I have absolutely no remorse in saying that most of my ideas are not original. In fact I don't even believe in originality. To me originality is the fine art of hiding the source, which unfortunately I'm crap at - so I like to give credit to the sources I steal from. After all, isn't synthesis one way of way of expressing your creativity? I'm stealing another idea today, but before I tell you what that idea is let me tell you what I'm trying to do. Until sometime in 2008, my blog was just a catch all for everything that made it's way into my stream of consciousness. Since then, I've made a concerted effort to focus this blog on issues related to modern learning and development. We're halfway through 2010 now and before I write anymore, I wanted to provide my readers a map to this blog. This is also my way to reiterate the how I think about L&D and where I as a practitioner see things going.
So what's the idea I'm stealing? I loved Tom Kuhlmann's format where he provided answers to frequently asked questions about rapid elearning. I have no pretensions to being an expert like Tom, but I do get into a lot of conversations in the community and I often get asked questions too. So I'd love to use a similar format to explain how I think and to give you a map for the content on this blog. Given how much of a common man I am in the learning industry, this is as close I'll get to an interview! Incidentally, I have over a 100 links that I'm sharing through this and the next blogpost - so keep track of them! In fact for your browsing ease, I've also catalogued them on my delicious bookmarks. Allright, these are going to be fairly long blogposts so I won't waste any of your time - let's get going.
I confess to being an L&D industry common man. I work at ThoughtWorks, a company that defies traditional theories of management, as director of workplace learning. Of the many things I do, I run one of the best graduate induction programs in the IT industry - ThoughtWorks University. As part of my technology education background, I have a strong bias for free and open-source software, though I'm also a hard-core Apple fanboy. You'll often see me as a participant on various webinars. I tweet using the handle sumeet_moghe and here's my Linkedin profile.
The most important thing you need to know about me is that I hate being a one trick pony. In fact, I prefer being a learning generalist, more appropriately a versatilist. Having said that, you can't take me too seriously because I'm neither a researcher nor an academic. I can't vouch for the statistical accuracy of what I write or profess. All I can say is that what I write is true for me and my experience.
To be very frank, there's only so much I can do as an individual. I think there's heaps of interesting stuff happening all across the industry and I'm particularly interested to see how people are using their skills to solve real business problems. So that's the reason I like attending webinars. Now the reporting's a completely different story. You must remember that I'm not the only live blogger out there. In fact, I've taken inspiration for this from Cammy Bean, who's just fantastic when live-blogging events. She's just so good that it's impossible to match up the number of events she reports and the quality she brings to her reporting. I'm just following her lead trying to share what I learn in each of these events with the rest of the world.
There's a lot of interesting stuff you'll see on my webinar reports and conference reports. There's over 30 different events where I've learnt interesting stuff ranging from Ruth Clark's approach to scenario based learning, to Jane Hart's approach to selecting a social learning platform. And then there are brilliant experience reports by folks like Steve Ash and Lars Hyland, so I think that there's a lot going on with the webinar circuit that deserves reporting.
I don't think I do a very good job of keeping up. I have a 12 hour day at work on the best days and there's very little time I have otherwise to stay abreast with everything in the industry. That said, I think over time I've learned how to learn and all the informal networks I'm part of, are helping me grow as a professional. In addition, some thought around how to structure my personal knowledge management framework has helped, so when I do dip my toe into the river of information, I end up making the dip fruitful!
First things first, I like to believe that there's a shift happening in the way we collaborate on teams. This is not to say that things have turned on their head, but I definitely think that there's a change in the control structure and the dogma around the best ways to collaborate. I still love face to face communication (who doesn't), but I like to believe that if you can't collaborate without being colocated, you're perhaps not agile enough. There are so many great tools that can help your team collaboration soar, that you need to keep your eyes open for things that are changing in the technology space.
Well my views on presentation skills have evolved over time. To me, the McKinsey Mind quote, “Presentation is the ‘Killer Skill’ we take into the real world. It’s almost an unfair advantage.”; is an indication of how important this craft is. To contrast that with the amount of slideumentation we see in the corporate world, is depressing to say the least! This said, I don't think it's rocket science to do good presentations. If you plan effectively, choose the right tool for your presentation, use simple techniques to create meaningful visuals, and avoid some of the common mistakes, you should be well and truly on your way to matching Steve Jobs!
Yes and no! I started off my career as a training facilitator and that's perhaps my strongest skill even today. I look at training as a distinct discipline from presentations, so while media skills are crucial to training, they aren't all training's about. As a trainer, the biggest virtue you can have is patience - you need to believe that your learners can do it! You need to know how the brain remembers, the effective use of language patterns in the class, ways to encourage participation and to handle QnA. There are various subtelties in being a trainer. For example, competition lends momentum to training, but how do you ensure that people learn to collaborate amongst all the fun? Another example I love to talk about is around the issue of entertainment in the classroom - how much is enough? As a trainer I'm always looking to improve my skills in leading socratic discussion, eliciting well formed outcomes, reviewing concepts effectively -- and student feedback always helps. After all, it's a performance of sorts and we need to ensure that it's of the highest quality.
Again, most of this is experiential and I can't vouch for the academic authenticity of my opinions. I'm big on rapid design of any kind. Back in the day, I was thinking about rapid instructional design with Powerpoint and I've come down that road thinking how we can apply Agile principles to elearning design as well. There's however an aspect of this which I'm extremely passionate about - the role of an instructional designer. I strongly believe that it's not about the tools - creativity is key. The typical elearning projects are late, poorly designed and just don't solve performance problems. We need a breed of passionate instructional designers, who have more skills than just writing. When we start leveraging our SMEs effectively instead of looking at them as barriers to our instructional process, we're likely to produce high quality outputs.
Why just elearning? If we're creative enough we can not just apply them to transactions such as simulation design, but also solve complex problems like induction. But coming to the topic of elearning - I like to apply the rapid paradigm. On this blog I've demonstrated that it is possible to produce elearning on a shoestring. It's important to remember that you don't need to do everything within elearning - you need to find a way to integrate all of the rich media from the web. If you're big on rapid elearning just in the same way that I am, you should take a look at my 6 tips for rapid elearning success. In addition, pay attention to meaningful interactivity, your navigation scheme and your information architecture and you'll find that it isn't rocket science to create high quality, yet low cost elearning.
This brings me to the end of this blogpost - in my next post, I'll cover off other stuff that I usually write about. Do let me know if you like this map to my blog. I'll look forward to your commentary.