Tag Archives: research

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.

UFHRD Conference 6 June 2013

Day two of the UFHRD Conference at Brighton University Business School.

The opening Keynote is by Prof. Aleksy Pocztowski speaking on “Adding Value from HRD in International Assignments”. Talking about HRD at work and as a part of the HR function and general management in the context of international assignments. There is a case to be made for the role of HRD in supporting value creation in international assignments. The presentation is based on a review of the literature and some initial research on international assignments.

The international dimension of HRD: involves a range of intervention including formal education, training and development, learning processes and managing change. The scope of HRD is flexible and can range from issues of training through learning processes to HRD strategy design. HRD in international context is not just an issue for MNC’s but also for smaller * medium sized enterprises.

Challenges from the international working for HRD include barriers to communication, cultural issues including prejudices but there are also opportunities in terms of creativity, flexibility, talent development and attraction.

The dilemma for HRD in terms of its growing importance in terms of contemporary challenges while at the same time, there is doubt in the capability of HRD to create and supply added value in practice.

International assignments (IA) tend to be short-term to longer-term assignments but also the emergence of alternative forms of IA such as international commuter, virtual assignments etc.. These require different HRD interventions. IA undertaken for a number of reasons including market expansion, knowledge transfers, employee development, control of subsidiaries, transfer organisational cultures. Notes that lack of local talent is a less prominent in reasons for IA. The challenges for expats in IA include language and cultural differences, interpersonal relationships with key stakeholders which point to importance of new competences in international environment.

Success factors in IA are organisational; individual and social. More specifically the research identified the main success factors are individual and social competences and motivation while problem areas include under-defined goals and lack of organisational support. Most important individual factors include motivation,  family situation and language competence, persistence/ resilience.

The role of HRD divided in to three subprocess – preparation, expatriation, repatriation.

Preparation include job design, competence development, recruitment and selection.

Expatriation: HRD support adaptation to host country including culture-shock and maintaining work-life balance

Repatriation: support for reverse culture-shock, staff retention (especially for medium sized enterprises).

HRD also has a role in learning performance and change management in IA.

Typical HRD interventions include provision of training; coaching/ mentoring; performance support; career development and change management. HRD as learning strategy development and as change agent and general operational role. HRD practices such as individual and group development, OD, etc located in HR function so HRD overlapping with HRM processes.

Their research found that IA tended to be mainly supported by central HR functions rather than HR subsidiaries or external providers. So relationship between HR HQ and subsidiary is crucial in all three stages of IA (preparation, expatriation, repatriation).

Conclusions: the success of IA requires motivated and competent people although this is not always met; for HRD a key challenge is providing added value to  individuals and organisations and there is a need for further development of the evidence base and development of the international HRD as an academic domain.


1. is there a role for HRD in developing families for IAs?

There is an issue for the role of HRD outside work and some MNCs do provide development to families. However, alternative forms of IA become less problematic in terms of family impact.


We’re now having a short briefing on a conference to take place in Krakow, Poland on International Human Resource Management 24-27 June 2014. This will be the latest of the IHRM conferences running since 1980s. Krakow has five Universities including one of the oldest in Europe. The host of the conference is Krakow University of Economics. The conference will focus on the challenges of globalisation and internationalisation as well the affects of current economic difficulties across the globe.


Now on to the main paper sessions with Jamie Callaghan on the “Paradigm & Practice of Critical HRD Research: competing interests?”. HRD as a field emerged in 1960s with an ultimate focus on performance improvement in organisations. Critical HRD (CHRD) emerged in 1990s as challenge to performative discourse predominantly in Europe/ UK than USA. CHRD combines critical management studies and critical pedagogies with a focus on meaningfulness, the individual employee and challenging dominant paradigms – whose interests do we servc?

There have been limited explorations of how CHRD might differ from HRD research in general (Valentin 2006). But emphasis of CHRD is anti-positivist so tend to exclude quantitative approaches. CHRD tends to be dialogical and phenomenological and do may be seen as inherently qualitative.

But does argue that a critical constructivist approach may include quantitative methods as a means to generate change in a language (numbers) that may persuade senior executives.

The research has taken a large data set of interview data analysed using quantitative methods to highlight differences of oppression from the data for LGBT people.

The key is to use any method available to leverage actual change.


1. Surely all research in HRD as an applied domain should be to affect change? Also suggests that CHRD as cited above is a critical emancipatory HRD and that is what makes it different from HRD research and privileges research where the aim is to discover and revealing something to lead to some form of emancipation. Is this what you are arguing as quantitative methods doesn’t sit with this privileging of emancipation. [question of maintaining epistemological purity]

One of the criticisms of CHRD and critical research is the lack of praxis – that is application of the research. What is important is what you achieve in terms of emancipation not the process/ methods used to leverage such change. For example, the use of quantitative analysis of CEO pay to highlight pay inequalities and the payment of bonuses where company performance declining.

2. How is meaningfulness conceptualised in CHRD?

Acknowledge that meaningfulness is a loaded term to use.

Now o to Rob Poell talking on the role of HRD in organisational change and the professional development strategies of the actors in an organisation. The paper is based on a case study of a change study looking at professional development study. The paper has been accepted as a chapter in a book by Stephen Billlets on professional adult education.

HRD is thought of as tool of management to support change but the evidence of impact is limited and could this gap be explained through perspectives and approaches to organising professional development. That professional development is seen as too didactic and should be seen as a more strategic and micro-political endeavour.

There are three main approaches to professional development from a more training focus to a learning focus and then on to a proposed strategic and micro-political focus to HRD. The learning perspective tends to focus n self-regulated learning and self-directed learning in work so the manager facilitates process and HRD acts as a coach and learners and self-directed partners. The micro-political framework focuses on negotiation of HRD processes and content to advance processes of different stakeholders. The organisation is a constellation of competing actors and facilities.

The HRD processes are made up of organisation structure and culture; actors are concerned with their views and position in the organisation; HRD processes are structured around learning paths and programmes. Actors are key in terms of negotiating between the other two categories. So a key concern is with interactions between actors to develop HRD processes along with HRM and work processes. Also of importance is the creation of the learning programme which is a way of creating experiences for other employees as either explicit learning activities or implicit experiences such as work place experiences that people learn from. So includes both creating and directing experiences.

The case study is an organisational change project of about two years duration to introduce a new working method for healthcare workers. Key question is how the individual workers created their own learning programmes in the context of the change programme. Involved 5 teams of about 15 people each with a team leader. The workforce was well educated and professional.

Learning may occur in 1:1 sessions with a work counsellor (supervisor?), team meetings and ad hoc training. Professional development tended to be self-directed although there was some support and direction from the organisation.

The learning programme was organised to promote the new working method based on a manual developed by experts that management wanted to  implement. A project group was formed but with limited input from workers. A highly systematic learning programme was devised including identification of learning topics and learning groups were formed.

The programme had positive feedback but many learning plans not implemented as intended. For example, individual learning plans were not developed and goals of the programme were shifted over the two year period.

A qualitative study was undertaken from the employee perspective. Five learning pathways were identified:

1. a practice-orientated learning path focused on improving daily work processes

2. knowledge-orientated learning path – seeking new scientific insights/ learning new knowledge

3. job-orientated learning path – career focused rather than learning focused

4. socia-orientated learning path – focused on skills of collaboration

5. personal learning path – focused on their private lives

But many had no real learning theme.

Conclusions: learning programme was centralised and systematic. Learning groups acted as platforms for departmental and team learning plans not individual learning plans. So individuals generated own learning paths through the programme. HRD practitioners aligned with a managerial view of the learning programme as a tool to implement new work practices but also tried to support individual professional development.

Individual participation in the programme varied in terms of approaches to professional development but many workers did not consider their professional development through the learning programme. So learning programmes are a key platform for professional development but professional development is individually directed and so can differ from intent of management and HRD. So learning programme implementation can be ‘unfaithful’ to the intention of the programme but allowing that flexibility does enable individuals to pick-up aspects of the changes while a more directive approach may well lead to rejection of the overall learning programme.

Questions/ discussion:

1. This research points to the importance of mid-mgt as main points of providing the flexibilities that make these learning programmes valuable.

Rob agrees that the role of middle managers was evident in the case programme.

2. Also the flexibility of leanring paths may reflect the learning preference of participants (and hence to eg, MBTI type assessments).

3. Could learning preferences also be influenced by profession/ industries?

4. There was little evidence of control of learning paths

5. Did the individuals suggest ways they would prefer to be supported given that individual learning plans did not materialise?


Now time for a coffee break


Back now at 2pm for the next keynote from Prof. Wayne Cascio on “Investing in HRD in Uncertain Times”

We are all interested in HRD to have an impact and create a legacy on peoples’ lives. We are currently living in uncertain times and as a result, decision-makers become scared and consumers want to save money given  high levels of debt to GDP, uncertainty in regulation, taxes including corporate taxes.

There have been a number of changes alongside these relevant to HRD in terms of workforce demographics and technological change alongside globalisation leading to increase competition for jobs. Also point to the impacts on industries on technological change citing iTunes’ impact on record sales, separate cameras also declined as a market due to the rise of smart phones. Companies a desperate to be seen to a good employer to be able to access global pools of talent.

Three more big changes: (1) increase workforce flux with increased worker demands/ expectations as well as increases in mobile, contractor workforce; (2) diversity as a result of global labour markets leading to greater cultural diversity of the workforce; (3) managers less defined by technical skills and more by emotional and cultural awareness and relationship building skills – see for example Google’s project oxygen – the best managers allow their employees to breathe and be a person. Which provides important opportunities for HRD.

Changes to the labour market (see Academy Management Annual) and rise of labour market intermediaries, eg recruitment agencies, online job boards, headhunters etc.

Other intermediaries include LinkedIn, temporary help agencies to manage changes in labour demand and in Europe about 30% of the workforce are temporary.

And companies that train people less are those that use more temporary workers as they are unwilling to provide firm-specific training. So those with longer-term relations with the employer and in mission-critical workers are the ones to receive training.

Changes in HRD expenditure:

2008 – 9 saw a decline of 11% decline in HRD spend each year but since has been increasing mirroring growth in global economy. Training still is a neccesssity given the declining half-life of knowledge.

New trends: (1) new public-private partnerships (see Airbus Alabama where the state is funding a training centre to retain Airbus in the State); (2) building a local workforce or labour pools through “near-job” training. Higher value jobs still require to be sourced from wider global labour pools.

So workplaces are more transient, borderless and seamless (24/7).

Developments in technology: (1) rise of the internet as 2006 – 2011 where the proportion of the global population with access to the internet has risen from 18% to 35%; (2) growth of cloud competing where storage, processing and managing data is handled by networks on the internet giving companies and consumers access to cheap and unlimited storage. This is projected to grow to 2.5bn people using cloud computing across 15bn devices by 2015.

So 21st century organisations increasingly flat and extended to consumers, suppliers etc… places an emphasis on managing such networks being as important as managing internal organisational operations. This places a focus on the complexities of such a networked world. Players are becoming more interdependent.

Companies are substituting capital for labour with expectations of doing more with fewer workers as well as replacing workers with those with competences required by these newer economies. 95% of workers who lost their jobs were in mid-skills occupations and if unemployed for 6 months + then tend to require major skills re-training. This presents HRD challenges and opportunities to make a significant contribution to societal wellbeing. The expectations that innovations/ transformations will continue.

Innovations in HRD:

Technology Delivered Instruction (TDI) to build job relevant knowledge and skills. TDI is a significant growth area and reflects the demands for flexibility from the workforce. Alongside increase demand for just-in-time training delivery and so increase in supply opportunities as access to the internet becomes increasingly ubiquitous (at least in the more developed world). Workers want flexible access to learning. Also cites MOOCs as a tremendous threat to higher education and the debate on the awarding of credits and the protection of university reputations. For example, Boeings’ training on the dreamliner to provided through TDI usin interactive 3D environments and is made available to them on a memory stick to provide on-demand knowledge and training. The big question is whether TDI provides a pay-off in terms of: self-efficacy – 20% higher for TDI users; knowledge; skills; understanding and retention were all higher for TDI. Also haptic technologies provide an even more effective for learning and active involvement is a key variable.

Social media for learning: especially through technology enabled collaboration: 2007 only 7% used wikis in a learning environment which increased to 24% in 2012; 2007 11 % companies used CoPs and communities of interest in learning environments which increased to 33% in 2012. In 2012 26% of US organisations use social media for employee development initiatives (see O’Leonard 2013).  But formal training is not going away but rather social media is being used as a complement to more traditional HRD. Intergenerational learning is also important including reverse mentoring.

But what is the relative effectiveness of such tools and have the most impact on long-term learning and training transfer, what factors and circumstances provide more effective learning?

Developing leaders in an uncertain world: the best companies in leadership development see greater market value. For example, P&G has a razor like focus on succession planning seen through promoting from within and managers cannot be promoted until their reports are ready for promotion.

General Electric provide extensive technology to deliver leadership development and spend $1bn per annum

IBM ha a long history of leadership development including extensive action learning initiatives working on real business problems as well as having a strong succession planning focus.

Common features: strong senior management commitment; tied to business strategy; provide a lot of feedback to employees; promote experimentation and willing to make investments in development.

So in an uncertain world, HRD spend may decline in the short-term but no evidence of longer-term declines. But HRD needs to meet the new challenges of new organisational forms, new technologies and the pace of change is not going to decline.

But can soft skills and mentoring/ coaching does not transfer as effectively to online environments?


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. 

Digital Scholarship: day of ideas 2

I’m listening now to Tara McPherson on humanities research in a networked world as the opening session of the Digital Scholarship day of ideas. (I’ve started late due to a change in the start-time).

Discussing how large data sets can be presented in a variety of interfaces: for schools; researchers; publishers and only now beginning to realise the variety of modes of presenting information across all discipline areas. But humanities scholars are not trained in tool building but should engage in that tool building drawing on their historic work on text, embodiment etc. and points to working with artistis on such interpretive tool building – see Mukurtu an archive platform design by an anthropogist based on work with indigenous people in Australia. Tools allow indigenous people to control access to knowledge according to their knowledge exchange protocols.

Open ended group create immersive 3D spaces but is not designed to be realistic but engaging. More usually found in an experimental art gallery. Also showing an example of a project of audio recordings of interviews with drug users at a needle exchanges.

Vectors is a journal examining these sorts of interactive and immersive experiences and research. Involves ‘papers’ that interact, mutate and change which challenges the notion of scholarship as stable. Interactive experiences are developed in collaboration with scholars in  a long iterative process that is not particularly scaleable.

The develop of a tool-building process was a reaction on problematising interaction with data-sets. Example of HyperCities extending google maps across space and time.

The Alliance for networking Visual Culture including universities and publishers working together, reconsider scales of scholarship and using material from visual archives. Process starts with the development of prototypes. Scalar emerged from Vectors work as a publishing platform for scholars using visual materials. Allows scholars to explore multiple views of visual materials linked to archives and associated online materials linked to critical commons (under US ‘fair use’ allowing legal use of commercial material). Scalar allows a high level of interactivity with the material of (virtual) books and learning materials.

Aim to expand proces of scholarly production and to rethink education. For example, USC has a new PhD programme in media studies in which PhD students make (rather than write) a dissertation- see Take Action Games as an example.

Thinking about scholarly practice in an era of big data and archives: valuing openness; thinking of users as co-creators; assume multiple front-ends/ interfaces; scales scholarship from micro to macro; learning from experiment and artistic practices; engaging designers and information architects; value and reward collaboration acros skills sets.

Scalar treats all items in a data-set as at the same ‘level’ so affording alternative and different ways of examining and interacting with the data.

USC School of Cinematic Arts has a long history of the use of multi-media in assessment practices and the development of criteria. Have also developed guidance on the evaluation of digital scholarship for appointment and tenure. The key issue here has been in dealing with issues of attribution in collaborative production.


Now moved on to the next sessions of the day with Jeremy Knox who is research open education and questioning the current calls for restructuring higher education about autonomous learning  and developing a critique of the open education movement. He is discussing data collection on MOOCS in terms of

  • Space
  • Objectives of education
  • Bodies and how the human body might be involved in online education

Starts with discussing what a MOOC is as free; delivered online and massive. Delivered via universities on platforms provided through main players such as Udacity, Coursera and edX.

Most MOOCs involved video lectures and quizes supported by discussion forum and assessed through an automatic process (often multi-choice quizes) due to the number of students.

Data collection in MOOCs as example of big data in education allowing learning analytics to optimise the educational experience including through personalisation of the educational experience.

Data collected specifically from the MOOC platforms. edX claiming to use data to inform both their MOOC delivery but also to inform development of the campus based progress at MIT

Space – where is the MOOC? edX website includes images of campus students congregating around the bricks and mortar of the university. Coursera makes use of many images of physical campus buildings. Also many images of where students are from through images of the globe – see here

Metaphor of the space of the MOOc is both local and global.

Taught on one of the six MOOCs delivered by University of Edinburgh. Students often used visual metaphors of space in their experience fo the MOOC – network spaces, flows and spaces of confusion. Also the space metaphor used by instructors in delivering MOOCs such as in video tours of spaces. The instructors seeking to project the campus building as the ‘space of the MOOC’ and this impacts on the student experience of the MOOC. The buildings may have agency

What else might have agency in the experience of education? For example, book as a key ‘tool’ of education. Developed a RFID system so that tagged books send a Tweet with a random sentence from the book when placed on a book-stand/ sensor as a playful way of collecting data. So twitter streams include tweets from students/ people and books.

Another example is of YouTube recommended videos recontextualises video with other videos as a mesh of videos and algorithms.

The body in the MOOCs? Is taken in to account through Signature Track that uses the body to tract the individual student.  Now showing a Kinect sensor to analyse how body position changes interaction with a MOOC course which allows the body to intervene and impact on the course space.

How does the body of the teacher be other than the body of external gaze?


Now moving to a Skyped session with Sophia Lycouris Reader in Digital Choreography at Edinburgh College of Art and is working on research in using haptic technologies to enable people with impaired sight to experience live dance performance – see here. A prototype has been developed to allow users to experience some movements of the dance through vibrations. Again, uses a Kinect.

The project explores the relationship between arts and humanities and innovations in digital technology as trans-disciplinary alongside accessing and experiencing forms of performing arts. In particular, interested in how technologies changes the practice itself and how arts practice can drive technological change (not just respond to it).

The Kinect senses movement which is transformed in to vibrations in a pad held by the participant.

Discussing some problems as Microsoft now limiting code changes needed for the project.

The device does not translate dance but does provide an alternative experience equivalent to seeing the dance. The haptic device becomes a performance space in its own right that is not necessarily similar to a visual experience. So the visual landscape of a performance becomes a haptic landscape to be explored by the wandering fingers of blind users.

The project is part of a number of projects around the world looking at kinesthetic empathy.

Question on what models are being used to investigate the intersection of the human and the digital? Sophia focuses on using the technology as a choreographic medium and away from the dancing body. Jeremy’s research underpinned by theories of post-humanism that decentres the human: socio-materialism; Actor Network Theory and spacial theory.


Now on to Mariza Dima on design-led knowledge exchange with creative industries in the Moving Targets project. Focusing today on the methodological approach to knowledge exchange.

Moving targets is a three year project funded by SFc for creative industries in Scotland including sector intermediaries and universities to involve audiences in collaboration and co-design. INterdisciplinary research team including design, games, management. The project targets SMEs as well as working with BBC Scotland.

Knowledge exchange as alternative to transfer model. Exchange model emphasises interaction between all participants to develop new knowledge and experiences. Used design as a methodological approach in the co-design of problem identification and problem-solving.

Used experiential design which is design as experience – the designer is not an expert but supports collaboration; transdisciplinary; experience and knowledge is closely related and interactional working in context of complexity.

Process stages of research; design and innovation. Innovation tending to incremental improvement that returns to research. Knowledge is developed as a concept through research and as an experience through design and innovation.  Phases:

Research involves secondments in to companies as immersion researching areas for improvement, gain and share knowledge and undertaking tasks/ activities. Example of working with CulturalSparks on community consultation related to cultural programme of Commonwealth Games 2014. Research workshops were also held on a quarterly basis.

Design of interventions with companies and audiences using e business voucher scheme. Ran a number of proto-typing projects including looking at pre-consumption theatre audience engagement.

Innovation based on two streams: (a) application of knowledge within the company and (b) identifying transferable knowledge. Have developed new processes, digital tools and products with an aim of creating longer-term impact of process improvements and tacit understandings by both the companies and by the universities/ intermediaries.

Experience of the clients very variable. Agencies much more receptive to working with higher education while micro-enterprises were more cautious as have limited resources. So with company, took a more business-like approach focused on outcomes and have gained positive impact.

The focus project is on supporting creative industries companies to engage with rapid changes in audiences driven by technological changes.


Now onto looking at invisible work in software development; data curatorship and invisible data consumption in industry, government and research. Research framework is base don the social shaping of technology; infrastructure studies and the sociology of business knowledge.

Focused on climate science due the importance of the interface between data and modelling projections through software; also in modelling data in manufacturing. In manufacturing is a question of generic software vs localisation via specific vagueness where metadata is under-emphasised and developed. While sharing data in government involved a more specific focus on curation of data and sharing data without affecting data ownership. Discourse on disintermediation tends to downplay costs of co-ordination particularly in respect of trust relations.

Data consumption linked to issues in data visualisation that aggregates and simplifies data presentation with careless consumption of data. Consumers have preference for simplified visualisations such as the two-by-two matrix to aid prioritisation. Such matrices become the shared language for users and the market or are amended as different simplified visualisation such as waves or landscapes.

The specific vagueness of the software ontologies makes comparability across platforms and contexts of the data becomes impossible.

Study on ERP involved videoed observation; situational analysis used in study on government softwares to generate grounded data analysis and study on data visualisation involved direct interviews of providers and users of data.

Ontologies discovered as useless – a life changing discovery!

Twitter and micro-blogging notes on day 2

These are notes from the Twitter and Micro-blogging conference at Lancaster University for day 2.  The full programme can be found on Lanyard.The Twitter hastag is #LUTwit

Conceptualising Twitter as a discourse system by @mdanganh

Looked at the Function of the # – lead to theory of contextualisation based on John J Gumperz conversational inference and contextualisation cues as surface feature that are verbal and non-verbal. So can be used to understand and analyse #

Cues reconfigure conversational contexts that presuppose and create context as social ordering (Bruns & Burgess 2011).

Key part of Twitter as a discourse system. Identifies four functional operators in Twitter: the RT; the @; the # and the link That have technical and communicative function as well as positioning Twitter as intertextual and interdiscursive

For data drawn from Federal State elections 2010 – 2013 over a four week period each year from parties, media, politicians, public interactions, #. Analysis uses

– profile analysis (quant)

– speech act analysis (qual and quant) (Searle), eg, inform, state, assert, announce, request etc……. Found predominately speech acts concerned with exchanging information, especially from the institutional accounts

– discourse analysis (quant informed qualitative analysis

Use case of Conservative candidate #Rottgen. But lost NRW State election and subsequntly also dismissed as Federal minister by Angela Merkel (as a ‘mother’ figure). Discourse developed as mother metaphor

# frames Tweets in to a story narrative frame that is emergent and the co-construction of meaning.


Now on to the plenary session with @GregMyers on Working and Playing on Science Twitter

First Tweet on an April Fools as example of different types of Twitter streams – such as different communities  or genres. @GregMyers on writing on blogging realised that there is not one ‘thing’ of a blog – share a media but are very different. Are we talking about one genre or not? Looking at the different papers at the conference it is clear that there is not a single genre or function.

How do different Twitter communities use Twitter? Are there genre differences. Focus here on science Twitter of research scientists.

Networking is a part of any science project from the 16 century onwards. But as a community, depend for reward on the production of a very different text object, the published paper which is very unlike Twitter. So science community is a network of texts but also involving equipment, people, methods, money (ANT).

Identified two themes of sociology of science:

1. heterogeneirty of scientific networks: ANT. You become powerful in science by maintaining a network

2. rhetorical tension between empiricist repertoire as timeless claims in the formal literature and a contingent repertoire and time bound and contingent activities.

Cites letter from C19 that is very Twitter like albeit as provate letter rather than a public Tweet.

More information on Greg’s blog: http://thelanguageofblogs.typepad.com

Corpus analysis based on keywords eg, paper, scientist, research, etc… but more interesting keywords such as: over use of “i” (compared to other Tweets) as a sign of formality; use of “of” as signifier of more complex; “but” as academic signifier and a negative keyword of “love” as evaluation.

Gives ground to identify scientists as a distinct community on Twitter.

Gives an example of phatic communication – communication for the sake of contact (“who is still working” at 3 am). Problematises the use of the term “here” as “a lab” rather than a geographic co-location. Solidarity building?

Particular interest in references to time: current time – what I’m doing now; temporal cycles of, eg, work , publications, terms; future time (what will be happening); and chunking time eg, pleistocene.

Gives example of scientific criticism and never-ending use of citations and references but also criticism of socio-thermodynamics using LOLcats

Scientific criticism involves personal stance; impersonal references to shared norms and hierarchies of authority for presentational purposes. Found many Tweets involve boundary work, sealing off science and non-science while at the same time concerned with outreach and public engagement with science.

Good set of question of a Twitter community:

  • present self as a community?
  • make a distinct genre – eg, use of RT, links etc…?
  • use the same genre / register?
  • how Twitter practices relate to other practices?
  • what specific kinds of performance are valued?
  • how permeable are the boundaries of the community? How many Tweets get RT from outside the community?

Permeability of the science community enhanced as scientist may be member of other communities that may cross-overs of their specific Tweets (hip hop, feminism/ women in science). But not seeing non-scientists coming back and commenting on scientific discussions.


The afternoon session is about to kick-off with Noreen Dunnett on The Tweeting Zone with Twitter providing a mechanism for renegotiating boundaries between Activity Systems. Looking also at how Twitter allows renegotiation of identities and roles of learners and teachers in formal learning spaces.

Referes to liminal spaces as a rite of passage in which a person moves from one state of being to another. Could Twitter affordances at act bridge between Activity Systemas a a boundary zone between different systems and spaces? Does Twitter provide scaffolding between learning and working definitions.

Affordances (actionable properties …. user perceives some action is possible. Gibson 1977, 1979 and Norman 2004). The paper uses Connectivism and Activity Theory examining a teacher training course and the student use of Twitter ordered around a given #

Frames Twitter in terms of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) as allowing learners to coordinate arrangements between people, materials and technology so the PLE is not a platform but is rather a process that requires agency from the learner [as actor].

Uses ethnographic action research including participant observation, interview and survey. Observation of a Twitter chat over a seven month period with researcher moderating initial discussion. Spaces of learning in, eg, Twitter, enacted in to being – emerge rather that design/ predetermined (Al Mahmood 2008).

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 13.54.07

Cited example of student who left the course asking for permission to continue to use the hashtag.

Trainee teachers participate in a range of discourse communities simultaneously, spanning formal and informal learning environment. The course tutor conflicted about Twitter and the degree of control and policing role.

Useful Tweet here:

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 13.45.30

Twitter bridge Activity Systems as discourse communities.

Role of tutor not clear: has emergent and non-emergent elements as the Twitter space was formally set up to support students in placement but tutor also wanted to use it for learning tasks by setting up a series of tasks Tutor was concerned that the students controlled by eg, GTC notions of professional conversation.

References from the presentation can be found here


Now out of power and seeking a plug point ……


Now at An analysis of professional exchange and community dynamics of Twitter from Nicola Osborne and Clare Llewellyn from Edinburgh

Used Martin Hawksey’s TAGs for grabbing #feeds into Google Docs.

Social media collaboration group came into being to analyse Tweets on London riots using manual analysis and wanted to use more automation in the analysis. Clare developed a prototype as the JISC Twitter Workbench initially for analysis of Olympics on Twitter  but extended in to more general academic use. Currently working on developing the Workbench to work with smaller, discreet data including elimination of direct (unchanged) RTs. Testing Workbench for use at a conference (done aferwards but could be done in real time).

Used algorithm  for LDA clustering but found it no more accurate than incremental clustering 

At the conference, was a lot of interest in, for example, PechaKucha and specific talks that gained a lot of interest.

Found different algorithms appropriate for different size of event/ Twitter hashtags. Clusters confirmed some hunches about the conference.

Noted that clustering does not analyse influence of a Tweet. Confirmed participant feedback on conference sessions. Did identify what was popular (not influential?) and ‘hot topics’ etc which could have been very useful for real time use eg, in back channel. Could imply unpopular sessions not Tweeted but this is not clear.

Very clear decline in volume of Tweets after conference – often sharing links.

Analysis was about the content of Tweets and not about connections between Tweets…

Balance to be developed between clustering duplication versus clustering granularity.

Q of why JISC funded this given the existence of NodeXL

Now time for a break….

Fell behind on the blogging – lack of power, fat fingers etc….

Now at the plenary Professional Twitter Panel which can be followed at #lutwitrc

Discussing finding the time for Twitter and intensity, @johnnyunger very variable in intensity of Tweeting. Mentions that avoiding marking leads to increase in Twitter use.

A number of comments in Tweeting in between times

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 16.25.01

Tweet when we’re doing other things or when can’t do other things

But also comments about the rhythms of the day – energy, roles etc…

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 16.28.00

… and in relation to activities in “real life” (sitting on the bus) as well as on other SoMe.

Discussion on whether Twitter is distracting or takes time [but avoids issues of cognitive-shifting]

Moving to ethics, eg, is it OK to be anonymous on Twitter and issue of institutional constraints. Also scales of anonymity, eg, less easy to identify the individual rather than anonymous per se.

Comment on analysis of HE SoMe policies that are very constraining requiring various disclaimers for staff. HE senior management prickliness on potential reputation harm from ‘rogue staff’.

Comment that first rule of the internet that there is no such thing as anonymity – don’t say something online you wouldn’t say elsewhere (from @pennyb).

Moved on to impact – beyond simply number of followers but also who follows.

Discussion on ethics and the nature of public domain with good understanding of the nuances around anonymising Tweets. Also refering to Twitter TOS in tension with research ethics, eg, on anonymity.

WeekNotes [25012013]

I thought it was time for another round-up of what I’ve been doing since the start of the year:

– drafting two sections for reports on teaching and learning approaches to transversal competence development for the Propound project

– submitted a conference paper on the Lang2Tech project  for  the International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED 2013)  jointly authored with Robert Chmielewski. The abstract can be read here

– drafting a conference paper for the Universities Forum for Human Resource Development conference on how Twitter chat events for professional development

– overseeing the start of the new term  (although I have very little teaching this term)

– lots of meetings and discussions trying to get to grips with how or even whether the MSc programme I manage will be continuing after this year.


Nomadic work

These are the notes I took at a seminar on 11 May 2012 by Barbara Czarniawska at the Edinburgh University Business School on Nomadic Work.

The seminar presented some initial research on nomadic work asking the question: who are the contemporary nomads?

Suffering of “nomadness” and how to define nomadic working. Czarniawska asked if she is a nomad as she has worked in eight places and five countries? Nomadic workers are telecommuters or home workers or mobile workers who perform their work in multiple locations. Or are they people who do nomadic computing, but then what is nomadic computing?

Nomadic work was understood as “doing work while travelling” – see George Clooney in “Up in the Air” – seen as workers changing work and living places often, which is common in UK and spreading in the rest of Europe.

But does it matter and to whom? It matters to the employers as it creates new demands for employees and employers in terms of functioning of the workplace, issues of supervision & control (“how to control people at a distance?”). Perin Constance (1991) referred to increase work intensity of home workers in part driven by guilt, but managers concerned as they have no role in terms of supervision. The idea of presence and its link to the panoptic supervision as a perspective of what management is about. For employees Czarniawska suggesting that the label of nomadic work acts to emplot (emplotment: assembling a series of events into a narrative with a plot. For Czarniawska theorising is a form of emplotment) their work-life stories.

Czarniawska decided to study these working-life stories where people chose nomadic work as the main plot of their work-life story from digital immigrants and digital natives. The digital immigrant rejected the label and argued for digital elders as the creators of the computing era. Digital immigrant works as IT consultant to avoid being employed and “wants to compete under his own terms”. What makes him different is that he reads manuals! But is bitter of IT sector as sexist and agist, suseptable to fashions and hype and ignorant of history, eg, that cloud computing developed in the 1970s.

The digital native, aged 30, changes temporary jobs as a digital native researches digital natives working in research institutions. He has “constructive ideas” which relates to not listening to his bosses. He never reads manuals but rather Googles as a just-in-time knowledge resource. Has a continual sense of being in “deep water and not knowing if he would sink or swim” due to the sense of temporary nature of his work. Nit sure if having a stable place of work would be better.

In comparison, both are single men. One is an (real world) immigrant and the other is an itinerary worker. Distinguishes between workplace and country nomads as latter works in different countries but similar workplaces. ‘Nomadness’ can be from individualist ideology or from acknowledgement that the world is big and worth exploring. Both have an entrepreneurial mindset.

Is there a template for a work-life plot of a nomad? There was no concept of “life on the road” nor of “from rags to riches” that this is not about accumulating wealth. Also neither referred to “the internal wanderer”. Main relevant elements include the “travelling apprenticeship” in the earlier stages of the career that continues through work-life. An element of being dispossessed. There is also the Simmelian idea of the stranger as a paradoxical idea of being within a group but has not belonged to the group from the begnning and imports qualities into the group which “cannot stem from the group itself” (Simmel 1959 [1909], p 402) – for nomads, everyone is a stranger in their groups.

Eurobarometer 2010 study found vast majority of younger people would like to work overseas. People form Northern Europe look to Southern Europe because of climate while going from South to North for better work conditions, East to West for better work opportunities and West to Eastern Europe for new market opportunities.

Conclusions: nomadic workers include tradition nomads who go to where the work is but return to “home” and the “homeless minds”. Modern nomads tend to travel alone, less so as couples and rarely as groups. nomadic careers include both joys and sorrows of loneliness, uncertainty but meeting new pepole, making new friends and explorng new places, Seen as the price you pay but the price can become too high and then the life plot collapses.Nomadic computing is now ubiquitous and mobility increasingly a requirement for employees

Suggestions for further research: comparing nomadism in different professions and industries, eg, management consulting which also includes a team nomadism and the concept of liminality, or potential leadership develop programme of global firms as “apprentices travel from country/ region to country/ region for different work experiences across the same firm; comparative studies of the same generations across different places to reveal the local translations of gobal trends.

A few finds …

A sweep of some interesting posts found elsewhere …

A round up of the DevLearn 2011 conference – looks like it was a good event with lots going on – anything with Michio Kaku gets my vote anyway. I also like the buzz morning idea.

A annotated reference list on collaboration and social networking from Mike Gotta is a useful resource for those interested in academic research in these areas.

Also, some useful resources on the use of social media in academia including a good presentation here and a range of events and resources available at Edinburgh University. What will be interesting here is whether the take up of these approaches will disrupt the tradition (slow, ponderous) academic publishing world?

PhD research

*warning* this is a long post that basically provides the theoretical foundations for my ongoing research. Its taken from a paper presented to a PhD progress board at the University of Edinburgh so its basically an edited version of a vast/ huge paper written a few months back. All questions/ comments/ suggestions/ criticisms are welcome – especially is you manage to read the whole thing!

It starts with my espoused theoretical stance (which I anticipate will change as the research progresses (I couldn’t really describe it as a learning experience if it didn’t change).

My initial research approach took an epistemological position that drew on differing strands of social constructivism. Social constructivism (Vygotsky 1978) has been cited as a dominant theoretical perspective in educational research (Phillips, 1995; Fox 2001) and has been seen to be making significant in-roads to management research (Alvesson & Skoldberg 2009; Cunliffe 2008; Samra-Fredericks, 2008).

However, I was also interested in learning and knowledge as a practical act, that is, learning to “do” something. This brought in pragmatism as an epistemology of action (Cook & Brown 2005), of knowing “how” rather than knowing “that” (Spender 2005; Kivenen & Ristela 2003). A similar combination of social constructivism with pragmatism can be seen to inform Engestrom’s use of Vygotsky’s theories in the development of activity systems theory (Young 2008) that also places an emphasis on knowledge and action together. Furthermore, Cook and Brown (2005) refer to the notion of knowing linking to the theoretical area of practice (Bourdieu 1977; Antonacopolou 2006).

So, constructivism involves understanding, knowledge development and learning as active and either intentional or unconscious and habitual, which indicated that a practice-based approach to my research might prove beneficial. Given my focus on interactive digital environments that can be labelled as Web 2.0, a practice-based approach that is concerned with the complex interrelations between people, artefacts, language, collaboration and control seemed appropriate (Nicolini et al 2003; Guzman 2009; Geiger 2009).

Based on this argument, I was initially attracted to using the social constructivist based Activity Theory (Engestrom 1987; 2001) as it allows for multiple constructions of practice. As a socio-material perspective, Activity Theory suggests an individual only becomes meaningful in a social context where knowing in practice, activities and non-human materials are intertwined in a dynamic series of interactions (Tuomi 2000). The interactions of activity systems aim to highlight the tensions and contradictions that stimulate change, development and learning (Chappell et al 2009, p179). As Piaget argues, change comes not just through exposure to a ‘better’ theory, but rather through actively applying that ‘better’ theory in the world (Ackermann 2001). In other words, to practice (with) it.

Yet the experience of attempting an earlier discourse analysis of a single Twitter chat event suggested that Activity Theory was predicated on a degree of stability that did not appear to apply to the dynamic instabilities seen in the chat event. The event appeared to exaggerate many of the key problematic features of unstructured discussions identified by Belnap & Withers (2008, p8): sequences extending over many exchanges; overlapping exchanges and sequences; short sequences tending to be cut off prior to a conclusion and sequences re-emerging later in discussions. The norms of participant interactions appeared to be under almost constant negotiation and renegotiation. Also, non-human elements appeared to have an impact that suggested more than passive mediation. For example, Twitter apps such as Tweetdeck, which aggregates and organises Twitter ‘streams’, arguably shape how Twitter chats are structured and “consumed”. This combination of inherent emergence, instability and ambiguity within a socio-material framework (Fenwick & Edwards 2010) suggested that Actor Network Theory (ANT) would provide a more appropriate perspective to the research study. Indeed, Sorenson (2007) suggests that for material to be meaningful the material object must interact with “the social”, so the material object can be seen as being itself as unstable as the social context of the interactions that make it meaningful. The material, or materiality, can only be understood in terms of patterns of relations that change over time and space and not in any notion of the independent properties of that material.

Approaches to researching networked and practice-based approaches to learning and knowledge construction include a range of theories on social learning including communities of practice, cultural historical activity theory and so on. What these approaches have in common is a rejection of the primacy of the individual person in that the individual only becomes meaningful as a member of any number of networks where knowing in practice, activities and non-human materials are intertwined in a dynamic series of interactions (Tuomi 2000).

Actor Network Theory
Actor Network Theory (ANT) can be characterised as a “perspective” or lens of loosely combined ideas and concepts rather than a theory (Bergquist et al 2008). Latour (1999, p19) argues that in the case of ANT:
It was never a theory of what the social is made of … for us, ANT was simply another way of being faithful to the insights of ethnomethodology
At its most basic, ANT seeks to “follow the actors” (Latour 1999) by the detailed tracking of specific practices as a means to see how actors influence the world (Fenwick & Edwards 2010). ANT is focused on the study of networks through actors (Miettinen 1997) and:
Although the ‘T’ of the ANT acronym stands for ‘Theory’, it is this better understood as a methodological approach. In this way, ANT can be seen as an approach to the field that offers analytical tools that can be applied to narrative knowledge, be they organizational or otherwise (Alcadipani & Hassard 2010, p423).
While there is a broad range of ANT based research approaches, they are all fundamentally socio-materialist whereby an actor pursues an interest which can be translated into both non-human and social arrangements. These arrangements can be seen as network effects and can include combinations of people, organisations, groups, equipment or objects (Law 1992). Examples of these arrangements include a professional community, an organisational routine (Bergquist et al 2008) or communities of practice (Fox 2000).

There appear to be three key elements of ANT of particular interest: symmetry of human and non-human actors; the processes of translation and network assemblages or dynamics.

Symmetry seeks to avoid a subject/ object dualism that defines the human and non-human worlds as distinctly and qualitively different (Mietinen 1997). ANT specifically rejects the privileging of the human as an “all powerful agent imposing an arbitrary form on shapeless matter” (Latour cited in Miettinen 1997) while at the same time rejecting technological determinism.

But in practice symmetry appears to be difficult to achieve in the research process (Fenwick & Edwards 2010). As a result, ANT research practice has been criticised for adopting a form of human asymmetry described as Machiavellian as the researcher ends up following the loudest actor (Miettinen 1997).

To some extent this Machiavellianism is difficult to avoid other than through the reflexivity of the researcher (although such reflexivity may be aided by adopting the perspective of symmetry). It should also be noted that Miettinen (1997) goes on to discuss Machiavellianism only in terms of ANT’s concern with power and thus with “the Prince” and so ANT:
ignores such phenomena as learning, development of expertise, complementarity of resources and know-how in network construction (Miettinen 1997 unpaginated).
By focusing on the interaction between power, learning and resources in the emergence of networks, this study should have a wider span of attention than solely the machinations of the loudest actor.

Fox’s (2005) analysis of the role of newspapers illustrates the role of non-human actors in the generation and maintenance of the imagined community of the nation. Specifically discussing the layout of newspaper front pages as consisting of a number of unrelated news stories, Fox asserts that (2005, p103):
The regular reader thus keeps abreast of multiple narrative threads that weave the fabric of his or her imagined world. But this is not experienced as a simulated world but as the real world … By following the threads of news over time, the reader maintains a sense of a world known in common with distant, imagined others, fellow readers, fellow citizens too numerous to know personally, participants in a regional community, with spatial as well as temporal specificity.
Fox goes on to conclude:
In terms of ‘symmetrical analysis’, the non-human elements in the networks of ‘print capitalism’ made the ‘imagined community’ of the nation … a social and cultural reality.
Similarly, in an earlier study of a Twitter based chat event undertaken as part of a research methods course, it was found that using a browser or specific applications such as Tweetdeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com/) or Twhirl (http://www.twhirl.org) around 20 tweets are co-visible to the participant. Individual tweets are made visible in a single stream in time order rather than threaded by discussion theme. A result of this is that an individual is more likely to make contributions across multiple sequences rather than stay focused on a single discussion sequence (Simpson 2005).

(Screenshot of Tweetdeck)

But it was also clear that the technology of presentation required participants to focus on a few specific threads of discussion as they came up, at least partially ignoring other threads. So to ensure participants were able to re-engage with discussion sequences that they may have been ignoring, there was frequent retweeting of key tweets as well as of the agreed event questions.

In addition, other non-human actors also influence the network: the computers that people use, the technical infrastructure of the internet and World Wide Web, the use of rss feeds and content aggregators, hyperlinks into and out of the event content, the blog site that archives the tweet chat and so on.

ANT has been described as a sociology of translation (Latour 2005). The term translation appears to be used in two key ways. Firstly, it concerns the interpretation and reinterpretation of knowledge or meaning as seen in various studies of ‘workarounds’ that emerge during the implementation of information systems or in studies of workplace safety (Gherardi & Nicolini, 2000, cited in Fenwick & Edwards 2010). For example, different actors translate changes in organisational routines in different ways. Networks evolve as actors seek the support of others by translating the interests of others and enrolling them into the network (Mitev 2009). This in turn generates ordering effects and stabilises the network (Fenwick & Edwards 2010, p9).

The processes of translation in ANT are also processes of simplification whereby an actor comes to be taken to represent a complex underlying network. This simplification is necessary to enable practical action to be taken as these translated networks become taken for granted. So translation is part of the process of generating social order and stabilising a system through ordering routines (Tuomi 2000). The process whereby the social meaning of actors becomes settled is often referred to as “black boxing”.

In the earlier study of a Twitter chat event previously mentioned, the following tweet was interpreted as an attempt to legitimate among the participants the rejection of the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation as inadequate.

8:55:29 @H Can we have another question to keep us from wasting time burying Kirkpatrick? #lrnchat

However, it could also be framed as an attempt to negotiate a stabilisation of the #LrnChat network that the critique of Kirkpatrick can be taken for granted, eg, placed within an unexamined “black box”. Similarly, notions of workplace “performance” were treated as “givens” not to be examined, while other notions such as “business” or “learning” were treated as being far-from-stable notions and central to key discussions during the event. More broadly, the use of Twitter applications (as discussed earlier) and their wider networks of development, maintenance and dissemination and how these might impact on how the individual may experience such chat events was also, unsurprisingly, “black boxed”.

Network assemblages
Networks can be seen as an:
assemblage of materials brought together and linked through processes of translation that perform a particular function (Fenwick & Edwards 2010, p12)
ANT approaches are less interested in the size of a network or networks than in the dynamics of the influence in and on networks, being concerned with the ways in which influence can expand and contract those networks (Fox 2005). So ANT has a central concern with power as enacted through processes of enrolling and translation – that power can be understood as persuasion (McLean & Hasssard 2004).

Networks are products of symmetrical actors linked by intermediaries (Callon 1991). An intermediary “is anything passing between actors, which defines the relationship between them” (Callon 1991, p134). These can include software, documents or human bodies (Depauw 2008). Raisanen and Linde (2004) focused on text as intermediary finding that text played a key role in organisations in attempting to control the environment as well as “being durable and transmittable” (2004, p117). Mitev points to textual intermediaries as “reflecting earlier translations of interests” (2009, p15). Mediators, however, can transform entities and the network and there are an endless number of potential mediators in a network. These may include a CPD plan, a strategy document, (Fenwick & Edwards (2010) or a management method (Raisanen & Linde 2004).

The process by which networks evolve, grow or contract, is proposed by Callon (1986) as starting with a problematisation of specific entities. This “problem” becomes a focal point for the identity of the network via which actors seek to translate a “set of possibilities” to enrol other actors (Toennesen, et al n.d, p7).

For example, it may be argued that the #LrnChat Twitter event network had a tendency to problematise “training”. Members of the #LrnChat community sought to enrol actors by processes of negotiated translation of the possibilities of technology enhanced informal and self-directed learning. Translation and enrolment processes may further stabilise networks and sub-networks to the point that they act as a unified entity in their own right, ie, they become “punctualised” (Tuomi 2000, p9). Punctualisation being the process whereby a network becomes stablised to the extent that it is no longer understood as a network of actors but rather is understood and “black-boxed” as a given single entity (Fox 2005, 102). In other words, the network, such as a community of practice, becomes itself a single actor in a network or collection of networks.

There is some concern among ANT scholars that the term “network” itself leads researchers towards seeking actors of authority as nodal points in the network that in turn may generate a bias towards asymmetry. Thus the language of space and flow may be adopted (Mol & Law 1994) or “action nets” (Czarniawska 2004) placing an emphasis on contextual variables and interactions of human and non-human actors. The notion of “action nets” which privileges links between actions rather than actors themselves is of particular interest if a text object is treated as an action in its own right – a speech act – as Czarniawska suggests (2004, 783):
Although actants access existing action nets, thus recreating and stabilizing these connections, they must also continually form new connections. Such connections are forged during the process of translation, in which words, numbers, objects and people are translated into one another. Like calculation, translation is dispersed: everybody translates, although some translations, like some calculations, have more currency than others.
So (2004, 782):
Action nets need therefore to be observed as they are being established and re-established, which can be done progressively, deduced speculatively or, in Foucault’s terms, studied genealogically.

ANT, knowledge and learning
From the ANT perspective, knowledge and knowing is situated, embodied and distributed in and across networks. Knowledge cannot be perceived as stable nor:
limited to subjective constructions through meaning-centred interpretations of the world, as is the case with much interpretive research (Fenwick & Edwards 2010, p24).
Learning (new ideas or changes in behaviours) can be seen as the network effects of relational interactions involving technologies, objects, people and knowledge changes occurring anywhere in a network (Fenwick & Edwards 2010, p22). Networks act to mobilise knowledge and negotiate its alignment with actor interests. Networks of actors may also operate to bound and constrain learning activities to specific sites of relational interactions; that some interactions are allowed to occur in specific spaces, flows and action nets. Certain discourses of learning may take place in informal contexts such as a Twitter chat event that would be suppressed within other networks or action nets. This would, to an extent, reflect Ashton’s (2004) findings that the mobilisation of more expansive learning opportunities in larger organisations was limited to the higher “management levels” while more restrictive and task-orientated learning opportunities were more widely available. So, such restrictive learning opportunities were arguably constrained to align to the interests of a specific group of actors while opportunities for counter-discourse development were limited to actors who had already been mobilised within those distinct management networks and their related discursive genres and reportoires.

ANT as a research method
ANT has also been described as a “hybrid theoretical blend” that is contingent and unstable (Fenwick & Edwards 2010, p2) and is often used in conjunction with other theoretical perspectives and methods. For example, in a study of higher education Fox (2005) sets out to combine ANT with Communities of Practice and Benedict Anderson’s notion of imagined communities. Mitev (2009) found that ANT alone was insufficient in researching a major information system implementation and eventually combined it with Clegg’s theory of power. Raisanen and Linde (2004) combined ANT with Critical Discourse Analysis in the study of a project management methodology in a specific firm, while Czarniawska (1997) combines an ANT approach with institutional theory in studies of municipal government. However, in a study of human resource managers, Vickers and Fox (2007) successfully used an ANT approach to challenge the notion of a unified “management” within the case organisation, and to expose management practices as sites of both conformity and subversion of official policy. ANT’s focus on the micro-levels of negotiation in network formation and development – the uses of persuasion, coercion, seduction and resistance (Fenwick & Edwards 2010) – provide a mechanism for new insights in the critical dynamics of power relations.

A number of researchers have commented on how difficult it can be to operationalise ANT as a research method (Fenwick & Edwards 2010; Mitev 2009; Raisanen & Linde 2004). Mitev (2009) in particular focuses on the difficulties of deciding where to start, how to “cut the cake” of the initial problem area and then who to include as actors (and by implication, who to exclude). Such discussions are also framed by the practical issues of handling huge volumes of data and the concomitant requirement to scope the research and to exclude various actors, networks and black boxes, with this in mind.

Web 2.0
Web 2.0 has emerged as a label for the culmination of incremental developments in software and network technologies over the last twenty years or so that focus on user-generated content and interaction around that content. Whether Web 2.0 represents a paradigm shift in the World Wide Web or the outcomes of various incremental changes remains a point of contention that may be being repeated with the labelling of the semantic web as Web 3.0. Either way, Depauw (2008) makes the case that ANT is an appropriate approach to the study of Web 2.0 phenomena. For example, social software has been described as employing Web 2.0 technologies in “digital social networks” that support interactions between “social entities” (Kieslinger & Hofer 2007, p7). McAfee (2009) discusses what he terms “emergent social software platforms (ESSPs)” (2009, p69) within which content and interactions are made visible and permanent, and the structure and organisation of content and community develops over time and through interaction. McAfee (2009, p73) then defines the term “Enterprise 2.0” as the use of ESSPs by organisations to assist those organisations to be more effective. McAfee’s ESSPs suggest a perspective on social software technologies that sees such technologies as either intermediaries within fairly stable and “unproblematised” organisational networks, or as mediators that assist in the stabilisation of those networks by making permanent and visible that network as an organisational entity.

Others suggest that Web 2.0 technologies undermine distinctions between information producers, distributors and consumers, so making networks inherently less stable (Androutsopoulos 2008; Pata 2009). Within this understanding, it becomes problematic to see them as simply assisting in organisational goal achievement. This study will focus on what may be perceived as a less stable network of a Twitter based chat event and then will seek to engage with other more stable spaces of interaction such as blogs. Both such ESSPs provide data that is mainly but not exclusively text based.

Texts provide a focus on online content but such technical artefacts also act as intermediaries that coordinate networks, suggesting that the target platforms can be seen as intermediary non-human actors (Depauw 2008). The interactional bases of these social software platforms generate and reinforce the practices of social networks, so contributing to the durability of those network effects (Waldron 2010) – the sociality of such environments (Young 2006) underpins and normalises practices of digital interactions. In discussing activities in wider Web 2.0 environments, Bruns and Humphreys (2007) suggest that knowledge and content artefacts are constantly being developed and refined through social interactions and so are dynamic and fluid rather than static and solid. Furthermore, Pachler & Daly (2009) point to Web 2.0 in learning contexts in terms of “narrative trails” (p7) of social and individual sense-making activities. Narrative trails such as the tagging of virtual spaces and flows are part of the emergent and user-centric organising of ESSPs including Twitter and blogs.

Tagging in the context of folksonomies make visible patterns of interactions (Alexander 2006) between actors as “taggers” and actants as data objects that may include both the main text and the tags used to describe and classify that text. From an ANT perspective, tagging and metadata (data about data) provides an important mediating effect on network evolution in social digital learning environments. This notion of metadata linking networks and flows of people, artefacts and traces of activities through social technologies provides a basis for a common ecological metaphor of Web 2.0 learning environments (Siemens 2006; Brown 2002; Pata 2009). The emphasis on metadata can also be found in the emerging label of “activity streams” (Boyd 2010). In both cases, the effects of tagging and metadata as being used to identify specific spaces, flows and content as well as being potentially mobilised to direct those flows is recognised.

In summary, existing literatures suggest that what is currently labelled as Web 2.0 in general but more specifically Twitter and related social platforms is an appropriate and “rich

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