Monday, March 18, 2013

Tips for online decision making

We started our fourth learning trajectory about learning with social media in the Netherlands 'Leren en veranderen met sociale media'.  It is amazing to see the energy of the people who dive into the first online block. They complain about the time it takes, but they are the ones investing a lot of time in all the assignments! One of the assignment is to work in a group and choose a tool, try the tool and present it lateron after 3 weeks.

It is very hard to make decisions online in asynchronous discussions. In a meeting you propose something and ask around whether everybody agrees and it is done. Or you vote. indexAnyhow a lot of things can still go wrong face-to-face in decision making... I once did a course on it. Online it is even more complicated because you need someone to take the lead online. If you take the lead and do a proposal online, you are not sure when the others will read your proposal and will react to it. Do you want to make a decision democratically with the whole group, it might take ages. If you don't wait ages the danger is that you take a decision to which people don't comply. Hence a few tips for online decision making:
  • Propose something and give a clear deadline for input/reactions.You can also make a proposal to the group but make it clear when people need to respond and that the group will move ahead after this date. It is clear that those who do not respond to this call to participate in the decision loose the opportunity to participate.
  • Use an online poll to collect opinions of the whole group.  If you use a tool like  opinionpower or polldaddy you can quickly make an online poll. If you limit your poll to one simple question, people can react really fast. Again, don't forget to provide a deadline. If you use a poll you know much better what the various opinion in the group are.
  • Organise a synchronous call or chat. It is much easier to use a synchronous moment (when everybody is online at the same time) to make a group decision. Hence you might organise a synchronous moment. The disadvantage of this is that you have to find a date, which is a decision in itself :). But you may use a tool like meetingwizard for this. During the call or chat you can discuss the decision in-depth.
As you can see, the options from top to bottom are becoming more democratic and more time consuming. This is something to weigh against the importance of the decision. Furthermore, there are specialized online tools specifically designed to support complex decision-making processes. A handfull: 
  • Ideedropper - This is a new tool that works as an online suggestion box within an organization or project. Participants can over time add innovative ideas online. After a certain time, a decision may be taken where the decision line is also visible.
  • Weighteddecision - via the matrix you can make a ranking of all options and selection criteria.
  • Synthetron - allows you to prepare complex policy making decisions with larger group of stakeholders.
  • Liquidfeedback - for online referendum. 
  • Powernoodle - is free for small groups. You can ask questions and invite people to provide input. You can start multiple sessions. At one point you can close the question.
  • Uservoice - helps to gather feedback from customers (especially suitable for large numbers of customers). 1 forum is free.

Friday, March 08, 2013

The 21st century trainer: a paradigm shift?

For a client I working on transfering a face-to-face training into an online trajectory. It is a challenge and requires some creativity to not only 'translate' the training, but also improve it. Make use of the affordances of online communication to improve the training. I had a talk with a participant of the old training and she thought it was a pity that the training would be offered online. "previously the training was such a good chance to network and meet new people in the organisation". Talking to her I realized her conviction was that networking is only possible in a face-to-face setting. However, I think it is perfectly possible to network online - that's how I met most of my recent professional contacts.

21st-c-trainersA second experience was at a workshop for trainers. We had to design a training for a team to work more client-friendly. A days-training. Nobody seemed to think about having a longer trajectory with online components. I am convinced that the trainer of the 21st century will seamlessly weave together face-to-face and online conversations.

These two experiences inspired me to look at the conviction of the 'old' and the 'new' trainer or facilitator.  (image via allthingslearning). I am convinced that it is quite a paradigm shift, but one which is already taking place.

 Which convictions have already changed?