Tag Archives: design thinking

UFHRD 2014: 5 June, key note on HRD research and design science, Prof Eugene Sadler-Smith

Back at the UFHRD conference and the post-lunch key note address.

Change dthe title to “(Quite) grupy old men, mars bars and epistemology”. Noted a slide from a talk yesterday as a list of critics of HRD: the grumpy old men including “Sadler-Smith 2014”!

Looked at the issue of relevance and rigour in HRD and critiqued by academics as overly descriptive, needs ot be evidence based and criticised as ambiguous over goals and how to achieve them. But these issues have been present since the foundation of HRD academic journals. It is time to find a solution to the double-bind of relevance and rigour.

Could design science be a productive line of inquiry to resolve some of these issues in HRD research.

Design science positioned in terms of explanatary sciences and field problems and artefacts. Looking to SImon’s work on ‘.sciences of the artificial’. Simon distinguishes between explanatory sciences that describe, explain and preduct the natural and social worlds. While design science is concerned with developing actionable knowledge for designing solutions in the real work (field problems). But these interact, eg, Newton’s second law (explanatory) is used in air travel / engineering (design science), or at the Forth Road Bridge as a solution to the field problem of trains crossing the Firth of Forth. Engineering is a design science as is medicine and more recently in education and management. Leads to the question of what are the field problems in education or management, eg, teaching complicated problem-solving, how to plan for complexity/ uncertainty.

In the case of the design science perspective for HRD, what might be the field problems of research and professional practice? But proactice can be seen as a distinctive component from the research where practice is applied knowledge.

Which brings us to the issue of the artefact. Artefacts have a purpose in addressing a field problem and so are moulded to the context, eg, sunglasses moulded by sunshine. But what artefacts does HRD produce (eg, learning materials, procedures, products…) as central to the process of design.

It is also worth noting that design science is not ‘mode 2’ research as design science is concerned with the product of research, nor applied science and not action research but can be related to all of these.

How to do design science:

1. design proposition; 2. design science logic; 3. testing the logic and 4. applying the logic. The design proposition depends on a logic pf prescription (in this context, use this intervention to generate this desired outcome by achieving a specific mechanism). Creates a logic of Context, Intervention, Mechanism, Outcome (CIMO). Management and HRD literature tends to focus on intervention and outcomes and so ignores the generative mechanisms as these are grounded in explanatory science (as well as decontextualised). It raises the question of what is meant by theory in a CIMO logic.

In the application of the CIMO logic, multiple interventions are often required. This fits well with HRM in terms of strategic HRM/D discussions of bundles of interventions/ practices. Eg, Hodgkinson and Healey (2008) used psychology theory to develop design propositions for scenario planning.

Simon: the essence of the design problems resides in assemblages of components.

Testing the CIMO logic depends in locating generalisations valid across different contexts and is pluralistic in termsof methods. In education, use design based research, using a VLE in science education to promote complex inquiry skills – generates generalised findings and falsifiability.

HRD research and design science – is it of any use? Since 2007 there have been some papers referring to design science in the HRD journals.

But management academia privilege the eexplanatorysciences over design sciences (Van Aken 2005). Design science may assists HRD in overcoming issues of relevance to practitioners in the production of actionable knowledge.

The epistemological implications of a design science in terms of what knowledge is and how it might be created – is there a specific type of HRD knowledge and theory to be produced. Researchers should co-create with practitioners on developing design propositions and that interventions are tested in multiple contexts.

Learning innovations and digital education

An interesting report on Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) from Open University based academics. The report discusses:
1. what is TEL but in terms of technologies “add value to” (enhancing) teaching and learning rather than being indivisible from or enmeshed in teaching and learning. Can you imagine teaching and learning without any technologies (digital of otherwise)? This section does include some useful references to the European and UK policy frameworks including networks such as STELLAR. The framing of education in terms of being a service, as media production and broadcasting (xMOOC?) or as a conversation is useful. The discussion of the education system as being stable and acting as a ‘constraint’ on digital education innovations is also useful – that the education system is the more powerful network and slower to transform which affects what is possible in terms of digital-led innovations in education. So analysis of innovations in digital education should be framed by an understanding that:
New technologies follow complex trajectories often supported or thwarted by other technologies, infrastructural issues, competing standards, social systems, political decisions, and customer demands. [p17].
The report goes on to note that the web was started at CERN as a tool for learning through information sharing. The emphasis here is on innovation occurring within contexts of communities, practices as well as technologies. The discussion of success stories includes mobile learning pointing to the MOBilearn project supported by the European Commission as well as the BBC’s Janala language learning service but doesn’t really discuss the growth of smart phones and tablets as means of going online. In effect, learning technology design needs to be responsive to the requirements of these devices. Other success stories cited include Scratch and xDelia.
In examining the situation for research and innovation in digital education, the report points to certain disadvantages compared to other ‘scientific’ areas in terms of the coherence of the research agenda and the lack of a single focal point for innovation such as a single technological solution. The report notes the difficulties of creating a compelling narrative around how technologies are used to enhance learning. The report notes that: there is a need to reassess the use of computer technology from an educational, rather than a technological, perspective; and develop a more sophisticated conceptual model of how ICT can facilitate teaching and learning in the classroom..[p23]. The recommendations on experimenting in how technologies can be used to enhance informal learning (in the corporate sector), in ensuring research findings are made available inside and outside HE and that research is increasingly undertaken as applied research (mode 2 knowledge production) are welcome.
The section on the innovation process in TEL positions innovations involving pedagogy and technology combining in to emergent practices supported by communities of practitioners operating within wider sectoral ecologies and contexts. Given the emphasis on practice and complexity, the report finds TEL innovations depend on innovators as bricoleurs as someone who makes do with whatever is at hand. However, successful innovations depend on bricolage that also takes the wider learning complex into account and where innovations can take decades to diffuse fully. The report goes on to promote a design based approach to research and evidence-based innovation.
While making a number of recommendations for researchers and [research] policy-makers, the report concludes The focus for future TEL research should be on effective transformation of educational practices, rather than small incremental improvements.

Blueprinting the learner journey

Following from my last post on design thinking in learning & development, here is a set of slides I’ve used in a few workshops on blueprinting the learner journey. As a process, I’ve found blueprinting to be really useful in thinking through the whole experience and activities for any learning intervention.

Design Thinking and the Learning & Development function

There is a wide-spread sense that learning and development functions have not responded at all well to changes in organisations, the work place and the wider environment. As Charles Jennings has identified here, these changes include: the development of the web; organisations increasingly operating on network principles as well as the recognition of the importance of informal and social learning [I don’t really see informal and social learning as new but rather amplified by new technologies, especially social media and more recognised and valued in organisations]. The argument runs that the world of training courses and procedures of comprehensive learning design such as ADDIE no longer cuts it. What does this mean for the L&D function, for Clark Quinn

It’s got to be about culture, and learning together skills, and facilitating productive information interchange and productive interactions.

Which brings me to Tim Brown’s article on design thinking as integrative, optimistic, experimental, empathic and collaborative in visualising and realising desired future states. So, I began thinking what opportunities the discipline design thinking provides for the L&D function?

What is design thinking

Design thinking is a world of idea generation, execution and continuous refinements and improvements – it is about products, services, experiences, organisation and structuring in perpetual beta .

“The idea is that any problem can be approached from an experiential, observational, hands-on manner. Watch and listen, figure out the problem, then solve it”. (The World as Prototype)

A design thinker should be curious in understanding and empathising with real peoples’ behaviours and emotions and seeking to play, to iterate, experiment and prototype. So what does this mean for learning and development? Well, I would say too much of ‘business as usual’ L&D is that it is enamoured of a world as it should be – it should be systematic and planned (and plannable), complicated rather than complex. Sometimes it is but often it is not.  And where it often is not also tends to be where organisations generate the most value – in thinking work. So L&D needs to adopt a designerly approach in its practice, to really understand how the actual work gets done and then probe, sense and respond in experimenting to support performance by individuals, groups and the organisation itself. It is not good enough to operate as if the world works as you want it to or think it should. Rather, L&D should work in the often uncomfortable embrace of the mess of reality where what worked yesterday, may not work today – where learning is the constant practice.