Bold L&D

On Tuesday 26th November, the L&D Connect community is getting back together for its next event, called Bold L&D. I’m massively looking forward to this day. It’s a chance to connect with like minded people, have purposeful discussion and move things positively forward.

I wanted to share what we’re planning on doing, cos why wouldn’t I?

The day will consist of several things we’re going to be asking people to get involved with.

We like the idea of visual minutes, so we’re going to experiment with this as active participants as opposed to letting other people do it for us. This is exciting and scary all at the same time. I’m no artist, and my stick people are passable. Bring. It. On.

We’re going to video people talking and post straight up onto a YouTube channel. That’s right, we’re going to give people a platform to talk about their own thing. You don’t need to prepare anything in advance, and you can talk for as little or as long as you like. And yes, we’re expecting everyone to talk…

So far so social, different, and challenging.

We’re going to get people to participate in a live, social, interactive fishbowl dialogue. Enough said.

There’s time to have some jolly good open space discussions. This will be excellent and really fuel some thinking about our practice.

And we’re going to include some action planning. This sounds cliche, and what’s important to remember is that we know that unless people create clear plans of what they’re going to do, things are left very ethereal.

All of the above looks like an agenda and an order of events. It’s not intended to look that way. I just want to share what we’re planning. It’s a very flexible, and adaptable set of activities that will be determined by the group.

The last thing to probably mention is the ticket itself. You buy one ticket and get to invite two other people for no charge.

We’ve been posting things on our LinkedIn page, so keep an eye over there. The hashtag for the day will be #ldcu (L&D Connect Unconference).

Now, book your ticket.


Change is afoot in the L&D world

This week on Monday I attended the L&D Connect Unconference, and I’ve made myself wait a couple of days before jumping in with reflections.

Change is afoot in the L&D world. We have the right kind of thinking from the likes of Jane Hart who help us to think about the growing skills of the L&D profession. Donald Taylor is in the throes of Learning and Technology conference (and the various others attached to it) where there is various talk about e-learning and mobile learning and the use of social technologies. The good folk at Training Journal have been getting people together and talking about the future skills of L&D, which David Goddin has written about. It’s all high-minded stuff, and makes for good reading.

This storify really captures everything from the day nicely and shows a nice mix of people who were present, this post from Doug Shaw is a really nice piece sharing his thoughts about the day, and this post from Liam Moore is a very well written piece about his reflection of the day.

The unconference allowed for exploration of those topics above, and actually all of those were discussed, and more besides – how do we get inside the learner’s heads to know what they need not what they want? How do we deal with unconscious bias in the workplace? What is and should L&D be worrying about? How can L&D be bold? Important topics in their own rights, with some good points made.

So where does this take us? Did we unravel the mysteries of the L&D universe? Have we gained a clear vision about the future? Did we navel gaze enough?

Well, here’s what it meant for me.

This community of L&D folks cares about not only how we go about making a difference in the organisations we work for, but they also care about moving the profession forward. Some of the words used to describe the day were ‘bold’, ‘movement’, ‘permission’, and ‘anthropological’. (And speaking of how to be bold, check this excellent picture out, drawn by Simon Heath) In and of themselves, they mean little, but in the context of the day, it helped people find a way to connect with what they experienced and gave them a way to act when they return to the day job. That action piece right there is the important function of an event like this.

I remember at the end of the first, there were some questions posed about what was achieved as a result of the conversations and tracks. But I think that’s missing the point. The result is having a developed view on a topic. Be it that you’re convinced you’re right, you’ve been challenged in a useful way, or someone has explained something very useful, you’ve had the opportunity to engage in dialogue. We don’t do that a lot as a people. We don’t take the time to check in with our thinking, or check in with our opinions, we just tend to make a decision and charge on ahead.

The actions that people take though? Well, some people went forth after the last time and tried new techniques they witnessed and experienced such as World Cafe and Open Space. Some made meaningful connections which allowed them to be involved in interesting projects and work. Some made unexpected friendships and found reason to keep talking. Others chose to come together and support each other in a focused session on personal development. There’s more, and I’ve only just picked the examples that come to mind.

We expect a lot from learning events. We expect to be able to go forth and change behaviours and patterns as a result of that experience. We forget that behaviour change takes patience, time, and purposeful actions. I’d say with some degree of confidence that everyone who attended last year’s session, and this week’s will be able to go away and try something different which will have a positive impact on those they work with. And that’s the difference this community is making.

Tomorrow’s World

Remember that programme? Always about future things that are on the horizon and how life is going to be different. I don’t remember the kind of things they actually showed, but I do remember being impressed by the technology. More so though, it was about the possibilities of what tomorrow could bring. And that, is always exciting.

Fast forward to 2012 and advancements are happening all over the world, and in some respects the corporate world has kept up. How so? Well, look at the changes in presentation formats. Standing and presenting has always been a winner. The aids to support have changed. From slide projectors, to overhead projectors, to PowerPoint, and in more recent times Prezi and pecha kucha presentations.

There have also been advancements in meeting management. The stock and trade boardroom table and meeting has moved to having open space meetings, to all hands meetings, to workshops, to facilitated meetings to appreciative inquiry methods. Those innovations in meetings and group dynamics have largely been a result of organisational development type activities as well as improvements in psychology and understanding team and people dynamics.

Then there’s the stock and trade conferences. Suppliers are asked to exhibit, speakers are asked to provide case studies and consultants are asked to be experts. It worked for a while. Until people decided they needed more and created unconference formats, also known as barcamps and open space events. I know of several fields where they use these formats to engage an audience: HR, Recruitment, Learning and Development, User Experience and Technology geeks. They’ve brought themselves together to create a learning format that creates something highly engaging and collaborative.

Last week, I was part of an unconference and a conference, and I’m left thinking why has the traditional conference not changed its approach. Why are they staying to stock and trade when the new developments create so much opportunity for increased engagement and relevance. At the CIPD HRD conference they’ve done some impressive things to try and improve their format. There’s interactive boards on the floors to help attendees see the conversation happening on Twitter. They trialled a 45 minute unconference discussion. They have tweetups. They have Swap Shops where professionals can exchange skills. And they have free short learning presentations that exhibitors can present some theory and then sell their product. And they have journalists and bloggers present to create buzz (of which I was happily part of and very glad to be too).

But here’s what was missing – learning and development. The conference format is one way with a bit of Q&A thrown in to make it feel interactive. Which isn’t really. With a potential discussion between 60-80 people attending a session, four or five get to ask questions. The only learning that happens is the inferences you make from the speaker’s presentation, and what notes they may (and often not) provide.

What needs to happen is interaction with the content. There were many conference sessions I was sitting in where I desperately wanted to discuss the content but there was just no opportunity to do so. I don’t mean I wanted to discuss with the presenter per se, but the content was certainly of enough interest that more could have been facilitated around it.

Here’s some things that could have happened. The presenters are there anyway for their allotted time. Time can be given later to hold a discussion forum with presenters where you discuss the content. The unconference format lends itself well to this kind of discussion. Attendees can engage in the content they are interested in, and equally learn about other discussions that have taken place. Don’t forget attendees have already paid to attend a session. They’re willing to invest their time for proper development of thinking, which doesn’t happen.

The presentation formats are for too rigid. Why does it have to be a formal presentation, and why does it have to be PowerPoint? I saw no-one and heard of no-one talk about other formats, which is such a shame. Imagine the buzz and engagement around the conference in hearing that Bob from Comapnies R Us delivered a Prezi presentation, or Bella from Organisation Brilliance did the best pecha kucha ever. I want to see and hear that! But instead we have to put up with slides, and videos, and graphics, and fairly boring presentations. “We did this, it amounted to this, you need to consider your organisation, good luck.” I’m being unfair to the many good presenters out there, but there’s just not enough.

There needs to be a much better way of making the content on the day available to the many people not present. Bloggers and journalists help this happen organically and there is a lot of value in that. But what about after? Who’s curating the content? Who’s tracking the conversation? Are presenters encouraged to keep up with the conversations after the event? Are presentations available online and available to be accessed by paying with a tweet for example?

And the exhibitors need some kind of briefing and training from the likes of the CIPD. They need to know what the organisers hopes, objectives, goals, vision are. They need to know what they are and not allowed to do with the attendees. Can they pre-arrange meetings? Can they stop looking bored while waiting for footfall? Can they attend sessions because of the money they’ve paid? Can they do more than plug their products? Are they allowed to collaborate with other exhibitors and do more for each other? I suggested while at HRD that Doug should help both the organisers and exhibitors understand how to stop doing dumb things to customers.

There’s a fair amount here. Some of it I reckon can be useful. Some of it is probably just my own musings. What have I missed?

The proof is in the pudding

On Tuesday next week, we’re going to be holding the first L&D Connect Unconference. “We” being: Martin Couzins, Debbie Carter, Natasha Stallard, Stella Collins, Margaret Burnside, Doug Shaw and David Goddin. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am by the event. As of today, there are going to be 30 of us signed up and ready to take part in the conversations. This is quite frankly awesome, unexpected and exciting.

Alison Chisnell has written a post about how friends can help you find your way. This is so true, and I’m so very grateful to the group above for allowing each other and me to make this a reality. I’ve written a post about how the idea for it came into being. But there’s another angle which is interesting to make note of. It all happened through social networking.

I know all of the above people personally. They didn’t necessarily know each other before we started talking, but they sure do now! We’ve used social networks to good effect in helping all of this to happen. We were on Skype when we wanted to do a group chat. We used LinkedIn when we wanted to develop ideas and have ongoing conversations on content, planning and marketing of the event. We’ve used Twitter extensively to get the word out about the event. There have been some blogs written about the event in advance, and a lot of emails flying about personally inviting people to attend. I even recorded a short piece on what the event is about on YouTube!

We’ve had very little in the way of face to face chats and conversations. That’s partly been because we all live in different parts of the UK, and we all obviously have the day job to get on with. So we’ve done pretty brilliantly to self-organise and use the tools available to us to make the day happen. It’s been a great example of collaboration, and giving up time and efforts to make it happen.

The @LnDConnect Twitter account has been used well, and various people have been guest tweeting from it to create engagement and chatter. The LinkedIn Unconference group has been generating a wealth of topics that people want to actively discuss on the day. I think we’ve produced a jolly good showcase of how social media has enabled this event to happen.

Have you booked on to the event? It’s on Tuesday 24th April from 1300-1700 at LBi, on Brick Lane in London. Pass the word around to those you think it might interest. There’s plenty of time to book, and it’s only £50 to get in. Book now!

Let’s Connect, L&D

Last year I had some thoughts bubbling away off the back of various #connectinghr activities such as the launch of the site, the unconference earlier in the year, and tweetups. It’s genuinely great being part of this community, which Mervyn Dinnen described as being a family. There’s a lot of folk willing to share, help, and support where it’s necessary.

What I was left feeling from it, was that L&D needs something like this. The HRD event hosted by the CIPD, is great at bringing a whole host of thinkers, facilitators and experts in the field together. The L&D 2020 sessions by Training Journal have been very interesting in helping to understand what the future of L&D looks like. And the Learning and Technologies conference is very useful for bringing together technology and how it can help bolster what L&D produce. What’s been missing, for me, from all this is the opportunity to connect and have proper discussions a la #connectinghr.

Cue an email to various L&Ders that I know, and the rumblings of an event were starting to form. I didn’t think it would be an unconference to start off with. I didn’t know what it would be to be honest. I just wanted a space for L&Ders to be able to come together and get all geeky about L&D. You would’ve thought things like this exist already, right? Well they do in various ways. Stella Collins runs a set of Brain Friendly Learning Group meetings, and I’ve heard there are others – I just don’t know about them. Particularly in the London area.

So my hat goes off to Natasha Stallard, Margaret Burnside, Martin Couzins, Debbie Carter, David Goddin, Stella Collins, and Doug Shaw for at least indulging my early musings. They then helped crystalise some thoughts and the next thing I know we’re having an unconference aimed at the L&D community, and I’m terribly excited by it! It’s been a soft launch, and in the two weeks since setting up the eventbrite page, we’ve had ten bookings. TEN! I mean, this means there’s a market, there’s interest, there’s potential for doing more – this could really be something.

I’m cautious to let it be known, I have no desire for this to be a profitable event. It’s space for L&Ders to come together and help each other do more. We are charging for attendance, and beyond covering some costs, any surplus will be donated to charity. Also, I had the initial idea, but this really does belong to the team above. I’m grateful to have been heard, and to have a group of supportive folk who thought together we could achieve something. And so was born L&D Connect.

So here it is, the first L&D Connect unconference, and it’s happening on Tuesday 24th April, from 1300-1700 at LBi. If you’re interested, you can book here, and join in the conversation on Twitter using the hastags #ldcu (L&D Connect Unconference) and #ldconnect. If you’re in L&D and want to reach out to the community, come find us, we’re here waiting to build our connections and support each other. There is a LinkedIn group where discussions will take place, and a Twitter account @LnDConnect (logo is on its way). Soon, I’m hoping we’ll be launching a blog too.

My Dad’s Gonna Beat Your Dad Up

In what I think was one of my first blog posts, I wrote about the need for L&D to be a separate entity in a business to HR, with a different reporting structure and hierarchy into the senior exec team. Oh my how times have changed. That was almost two years ago I made that assertion. I think there are some in the L&D world who would still strongly agree with this assertion too.

But this is nothing more than a measure of who provides the better perceived value. In times gone by, training was either a function of the Operations team, or provided on an ad hoc basis by experienced people in a business who knew this learning needed to be shared with others. Learning theories and development theories have been around for decades, and influenced much of how schools developed curriculums, and how we understood the types of parenting skills many of us use today. Think about simple acts such as praise and recognition of efforts in children. Although an intuitive positive act to make, there are tangible differences you can see in children who receive praise, and those who do not.

And in times gone by, what was the old personnel department, with stereotypes around being the people who listened and helped staff, this progressed to the multi-faceted discipline we see today. Long gone are the days that HR was seen as a safe, non disruptive part of the business. Now management degrees focus on the need to understand HR and its processes and how important they are in guiding the development and growth of a business.

So have I changed my thinking on this? Do I now believe that L&D should report into HR and just zip up? Well, here’s the thing. Being an L&Der means I have to know my craft. And if I’m doing a training session on Interviewing Skills, or Assessing Competence, or Understanding Diversity, as part of all that I have to know about elements of employment law, legislation on discrimination and company policies and procedures. If I’m training on leadership/management training, I have to be able to advise on techniques that are appropriate for the business and in line with our practices.

Equally, if HR needs to advise someone on development or coaching, they have to understand some skills that L&D practise regularly – coaching/feedback/mentoring. And if they are running a workshop, or presenting, they need help and development on facilitation techniques, and presentation techniques.

There are plenty of places we can look at to make a call of differences. And they will all be valid. But, for better appreciation of skills, and for a better focus on people development in all regards, there are far more opportunities than there are challenges. Which is why you should come along to the next #ConnectingHR unconference on Thursday 20 October, at the Spring in Vauxhall, London. People from the complete spectrum of HR (Hr generalists, HRDs, L&D, Coaches, Facilitators, Business leaders, and more) come along to discuss and help each other understand what needs to be better, and how we can make it happen together. If you’re on Twitter, follow the hashtag. There are daily tweets/events/blogs happening that include the hashtag and help to spread the word. If you’re interest is really peaked, check out the site and sign up to be able to interact with this ever growing, ever inclusive group of people.

And about that L&D/HR divide? We’re all afraid of what we don’t know. Some of us get excited by what we don’t know. I, for one, am driven to have an ever more, ever successful collaborative approach in L&D and the business.