Possibilities Are Endless in a Networked World

It’s 4:50 am on the morning of the Australian elections.  While our current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his contender, Tony Abbott are probably up at the same time anxious about today’s result, I have been tossing and turning in bed thinking about other things. Namely Jane Hart’s (@C4LPTSocial Workplace Continuum.

Now why would I be thinking about that?

For the past few months, our organisation has been through a major restructure that culminated this week with a centralisation of the learning and development function. The restructure itself wasn’t personally worrying.  As as an observer of what is happening in our organisation and in many others (and possibly, across Australia when a new government comes in today), it is clear that organisations and Learning and Development functions across Australia are in “no man’s land“.

They are stuck in the middle of a divide which sees them unable to go back to the comfort of the old ways but at the same time, they must press on into an unknown world and possible dangers.  Mark Britz (@britz) called it “Learning Helplessness“.

While the new organisational chart was communicated to our team, I kept thinking about two things.  Firstly, Jane Hart’s Social Workplace Learning Continuum sprung to mind.  It was evident that the new organisational structure was the ‘push’ that we needed to start to think differently about Learning.  It was akin to getting orders that take us out of the safety of the trenches of traditional learning and into a new world.  One where we were free to explore more innovative, flexible (dare I say this word, ‘agile’) solutions that focussed more on 20-70.

The second thought amusingly was Euan Semple’s (@Euan) definition of “Digital”which he describes as “the new fangled word which I don’t understand and am a little nervous of “. These two images in my head directly correspond to my observations and experiences of what many Learning and Development people are feeling in today’s workplace.

Through all that though, there are opportunities. You have followed my journeys on this blog to realise that once your mindset has been changed, there is no going back to the ways of traditional learning – and no, it’s not about the gadgetry either as they are merely tools that allow us to do the more important thing to socially connect with others so that we can hear their stories, learn from them and share our own.

But in order to enter the new world, Learning and Development need to be open to the change. We need to role model the way for our organisation so that learning is seamless – it’s not an additional activity that we do only at certain times of the day, or only when our employer pays for it – it has to be part of the way we work.

But this requires new skills for our own people which some may find confronting.

One of the personal challenges I have set myself is to be the role model for others in Learning Development.  To try and experiment with new approaches, constantly learn and share what I have learned in various social media through my blog, Twitter and Yammer to inspire others to come on that journey with me.

My first aim is for L&D to build their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and to take charge of their own professional development.

For me, my PLN has been the source of all my learning.  Everything began from there.  I cannot tell you what was the most memorable course I have been on in my life but I can tell you the most memorable moments that I’ve had with my PLN and what was discussed, where they work, what they did, how and why they did it.

So with that I have set upon a challenge for myself to inspire other L&D people to create and build their own personal learning networks.  I believe this is the starting point for the organisational culture to change so that we can easily walk across ‘no man’s land’ and into a new connected workplace where Harold Jarche (@hjarche) describes it where ‘the learning is the work and the work is the learning.

I will throw my hat in the ring for one of the Future Capability and Professional Development Consultant roles in the organisational structure and see where it takes me.

I have ideas around what is needed for professional development of the organisation through creating a cMOOC experience around the new skills and capabilities that are needed for a connected workplace ; introduction of social learning programs through Jane Hart and Harold Jarche and programs that primarily focus on peer-to-peer learning which I implemented in my previous role.

As a start though, I will continue to get ‘out there’ at conferences and events and promote my Twitter for Professional Development sessions across Australia in the coming months.

So sometimes we need a push to move us out of our comfort zone but the magic will happen through our networks and opening our eyes to new possibilities.

Let this next phase begin.

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
Aside | This entry was posted in Development, Musings, Work Narration and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Possibilities Are Endless in a Networked World

  1. pauldrasmussen says:

    Reblogged this on Organisational Learning and Development and commented:
    Another really good little blog post from Helen. Personal Learning Networks can be worth their weight in gold.

  2. tanyalau says:

    Hey Matt! the other thing, is that broad org change is not just about changing ourselves, but encouraging and supporting mutual change. And some people just won’t want to go on that journey. In which case, there’s probably not a lot that you can do. But broad change probably requires a tipping point of people to change how they currently do things. Once that tipping point is reached, those who won’t change might well be marginalised or leave.
    Helen, I think your approach of inspiring others to develop a PLN too is a great start…I’m going to try recruiting ppl at my work to the MLSOC open seminar too!
    Look fwd to catching up with you both there : )

  3. Great post Helen, thanks for sharing. I think I’ve learnt much more from my PLN and in a shorter time than any course I’ve undertaken too. I’m also finding that while its nice and cozy in the comfort zone we need to move to where the magic happens in order to grow and stretch ourselves. Its not easy but a supportive PLN certainly helps.

    Your right too in that as L&D professionals we have a great opportunity to be role models for learning in our workplaces and its not just about training, training and more training!

    Tanya, I was thinking about your post as I read this one, as you have (and still are) undergoing structural change in your org. It will be interesting to read more from you both about your next phases.

  4. Thanks Tanya, that is so true. I know we have some way to go to ensure the new structure works – or how it will work (or even, if it will work). When the only factor or benchmark is how we have worked before in previous roles in learning and development, how can we design a job description for the future?

    All the change to date has been top down and this presents its own challenges but it’s up to us to communicate what may or may not work and propose alternatives for consideration. Regardless, it will be interesting times ahead but I know that in the end, we will make it work for us. Thanks again for your post and see you online at the MSLOC open seminar! 🙂

  5. tanyalau says:

    Really interesting post Helen, and a lot which resonated with me as the org I’m in has just gone through a massive restructure too – also culminating in a centralised L&D (now “OD”) structure. (….driven by desire for greater efficiencies and cost savings….probably the same story in every org that moves in this direction). Interesting to hear that other orgs are going through very similar experiences. A major restructure is certainly a good opportunity for redefining the function of ‘L&D’ – and it is exciting when orgs take the opportunity to do this. It is however, a work in progress – real change is I think often more progressive evolution than major revolution. It’s also important to acknolwedge that a new org structure, position descriptions and business plans can have the best of intentions but things rarely happen in practice the way they are defined in these plans. And part of what’s really interesting being in the midst of such a change is observing and documenting the difference between what is defined and the actual practices that take place – how people translate their ‘new roles’ into practice, what change actually occurs, how these practices evolve, and how much of this evolution is driven by above vs ‘below’ – the interplay between ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ action.
    Anyway, this is some of what I’ve been thinking about and it will certainly be interesting to see how the change in your org progresses, and how similar our experiences might be. Look forward to exploring PLNs and org learning further with you in Jeff Merrell’s MSLOC open seminar!

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