Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why I #lrnchat

Every Thursday at 5:30 PM PST, a bunch of folks get together on twitter and chat about all things learning in our weekly #lrnchat @lrnchat#lrnchat started in 2009 and this is what we are all about.
There are several reasons why I #lrnchat. But if I had to sum it up in a single word, I'd say I #lrnchat to ENGAGE

I engage with the topic of conversation.
What do we chat about? Well, the themes from October include:
- Learning and Rest
- Creative Thinking
- Learning from Animals - What an inspiring and insightful chat with special guest, Animal Behaviourist, Jason G. Goldman. See transcript
- Learning Science
The topics are things we may find ourselves thinking about but there are not enough platforms to talk and discuss our ideas. I have always found something of interest and the topics are always things that matter to learning and performance. 

I engage with others when discussing the topic.
Any topic is only as good as who is chatting about it. Every time I #lrnchat, I find myself in the company of people who are passionate about learning and performance. People from all parts of the globe join in. Although twitter restricts us to use 140 characters, these folks say so much more. The conversations produce relevant content and resonant ideas and thoughts that stay with me much after the chat. Some participants are industry veterans and others are newbies. But in the #lrnchat room, everyone is treated as equal and welcomed and encouraged by the moderators along the way. I can't say that we all always agree about the topic. But the beauty of such a chat is that when I interact with people who are different from me, there is an opportunity for me to gain new perspectives and start thinking 'differently'. It is a way of reducing and eliminating my filters. And I value that a lot. The connections that I have made and the ideas that we continue to exchange, have helped me solve problems, inspired me to do things differently at work and led me to go back and pursue some of my childhood interests and hobbies. See who participates in #lrnchat.

I engage with myself and discover more about myself and my views.
The focus of #lrnchat is on how people learn, what influences them, and what they learn. And these are exactly the kind of things that I have learned about myself through the chat. For me, this chat is another way of self-discovery and lifelong learning. When I don't quite know how I think about a topic - which side of the conversation I am on - chatting with others helps me crystallize my own thoughts and position. I am able to give a voice to my view and realize that it matters. Some of the posts that I have written on my blog are a direct outcome of the ideas exchanged during the chat including: 

#lrnchat often forces me to think deeply about things that I haven't thought about much. I have read more articles, blogs and books because I want to learn more about the topic and form an opinion of my own. All this learning and reflection leaves me refreshed and energized. But it is not all serious. The chat is sprinkled with funny anecdotes, silly remarks, entertaining pictures and interesting personalities. This is the fastest hour of my week and I love it!

I hope you’ll consider joining us. If you have an idea about a #lrnchat topic, let these good people know. @britz @LnDDave @kelly_smith01 @JaneBozarth @ryantracey @Tracy_Parish @jsuzcampos

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Joys of Being an Amateur

We often hear and read about how to become an expert, a guru, a specialist, etc. But no one ever talks about how to be an amateur. Maybe because the word 'amateur' makes us think of someone who is inexperienced, unskilled, unprofessional so there is nothing appealing in becoming one.  

When I heard the NPR radio podcast titled 'Amateur Hour', it intrigued me. This podcast/video cast is all about speakers sharing their stories of 'plunging - or being plunged into new situations and emerging as experts'. The focus of the conversation is all about jumping in and figuring it out.

But the real reason that the idea of being an amateur fascinates me is all about what the word actually means. The word amateur is derived from the French word, amateur, meaning “lover of" and from Latin amatorem nom. amator, meaning "lover". So, to be an amateur means to love what you do. And that's how I want to feel about everything I want to do. I want to be in love with what I am doing! 

I really enjoyed listening to all the speakers but Taylor Wilson - 21 years old applied nuclear physicist - the most 'amateur' of them all, shared the real deal about why it is good to be an amateur. He said, “I think that, you know, people who have, you know, spent their professional careers in a field sometimes get bent to those preconceptions or the way things are done. And I think that young people don't necessarily develop those preconceptions, and so they just go out and do. And, you know, I didn't really know that, you know, this wasn't the way things were done, or, I wasn't convinced this is the way they should be done."

As an amateur, we don't have too many preconceptions and biases because we don't know any better. But when we become seasoned professionals and experts, sometimes we set limitations to our own mind. This morning, in a different podcast on how to find work you love, the speaker, Scott Dinsmore said, "Everything is impossible until someone else does it." And I truly believe we are what we think. Our imagination and limitless thinking can take us anywhere we want to be. So, I want to think like an amateur and let go of my preconceptions about what's possible and what's not. 

I don't know about you but when I am trying to learn something new, something challenging, something I haven't done before, I have a different type of energy and passion towards learning, experimentation and failure. Every failure fuels my determination. I also find myself striving for smaller successes along the way and enjoying these accomplishments instead of waiting to celebrate the achievement of the final goal. 

As an amateur, I try and surround myself with people who know and do what I am trying to learn to do. And all that good company is inspiring and transformational. When I am in the company of people who are better at what I am trying to do, I am not concerned about the final outcome as much as the process of learning. I just want to absorb like a sponge. 

I find that my entire perspective and mindset as an amateur is very different from when I am wearing the 'expert' cap. As an expert, I am preoccupied with the thoughts of expectations, targets, success and failure. Someone is always looking up to me for workable ideas and proven solutions and I am way more critical of myself. But as an amateur, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so my mind is free; to make mistakes and learn from them. 

But don't get me wrong. Experts have a huge place in this world and there is much to learn from their mindset. Besides, if there are no experts, who will the amateurs learn from! (If you get a chance, do read my post on what makes you an expert for a synthesis of different ideas about expertise.) But what I truly appreciate is the eagerness and the dare devil attitude of an amateur. 

Yes, there are special joys of being an amateur. But if you are an expert, just try and think like an amateur before you tackle the next challenge to see if it makes any difference. I think it will. 
Edmond Hillary should know. He was very articulate in saying: "I think the really good mountaineer is the man with the technical ability of the professional and with the enthusiasm and freshness of approach of the amateur."

Monday, August 31, 2015

From Dependence to Interdependence: The Changing Role of Learning Consultants

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the concept of the Maturity Continuum. He discusses seven habits that are designed to help individuals move from Dependence to Independence (Self-Mastery) to Interdependence (the highest level of maturity). While the book is designed for individuals to become more effective in their personal lives, the ideas translate well into all aspects of life. I have been thinking about how these ideas can influence the design of learning and our role as learning consultants.

Internet and easy access to information is changing the role of a learning designer. The advancements in the social and technological environment of learning are redefining what we must do. There is still a need for identifying learning gaps and providing the right solutions but the solutions are not necessarily in the form of courses. Whether we embrace it or not, learners are more in control of their learning than ever before and learning is becoming more social and personalized. I don't think we are 'designing' learning in the strict sense of design anymore. Instead, I find myself acting more like a consultant who is facilitating the process of learning and working towards delivering performance. 

From creating learners who are highly dependent, I am moving towards a role where my relationship with my learners is transforming into interdependence. 

In the act of consulting and designing learning experiences, I want to encourage learners to take responsibility for their own learning and guide them as they find the solutions to their performance problems. In this environment, I see my role as a facilitator of the process of learning and not necessarily the provider of information or knowledge. I see myself as the seed for learning conversations through which I can enable my learners to connect with other learners, their peers, and experts in their personal learning network. In that sense, I am a node in the learning path; and hopefully a critical one. I see myself as the one that connects learners and creates opportunities for interaction and engagement. 

There is a greater need for content curation and presenting information in the context of learning and performance. There is a need for identifying the right learning and performance metrics and gathering evidence in support of performance improvement. There is a need for becoming an agent for change. 

The way I look at it, my goal as a learning consultant is to help learners move along their maturity continuum and help them define and follow their path from dependence to interdependence.