“Children’s drawings are invariably interesting because of (their) innocence and because they do not attempt to impress.  Being untutored, they are unadulterated, and therefore are a direct and unfiltered transmission of a thought.”  –  Alan Fletcher


The commission

Way back when I started my new job, 8 months ago, I was given a task to co-prepare a paper on emerging learning trends with a senior colleague in my new team. Her draft was based on recent academic papers, and it was the diametric opposite from what I had gleaned over the last year or two from my social media-based PLN (I don’t have a DipEd or similar, and like many others came into L & D as a technical expert in something else).  The resulting combination – tabled to our leadership team – became the strategic paper to guide where we were to take learning methodology for an organisation of 40,000 people. I really felt we were primed to do some magical stuff.

Then momentum stalled. My co-author left the company. The most passionate agitator for change in learning methodology also left. Still, for several months, I just expected it to take off. I’m naïve like that sometimes; I thought “well, I’m surrounded by lots of people way more qualified and experienced than me, they will look after it”. And of course they didn’t. Why would they? There was no burning platform. The vision of the future wasn’t clear. There was a recently returned comfort in our 100-strong L & D function, well-earned in fact after pretty significant structural changes were finally getting operationally bedded down. Change saps emotional energy and we were re-charging.

The graduate

Then, our little team – responsible for learning methodology – got a graduate on secondment, one of 100 our company takes in a year. For 3 months, a young, keen, bright person, there to help us and learn from us. I knew where I needed help – and I wasn’t too proud to ask – so I booked in a 90 minute meeting to see where her fresh perspective could take it. 2 weeks later, we had the meeting, the grad and I.

Happinstance: the only free meeting room was an open one in the middle of the office environment. It felt strangely mutinous to be discussing new learning theories and concepts in the open office surrounded by seasoned learning professionals, when in reality we were still both rookies to the subject. Our starting point was that we didn’t know where to start, so I grabbed a whiteboard marker and wrote up all the emerging learning trends as a list. “There are so many!” I said plaintively, searching. “How about you just try to group them first?” replied the grad, calmly.

The map

So we did group them, and 3 ways emerged:

emerging learning trends July 2014 (6)

Warming to the task, we thought about how these trends were being brought to bear. Eventually we plotted onto the whiteboard these four holistic approaches:

emerging learning trends July 2014 (2)        emerging learning trends July 2014 (3)       emerging learning trends July 2014 (4)       emerging learning trends July 2014 (5)

Then we matched the skills and delivery mechanisms that belonged to each family. We stepped back for a look. It was good, but not complete. We needed to know how it fitted together as a whole. So, simply because we only had 2 colours of whiteboard markers left, we agreed on this way of tracking the linkages…

emerging learning trends July 2014

…with each arrowed line to be labelled according to the relationship, such as this:

emerging learning trends map july 2014 (2)

As we started to describe the linkages, a few things became apparent.

  • Technology is a necessary component, requiring investment and time to implement; but having a basic map showing what technology is there to do helps to make sense of where the options fit.
  • There are many things within our control to do immediately.  The biggest is to have a personal PLN; and this is one of half a dozen new specific skills for learning professionals to develop.

So what happened after that? Firstly we left the map up for a few weeks for people to look at and digest. For colleagues based in other buildings and cities, we placed this big photo onto our Yammer thread:

emerging learning trends map july 2014

The effect

What was interesting was the initial visual map – a photo of some scribble on a whiteboard – endures and continues to help our learning strategists and instructional designers to map sense of this big change.  I promised myself and others I would create a polished, soft-copy version, but no-one seemed to see a need (in fact, I went searching for something similar on the net, and couldn’t find one, so that’s why I’m sharing it with you all now).

So we took a different tack, and built a spreadsheet of existing examples and opportunities grouped in the manner of the visual map. Our grad eventually went to a new secondment; I tried to keep helping our senior learning methodology guys and using the language of the emerging trends we had mapped in all my conversations. I used the visual map months later to update our leadership team. Learning methodology evolution became a key strategic imperative towards the end of last year. Most importantly, our whole function now knows they have the permission to experiment. Personally I’m involved in 3 separate program redesigns underway right now and the emerging learning trends are being employed in all of them. I look forward to sharing the progress.

There are many more things to do. The immediate importance for all of our L & D staff to individually start having their own PLN is the most compelling. To do my part, I’ll shift from my 2014 bits and pieces approach to role-modelling having a PLN. To move from a cheerleader to an enabler, I have to live and breathe what I espouse. I will also be working with others in my team to build formal learning support for this.

….and why again is it important? Unselfishly, for the people in our company that rely on us to understand how to approach their work, who too often have to put up with inaccessible, boring, expensive and out-of-date solutions. Selfishly, for the very survival of the role of the L & D professional. I love what I do, and I know I need to love the change within that. We all need to. Let’s emerge.

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