Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A good working or training method is invisible

Yesterday Sibrenne Wagenaar and I finished an evaluation process of a knowledge sharing/linking and learning programme. One of the questions was what methods worked best for knowledge sharing.

We had only one hour and didn't want to do a presentation (we had presented our rough findings earlier on). We thought carefully what we wanted to achieve in this one hour: that people started playing with the recommendations and think what the most important improvements to work on are. So we decided to print and cut the recommendations and asked them to make three piles:

1. You agree and you understand how to do it
2. You may agree but you have questions how to do it
3. You have serious doubts

In groups of two people made their piles, discussing the recommendations. And fortunately pile number one was the largest in all groups. This is not spectacular in terms of method, but we got a lot of compliments. The regular way of doing such a session is presenting the conclusions and recommendations in the form of a powerpoint. People enjoyed engaging in this way with the ideas behind the recommendation and felt it helps to learn collectively.

It made me think even more about what a good method is. It has always puzzled me that there are so many toolkits and toolguides in the development sector. As we wrote in our report: "There is no universal answer to the question what the best methods are for a training or working session. The key question is what method works best in a certain setting and matches the needs and purpose." As a participant I always get annoyed when the method is very 'visible' and you are clearly part of a trainers or facilitator's plan rather then participating in a natural exchange. And I've definitely been guilty of it myself in some organisational assessments where I had thought of so many tools and we had to go through all of them.. It became an exercise that you have to finish rather than a meaningfull exchange. So I guess it is also a matter of a method seamlessly supporting the conversations and the purpose of being and working together. Such a method is almost invisible, suits the situation and the facilitator.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Switch for social media

I read the book Switch some time ago. Change management is definitely one of my favorite fields! Even though I am now not using the field as consciously as when I was guiding organisational change trajectories, I feel when I work on introducing social media I may apply it too and could improve. But maybe I already do it unconsciously based on my experiences.... Anyhow I also bought 'organisatiedynamica' by Thijs Homan and it's competing with social media for trainers by Jane Bozarth for my attention...

I want to use my blog to see if I can apply the lessons from Switch to the introduction of social media, whether for groups, organisations or networks. First a short intro of the ideas put forward in Switch. The book starts with a short story about moviegoers. Moviegoers were given wretched popcorn (I actually didn't know the word wretched but I assume it means that it is not nice to eat!). Some of them got a medium sized bucket popcorn, others a large one. The question was: will people with a large bucket eat more? And Yes! The people with a large bucket ate 53% more popcorn (21 extra hand-dips). Now suppose you want to stimulate people to eat healthier and less popcorn. Rather than changing the mindset, you could also give them smaller bowls. That's an easy solution to a difficult behaviour change. This was quite a revelation for me, doing a lot of work in the international development sector. Everything always end up complex, and I often think it could be more fun with a lighter approach. And here it is! The authors call it: shape the path, tweek the situation so that change is easier. But that's not the only thing to do.

The full three-part framework to follow is:
  1. Direct the rider. Provide crystal-clear direction about where to go (and where not to go)
  2. Motivate the elephant. Engage the emotional side
  3. Shape the path. Shape the situation to make change easy.
(The metaphor of the elephant, rider and path is explained in the book but very shortly our emotional side is an elephant and our rational side is the rider).

So what happens if we apply these ideas about change to introducing social media in organisations?

1. Direct the rider. Make it clear that you want (some) people to use social media and why.. What is your vision about using social media? Is it to increase internal communication and how will that help the organisation to achieve its mission? It is to connect to customers/stakeholders? Ofcourse it takes some time to know this yourself. So don't introduce it widely unless you have a vision yourself. Don't introduce a technology and insist on people using it without giving a clear rationale. And make sure you have some ways of measuring that your rationale is true. For instance, if you are hoping to get more donors through social media presence, keep track of the number of donors referred to you via social media.

2. Motivate the elephant. Try and find out what makes people interested. You may allow them to use the new technology for private purposes first. I have seen people learn about social networks and putting up a social network space for their family reunions and sports clubs. That's a great way to learn and become enthusiastic. So allow people to learn new technologies in connection to things that excite them. Invite people to experiment and allow them space to experiment. Experimenting is fun, having to use new tool because you have to is boring. Furthermore the fun of social media is in the social, so work with groups who can link up together.

3. Shape the path. Make it easy for people to use the media. Offer them a set of tools and shortcuts, work on their own computers. It is discouraging if you are starting a wiki not knowing what type of wiki to use. Make sure there is an accessible helpdesk. Help them for instance to set up an RSS dashboard. But also work on integrating social media in their routines (says the person who is now struggling with finding time to blog and to read blogs :). We are doing a 40-days coaching experiment whereby you have daily contact with one coach. That seems to work well! The idea behind the 40 days is that people can build up new routines in 40 days if they practice every day.

So you have other tips? Does this make sense?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

From virtual classroom to workshop and back

I'm getting so busy that blogging gets harder (if I want to have some off computer time too!). I guess the good thing is that I can imagine it is the last thing on your list in a hectic job. Since I blogged in Dutch about our most recent trajectory about social media that started online (on the NVO2 blog- interesting new initiative for Dutch people interested in HRD) I thought it would be an easy quick win to translate it in English.
Evert Pruis had blogged about the fact that only 20% of the training efforts lead to results.
This ressonates with my personal experiences, the reason why I follow very little training and formal education, as I learn more from experience. I like doing new things and working together with people from a different background. But I strongly believe that the effect of a training can increased by starting online.

Together with two other trainers I'm in the middle of a half year trajectory for organizations to learn to use social media to achieve their missions. We train and support an international group of organisations from countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and South America. We have chosen to start with a skype talk, then first three weeks online training followed by a week in the Netherlands. Currently we are in the coaching phase. I am very excited about our approach to start online and was very proud when a participant talked about 'our four weeks training'. That's really how people should perceive it, not as one week with some online fuzz beforehand. Some advantages I see:

- Because we started online, people could easily invite colleagues to join us. Hence, we had 65 people online, compared with 15 in the face-to-face week. What we see is that those who attended the face-to-face training are more active online now than the others. Nevertheless there is an enthusiastic fellow who is very interested and doing the face-to-face exercises too.

- Practicing a number of tools (like Skype) is easier at a distance. At a distance you can really exercise. This would also apply to exercises with different behavior in the workplace, that would be easier to guide online than in a training. On the other hand the twitter exercise did not seem to make a lot of sense from a distance. Seeing twitter at work and being able to ask all kind of questions made it much easier to grasp.

- The first day was very funny, you know each other already quite well! The group dynamic is very different as a result; people are far less occupied with group dynamics and with their place in the group. The atmosphere was immediately

- Online there is plenty of room for everyone to talk. If you ask a question, anyone can respond. Face-to-face, there are many people and airtime is limited. Online offers the potential to make knowledge and experience of the various participants much more visible. One participant had many interesting experiences to share, which was highly visible online. Face-to-face this was much less visible.DSC05197

- And last but not least, the learner is three weeks long in the "driver's seat. Online you can click away and skip anything, face-to-face it is rude not to listen. This culture also entered the training room. When people were interested in a presentation, they would even stand up and come close, in the opposite case, people would start multitasking (hard to avoid when you have your computer in front of you..). The online training made participants start their thought process.

This sure sounds like there are nothing but benefits. Yet I would not start with online exchange in every training. It takes a lot of time and attention from the trainers, it was wonderful to do this with three trainers but would be exhausting for a single trainer. The added value is difficult to visualize. Thus, I am convinced that people are better capable of linking what they learn to their own situation, because the thought process started online. However, this could also be achieved by an early intake conversation.

Do you know of any proper studies done to compare training with and without online components?