Category Archives: Workscaping

Through the Workscape Looking Glass

Your Workscape is everything in your organization except the training department. It’s where work is done and where people hone the skills they need to add value. It’s the biggest frame of the big picture. It’s relationships and culture and secret sauce. It’s the organization as organism. To prosper, you need to nurture it, plant seeds, pamper the ground. It’s your job to help the system thrive.

Learning Ecosystem, Learning Ecology, and Learnscape mean the same thing as Workscape. I don’t use the word learn with executives, who inevitably think back to the awfulness of school and close their ears. “Let’s talk about performance.” 

ecology

The Workscape is a systems-eye view of the workplace. Everything is connected. Rather than try to control nature, we do what it takes to keep the environment thriving.

In the same vein, I talk about Working Smarter instead of informal learning, social learning, and so forth. Some people denigrate informal learning but nobody’s against Working Smarter.

Your organization already has a workscape where people are learning to work smarter. That’s where all the informal and social learning we hear about is taking place. The problem is that the learning processes are haphazard, often a paving of the cow paths. Many employees and stakeholders miss out—and stumble. Most companies’ systems fail to get the job done. Our Workscape ecologies are entering a do-or-die phase like global warming. Management is demanding that the workforce be more effective. “What got us here will not get us there.” We must nurture the Workscape or face corporate meltdown.

Global warming signals in Workscapes

clarkWe hear that if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” yet most corporate learning and development is broken. 77% of the senior managers surveyed by the Corporate Leadership Council reported they were dissatisfied with L&D. 76% said L&D was not critical to business outcomes. Only 14% would recommend working with L&D. Clark Quinn’s recent book, Revolutionizing Learning and Development, slams L&D, which should be named Performance and Development, for seriously underperforming.    

Time is speeding up. More happens in a day than your grandmother experienced in a week. Keeping sharp and up to date is now a continuing part of everyone’s job. Corporate learning must expand from focusing on the classroom, which provides at best 10% of learning, to the entire organization  where learning while doing is the rule. Training a novice may lead to  productivity gains in the future. Helping an experienced person impacts the bottom line immediately. Little wonder that the training department is underperforming: they only touch a minority of employees, most of them newcomers.

transformationAs many as four out of five large multinationals report they are undergoing a digital transformation. It goes by many names, from Enterprise 2.0 to Radical Management or simply Going Paperless. Altimeter Group defines digital transformation as: “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”* The digital transformation of workplace learning involves moving from the limited training department to the holistic Workscape framework view of the world.

The input may be establishing social learning networks; the output is improvement in the business overall.

Scope of the habitat

Put on your ecologist hat. Let’s examine the diversity of species among those people in your Workscape drawing paychecks:

Novices and newbies have been the main focus of training. This includes new hire on-boarding and provision of basic and technical skills (we’re all novices at something). This minority uses a disproportionate share of the training department’s resources and mindshare.

Experienced producers bring home the bacon yet training departments overlook them. Training departments have single-shot solutions: courses. Courses are rarely appropriate for experienced workers. Many old hands will not tolerate them nor learn from them if they do. They know that experience is a better teacher. Tuning the learning environment to make systemic changes for this underserved population has fantastic upside potential, perhaps enough to get CLOs a real seat at table in the C-Suite.

Top performers are the 20% of the team that generate 80% of the results. A 1% improvement at this level makes waves. This species needs special handling, sometimes including personal service.

Compliance is a red herring that people point to when discussing how deep “training” goes into the organization. However, compliance is not learning. Sure, it’s required, but no body’s expecting much performance improvement in the area, particularly in its present primitive form.

Alumni are an overlooked opportunity in many organizations. IBM invested in keeping former IBMers abreast of what was going on back at Big Blue. The alumni connected over social media and saw demos in Second Life. The result? An on-going flow of leads from true-believers and those who contract with IBM.

Subspecies. L&D has traditionally focused on the needs of employees on the payroll exclusively, disregarding the fact that partners, customers, subcontractors, temps, service agencies, outsourcers, suppliers, and others are equally part of the value chain. Take the Workscape view. Let’s go up to a balcony overlooking a model of your business. Look at the flow of business. You can see that the product is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. Think carefully about who you want to be co-learning with.

extendedenterprise

The Workscape should address the needs of learners throughout the extended enterprise.

Theoretically, your Workscape — the realm where you’ll be wielding your influence on performance and learning — could stretch way beyond your firewall to include nearly everyone the organization interacts with. Imagine how much cooperation will improve if they all read from the same page.

Reading the temperature

The climate for Workscapes is changing, forcing a re-think of how things are connected.

Decision-making is migrating from institution to individual, from training to pull learning, and shifts “power to the people.” This is how digital transformation works: digital democracy first. Digital citizens exploit connections and take power. Making the shift is an enormous change management task.

Informal, experiential work is three times more effective than formal, top-down training. Experiential earning is migrating into the workflow at a very fast rate. Spread the footprint of the Workscape to the optimal size.

Workscapes are complex and unpredictable, in perpetual beta. Experiments are cheap. Plant lots (hundreds, thousands) of Workscape experiments and nurture those that catch on. Watch out for monoculture (using only one solution) and the echo effect (making judgments from a narrow spectrum of reality).

Nurturing the Workscape requires competencies such as business problem analysis, collaboration experts, community managers, and moxie. I foresee learning process SWAT teams attacking connection gaps. You don’t have these people on board now.

Forget about the traditional way you’ve trained people. Unlearn your assumptions about courses and top-down learning. Break with the present by looking ahead five years. Start with a blank piece of paper. Take a Workscape perspective. Assess the organizational benefits of:

  • embedding learning in work, covering a much larger audience
  • setting up learning as a continuous activity, not an event
  • leveraging self-sustaining processes instead of one-time courses
  • pinpointing high-return activities such as manager coaching
  • embracing social and experiential learning
  • changing the learning philosophy from push to pull
  • employing business metrics to gauge success
  • canvasing the organization for opportunities instead of waiting for requests
  • focusing on overall business outcomes
  • building self-sufficient teams
  • extending the Workscape to cover partners, customers, and outsourced services
  • making learning a driver with business impact

The learning conservationist toolkit

L&D’s collaboration experts and SWAT teams are digital MacGyvers who weave techniques like these into Workscapes:

Make Management responsible for development

  • Issue stretch assignments to grow staff
  • Mentors, coaching
  • Action learning

Personal Learning Network

  • Collaboration and cooperation
  • Friends and colleagues provide answers
  • Peer learning

Performance support

  • Job aids, bookmarks,
  • FAQs, aggregation, curation

Access to information

  • Wiki, inhouse YouTube, internet
  • Self-study catalog, portals

Enterprise social network

  • Activity stream keeps one up to date
  • Platform for conversation
  • Opportunity to share knowledge

Communities of Practice

  • Professional growth
  • Knowledge repository
  • Create knowledge

Blogs

  • Individual publishing (Learn out loud!)
  • Follow thinking of others

Social learning

  • Make conversation easy
  • Collaboration

Mobile

  • DIY

Performance feedback

  • Is it working? How can we do better?

Microlearning

  • Learning in tiny bites

Instead of taking requests, the traditional role of training departments, learning conservationists actively seek out opportunities where learning will have the most impact.

One group of L&D special agents posted this set of beliefs to explain how it worked to its internal clients:

  • We are open and transparent.
  • We narrate our work. Need to share.
  • We support continuous learning, not events.
  • We value conversation as a learning vehicle.
  • We drink our own champagne (or mimosas).
  • Business success is our bottom line.
  • We are not a training organization.
  • We value time for self-development and reflection.
  • We establish business metrics for every engagement and report back publicly on outcomes.

workscape

Changing the physical environment can improve learning.

The staff will use any tool available to improve learning, right down to moving the furniture. A computer manufacturer discovered that its chip designers learned from overhearing conversations among their peers. They replaced a cube farm with comfortable sofas, rolling white boards, and espresso machines — and watched the production of innovative ideas skyrocket.

Environmental impact report

In a 2011 book, A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown described the kind of learning necessary in this new environment as “whitewater learning”—the ability to acquire useful knowledge and skills while at the same time practicing them in an environment that is constantly evolving and presenting new challenges. They argue that our learning environments need to match the speed and degree of change happening in the world around us.**

The emancipation of both nature and the human imagination depends first on the capacity to ‘unsay’ the world and, second, on the ability to image it differently so that wonder might be brought into appearance.***

Over a hundred CLOs told us what they were currently doing was insufficient to prepare them to deal with the future needs of the business. Obviously it’s time to do something different.

Our People Growing Fast Enough

One way to accelerate people’s development is to optimize learning by looking at the organization as an organic, unpredictable, complex system. It’s time to fix the big picture by working on the level of the Workscape.

________________

*Digital transformation by any other name, Jason Bloomberg in Forbes

**Aspen Institute, The Learning Ecosystem

*** James Corner, “Ecology and Landscape as Agents of Creativity,” in Ecological design and planning, George F. Thompson and Frederick R. Steiner, editors, (New York: John Wiley, 1997), p.99. quoted in Design Education and Innovation Ecotones by Ann Pendleton-Julian

________________

Research funded by Litmos

Peeragogy

howardIn his keynote presentation at Online Educa Berlin last week, Howard Rheingold emphasized co-learning.

Since the teacher learns more than the student, let’s all be both teachers and students. Esteemed co-learners, your job is to create new co-learning communities. If a group doesn’t exist for facilitate your informal learning, make one.

Peeragogy is a set of techniques for collaborative learning and work. It’s a both a discipline and a living book. Howard kicked off the Peeragogy project, many authors contributed to the work, and now a team is dedicated to making it ever better. Housed on a wiki, Peeragogy keeps on improving. Peeragogy walks its talk.

peeragogy

Version 2.0 of the book is out now. Free pdf & brand new softcover for $20.

Version 3.0 is in progress and you can help! Join “Peeragogy in Action” on g+.

I made a contribution on Peeragogy in the corporation for an early version of the book two years ago that presaged some of the current buzz about learning ecosystems.

The Workscape, a platform for learning

Formal learning takes place in classrooms; informal learning happens in workscapes. A workscape is a learning ecology. As the environment of learning, a workscape includes the workplace. In fact, a workscape has no boundaries. No two workscapes are alike. Your workscape may include being coached on giving effective presentations, calling the help desk for an explanation, and researching an industry on the Net. My workscape could include participating in a community of field technicians, looking things up on a search engine, and living in France for three months.

Developing a platform to support informal learning is analogous to landscaping a garden. A major component of informal learning is natural learning, the notion of treating people as organisms in nature. The people are free-range learners. Our role is to protect their environment, provide nutrients for growth, and let nature take its course.

A landscape designer’s goal is to conceptualize a harmonious, unified, pleasing garden that makes the most of the site at hand. A workscape designer’s goal is to create a learning environment that increases the organization’s longevity and health and the individual’s happiness and well-being.

Gardeners don’t control plants; managers don’t control people. Gardeners and managers have influence but not absolute authority. They can’t makea plant fit into the landscape or a person fit into a team.

In an ideal Workscape, workers can easily find the people and information they need, learning is fluid and new ideas flow freely, corporate citizens live and work by the organization’s values, people know the best way to get things done, workers spend more time creating value than handling exceptions, and everyone finds their work challenging and fulfilling.

The technical infrastructure of the Workscape

When an organization is improving its Workscape, looking at consumer applications is a good way to think about what’s required. Ask net-savvy younger workers how they would like to learn new skills, and they bring up the features they enjoy in other services:

  • Personalize my experience and make recommendations, like Amazon.
  • Make it easy for me to connect with friends, like Facebook.
  • Keep me in touch with colleagues and associates in other companies, as on LinkedIn.
  • Persistent reputations, as at eBay, so you can trust who you’re collaborating with.
  • Multiple access options, like a bank that offers access by ATM, the Web, phone, or human tellers.
  • Don’t overload me. Let me learn from YouTube, an FAQ, or linking to an expert.
  • Show me what’s hot, like Reddit, Digg, MetaFilter, or Fark do.
  • Give me single sign-on, like using my Facebook profile to access multiple applications.
  • Let me choose and subscribe to streams of information I’m interested in, like BoingBoing, LifeHacker or Huffpost.
  • Provide a single, simple, all-in-one interface, like that provided by Google for search.
  • Help me learn from a community of kindred spirits, like SlashDot, Reddit, and MetaFilter.
  • Give me a way to voice my opinions and show my personality, as on my blog.
  • Show me what others are interested in, as with social bookmarks like Diigo and Delicious.
  • Make it easy to share photos and video, as on Flickr and YouTube.
  • Leverage “the wisdom of crowds,” as when I pose a question to my followers on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Enable users to rate content, like “Favoriting” an item on Facebook or +!ing is on Google or YouTube.

Some of those consumer applications are simple to replicate in-house. Others are not. You can’t afford to replicate Facebook or Google behind your firewall. That said, there are lots of applications you can implement at reasonable cost. Be skeptical if your collaborative infrastructure that doesn’t include these minimal functions:

Profiles – for locating and contacting people with the right skills and background. Profile should contain photo, position, location, email address, expertise (tagged so it’s searchable). IBM’s Blue Pages profiles include how to reach you (noting whether you’re online now), reporting chain (boss, boss’s boss, etc.), link to your blog and bookmarks, people in your network, links to documents you frequently share, members of your network.

Activity stream – for monitoring the organization pulse in real time, sharing what you’re doing, being referred to useful information, asking for help, accelerating the flow of news and information, and keeping up with change

Wikis – for writing collaboratively, eliminating multiple versions of documents, keeping information out in the open, eliminating unnecessary email, and sharing responsibility for updates and error correction

Virtual meetings – to make it easy to meet online. Minimum feature set: shared screen, shared white board, text chat, video of participants. Bonus features: persistent meeting room (your office online), avatars.

Blogs – for narrating your work, maintaining your digital reputation, recording accomplishments, documenting expert knowledge, showing people what you’re up to so they can help out

Bookmarks – to facilitate searching for links to information, discover what sources other people are following, locate experts

Mobile access – Half of America’s workforce sometimes works away from the office. Smart phones are surpassing PCs for connecting to networks for access and participation. Phones post most Tweets than computers. Google designs its apps for mobile before porting them to PCs.

Social network – for online conversation, connecting with people, and all of the above functions.

Conclusion

Learning used to focus on what was in an individual’s head. The individual took the test, got the degree, or earned the certificate. The new learning focuses on what it takes to do the job right. The workplace is an open-book exam. What worker doesn’t have a cell phone and an Internet connection? Using personal information pipelines to get help from colleagues and the Internet to access the world’s information is encouraged. Besides, it’s probably the team that must perform, not a single individual.  Thirty years ago, three-quarters of what a worker need to do the job was stored in her head; now it’s less than 10%.

 

 

#ITASHARE   #JAYCROSS    #OEB14

Learning out loud

workscapeGo ahead. Peak into my brain. New thoughts are percolating but the outcomes are still fuzzy.

I’m soundly convinced that Learning Platforms are crowding out Learning Programs. This is an inevitable part of moving from Stocks to Flows, from Push to Pull, from institutional control to personal freedom, and from rigid industrialism to flexible, more human work environments. Focus on improving the learning ecology rather than tackle one event at a time.

“Learning in advance” doesn’t work in a realtime world, so learning and work have converged. Learning is simply an aspect of getting the job done. Learning new things — sometimes by inventing them — is an obligation of corporate citizens. Most of this learning takes place in the workplace. The learning platform is the organization itself, not some separate entity.

I call these learning aspects of an organization its Workscape. A Workscape is a metaphorical space. The Workscape can include the water cooler, the Friday beer bust, the conversation nook at the office, wi-fi in the cafeteria, the enterprise culture, in-house communications, access to information, cultural norms around sharing and disclosure, tolerance for nonconformity, risk aversion, organizational structure, worker autonomy, and virtually any aspect of the company that can be tweaked to enable people to Work Smarter.

This afternoon I’ve been trying to come up with next practices for Workscapes in general. What are the design principles for optimal workscapes? What aspects of good learning should migrate into the Workscape. A starter list:

  • All learning is self-directed. Give people the freedom to chart their own course. “I like to learn but I hate to be taught.” Set high expectations and people live up to them. Help people make sense of and prosper in the world and the workplace.
  • Conversations are the stem-cells of learning. Foster open, frequent, frank conversation both virtually and in person.
  • Experiential learning is magic. People learn by doing. Encourage experimentation. Insure that managers and mentors understand the impact of “stretch assignments.” JDI. Broadcast opportunities and projects.
  • Teach people the least they need know to tackle things on their own.
  • Make it drop-dead simple to access people in the know, the lessons of experience, how-to information, and performance support.
  • Learning is social. Encourage participation in communities. Narrate your work and share with others. Communities and guilds create knowledge as well as consume it.
  • We want what we want, no more. Whenever possible, provide choices. Give me the pieces to create personalized learning experiences.
  • Learning is for everyone, not just novices and up-and-comers. You can’t expect to prosper without it. Make sure everyone’s covered.
  • Learning takes reinforcement in order to stick. Seek feedback. Blog, tweet, and otherwise share your reflections. Revisiting what you learn fixes it in memory.
  • Innovation is born of mashing up concepts from different disciplines. Encourage looking outside the box.
  • Provide feeds for what’s going on in the team, the department, the company, the industry, and technical disciplines.
  • People confuse learning with schooling. Build lessons on learning how to learn into the Workscape itself.

I’ll keep building the list but I’m hungry for more. I don’t want to get caught thinking small. What other aspects of sustaining the organization should be here?

Most of the value of organizations derives from Social Capital. (See my post Measure what’s important.) Were you able to deconstruct an organization into molecules of social capital, you’d have:

  • human capital – the know-how of the workforce
  • relationship captal – your reputation and ways of working with customers and partners
  • structural capital – processes, systems, and secret sauce

social capital

Thus far, my list deals with only human capital. Help me think through the role of the Workscape in leveraging relationship capital and structural capital as well.

 

How to replace top-down training with collaborative learning (1)

The Twenty-First Century Corporation Businesses around the world are transforming into extended enterprise networks but their training departments are stuck in the previous century. In the pursuit of trying to fix what’s broken, let’s imagine what ideal corporate learning would look like if we could start over from scratch. In the 1800s and 1900s, successful companies ran like well-oiled machines. Workers were mere cogs in those machines. The people were interchangeable parts. Companies paid them to follow instructions and do the same thing over and over again. Workers have since replaced machines as the primary means of creating value. Companies rely on them to solve problems, delight customers, and stay ahead of the game. They are what make a business go and grow. A company’s market value echoes the ingenuity, know-how and reputation of its people. Twenty-first century employees have to do complex, unpredictable work. They have to keep up with a torrent of new products and services, not just their own but also their competitors’. They have to stay sharp in a world that’s going ever faster. They have to grapple with a barrage of new information and demands on their time. Continuous learning is the only way they can keep up. Their work has become learning, and learning is the bulk of their work. And, on top of this, technology has connected the world, making it possible to connect with just about anyone, anytime, anywhere. The ease of sharing of information has lead to a cultural phenomenon, which relates to our topic at hand; people are used to being able to get the answers to their questions – to learn – of their own accord through research and conversation. But this way of learning – autonomous searching and social collaboration – has not yet been reflected in corporate learning, demonstrating that corporate learning has fallen behind. To keep things simple in our following exploration of how corporate learning needs to change, let’s call the industrial-age (old school) companies Hierarchical and the network-era (2012) companies Collaborative. Control in Hierarchical companies resides at the top. Orders and instructions are pushed down through the organization. Control in Collaborative companies is distributed throughout the organizations. Workers and supervisors have a large say in what they do and they pull in the resources they need for themselves. So, imagine the training department just disappeared because our organization has shifted from Hierarchical to Collaborative, and learning has become everyone’s business. Where should we focus to improve learning? It’s a matter of people and infrastructure. Those will be the topics of my next posts on this subject.
White paper      |      Slideshare

Online Educa

Participants at Educa are enthusiastic:

You can watch a longer version of the party video here. When did you last see this enthusiastic a group of learning professionals?

OEB

Six of the Business Educa track sessions in Berlin were streamed and recorded:

The Opening Conversation

Social Media & Mobile Learning

Learning from Experience

Games: Should you be doing this at work?

Working Smarter with Learning Networks

Preparing for Business Educa 2011

Overall Business Educa Video Archive

Online Educa Day 2
Tony O’Driscoll was up at 5:00 am to present his thoughts on learning in 3D from North Carolina. The Tech Staff do not recognize that Macs exist and did not have the right cable to bring in the Skype session. Here is my implementation hack. We could hear Tony clearly; seeing his face on the screen was a bit tough.

Online Educa Day 2
Show’s over.

European Launch of The Working Smarter Fieldbook

One of the joys of publishing an unbook instead of going the traditional route is putting together your own marketing campaign. We released The Working Smarter Fieldbook at the Irish Learning Showcase in Dublin.

Dublin Book Release

This being Ireland, Guinness played a major role.

Dublin Book Release

Several people who had read the 2009 and earlier 2010 editions of Work Smarter asked if they should read the new version. I told them yes. The Fieldbook is more than half new material. It’s 50% longer. It has many more ideas from Jane, Charles, Harold, Clark, and Jon. Readers tell me it’s a more practical book.

Co-author Jane Hart and I introduced the book at the formal Irish Learning Showcase. Interactive Services purchased books for everyone in attendance.

2010IrishLearningShowcase 124

Co-author Charles Jennings joined me the next day for celebrations at the Guinness Storehouse.

Dublin Book Release

Sharon Kaliouby hosted the third part of the release at Dublin’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head. (Click link for cool Celtic music.)

Dublin Book Release

The young woman to my left added to the festivities.

Western Ireland

Ireland is wonderful. The Internet Time Alliance will be back.