Thursday, June 21, 2012

The role of Collaboration Tools and our connection to each other

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The area of informal learning covers a lot of topics including social networks, 3-D collaboration spaces and digital communications tools to name a few . I want to talk about just digital communication tools today and in doing so convince you that there needs to be a balance between the content we create and the context we speak.

Recent studies on the exploration of what it means to be happy suggests that the more time you spend with people, your family, friends, co-workers, etc the more statistically likely you will be socially happy with your life.  You can find more information here in this book. Well Being

The question is, does this hold true of collaboration and performance. Does it mean that the more you collaborate with a high performer the better chance you will become a better performer? What if I was just in close proximity (physical or virtual) to high performer? Would it mean statistically I would perform better over time? You might say no, but before you do what if I told you that there is evidence to suggest just being within a social network of people who are obese would increase your chance of becoming obese? (Link to Complete Video)

Let me ask the question again, what if I was just in close proximity (physical or virtual) to high performers, would it mean statistically I would become a better performer?

We sometimes focus on the technology and put all of our effort in designing the best job aid, best designed web site or greatest looking resource. We can lose sight that without consistent communication with our clients, we end up thinking we can communicate or influence people by constructing objects like a web site or e-learning course. When in fact just communication with our clients and a high degree of presence in their social network, can influence them in a positive direction. In addition this open communication can allow us to learn from others ensuring our own community is moving in a positive direction.

Close relationships are built from consistent interactions or conversations and you don't get to have quality conversations unless you have invested the time in getting to know someone. Every parent understands its often not about creating quality time with your kids but its about making time, consistently, to spend time with your kids. I should add my last statement is true about almost any relationship.

Watching a great e-learning course has not indicated that statistically you will be a better performer in your job. Think about how some of the most successful people in the world did not have the resources in the beginning of their lifetime but still somehow become world renown. You wouldn't be surprised what inspired some people was not a book or a movie but a parent, a loved one, a peer or a friend.

This is a trust/faith issue because we often don't trust a web site or e-learning course to have our best interest at heart. As Bill Harley explains in this 4 minute segment taken from his TED talk even professional storytellers aren't always the best storytellers. (Link to Complete Video)

But let's brings back to a sense of reality. The global economy presents a real challenge to effectively communicating with each other. Job aids, e-learning courses and web sites can definitely provide opportunities for people to learn own their own to formulate their own opinion. But there is a real danger in an over-reliance in creating content rather than speaking context to each other. Job aids are not people. As Bill Harley mentioned it's not the story or content that is most important but how that story is told and what individual tells that story.

Virtual collaborative technology like Adobe Connect can enable us to build these relationships with our peers who are geographically dispersed thereby allowing the listener to feel our words rather than read them.

As Simon Sinek says people do will do things because why you do it, not by what you do or how you do it. (Link to Complete Video)

A system can show you the what and it can show you the how. But it does not come close in showing why it does things, because it can not. It’s a system, it’s a learning course or web site. It is a sea of colors, beautiful images, video, and poignant text. But it can not tell you why it does things. As learners we find it difficult to put faith in a screen because we don't know who really created the content we experience. As Simon Sinek says people will do things because why you do it.

The future of creating behavior change lies where it always has been, in our ability to empathize and connect with each other. We must realize there needs to be a sense of balance in communicating through new digital channels and creating digital content for the purposes of learning.

Tools like Adobe Connect have the ability to connect us because it allows us to see our emotional selves. We can still present interactive knowledge using a platform like an e-learning course or web site but it’s the listening, seeing, and experiencing people that will change our perspective, our behavior, and let us believe in each other.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

e-Learning: It's about Conversation

There have been many suggestions on how to increase engagement in e-learning or presentations.  A few include getting rid of the title page and limiting to how much text you use.

The reason for all of this....we want the information we see to be a conversation and not a black and white set of instructions.

We don't start conversations with title pages (how funny that would be) or we try not to be too verbose when we talk with each other.  Thinking of it another way, we want the information that is presented to us to be more like a casual and interesting conversation where we really listen.  We want to be connected and not see someone hand down objectives (hint:learning objectives).

Now I understand that many on-demand e-learning isn't a literal conversation but in our mind that is what we want it to be, because in the end a conversation and a sense of being heard is an engaging experience.

Critics will say that we should all trust our managers, instructors, and other leaders, that they know what is best for us as learners.  There is overall assumption that when people start e-learning they are completely on board and motivated to learn.  (bad assumption in most cases).  We still live with the fresh memories of companies going under and leaving people without jobs.   In the end your company will not be the one to steer your career in the right direction. You will.

So if you are an instructional or e-learning designer spend some effort to make sure people understand the problem first, invite them and show how the learners can help, and then give them the tools they can use to increase their level of performance to help the company.

Don't just give them learning objectives're preventing them making the connection to you, your business, and the future of your business.