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dilbert on training

I have been researching the difference in approaches to learning between Boomers and Millennials. I recently started reading and hearing about a new approach to hiring and learning called a “high innovation system”.

We know there has been a sea-change in the old hiring for life contract between employer and employee. And the union agreements are disappearing faster than you can “retiring boomers”. There is also a newer change in the way companies view employees learning.

We originally had a “high commitment system,” which valued long-term employment and on-the-job training. The new approach is called “high-innovation”. Here’s the idea in a quote from  Andrew S. Ross writing in SFGATE

Engineers are typically hired because their skills and knowledge are required for a specific technology or product being developed. This system is seen as cost-effective, since the company can hire required skills and does not have to retrain experienced workers, who usually command higher wages than new graduates. Of course, this puts engineers, who are no longer retrained by their companies, at a disadvantage as they age.

I had an epiphany about why older workers over 40 are becoming an endangered species, not only in the high-tech industry, but in companies worldwide.

I come from a generation of continuing education – workers tagged to go from event to event to learn new skills and improve or update old ones. I wondered why we consider so many older (read post-40) workers as part of the ‘long-term unemployed’. The answer is that “knowing” has replaced “learning”. According to the SFGATE article, if a company can find a worker with a specific skill to fill a job that requires that skill, then there is no need to spend the time and money training someone to learn it.

In today’s flat and hypercompetitive world, it’s the equivalent to trying to teach a square peg ‘roundness’ when simply finding a round peg will do.

It is the difference between the “high-commitment system” in which employees expect to be taught and learn and improve skills while they are working in order to improve their performance, and the “high innovation system” in which people only become employees when they can already perform the skills that are required. How they learned them is not important. Being able to prove they can do them is all that counts.

In the industrial economy, where change happened more slowly, there was time and money to train someone in a new skill. In today’s Digital economy, where there is more talent out there than time or money for training, the trend among some companies is that learning and development is irrelevant. The digital revolution happened so fast that an entire segment of the workforce now has an ‘use by’ date stamped on their foreheads.  It appears that what a Digital Native has already knows will always be in higher demand than what a Digital Immigrant can learn.

To quote Mark Zuckerberg: “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” Facebook’s CEO told a Y Combinator Startup event at Stanford University. “Young people are just smarter. Why are most chess masters under 30? I don’t know. Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family. Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”

The problem with this approach to hiring and learning is that it may work for hard skills, but with regard to softskills – for example people management – learning never stops. You may temporarily find the round peg for the round job, but wait a few months and the shape of things will change. The Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives must both be continuous learners of softskills. And the experience of the older workers – especially in the area of soft skills – will always be an important part of the younger workers learning. Mentors are not born, but only made by adopting and adapting to success, failure, more success over lots of time.

Training for hard skills will soon become as obsolete as the chalk board. My prediction is that it will soon be replaced by performance support utilizing the Internet of Things (IoT) to help people who simply want operational or procedural information on the job.

Training for hard skills will soon become as obsolete as the chalk board. My prediction is that it will soon be replaced by performance support utilizing the Internet of Things (IoT) to help people who simply want operational or procedural information on the job.  Using embedded chips or beacons, machines or equipment will be able to ‘talk’ to you. They will tell you what to do to make them work, how to troubleshoot a problem, instruct you about fixing a broken part, walk you through completing a safety inspection checklist or finishing a regulatory compliance report form. That finally solves the problem of your mind falling off the forgetting curve and takes hard skills training – and the many millions of dollars and uncountable hours of development time – off the high-commitment table.

It’s the people-to-people skills that are still and always will be hard to learn, especially for people who prefer to spend time focused on things or ideas. You cannot put a performance support beacon on a worker and have it instruct you about what to say if their performance is not meeting the company’s expectations. Or they need time off for an operation. Or they are depressed over someone’s death. Or … or … or ….

So that still leaves us with the need to learn soft skills. An area from what I understand Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook could go to school on.

How would you define your company, as high-innovation or high-commitment? And as time marches on is this just a temporal blip on the hiring radar of the Millennial generation?


We’d like to share the article below by Steve Wheeler, Assoc. Professor of Learning Technology in the Plymouth Institute of Education at Plymouth University in England.  We admire Steve not only for his thinking about the future of learning and education–but also for the clarity and beauty of his writing. His blog can be found at:  Steve Wheeler

I presented a keynote at the Curriculum Enhancement Day for Portsmouth Business School recently, and chose this bright coloured image as one of my opening slides. It is as beautiful as it is intriguing, and it’s known as the Mandelbrot Set. I didn’t choose it solely for its visual impact, although as you can see, it certainly is quite a stunning image, and there are many variations. I chose it because I wanted to use it to make a point about what education is, and what education can become. You see, the image represents a mathematical formula that is recursive. In other words, as you zoom in to the image, which represents data points of a mathematical calculation, it continually reproduces itself towards infinity. Mathematicians will understand the explanation below from Wikipedia, but the rest of us might struggle:

The Mandelbrot set is the set of complex numbers ‘c’ for which the sequence (c, c² + c, (c²+c)² + c, ((c²+c)²+c)² + c, (((c²+c)²+c)²+c)² + c, …) does not approach infinity. The set is closely related to Julia sets (which include similarly complex shapes) and is named after the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, who studied and popularized it. Mandelbrot set images are made by sampling complex numbers and determining for each whether the result tends towards infinity when a particular mathematical operation is iterated on it. Treating the real and imaginary parts of each number as image coordinates, pixels are coloured according to how rapidly the sequence diverges, if at all.

Follow that? Me neither. The rest of us simply admire its visual appeal or marvel at its fractal properties and how it is never ending. The point I wanted to make at the conference was that much of our education systems are fractal in nature. Education is delivered recursively, where students are required to reproduce knowledge that is already known.

It’s a safe approach to education, and learning can be easily measured. Those that become teachers continue this tradition, teaching their own students the same knowledge, in more or less the same style they were themselves taught. Assessment of learning also has fractal features. Standardised testing is based on reproducing knowledge. Final examination success is premised on the student’s ability to reiterate what has already been taught in lessons. There is no room for exploration or creativity in summative assessment.

My point was that when education is conducted in fractal mode, it does not obtain its full potential and students are disadvantaged. I asked my audience to consider the difference between recursive and discursive education approaches. In recursive education, we see reproduction of knowledge, and we see students learning content towards a product – memorising facts and then reproducing them for the examiner. In discursive education, students are allowed to digress from the pathway, investigate new and untravelled pathways, and discover for themselves. Instruction is minimised, learning takes centre stage in the process. This kind of learning can be found in project work, problem based learning and personal research and many other progressive approaches.

My question for my audience was this: How can we as educators provide discursive opportunities for our students?

What would it take for us to leave the safe and mundane world of product based, recursive education behind and adopt new pedagogies that promote self discovery, digression from prescribed pathways and learning by a process of serendipity?

It would be a major risk for many institutions, and there would be some personal cost. But if we don’t try, how will we make any progress? This is an initial foray into this area for me and I would interested in your views on these ideas. As ever, I am open to discussion and revision, because I’m wholly committed to discursive enquiry.

Steve can be reached at S.Wheeler [@] plymouth[.ac.uk]


Imagine if the equipment you use in the workplace could:

  • show you what you need to know about how they operate
  • tell you how to use them correctly and efficiently
  • help you be safer working with or around them
  • offer you details to complete and submit regulatory forms and checklists
  • show you how to fix them if they are broken
  • provide you with the schematics and diagrams you need
  • help you contact a mentor or emergency assistance
  • and more, lots more.

What if all of this information was delivered automatically whenever you were within a short distance of the machine?  Imagine if it was instantly and securely viewable from any nearby internet-connected device.

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Think of the enormous impact that could have: eliminating errors, boosting employee productivity.  It could dramatically reduce errors and injuries and associated workman’s comp and insurance costs —  all of which would obviously have a positive effect on the bottom line.

We’ve all heard and read about how The Internet of Things in the home will utterly transform the ways in which we live. We’ve heard for years how your refrigerator is going to send a shopping list to your grocery store, your car will make an appointment for an oil change, and the blinds on your windows will automatically close as dusk falls.

What about the Internet of Things in the workplace? It seems to me that far more people need the machines they work with on the job to supply them with specific information.

While I can appreciate that having a dishwasher that will automatically turn itself on when its full might be nice, having a piece of machinery that can provide me with safety warnings or with a checklist before I operate it could prevent me from being seriously injured.

That’s a whole new category that I call “The Internet of Smart Things.”


I recently saw a demo of an app that can make everything I’ve just described above a reality. The app won the Best in Show Award at mLearnCon 2014 DemoFest in San Diego, and it went up against some big names in the Edtech industry.

The app is driven by iBeacon technology connected to any cross-platform internet connected device that can pull information from the cloud. The beacon goes on any machine or piece of equipment and sends out a specific signal when you get close. The app ‘hears’ the signal and calls the cloud for the information on that machine or piece of equipment. You get a tailored menu of information choices that could include safety checklists, operating instructions, functional specs, diagrams, and safety warnings. Whatever you need. Whenever that information is really needed.

You have now crossed over into the Internet of Smart Things.

The opportunities are vast and diverse, across industries ranging from mining, logging oil exploration and refining, to manufacturing, pharmaceutical and medical, construction and engineering, food production and agriculture.

According to a recent Gartner study the size of the market for the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020 is estimated to be $1.9 Trillion.

And here’s a breakdown by Industry according to another Gartner study:

IoT Market Share 2020

Here’s the link to the 9-minute demo of the app I saw. It’s technical and explains how it works:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/0jq8ohnaykfa09w/DemoFestArchiveBestOfmLearningDemoFest2014Baty.mp4?dl=0

I invite you to take a look and tell me what you think. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


new-paradigm-ahead (2)

Talking about the Internet of Things …

I have seen the future of on-the-job learning. It is an app that connects any piece of machinery your company uses, with any internet-connected device you already have, and instantly and automatically delivers any specifically chosen, task-related information that exists in the cloud.

So you get close to any piece of equipment and your device provides Information that can range from details about how it works, technical support information, or even safety checklists to ensure compliance. You decide.

Different information is received when you are a certain distance from a piece of equipment  — on your iPhone, iWatch, Android phone or any other internet-enabled device.

This has really fired up my imagination!

I can imagine so many scenarios and uses for this app. And just think of how it could reduce employee error — and the impact that could very quickly have on a corporation’s or organization’s bottom line.

Love to hear your reactions:

Amazing App for OTJ Learning


The major change in business today is the rate of change…. the time between conception of an idea and market acceptance was five to seven years. Now a new car model goes from idea to market in 24 months. “Internet time” is just a few months for most things. My public offerings…used to take months or years. Now, crowdfunding can raise millions of dollars for a new business in a few weeks.

John Psarouthakis

push pull pic

As the digital revolution continues rapidly increasing the rate of change andtransforming all aspects of business, from supply chain management to communicationthe highest-performing corporations are abandoning traditional “push” training for the “pull” learning model.

Push training is a centralized, top-down model that occurs when management determines what it is people need to know or do and “pushe”’ educational programs out from a central training group.  Going to a class or taking an assigned online program is push training.

In a push training model, learning is test-based. It is all about what you know.

The problem is that the push training culture was developed to serve the old Industrial Economy that no longer exists.

It is a relic from the time when producing products and delivering services changed slowly and the shelf-life of both was almost glacial compared to today’s reality.  In the pre-digital age, most workers did not need to learn volumes of information to perform their jobs. We all know that has changed.

So why is it that, despite the change from the Industrial to the Knowledge Economy over 100 years ago, the vast majority of organizations still push training out to employees in almost the same ways as they did then?

We are hard-pressed to think of any other business function that is still managed as it was a century ago. Especially when the research clearly shows that push training is an inefficient way of developing skills, abilities and attitudes. Studies show that push training programs only managed in transferr a mere 10 to 20 percent of skills to the workplace. This is a huge waste of 80 to 90 percent of the investment in those programs.

“Pull learning” is the model for the new Knowledge Economy.

It is a decentralized, bottom-up approach that enables employees to access the information they need right when it is needed. Employees are connected and able to collaborate tomake the best use of the supporting technology which connects them to each another and to the sources of information.

Imagine employees facing a new situation in which they require more instruction. With pull training, employees can quickly and easily locate and access the most current information in a variety of ways, when and where they need it.

In a pull model learning is performance-based. The focus is on what you can do when you need to get it done.

Figure 1: Push or Pull

 push pull

 Replacing Push with Pull: The Learning Culture

Replacing push training with pull learning transforms an organization into a learning culture.

A learning culture is an organization that can provide relevant, useable and on-demand access to the knowledge and skills employees need to perform their jobs. This includes technical, operational, and managerial skills. Our research over the past two years shows that corporations that commitment to becoming a learning culture experience measurable, significant and sustainable increases in on-the-job performance, talent-retention, sales revenue, and innovation.

Our research and consulting with leading corporations has further convinced us that the smartest, highest performing, most successful organizations in the current global idea-based economy are learning cultures. Why? Because they are more agille –able to respond instantly to the ever-changing requirements and demands of a fast-paced, hyper-competitive marketplace. Their employees can quickly access the technology and support to find what they need to know, when and where it is needed. Shifting from training and knowing to learning and doing improves the thousands of job-related actions and decisions performed each day, and makes mission-critical corporate-level decisions more immediate and effective.

Yet surprisingly few organizations and their leaders have fully grasped the enormous benefits to be realized by becoming a learning culture. It has become obvious to us that a fundamental shift needs to occur in the way senior managers think about how they provide knowledge and know-how to their workforce.

It is time to stop seeing the workplace as a relatively static 9-5 schoolplace where employees receive an occasional invitation to a training event. Leaders need to reimagine the workplace as a constantly moving beehive in which employees are continuously learning whatever knowledge and skills will help them do their jobs more effectivley.


If you would like more information about what it takes to transform your company into a high-performing learning culture, contact Stephen at sjgill@learningtobegreat.com or David at david@knowledgestar.com


brain

This is THE most important question you need to answer:

Your Corporate IQ is the total brain power of your organzation. It includes what people know and do every day. It also includes what they discover, learn from failure, learn from one another, share, innovate, tell each other and more. It all adds up to how smart your organization is today, and how well it will perform tomorrow, how the expected will be handled and, more importantly, how the unexpected will be met.

If your Corporate IQ is growing, you’re on the right track for the future. If it is shrinking, you have a problem. A serious problem.

A shrinking Corporate IQ is a function of many forces currently at work over which you have no real control. They include the following:

  • Brains jumping out of the workforce – According to recent numbers from Yuki Noguchi in her article “Businesses Try To Stave Off Brain Drain As Boomers Retire.” “In the U.S., roughly 10,000 people reach retirement age every day. And though not everyone who turns 62 or 65 retires right away, enough do that some companies are trying to head off the problem…Losing veteran workers is a challenge, even for big companies like General Mills…But the older-worker brain drain is a big concern for industries like mining and health care.”
  • Brains made BIG on the Internet – These days a single individual has the collected brainpower of the Internet and all the people connected to it which is acording to the latest figures that 3.7 billion or 40% of the planet. Just to give you an idea of what “exponential” means, the first billion was reached in 2005. So smarts are no longer hired and kept inside your corporate walls.
  • Brains which are connected build virtual organizations – Smart people are everywhere on the planet today and they are finding one another and creating virtual organizations that pump out services and products at an amazing and (to those companies left in the dust) an alarming rate. Your competition many not yet have a brand or an office, but they are certainly as smart as you and may be smarter. And that means they are your competition and need to be accounted for when you look at the products and services you produce.
  • Brains that are bored, tired, overworked, and not challenged – This is partly a result of the schoolplace model of learning being adopted whole cloth into the workplace. When we had time and world’s enough to design and develop and deliver training as if we were still in school it may have worked. Today, it is an icebox that needs to be replaced by a refrigerator.

On the other hand, a growing Corporate IQ is something you can manage. What helps the combined brainpower grow? That’s the topic of the next piece in this series, “It’s Time to Stop Pushing Learning.”


This blog has frequently stated that a successful learning culture must accept that failures are an important component of learning.

So what, exactly, does that mean?

Does this mean that managers are to overlook mistakes and praise and reward those who’ve screwed up?

Wouldn’t the end result of such behavior be an organization whose members were sloppy, inaccurate and imprecise in their work?

What, specifically, would an organization interested in making a shift from the “push” training culture to a “pull” learning culture do if it wanted to make failure an opportunity to learn about problems before it grew too expensive –or too late — to address and correct them?

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 12.22.30 AM

These are all important questions — and I’ll talk about them in this and a series of blogs to follow. But let me start by quoting Amy C. Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School who states, “All failures are not created equal.”

In her highly engaging and readable article, Strategies for Learning from Failure published in the Harvard Business Review, Edmondson illustrates how some failures can provide highly valuable information, while others are inherently less helpful.

Edmondson has divided failure into the following three categories for which I have provided abbreviated descriptions, which are based largely on hers:

Preventable failures in predictable operations

These are failures most of us would consider “bad.” As Edmondson states, “They usually involve deviations from spec in the closely defined processes of high-volume or routine operations in manufacturing and services. With proper training and support, employees can follow those processes consistently. When they don’t, deviance, inattention, or lack of ability is usually the reason. But in such cases, the causes can be readily identified and solutions developed.”

Think of the famous Toyota Production System, which instills in all employees the importance of pulling a rope to stop the assembly line immediately upon spotting — or even suspecting –there is a problem. Diagnostics and problem-solving process kick in, and there is no “punishment” for initiating this process, which over the years, has helped the company identify real and potential problems early, before they became serious, system-wide, and costly to the company and its reputation.

 

Unavoidable failures in complex systems

This relates to work involving “a particular combination of needs, people, and problems may have never occurred before,” as Edmondson puts it. Some examples of this type of work includes healthcare professionals in hospital emergency rooms, soldiers in battle, people working in nuclear power plants

Even if workers follow best practices for safety and risk management, small process failures will occur. Often, true disaster is caused by a series of small failures that occurred within a short period of time, or occurred in a particular sequence. To prevent this, workers need to feel they will be supported — not stigmatized — when they report small failures with equipment, systems or procedures while it is possible to address and correct them, rather than waiting until a true crisis  — or disaster –occurs.

 

Intelligent failures at the frontier

The term “intelligent failures” was coined by Duke University professor of management, Sim Sitkin. Dr. Edmondson defines these as “good” failures that “occur in environments where answers are not knowable in advance because this exact situation hasn’t been encountered before and perhaps never will be again.”

Intelligent failures are to be expected in companies working to create a new vaccine, build a new type of aircraft or vehicle. In these situations, good work involves good experimentation– and it is always hoped that the failures good experimentation will produce will be quick and decisive. If they are, they will prevent the organization from sinking further time, money and other resources into unproductive work.

There you have it: the hierarchy of organizational failure as laid out by one of the finest minds at Harvard Business School.

My next blog will consider the reasons why organizations are so resistant to the idea of “destigmatizing failure.”

KnowledgeStar is a corporation that consults with large and small organizations to transform themselves into learning cultures. Contact us at David(at)KnowledgeStar.(com) 

5 Votes

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 10.37.18 PM

This post written by Susan Fry and David Grebow

“Push” learning has gone the way of the cassette tape, tube television and electric typewriter.

Leading educators and trainers now regard push learning as inefficient, suboptimal and outdated. Even many schools, often the slowest institutions to change, are rapidly making the transition away from that model.

Yet, despite the fact that “push learning” is clearly not suited for today’s “economy of ideas,” corporations have been surprisingly reluctant to make the necessary change.

Why?

The reason may well lie in the fact that a “pull” learning culture is truly democratic. It’s a culture that encourages and supports everyone to explore and demonstrate their initiative and abilities, allowing the best to rise to the top based on merit.

That sounds like a great benefit to any organization. But when put into practice, the concept can prove to be quite revolutionary.

Throughout history, providing access to knowledge has been a way to control who gained power, wealth and status.

Learning and training are often hoarded and carefully doled out to people upon whom top management wish to confer success. Often, they are golden keys to elite private club that are given to friends’ children, colleagues, and clients, alumni from the same university, people of the same culture, class or color.

There can be no doubt that in the last 50 years, countries with the world’s leading economies have worked to erode discrimination and provide greater employment opportunities to people regardless of their race or gender.

It’s time organizations make another much-needed cultural shift, and “tear down the wall” by replacing the old, “push” learning culture with a “pull” culture that ensures equal opportunity learning.

KnowledgeStar is a corporation that consults with large and small organizations to transform themselves into learning cultures. Contact us at David(at)KnowledgeStar.(com) 

5 Votes

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 10.37.18 PM

This post written by Susan Fry and David Grebow

“Push” learning has gone the way of the cassette tape, tube television and electric typewriter.

Leading educators and trainers now regard push learning as inefficient, suboptimal and outdated. Even many schools, often the slowest institutions to change, are rapidly making the transition away from that model.

Yet, despite the fact that “push learning” is clearly not suited for today’s “economy of ideas,” corporations have been surprisingly reluctant to make the necessary change.

Why?

The reason may well lie in the fact that a “pull” learning culture is truly democratic. It’s a culture that encourages and supports everyone to explore and demonstrate their initiative and abilities, allowing the best to rise to the top based on merit.

That sounds like a great benefit to any organization. But when put into practice, the concept can prove to be quite revolutionary.

Throughout history, providing access to knowledge has been a way to control who gained power, wealth and status.

Learning and training are often hoarded and carefully doled out to people upon whom top management wish to confer success. Often, they are golden keys to elite private club that are given to friends’ children, colleagues, and clients, alumni from the same university, people of the same culture, class or color.

There can be no doubt that in the last 50 years, countries with the world’s leading economies have worked to erode discrimination and provide greater employment opportunities to people regardless of their race or gender.

It’s time organizations make another much-needed cultural shift, and “tear down the wall” by replacing the old, “push” learning culture with a “pull” culture that ensures equal opportunity learning.

KnowledgeStar is a corporation that consults with large and small organizations to transform themselves into learning cultures. Contact us at David(at)KnowledgeStar.(com) 

5 Votes

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 10.37.18 PM

This post written by Susan Fry and David Grebow

“Push” learning has gone the way of the cassette tape, tube television and electric typewriter.

Leading educators and trainers now regard push learning as inefficient, suboptimal and outdated. Even many schools, often the slowest institutions to change, are rapidly making the transition away from that model.

Yet, despite the fact that “push learning” is clearly not suited for today’s “economy of ideas,” corporations have been surprisingly reluctant to make the necessary change.

Why?

The reason may well lie in the fact that a “pull” learning culture is truly democratic. It’s a culture that encourages and supports everyone to explore and demonstrate their initiative and abilities, allowing the best to rise to the top based on merit.

That sounds like a great benefit to any organization. But when put into practice, the concept can prove to be quite revolutionary.

Throughout history, providing access to knowledge has been a way to control who gained power, wealth and status.

Learning and training are often hoarded and carefully doled out to people upon whom top management wish to confer success. Often, they are golden keys to elite private club that are given to friends’ children, colleagues, and clients, alumni from the same university, people of the same culture, class or color.

There can be no doubt that in the last 50 years, countries with the world’s leading economies have worked to erode discrimination and provide greater employment opportunities to people regardless of their race or gender.

It’s time organizations make another much-needed cultural shift, and “tear down the wall” by replacing the old, “push” learning culture with a “pull” culture that ensures equal opportunity learning.

KnowledgeStar is a corporation that consults with large and small organizations to transform themselves into learning cultures. Contact us at David(at)KnowledgeStar.(com) 

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