Transforming your staff's potential

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Designing for Flow

It also has me reflecting on the concept of "flow," both in how I practice my craft and in my life.  The core theme of the book is introducing the concept of  the constructal law: “For a finite-size flow system to persist in time (to live), its configuration must evolve in such a way that provides easier access to the currents that flow through it.”  The author goes on to say:  “The constructal law is a shout from the rooftops: Everything that flows and moves generates designs that evolve to survive (to live)."

Things that live / move persist and become sustaining by constructing and evolving themselves for the most efficient flow.  Think rivers, lightening strikes, animals staking out prime grazing or hunting grounds. 

Diverse, easily-accessible sources of input, minimizing/removing barriers and inefficiencies to the "flow" process, and opportunity for expression/practice/application/output to "feed forward":  These are the prime, universal elements of the law that I can identify. It all speaks to sustainability... the persistence of the "life" of something, be it a river, a person, an idea.  This concept has implications for and application to all aspects of life, including support networks of family, friends and professional colleagues, the rise of social media for communication and learning, democracy, the politics of energy and conservation, etc.

It makes me think about how I:
  • Structure a lesson plan
  • Architect a performance management program
  • Manage my own professional development
  • Prioritize my time and nurture my relationships / communities - personal and professional
  • Take care of myself and the ones I love
It creates a new paradigm for approaching it all.  Wow... and I haven't even read the book yet!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Failure: Necessary for Success

The more I read about creativity, the more I read about failure.  Failure is a necessary and integral element of the creative process, for leadership, for success in business, relationships... just about everything.  Here are a couple examples to my point:

From Stanford's School of Engineering's blog, "Ask the Expert":  How Should Organizations Handle Failures?

"The best-run organizations understand that failure enables improvements in everyday work and characterizes the creative process. Dysfunctional companies create a climate of fear where failures are stigmatized and hidden. There, mistakes are never examined, creativity is stifled and progress is difficult."
This Business Week article, "How Failure Breeds Success" argues that breakthroughs depend on failure and the best companies embrace their mistakes.  I particularly like the idea of "failure parties."
From Hack the SystemHabits, Failure, and the Creative Process–How IDEO, the World’s Premier Design Firm, Succeeds by Expecting Failure

In the Creative Liberty blog post: Embracing Creative Failure (I): Getting It Half-Right , insightfully aligns "failure" with the inherent iterative nature of the creative process.
Dave Atack of Intrepid Learning argues we should embrace failure as a learning tool in his post, "Fear of Failure." 

Michael Hyatt, who writes on intentional leadership and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  In his podcast: How to Benefit from Setbacks and  Failures he speaks to the lessons he's learned from big failures in his work and personal lives.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More on Creativity

“It’s hard to have original ideas when you are surrounded by people who all have the same experiences as you.” 

 – Jonathan Harris

“Intuition is a very powerful thing—more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.” 

– Steve Jobs 

 A friend forwarded this link to an NPR interview of author Jonah Lehrer on his new book: "Imagine:  How Creativity Works."  His book, and the interview, focus on recent research on how inspiration and the creative process work.  The findings support long-held folk wisdom on epiphanies in showers, the tortured artist, and more.  This Fresh Air podcast is a 1/2 hour well spent:

'Imagine' That: Fostering Creativity In The Workplace

Delicious Tidbits: Measurement

A colleague will be speaking on "getting real with measurement" soon at an industry event.  She asked her community of practice to provide her with opinions on what this means to each of us and with resources that might be useful.  Themes that arose were alignment with organizational goals, ROI and "less talking, more doing."  I dug through my Delicious library recently and found some interesting articles and other resources on measurement:

From Educause, an article by George Siemens and Phil Longon on, "Penetrating the Fog: Analytics in Learning and Education."

From the eLearning Curve Blog, a post by Micheal Hanley on:  "Evaluating Non-formal Learning: Validity in Research"

And another eLearning Curve Blog post: "Using Quantitative Data when Evaluating Non-Formal Learning"

A measurement job aid from Will At Work Learning.

From the Dissident: Trying to Find Life's Instructional Manual, a post on
"Measuring the value of communities of practice."

A Beth Kanter blog post on Reporting Social Media Metrics To Stakeholders.

From The Social Organization blog, a post on Social Media Metrics.
And, finally, from Forbes Magazine, an articles on Five New Management Metrics.

Do you have favorite, "go-to" articles or tools you would like to share?  I'd love to see them! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Belonging and Leading

“Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong. One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people. We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we can’t resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new. … We want to belong not to just one tribe, it turns out, but to many. And if you give us tools and make it easy, we’ll keep joining. Tribes make our lives better. And leading a tribe is the best life of all.”
- Seth Godin
Tribes, by Seth Godin

Hat tip to design maven SwissMiss

Sunday, April 1, 2012

To Do

As I sit here on a Sunday morning, blogging and tweeting and pinning (all work-related, of course!), with a list of weekend tasks a foot long at my side,  I found this print, To Do, by Wendy MacNaughton, particularly apt:

via SwissMiss... a great source of design inspiration....

On Peer Learning

Having the opportunity to participate in the design and development of a professional development program for my client, I am investigating all kinds of informal learning strategies.  Here is what I've been reading on Peer Learning:

First, a couple definitions:

From glossaryPeer learning is an approach that involves working with communities of practice, developing learning 'journeys', etc. This can also be called 'learning from within', i.e. not trying to replicate what others have done (because there are no panaceas and no two places or situations are the same), but replicating their creativity, ingenuity and reflexivity in order to develop and implement new ideas whilst reducing the risk. 

From InnovateOnlineTopping and Ehly (1998) define peer-assisted learning as "the acquisition of knowledge and skill through active helping and supporting among status equals or matched companions" (1). Peer tutoring, as a specific form of peer-assisted learning, is a collaborative approach in which pairs of pupils interact to assist each other's academic achievement, with one pupil adopting the role of tutor and the other the role of the tutee. Reciprocal peer tutoring "employs same-age student pairs of comparable ability with the primary objective of keeping both peer student and peer teacher engaged in constructive academic activity" (Fantuzzo and Ginsburg-Block 1998, 121). This is in contrast to more usual forms of peer tutoring, which operate with different abilities in the pair and sometimes with pupils of different ages.

Now, some other insights:

From a paper published in the International Journal for Academic Development, " Situating academic development in professional work: using peer learning,"  by David Boud, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia:

Boud speaks to the challenges arising from locating development in academic work.  He says that not all contexts are conducive to peer learning and careful consideration is needed to determine when it's appropriate. He highlights the following points to consider:

  • Will development be a form of enculturation?
  • What is it legitimate to do for and with one’s peers?
  • Linking development with strategic priorities
  • Leadership support and development as part of leadership
  • Using appropriate personnel in development

Beth Kanter, at her blog, recently discussed peer learning in the non-profit world.  She spoke to peer learning as a strategy for building three types of capacity: network weaving, the strategic use/measurement of social media and investing in networks.
She listed six initial observations that she has seen emerge as the most important in this type of application:
  • The substance of the peer learning experience should be of immediate use in the participants’ work—ideally an emerging area that needs attention where there is not yet a lot of information, and where the group can co-create material.
  • The participants need a substantial amount of common ground in relation to the topic—whether it is their size, issue area, location, or other factors, they have to share enough that their commonalities are easily visible to one another.
  • The group needs to quickly build trust, so that participants are comfortable learning alongside one another and seek out their peers for direct input. For many groups, meeting in-person is key, particularly in the early stages.
  • The participants’ motivation is essential, so it works well for grantees to be given a free hand in choosing whether to join.
  • It should be clear to all involved that the learning process will be exploratory and emergent rather than tightly structured and directive.

Over at Employment @ Suite 101, Andree Iffrig writes about how informal communities of inquiry can enhance professional commitment through storytelling in the post, "Peer Learning and Storytelling in Organizations":
Storytelling in an informal setting is an invitation for professionals to step into a new space and frame of mind, detached from the harsh reality of the workday world. Stories are compelling because they speak to people at a feeling level, cutting through the coats of professional veneer employees accumulate working in organizations. In the context of an informal community of inquiry, stories bring out the collective wisdom and experience of participants.
Getting at this kind of knowledge would be nearly impossible with conventional meeting techniques. It takes the combination of safe environment and storytelling to illuminate this wisdom and make it available to the group. Storytelling in the context of a discovery process helps participants move from reflecting silently on a topic, to sharing their reflections, to group discussion. The end result is often a discovery of shared values and a reaffirmation of commitment.

In a research paper published by Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative entitled "Bridging the Gap: The Use of Learning Partnerships to Enhance Workplace Learning," by Kate Collier and  Jacqui McManus, they concluded that peer learning partnerships and related strategies appear to be successful in bridging the gap between 'off the job training' and workplace learning.  However, the way learning partnerships are set up and supported throughout a training program appears to have a direct impact in their effectiveness.  They list benefits that include:
  • Participants becoming more aware of themselves as learners
  • Discovering how others can support participants in their learning
  • Enhancing participant's learning in formal learning programs, and
  • The effective transfer of learning into the workplace

In a paper published by University of Alberta on "Peer Collaboration as a Model for Workplace Learning in Health Care: Possibilities and Challenges" by a slew of academics (click on link to see authors), they conclude:
"In the rapidly changing workplace, peer collaboration offers health care workers a sense of community and provides a forum for self-reflective practice. A barrier to effective collaboration is “creating a space to meet.” Within the goal-directed milieu of the Calgary Health Region, participants reported difficulty in reconciling the time “spent on self” when patient needs seemed more pressing. However, participants reported both personal and professional gains from their involvement in the project. Therefore, a preliminary conclusion is that peer collaboration offers a stable and supportive learning context and is a compelling option for continuous learning in the workplace."