Pick of the Month: August 2012

August is typically a quiet month, but there have been plenty of good blog posts and articles around.  Here is my pick of the month’s reading – together with a snippet from each one which shows you why it caught my eye. Once again I’ve spotted a number of themes. (Would you like an (almost) daily drip feed of great posts and articles? Then subscribe to Jane’s Pick of the Day).

1 – Importance of self organised learning

The month started with a survey, reported in Social Business News, that showed that Professionals spend 40% of their time in online peer communities

“The study surveyed 300 professionals and found that by far the most frequent use of social media amongst professionals was interacting with their peers in professional communities 

Nearly 80% of respondents participate in online groups to help others by sharing information and experiences; 66% participate in a professional community of colleagues and peers; 41% participate in groups to be seen as someone knowledgeable.”

This is just one of a number of surveys that is putting paid the concerns that workers are simply wasting time in such communities; for it is clear they are gaining great value from them.

Celisa Steele, in another piece on the same day, The Opportunity—and Threat—of Self-Directed Learning, wrote about  “Your Organization’s Role in Facilitating Self-Direction”

“More than ever, learners must think strategically about how they build their professional skills and knowledge over the course of their career. You have to recognize self-direction as an inherent need of adult learners and help those learners clearly see where your organization fits in the strategy.

Helping learners see where the organization fits in means, of course, that the organization understands how it fits in, which will require new thinking and throwing out old approaches. For example, organizations need to give up the idea of being a one-stop shop for their learners. That’s an antiquated notion in today’s information-everywhere reality that makes it easier than ever for adults to direct their own learning.

But the other side of the information-everywhere reality is that learners need help in finding their direction. If your organization doesn’t play the role of guide, then you’re not helping your learners as much as you could—and you’re leaving a lot to chance in your own business strategy.”

Personal knowledge management is clearly becoming a key workplace skill, and in fact Harold Jarche, in Please tell me about your PKM, takes it one step further …

“I think that asking, “What can you do for the organization today?”, would be a better way to start an interview. Considering that in complex, networked environments, where work is learning and learning is the work, would it not be better to find out how people are learning? Imagine an interview beginning with, “Good day, Mister Jones, please sit down and tell us about your PKM.” Other questions could follow:

    • How do you keep your learning up to date?
    • With whom do you learn?
    • How do you capture your learning?”

2 – Engagement v Compliance

The London Olympics was a very successful event, and one of the aspects that many commented on was the  enthusisam and professionalism of the volunteers. HBR ran an article on 8 August, The Olympics’ Greatest Feat: An Unpaid, Highly Engaged Workforce where it explained:

“Their approach is a joy. They talk to strangers with enthusiasm. They make jokes about the weather. They are helpful and polite. They love what they are doing. They say “have a nice day.” And they mean it.

And then went on to ask ..

“So what can the corporate world learn from all this? Certainly it is a world in which managers talk solemnly about their “engagement” efforts. And certainly that is because disengagement—a deep-rooted disenchantment with work—is a pervasive problem.

The Olympic volunteers remind us what real engagement looks like. They show us what organizations that fan the enthusiasm of their participants can deliver. They give new life to the old-fashioned notion that good work gives us good societies.”

As the HB piece explains, although there is talk of building an “engaged workforce”, there are still very many others that still focus on building a “compliant” workforce.  Charles Jennings, later in the month wrote an insightful post, and asked,  Compliance training: does it really work?

“We need to step back from the standard knee-jerk response that compliance training is a necessary and effective way (and often the only way) of improving levels of compliance, and that there is no alternative open to us. There seems to be little evidence to support the link between compliant behaviour and current standard compliance training approaches. In fact some of the evidence indicates the contra-argument.

In other words it is likely that most of the time, effort and money spent on compliance training is simply being wasted. At best it’s a security blanket. At worst it promotes non-compliant behaviour. Even paper-waving training records in front of judges and national commissions no longer holds much sway.”

Of course, Charles has some suggestions for how effective compliance training should  take place, so do read the whole article for more on that.

4 – Social Collaboration 

Towards the end of the month Fast Company commented on a new report from McKinsey, explaining The $1.3 Trillion Price Of Not Tweeting At Work

“Savings comes from some unexpected places. Two-thirds of the value unlocked by social media rests in “improved communications and collaboration within and across enterprises,” according to the report. Far from a distraction, in other words, social media proves a surprising boon to productivity. …

Social technologies have the potential to free up expertise trapped in departmental silos. High-skill workers can now be tapped company-wide. Managers can find out “which employees have the deepest knowledge in certain subjects, or who last contributed to a project and how to get in touch with them quickly,” says New York Times tech reporter Quentin Hardy. Just cutting email out of the picture in favor of social sharing translates to a productivity windfall as “more enterprise information becomes accessible and searchable, rather than locked up as ‘dark matter’ in inboxes.”

But just adding social media onto existing traditional business processes isn’t going to change very much on its own, and in the same way,  simply adding social media into the training process isn’t going to make much difference either. It requires a new organisational learning culture and mindset (as I explained in my recent post, The differences between learning in an e-business and learning in a social business).  Jay Cross picked up on this in his blog post, Isn’t this how organizational learning cultures progress?

“It’s all too easy to mistakenly think of formal learning as the antiquated, primitive way of doing things, something an organization shucks off as it becomes enlightened and gives its people the autonomy to work on their own. The notion of stages suggests that a corporation hops from one stage to the next, abandoning past approaches as it advances.

What really happens is that one innovation is built on top of what’s gone before. Just as bicycles did not eliminate walking and cars did not do away with automobiles, informal learning doesn’t snuff out formal learning. That’s why models like 80/20 and 70:20:10 retain the 20 and the 10.”

5 – And more …

Two other things caught my attention.

Firstly, the release of the Pilot Comparative Study of Online Encyclopaedias Yields Insights Into Wikipedia’s Accuracy and Quality, by Epic in conjunction with Oxford University, showed

“… Wikipedia articles in general emerge commendably in a number of respects, and it was possible to identify a pattern of qualities: Wikipedia articles were generally seen as being more up to date than other articles and were generally considered to be better referenced. Furthermore, they appeared to be at least as strong as other sources in terms of comprehensiveness, lack of bias and even readability.”

There was, of course, a caveat.

“A small sample of articles were studied for the purposes of piloting the study’s approach and methods, and the findings cannot therefore be generalised to the wider output of the online encyclopaedia.”

Secondly, TED released a list of The 20 most-watched TED Talks to date, and remarkably the top TED Talk video is this one: Sir Ken Robinson says schools creativity: