 20 mins. It helped her feel better and she had a good nights sleep.

She didn’t have to pick up the phone and remember how to use it to dial someone. She didn’t have to go through her diary to find a phone number. She didn’t have to do a mental task of remembering who she wanted to and could talk to. The connected system made it happen for her.

Here’s another thing that happened.

Mrs Miggins was doing the hoover and she remembered she needed to do the shopping. But it was late in the afternoon and it was getting dark and she didn’t like to go out at night on her own. She said to Alexa, “Alexa, can you help me with my shoppping?”. Alexa replied, “Yes, Mrs Miggins. Just tell me the list of food you want and I’ll place the order for you.” An hour later, she had a knock at the door. It was her food being delivered for her. She thanked the nice gentleman who delivered it for her, and he left some information about local support groups for senior people.

She didn’t have to go out at night on her own. She felt safe in her own home. She understood Alexa could enable her to fulfil her shopping need. She didn’t have to worry about cash. She didn’t have to use a website. The connected system made it happen  for her.

If we could make this kind of thing happen, we’d be much further along that multi-faceted approach to solving the isolation problem in society.

Thoughts on the apprenticeship levy

This piece is written for those who have the responsibility to make sure they use their apprenticeship levy. I’ll make this clear up front – these are my thoughts only and do not in any way reflect those of my employer.

If you’re unclear what the apprenticeship levy is about, the government guidance on what it’s for and the details that surround are really rather good.

I’ve just completed writing a paper for our senior leaders on how I think we’re going to make best use of it. I’m not sharing that here, I’m sharing more about my thoughts on how the apprenticeship levy is going to be best used.

First, I’ll admit to having a hard time not seeing the apprenticeship levy as anything other than a major ballache. It’s an administrative and bureaucratic nightmare which is almost more prohibitive than it is helpful and useful. It took me a while to get properly tuned in to what the levy is meant to be helping with.

The government are telling us it’s to encourage the development of more apprenticeships across the UK. Yep, I get that. There are numerous standards meeting a complete range of ‘skills’ which UK business are saying are needed. Ok, I’m with it.

There are some organisations I know who are choosing to just pay the levy and not worry about it any further. Yeah that’s right – they just can’t be bothered trying to administer it and make best use of it because of the resource requirement to do it. I don’t blame them. At One Housing, our levy charge is fairly significant so that’s not an option for us.

There are other organisations who are seriously large and have the resources available to become their own training provider and administer the levy themselves. All power to them. We’re not that large – and most organisations paying the levy aren’t that large – that we can do that.

So how can you make best use of the levy, if you’re in the majority paying it and wanting to try and make best use of it?

24 months

Well, the first thing I’d suggest is that there’s no rush to have to act with urgency. The monthly deductions are held in your digital account for 24 months. Each month you don’t access it, it accumulates. That actually creates a stronger position to use it a bit further down the line if you need time to create a utilisation strategy.

Just make sure that if you do have a plan to use it is used in that period, or each successive month’s payment that you don’t use defaults as a payment to HMRC.

Year 1

I’m taking the approach that Year 1 will be a huge badass big and bold experiment. I have no idea if our plan for utilisation is going to work. So I’m making it clear to everyone in the organisation that Year 1 is a good period of time to figure things out and gather a lot of useful evidence about our plan.

From here, I’ll be able to do a healthy review of our plan and make some purposeful and stronger decisions on how we continue to utilise the levy from Year 2 onwards.

Training Provider / College

The way the standards are designed, you have no choice but to use an approved training provider / college to deliver the training. Find someone who really understands the details of the levy and its implementation. Implementation is key to making it work, and partnering with the right training provider will be essential to making it a success.

Also, as a completely separate thought, the apprenticeship levy will create a massive boon for training providers / colleges across the UK. For the organisations who choose to utilise the levy, it creates a sudden and interested group of companies who will be willingly knocking on the doors of approved providers – that’s a pretty strong position to be in.

Alternatives

Don’t forget that the standards aren’t just about employing traditional apprentices. It’s also about upskilling current staff using the standards. It’s a healthy way to invest in existing staff and ties in very nicely to those concerned about all things engagement and retention of staff.

And you could use it as a recruitment strategy too. You could hire someone at a junior level, train them via the standard, and at the end of their training they get the original role and an increase in salary. That’s a win all round.

That damned 20%

This is the part of the levy which will cause the most pain. How can you best support people not being in the office for 20% of their time? I have no easy answer to this, and will be highly contextual dependent on the standard sought, the management of that person’s work, how the team understand what’s going on, and support to complete their training as required.

It’s also effectively reinforcing the very traditional format of classroom based training. There is absolutely scope here for training providers and colleges to get really modern and smart about the delivery of the standards. If different versions of the following could be implemented, it makes that 20% much more palatable:

  • dedicated e-learning for skills development – followed up with application of learning
  • on the job training that matches skills learned with skills required for the standard
  • work based projects that could replace elements of the standard and achieve the same outcomes

Like I say, though, the standards are pretty well defined, and that means training providers/colleges will be mostly seeking to just fulfil the standards and not really thinking about modern learning methodology or how learning technologies can play a part.

That’s where I’m at for now. I’m on-side with the levy, but honestly only because I have to be because we don’t have a choice about making the payments.

Using psychology when designing L&D solutions

I’ve been spending some time over the last couple of weeks writing about the use of psychology in L&D. My first piece was about concerns I had in how many L&Ders use pop psychology when delivering learning solutions without any real depth of applied thinking or exploration of theory. Last week’s piece was about how we can use insights from psychology to create strong and safe delivery of learning solutions (be they digitally led or face to face). It’s been fun writing this short series.

So I guess one of the areas to help share further insights on are around the design of learning solutions. What can we learn from psychology about designing effective learning solutions?

I think there’s a number of things we can draw on and some you may be familiar with, others you may do already, and some may be different to what you expect. And if you’re an L&Der who still believes that’s using learning styles or similar in the design of learning solutions is effective you definitely need to read on for better methods.

Memory

People (in the main) have terrible memories. They mix up facts, dates, names and all sorts. You can learn to do that stuff better, but even then what you learn by rote one day will be forgotten pretty soon after. There are several things to bear in mind when designing learning solutions and remembering that memory isn’t reliable.

Use storytelling techniques to relay important messages. People will recall a story far easier than they will the facts. Don’t laden learning solutions with policy’s or legislation or anything like that because most people won’t recall it and most people don’t care. They just want to know why it makes a difference for them in the job they do.
Where you have key messages, keep them short and simple. And don’t forget the golden rule of repetition. If it’s an important message people need to hear it several times over in order for them to recall it. This is why politicians are so successful at creating narratives and why you see the same advert over and again over several months.

If you need people to recall facts, unless you’re really testing their memory recall skills, keep them to no more than 5 points.

Priming 

I think priming is one of the best understood methodologies when it comes to learning solution design. The idea is that you can help people be better learners if you give them specific tasks to do before they do the learning event. For example, ahead of a workshop get people to watch a video, complete some self-reflection, or a worksheet. It’s a great way to build the right connections needed for learning to occur. Of course there are always people who won’t complete the work in advance and there’s no easy answer to resolve that!

And if you’ve read some of the work on priming you’ll be aware in L&D we don’t actually use priming. We use a form of it.

Empathy

One of the key things we’ve learned in psychology is that people appreciate learning about others and creating connections with them. In the learning environment this means respecting that need and designing different ways for people to interact and have those conversations.

Instructional Design

There’s a whole world of work being regularly explored when it comes to digital solutions. In particular, how do people use digital tools for learning purposes? What we’re learning is that how you use e-learning is different to how you use a YouTube video to how you use a one page guide. They all offer different ways for you to access content and information.

What we’re learning about in this context is how to organise that information so people are most receptive to it. If it’s e-learning, you can design really great e-learning when the flow of information between screens makes sense, it’s based on real world application, and is easy to understand. 

If it’s creating a video or using pics we know that you can use the rule of thirds (not an insight from psychology at all but a good thing to know).

If you’re creating a one page guide, make the content based on performance improvement and nothing else. Sports players don’t have pages of information about psychology theory to help them play better in the moment. They have specific things they do that help them in the moment. They can do that well because they’ve done the other work in a  different context.

Inclusion

Representation matters in learning. If the learning context and content is not representative, it’s easy for people to dismiss the importance of what they’re learning. If a department is given greater prominence or a stereotype reinforced or a myths about people exacerbated, people will not choose to engage with the content. 

Emotions

It’s very possible to engage people into learning by designing in exercises that involve them emotionally. For example, in presentation skills training, asking people to deliver a presentation on something they’re proud of is potent stuff. It taps into their sense of worth, pride and identity. That’s a powerful source of content. Similarly on leadership training, asking people to plan a difficult conversation is full of emotion too. The experience of anxiety, fear of saying the wrong thing, guilty for delivering the message. It’s all valuable information to the individual and helps them prepare for the actual experience. 

I’ve not mentioned many other principles or insights, mostly because there’s too many to mention! Instead I hope to have provided an idea of the richness for design we can create in L&D when we take the time to understand various things from psychology particularly well.

The application of psychology in L&D

I remember years ago when studying for my psychology degree that people used to say to me – “I better be careful what I say around you now!”, or “I don’t want to be psycho-analysed by you, Sukh!” I mean I had a cursory understanding of psychology and the insights it provides to understanding the human condition, but sure I was going to analyse everyone I met with my huge understanding of psychology – and for what purpose I’m not even sure. Wait, does that mean people though I’d manipulate them? I can’t even manipulate my diary to meet people on time and yet people think I can wield the dark arts of psychology to manipulate them to perform my whims. I *wish* I had that kind of power.

Years down the line, and I think I’m in a better personal position to be able to understand how psychology can be used to help L&D be better. Last week, I wrote about how we need to be careful that we don’t just get into pop psychology as many L&Ders are prone to do. Today I want to share how I use insights from psychology to help me be a better L&D pro.

Learning is a nuanced process. Some think it’s as easy as sitting someone down, talking at them, them studying and then answering some questions. Even L&Ders think that’s how learning happens. And I’m not even talking about learning cycles, styles or personality theories and the implications to learning. There are some fundamentals from psychology that help us know how to enable learning to happen well.

Safety is an important factor when learning occurs. If we accept that learning is about accepting a vulnerability in ourselves and needing to learn skills to lessen that vulnerability, we have to also accept that the psychological safety of the individual is protected and encouraged. What I mean by that is the individual has to feel they’re with someone who can appreciate their position, and provide an environment where they are supported to learn well, share their insights, discuss and debate, and reflect on what they’re learning. That’s quite a big cognitive load and as L&Ders we need to be skilled at creating these safe environments for learning.

Respect for individuals runs much deeper than the cursory ‘I won’t be offensive as a facilitator/trainer’. People want to be respected for who they are and for what they contribute. At a conference a couple of years back a presenter asked the audience a question, and when they gave their answer, he told them they were wrong and gave them the answer he wanted to hear. That’s not respecting people for who they are at all, no matter how flippantly it was done or how much humour might have been intended. You can encourage people to contribute wholly and with compassion and empathy and allow themselves to fully explore a topic. That’s more than asking “tell me what you think”. It’s about hearing what someone has to say, engaging with their comment fully and entering into a dialogue one on one. Which is less about sticking to learning objectives and very much about appreciating people for who they are. People want to be acknowledged and validated for what they contribute. They’re bringing their identity with them in learning situations. What they learn can either help them be better or challenge them to learn more. It can impact on their identity and how they interact with others.

Encouragement is vital in learning. People want to know they are valued for what they contribute. It’s about development and being appreciated for offering something to the conversation. This isn’t about coddling, it’s about helping others feel appreciated. If they don’t, how can we expect people to maintain a positive state for learning? How can we expect them to be motivated to continue if we don’t encourage and help people on their development? As adults, we are far more nuanced at understanding genuine praise and appreciation than when we’re younger. It’s also that much more rare. We tend to only hear praise and appreciation from loved ones or from friends. The more opportunities we can present people with this in the learning environment gives them that much more natural reason to be in the state they need to learn.

The social element to learning is one of the most fundamental and basic aspects of learning environments. People are inherently social creatures. There are very few individuals who would willingly choose to not interact with other humans. Countless studies and research has shown time and again that people will naturally form groups, connections, and networks. The learning environment has to design this in to the process for adults. By the time we reach adulthood, we’re hard-wired to talk to others. We’ve learned the etiquette to do it, and probably need to learn a new way to communicate when it comes to development of learning. When you ask most people in a learning situation they’ll either respond with everything they’re thinking, or be struck by the question because they don’t get it asked often enough. That process of conversation and socialising is therefore vital. And is why so many people comment so often that one of the best things they find about learning events is that they have the opportunity to talk with others and learn about them and the work they do.

The other piece of being adults and learning as adults is that we have to have an avenue where we can debate things ourselves. There has to be a process of self-discovery, reflection, sharing of thoughts and insights, and of development of thinking. It’s part of the adult learning process. We need guidance for those things to happen well, though. Sure we can get on and discuss things when asked to, but we’re better at having purposeful discussion when given clarity on what to discuss. Many times I’ve had to stop delivering a piece of content and let the group reflect on what they’ve just heard.

The last thing I’ll mention is something we probably haven’t understood well enough with respect to learning environments, and that’s around active inclusion and diversity. There are many forums and places where prejudice, bias and judgement take place. I’ve seen and heard many L&Ders do exactly that with a group of people, believing they were being either insightful or amusing. It’s neither – they’re just being offensive, and people normally don’t know how to respond to such things. As L&Ders, it is vital we provide safety for people to be able to express themselves with respect to their identity and for that to be heard amongst others. That can be hard. We don’t always want to accept others. We don’t always want to tolerate difference, especially if it’s in front of us. We don’t always want to be challenged in our thinking, and certainly not amongst a group of people in front of whom you don’t know if you can be so vulnerable. But when we do, and when we create such safety that people can be themselves and conduct themselves in their best way, that’s when we cherish and appreciate difference actively.

There’s quite a lot above. It’s a long piece for sure. Take your time. Read it again maybe. And when you’re ready, comment and let’s get into it.

Psychology and L&D

In L&D, we’re often faced with having to deliver pieces of content which are based on some understanding of the human condition. The content we get asked to deliver ranges from how to give feedback well, to how to deliver a presentation, to how to negotiate better, build positive relationships, assertiveness, coaching, etc. And we’re often squeezed with the time we’re asked to do these things in too. I re-read this piece from Jo Stephenson this week about the learnings we can take from psychology and how they apply to L&D.

We have to play at being faux-psychologists, and at best (for most L&D types) armchair psychologists. Forget that actual psychologists train for years, develop honed practise, really understand the human psyche and its manifestations, and the many different techniques it takes to support and enable a person to be better.

I studied psychology. It’s been nearly 18 years since I graduated. The world of psychology in that time has moved on leaps and bounds. Much of it has passed me by completely. I can only pay attention to those areas where I have an interest. And for readers of this blog, you’ll know that’s the realm of positive psychology and emotional intelligence. I couldn’t tell you anything substantial about advances in cognitive psychology, therapeutic psychology, educational psychology, counselling psychology, or even my professed expertise in occupational psychology.

Of course, we’re all capable of insight and reflection on the human condition. Many people blog and write about the topics as related to any number of fields. But as L&Ders, it feels to me that there can be a lack of rigour in our thinking and in our practise when it comes to delivering content which is meant to be against sound psychological principles. I mean we’re still dealing with people talking about the ‘percentages of body language’. And L&D types who won’t let go of designing learning solutions or delivering learning solutions with ‘Learning Styles’ even though it’s been proven time and again to be completely ineffectual to the learning process.

There are modern insights and learnings, and not just from psychology, but many other avenues of thinking and insight. And there are questions, big questions that most L&D types aren’t considering – even though we should. AI/machine learning has the ability to fundamentally change the way we live, what does this mean for the learning process, and the learning solutions we think we have to provide? Global and national politics are challenging the established norms we’ve been accustomed to for the last 20 odd years. How will that change the motivation for learning that people come with? There continue to be challenges with inclusion, diversity and acceptance of difference in society. How will that impact on the biases and prejudices we’re having to deal with when we interact with people and help them learn new skills?

There are no easy answers to these questions – and there shouldn’t be. But these questions will inform about behaviour, attitudes and knowledge that we as L&Ders have to understand and respect.

Importantly, we can’t just develop quickfire bites of content that we think will be valuable to our learners. People need time to assimilate and reflect and develop their insight. As L&Ders we can’t (and shouldn’t) think that by throwing a simple solution at our learners that we’re suddenly helping them be better people or create better learning solutions for themselves. They’re often dealing with quite specific things. Generic models, common theories and commonly used content is quite often hoping that the jelly will stick to the wall. If we’re going to deliver insights from respective fields (not just psychology) let’s develop better rigour and insight ourselves so that we do justice to both the content and give our learners the respect of their time and will to learn something of value.

Gaps and spaces – lessons from driving

Years ago, I worked for a training consultancy and driving to different sites was part of the job. Because of this commitment, the company provided driving lessons to enable us to be better and smarter drivers so there’d be less likelihood of accidents. I remember talking to my instructor about the training he delivered and he’d tell me how he had trained security services and bodyguards to do things like driving at speed, driving to escape a dangerous situation, that kind of thing, so I felt confident I was going to learn some useful things.

Surprisingly, one of the things he talked about was to watch the body language of the cars around me. As a trainer at the time, this was of particular interest to me, and it still stays with me today. Each driver drives their car in a particular way. It’s about noticing if a car is doing something it shouldn’t be, and if you should be worried about it. I was becoming more attuned to this with the groups I was working with, so this resonated with me. If I can notice something is amiss, I can either take action to control for it, or direct it, or seek to do something different. When driving, I seek to notice what other drivers are doing, what their body language is, and how I can be a better driver for noticing those things.

I think the biggest lesson he taught me was for motorway driving. He said to me that the safest way to drive on the motorway was to look for gaps when I needed to move lanes, and make sure I kept space. The gaps thing made immediate and apparent sense to me. It’s especially key when merging on to the motorway and looking for big lorries. If there are lorries driving at speed, and you can see several in the slow lane that you need to join, the best thing you can do is to look for where the safe space is to join and adjust your speed accordingly. The same applies when changing lane. Check to see what the other cars are doing – notice their body language – and make sure the gap you want to move into is a safe one for all. And the spaces thing was also immediately obvious and impactful. If you keep a safe distance, then you give yourself more time to think if you need to act quickly. If you’re driving behind someone and keeping close to the rear of their car, your reaction time is negatively affected that much more, and you’re more than likely to have an accident.

The last thing I remember was about the relative speed I would drive at and the distance I need to travel. He gave the example of driving 100 miles. If I drive at the speed limit (70mph in the UK), I’ll reach my destination in 1 hr 25 mins. If I drive at 80 mph (which most people like to do on the motorway), I’ll arrive in 1 hr 15 mins. That difference of 10 mins is often negligible for most driving purposes. Apply that to much shorter distances, and you realise those 10 mins become like 2-5 min differences at best – it’s almost not worth the extra speed. And of course, driving at 70 mph often results in better car performance.

This was one of those times where I learned that the things that can be helpful in life, are sometimes boring lessons that we’d really rather not bother with. Like dieting. We know that for most physical health benefits a balanced diet of food is the better option. Most of us choose not to follow that kind of advice and instead go for extreme things like ‘dry January’ to get over the glut of Christmas.

And I’m sure there are parallels to what I’ve written above to organisational life, but sometimes lessons for driving can be just left to be better and safer drivers.

How can we help others develop strong learning practice? 

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.