New Paradigms For Collaboration & Knowledge Sharing

The world of social interaction, fuelled by the plethora of social media tools, has opened up new opportunities to learn and share. Classroom training is no longer an essential part of learning and development. We can now tap into the collective wisdom of peers and experts as and when we need. Skilling ourselves for a challenging and volatile environment is a personal responsibility – we can’t rely on others, including the people and organisations we work for.

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I was recently asked to present at an Institute For Employment Studies event for corporate HR and Heads of Learning & Development. The slides I used are embedded at the end of this bog, and also available at Slideshare and Authorstream.

The title of the event was “Getting maximum business value from your L&D activity”, which, for me, opened up an opportunity to discuss and describe what I see as the unprecedented opportunities and potential available through the Internet and the Social Web for learning and personal development (also referred to as “Personal Knowledge Management”).

The world of social interaction, fuelled by the plethora of social media tools, has opened up new opportunities to learn and share. Classroom training is no longer an essential part of learning and development. We can now tap into the collective wisdom of peers and experts as and when we need. Skilling ourselves for a challenging and volatile environment is a personal responsibility – we can’t rely on others, including the people and organisations we work for.

Sadly, for some, this is not as easy as it sounds. Workplace restrictions on what staff can see and do on the Internet are controlled and regulated by policies – and people – that have changed little since the 20th Century. If you have a HR or L&D manager who has never blogged, does not use LinkedIn and refuses to engage with social media, it’s unlikely they will advocate the use of these facilities in the workplace, and consequently no business case will be made to provide access to social networks or social media tools. Consequently, more and more people find they need to use their smartphones in the workplace (unless these have also been banned) or revert to out-of-hours working to do the things they could and should have done at work.

This leads to some crazy anomalies, which really ought to be challenged more vigorously, such as the many public sector departments who use YouTube to promote their services but ban their own staff from accessing this medium. Or the NHS Trusts that prevent their staff from accessing networks such as Patient Opinion, and consequently don’t know what is being said about their hospital services and therefore unable to challenge or respond to complaints.

But this must surely change. Organisations (particularly public sector) can’t continue to trot out the same excuses as to why they restrict access to the social web. Yes, we know that anything “social” might mean time wasting, but that’s no different to misuse of the telephone, or attending one of those meaningless meetings that happen every Monday morning. Yes, there is a requirement for transparency and the need to comply with Freedom of Information, but these can’t be perennially used as obstacles to tools and networks that support collaboration and knowledge sharing. The day of the “lobotomised PC”, which limits access to company-approved applications and networks, must surely be coming to an end (as is the lobotomised staff who are not permitted to think and act for themselves!)

So, coming back to the main thrust of my presentation – that it is a personal responsibility to attain the necessary education and skills to survive and thrive in an increasingly unpredictable economy. Staff can’t (and shouldn’t) rely on the prescriptive nature of their company’s core training curriculum, which is more likely to be inward-focussed and heavily weighted toward policies, strategy and compliance rather than vocational training – unless of course you are fortunate enough to work for that rare breed of organisation that funds apprenticeship schemes. It is foolish to plan an entire career on the assumption that you’ll be working for the same organisation. Transferable skills should be the primary goal – which may not be the first priority for organisations that want to retain staff!  Specialism is all very well provided it’s not dependent on one specific industry or organisation. See wheeltappers for lessons learnt!

Perhaps the difference between ‘corporate’ learning and self-directed learning is best illustrated in this diagram:

Personalised Learning

 

In order to develop a true learning organisation, staff need to be given much more freedom to use the tools, facilities, applications and networks that they have chosen. After all they are far closer to the issues, problems and potential solutions associated with their work than a CIO, a CFO or head of L&D. It is my firm belief that social learning and personal development requires a shift from hierarchies to networks, and empowerment of the workforce to choose the tools they need to do the job. Organisation that can’t or won’t grasp this paradigm shift will struggle to attract and retain talent, and will struggle to survive against more agile and adaptable businesses that do.

What do you think?

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Knowledge Hub Advisory Group

The second meeting of the Knowledge Hub Advisory Group took place yesterday, 7th December. ( For some background to the Knowledge Hub see previous posting).

It was regretable that we didn’t get more attendees from local authorities, but those who did manage to attend were involved in some excellent workshop sessions aimed at teasing out their vision for how the Knowledge Hub would deliver efficiency and performance improvements for the local government sector. This was a valuable exercise because we managed to put some flesh and bones onto what has been up until now an abstract concept for many people. Before reporting on the outcomes from the meeting, a brief summary of the terms of reference for the Advisory Group:

The Advisory Group membership will be made up of technical and social innovators and local authority officers each with practical experience in helping deliver Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 solutions within the public sector or workplace, and with experience in cultivating a culture of knowledge sharing and self-development. The Advisory Group will:

  • Provide technical advice and strategic insight for the procurement and development of the technical platform.
  • Identify opportunities and sources for seeding and pump-priming content for the knowledge hub.
  • Provide expert advice in the development of a new ‘knowledge ecology’ for the sector, where the sector can learn from its own experience and where barriers to participative learning can be identified and resolved.
  • Advise on new and emerging knowledge sharing techniques such as social reporting, narrative & storytelling, and development of games for simulation of behaviours.
  • Identify training needs and other support requirements for the sector.
  • Provide on-going help in resolving problems and provide a quality assurance function for the Programme.

The main element of the meeting was a workshop session where delegates worked on two scenarios and my thanks to Ingrd Koehler for making these both challenging and a reflection of the sort of issues facing local authority staff.

Scenario 1

You work with Hubville City Council. You are new to the Youth Offending Team. In a meeting with the Performance Officer in charge of LAA (Local Area Agreement) monitoring and another officer from the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership you discover that councillors are concerned that your area doesn’t look on track to meet a key monitoring figure for its LAA : NI 111 (national indicator) – First time entrants to the Youth Justice System aged 10-17. It’s a single measure, but part of a wider set of priorities about reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour among youth in general – and in some ‘blighted’ communities in particular. You are going to conduct a snapshot review of your current programme and try to identify a network of people who can help you. How will Knowledge Hub help you to: Identify your current performance and compare it with others. Understand how you can track and monitor information which might be related to or influence NI 111 (for example – reported crimes, prosecution rates, NI 117 the number of 16-18 year olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs))

  1. Know what ‘best in class’ are doing
  2. Identify people locally who are working on similar issues
  3. Identify people across the country who are at the same stage in your improvement journey.
  4. Find resources to help you deliver improvement against NI 111
  5. Share your story and help others find the resources that worked for you.

Map your journey using the paper and materials provided. How will you come into the hub? What will it look like? What data sources do you expect to find? How will you navigate through it? How will you others be able to see and learn from what you’re doing? What ‘new’ data, aggregated data or mashups do you expect to create with the resources you have found? How will you make these new resources available to others?

Use the sheets provided, markers, stickers, etc to draw your map.

Output from Scenario 1

Scenario 2:

You work for Hubville Primary Care Trust. You’ve never worked for local government, but now you’re looking at working with Hubville City Council on a partnership target of reducing: National Indicator (NI) 39 Rate of hospital admission for 100,000 population for alcohol related harm. As well as a serious problem with binge drinking among young people, there is an older workless population with a high incidence of alcohol related illness. This has only gotten worse since the Hubville Automated Industries closed down last year. As people in the council don’t feel the direct financial impact of this indicator you have to work to influence council partners and other local public service, business and voluntary sector partners. You know something about Local Area Agreements and the local strategic partnership, but you’re unsure how to find out all the information you need. How will Knowledge Hub help you to:

  1. Identify your current performance and compare it with others and identify how the council’s performance is contributing to this indicator.
  2. Understand how you can track and monitor information which might be related to or influence NI 39 (for example NI 20: Assault with injury crime rate NI 21: Dealing with local concerns about anti-social behaviour and crime issues by the local council and police )
  3. Know what ‘best in class’ are doing
  4. Identify people locally who are working on similar issues
  5. Identify people across the country who are at the same stage in your improvement journey
  6. Find resources to help you deliver improvement against NI 39
  7. Share your story and help others find the resources that worked for you.

Use the sheets provided, markers, stickers, etc to draw your map.

Output from Scenario 2:

The key fetaures that surfaced from this mapping process process were:

  1. A central dashboard function, allowing you to choose types of information and subject areas – it would allow you to see what’s new, what’s hot and what’s relevant to you
  2. High levels of personalisation – you can choose your own dashboard – the functions that you want, but at the same time it would help you make links to things you didn’t know existed.
  3. It would allow you to make associations with ‘people like me’ – those who had similar responsibilities in their work – as well as to identify ‘experts’ in different specialised areas. Or be recognised as an expert yourself.
  4. It would make it easy to share your experience and your views – even if you didn’t always know that you were doing so – that is – just the fact that 20 performance officers in a council had downloaded a document would have more weight than if no one had – or that only external consultants had.
  5. It would help central and local government facilitate the development of a community (of interest or practice) around a particular indicator, where the community would define the performance parameters and measurement criteria for the indicator.

We followed this up with a Knowledge Cafe, where we posed the questions:

  • What social media skills are required to navigate and share information and stories of improvement?
  • What’s the best way of explaining what the Knowledge Hub has to offer? (i.e. it’s not just another website)

Outputs from these discussions as follows:

And finally, the wrap-up courtesy of David Wilcox, Social Reporter:

So, grateful thanks to all who attended the meeting and for both arcticulating and mapping out for us what the Knowledge Hub is all about. The next stage is conveting all this into a real product – which is well underway as part of the procurement process. The next meeting of the Advisory Group will be in the first quarter of 2010.

In the mean time, if you’d like to contribute to the conversations around the Knowledge Hub, head over to Social by Social and join the Khub Group.

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Knowledge vs. Privacy, the Google dilemma

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Google – you either love ’em or hate ’em it would seem, reading the article from yesterday’s Sunday Times. Google are saying they need more information about us, and their competitors are saying they already have too much. The trigger for this latest pouring of outrage is – apparently – Google’s announcement that they  had invested almost $4m in 23andme, a fledgling biotechnology company co-founded by Anne Wojcicki (Sergey Brinn’s significant other half), that is interested in the human genome.  Interestingly, ordinary users (and I count myself in that category) are saying very little. I find that the Search engine does what is says on the tin; Google Reader is the best RSS  reader, and I make the most of all the other freebies (Notebook, Calendar, Documents, Spreadsheets, desktop  toolbar , screen saver, personalised search etc.)  that they make available via their web site. Their argument that by getting to know more about me and my search habits will improve the relevance of their search results sounds believable – to me anyway.

However, one interesting quote attributed to Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central,  with reference to Google’s pending (?) purchase of Feedburner (a company that tracks subscribers to all kinds of on-line content providers):

"Have people really thought about the ramifications of this? Google will not only know what you search for, what ads you click on, but they will also know exactly what you are subscribed to at a very intimate level…..they are going to know more about some people than their own family members may".

Perhaps it’s the fact that I come from a country that has more CCTV cameras per head of population than any other county in Western Europe (or the world), or my naive belief in the Google motto ‘Don’t do evil‘, but I believe that Google’s ultimate objective is to stay ahead of the game in providing a  search service that everyone wants to use because it finds what they are looking for!

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