Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to Get People to Apply What They Learned: Just One Thing

Learning is complex. There are many definitions and many different ways of learning. Learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught. Learning is the modification of a behavioral tendency. I believe any definition of learning must include the part about a change in behavior. After all, the learning that occurs in organizations requires that people change their behaviors in order to perform work at a certain proficiency. Certainly the stakeholders of our training programs care most that people leave our training and can actually “do” something valuable.

Therefore, the learning and development professional is concerned with how to make sure what people learn in a training class translates to performance on the job.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Social Learning Does Not Require Social Media

The World Cafe
In my search for a new facilitation method, I discovered The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations that Matter. I have been asked to lead a group of sixty leaders through a discussion of the book, Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy. I wanted to do something different and apart from what I felt comfortable doing and something that could leverage the conversations inherent in social learning. I think the facilitation method in The World Cafe is exactly what I need and precisely aligned with my objectives.

The World Cafe was published in 2005, so it seems I am a bit late to the party on this method of facilitating discussions. However, as I read the book, the method seems timeless and one that would be just as effective in 1983 as in 2013. The goal of the session is to get leaders talking about strategy and how the organization can compete better in a tough market. The best ideas are going to come from this group of managers, who know their business better than anyone. I just need to shape the conversation in such a way that these managers will open up and be candid with each other.

Want Better Conversations? Ask Better Questions

The chapter on questions is worth the price of the book all by itself. Not only does it give great ideas and examples about how to frame questions to elicit bigger, better discussions, but it provides sources that the read can look up for read more about coming up with really good questions.

For example, a typical question that I would ask a group of managers is, "How can we improve communication between departments?" This question is fine (I guess), but it does not necessarily free people from discussing ways of communicating much beyond what they are already doing. This question implies that we can only improve what we already do and roots the group in existing communication methods. What if the question was asked this way, "If we were great at communicating in this company, what would that look like?" This question frees the group from existing ways and allows people to explore the ideal.

I learned this from reading The World Cafe. The book is full of examples like this, which I found refreshing. 

Not So "Touchy Feely"

For some, hosting good conversations seems like a touchy feely topic, but it is not. And when you read stories of high-level executives in large organizations in oil, pharma, financial and other so-no-touchy-feely-industries, you will find the method practical and useful.

That's Social Learning

If you are looking for a new method for facilitating group discussions on important, high-level organizational topics or if you are look for a new approach that will get people talking, you need to purchase this book and devour it. It is an easy read, and it is supplemented by resources on the web to help you get started in your first World Cafe....that is what I plan to do.

Have you participated in or hosted a World Cafe? What was your experience like? Was it a valuable experience? I would like to here your stories in the comments below.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Good News: Spending on Training Increasing

In a recent Bersin by Deloitte study, spending on learning and development rose by 12% in 2012. In another study, 90% of CEOS said they plan to maintain or increase training budgets in 2013. Obviously, this is great news for learning and development (L&D) professionals. Not only do CEOs intend to invest in training, but the study also found that cost is not a primary factor when deciding to invest in training. This is good because the only thing you need to say to your CEO when you have this discussion is this: “If you want me to create this training program you have a choice – Good, Fast and Cheap — pick only two.”

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Getting Started in Mobile Learning

Woman using iPadIn a recent post, I talked about a new feature in Mindflash that allows you to create training modules that work beautifully on the iPad. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for reaching learners with effective and relevant learning opportunities. Based on the numbers and predictions, mobile is going to be bigger that we can even imagine, and learning experience (LX) designers need to be ready. So now that you know designing mobile learning is possible with Mindflash, the next question is, “How do I get started?”
The first three things you should do to get started in mobile learning is to education yourself, learn your authoring tool well, and experiment with mobile learning designs.

Produce Something of Value That Improves Results

I sat in on a research seminar for PhD students who are beginning dissertations. The topic of the seminar was on the research process and there were many questions about which research methodology and design to use.

It turns out, I have chosen (potentially) a combination of the two most lengthy methods, two of which most committee chairs would not actively recommend to students...mixed methods and action research.


However, based on my research interests and questions that I want to answer, the best way to design my study is with a mixed methods action research methodology. From the speaker, "A mixed methods study is like doing two dissertations."

Double Yikes!!

And Action Research? Really? "You want to do two (or more) iterations of your intervention?"

I must be crazy.

Look, I want to conduct research that is valuable to organizations. Research that is practical (Action Research) and actionable in organizational settings. And I want to produce research that improves outcomes. Many (maybe most) dissertations can be written in their entirety without ever "leaving the lab?" I did not want to do that.

There is no easy path to a dissertation, but it seems I have made it a bit more difficult on myself. But that's OK. I think I will meet some smart and interesting people along the way, help an organization improve results, and have a good dissertation from which others can benefit.

If you'd like to read more details about my research plan, see the tab above call "Dissertation." You can read a detailed account of my research plans.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Secret to Designing Training For Busy Schedules

When one gets started in e-learning, it is easy to think, “This is great, now we don’t have to do classroom training anymore.” This is certainly one benefit of e-learning. However, you do not have to think of this as an either/or proposition. In fact, an effective and popular way to use e-learning is in a blended approach that combines live training and self-paced e-learning.
There are a variety of ways in which blending learning methods can be applied. In his Chief Learning Officer Magazine piece, “Learning Bursts: A Different Way to Deliver Training,” Dave Basarab lays out a method of effectively breaking up learning experiences into short bursts that can be used in combination with live or other self-paced training, OR completely replace classroom training.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Can Social Learning Improve Sales Results?

That is what I intend to find out. As some of you know, I am working on my dissertation in pursuit of my PhD in Education.

The purpose of my study is to test a social theory of learning (Wenger, 1998) through the use of a community of practice of new sales people in an organization to further understand the relationship between participation in the community of practice and sales results, and to explore how new sales people, participating in a community of practice, supported by an enterprise social network (ESN), can learn the skills necessary to achieve sales goals. The study intends to put to the test that learning is an informal and social process of meaning building, practice, participation in a community, and identity seeking (Wenger 1998). The results of the study could help organizations apply the HPT model, a formal and systematic process of linking business goals with the workforce (Van Tiem, Moseley & Dessinger, 2000), to design, implement, and evaluate a community of practice on an enterprise social network (the intervention) in order to improve performance, as defined by sales results.

The study also seeks to solve the problem of how to allocate training and performance improvement resources to maximize how people learn and to maximize sales results. The study intends to therefore help organizations make sense out of how a theory of social learning can be implemented with newcomer sales people (or any sales people, for that matter) to improve sales results.


Van Tiem, D., Moseley, J., & Dessinger, J. (2012). Fundamentals of Performance Improvement: Optimizing  Results Through People, Process, and Organizations. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wenger, E. (1998).  Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.