Tag Archives: learning

Learning networks

I’ve been recently reading a few papers on learning networks, either as open networks or within a single organisation. What these papers had in common was a focus on networks as mechanisms to support members, especially ‘novices’ (and boy to I hate that term), to navigate through some form of agreed curriculum. This seems to be based on Wenger’s definition of communities of practice as involving a common competence. So if there is a common (agreed) competence set then developing a curriculum whether formally or informally (even intuitively) should be fairly straightforward. But my research of open networks for learning indicate something else happening: that beyond a fairly discrete core, there is not a common competence and no clear curriculum. Rather, learning networks operate as sites of ongoing and continuous negotiation and renegotiation of a bounded set of requisite competences. Networks are rather curriculum forming mechanisms where that curriculum does not appear to settle. Now my research has been focused on learning and education professionals where external and prescribed ‘bodies of knowledge’ are not universally desired (but still seen as a necessary part of being a ‘proper’ professional). So I’m wondering what the experience of others who participate in learning networks and whether you recognise the notion of a curriculum of development guiding that network?

Why Learning & Development should be focused on wicked problems

Learning and development should be focused on solving wicked problems in organisation but too often, L&D appears to avoid engaging in these problems. Using Horst Rittel‘s ten criteria for wicked problems, here’s my argument for why learning and development should be about wicked problems:

  1. Wicked problems have no definitive formulation: performance issues in organisations will have many different causes – from skills deficits, process issues, equipment issues, investment issues, poor leadership, poor management, an individual, a policy, a combination of some or all of these etc. Each problem formulation and diagnosis should be unique
  2. It’s hard, maybe impossible, to measure or claim success with wicked problems: just because an intervention coincided with improvements does not necessarily mean you can demonstrate that it was the learning intervention that improved things. Just as causes are complex so is teasing out what works and why. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try or that being unable to make show the causation is a reason not to implement the intervention.
  3. strategically important learning and development rarely resolves an issue, it improves a situation: organisations perform better but never perfectly.
  4. significant learning interventions are learning events in themselves and you can’t know it all at the start, just what you’ll be learning next…..
  5. … and so there is likely to be more than a single diagnosis – you should have a number of hypotheses to test in different ways …
  6. … as capabilities, systems, processes, people, culture, strategy, etc are all interconnected and all play a part in what you are trying to do.
  7. Nothing is definitive – learning and development, like people and communities don’t conform to laws of natural sciences.
  8. As your learning and development intervention is implemented it will generate change in other aspects of the organisation so trial and error is both the key to success but is also more difficult to do.
  9. So problems do not repeat themselves – there is no “same old same old”.
  10. Learning and development professionals are responsible for the effectiveness of the learning interventions in the long and short-term.

Social learning – pervasive or choice?

@julianstodd Tweeted an older posting of his on the nature of social learning here and its importance for an organisation in terms of compliance, standardisation and ethics. A few things struck me about the post, not least, its narrow definition of social learning as being collaborative (and hence notionally equal, non-hierarchical) where learning is an emergent property of such collaboration. He also seems to suggest that social learning is a choice that organisations can choose to do or not do rather than a description of how people learn and behave in organisations, departments and teams.

So the issue of control and compliance is addressed in the case of a valve:

Take that problem with a valve: firstly, the organisation has a legal obligation to train you to change it safely. They have to discover the best way, then they have to have that way accredited and verified, then they have to train you, let you practice and sign you off as competent. Within this legal framework, there is little space for social learning, which would be more likely to ask why not try this other way?

You could include a space for more experienced engineers to contribute feedback and thoughts, although this can easily breach legal guidelines (if one of them says ‘just hit it with a hammer’).

Except we know from research that compliance to regulation is negotiated in the workplace – that social learning takes place regardless of organisational intent. Social learning is happening – people are learning the trade from ‘experts’ in interpreting, in that research, and negotiating health & safety compliance. Social learning is not something that is a choice when people work together, it happens anyway and organisations or L&D functions should not forget that. So @julianstodd’s conclusion framed in terms of a case for adoption of social learning is, to me, flawed.

However, it is good to see in the post the recognition of the darker side of social learning:

but there is a darker side to this too in the form of bullying or, in a lesser form, hustling in these spaces. Some people have strongly developed skills in putting their view across forcefully and the transition into the virtual world of social can reinforce the way they do this. It’s well known that people can tend to say things in emails or texts that they would never say in person. We tend to be less inhibited, giving greater potential for conflict or misunderstanding.

This aspects of social learning and communities of practice is often absent from debates on the concepts.

An interesting post providing a partial but useful discussion piece.


UFHRD Conference – 7 June 2013

… and here we go on the final day of the UFHRD Conference on Friday 7 June. I’m only covering the opening keynote and then travelling home.

The keynote is by Stephen McNair  (Centre for Research in the Older Workforce) “Work and Learning in Later Life”.

Mostly talks to policy audiences which, compared to an academic audience, have a very different view on what is evidence. Will be discussing research in to the training of the older workforce including a study funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

What should we care about the older workforce? As we can see long-term rising lide expectancy that will continue – we have acquired 20 years additional lifespan over the last 100 years. Also fertility rates are low and so the population is ageing and so oler age support ratios are deteriorating. The UK fertility rates are not as poor as in eg, Finland and Japan due to migration into UK.

Also the issue fo the loss of talent and experience is a critical weakness for business and so need to retain the more experienced workers. This is a serious problem in the engineering sector, especially nuclear engineering, sector.

Legal changes have abolish age discrimination including mandatory retirement.  But also the rise and harmonisation in the state pension age. More older people are working which is a striking change in the last 15 years. Many older people have a choice of whether to work or not and how they work shifting the balance of power in the employment relationship.

The older workforce in the UK: the labour market freezes at 50 in terms of career progression/ promotion etc. and if you’re unemployed at that age you are very likely to remain unemployment – as an unconscious discrimination process. But it is easier to stay in a job for longer indicating the strength of being *in* the labour market. Many organisations have no older workers – a third of firms have never employed someone over 50. After 50, the workforce is increasingly female, in larger organisation and in the public sector and the implications of this in the financial constraints is unknown. At 60 the older labour force splits according to gender and qualifications and work is increasingly part-time and self-employed.

most older people like work and want to stay in work especially if they could work more flexibly including phased retirement. Some want progression and new challenges. Older people are motivated by: interest in the job; status and respect; social engagement; finance and a sense of purpose and structure in life. Finance is almost never in the top three in surveys but may be a British reticence in discussing money (compared to surveys in USA).

Returning to work is harder for older workers with lower qualifications, with partner not in work and work experience in a declining industry.

Higher qualifications increase employability where gained early in a career and it is not clear that qualifications in later life have a positive impact on careers and employment.

So there are two models of older workers: a dynamic force contributing to innovation and growth vs a marginal group used to fill short-term gaps in the labour supply. Older people are not recruited unless the employer is “desperate” despite the benefits of employing older workers.

“The learning and work in later life” study looking at training and work in later life to inform public policy- see here. Included primary and secondary analysis of workers, policy=makers and employers. Most employers did not report a skills problem with older workers and most older workers felt their skills matched the jobs or that they were over qualified indicating an issue in underemployment. The self-employed especially reported being very over qualified as did older, older workers.

Training participation concentrated in the 25 – 55 age range and then falls. Training is more common  for women and in well-qualified, high status occupations, higher social class and those in full-time employment. There is less training of older people in the private sector. There is no evidence of older workers refusing training. Also experience of training is positive. But training tends to be for shorter duration but this is a preference of older workers.

Reasons for not training: perception that the return is low and so is not a valued investment (especially by line managers); poor management and a ‘conspiracy to under-perform’ between the workers and line managers as older workers training needs may be complicated to negotiated; qualifications tend to be over valued over experience.

Training tends to be provided by employers to rectify performance and for promotion (so favour younger workers); employers are more likely to support older rather than younger workers; reporting that employers support training of older workers but also report employers favour training younger workers; ICT has changed attitudes to training and learning; few employers and employees think training helps older people re-enter the labour market (although some employers think qualifications will help).

Fit between motivation and training – training and interesting work self-reinforcing; social benefits and sense of control over life and bridging world of work in to retirement all suggest importance of training. But where training is being imposed by employer or some external body; if seen as a criticism of an individual’s competence for longer-serving employees and where perceived to lead to loss of status, isolation etc.. training is not beneficial.

Influences on training: workplace learning culture; perceived career stage; job mobility; evident need; cost effectiveness and full-time status all support training take-up.

The older workforce is distinct but diverse. Older workers think their skills are adequate or they are over qualified. But the decline in learning is real

Need for positive role models and challenge stereotypes and promote importance of training to reduce career risk. Need joined up policy form govt (between Dept Business, Innovation & Skills and DWP), tailoring training and understanding what works in training including segmenting the older workforce and work-life balance issues are important.

If you’re fifty, what are you going to do over the next 20 years? England does have a national careers service (but at same time as it stopped advertising government services). Mid career review (at 50 years)  project to be piloted by NIACE through the national careers service: is there demand; what are the issues and what are the best models for delivery?


Is there evidence on the stereotype of older workers finding it difficult to learn (not just training)?

Evidence on older peoples’ learning processes is very limited and tend to be focused on particular older people rather than for older people as a general population. But inked to a change in understanding of what is meant by learning and expanded to a wider range of activities.

There is evidence of legislation having a positive impact. For example, the right of appeal on retirement decisions has lead to employers and employees having conversations and arriving at mutually beneficial solutions.


So that’s it – we’re just hearing about the next conference in Edinburgh 2014 hosted by Edinburgh Napier University.

UFHRD Conference 5 June 2013

This years UFHRD conference is themed on human resource development (HRD) and the challenges and opportunities in times of economic uncertainty. I’ll be life blogging the event as best I can (including a disregard for the conventions of spelling, syntax and grammer).

First up is a keynote address from Kathryn Mountford, Head of HR at the Money Advice Service on “Leadership, HRD and Organisational Change”.

To start with some background on Kathryn’s own experience across three organisations which has had the benefit for her being being able to see the results of change initiatives. Included working for Church of England especially in terms of assert management. From mid 1990s worked in transforming the Pensions Regulator and expanding its abilities in supporting development of pensions and now with Money Advice Service.

Therefore all have a strong public sector ethos but now under pressure to: deliver more for less; digital enabled and changing in customer and stakeholder expectations (and away from being producer/ provider centric to customer-centric). Much change involved bringing in private sector expertise to the public sector in, eg, asset management or business transformation.

Looking at a series of stereotypes of private sector workers in the public sector:

the maverick usually from start-up or similar environment to push through agile development, new ideas, networking and creativity. Good at engaging people in change but can be too radical for some creating tension with Boards. They tend to see HR as blocking change – the police. Also become easily bored and can get distracted by new things… need t be occupied with ‘right’ sort of work.

The aggressor: on a personal mission to transform the poor public sector and driving through massive tides of change and introducing a commercial mindset. Very good networkers and ambassador of organisation. Tell lots of ‘battle’ stories and can be keen to be seen as elite of the organisation which can create tensions. They may have come from a macho environment and can bring that with them which again can create tensions – can often include women from private sector.

The evangelist: joins the organisation as have had a bashing in the private sector and looking for some form of redemption. Can be great at moving the organisation forward with focus on the purpose of the organisation. Can be very evangelical and bringing in fresh skills and networks while reminding colleagues of what they’ve given up to join the organisation. Tend to be keen on HR as welfare provider and employee focused.

The corporate player: worked in large private institutions such as banking and insurance focused on governance and hierarchy. Very good on maintaining core activities during change but tend to have a dislike of the uncertainty and mess of change. Can also find it harder giving up their position as small fish in a big pond and becoming a bigger and accountable fish!

the consultant: used to working in uncertainty but can rely on previous approaches being applicable to public sector and also also seeking to increase their own revenues rather than  the job in hand. The best consultants seek to leave a positive legacy.

The real worlders: a great asset to the organisation coming from bigger institutions working on big ventures and now at end of their careers looking to give something back – were very valuable in the Pensions Regulator. Helped other staff in coping with the changes in the public sector and the realities of the private sector environment.

Other elements important for making the best of private sector skills in public sector organisations. There needs to be a clear organisational appetite for bringing in the private sector and this is explained to staff the benefits of a mixed workforce. The HR strategy needs to be geared to manage a mixed workforce of short-term employees, contractors and secondees and along with development of existing staff, eg, secondments to the private sector and L&D interventions.

Also important on clarifying the values of the organisation that are used to manage staff behaviours to create a longer-term stable environment. Recognition and reward balanced between existing staff rewards and needs to attract higher performers from private sector. Boards need to understand the link between salary and behaviours. Job titles are important so those from private sector do not perceive a loss of status as well as provide mentoring/ internal consulting opportunities.

Recruitment and selection becoming more aligned with private sector practices including use of head hunters and how the organisational proposition is stated. Also important to demonstrate the absence of bureaucracy in the pubic sector recruitment processes.

HR business partnering in a period of change presents opportunities and challenges of bringin in new talent but needs managing.

Bringing in private sector colleagues is common in the public sector and can provide lots of value in terms of knowledge and understanding transformational change. Modernisation is something private sector has a good deal of experience of. HR can help to facilitate the organisation to make best use of such staff and act as guardians of the values of the public sector host.


1. to what extent has HRD been part of the contribution of these private sector staff in public sector organisations?

Kathryn cited experience of some private sector colleagues pushing importance of progressive HRD provision but their remains a residual view of HR as an administrative function.

2. which is the hardest stereotype if the hardest to manage?

The Maverick can be the hardest as provide a lot of value as focused on driving change and innovation and leading teams but challenging as don’t take account of governance and related concerns in public sector.

3. Do you have bringing in academics to your organisations?

MAS currently working with academics on consultancy basis so can be precise on what the academics are being asked for. Tend to support change rather than lead change.

4. How do you retain the corporate players?

But need to be realistic and you shouldn’t plan to retain the corporate player – rather treat them as an interim manager and manage expectations along these lines.

5. not all private sector people will be successful in transferfing to the public sector and what is your experience of that?

Need to acknowledge that there will be failure. From my own experience, possibly roles for the mavericks could have been better design to focus on innovation rather than in combination with general management activities.

6. does working under government whim prove difficult.

MAS is independent but public sector and raises question of role of MAS as focused on government agenda or to be more citizen-centric. Also MAS bring in colleagues from central government.

7. what has been the reaction of public sector staff to private sector colleagues?

Often based on stereotypes of private sector workers that can only be dealt with by experience of private sector colleagues. HR’s role is to ensure their is a fairness and transparency in how staff are treated and that all staff describe themselves as working for XXX rather than “being on secondment from …”.


Moving on now to the main conference paper sessions.

I’m in the session on Innovation, Sustainability & HRD.

First paper from Chris Mabey on managing the paradoxes of staying innovative. This is based on research taking place at CERN/ ATLAS on what re strategic knowledge assets, are these being leveraged effectively and can HRD functions facilitate this? These questions are relevant to universities as sites of knowledge activists.

Three kinds of knowledge: from structured (codified/ abstract/ materialised/ formalised)  through to unstructured/ experiential and highly personalised knowledge as a single axis with narrative knowledge (stories and fables) at the mid-point. A second axis is about diffusion/ sharing of knowledge – with structured knowledge being the least problematic in terms of diffusion, eg, public knowledge. WHile widely diffused unstructured knowledge might be understood as common wisdom.

In terms of strategic management concepts, core competences might be seen as unstructured and difficult to diffuse. Patents and copyright may be more structured but still not widely diffused. Industry-wide principles might be structured and diffused. Industry wisdom is widely diffused but unstructured.

But what does this mean for HRD as all knowledge ‘types’ have benefits and challenges and attached to them. So personal/ unstructured experiential knowledge share through mentoring but often not captured by the organisation – cited Polyani stating we know more than we can say – and is fragmented. So this knowledge leaks especially with downsizing of organisations. While proprietary knowledge can be locked-in/ rigid, under exploited and perishable. Public knowledge brings challenges of being in the public arena and therefore common/ lacks differentiation and may not be validated – so downloadable competence frameworks work but provide no differentiation or specific fit. Conventional wisdom provides the challenge of how to locate and use such knowledge (boundary spanners).

ATLAS as a huge experiment involving 3,500 scientists and engineers at the large hadron collider. Scientists and engineers asked what knowledge they needed to do their jobs – requiring high structure and diffusion – while the unstructured and experiential and difficult to diffuse was also cited as important to getting the work done.

How could the tacit knowledge be understood and diffused to wider group of people given the scale of the organisation? How do we identify the core knowledge assets and leverage that including managing leakage of knowledge from the organisation where staff turnover is high (due to secondments, short-term research contracts etc.).

But …. paradoxes: (1) the more knowledge is managed the less valuable knowledge will be exchanged. For HRD need to acknowledge that the scientists/ engineers are highly motivated by the shared goals of the experiments and professional peer pressure rather than corporate compliance. Also, they are seeking long-term legacies rather than short-term benefits. So HRD might look to coaching, mentoring, apprenticeships and light-touch governance to avoid micro-management.

(2) the more democratic knowledge sharing is designed, the more intentional leadership is required –  to lead spontaneous exchanges of tacit knowledge, eg, in the importance of the cafeteria as a site of knowledge exchange. But this needs to be thought about, planned and supported. “Things work when people identify themselves with the project”, eg, place the emphasis on ethos setting but “nudge to make it happen”.

(3)  the more knowledgeable the professional the less likely they are able to lead. As there is a tension between specialists vs boundary scanners and focused on trusted sources rather than drawing in other perspectives (know what rather than how) and emphasise output rather than process and emphasise collective acknowledgement over solo success. For HRD, how can the function support boundary scanning and diffusing; developing skills in learning, diversity and emotional intelligence.

(4) the more informal knowledge sharing is, the more open to elitism it becomes: ‘the tyranny of structurelessness’.


1. what sort of people were interviewed and to what extent the nature of the people involved in the ATLAs project have influenced findings?

59 people interviewed at CERN and so tended to be successful but also interviewed some people in China. So cannot claim representativeness but did interview a wide-range of people. But ATLAS are atypical but we can still learn from them for a knowledge-based economy. We can really learn in terms of long-term horizon and the ethos formulation.


Now on to Alex & Andrea  Ellinger and Scott Fitzer on Leveraging HRD to Improve Supply Chain Management (SCM) Knowledge & Skills. Looking for HRD and SCM synergy in response to the talent shortages in SCM as SCM becomes increasingly complex through globalisation. In particular, the people aspects of SCM have been de-prioritised to technology and customer-service issues.

SCM professionals manage risk, relationships and tradeoffs requiring softer people skills to harders statistical analysis and problem-solving. In addition, senior managers tend not to appreciate the complexity of the SCM roles. This is important – up to 75% of firm revenue is spent on SCM activities (Trent 2004) – purchasing, manufacturing, moving, storing, selling, servicing products, etc……[but then is there anything left?]

But SCM tend to be dominated by a ‘push’ perspective focused on cost control and specifications rather than relationship-building and customer-centric so responsive to market demand. This places the focus on process innovation rather than process improvement (six sigma etc.).

So we can see functional specialisation of organisations acts as barrier to knowledge sharing  including the lack of understanding of SCM among other and senior managers. Including making the financial-SCM connection. Gives rise to dis-functional incentives around sales and production. But also, SCM have been weak on making the business-case for SCM investments at the C-level – see R.E Slone (2004) Leading a Supply-Chain Turnaround. HBR.

The problem is the supply-demand split in organisations as the two facets of the organisation fail to communicate to one another. Demand-Supply integration requires HRD interventions. But the field of HRD little understood in the SCM domain. HRD as focused on learning, performance and change.

Both HRD and SCM are marginalised in organisations. But SCM offers an opportunity to demonstrate the strategic importance of HRD as 75% revenues tied into SCM. So what can HRD offer SCM and SC Managers? HRD may have strategic role in facilitating solutions development around the people development and change needs in SCM and developing the competences of SCManagers to respond to the challenges they are facing.

Game changing SCM trends (Sweeney): collaboration; lean & six sigma; management of complexity’ network optimisation; globalisation; sustainability; cost and working capital. Human and behavioural of SCM neglected in comparison to physical and technical components. Key areas for HRD may be in organisational development aspects of facilitating collaboration, learning supporting for six-sigma (coaching etc). SCM is foremost about people yet the people dimension in SCM is under researched (Sweeney, 2013).

HRD classified as one of the pillars of excellence in SCM and research consistently demonstrate impacts of HRD interventions on effective SCM. Senge (2010) content SCM needs to be transformed if organisations are going to be focused on sustainability and environmental issues.


1. links SCM to food sector in UK that reinforces points made in the presentation.

Also the importance of collaboration and inter-organisational working is an opportunity for HRD that is being missed as HRD functions focus on learning within a single organisation.

2. what competences will not be outdated? Are they the ones identified in the presentations but can a curriculum be designed around this?


Just back from a break and on to the next session:

“How doe Innovations in Teaching HRD Link Theory to Practice” by Melika Shirmohammadi & Mina Beigi from Texas A&M. Presented by Mina Beigi. Started with question of whether academic teaching models innovative delivery of HRD? Questions then focused on what innovations and how delivered.

But found only 21 academic papers published on teaching HRD using database searches and snowball the references of articles found. So this is an under-researched area. From the paper found that: innovations addressed different areas but predominantly used a self-regulated pedagogy. Methods included using film excerpts and music; work-based; action learning; reflective learning; case-based; computer-based. Half the papers focused on general HRD concepts and half more specific topics but some absences such as career development. Indicates a lack of reflection on their own practices by HRD academics. While the argument that HRD should be ill-defined in terms of definition but there should be more research and publications on the teaching of HRD. But do academics want to keep their processes in some way private or do not consider their innovations worthy of publication.


But, is this a feature that, at least for UK, is made difficult by the setting of examination criteria by external bodies. So certain contextual conditions may be squeezing out innovation.


Now onto “Virtual Action Learning and HR Offshore Outsourcing” by Cheryl Brook & Vijay Pereira based on a course on current HR debates. The initial questions were on the definitions of offshore outsourcing and the context of HRM in India before looking the use of virtual action learning in a long-term research project.

Define action learning as requiring a number of essential components including questioning at the heart of the process involving a real organisational problem (not a puzzle), involving small action learning sets (up to 6 people – although this may be contested especially on top and bottom of the range of people in a set).

How can virtual action learning (VAL) be facilitated? How might VAL assist the case organisation to address a  real organisational problem? How might VAL contribute to improving and maintaining virtual team relationships and communication skills? The case organisations works almost exclusively in virtual teams in global offshore outsourcing.

The state of HRM in India: Vijay has completed extensive research into HRM in India. India started with concept of HRD and this underpins understanding of HRM. The label of HRM was only introduced as a result of liberalisation of India in 1990s and adoption of terminology from USA. So training and development is at the core of any HRM department.

Human Resource Outsourcing (HRO) niche area of outsourcing such as needs analysis, recruitment etc. and is a large and well established industry in India. So the research context is a complex industry. The case organisation chosen due to existing access and is a micro multi-national company with approx 200 employees and more then 100 clients working in recruitment and talent management.

VAL has a limited research base and is defined by a range of enabling, interactive and collaborative communication technologies – interested in the word “enabling” in the context of ICT. So issues of interest included ensuring the technologies work but also in the building up of relationships and developing high performing virtual teams. Such research requires: organisational readiness and commitment; having a real problem; access, connectivity and time zones; higher levels of listening and developing an atmosphere of inquiry in cross-cultural sets.

The case organisations is interested in dealing with attrition rates; business growth; leadership development and developing high performance work practices. So these are really important issues for the company with a high penalty for failure.

The research team have attained a small research grant and are addressing a key research gap in terms of the industry and VAL.

Question: what was the process of developing the real organisational problems?

So these emerged from previous research and they are now in the process of formulating the action learning set. So starting with a single set of senior managers possibly including the MD co facilitate by the two researchers. Initially the researchers will travel to India but the head office of the organisation is in the UK. A series of virtual set meetings will be set up using tele conferencing.

That is it for the day. Tomorrow is a full day for the conference and more blogging notes to come. 

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.

Whether formal or informal, its the learning that counts

I liked Nick Shacklton-Jones’ post arguing that there’s no such thing as formal learning concluding that

My point, I suppose, is that if you have a good understanding of how learning works, you don’t have to fabricate mythical species of learning to explain what you see. There is just learning, and the way in which it happens in various contexts. The more you think about it, the sillier it seems – that we should categorise learning based on the convention in which it occurs. The same mechanism is at work, whatever the context.

Formal learning, as he is describing it, is really a task-based activity concerned with completion to a quality standard (assessment/ exams). By understanding learning as what it is, intentional and self-directed allows an almost complete reconfiguration of how learning is supported (not provided or delivered). It should be emphasised that learning is about learning ‘how’ to do something and so also, knowing where to find information/ knowledge and who to ask and much less acquiring knowledge.

For this reason, I think a research project on ‘Charting‘:

Charting is the process whereby an individual manages and optimises their interaction with the people and resources who (may) have a role in their learning and development.

is well worth watching – for its implications for work-based learning as well as for higher education.

Organisation as learning entity

An interesting post here  from Harold Jarche on wirearchies. This conclusion, in particular, resonated for me:

Becoming a wirearchy requires new organizational structures that incorporate communities and networks. In addition, they require new ways of doing work, like thinking in terms ofperpetual Beta and doing manageable probes to test complex problems. It’s a new way of doing work, within a new work structure. Both are required.

Resilient organisations, ones that respond well to changes in the environments, can be understood as networks of learning. They explore new opportunities and challenges and reconfigure in response to new stimulus – they both construct (probe) and are constructed by their learning. I would also highlight that organisation “incorporate communities and networks”: in effect, organisations are part of those networks and communities but they are not synonymous with one another. Rather, what we might identify as ‘the organisation’ is a fairly arbitrary slice of numerous networks and communities. For many knowledge workers in particular, the boundary of the organisation may be pretty much irrelevant. This perspective then raises some interesting questions on learning and development (who is responsible for what, where does it take place, what are the objectives – if I am a node in networks then what and whose objectives is [my] L&D seeking to meet?

LinkPool [10032013]

A few links and bits n bobs i’ve been looking at in the last week or so:

Current e-learning practice: is a nice brief summary from Stephen Downes on what he’d include as illustrating current e-learning practice. He suggests three areas to show the span of e-learning as (a) ‘traditional’ asynchronous self-paced  courses; (b) a educational VLE (BB, Moodle etc.) showing learner interactions and (c) an example of a MOOC

Future technology trends from Forrester. Nothing particularly new or outstanding here but a useful list in one place. Includes: gesture based interfaces; big data and real-time data; collaboration tools; the internet of things; GPS based devices and services; cloud and a very vague

New federated trust and identity models for a changing world of jobs and careers … and maybe even killing all usernames and password

Self-regulated learning in the digital age SRL)from Steve Wheeler a few months back makes for a useful read especially given the constant interest in MOOCS and their shift to becoming credit bearing (Inside Higher Ed’s discussion of some of the issues here is a useful read – raising the position of ePortfolios). I’m currently involved in a project on transversal competences and in particular, “learning to learn” which I see as being (a) one of the few truly transversal competences and (b) critical to future employability. It seems to me that SRL and self-directed learning is assumed to be unproblematic by the proponents of the disruption of (higher) education but more on this later.

Pearson annual report

This is just a short note on Pearson’s annual report for 2011.

In the North American education market saw a 2% decline but an increase in market share to 37% and a growth in operating profit to £469m. Interestingly, digital learning platform registrations rose by 23% to 43 m users. This appears to be mainly driven by increased institutional investment in digital learning at the enterprise level (securing institutional lock-in)  and implementations at scale.

In the field of professional learning, the report notes the UK

government funding pressures and policy change relating to apprenticeships are creating a tough trading environment …

Which resulted in their withdrawal from the apprenticeship market. However, in professional learning, Pearson saw underlying sales growth of 2% and operating profit underlying growth of 10% so they must be doing something right here. Their performance appears to be driven by professional/ technical certification.