Author: Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development in the workforce. One blog is about that. The other is about tennis.

EQ in 2015

There’s a growing world of information and knowledge around how to improve leadership. It’s almost overwhelming. And at the same time, it’s hard to know what’s got legs, what’s just a fad and what’s snake oil.

I’ve been interested in the topic of emotional intelligence for a long time now. In the early days it felt like a fresh new perspective on what drives people. Dan Pink, around the same time, was talking about autonomy, mastery and purpose. Independent psychology consultancies were developing their own tools. Salovey Mayer and Baron were some of the names leading the way. A consortium arose wanting to provide rigour and force behind studying the topic.

Daniel Goleman has a lot to answer for. It’s widely acknowledged now that he didn’t start this type of thinking, but he certainly did give it a big push. Well done that man.

I remember back in 2007 (not that long ago now) first hearing of the work of Paul Ekman and microexpressions. I was captivated and hungry to know more. Malcolm Gladwell wrote Blink around then and was writing about Facial Action Coding Systems.

And today there seems to be a big focus for reflection. Some call it mindfulness, some call it reflective practise, some call it tree-hugging nonsense. There is a place for this. Reflection is supportive of raising self-awareness. It is supportive of understanding your own emotions and thoughts better. It is supportive of examining and analysing personal approaches to life and to work.

The final piece, which seems to be more supportive than it is revelatory, is how we understand neuroscience and its part in developing understanding of the human condition. Technology is allowing us to really start to explore the brain well and understand how behaviours function and how chemical reactions change the way we behave. There is fascinating information coming forward but we’re at proper early doors with this understanding.

There’s a lot out there just on the topic of EI to get lost in. A lot of people claiming to have the right answer and advocating a certain way of being. In an age of information being available readily, it’s harder to be seen as a leader in the field.

On Friday 20th March, I’m going to be attending the EQ Summit in London. It’s being hosted by Roche Martin with Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Business School. They’ve got the likes of Harvard Business Review curating the event for them and Dan Pink delivering a keynote and panel session. I’ve been invited to blog at the event and I’m totally there.

I’m not expecting big answers from the day. That’s too much of an ask, and it’s unlikely to happen. I am expecting to hear some clear thoughts on how the field of EI has developed into a thing to be taken seriously. I don’t really care about how it’s helped the executives of a big corporate beast to deliver more financial performance. I really want to hear some further things on how EI is helping us understand the human condition.

*For clarity, emotional intelligence is often given the abbreviation EQ as well as EI. This was an effort to liken it to IQ – intelligence quotient.

Time to think, busy-ness and creativity

I find creative thinking and creativity to be a seriously interesting set of things to be thoughtful about. Being creative isn’t easy, and often it’s fraught with challenges about gettings things done. I like exploring in myself how creative I can be and what creativity looks like for me. In that self-learning I gain insight into my own workings and use this to see what I can design for others.

In that design of helping others to learn things, I’m mindful of an array of tools and techniques at my disposal. I’m also highly mindful of adult learning processes. We’re all busy people these days. Gone are the days January could be a quiet ease back into work, every day is at pace.

With a group of senior managers I worked with them on developing their problem solving and creative thinking skills. Back to that thing of adult learning processes and in the design of the session what I focused on was the outcomes and usable tools.

In problem solving we talked about how to use lean thinking, SWOT analysis, PESTLE analysis, trial and error, the use of technology, using Five Why’s and root cause analysis.

We also spent a lot of time talking about how we allow for mistakes to be made and how we show to our teams it’s ok to own the mistakes when they happen and together solutions can be created.

Unsurprisingly, we talked about brainstorming, we talked about how to use post-its for idea generation, we did mind-mapping, we had a chat and we went for a walk.

Now, those last two are what interest me. We had a chat. Actually we had dialogue. Views were challenged, thoughts were expressed, and ideas were generated. It was free-flow, I kept a close eye on time, and when it drifted I brought the discussion back into focus. It was fascinating to watch it unfold, and to see how the group responded.

And we went for a walk. I explicitly gave people instruction to not talk to one another as we walked and to just take notice of things as we walked. I took the idea of Street Wisdom and played with it. I didn’t label it as anything, just that we would go do this, and we’d then talk about our observations.

There was some big learning for me in all we did yesterday. Prime of these is that I’m reall railing against PPT as an aid for delivery of content. I just don’t see the point of it anymore. Learners don’t need to see a well designed slide deck, they need a good learning experience with relevant content. Does that come from a slide deck or from the prep I do to be present with them?

As I’ve been advocating tools and techniques for much of my L&D career, I’m also now advocating the ability to talk well with groups. I have a fundamental belief in using the wisdom of the crowd to create learnings and useful outputs. Where that gets stuck I can intervene with things I think might help. Where it’s working well, I see no need to do anything further in terms of content.

Giving people that time to think and to connect with each other in the room seems to be a regularly sought after experience. Not to connect around things like work flows and projects, but to share thoughts, experiences and develop insights. I pay careful attention to how I develop this as a facilitation skill, and what that experience means for the people I’m with.

Finally, a thought on creative thinking tools. As useful as they are to help people generate ideas, insights and solutions, that’s just not how ideas happen for people. These things happen when people are in a series of circumstances that support their ability to develop something different and unique. The adage goes “necessity is the mother of invention”. That doesn’t happen with a set of tools. It probably won’t happen in a classroom environment either.

Dialogue, though. Now that can happen anywhere.

Questions about digital literacy at work

Whose responsibility is it to teach digital literacy at work?

Do we need our workforce to be digitally literate?

How does digital literacy enable our people to be more effective?

Who decides the standards for digital literacy?

Is digital literacy the next step to social inclusion?

Is digital literacy more of a competency for some businesses than others?

What technologies are we talking about when we say you need to be digitally literate?

If L&D are producing learning solutions which are technology based, is it their responsibility to develop digital literacy skills?

If the systems for work need upgrading to new systems, is that digital literacy or not?

If the organisation is using internal or enterprise social networks, is that exclusive to those who know how to use those networks?

If the Exec Team aren’t using digital technologies, are they showing poor leadership?

If the organisation isn’t using social media, are they digitally redundant? Or digitally illiterate?

If someone hasn’t had to use any form of digital technology for their job for 30 years, why do they need to start now?

How do we teach people to be digitally responsible?

If the organisation develops an app for its customers, are they excluding everyone who doesn’t have access to the app?

So. Many. Questions.

The State of L&D

It was good fun chairing at the Learning Technologies and Skills Conference last week. When you have good speakers, chairing is fun. Thanks to Andrew Jacobs, Garry Hearn and David Gelles for doing a good job of sharing your thoughts and your chosen topics.

I’ve been thinking about what I was listening to, and also of other events I’ve been at in recent months. And I’ve been attuned to what’s happening in different conversations online. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of people willing to express their opinion.

It seems to me there are some common things L&D as a profession is agreeing on and they get talked about in different ways.

We need to be aligned to the business. More and more I’m hearing about how to do this well and how in doing so we present our value to the powers that be. When we understand how to do this, are business partnering effectively, and are being consultative in our approach is when we get it right. That means we deliver better learning solutions, we develop our knowledge and we develop our skills.

The importance of technology enabled learning is really coming to the fore. Vendors and the likes are getting really smart at how to provide technology based learning solutions. There’s no shortage of them for sure and there’s no stopping the creative thinking going into them. These days that could be e-learning content, video learning, podcasts, e-books and a whole lot more. It’s there, readily available – and if you’re brave enough you can do it all yourself.

The concept of 70:20:10 as a useful framework for developing a blend of learning solutions is really coming into its own. A lot of practitioners are considering not just producing face to face sessions or just e-learning courseware, but increasingly how to include work based learning solutions through peer based models of learning. That’s pretty exciting and means we help people be their best through learning in ways that make sense to them.

The use of social technologies as practitioners is becoming more important. Too many times do we see and hear about professionals shunning social media and too many times do we end up trying to convince others. These things have a natural penetration point. People aren’t on social media? Fine. They’ll get there eventually. In the meantime just get on and enjoy your time and experience of being there.

On that same point, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the concept of IP in learning is becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to. Developed a learning solution that’s awesome? Fab. Make as much money as you can from it cos soon enough someone will develop something better. Collaboration is the currency of the future. That’s when awesome things happen.

I also see more people understanding the importance of concepts like emotional intelligence and mindfulness as a way of developing their self awareness and understanding of how they impact others. That’s only good stuff and it’s really encouraging how people are talking about these things.

Some things I’d like to see less of?

Vendors selling their kit. Find partners to collaborate with, build effective communication strategies and a reason for people to talk about you.

The peddling of solutions which are rubbish. I moved my e-learning provider because they just weren’t delivering value for money. They had a solution which was pants and I had to cut them off and find a better provider. (I did)

We’re still not seeing enough people tackle issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In a world where multiculturalism and flexible working are fast becoming the norm, we need to work harder at the opportunities people are afforded, the way we seek to include them and the fairness people experience.

I want to personally see less Big Brother on the telly box, but you know, that’s me.

I’d like to see less reliance on the need for models to explain theories. Yes, I’ve used them and continue to do so too, but also I want L&Ders learn more about dialogic processes. How do we cultivate generative thinking? That’s hard and at the same time much needed.

I really want practitioners to let go of outdated thinking like the Mehrabian myth, learning styles and investigate better what we know about things like body language and how adults learn.

What is Achievement?

I’m reading more from that wise man, Martin Seligman and his book Flourish.

He talks about achievement, and what are the components of it?

He says there is an equation which helps us think about this:

achievement = skill x effort

Which gets those cogs turning again.

He says skill is the result of a number of factors. Firstly, how well do we know a task to become skilled at it? If I’m to achieve well, I need to be able to perform that task to a high degree. Clearly practise, then, is a vital part of skill. It’s not enough to just have talent, you need to keep doing it, under different circumstances, with different parameters and the such like, all of which get you honing and crafting.

When you’re good at that skill, and it becomes a set of automatic responses, this forms one part of that skill development. But what happens when you need to learn new information which is important to that skill?

That’s when our executive functioning part of the brain kicks in and slows things down for us. We start to fumble and make mistakes. We learn and we adapt. But the process is slow. It requires thinking. Different from a finely crafted skill to be automatic, this element is about what we don’t know and require that time to think through to action.

The effort we make in achieving a task is an interesting piece. Research from Seligman and his team shows that when you account for things like IQ, and other demographic data, what matters in achievement is self discipline and perserverance.

With self discipline they found that when you are able to delay gratification to the completion of a task, you enable focus and determination to do it too. Having the ability to focus on a task is now a well understood form of skill development, and people who are able to maintain that focus fare better than others.

Linked closely to this is perserverance. How much do you want to achieve this thing? If you have the right motivation, you will work doggedly at making it happen. If you are skilled at that task and can achieve it well, you build that motivation to achieve even more. The staying with power of doing something is key here. When the thing becomes difficult or challenging or something more exciting presents itself, do we persist in achieving that task or turn our attentions elsewhere?

Which gets me thinking about the world of work and how we build an expectation for achievement. If achievement is a result of the above, how are we designing work to enable this to happen? How are we educating managers to help them understand this as a core part of people development? How are we recognising and rewarding people to help them craft their skills and find reasons to persevere?

And when you put numbers to the equation, it adds to the weight of the equation. If skill or effort = 0, regardless of the value of the other, nothing will be achieved.

achievement = skill x effort

Technology enabled learning?

This blog post is a good example of how I make sense of the world outside of my brain. I’ve got a starting point, where it ends I have no clue.

I get caught up in rhetoric all the time. I’m easily led by the force of someone’s argument when it chimes with my own line of thinking. If someone has something to say, and I like it, and I like how they say it, that’s it, I’m there. I’ll defend them and their point of view because I agree with it.

And so I find it easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of the use of technology to enable learning and act as a performance support. I’m all over that shizzle. Online collaboration tools to allow groups to develop ideas and projects? Perfect. Give people free licence to create their own courseware and open up e-learning at work? Wicked. Actively use smartphones in a learning session to develop the technical capability of learners? Awesome. Sending PDFs of documents after the fact, with links and with further learning options? Excellent.

And then I read about mindfulness, and the benefit of having time to think. And I think about the role technology plays in that.

If technology allows us to always be on the go, and in today’s age the concept of being switched on is almost a fundamental right, what happens to this time to think?

More, I start to think about the hard topics that happen in face to face learning sessions. Things like assertiveness training, having difficult conversations, coaching, and presentation skills. Those topics are hard enough to make meaningful in a 6 hour time frame. Does the inclusion of technology in those learning sessions make them better?

I wonder if this is just about good learning design. If we design learning well, and design thinking time and dialogue into the session, is that the art of good learning design? Does it matter then if technology is used or not?

I’m not bemoaning the use of tech. If anything, I’m an absolute advocate of using technology for learning. I’m just cautious that in doing so, are we actually helping the learner be their best, and learn in the best way?

Dialogic practise remains the single best way a person learns. When you hear a concept/an argument/an idea, this causes you to engage. No level of complexity in learning design will change that. All good exercises and practise involves providing vehicles for thinking to happen and for development of thought to take place. Technology can support that, but does it become a hindrance?

When we go for a walk, and the fresh cold crisp air hits you, what does that do for you?

When you’re in the sun and the warm rays are filling you with life, what does that do for you?

When you’ve spent quality time with your partner and you’re joyed with one another, what does that do for you?

There’s a pressure to capture those moments with tweets and facebook and the likes. There’s a pressure to let others know about those fulfilling moments.

In the learning environments, there’s a pressure to move towards technology enabled learning. In performance support, there’s a pressure to moving towards online forms of support (internal and external).

What do you think?