Making Informal Learning Assets Work

Seeking ways to leverage new social media environments, learning departments are discovering ways to sneak a little formal learning through the informal learning back door. Some of our clients for example, are looking to load up their social learning environments with small bits of learning content related to business goals. The notion being that these informal learning assets will live or die on the strength of their connection to employee performance need. Informal learning assets (or perhaps more accurately formal learning assets designed for informal consumption) are small segments of learning media such as videos, podcasts, documents, animations, short interactive pieces, images, performance guides, job aids, process descriptions, anything with a learning intention that can be posted to a social media environment. They can be created by anyone, from learning designers, to managers and employees and team members.

Survival of the fittest

The strategy creates a kind of Darwinian free-for-all of digital learning resources. Those of best fit to real learning and performance needs will get viewed, liked, shared, discussed and commented on more than those that don’t quite measure up. The best become internal learning memes that do their viral tour of duty and those that don’t hit the mark fall off the social radar, never to produce their learning offspring to see another day. Or so the theory goes. It’s an interesting strategy with loads of implications for designers, suppliers and users of learning content. The idea (I hesitate to call it a trend) is leading some organizations and training suppliers to deconstruct their existing learning programs into learning bits and pieces for populating internal social media environments such as they are.

Making informal learning assets work

I like the idea of infusing communities with digital learning assets but there are a few cautions to watch as we enter this new path. Foremost is the profusion of “information” oriented learning assets at the expense of the practice, application  and reflection that we know is at the heart of real learning and improvement. Information based assets no matter how novel or entertaining we make them are not enough. To bastardize an old Magerism, if telling alone resulted in learning we’d all be so smart we could hardly stand it.

There are ways to structure and design informal learning assets to maintain the best of what we’ve learned from formal design and bring them into the informal learning world. A model we’ve been experimenting with connects formal, informal and social learning, based on five learning essentials (you’ll recognize them if you are familiar with David Merrill’s First Principles or Bernice McCarthy’s 4Mat). Effective learning requires solving authentic problems and tasks, connecting new knowledge with existing mental models, uses powerful ways of presenting and demonstrating new knowledge, provides many and varied opportunities to practice new skills with coaching and reflection, and finally guides the the application to new situations on the job.

Too many informal learning assets target only the “key knowledge” requirement (#3), without any connection to the remaining four learning essentials. Well designed learning programs will account for each of the essentials, but there is no reason they all have to bundled up together in a tidy formal learning bow. In fact, the essence of good informal learning is that the guided application essential (#4) takes place on the job with feedback and coaching from colleagues or mentors inside social media environment or face to face. Forums and discussions are excellent ways to gently guide application. Job aids and performance support systems are effective vehicles for building skills into workflow (#5). Real business problems and tasks (#1) can be used instead of artificial cases. My point is that with care each of these other essentials can be developed as informal learning assets as effectively as a good information driven asset.

This view can also serve as a guide when deconstructing classroom programs for  conversion to social media environments. Instead of retaining only the key knowledge from your programs, look for effective ways to create assets that support the other learning essentials as well.

Learning assets associated with a specific knowledge domain, role or learning objective can be connected through tagging, linking or even a good old fashioned learning path.

Once loaded into social media environments users and community members will begin using them to improve their performance and manage their own knowledge. Not only will they consume the learning assets, they will create their own and in doing so create new and emergent knowledge. As new ideas emerge they will evolve to standard practice and can feed the development of new or revised formal learning programs.

This connection between formal, informal and Social learning might look something like the following:


Extending Action Mapping for Performance Design

Through her Action Mapping process Cathy Moore has demystified, simplified and put a friendly face on an analysis process that produces lean and effective learning programs with an emphasis on practice and application. The four step analysis process of identifying  business goals (1), desired actions/behaviours (2) and  practice activities (3) before identifying content (4) is much advocated but rarely practiced in instructional design. She also uses a helpful visual mapping method to work through this four step process.

Extending the process to performance design

I used the process (and visual mapping approach) to facilitate a learning requirements session a while back. Worked like a charm. I thought then that the process might be taken a little further and be used to identify gaps in the immediate performance environment known to impede optimal performance and then specify solutions for improvement. Here’s what I’m getting at…

Performance Consulting thought leaders (and hard won experience) tell us that newly developed skills alone, without a supporting environment rarely produces the performance impact we need. If you accept this view, you understand that skills and knowledge are only one factor among many that are needed for performance and that, in fact it’s often the performance environment and not the skills that need adjustment. Geary Rummler organized these critical performance factors within a systems framework and labeled it the Human Performance System (HPS), Thomas Gilbert categorized the factors in his seminal Performance Engineering Matrix which Carl Binder has distilled into his Six Boxes Model. The Robinsons summarized the factors in their Performance Consulting process. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has found similar factors in his work on optimal performance and flow states. These authors have developed diagnostic tools based on the performance factors that can be used by teams, managers and performance consultants to identify barriers in the work environment and to design tools, processes, and systems that improve performance.

Borrowing from the above models the critical performance factors might be summarized as follows.

  • Clear Expectations and goals (E)
    Do employees understand the behavior and results expected of them and their team?
  • Supportive Tools, resources and business processes (T)
    Are employees supported by helpful performance aids, process guides and knowledge tools?
  • Timely and meaningful Feedback on results of action (F)
    Is immediate feedback provided to employees and their team (system generated or human) on the quality and accuracy of their actions and output?
  • No Interfering or competing demands (I)
    Is the role free of demands on time and task that interfere with accomplishment of individual and team goals?
  • Consequences aligned to expectations and goals (C)
    Do good things happen when employees accomplish goals and meet expectations or do they happen more for undesired performance?

So how might we extend Cathy’s Action Mapping method to design an optimal performance environment in addition to a learning solution? The first two steps remain the same. 1. Identify the business goal 2. Identify what people need to do to reach the goal. However, at this point the process would shift to the key performance support questions defined above. For each behaviour (or behaviour cluster) the following performance design actions can be taken

  1. Create a vehicle to continuously communicate the key goals, expectations and standards of performance
  2. Design performance aids, automated tools, social learning environments, Communities of practice, and business process adjustments. The appropriate tools and supports will, of course, depend on the type of work.
  3. Create a mechanism for providing continuous information (feedback) to individuals or teams on how they are performing against the desired actions. (I have posted some ideas on this here and here).
  4. Define specific actions for reducing interfering tasks and multitasking and increasing opportunities for focus on task without completing demands.
  5. Revise the balance of consequences in favor of the desired performance.

Using the labels I listed above the extended Action Map might look something like this (Common support actions could support more than one behavior):

Adding Outputs and accomplishments

The approach could be further enhanced by identifying work desired outputs before behaviours/actions (a revised step 2).  This would be especially useful when starting with the analysis of a job rather than a specific business objective. This is important for knowledge work where there may be multiple behavioural paths to the same work output. Carl Binder has labeled this approach the performance chain. The same performance thinking is at the root of both Action Mapping and the Performance Chain approach. You can learn more about performance thinking and the performance chain approach at the Six Boxes web site here.


Performance Consulting gets legitimate criticism for sometimes for being too prescriptive and relying external “experts” to implement processes like those above. But there is no reason empowered self-managing team or process improvement groups cannot use the same tools to diagnose and design or influence their own performance environment. A good performance consultant can  facilitate teams through this process.  I learned a while ago from Geary Rummler that good performance consultants can provide both the training artifact requested by the organization and an improved performance environment. The extended Action Mapping method may be a great way to sneak some performance improvement into your training projects.

The 30 Second MBA

I came across this interesting resource recently–The 30 second MBA.

It’s a venture of Fast Company Magazine.  Leaders and entrepreneurs from a variety of industries are asked to describe their approach to various leadership problems and topics in 30 seconds or less (ticking clock and all).  The site describes their mission like this:

The great lament of any reporter is what to do with the jewels that routinely get left on the cutting room floor after a really great interview. Enter the 30-Second MBA, an ongoing video “curriculum” of really good advice from the trenches, directly from people who are making business happen.

The “professors” providing this curriculum include the likes of Mark Zuckerberg (CEO, Facebook) Alan Mulally (CEO, Ford), Padmasree Warrior (CTO, Cisco) Vivian Schiller (President, NPR) and a host of others.  They each take on topics and business problems such as leadership, teamwork, decision making, customer relationships, growth, communication, crisis management and more–all within the 30 second video format.

The site is interesting from a few perspectives.  You can take or leave the messages provided, but the site demonstrates a model that can easily be mimicked inside organizations for capturing and sharing knowledge.  The site also includes community features to discuss the perspectives from the business leaders and post post your own perspectives.  Knowledge captured like this can be used as informal learning assets to support a management development approaches like the one I described in my recent post Management Development Redux.  Learning assets like this are not the complete picture however, and should never be used as a replacement for a targeted management development program.   They should used as learning resources to support solving unique business challenges through discussion and reflection in action learning teams, communities of practice or other collaborative approaches.

Sites and management development services like this are popping up more frequently.  They’ll likely start to change the shape of management development inside organizations, both as suppliers of content for internal communities and simply as models for the direction internal management development might take.

Management Development Redux

My last few posts have been about management and leadership development.  In this post, I thought I would bring some of those ideas together in the form of a process or heuristic for a management development system built around defined business challenges, informal learning approaches with less reliance (or no reliance at all!) on classroom learning.

Here is an alternative management development process then…in just 5 easy steps!…built around authentic learning tasks and supported by informal learning assets and small team action learning sessions.

Step 1:  Define a management/leadership model suited to the organization

Too many senior leadership teams abdicate responsibility for defining coherent roles and expectations for their managers.  Instead, they “buy” a management model in the guise of a training program, rather than defining one consistent with their values, organization design and business goals.

HR and Training enthusiastically taking up the charge and end up buying management programs currently in vogue or that suits their personal vision of leadership.  Also many purchased management programs focus only on the “people” side of a manager’s role and ignore the many other important facets.  I’ve seen many management development programs that are completely at odds with the actual management culture of the organization.    Behavior and performance that gets rewarded and encouraged on the job is not what is taught in development programs.   Not good.

HR and Training have a role in helping the senior team craft a vision and approach for management but they should not be digging it out of the recesses of a commercial management program. Learning and training initiatives should support a coherent model of management not the other way around.  Of course, the model can and should be fluid. Adjustments should be welcome and encouraged as an organization learns and matures over time.

Step 2:  Develop an inventory of management scenarios and business challenges

Using the management model as a guide, create a series of realistic scenarios, cases,  and business challenges  (whatever your term of preference) that will be the core of your management development program.  We know the best management development is built around authentic problems, tasks and opportunities.  Managers also tell us it’s the way they prefer to learn.

Make it your mission to work directly with the managers of the business units you support to understand their day to day challenges, responsibilities, successes and best practices.  Use this inside knowledge to create a progression of challenges from simple to complex, perhaps based on the levels of management in your organization.    The inventory should be highly dynamic and constantly evolving as goals and objectives change.

Challenges can and should have focus on desired competencies and target all of the spheres of responsibilities managers have including business, functional, financial and human. Mangers themselves can start creating challenges and problems scenarios to add to the inventory.

Step 3:  Organize the business challenges into learning paths.

There are a variety of ways the business challenge scenarios could be organized.  By management level, by progression of challenge complexity, by competency or skill area, by management responsibility.   All of the above are possible using simple tagging tools.

The most important thing is to provide an organizing structure for managers to access and use the learning assets.  One of the early failings of social learning environments is the assumption that people will fully manage their own learning in personal learning environments.  Some may, but the majority prefer guidance and a few nudges along the way.

The learning paths are most useful for new managers.  More experienced managers will begin using the business challenges on an as needed basis, which is the way it should be.

Step 4:  Acquire and/or develop a series of learning resources and performance aids to support solving the business challenges

Using the business challenges and problems as a guide, purchase or develop learning assets that contain the key concepts, principles, practices and practices that will help managers solve the full range of business challenges in your inventory.  Use media appropriate to your audience and technical infrastructure including print, digital video, performance guides, e-learning, people (coaches/mentors), job assignments and others.  They are getting easier to find as learning content suppliers are starting to deconstruct their programs into smaller learning assets for use in social media environments.

They can be housed in your organization’s social media suite , Management Community of Practice,  Learning Management System (if you still have one), or in an old-school style learning centre.  Most importantly they must be connected directly to the business challenges managers will be assigned to solve as part of their development.

Learning assets should not be the exclusive purview of the learning function.  Social Learning has taught us that “user-generated” content is both powerful and motivating.  Get managers involved in contributing learning assets.

Learning assets will be used by managers individually and in action learning teams to research and discuss solutions to the business challenges from your inventory.  Assets can be organized into clusters or paths matched to the scenarios. The scenarios are the learning motivators.  The content is only the path to the solution.

Step 5. Assemble action learning teams

The learning assets can and should be used independently to solve the business challenges, but doing so exclusively misses the benefits of social learning.  We’ve learned that small teams of managers working together (face to face or virtually) to solve business challenges is a key success factor in management development.  Action learning has refined a robust approach to small group learning that incorporate the best of informal learning.  Other problem-based and case-based learning models also offer springboards to build management learning teams.  See the links here for a few examples).  I offered an approach using management communities of practice here.

Whichever approach is used the goal is for managers to share their experiences and perspectives together as they solve the business challenges.   Here here is a diagram of how management teams working together can use the business challenges and informal learning assists  to continuously develop.

How Managers Learn

For years we have dragged managers into training programs then do it again in a year or two to “renew” their skills or expose them to the “next  thing” sparked by the newest management trend.  But take the time to ask managers how they prefer to hone their skills, they invariably offer informal approaches like trial and error (experience), observing other managers, and sharing with trusted colleagues.  A couple of studies I like (one newer and one a little older) validate this informal approach to learning and provide some interesting models that can help shape approaches to management development.

What do Managers have to tell us about how they develop skills?

The first comes from Good Practice, an interesting informal learning service for managers and leaders.  Last year they commissioned a survey of hundreds of managers across a variety of industries on learning activities and their effectiveness.  The study, which you can download here, found that the most frequent and effective learning activity  is an informal chat with a colleague (82%) and that 55% of managers will use trail and error at least once a month.  Four primary conclusions are drawn from the study:

According to the study, the top 5 learning methods used by managers are the following (interesting how self-directed each of the strategies are).

  1. Informal chats with colleagues
  2. Search engines (internet resources)
  3. Trial and error
  4. On-the job instruction
  5. Use of professional literature

How managers develop core management competencies

An earlier study of over 200 managers in the Insurance industry got similar results but made the link to specific core management competencies. You can review it here.  Investigators (from the University of Connecticut) asked to what extent and in what ways managers learned core managerial skills through formal training and informal learning. Results found managers consistently reported learning twenty core managerial skills mostly from informal learning activities. The diagram below, from their study, shows a comparison of the number of managers reporting that they learned each specific managerial skill formally and informally.

Click for larger view

Drawing from these and other results from the study the authors offered, quite accurately I think, a model for how managers learn.

Click for larger view

In the model informal learning mechanisms include job experience (solving problems through action) watching other managers, and interaction with others.  These activities build tacit and explicit knowledge which, when regulated through goal setting and other meta-cognitive skills develops proficiency over time. Notice the role of formal training. Managers apply what is learned only if relevant to their job experience. This doesn’t negate the influence of formal training but again reinforces how job relevant it needs to be before you can expect any transfer.

The future of management development?

Managers have always learned through informal methods. The last thing we want to do is get in the way or start over-formalizing these successful “informal” approaches. Social Media offers an interesting platform for manager informal interaction (especially in the form of Communities of Practice) but managers are still warming up (or not) to on line networking.

I think informal management development needs some direction and shape from proven management practices from both inside and outside the organization.  And to keep the wheels of informal learning greased, action learning facilitation, useful performance support tools and access to on-demand informal learning assets are all a part of the mix.   Any strategies that provide managers with a forum and support to discuss and share their experience in the context of leading ideas and best practices will clearly be received well by managers.

Sparked by the recognition of untapped market for informal learning services, new vendor services are emerging that are likely the forefront of a shift in management development services.  Internal and external Communities of Practice like What Do You Want from Them are starting to emerge.  Traditional management development companies are re-purposing their content for more flexible delivery on line like Good Practice. And informal coaching services like Coaching Ourselves, driven by content from leading academic thinkers, are gaining real traction (see my  discussion of Coaching Ourselves here).  Formal management development isn’t going away (and shouldn’t), but shifting more of the load to informal learning may start to produce the business results long sought after by management development practitioners.

An Idea List: Using Web 2.0 for Management Development

At the session I described in my last post, table groups did a short brainstorming session on how web 2.0 tools could be used in a Management Community of Practice to facilitate learning.   Each table recorded their ideas and left them for me.  I promised the group I would post them here.  So here you are folks.

Communities of practice are dynamic social structures that require both initial design and ongoing cultivation so they can emerge and grow.  However, through a series of steps, learning professionals and community members can design a community environment, foster the formalization of the community, and plan activities to help grow and sustain the community. But ultimately, the members of the community will define and sustain it over time.

Here are most of the activities listed from the session.  Some are slightly edited for consistency or to merge with similar items to create a single list.

  • Solve specific problems in an operations environment. Organize, create communities of interest around subjects of common interest such as people management or quality management
  • On-line book/learning resources club, recommended resources
  • Train community leaders in on-line community leadership
  • Create subgroups for community members more literate in web 2.0 technologies
  • Virtual lunch and learns–Identify a topic–Facilitated discussion–follow-up discussion thread
  • Create mentoring communities to share documents and collaborate through social media
  • Create a group Wiki project to create new knowledge
  • Use Wiki to seed environment with core body of knowledge
  • Share knowledge of plant managers with a balance of structure and free discussion using forums
  • Managers can have scheduled time to answer questions and provided by peers in his or her area of expertise
  • Use discussion thread to solve specific problems
  • Reduce emails by using chat for knowledge sharing and discussion between a few people
  • Owner of a discussion board (some structure) to share experience and develop ability to reflect
  • Balance free form and moderation of activities and discussions
  • Structured review of stored conversations for themes and ideas to formalize as best practices.
  • Scheduled live Webcasts
  • Scheduled Case Study/scenario. Use live chat or discussion features a case study, problem or scenario
  • Question of the week (or month etc). A question or problem is posed. Community members provide guidance and ideas in discussion forum
  • Storyshare– Digital video or text storytelling
  • Glossary and Shared links.  Group creation of online links or bookmarks and resources for defined topics
  • Scheduled application of specific best practices with reflection and facilitated discussion to debrief.
  • Invited Guests
  • Have people go to Community after formal training events

Keep the list going.  Anyone have anything else to suggest?

Leadership Development in a Learning 2.0 World

Last week  I presented a session titled Leadership Development in a Learning 2.0 World at the CSTD 2010 National Symposium. Here is the description of the session from the conference program:

Leadership Development in a Learning 2.0 World

Developing effective leaders and managers is an increasingly important task for the learning function. Leadership development has been slow to adopt eLearning strategies but recent developments in web 2.0 technologies, along with changing perspectives on workplace learning are changing that. The social learning drivers behind learning 2.0 are a natural fit for the learning needs of managers and leaders and provide the learning function with an opportunity for real innovation in leadership development practices. This session will provide an overview of the key concepts, strategies and tools to help transform leadership development practices for the emerging learning 2.0 world.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Contrast current leadership development practices with learning 2.0 driven practices
  • Describe benefits of learning 2.0 for transforming leadership and management development
  • Describe a model of leadership development driven by learning 2.0 principles
  • Envision a future Leadership Development program for your organization on a by a learning 2.0 foundation
  • Define strategies for integrating learning 2.0 concepts into current leadership development programs

I promised the participants in my session that I would post the slides  on this blog.  Thank you all for attending!  You were a great audience.  Please leave a comment to say hello or post any thoughts you had on the session.

You can view the presentation below or download it directly by clicking this  link:  Leadership Development in Learning 2.0 World

Dan Pontefract was originally scheduled to present with me but he was not able to make it.   For those of you interested in in Dan’s very active and always interesting blog Training Wreck you can find it here.

Conference attendees braved the snow (yes, snow!) in Calgary to participate in some very interesting sessions.   As always, it was a pleasure to connect with old colleagues and meet many new people with interesting perspectives on the profession.  Thanks to the CSTD organizing team!

e-Learning: What’s Hot and What’s Not?

e-Learning: What’s hot, what’s not

I received a request from a colleague last week who is helping a company put together a learning strategy,  part of which will focus on e-learning.  Her question was this:

what’s hot and what’s not in e-learning these days ?

I gave it a bit of thought and came up with the following lists.  I would love to hear your additions or deletions from the list (as would my colleague).

What’s Hot

This list is more what learning professionals and e-learning designers are talking about than what they are actually doing.  Very little of the following has moved to the mainstream of practice as far as I can see.

  • Social media and e-Learning 2.0

Take a quick scan of professional conference topics, e-learning blogs and tweets, professional publications and pretty much any discussion between e-learning professionals and the conversation is crackling with web 2.0 and learning 2.0.

Almost everyone is trying to figure out how to best use web 2.0 technologies for learning.  Like learning 1.0,  it will need the broader acceptance of a generalized web 2.0 platform on which to piggy back and an acceptance of the legitimate social and informal aspects of learning before it really takes off inside organizations.  It’s coming.

  • Informal Learning

Tell me you haven’t had at least one “70-20-10” conversation in the last month.  The “rule” that development is best achieved through a mix of experience (70%) mentoring/coaching (20%) and formal learning (10%) has been around for a while (most sources point to it’s origin at the centre for Creative Leadership in the late 80’s) but has caught a second wind in recent years.

Entire programs of learning are being developed around the principle.  Or at least classroom programs are being extended and enhanced with attempts at informal learning. Web 2.0 is filling a need by providing a platform for the 70-20 part of the equation.  I think this is all a good thing although formulaic adherence to the “rule” seems a bit silly.

  • Simulations and scenario-based learning

While web 2.0 and informal learning are dominating the e-learning zeitgeist some good old fashioned Web 1.0 ideas are making a comeback.  Simulations, Scenario-based learning and other forms of immersive e-learning have long been heralded as superior learning strategies that emphasize doing over telling.

Until recently they were technically and financially difficult to implement but recent templates, tools and creative thinking has brought them back to the table.  It’s hard to think of a management development e-learning solution that does not contain some form of scenario-based exercise. .

  • Virtual Worlds

I’m yet to be convinced of the real value Second Life based learning environments in organizational settings, but there’s no denying the inroads they are making.  There is lots of info out there.  Here are some links to an ASTD question of the month on Second Life/Virtual worlds.   Make up your own mind.  Don’t let your demographic get in the way .

  • Rapid Learning Tools

For better or for worse rapid e-learning tools continue to grow.  The popularity of blogs like the Rapid e-Learning Blog and others are a clear indicator.   There is truth to the argument that in the right hands highly effective learning can be created from the likes of Articulate, Adobe Connect and Lectora.  But more often than not they simply result in another PowerPoint with obligatory quiz.

  • Mobile Learning

Another “future” technology that is finally seeing its day.  Blackberry,  iPhone and other PDA’s are now more or less portable internet devices with  impressive media capabilities.  Both highly useful for mobile e-learning.  Larger organizations with mobile workforces are leveraging the capabilities for some interesting just-in-time training.   Here’s an interesting example from Sun from an earlier post.

  • Open source learning technologies and tools

Web 2.0 has had a democratizing effect on the web and it’s no different in the learning world.  Free and open source learning tools such as Moodle (LMS), Dokeos (authoring, LMS, (collaboration), NING (custom social networking ) DimDim (web meetings) and many others (Jane Hart’s e-leaning pick of the day is always a rich source)  are a growing alternative to proprietary tools.  The proprietary vendors  are taking note.  Microsoft recently offered it’s Learning Content Development System for free download.

  • Performance support

Is it just me or is electronic performance support making a comeback as a vehicle for informal learning.  If so,  I’m all for it.

What’s Not

  • Learning 1.0

Still the mainstream of e-learning.  Some can be very good, but budget realities and less than creative learning designs have resulted in a collective sigh of  “is that all there is?” by users who appreciate the convenience of e-learning 1.0 more than it’s quality.  (Senior management appreciates it cost savings more than its quality) Static pages turners, and linear assessment driven programs will soon see their day.

  • Learning Objects

If video killed the radio star then web 2.0 killed the learning object. It was a compelling concept that was difficult to implement and maintain,  not to mention that in the six or seven years it was “hot” nobody could land on a decent definition of a learning object.

Articles like this one started to appear a couple years ago.  Now people ask , as Gary Woodill did on a recent CSTD LMS panel, “does anyone talk about Learning Objects anymore”?.  I’ll admit, I still like the idea of knowledge and media objects that can be used in the context of learning, communication and performance support.  Objects a little further down the food chain than the a “learning object” are easier to implement and more truly re-usable.

  • Learning Management Systems

When LMS vendors introduced e-learning delivery and management to their bag of tricks they very effectively created an excitement around what used to be the boring administrative tasks of training and created an on-line home for all things learning.  Now everybody’s got one.  Not so exciting.

With notable exceptions, they have been slow to adopt Web 2.0 collaborative tools and when they have it’s been more of  an add-on to what is essentially a learning 1.0 environment.  As learning 2.0 starts to get more traction the LMS will either be replaced by other more open learning environments or evolve in that direction themselves.  Dan Pontefract at Training Wreck gets to the heart of it here:  The standalone LMS is Dead

CSTD/IFTDO Conference Presentations

This year the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD) and the International Federation of Training and Development Organisations (IFTDO) are combining for a single conference event in Toronto that I’m looking forward to, both as a participant and presenter. Here are some highlights and the dates for my own presentations. I hope some of you can make it!

Tuesday (Oct 19) is dedicated to “Research into Practice”, a topic near and dear to me. All presentations  on Tuesday are based on the theme. Allison Rosset will discuss the importance of research in guiding instructional practice, Harold Stolovich on performance improvement research, Traci Sitzmann on e-learning research and Christine Wihak on what we research tells us about informal learning.

I will be presenting a Trading Post session on Tuesday at 2:00 pm titled Getting Informal: Merging learning and Work through Informal Learning (Here is the handout).  It’s based on many of the concepts I have presented in this blog, particularly Leveraging the Full Learning Continuum and the 10 Strategies for Integrating Learning and Work series.

A Thought Leaders series begins on Wednesday which will include sessions by Marc Rosenberg (on Learning 2.0), Patti Shank (on common errors in learning design) and Bob Morton (on change management). My new employer (Nexient Learning) is also presenting a case study with Deliotte on Managerial Effectiveness that I’m looking forward to.

I will be presenting on a Learning Technology Thought Leaders panel session on Thursday (20th) titled: Enterprise Solutions, Managing the Training Function. I’ll be on the panel with Harold Jarche, Sheryl Herle, Sheri Philips and Gary Woodill (from the Brandon Hall team) We will thrash around the pros and cons of Learning Management Systems. The session is moderated by Saul Carliner from Concordia University. No lack of opinion in that group! Should be interesting.

Thursday also includes a keynote by Peter Senge whose work I admire and have posted on in the past.

If you happen to be there please stop by one of my sessions and say hello.

Web 2.0 Helping to Generate Measurable Business Value

In an earlier post (For Web 2.0 What’s in the Workflow is What Gets Used), I refered to some ongoing research McKinsey&Company is doing in web 2.0 adoption in the workplace– how and where it is being used and the impact it is having on business.

The research is based an an annual survey of 1700 companies from across the globe in a range of industries and functional areas and has been ongoing now for about three years running.  The Mckinsey Quarterly recently summarized results in an interactive visual chart and as a full article in the McKinsey Quarterly titled How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results (The article is free but you have to join the free membership to see it in full).

The following chart from the interactive feature summarizes how web 2.0 technologies are being used for some internal purposes including managing knowledge and training.   Internal blogs and wikis are being used significantly for Managing Knowledge. For Training uses the highest categories are Podcasts and Video Sharing (unfortunately the most  presentation oriented technologies of the bunch).   Social Networking is being used extensively for fostering collaboration and identifying and recruiting talent.


Click to access the McKinsey interactive chart

If you go to the interactive feature be sure to listen to the “about this research” audio snippet.  It provides a brief summary of the research and findings across three years.   Some conclusions McKinsey draws:

  • an increasing number companies are adopting web 2.0 technologies
  • more companies will start to use them for wider purposes including customers, internal employees and suppliers
  • uses will continue to evolve and get better at deriving business value

the striking result is that 2/3 of the companies are deriving measurable business value.

McKinsey summarizes:

“This year’s survey turned up strong evidence that these advantages are translating into measurable business gains.  When we asked respondents about the business benefits their companies have gained as a result of using Web 2.0 technologies, they most often report greater ability to share ideas; improved access to knowledge experts; and reduced costs of communications, travel, and operations.  Many respondents also say Web 2.0 tools have decreased the time to market for products and have had the effect of improving employee satisfaction”.