Knowing what, is not the same as knowing how

I’m struggling: my struggle is about how to communicate that knowing stuff, ploughing through content, attending a workshop or passing a test does not a better communicator, influencer, line manager make.  Knowing what, is not the same as knowing how.

Learning happens when you have acquired new skills, knowledge, competence, insight and applied that new information to a situation. Learning is changed behaviour and it happens through conscious and reflective practice and mindful reflection.

  • conscious practice – the ability to identify and practice key skills, knowledge or behaviours in order to improve
  • reflective practice – the ability to try something out and then think about what and why something happened
  • mindful reflection – the ability to give and take feedback from yourself, to analyse what you did well and not so well without hubris or self-denigration.

Our role in L&D is (I think) about helping create the environment for people to learn, developing leaders and managers so that they can enthuse and empower teams and individuals to try new things and think differently, sharing stories of what works, and finally to ensure that when we do ‘deliver stuff’ it is directly applicable in the workplace to help people do their jobs differently and better.

I’m more and more convinced about the importance of line managers and the work environment.  Self directed learning works when you have a supporter and enthusiast, cheering you along from the sidelines and giving constructive feedback so that learning is a positive, iterative process that takes place as part everyday work.




Learning Literacy

I promised to write this blog on how to implement ‘learning every day’ i.e. something around learning literacy. I’m still not sure how to do this, but I’m convinced that reflection and reflective practice are part of the story. You can learn by doing, but only if you reflect on the ‘doing’, this ensures that your learning hardwires things that you want to improve or change.

Another part of this blog on learning, is that I’m also using it to learn how to use voice recognition software. I feel stilted, unsure about what to say as I still haven’t worked out how to be free-flowing and freethinking whilst managing to speak cohesively and concisely at the same time. The software, although very good, cannot understand ‘ums and ahs’ and so my speaking is hesitant and not free-flowing.

I said that we would discuss learning literacy; perhaps first we should discuss what learning literacy is. Is it:

  • conscious practice – the ability to identify and practice key skills, knowledge or behaviours in order to improve
  • reflective practice – the ability to try something out and then think about what and why something happened
  • mindful reflection – the ability to give and take feedback from yourself, to analyse what you did well and not so well without hubris or self-denigration.

Learning skills and knowledge seems to be fairly easy; you read, absorb information and repeat back when needed or necessary. It is the application of that knowledge to different situations within the workplace, or in interactions with people that is hard.

Sustained learning and performance improvement takes time, and includes regular feedback, reflection, praise and an iterative process of self-awareness building. (On a side note, reading through the transcribed document shows what rubbish I’ve spoken whilst trying out the software.… this is both shocking and good. Perhaps we should ask all those that speak regularly in public, and/or in learning and development workshops to use voice recognition software so that they can get a sense of what they really say – I deleted the word vacuous for the sake of harmony.)

Anyway, back to learning every day. We need to use multipliers to help us extend learning and development throughout the organisation. We need learning design that is engaging, attractive, useful, interesting and on demand so that we can build learning converts (it is the converts that will help share and spread our message).

Learning and development departments are not the owners of knowledge; we should stop worrying about how it is gathered, how it is used and how it is shared. We would do better if we encouraged line managers to be interested in the development of their people, and share stories about how learning has helped someone to do their jobs better. We need to give up ownership of content and the management of content, and allow people to think and learn for themselves. We are, and should be, enablers, multipliers, facilitators, conduits, coaches and enthusiasts – let’s stop worrying about what people learn, and concentrate on how they learn and apply new knowledge, skills and behaviours. People rarely learn what they don’t need, more often they will learn something that helps them improve their jobs, working relationships or how they manage their day-to-day work and life. Occasionally people will learn the wrong things; dealing with this, and with mistakes are in itself part of the learning journey.

Make every day a learning day

I’ve been enthused to write this blog by the CIPD blog squad lead this year Helen Amery @WildFigsolns. Helen has challenged us to think about ‘making everyday a learning day’.  So far today, I’ve shouted at my laptop on numerous occasions as I’m in France and the wind is affecting the wifi – I know that’s a first world problem – but it’s still an annoying one!

But what does this mean if I’m to make a conscious effort to make everyday a learning day?  For me, I think it means more reflection, and then a conscious effort to practise new behaviour.

I know I get frustrated (although I only shout at inanimate objects in the privacy of my own office), and that frustration does occasionally come out in my voice.  I need to temper that, recognise when it’s happening and make choices about what I say and do …. It won’t always work, and I will probably still show frustration sometimes, but this should happen less often over time AS LONG as I reflect and practise on my impact and the change I want to make.

Learning takes time: I read a blog and watched a video yesterday.  The blog was written by the most senior person in the organisation and the phrase ‘I learned’ appeared 3 times in the last few paragraphs.  It’s refreshing to hear personal stories of doubt and unknowing – we’re not alone in being worried and nervous about something new.   The video message was a personal story of learning over 8 years – ‘change doesn’t happen overnight’ and ‘it’s not easy’.  Difficult messages to hear when we operate in a world of instant gratification and ‘flick of the switch’ returns.

My ‘every day a learning day’ promise:

  • Reflect and make my practice conscious i.e. not just thinking about it, but thinking about what I’m trying to do, what happens when I try, the impact I want to make and what to try next time
  • Keep a log of what’s happening – daily probably isn’t realistic – weekly is.
  • Seek out feedback, share with my network and ask for help

One of the hardest things I find is to encourage others to reflect, really listen and acknowledge feedback, and try new things. It is one of the challenges we face in our L&D world.  The L&Ders around me are full of enthusiasm for ‘modern workplace learning’ methods; a move to collaboration and partnership and away from the ‘sage on the stage’. Yet, our customers are global and ‘learning literacy’ is still far from a reality in a number of places, regardless of grade or job title.  We have to start from where people are on the ‘learning to learn’ curve even when we are skipping down the other side exhilarated and enthused.

Next piece – what can we do about it?

Old Year, New Year

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a few days but Christmas and the end of year celebrations got in the way.

The title, ‘Old Year, New Year’ comes from Holland as Dec 31st is known, not as New Year’s Eve, but Old Year’s Day; a time of reflection.  Time to look back on what was, what may have been and what was learnt.

Some thoughts…..

Expect the unexpected and don’t trust to fate.  Work hard to get your message across, be open to change and seek to understand the impact of decisions on others.  Brexit and the election of Trump should have made us all realise that we can’t take things for granted, and that there are huge differences in thinking, values and beliefs across society.  Those differences are reflected in the work place and that makes work more interesting, yet much more complicated.

THINK before sharing your wisdom.  Is what you say, True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind?  But hang on, how do you give necessary difficult feedback (i.e. things aren’t going to plan, or something’s not happening that should be) and make it ‘kind’ and ‘inspiring’. Difficult, impossible?  I think it’s about choosing the right words, being consistent and honest, and seeking resolution not harm in any discussion.

Respond for the greater good (go back to THINK), not for short term satisfaction.  The long-term damage of your brilliant, witty (but harshly) scripted email may make you feel good, but long term it may cause potential damage to relationships and therefore results.

Draft, read, wait, revisit, redraft, send.  If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not OK so take the time to reflect and respond wisely (and check who you are sending it too!).

Time doesn’t sort stuff out – it just gives you better tools to respond.  So take time to think, walk, talk and breathe before making decisions.

You can only start from where you are (thank you to my colleague Andrew Le Poidevin for that pearl of wisdom). It’ll never be perfect or finished, but if you are going in the right direction – that’s good.

Concentrate on what you do know. Don’t whinge about what you don’t have or what you don’t know.  What do you know, what have you got, what are your next steps?  I suppose that also means that you need to know where you’re going…..

Know where you’re going.  What does success look like?  Can you articulate the ‘Why’ (@simonsinek) ‘What you’re up to’ (steveradcliffe  from Future, Engage, Deliver fame). If your future self were to talk about past accomplishments in your role – what would you want to say? What accomplishments would you like to list for you, for your team and for your organisation?

Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Find people you can laugh and smile with – enjoy yourself.  I have been incredibly lucky over the past few years to work with some very competent, funny and genuinely nice people.  People who make me laugh out loud – you know who you are – thank you.

Back to work…

After the holidays the return to work always prompts thoughts of new ideas, next steps and change…. Some things I’ve been thinking about: If learning is work and work is learning then why do …

Source: Back to work…

Back to work…

After the holidays the return to work always prompts thoughts of new ideas, next steps and change….

Some things I’ve been thinking about:

If learning is work and work is learning then why do we need a formal L&D function (does the old joke about the L&D department’s motto ‘striving for redundancy’ hold true?)

How do we as ‘L&D professionals’ start creating real value for the business and worrying less about ‘managing’ learning and owning content?

How can we make a difference to individuals, teams and the organisation we work for?

How do we promote real change in the way people think about learning, and help people develop the skills to learn effectively?

How do we create opportunities for challenge, feedback and change without treading on the toes of hierarchy and culture?

There have been some really interesting questions on twitter recently (follow #LDInsight @LnDConnect on Friday mornings) around modern workplace learning, social collaboration (@julianstodd) and how to make the ‘work space’ the ‘learn space’.

I think we (L&D’ers) should promote and develop modern work place learning by helping:

1.      Develop line managers so that they really understand development, learning opportunities and feedback. Also help line managers and team leaders understand the responsibility they have for team culture (good and bad). What is the hierarchy that’s really needed for effective decision making, empowerment, innovation and team working?  Help line managers develop trust in their teams; work to remove barriers that restrict people’s opportunity to deliver innovation, make decisions and manage change.

2.      Develop individuals to partner with line managers and take responsibility to deliver innovation, make decisions and manage change.  Stress the importance of networks and collaboration, teams and communities.  We live in a networked, online world and individuals need to understand and be able to access the vast array of information and support out there.

3.      Develop the organisational environment so that learning and collaboration (through networks and communities) become part of work.  Provide the space, technology and open systems for individuals and teams to learn, share, try, challenge and think differently.

The L&D function doesn’t own L&D; we need to move from focussing on content and delivery, be less concerned about the formal processes and help create honest collaboration between the organisation, teams, line managers and individuals so that ‘trying to get better at stuff’ is a normal, healthy part of our daily activity.

That should keep us all busy for the coming months.

Next Generation Learning – What got us here, won’t get us there!

Learning ‘providers’ (and I use the term cautiously – ‘L&Ders’ – is that better?) within any organisation need to adapt: to be agile, flexible and demonstrate different knowledge, skills and competence. We need to be ‘performance consultants’, learning designers for the ‘social age’, we need to understand 70:20:10 and know how to make it a reality in the workplace. We also need to understand the ‘business’ and understand ROI/ROE/RO something…

We’re moving away from the ‘sage on the stage’ of learning delivery to new ways of work and learning. The workspace is becoming the ‘learnspace’ designed with a ‘Modern Learner’ in mind.


Who are the ‘Modern Learners’, are they: learners who are motivated but disparate,
who understand their own needs and take responsibility for personal development, learners who are social and collaborative, learners who can identify and access resources quickly and easily?

How do we find them?
How do we educate teams and individuals to become them?

I understand the Modern Learner, I know we live in a Smart phone world with instant knowledge (and gratification) at our fingertips, and I get that 70% of learning is forgotten as soon as people walk out the training door (recent CIPD stats).

However, people/staff/job holders/line managers still love training courses; they still ask for a list of programmes, still want the timetable of events, still want learning objectives and still sit waiting to be filled with knowledge from the ‘all knowing’ facilitator/trainer/sage at the front of the room.

That is our dilemma…

How do we ensure that learning is focussed on driving performance improvement and employee engagement: delivering real value and change? Whilst meeting the needs of the ‘less educated’ (in the L&D sense) customers who are very happy with traditional delivery models and who also see ‘a good L&D offer’ i.e. a few days away in a different location as part of their remuneration package.

Next Generation Learning Design – a few ideas that aren’t too radical but get us on the right path (or am I being lazy and should I push for more?)

1.Better aligned and targeted to need

How will we ensure that learning is aligned, focussed and targeted to provide specific performance support for the individual or team?

• What organisational priority will the learning impact?
• What are the performance improvement objectives and how will they be measured?

2. Autonomy, responsibility and control is with the learner

How will we ensure that the learner is fully in control of the learning process?

• What will be incorporated before the start of the programme to build collaboration and co-create content?
• How will collaboration be encouraged and maintained, before, during and after the programme?
• What innovative learning methods are likely to get the best learner involvement and participation?

3. Learning is collaborative and social

How will we ensure that the learning is collaborative and builds on shared experience?

• Who can help the learners to achieve learning goals?
• How will the collaborative learning process be structured to enhance performance?
• What will be the community that drives collaboration?
• How and where will the community come together?
• How will resources be curated and disseminated – who will own the community?

A great writer on social learning is Julian Stodd

4. Learning design is agile, using modern tools and learning environments

How will a range of learning environments be used e.g. workplace, classroom, online, mobile, etc?

• What will learning journeys look like?
• What learning resources will be used?
• How will resources de adapted easily and quickly to meet audience needs?
• How will we build in a feedback mechanism and curate stories?

5. Line managers are engaged, and the work environment supports learning
• How will line managers be involved to support the learning and community contract?
• What is the mechanism for ongoing support and business opportunity?

6. Learning is evaluated
• How can performance evaluation be built into the learning journey?
• How will the individual evaluate the change in performance?
• How will the organisation evaluate the impact on priorities?
• What MI is needed for official reporting?

Incorporating these concepts into learning design and delivery will help us to be more agile and flexible to meet the needs of the organisation, teams and individuals.

Or do we need to do more and not be shy of challenging the status quo?