Learning Technologies day 2 reflections

Day 2 was a lot more enjoyable at Learning Technologies, which probably had to do with having a plan and more defined number of people to and organisation to check out. One thing that fascinates me at exhibitions is how often the people representing an organisation actually don’t want to meet with interested people or totally lack the art of striking up a conversation, anyhow I will come back to the stereotypical types another time.

When I presented myself to some of my target organisation to find out more about their capabilities in social learning and gamification, I received a very varied approach, some because the organisation on my name tag read “looking for work” completely ignored me and sent me walking with a brochure, others did take a genuine interest and gave me white papers and others again thought my honesty was refreshing and even offered to help me find a role. In any case this time I found out the Saba and Cornerstone very likely had the social learning capability on offer that I fancied and spoke about in yesterday’s post, my only unanswered question would be the kind of budget needed to make it happen, but they wouldn’t disclose that without a real project in mind but their showcases did look interesting and worth exploring further.

The twitter feed, which I contributed to occasionally, had me visit QA purely because they had actually replied to a tweet I posted yesterday while I was on the way to a meeting and they had invited me to the talk by one of their representatives, unfortunately the talk was only on yesterday and the gentleman in question was no longer at the show, but they promised to send me his presentation. So in a way it shows me that a lot of the organisations at the show do promote social learning but very few are connecting on social media and this kind of target public would be a prime audience if you ask me. a bit of practice what you preach, is always good in my book for trust building and integrity.

Thanks to the conference twitter feed I managed to catch glimpses of one highly recommendable futurologist Gerd Leonhard and I managed to watch a good bit of his keynote recording at the end of the exhibition. And his point about information overload really meaning that we need filters, will give people like me a chance to act as a filter for the most relevant information to feed forward to my target audiences based on the needs analysis I would have conducted. I agree looking beyond the obvious is going to be totally key, I am also looking forward to catching the full presentation online, because it is bound to have great data and suggestions.

My biggest highlight of the two days and a very refreshing in terms of content and very engaging talk was by Ben Betts of Curatr on “Playing games with quality”. Not only did Ben echo my own thoughts that there was pretty damn little about gamification of learning available at the expo, but he also gave a fantastically balanced view of how to introduce game elements in non-game environments. My top take away piece from him was to not make gamification compulsory but instead to reward the right behaviour. As an experienced learning and development professional getting the desired new behaviour out of managers is often a challenge, but once you get them to think along those lines also very powerful and seriously brilliant to work with from a training perspective. I was also fascinated by his statistics on contribution and usefulness, which means more thought and encouragement is required than just traditional training thinking, but it does suit the social media generation down to the ground if you ask me. Being part on a number of collaborative learning groups on Facebook, proved it’s value to me a few times over where I as a participant was able to help other participants in addition to the main tutors who totally encouraged helping each other forward.

Ben’s 3 top tips when looking at gamification were as follows:
1. Find the right behaviour
2. Shape the right behaviour
3. Measure the right behaviour

I have to say Ben’s presentation made the whole day worthwhile and tickled my fancy to explore the topic further and as a result I am contemplating another book project or as the Cranfield University people suggested potentially a DBA on the topic and practice of gamification. It was fun to have a good and interesting academic debate on executive development, it always brings back my MBA days of theory versus practice debates, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

So in conclusion, it looks like what I believe is essential in terms of social learning is only in it’s infancy in terms of both technology and probably organisational readiness, but I do concur with industry experts that it is the way forward for the coming generations of learners. When it comes to games for learning I definitely feel like I am ahead of the pack in terms of thinking and experience, but it is a hot topic not to be overlooked to keep your audiences engaged. I believe if social learning is still in it’s infancy, then gamification is currently premature based on what I saw and heard at this exhibition.

Thank you to all of you who shared great wisdom, good conversation and white papers, I will be going over them in the coming days.

Learning technologies first day observations

As a learning and development professional I like to stay up-to-date about what’s new and happening in the industry and how potential systems can help the learning experience. With that in mind I attended the first day of the Learning Technologies exhibition in the Olympia in London. My expectation was to learn about sexy new technology for social learning and also gamification options for learning going forward.

Hmm… now how can I say this, I have been underwhelmed by a long shot so far!!! Games and game technology for learning I have yet to find and encounter, so I will trawl through some of the documentation tonight to hopefully find those gems tomorrow. It does really fascinate me though that real forward thinking hasn’t reached the mainstream exhibition, I do believe there is some mention in the conference on the topic based on their tweet feed and some of the forward thinkers I already follow. What I also wonder about is whether this is a reflection of what is going on in companies and whether I am just dreaming of our future ahead? Some of my biggest aha moments in learning have happened as a result of games and simulations, the more competitive usually the bigger the learning.

In terms of facilitating social learning a lot of the e-learning and LMS system providers have caught on to the words of social learning, but with some of them I am not convinced they have any idea of what they actually mean they just want to sell their piece of technology or how that would actually work in practice. I did meet some gems so far too, but not that many. What I would love a system to be able to do, I haven’t seen so far, but maybe I will find out tomorrow.

I attended one free talk by Videoarts, whose video’s I have used for training in the past and I totally love the original thinking of John Cleese, way back in the day when this was unheard of. Ironically the presentation itself was pretty boring, here is a company that has exciting content, massive back end materials, but the presentation on how to engage with the youtube generation left me wishing I was watching youtube right there, because it was dry content read of a powerpoint. Come on guys… you have such great stuff to offer a bit of wow factor could have been good. In any case that sort of ended my appetite for the talks, who seemed to all have the boring reading of a powerpoint theme in common, so much for innovative presentation style in learning and development, if innovative is too far a stretch then ideally engaging as a minimum, not too much to ask I hope?

I did like the concept of learning and development evolving into a more curator type of role of providing relevant information on multiple levels, who get’s to see what and what they do with it.

I had an impressive demo by a provider for Google on creating simulation based learning modules with amazing back end behavioural statistics. I totally loved how the system created modules, even though I wonder how it would be implemented in practice when looking at soft skills and how much time it would actually take to develop and also how much of the trainers input would be good enough to have meaningful results, but it was excellent in output and the data tracking of how well somebody responded gave management information most of us in learning and development can only dream of. Behavioural analysis data on your whole target market, well done ETU – www.EmpowerTheUser.com.

The guys that in my view seemed to know their stuff when it comes to social learning are www.webanywhere.co.uk and their 70:20:10 model implemented with Zara in retail gave a good example of encouraging learning across an organisation and giving people the tools to do exactly that. In my ideal world I would love the learning to travel both ways bottom-up, top-down and additionally peer to peer side ways, a bit like an internal showcase of what I learned this week in short snippets done by everyone and sorted by a searchable database and as a user you can track your colleagues, mentors, managers… just like you would on social media. Technically it is all possible, practically it is about encouraging people to put themselves out there with the potential of getting it wrong some times, and totally spot on other times. I guess for most companies that will mean a cultural shift, which when you have a practical mindset doesn’t have to be too time consuming although you will invariably meet that as a point of resistance. Most leaders read articles, books, watch youtube, tedx and other information to stay-up-to date all we want them to do is share their sources and if they have interesting views are willing to add to into their source, then social learning has started… easy 🙂

In terms of leadership development, I stumbled across a gem from www.primarycoloursconsulting.co.uk namely the Primary Colours Model of Leadership which has their trademark on it and comes with a 360, a leadership report and employee engagement surveys, which they will teach practitioners to use and roll out. In terms of content all the key elements of leadership were covered from strategy to operational result and interpersonal skills. Having spoken for some time with a professor or SAID business school, he convinced me of the value of the programme and it’s content and then when he mentioned the crazily low price I questioned if he was being real, but I guess that’s when you meet academia whose love for learning is bigger than the need for profit. Anyhow in my view highly recommendable (especially before they put their prices up).

These were my highlights and lowlights of my morning at the Learning Technologies, I am delving into some of the documentation I picked up tonight to plan my visit for tomorrow and I will share my 2nd day observations also, hopefully getting in will be less chaotic tomorrow morning.

When an idol, guru, leader or mentor let’s you down

With the whole Lance Armstrong story fresh in our minds, it brought a bigger question up for me, namely what do we do when the people we look up to and are inspired by let us down?

I read all of Lance Armstrong’s books and definitely felt inspired by the determination and focus as well as the fight with cancer. No matter what he did in order to achieve his wins in the Tour de France, that inspiration didn’t go away, in fact his whole admission in my eyes is brave. I believe that the truth is a lot less hard to carry on living with than a lie. I don’t condone his actions and definitely fundamentally disagree with doping and the army of enablers and facilitators that it took to pull it off so many times and I also agree he needs to live with the consequences of his actions. But admitting all this took courage and he lost a lot as a result from respect to fortune. But it confirms his humanity all the same, the super-human endeavours of all the wins, but also the turning point when he saw his sone defend him and how that made him feel. That’s humanity and it takes a great character to give everything up in order to be honest in the eyes of the ones he truly loves.

In my view Lance Armstrong’s story is not a stand alone situation, having dealt with high achievers in business through my coaching, there often is a clash of drive versus values as well as a consistent striving for competitive advantage and opportunity to take short cuts. To achieve the ultimate pinnacle in sport or business some decisions are made which with hindsight knowledge turn out to be massively regrettable, Enron jumps to my mind as another such story. The protagonists in these stories have to learn to live with their actions and consequences and believe me guilt and regret are not the easiest feelings to process. Let’s not forget we all make mistakes and when they are of such proportion that turning back could bring a whole sport or business down, then the decision to come clean is no longer simple and clearcut it has massive implications.

As said in the interview it will be a long process to work through for Lance Armstrong and it will take persistent courage to keep going, because of the scale of the whole set-up and equally the amount of people involved that he publicly bullied, humiliated and wronged. For all of that to heal will take a lot of effort and time and maybe won’t happen in full in his life time. I hope that most people will recognise that harbouring hate is not going to resolve anything, but to look at the situation and agree that he has consequences to face which he said he was willing to face (even if they are different) and that he is sorry, whether you believe him on his words or not, that is actually not our call to make. But to realise we all make mistakes of some proportion and to have the opportunity to apologise and come clean is what is of value. It won’t make the previous actions undone, but in my view it shows humanity and I respect that.

I want to draw the analogy a bit further into the world of personal development where you have a large number of inspirational figures, guru’s, mentors, etc call them what you will and some impress consistently without fail and others just like Lance let us down whilst making us believe the opposite of the truth. As a follower you feel betrayed, when the true story breaks, outraged for the audacity of the guru to persist with the false pretences and for every time you have second guessed yourself whether it is true or not, you now have confirmation that your intuition was right all along. The irony is that unlike Lance, a lot of the guru’s never apologise but just restart with the same message and a new cohort of willing followers.

I struggle with that concept and the lack of true integrity by some of the big names as well as the drive for profits over results. They do what they can to sell their programs, but when you don’t have the results they claim are possible or no results at all the door get’s slammed straight in your face, empathy and support go out the windows and you are left not only with a hole in your pocket financially but also left questioning what went wrong in this picture. Most of people will decide that it must be them, they aren’t good enough or hadn’t the right skills or set-up or whatever, you know what a great leader would have got you forward no matter what and would still stand by when the results weren’t forthcoming only those that prefer profit over values will let you down.

From my experience as a trainer and coach, you never know for sure when someone breaks through or what exactly you say or do that will have that effect, but the worst time to let someone down is when they need you most. From my point of view the whole story of calculated doping in cycling (and very likely a bunch of other sports too) is reflective of this drive for top spot, top dollar that prevails over values like integrity, care and commitment. Sorry is a good start and I wish the guru’s of this planet follow suit and admit their lies, so we can all start healing our way to what is truly of value. All you have as followers is your own values and opinions and more than anything when faced with conflicting information, you have to make up your own mind and be true to yourself.