All products mentioned in this post are not endorsements, nor are they paying me to say so!
I was looking forward to last Thursday night. It was going to be the first meet up for a new Meetup group for Melbourne learning professionals.
As an introvert, organising something like this is a big deal for me. There’s butterflies in my stomach and an unsettling feeling when you just want this to work out. I’ve planned and managed many different events in the past and the feelings are always the same. You want to create a relaxing, informal social environment where people feel comfortable to talk and conversation flows.
For a first event, I was happy with the venue at the Royal Melbourne Hotel which has a colourful history. They had cordoned off an area for us with a mix of tables to sit down or stand with your drink. I had envisaged that people were going to mingle but instead, even better, we sat around a table with our drinks and made introductions as everyone came along. We made our friendly introductions as everyone came over with their drink, made some room for them and started chatting. I made sure that everyone was involved or involved in the conversations as I didn’t want anyone feeling like they missed out.
It’s funny how you think things will turn out and how they really do.
I introduced the concept of Third Place to everyone initially but then I let the conversation flow because really, I too, just wanted to chat socially and learn about other people. Where are they from? What are they doing? How did they get to where they are today?
The conversation ended up being around the table, that is, with the 9 people there, it was a group discussion. People found each other’s stories and work lives fascinating because they would be people we would normally not meet in our every day line of work.
It also made us think about how we would have approached the learning solutions if we were in their industry. So what we propose as a performance solution for one company may not be the right one for another one simply because of the many varying factors – and this was evident that even though we were in the same field of work, our applications were totally different.
There were a couple of freelancers, a couple from universities, other private companies and public sector. The range of roles was fabulous – from facilitators, eLearning Designers, freelancers, coaches, and a vendor!
We sat enthralled as one guy (who was humorous to boot) as he told the line of work he’s in. He trains employees in the software that is used for anti-corruption, fraud and security. We listened intently with our jaws agape as he told us the intricate nature of how they scour hard drives and USBs for data in criminal cases and how people don’t realise that imprints are left in our technological devices. You could hear a penny drop. I’m sure everyone’s minds were ticking over with what personal or secure information is sitting on our devices and how easily it would be to access.
“And no, simply deleting them won’t get rid of it”, he added much to our surprise.
There was a collective “Awww, oh well…” around the table.
There were other stories too but the other thing that connected us were that we were all recently affected by some organisational restructure or a redundancy. This was the norm.
Discussions were varied but I got to talking to the vendor who I was surprised to be there. It’s a start up company called Coffee Who. Originally when I checked out their website, I couldn’t see the value in its service offering. How was it different to something like Meetup or simply connecting with someone through Yammer or setting up an appointment in Outlook calendar?
He explained that his software connects people across the organisation. Say for example, one business unit knows that they don’t have networks or relationships in another part of the business (in the same company). This software can automatically send coffee meeting notifications out connecting people of those two businesses. They can then accept the meeting and go for a coffee. Usually what happens is that they start conversing – a bit about themselves, their work, their business and voila, a connection is made. After the coffee meeting, the tool generates a few post event questions about the value of that connection. You can set up as many coffee meetings as you want. It then provides a visualisation map of the networks created within the organisation – and who has the most networks made. It can be used for identifying those individuals who have extensive networks and relationships in the business – the “connectors”.
It’s like “business online dating” (My words, not his).
Frankly, I thought the idea was brilliant because sometimes we need a ‘push’ and as an introvert, I wouldn’t know who I need to speak to in the organisation and how to make the connection. If the tool can support me to do this, I can do the rest simply by face-to-face connection and from there, it gets easier and confidence builds.
I also learned about a couple community learning initiatives. The first was SkillShare and the second was Melbourne’s Laneway Learning. This latter initiative is a great idea where if you have something to teach, you share it with others – in a short class that is cheap and fun. Have a look at what they do…
Why can’t organisational learning be like this?
MOOCs was a big part of the conversation.
Many around the table had heard of them but didn’t know what they were. The concept seemed nebulous to them. Some people had completed them and had their own stories to tell about how effective they found them to be. Luckily we had Jeevan Joshi from The Learning Cafe Australia there who provided heaps of information and tips. You can listen to his recent webinar on MOOCs for Employee Learning: A Practitioners View below.
It’s funny how sometimes you imagine the meetup to be and how it transpires. One of the things I noticed is that no one took out and used their mobile device throughout the meetup. Instead, people seemed to be deep in conversation that didn’t necessitate breaking the focus with using their phone. As such, I felt awkward to be the first so the phone stayed in my bag throughout the event.
Reflecting on this though, I saw it as a good thing as it was a measure of engagement in the conversation with real people there in the moment.
Our next event will be another after work drinks at Platform 28 in the Docklands on Thursday 14 November from 5:30pm-7:00pm.
Hope to see you there!