July 2010

Michael Hyatt makes some interesting points in his recent post on the positive impact of social media.  Since I can’t improve on it, I encourage y0u to read it yourself.


Western culture, and our socialization in it, has biased us toward valuing only the explicit outcomes of action, not the full-bodied, whole-person engagement in action so necessary, ironically, to successful innovating, learning, and changing.

I have read the first two chapters of  From Workplace to Playspace by Pamela Meyer and am finding it to be both interesting and challenging.  Her case for change is well reasoned and well supported by research.  It is also content dense but is never boring.

The quote above is in the first chapter where she lays out the case for a change in mindset.  Her case is based on a view that our culture has created “a dualistic view of work that filters out information, emotion, and experience that are not immediately relevant to accomplishing the task at hand.”  When one accepts this dualistic view work becomes exclusively focused on products and not processes.  In this mindset, “when we praise someone’s work ethic, we are likely admiring her productivity, not her capacity for improvisation, creative collaboration, new learning, or ability to respond to change.”

Dr. Meyer’s solution is to adopt a mindset where people are free to integrate play into their workplace, recasting it as a playspace.  In such a work environment employees are able to “experiment with new interpretations, recast their roles, target new audiences, and most important, co-create a space in which an authentic, spontaneous truth is brought to life by players who are working at the top of their talent.”

I can’t address every point in the book here so I encourage you to read it yourself.  If you can’t get to the book I will post my thoughts on each chapter as I complete them.  Below are some brief interviews that relate to the concept of high performance teams and creative collaboration.  I hope they will stimulate more thought on this subject.

Pixar and Collective Creativity

I am planning a job analysis for an internal team in a retail organization.  They are skeptical about the need and process.  The buzz around the office is that this effort will be time consuming, tedious, and unsuccessful.  With this in mind, my supervisor has challenged me to develop an unconventional data collection plan.  In short, his vision is that we will break the “rules” of data collection.  For example, do we really need to convene a group in a room for 2+ hours?  Can we break the process into smaller chunks and still get reliable data?

To be clear we are not setting out to break “rules” just for the sake of doing it.  There is a bigger goal behind the vision, culture change.  Many habits (whether positive or negative) have become ingrained.  As you can imagine this has led to a stagnant culture.  We cannot afford to be stagnant.  We need innovation.  We need to be able to recognize and respond to opportunities.  I am hopeful we can have a successful analysis and begin to break the behavior patterns that are preventing us from performing at to our highest potential.

To break the “rules” we need to know what they are.  Please help me compile a list and share any other ideas, regardless of how crazy they may seem.

Here is some additional info that may be helpful.

  • Everyone works the same hours (more or less)
  • Everyone works in the same location
  • There are about 12 participants
  • All the participants have 5+ years of experience with the company

Last week I “attended” an interesting webinar by Pamela Meyer called “From Workplace to Playspace: The Business Case for Fun at Work.”  Her premise is that our culture has created a dualism between work and play.  In her words, organizations that are innovative and have a high level of engagement have changed their workplace to a “playspace.”  According to her website, “Placespace™ is the space for the play of new possibilities and perspectives, for people to play new roles and develop new capacities, for more play in the system, as well as space for improvised play.  When we reconceive innovating, learning, and changing as play, we breathe new life into these processes and create the very space needed to ensure they thrive.”

One point in her presentation struck me.  She said the more an employee trusts his or her supervisor the more fun he or she has which builds more trust.  The link between trust and fun is an interesting one.  Trust means a person feels comfortable letting their guard down which is a key element to having fun.  Being able to have fun without fear of consequences is a huge stress reliever.  It is self-evident how this would build trust.

I encourage you to learn more about this concept.

Here is a 3 minute interview.

Here is a link to the 45 minute webinar. (It’s free but registration is required)

Click here to read how one company is employing Dr. Meyer’s principles.

Here is a link to her book, From Workplace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing Through Dynamic Engagement.

We must love lists because we are constantly bombarded with them in our culture.  I am as guilty as anyone.  Accepting that lists can be a harmless, funny, and sometimes helpful, when it comes to trends any list should be viewed with caution.  This is particularly important when it comes to training trends.  For example, in the late 90s e-learning was just getting started and many companies invested heavily in it without any evidence that it would meet their needs.  It wasn’t long before they began to ask if they were getting enough bang for their buck (that’s training speak for ROI).

So before you read the list below, let me offer a few tips when deciding which solution is right for your organization.

  1. What problem or opportunity are you addressing?
  2. Who will be affected, directly or indirectly, by your decision?
  3. What constraints will affect your decision?
  4. Have we addressed this situation before?  If so, how?  Is it working?  Why or why not?

Answering these questions should give you a good start on deciding what approach will meet your needs, the needs of your learners, and the needs of your organization.  When you feel you have answered the questions to the best of your ability, visit your training department.  They will be impressed with your work and will be happy to help you.

If you want to go beyond what I have provided above or don’t have a training department, I recommend purchasing Analyzing Performance Problems by Robert Mager and Peter Pipe.  It may not answer all your questions but it will help you ask the right ones.

So here are 6 training trends for 2010 according to Bottom Line Performance.

The 6 trends

  1. The need/demand to compress time.
  2. The shift from “training” to “learning.”
  3. The shift from F2F to online classroom.
  4. Rapid authoring (and we aren’t talking about Articulate here!)
  5. The new blend – formal and informal.
  6. Mobile and web delivery.

What is the common denominator?  Do more with less. Everyone is feeling the pressure to produce results.  Under these circumstances there is a premium on having access to reliable information that meets your immediate need.  That flies in the face of traditional event-based training.  However, simply providing access to more information will not automatically result in better performance.  Employees need access to the right information and need to know what to do with it.  That is where the learning professional comes in.  Supervisors need to partner with training departments to identify and resolve the performance issues facing their team.

For more perspective from Bottom Line Performance, you can view a slide show about the trends here.  In it you will see models of alternative delivery modes and recommendations for adapting to new ways to meet the performance needs of your employees.

I just read an interesting article about the appeal of the Nintendo Wii.  The author’s point is that the Wii engages the user on a deeper level because it involves the entire body to play as opposed to traditional game systems that only require hand movements.  Greater physical involvement leads to an emotional component to play, which no other game system provides.

There is a lesson for learning here.  Actively involving learners will engage them more deeply than simply lecturing to them.  How often have you attended a training session and felt like the instructor was there to fill your head with knowledge with little or no concern for your needs or interests?

My experience is that the fictional example above is closer to reality than most professional trainers would like to admit.  It is the rare instructor who adapts a presentation to the needs of the attendees.  In the traditional teacher-centered approach the attendee is a passive receiver of information.  Do you feel motivated to attend training like this?  Neither do I.

The alternative to this approach is learner-centered instruction.  Simply stated, learner-centered instruction takes into account the individual needs and expectations of the attendees.  Click here to read a comparison of teacher vs learner centered instruction.  While a learner-centered approach can appear intimidating and labor-intensive, the benefits far outweigh the perceived drawbacks.  The video below is a good primer on learner-centered instruction.

Does this look like the stereotypical high school classroom?

Would you want to attend training like this?  What do you notice about the atmosphere in the classroom?

It is true that a learner-centered approach requires more planning and preparation.  However, this is offset by the reduced workload at the actual event and better results.  During the instruction the center of attention shifts away from the teacher to the student.  This allows the instructor to focus his or her energy on the actual needs of the students.  By responding to specific questions and providing constructive feedback the instructor has greater confidence that the attendees are getting the information they need and is able to correct any misunderstandings that exist.  In a teacher-centered approach there is no way of knowing if a misunderstanding exists or if learning is actually taking place.