Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Harvard ManageMentor: Some thoughts in response...


Yesterday, I received a note from Harvard Business Publishing with a request to review their article, Our Take on Social Learning Tools. Being a topic right up my area of interest, I agreed with alacrity. This morning, I read Paul Simbeck-Hampson's (@simbeckhampson) response to it on Amplify. Paul has done a great job of covering the key points.

I have added my tuppence worth in the paras below...

Learning mix in the workplace

Harvard Business Publishing is releasing the next version of Harvard ManageMentor, their "online resource for business essentials". I have quoted from the article to illustrate the stance they are adopting.

In working with our customers, we discovered that they were trying to address a number of learning requirements, most notably formal learning, informal learning and performance support.   In this new release, we not only optimize the experience to support the natural flow of multiple learning needs across an enterprise, but also address new trends and requirements around collaborative learning by giving learners the  ability to learn from and with others.

Our collaboration capabilities, which include polls, discussion forums, comments, and ratings, take advantage of emergent Enterprise 2.0 technologies to engage the user. These technologies are deeply integrated within a topic’s content so that learners can more easily share and apply concepts and ideas with others in the context of their specific organization – right at the moment when learning happens. Our approach is an important differentiator because we integrate and embed the collaboration capabilities within a specific topic. For example, in the Leading and Motivating module, learning happens in the context of the specific learning objective. Our approach will have more impact and drive more engagement. Other products on the market that enable collaboration at the learning management level will not influence and connect with the learner in a meaningful way.
The highlight above is mine and its shows that Harvard ManageMentor is headed in the right direction with what they are aiming to achieve and how they are approaching it. I have tried to point out some of the "Whys", as I perceive them, to highlight the importance of the goals.

By integrating collaboration capabilities within each topic, Harvard ManageMentor brings the amalgamation of content with context to the forefront. In this era of information explosion, context-less information is just data that does not foster or drive decision-making abilities. And coming from Harvard, it can be easily gauged that the key requirement will be to enable critical management decisions and building leadership skills. By enabling collaboration that leads to the addition of pertinent context, Harvard ManageMentor is definitely addressing the all important need of just-in-time, contextual and context-specific information, which is at the core to effective decision making.

By also seeking to address the different stages and requirements of workplace learning (and I have used Jane Hart's diagram to show what I mean by that), it is hoped that Harvard ManageMentor will bridge the gap.

Given below is a slightly modified version of the diagram created by Jay Cross to depict the formal/informal mix and who is in control at which point. 
I  have reference these diagrams because they so effectively depict some of the critical areas that need to be tackled to make workplace learning deliver results (read lead to performance), foster motivation, breed innovation, and retain talent.

Some points to ponder

It will be interesting to see how Harvard ManageMentor works. Just some points to ponder over while we wait for the launch...

  1. Will it "track" the social, collaborative aspects of the learning? (I am using the term "social" purely to mean "informal", that which is not top-down and push.)
  2. How easy will it be for users to add content?
  3. What Enterprise 2.0 technologies will be integrated to facilitate collaboration?
  4. How well and how will the different learning needs--both individual and group and formal as well as informal--be addressed?
  5. How effectively will it bridge the gap between an LMS and a collaboration platform? Can it retain the best of both?
Most importantly, and this is a very valid point raised by Paul, how will it foster motivation. He has covered the points succinctly. I have quoted what Paul has written below:

Motivation to learn also lies at the heart of this issue and Dan Pink hits the nail firmly on the head; you should watch the video I posted on Amplify - http://bit.ly/c96Dwd. Delivering information only in a single formal channel is OUT and peer discovery and support is IN, and should be adopted. Senior management need support too, they were not cognitively formed to understand this - that is the ultimate change challenge. 
This criteria is an all important requirement in today's work environment. With the nature of the work moving away from routine, process-driven, left-brain tasks to ones that require creativity, team work, innovation, and out-of-the-box solutioning, creating an environment where intrinsic motivation can flourish will be the key to success. 

An environment that facilitates and encourages collaboration, enables autonomy, provides the tools required to be independent, productive, and resourceful thus enabling mastery will be where the best talents will be found. If Harvard ManageMentor can provide the framework and facilitate organizations with the necessary technological support to create such an environment, it will be a goal worth achieving.

Ten related posts and articles
  1. A Defense of the LMS (and a case for the future of Social Learning)

  2. The Standalone LMS is Dead

  3. The State of Learning in the Workplace Today (May Update)

  4. Workscape evolution

  5. The SMARTER Approach to Workplace Learning

  6. 5 Stages of Workplace Learning

  7. Less is more: A different approach to L&D in a world awash with information

  8.  I Know It When I See It

  9. Power Law of Participation

  10. The real Enterprise 2.0


  1. This semester, I taught a course on group communication. The last time I taught it was two years ago and within that time I have seen a real difference in how my students collaborate outside of class and the tools they use.

    My students are looking for a platform that will allow them the flexibility to create different types of collaborative spaces within the same platform. Many used facebook for discussions, but the various google docs for creating collaborative forms (e.g. meeting minutes). They used the university sanctioned platforms when required, however, there were issues with support and getting the tools to create what they as a group envisioned.

    One area that I don't see mentioned, however, is the ability to communicate real-time (synchronous) when needed and to have a record of it. This is the only feature my students liked using the LMS we did. Likewise, the ability to communicate "near real-time" publically (not chat) is why my students like facebook. Others don't have to be present to participate in the discussion, but if they are available they can contribute.

  2. Thank you for the comment and for sharing your experience.

    The point you have raised about synchronous communication with a record of it is very important indeed. I have used the LMS in a similar fashion to interact with adult learners when teaching EFL as a virtual trainer.

    I hope these needs will be taken care of with tools like Harvard ManageMentor.


Thank you for visiting my blog and for taking the time to post your thoughts.

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