Sunday, December 28, 2014

Re-imagining Work & Learning in a Networked World

"The nature of work is changing. People’s relationship with work is changing. The changes to society will be vast" by @gapingvoid

We are on the eve of 2015! Most of us do a retrospection of the year gone by, and a future-spection of the year to come. I thought I'd do the same from an L&D and workplace learning perspective. Two books I have recently read influence my thoughts in this post. These are The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here by Dr. Lynda Gratton (a book review coming up soon), and The Second Machine Age by Andrew Mcafee and Erik Brynjolfsson. The former identifies shifts in specific areas that will and already are having a far-reaching impact on the way we work, learn, communicate, and engage with the environment and society. The latter talks about the impact that the changing nature of technology is having on us. The Shift identifies the following five forces that are transforming everything we do, and in the rest of the post I will focus on this line of thought. The five forces are: 

We are already feeling the impact of each of these, and it will increasingly become even more palpable. As technological capability increases, the cloud becomes pervasive, and the power of social and mobile become progressively evident, these will transform the way we function. As Dr. Gratton says in the book: 
"A crucial question for understanding the future of work is predicting what people will actually do with this unprecedented level of connectivity, content and productive possibilities. Over the next two decades we can expect the knowledge of the world to be digitalised, with an exponential rise in user-generated content, "wise-crowd" application and open innovation applications." 
This has wide-ranging implication on learning and the future of work. And that future is rapidly becoming our present. Some questions I keep asking myself...
  1. How do we as L&D tackle this? 
  2. Will L&D as we know it continue to exist? 
  3. Will we still continue to speak about learning as an activity to be undertaken in order to be effective at work? 
  4. Or will work itself subsume learning enabled by a transformed L&D / facilitators / coaches / mentors and the "right" organizational culture? 
  5. How do we help organizations see that social and informal learning is not a new and fancy way to learn but an essential requirement in a complex, rapidly changing, and uber connected world?
It is obvious that L&D has to reinvent itself to keep pace and metamorphose with these changes. Managers and leaders have to don the hats of coaches and mentors for organizations to become learning organizations that adapt and move with the tide. However, most organizations are still floundering caught between practices and processes that have become obsolete (hierarchical decision-making, 9-5 office hours, yearly appraisal cycles, mandatory training hours, and so on) and a new and transformed world informed by the convergence of social, local and mobile. The key question then is:
"How do we re-imagine the workplace such that organizations become platforms for individuals to come together to collaborate, and innovate, and deliver services and products that are valued?
L&D definitely has a role to play in this metamorphosis albeit in a different avatar. 

Right now, we do not have a defined roadmap to reinvent ourselves to re-imagine the future of workplace learning. I thought I would take a step-by-step approach to see if I can come up with some tentative suggestions of what we (L&D + organization) need to do. The shifts outlined above have wide-ranging impact, some of which are listed below:
  1. Globally connected workers and organizations
  2. Fixed workplace gives way to "work from anywhere"
  3. Power of social, local and mobile felt in all spheres
  4. Emerging economies enter in a big way making an impact
  5. Five generations work side-by-side with baby boomers on the verge of retiring
  6. "Jobs for life" replaced by "life of jobs"
  7. Economy of individuals on the rise
  8. Hierarchy & bureaucracy losing effectiveness; ushering in the era of networked orgs 
  9. Mega organizations and micro-organizations coexist
  10. Working lifespan increases; need for re-skilling on the rise
We also have to recognize that ubiquitous connectivity and mobile devices have fostered the growth of a collaborative economy which operates on very different dynamics compared to a competitive economy. IMHO, the shifts and their impact delineated above will enforce and require collaboration -- between individuals, among organizations, between individuals and organizations, among project teams and communities of practices, and such. Some of the principle drivers and needs around collaboration are given below. 

The complexities and challenges wrought by the shifts will be beyond the capabilities of individuals to comprehend and resolve. These complex challenges will continually defy norms and call for radically different skills to solve. We are aware that working and creating value in the 21st Century entail new skills, and we will feel this pressing need as technology continues to evolve and globalization takes on different shapes and forms. Some of the skills that are identified as pre-requisites to being effective today are:
  1. Sense-making
  2. Social Intelligence 
  3. Cross-Cultural Competency
  4. Novel and Adaptive Thinking 
  5. Transdisciplinarity
  6. Design Mindset
  7. Cognitive Load Management 
  8. Virtual Collaboration

What are some of the steps we can take to enable organizations to meet this change? I have captured a few possible ones in the diagram below. 

We know that training is not enough and employees cannot be trained for skills that are still emergent. Training focuses on known needs and identified skill gaps and is essentially past focused. Today, organizations must leverage technology to reach and connect with a distributed workforce. While individuals have to take on the onus of driving their professional growth, organizations have to facilitate it through integrated learning and performance strategy making both formal and informal learning pathways available to all. This requires a holistic L&D strategy and a set of new L&D roles and skills.
Social & Informal Learning Evangelist 
  • Will enable workers to take control of their own learning
  • Will help them and team to build their PLN and PKM
Community Manager
  • Will facilitate collaboration across groups on ESNs, enable community building, and provide curated content
Business & Data Analyst
  • Will focus on trends and patterns based on data analysis
  • Will map business requirement and data to craft impactful strategies
Technology Enabler
  • Will help users and team members to use the latest tech for learning, collaboration, and communication
Performance Consultant
  • Will liaise with business stakeholders to design learning ecosystems based on business matrices
Learning Management
  • Will take care of program / project management, learning evaluation, stakeholder management, supplier management for the formal programs
Learning Delivery
  • Will carry out tasks like facilitation / presentation of learning events for the in-class or virtual sessions, where needed
Learning Design
  • Will conduct needs analysis, design principles, structure learning events for different delivery channels
As I have written earlier herehere, and here, community management will increasingly play an important role in organizations. Technology with the characteristics of socialmobile, and personal are already changing user behaviour. L&D will have to be cognizant of the impact of these characteristics on:
  • user behavior 
  • organizational identity 
  • learning design & access 
  • communication protocol 
  • collaboration and social learning skills
Today, people are seeking solutions to their challenges -- both on the professional and personal front -- in various ways: 
  • Asking their networks 
  • Collaborating and participating in online communities 
  • Googling  
  • Taking a MOOC 
  • Sharing 
  • Working out loud 
  • On the job
The concept and practice of employees waiting to be trained before being put on the job is fast disappearing. Even onboarding new employees is becoming a social and experiential learning journey. Employees want to feel a sense of belonging and purpose when they join an organization. Connecting them to relevant communities and groups foster that sense of belonging and lessens isolation and disconnect, especially important for those working remotely, from client locations, from home or elsewhere. Thus distributed organizations can stay connected via communities and build an identity as well as generate a sense of purpose. 

To summarize, social and collaborative learning is no longer a good to have add on but a necessity driven by some of the following principles:

  1. There are no users, learners, or managers of learning. Only adults doing their work.
  2. Working adults will make the best use of all available resources to connect, collaborate, cooperate and build communities of practices.
  3. Communities, conversations, and colleagues connected via mobile devices, social tools, and the web will be the keys to learning.
  4. L&D will transform organizations to become “social” organizations by facilitating PKM and community management.
  5. Social is NOT a set of tools. Social is a set of behaviours that encapsulate transparency, collaboration, sharing, fearless mistakes, experimentation, and edge work. 
What are the actions steps we can take to transition to a new way of working & learning? 
1. Bring formal learning to the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) to:
  • Let the conversations and context build around formal courses
  • Provide users with the choice of moving back and forth across the learning continuum
2. Encourage Working Out Loud to:
  • Builds sense-making skills
  • Foster practice of sharing
  • Facilitate recording of work process and tacit knowledge capture
3. Build Communities of Practices to:
  • Enable distributed workforce to learn from each other and contribute
  • To facilitate diverse thinking and dialogue
  • Remove silos from within the organization
4. Enable the building of Personal Learning Network (PLN) and Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) to:
  • Build self-driven learning skills
  • Build a learning organization
Last but not the least, it is imperative to get the buy-in of key stakeholders in making this this transition to a collaborative and continuously learning organization, and this means working closely with HR, with the C-suite and all other relevant departments and individuals. The transitions is not impossible if there is belief and the right supportive culture. 

And finally, what is the cost of NOT making the shift? 
1. Siloed organization
Distributed workforce will lack connection and one-ness with the org
2. Operational Inefficiencies
Reinvention of the wheel will continue
3. Loss of Innovation
Diverse thoughts and ideas will be lost through lack of conversation and connect
4. Loss of tacit knowledge
Attrition, retirement, siloed pockets – all lead to the loss of tacit knowledge so critical to organization success
5. Loss of talent
Smart knowledge workers leave for orgs where scope for learning and mastery are higher
6. Exception handling becomes difficult
Outside of “norm” requires collaboration and crowd-sourcing of ideas and solutions
7. Stagnation

Without the influence of diverse thinking, old processes and hierarchical thinking continue to exist

Organizations have much to do to meet the changing nature of work with equanimity and thrive. While the future will continue to be unevenly distributed, it will eventually reach us wherever we are and in whichever industry we happen to operate. Be it retail or manufacturing, hospitality or pharma, automobile or telecom, the rules of the game are rapidly changing. What is essential to survive and thrive is a connected workplace with committed and passionate workers collaborating and sharing to create value. This will not happen by chance or by merely putting an enterprise social platform in place but will require the concerted effort of all stakeholders, L&D and HR to build organizations that have the right culture with the right vision and strategy to make this transition.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My 15 Most Popular Posts in 2014

As the year draws to a close, we all come up with our lists of goals accomplished, books read, places visited, and of course, posts written. Here's a list of my most shared and tweeted posts in 2014. Jane Hart's list of Top 20 inspired me to put up my own. As also Helen Blunden's list of Top Posts...(Like Helen, November seems to be my best writing month too.)
  1. The Changing Face of Work and Workplace Learning (November 26, 2014)
  2. The Changing Nature of Workplace Learning (November 2, 2014) 
  3. Instructional Design in the VUCA World (December 6, 2014)
  4. Why Organizations Must Encourage Collaboration (November 5, 2014)
  5. Learning vs. Performance -- The Dichotomy (July 30, 2014)
  6. 21C Workplace Skills and L&D (July 16, 2014)
  7. MOOCs in Performance Support ( July 1, 2014)
  8. 11 Differences Between a MOOC and an Online Course (June 26, 2014)
  9. Heutagogy, Self-Directed Learning and Complex Work (March 10, 2014)
  10. From Courses to Micro-Learning (March 6, 2014)
  11. From Micro-Learning to Corporate MOOCs (March 7, 2014)
  12. L&D's Role in the VUCA World (November 19, 2014)
  13. Working Out Loud and Serendipity (November 21, 2014)
  14. Learned vs. Learners (November 25, 2014)
  15. Role of Community Management in Workplace Learning Today (November 22, 2014)

2014 - A Rambling Retrospective

I have meandered and rambled a bit in this post...ruminating and thinking aloud in part as I analyse and summarize the year that is coming to a close. I also want to say a heartfelt thank you to all my readers and friends who have staunchly supported my growth -- by leaving encouraging comments on my blog, tweeting my posts, generously sharing their knowledge, and connecting.

As the year draws to a close, most of us go into retrospection mode. I had intended to go through 2014 a little differently from the earlier years. Thanks to books like Creative Visualization, The Power of Now, Small Victories, and such, I have come to believe -- in principle and seen the effect in practice -- in the power of being able to achieve what we want. As Paulo Coelho says: “When you want something deeply, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The desire has to be deep; it has to be true. There can be no half-heartedness involved. I learned that when what we desire is intrinsically linked to our purpose, half-heartedness has no place. The commitment comes from within, and we are in the flow. I have tried to consciously follow my intellect as well as emotion in what I do. It has been tough! As we enter the penultimate week of the year, I thought it'd be a good time to see what I have managed to do differently, where have I just continued as I in the past, and where have I slipped. 

To make it easy for myself, I thought I would follow the star fish model and do a short analysis of the year.

Keep Doing: I want to keep reading, writing, working on what I love, and travelling! 

a) I finally picked up my reading pace this year. I have always been a voracious reader but somewhere in the last 5 years, my pace had slipped. I made excuses for myself - lack of time topping the list. I got frustrated with all the books in my "to-read" list that had grown to be a mile long. The more frustrated I got, the less I got done, and I got even more frustrated. You get the self-defeating cycle. Till I re-read Getting Things Done by David Allen and got back to re-prioritising what was important for me. I got back to my "to--read" list and picked the first one. After resisting checking twitter, email, blogfeeds and myriad other similar distractions, I read through the book. The joy I find in reading kicked back in, and I haven't stopped after that. This was in Jan'14. I've read most of the books I wanted to (fiction and non-fiction combined). I have made a commitment to myself to keep doing stuff that matters to me. I have made my 2015 to-read list. It may get re-prioritised based on new finds...but I will keep reading.

b) Writing is my passion. I am at my articulate and expressive best when I am writing about what moves me. And apart from travel, I am fascinated by "learning" and the cognitive processes involved. My purpose is to enable individuals and organizations learn openly and collaboratively, to become self-directed learners inspiring each other. Idealistic? Perhaps! I keep writing about it; regular readers of my blog will know what I am talking about here. I want to write more frequently and more purposefully, synthesizing my reading and practical experiences, and share what I learn. 

c) Travelling is how I rejuvenate myself. It's part of who I am. It would be somewhat facile to say I love to travel! It is more accurate to say, I have to travel. I find myself when I travel, and I mostly travel alone. It is strangely exhilarating, forcing me to be completely present and alert in a new place, soaking in the experience and all the sensations. Travelling offers me a way to not only unwind but also to discover myself. This year, I went to two places I have been dreaming of visiting for years -- Ladakh and the Sunderbans. I have stayed in a boat for 4 days, in a tent in surrounded by the majestic range of the snow covered Himalays, sat in the middle of Nubra Valley on a full moon night. And each time, it has been a journey of self-discovery. In 2015, I intend to go back to Ladakh again, and also pack in a few more trips, perhaps to the north-eastern parts of India. 

More Of: I want to become good at visual representation of concepts and ideas, practice meditation and mindfulness more regularly, and burn more calories daily.

a) I am in my comfort zone when I write. I am trying to hone and refine the skill; yet, I still find it comforting. I want to push myself to present my ideas in different forms -- presentations, visual maps, infographics, videos, podcasts, etc. I have  tried to capture some of my thoughts in the form of presentations rather than blog posts to push myself to think more visually, and structure my ideas succinctly. Here are the links to a couple of my slide decks on SlideShare: L&D Re-Imagined--21st Century Workplace Learning and Community Management--Toward a Learning Organization. I want to use more visual techniques to illustrate my ideas and concepts -- sketches, infographics, diagrams. This is definitely something I am going to do more of in the coming year.

b) I have been practising meditation and mindfulness somewhat sporadically for a year or so, and more regularly in the last 6~months. I can vouch for the benefits and am committed to my routine. It means giving up perhaps an hour's worth of sleep but that is a small price to pay. There is nothing to beat the very early morning quiet, when the world is still caught in that moment between dawn and daybreak, that fills me with a sense of deep calm and peace.

I am learning the value of prioritisation and managing my time. While I have always been a stickler for "being on time", I learned that valuing my personal time is different. "Being on time" to fulfil someone else's plan is what we are quite good at. When it comes to being on time for myself, I have often failed. Miserably! I have never showed up fully for myself. However, I recognize that it is in fact critical and directly proportional to the value I add to my work and family, to the people who matter to me deeply,and to myself. I've learned that others respect my time only to the extent that I respect it. I have begun to "respect" my time -- what I do, whom I spend it with, how much of it do I spend pursuing my passion, how do I curtail superfluous or meaningless activities -- are questions I have actively started asking myself. Everyday. As Randy Pausch said: "Time is all we have. You may find one day that you have less than you think."

c) I am also one of those people who take up exercising and follow through only to give up in 6 months. This year, I have committed to taking up exercising not as a separate activity but instead integrating it into my lifestyle. I am happy to note that even small changes do have a big impact -- on health, mental and physical agility, and general well-being. 

Start Doing: I want to learn facilitation techniques -- from visual facilitation to online facilitation, contribute more to online communities, and be a strategic L&D consultant.

a) I have always felt that facilitation is a powerful means of enabling dialogue, fostering open collaboration, and providing guidance for deep thinking. This description captures the essence of facilitation and also the reasons why I want to develop and hone my skills in this area: 
A facilitator is an individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. She or he is a “content-neutral” party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group’s work. A facilitator can also be learning or a dialogue guide to assist a group in thinking deeply about its assumptions, beliefs, and values and about its systemic processes and context. ~ Kaner, 2007 
As a start, I am joining the International Association of Facilitators. I am going to look out for opportunities to facilitate workshops (I have done a few but want to facilitate with more rigour and skill), run sessions for organizations and integrate my online community management skills with facilitation. 

b) While I am a member of many online communities, I realised that I have been a lurker in most. I have learned from these communities and taken my learning back to my blog, my work and my inner development, but I have not actively given back to these communities with my contribution and participation. I fully intend to do so in 2015 starting now. This also means prioritizing my time and putting in place a calendar for my writing schedule. 

c) On the professional front, I want to focus on the kind of work that requires problem solving for my clients. I want to be working on strategic L&D consulting assignments where I can apply my different skills and experience -- learning & development strategies, organizational development, instructional design, online community building and management, training and facilitation, designing learning ecosystem, and such.

Stop Doing: I am going to stop over analysing and re-thinking the past, resist spending time on what doesn't give me satisfaction -- intellectually or emotionally.

We all go through experiences and phases where we haven't put our best foot forward, or done what we should have. I have been no different. I have reacted when I should have thoughtfully responded. I have often over-analysed and drawn conclusions when I should have just let things be. I have spent time on fruitless rumination when that time could have been spent doing myriad other things that give me profound joy like spending time with my daughter and family, listening to music, just being with nature, reading, writing, learning, travelling, growing...being my own best friend. 

Less Of: I want to do less of work that does not add to my learning or challenge me to give my best. Most importantly, do less of procrastination in everything that I know I must do. 

a) The mind is a curious machine. Its innate ability to come up with creative and innovative reasons for procrastination have always amazed me. I am not going to give into it as often as I used to. Less procrastination and over-analysing and more of putting my work out there is my mantra this year. While some of my best ideas come to my when I am daydreaming and my brain is in a diffused mode, I intend to do more "focused daydreaming" and not drift.

Overall, 2014 has been a good year. I have done quite a few things I set out to do. Most importantly, I am beginning to value just being in the moment, being present and embracing life. As Isabel Allende says in one of my absolute all-time favourite TED Talks - How to Live Passionately, No Matter Your Age:
"What have I gained? Freedom. I don't have to prove anything anymore. I'm not stuck in the idea of who I was, who I want to be, or what other people expect me to be. ...I love my brain. I feel lighter. I don't carry grudges, ambition, vanity, none of the deadly sins that are not even worth the trouble. It's great to let go. I should have started sooner.
She is my hero. If I can be 1% of the woman she is, I will dance with joy! Looking forward to 2015...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: Don't Hire the Best

I have been catching up on my reading of late after my “to-read” list crossed 50. The most recent book I completed is Abhijit Bhaduri’s (@AbhijitBhaduri) Don’t Hire the Best. Intrigued by the title, I approached the book with some amount of curiosity. After completing it, I can say with conviction that it is a book all recruiters, HR and L&D personnel, leaders and managers ought to read.

The subtitle of the book is: An Essential Guide to Picking the Right Team. However, the book per se is much more than that. It weaves theory with case studies and narratives with effortless ease making what would otherwise have been a rather academic subject, fast paced and interesting. In his trademark style of simple writing (i.e., minus bombastic jargon) without being simplistic, Bhaduri breaks down the roles and skills required of those in a leadership position before going on to write about assessing those skills and organizational fit.

The thrust of his book is on, as the title says, “don’t hire the best”. While it focuses on guiding organizations to select the right people at the top, the lessons can be applied to recruiting, coaching, developmental feedback and team building. More than ever before, organizations need to build the right culture to retain the right people, be on the cutting edge and meet the flux of change. Hierarchical or not, all organizations are driven by people at the helm. And it is utterly critical to ensure that those recruited to lead the organizations are the right people. Bhaduri quotes stories of rock star CEOs and executives recruited from outside who failed to integrate into the culture and wreaked havoc without intending to. The loss incurred can go deep and permeate multiple levels from lost talent and credibility to irate customers. Hence, it’s not the best resume but the right hire that makes a difference. He doesn't leave us with theories and observations but deep dives into the details of how to conduct the evaluation providing many practical insights, implementable suggestions and heaps of learning.

The four areas assessed during the evaluation process are education, experiences, competencies and personality. The first two are relatively easy to glean from a resume, and a well-designed interview can assess the third aspect, competencies. However, evaluating personality is a different ballgame. And personality is the defining factor in how successful or not an individual will be in a position of authority and power in an organization. Without an appropriate organizational culture and personality match, the relationship is likely to be doomed. “The measurement of personality is the greatest predictor of fit with the role and the culture. The role operates in the context of the organization’s culture.”  This sentence underlies the main theme of the book.

The assessing of personality requires the use of appropriate psychometric instruments and individuals skilled to do so. Using the Hogan Assessment System as the base, Bhaduri highlights two aspects of one’s personality – the enablers and the derailers emphasizing that each of these must be assessed in the context of the role for which the individual is going to be recruited. The enablers in one organization and role may be derailers in another. Supporting each personality factor with a narrative drawn from his experience, he illustrates how each enabler and derailer works in the real world.

Hogan Performance Indicators (HPI) in the Hogan system are the enablers – “the characteristics that facilitate or inhibit the person’s ability to get along with others and to achieve his goals”.  While one would need to be formally trained in using the Hogan Assessment System, the book is a good introduction to the system, its applicability and benefits. HPI has seven scales, which the book explains in some detail: 1) Adjustment reflecting the degree to which a person can adapt and show resilience; 2) Ambition exemplifying the extent to which a person seeks status and values achievement; 3) Sociability representing the degree to which an individual likes to interact and be around others; 4) Interpersonal Sensitivity showcases a person’s sensitivity, tact and perceptiveness; 5) Prudence illustrates degree of conscientiousness and self-control; 6) Inquisitive typifies curiosity, vision and imagination; and finally, 7) Learning Approach reflects the degree to which an individual appreciates academic activities for themselves. Each individual will have a mix of scores on the seven scales mentioned. “All personality elements have to be interpreted against a role and the culture of the organization”.

Hogan Development Survey (HDS) lists 11 performance risks that can derail a person, his/her career and the organization if s/he in a position of power and authority. “Derailers are deeply ingrained personality traits that affect leadership style and action”. I won’t detail out the derailers; I highly recommend this book to all L&D and HR professionals, executive coaches, and leaders who are building or coaching their teams to become more effective – both for the org as well as for themselves. I have listed the derailers here: 1) Excitable, 2) Skeptical, 3) Cautious, 4) Reserved, 5) Leisurely, 6) Bold, 7) Mischievous, 8) Colourful, 9) Imaginative, 10) Diligent, and 11) Dutiful. At senior levels, leaders inevitably fail not because of competency issues but because of the derailers that make up the “dark side” of their personality.

The final section of the book gave me my Aha! moment where Bhaduri elucidates how to determine organizational fit using MVPI (Motive, Values and Performance Inventory) – the core beliefs that drive one’s behavior. “The values that leaders hold are important indicators of the culture that they create in the organizations they lead.” The MVPI has 10 scales like recognition, power, hedonism, affiliation, and aesthetics and so on. “…You will often see the organization mirroring the values of the most influential leader of the organization,” writes Bhaduri.

All in all, this slim book with its quirky title packs a punch. Thoroughly researched and eminently readable, it offers many practical advice and contains Bhaduri’s synthesized experience made accessible for all. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Instructional Design in the VUCA World

The current trends of technology, globalization, shifting demographics and a connected globe clearly portend a dramatically changing world. We are feeling the impact in all spheres of our lives -- professional, personal and private. In my last post, I took a macro-view of the changing landscape of work and learning. In this post, I am trying to dig a little deeper and take a micro-view to see how these changes impact us as individuals and as a part of L&D. 

L&D team's work has become more complex and challenging. The L&D needs to comprise some of the following roles to cater to the changing needs of the future of work:
  1. Instructional Designer/Learning Designer-someone who will do needs analysis, design learning in line with adult learning principles, structure learning events for different delivery channels, and so on
  2. Learning Delivery-tasks like facilitation / presentation of learning events, engaging learners, making best use of different media
  3. Learning Management-tasks include programme / project management, learning evaluation, stakeholder management, supplier management
  4. Community Manager
  5. Performance Consultant 
  6. Leadership Development (Coaching Skills)-coaching and developing leaders is going to be of significant importance in this era of rapid change and ambiguity
  7. Technology Enabler-someone who explores new technologies with an eye on how it can be used to enable learning at an organizational and personal level
  8. Business and Data Analyst-maybe the same person or two different people, this role essentially requires someone to see the patterns and trends being revealed by the data captured (via LMS, through feedback, interaction of ESNs, queries raised)
  9. Social and Informal Learning Evangelist and Guide 
  10. Organizational Development Expert
It is not necessary for an individual to play a single role. On the contrary, it is to the advantage of the individual, the team and the organization if people are poly-skilled in different aspects as per inclination and requirement. Some of these roles have existed for years (the ones in bold). Some are yet to become recognized roles. I have highlighted the ones that have been a part of L&D from times of greater stability and lesser complexity. However, even those roles can no longer function the way they used to. The roles need to be revisited and explored keeping in mind the shifting paradigms, their impact on workplace learning, and the place of L&D in the organization. It's critical for a CLO to have an eye on the changing landscape and enable new skill sets within the t 

Historically, L&D has been vested with the responsibility of keeping skills and knowledge of the workforce updated based on: 
  • Inputs from managers 
  • Current business requirements
  • Skill-gap analysis 
Most of the training programs were designed around "best practices" and explicit know-how gathered over the years. Training design, therefore, was not only top down but also past focused drawing insights from what worked in the past, getting expert inputs built in, and putting the content together in a linear and logical flow. This would then be packaged (ILT/elearning/blended learning) and delivered to the workforce in need of the said training. Context, conversation and collaboration weren't given much thought. These continued to happen but outside of the purview of the formal training. 

With the advent of big shifts and disruptive technology in the shape of Social, Mobile Computing, Cloud Computing and Big Data, all the old notions of work are falling apart. I wrote about L&D's Role in the VUCA World some time back. Here, I am narrowing my focus to the role of Instructional Design in the VUCA world

There have been paradigm shifts in what drives workplace learning today. And these in turn influence the role of instructional designers. Instructional design skills have existed as long as formal learning existed – from the designing of school curriculum to e-learning modules. However, it has changed in some very fundamental ways: In the past, instructional design presumed stable content and a fixed set of skills and knowledge. Design was linear. Children or adults – it was assumed that everyone had a set of skill and knowledge gaps that training programs could resolve. Today, that stability has been snatched away. We cannot design training programs for skills that are emergent and still unknown. Today, instructional design needs to be future focused. ID’s need to leverage existing and emergent power of technology that are inherently social and mobile. 
The table below summarizes the key shifts that impact how we design learning experiences today:
All of these together have fostered deep rifts in how we work and learn. As Instructional Designers, these are critical paradigms we have to consider when designing the learning experience in our organizations. In the infographic, Futureproof Your Careers shared by Jane Hart, we can see the top 10 skills that will increasingly be required by all. Instructional design thinking must not only keep the skills in mind but also be cognizant of the forces of Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo) that will drive user behaviour. 
Each of these forces have a transformational effect on our behaviour. Learning design must take these new usage patterns into account. Some of the emerging behaviours range from:
  1. A preference to view a short 2 minute video to know about a something over reading a 2 page PDF
  2. A predilection for images over text - with a smartphone at their fingertips, today's users prefer to share experiences via real-time video and images rather than long descriptive texts. Apps like WhatsApp makes it seamless to share.
  3. An inclination towards accessing one's network for answers to queries over taking a formal course
  4. A just-in-time, "let's get the problem solved attitude" over "let's learn in case we need it"
  5. An expectation of finding courses, programs and access to their learning communities on their personal devices 
These shifts have slowly but surely crept up on us one at a time. And now their cumulative effect is being felt in all spheres. A summary of how these paradigm shifts may impact the work and skills required of instructional designers are given in the table below. 
One of the implications of the shift is that instructional designers can no longer think about designing only formal training programs that will go on the LMS. They have to think of the entire spectrum and see it holistically. Jane Hart's Workplace Learning Continuum illustrates the learning spectrum very effectively. Instructional designers need to take both ends of the continuum into consideration and leave the choice of access to users. 
Depending on the need of the hour, users can access any end of the spectrum -- taking full-fledged training programs if they feel the need, or connecting and collaborating on the enterprise social network to solve their work-related challenges. The choice is theirs to make. 

Since we are so used to thinking of formally designed, LMS-driven learning programs, we flounder when it comes to thinking about Learning Ecosystem design. Based on the framework above, I have tried to put together a visual representation of what such an ecosystem could be. 
The ecosystem brings the offline and online world together. An instructional designer must think of all modalities of learning when design thinking. 

Some questions to ask could be:
  1. Are groups of users co-located? If yes, think of including some offline activities like Lunch & Learns, Hangout Sessions, and so on to strengthen informal & peer-to-peer learning. 
  2. Is expertise distributed? Have an Ask the Expert section. Anyone could be an expert on any topic; in this manner, the organizational tacit knowledge will get captured, interesting questions will surface, and the value of weak ties will be explored. Learning from the edge will come to the center.
  3. Do users work out of different locations, including home, hubs, etc? If yes, inculcate the practice of narrating one's work
  4. Is the churn in workforce high? If yes, have a robust online + offline on-boarding program which includes adding users to relevant communities, an online buddy/mentor, a clearly defined roadmap based on their current role.
  5. Does the workforce consist of different generations working together? Add some scope for mentoring and reverse mentoring. If the culture of the workplace is conducive, pairing individuals of different generations could be beneficial although it is important to keep in mind that stereotyping generational characteristics can be detrimental. 
None of these are likely to happen overnight. Nor are they one-time activities. Putting in place a learning ecosystem where individuals engage as self-managed learners require constant vigilance, robust design thinking, application of sound community management principles and a strong change management focus. Some of the core tasks are illustrated in the diagram below. 

Thus, an instructional designer today is required to not only understand the fundamentals of good instructional design but must also expand his/her skill sets to include an understanding of community management, the spectrum of learning from formal to informal, the impact of social, local and mobile on user behaviour, the need to equip users with self-managed learning skills. The latter is increasingly critical as we encounter unique challenges and requirements that call for emergent skills. No one can be "trained" for emergent skills. But the ecosystem can be designed to facilitate continuous learning, collaboration and communication. 

Organizations as Communities — Part 2

Yesterday, in a Twitter conversation with Rachel Happe regarding the need for organizations to function as communities, I wrote the follow...