Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Building Effective Interactivity in E-Learning--- A Hybrid Model

In the last post, it was noted that the E-Learning used for training purposes in business organizations and in the education sector was tied to a Skinnerian model that in fact treated learners as passive entities that needed to be conditioned through the application of reward and punishment in order to acquire the desired responses. One point that should be made is that given the industrial economy mindset with regards to what it suggested should be the goals of education, that perhaps it was appropriate for the times. It is also interesting to note that people such as Nikola Tesla who had creative and quite original ideas were considered to be exceptions and odd compared to the conforming majority. Tesla himself summed up the problem quite nicely.


"In order for us to move forward in the design of irresistibly engaging learning experiences that enrich the learning cultures of business organizations, we need to stop living our lives on a bell curve and as I suggested in the last post to capitalize on the gifts and talents of the intellectual capital found in our employees and learners. In this age, having an organizational learning plan is just as important as having a business plan."

A Hybrid Model for Building Interactivity into E-Learning

If you have been reading my posts dealing with the importance of using well designed simulations and scenarios you would have noticed that there are some recurring ideas that lend themselves to making interactivity dynamic and a type of engagement by the learner that is governed by a strong intrinsic motivation. In this digital age, thoughtful engagement leads to deeper sustained learning and an increased level of transference of skillsets to novel situations that require real world problem solving. The posts titled: "The Search for the Emerald Key" (Dec. 27,2014-Jan. 29, 2015) were a first attempt to translate these ideas into a practical scenario. Some of the important concepts were as follows:

Context: In order for learners to see a clear connection between what they learn in theory and its application after the learning experiences are complete, the E-Learning information must be in context. It is important that learners know the relevance to their own individualized life situations. In the "Search for the Emerald Key", the focus was on being able to collaborate with other learners in order to solve a real world problem. Contained within this scenario were opportunities to assess skills both individually and as a collaborative group. Unlike the Skinnerian model, the response of the learners was the factor that developed the story. This involved the development of what is called "Branch Scenarios" and also provided an opportunity for immediate feedback and mentoring. In an adjoining scenario, the collaborative group was provided with a novel scenario which was a "proving ground" used for the learners to test out their newly acquired skillsets. This was also important in building confidence which ultimately impacts on performance as it relates to the employee work situation.

Ultimately, change in the education culture can not take place unless we can demonstrate the necessary entrepreneurial drive that will take us out of our comfort zone and place the educational well being of nations ahead of all our fears and defence mechanisms that are keeping us in place while the world moves on. This begins with having powerful conversations with each other as leaders in our respective sectors. Without that, we are part of the problem and not part of the so desperately needed solution.
[ If you want open and powerful conversations, take the initiative and share the ideas found here.]

Next---Summary of practical ideas for context and the next concept in the model

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Building Effective Interactivity In E-Learning---The Key to Engagement--Part I

If E-Learning is to be truly an effective tool to creating a more dynamic learning culture both in the education sector and the business sectors then creating irresistibly engaging learning experiences are vital. This means such learning experiences must truly be interactive in nature.

The Problem of Interactivity in the Past

The way that interactivity was created in the past was predicated on the idea that through constant repetition of response to a stimulus that learners would be conditioned to respond the same way. This was controlled through the use of "carrot vs. the stick" approach to reinforcement. 

Credit: www.gettyimages,com
This method of "Operant Conditioning" found its way into the design of interactive training and E-Learning. The problem with designing this into the learning regimen of business organizations and education today is that it runs counter to the very skillsets that are needed in order to promote innovation and especially, divergent thinking that is required to solve complex real world problems.

This type of creative thinking demonstrated in the above image would never be tolerated then and would in fact be punished. The type of conditioning that is in place shows up in programs where the only real thought is to push the right menu button, then read the content, then push the continue button, read the content and then answer a quiz which is then graded. If you fail the quiz then you are re-directed to re-training where again repetition is the key. This type of "learning" treats the recipient as a passive receptacle that can only learn by the administration of reward and punishment.

"It ignores the very important understandings that all learners are thinking, creative, intuitive and resourceful individuals who do seek to learn but it must be learning that respects them and capitalizes on their gifts and talents. They want to be mentored in order to stretch and grow their abilities but first and foremost, you have to get their attention and hold it. Negative artificial extrinsic motivators are not conducive to developing what is needed in a digital economy."

We need to break free from the "command and control" mindset because it is a product of a dated industrial economy. 

Laying the Foundation for Effective Interactivity Using E-Learning

If engagement is what is required then interactivity needs to be designed that respects the skillsets that nurture collaboration with other learners in real world problem solving where divergent thinking in combination with active critical thinking become the de facto way of approaching learning.

Here is a thought to consider:

"If you are using the type of "Operant Conditioning" described at the beginning of this post that requires the mechanisms described, then perhaps the required task for learning in such a technological age that we are in, might be better done by robots or other intelligent machines rather than human learners! This is not meant to suggest that people should lose their jobs but it is meant to suggest that we need to make better use of the awesome human capital we have available to us."

If you really want to get a clear picture of how much this "command and control" approach is an affront to human ability, Google the following :"The Stanley Milgram Experiment" and then ask yourself whether or not your organizational training culture has similar elements.
Next--- a better model for building interactivity in E-Learning.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Global Corporate Trainers, Instructional Designers and Learning Principles Educator Network

In the process of transforming a learning culture within a business organization, it is imperative that we use what we know about the way adults learn and how that translates into effective performance when applied in an online training environment. The key goal is to ensure engagement of employees in a given task not by programming every step that they are to take but providing latitude for them to collaborate with other learners in meaningful ways. This also lays the ground work for the development of an innovative mindset among learners.

John Seely Brown, an innovation expert made a very insightful statement when he stated:

"Organizations need to find the 'edge dwellers,' and 'pull them together and give them voice.' Edge dwellers are the change agents within an organization. They need to be given permission to experiment and push boundaries and they need to be provided with tools to have at their disposal, such as social media."

However, in order for this type of engagement to be enriching for an organization, there needs to be a focus on effective design thinking when designing irresistibly engaging learning experiences. To aid this thinking, three important elements need to be in place which are:

  • Using Kolb's Theory as a basis which postulates four main learning styles: Converger, Diverger, Assimilator and Accomodator, we need to go further and modify it by applying what new research from the field of Cognitive Neuro-Science tells us about how adults engage in their learning when presented by an immersive E-Learning environment.
  • A clearly defined purpose for learning and engaging in the learning experience. Designing a group of learning experiences for adult learners that makes explicitly clear the reason, purpose, and usefulness of the subject matter is a necessary component in reaching adult learners.
  • A format or facilitation process that encourages participants to share their knowledge and experience freely. It is this very point that the concept of the Global Corporate Trainer, Instructional Designers and the Learning Principles Educator(or Expert) Network is offered as a choice with exciting potential to prosper business organizations and "jump start" innovation.
The Global Corporate Trainer, ID and LPE Network: What is its purpose and how does it work?

 Some of the problems that business organizations have experienced in the past and continue to experience in some organizations can be summarized as follows:

  • When new skillsets are needed to be passed on to employees, engagement during the sessions might peak but then after the sessions are long over, little, measurable improvement in performance is seen. Why did the commitment to applying learning on a regular basis disappear?
  • A new and potentially innovative change is proposed and supported at the time but then is left to sit and gather dust for a variety of reasons ranging from necessary budget cuts to potential loss of jobs if the innovation is pursued. When change is necessary, why are so many roadblocks erected to following through without even suggesting hybrid modifications or viable alternatives? Why do potentially innovative approaches suffer the "paralysis by analysis" effect?
 The development of the proposed network provides a needed "sandbox for innovation" where innovative ideas and effective, irresistibly engaging learning experiences may be developed through open collaboration not only with the noted business organization's trainers, ID's and LPE's but also with the same types of personnel from other business organizations who share common interests. The essential key to understanding the Global Learning Hubs and adjoining networks such as this one is to take a close look at the collaborative pathways that join them and think about this as a digital symbiotic relationship. This should make sense if we look at business organizations as living organisms. The benefits of such a concept would be as follows:

  1. Costs for development are shared with other business organizations who have common interests and therefore the ROI is also shared according to a mutually agreed upon formula. In concept this is similar to the trade pact groups that already exist in today's world.
  2. Open innovation can take root here as organizations involved would also have equal access to the other networks in the Global Learning Portal through collaborative pathways as shown in the diagram. Collaborating in this non-threatening environment allows for the testing of new ideas before they are brought back to the individual business organizations.
  3. The learning culture of the business organizations improves as a result of the constant feedback from the Global E-Learning Hub which acts as a communication network between the adjoining collaborative networks and the individual business organizations. 
  4. There is the potential for the sharing of knowledge among the 6 distinct Learning Portals. This would be especially important in collaborating to help improve infrastructure upgrading that is needed for developing countries to effectively participate in the global E-Learning enterprise.

There is a great potential to help many nations improve the quality of life for their inhabitants and especially for new generations that are being born, through the means of effective education. Due to the expansive global reach of the world wide web, we can help many nations to empower their children to be agents of change within their societies. We need to do this to counter the negative forces within many societies that would deny hope to new generations of ever conquering disease, poverty, war and political corruption. Remember that dictators maintain their power by keeping their people ignorant and in fear.
 [Remember, if you feel that the message of this post should be shared over social media, share it!]

 Next...Designing Effective Interactions For E-Learning

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network: Final Benefits That Transform Businesses

Ultimately, the goal of this network is to develop educators who will model and practice "transformative" teaching. One thing to notice is that this is a radical departure from the "command and control" mindset of the industrial economy. This is the very same mindset that permeates many of today's business learning cultures and is a reason why so many businesses are struggling with the exponential changes that are happening and will continue to happen as long as they are linked with education systems that turn out more and more of the same type of employees and future business leaders. It also explains why many businesses, although they realize the need to promote innovation within their sector of interest, have no idea of where to start.

The purposes of this transformative teaching are:

  1. Educate learners to be creators of new knowledge and skillsets. The benefit to business is having new employees and business leaders who enter the scene having an innovative thinking mindsets as a natural way of approaching decision making.
  2. Educate learners to adopt innovative problem solving in seeking real solutions to complex real world problems. Instrumental to this is to promote an attitude for prolific and divergent thinking. This is a problem that the education systems, under the assembly line model of education, continue to struggle with. Sir Kenneth Robinson expressed the dilemma quite eloquently.

    3. Educate learners to collaborate effectively in an online environment. Learners need to know how to access a variety of knowledge repositories on the web, evaluate their usefulness to the tasked problem and then apply the skillsets that each require. Learners need to be a little eclectic in using technology that meets the purpose and they need to now how to capitalize on the talents of their co-collaborators. The benefit to business deals with improved employee performance and efficiency.
[Did you notice the change in justification in item #3? Even small skillsets dealing with the presentation of information are important!]

Critical thinking is a skillset that needs to be emphasized even more, now that learners will have such greater access to information.

"One of the most important skillsets in this online, E-Learning environment is the ability to authenticate and corroborate the truth value of information that is presented. Since it is our purpose within a business organization to make critical decisions dealing with the operation and success of the business, neglecting to pay attention to the development of this skillset is akin to organizational suicide!"

Next...The Global Corporate Trainers, Instructional Designer and Learning Principles Network

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network- Nature and Interrelationships

As we continue down this path, one should not underestimate the very positive impact that these collaborative networks will have on the business culture.

Big data that is shared within the Global Learning Portal opens doors of opportunity in the digital economy that can have a multiplier effect on the ROI of businesses aligned under a common vision. It is no secret that knowledge is the new currency of the 21st century but the trick is harnessing it at just the right time with an eye on the future and not looking back!

 Referring back to the Global Learning Portal shown above, one should notice that there is a collaborative connection between the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network and the Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network. The obvious question that needs to be asked is:

"Why is a collaborative connection between these two networks necessary and what is its function?"

Educating the Educator

Cross disciplinary research is vital to the training or mentoring of new educators because for business organizations this will have a "domino effect". If you accept the idea that cross disciplinary learning is an essential mindset to solving real world problems then it is necessary that research in this area  give direction to "educating the educator". The "domino effect" occurs when you consider that how you train educators ultimately defines how they educate students. How they educate students defines what skillsets students enter the business organization with as well as how leadership within business organizations will be defined in the future.

Under the present compartmentalization mindset that exists in higher education in many educational institutions, the approach to real world problem solving brings us back to the famous fable of six blind men trying to describe an elephant. This mindset does not bode well for businesses hoping to make innovation a systemic mindset and a natural way of doing business within their organizations. Real world problems in  the 21st century are more complex than in the past precisely because our world has become so connected. Effective collaboration across disciplines is an essential in this age.The tools of the industrial economy no longer fit the realities of a digital global economy.


 Coming back to the collaborative connection, in return the data collected from the experience of mentoring educators and in turn the educators' practical experience in modelling this mindset to learners in the online E-Learning portal, we are helped in two ways:
  • From the data, new directions in research can be explored and pursued in regards to cross disciplinary learning keeping in mind that the new paradigm for research means that it needs to be ongoing, agile and adaptive, and
  • From the data, we can discern areas of conflict and thus refine our pedagogical approaches.
The mentoring of new educators and those who are transitioning from the industrial model mindset to the cross disciplinary mindset needs to be an ongoing collaborative relationship.

Benefits to Business Organizations

One very important benefit is that such a process will make handling disruptive change and transitioning easier. Businesses can be exposed to the benefits of "reverse mentoring" in which new employees who are entering with valuable skillsets in tune with 21st century realities can mentor staff who are already established within the business organization and engage employees in an effective learning relationship that will further business interests.

Next... Final benefits of the Global Higher Learning and Teacher Mentoring Network

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network---Establishing the Challenge to Be Confronted As Agents of Change!

Universities and colleges have a history of preparing past generations to take their place in the industries and scientific disciplines on the planet. Ivy league universities had as an important mandate the task of producing the "captains of industry" who would carry on the tradition of leading the corporate world which was steeped in the industrial economy. Their main objective was to create wealth. This was especially important in the Americas with the rise of such men as JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller. How they created that wealth was the distinguishing tipping point. This picture was mirrored in other industrial economies of the time.



The term ,"captains of industry",  was coined by Thomas Carlyle in his 1843 book titled:"Past and Present". To that end, these universities sought to attract the top economic, scientific, and business minds to act as educators and mentors to these up and coming leaders. Due to the competition among universities and colleges to acquire the most talented minds, the concept of tenure was offered as a means of securing their loyalty to the institution.
The reason it is important to understand these traditions is so that we can recognize how deeply the industrial model mindset is in the life blood of universities. This is also a pointer to the reason of why there is such a high level of institutional inertia when it comes to changing the model of education that universities and colleges operate under.

De-Programming Education Faculties

From these halls of higher learning comes a demonstration of what may be termed the "trickle down effect" of this industrial mindset with an important difference. In order to fuel the drive of industry, workers were needed who would learn to conform and all follow the same pattern for effective production. To enable this to happen educators also needed to be harnessed to train the future workers.

The world has since changed. Since most major universities have faculties of education responsible for the training of teachers, if the university is still adhering to the industrial model mindset then it will be the same situation for the faculty tasked in training educators. 

De-programming these faculties is now essential if we are ever to have teachers who have a renewed purpose to be agents of change and creators of new knowledge and skillsets.

It means de-programming  minds and preparing them for a new mindset that is going to have an exciting impact on their careers as educators and on students as agents of change in their respective societies.
As we continue down this path, one should not underestimate the very positive impact these collaborative networks will have on the business culture.

Next ...the relationship between this network and the others.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network: Implications for Business Organizations:Part I

At first glance at the title of this post, you might think that as a business organization this topic isn't really of particular interest or relevance to your organization's situation. However, you would be wrong. Looking at the big picture has always been a goal and strength of enduring business organizations.

 Taking stock of all the forces that will impact the performance of your organization in the global connected economy is not only important but essential in a digital world where knowledge and information is the new currency. Some of the forces are within your domain to exercise control and influence over such as the quality of  your deliverables, products and services. However, the world has changed and forces that were not a high priority or even of relevance in the past to business health are now having an impact. One of these forces is higher education and the training of educators for a new world. To put this "big picture" into the context of what I have been describing in regards to changing organizational learning cultures, consider the "big picture" concept and framework that I am suggesting. The following is a summary:

  • Global online education covering the planet is established through the development and institution of 6 Global E-Learning Portals. This concept is similar to the way that international business aligns themselves into trading blocks on the planet, the most recent one being described as: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries concerning a variety of matters of economic policy, which was reached on 5 October 2015 after 7 years of negotiations. The difference is that these learning portals would be online networks.
  • Each Global E-Learning Portal consists of 4 collaborative networks that advise and take direction from a central hub called the Global E-Learning Hub.

  • The Global E-Learning Hub has three primary functions: (a) It is an established "learning community"  that all learners whether corporate or education belong to as a function of being members of the family of nations attached to the regional E-Learning portal. Learners are able to login to, collaborate with other learners and receive personalized, adaptive learning according to their personal needs and the individual learning profile compiled by the Learning Principle Experts of the business organizations or the comparable officials in the education sector, (b) it also has the responsibility to take direction and advice from the four networks that are part of the portal. This is especially important in its collaboration with the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network which serves the needs of learners, corporate or education sector, by establishing a mentor relationship with professionals in the Sciences, Arts, Technology and Mathematics discipline areas, and (c) it is a professional collaboration and innovation community.

  • The other networks and councils are: (a) The Business and Education Innovation Council which maintains close ties with corporations who are part of the family of nations involved in establishing a learning and innovation culture for their respective organizations and is a forum for employees to present proposals. The UAE under the wise guidance of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is moving his country in this direction, (b) Global

Corporate Trainers, Instructional Designers and Learning Principles Educator Network which collaborates with the Business and Education Innovation Council and also promotes and designs E-Learning ideas in collaboration with the Global E-Learning Hub, and (d) The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network.

Next.. Details on the Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network and why business needs to be concerned about an effective mandate for this network and recognize how crucial it is to their own future well being.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network: Part II- Functions

Business organizations need access to the latest research that impacts products and services as well as a mentor network that engages employees and empowers them to be innovative and collaborative real world problem solvers. This type of network recognizes that no one individual whether instructional designer or trainer have all the necessary skillsets in order for an organization to move forward. The previous role of the SME and his or her uneasy relationship with instructional designers and trainers needs to be reshaped because it is based on a paradigm from the industrial economy that no longer fits. In the past, your organization's collaboration efforts may have been similar to the pattern below.

In re-visioning the pattern of the learning portal, there are also collaborative relationships with a principle difference being that employees are engaged, empowered, inspired and feel that they are making meaningful contributions to the well being and future health of their organization. The ongoing learning of employees in an age of information and knowledge has to be a focal point of each organization's learning culture.

When we look at the re-configuration of the Global E-Learning Hub, you will notice that the directional arrows displayed in the diagram represent paths of feedback and responsibility.

You will note in the diagram that the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network reports and advises the Business and Education Innovation Council and provides big data to the Global E-Learning Hub. Keeping in mind that the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network also collaborates with the Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network, you can start to understand that in order to keep up with the advancement of knowledge in multiple disciplines that collaborations have to be cross disciplinary in nature. The following are some of the responsibilities and roles that Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network entails:

  1. Work with educators, corporate trainers, instructional designers and Learning Principles Experts in the design of irresistibly engaging learning experiences that would then be provided to the Global Learning Hub.
  2. Collaborate with educators, corporate trainers, instructional designers and Learning Principles Experts in the design of assessment tools and also take part in the assessment of the learner's (employees) efforts from the perspective of their discipline. This would involve them in providing ongoing feedback to the learner and especially to mentor-learner groups.
  3. Be willing to identify promising employees and higher education students who have the right aptitudes and skills in order to recommend appropriate mentor matches. This type of relationship will help develop employee skillsets needed for the growth of the business organization. 
At this point, the question that probably comes to mind is:

"Why is there such an emphasis on education with respect to the health of our business organization?"

To answer this question, it is important to remember a few points:

  1. Effective performance of employees of an organization is tied to how well they are able to unlearn, adapt, relearn, problem solve and innovate. Unlike in the past, in a global age of knowledge and learning, the relationship between business success and the ability of employees to use formal and informal learning can no longer be considered as separate issues.
  2. A term often used as a synonym for mentoring in business organizations is "coaching". For the record, when I speak of mentoring I mean in the fashion as what existed during the times of the craft guilds. The reason is that I believe that if we want to see "exceptional performance" of employees, superior products and services, we have to re-discover the crafts person's mindset for a standard of quality that a master crafts person expected and developed in his or her apprentice. The industrial era and the onset of mass production broke that exemplary work mindset. To accomplish this type of a breakaway from the status quo will require vision and leadership.

In looking at the networks represented and their relationships, "systems thinking" is the key to understanding the dynamics involved and what that might mean for the health and future of business organizations.

Next...The influence of global higher education and a teacher mentoring network on upcoming employee skillsets

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network-Part I

An important question that business leaders should ask themselves about a Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network is:

"Why should a business like us care about making connections or even having a role in establishing such a network? Isn't this more for the academics in research departments at institutions of higher learning?"

  In order to honestly answer those questions, you really have to ask yourself  a number of very pertinent questions with respect to your organization:

  1. Is being on top of advances in technology that could impact the performance level of our work force have strategic value for the company in a highly competitive global digital economy?
  2. In an information and knowledge society, does an ongoing process of mentoring employees in their learning advancement and nurturing the development of new skillsets that are germane to the changing nature of our part of the business sector of value to the healthy growth of our organization?
  3. Is collaborative real world problem solving on the part of employees and innovative thinking keys to increasing our organization's ROI?
  4. Do we desire to have a healthy balance of servicing our current markets and creating new ones?

Cross Disciplinary Learning--What is it?

 Cross disciplinary learning is an approach that suggests that when we need to find and solve real world problems, that no single set of skills will enable us to detect, analyze, and solve problems in the 21st century.
In the past with regards to the instructional designer and trainer for a business organization, these individuals were expected to not only design and deliver effective learning experiences for employees but also to keep up with new knowledge and skillsets that may need to be addressed that could improve performance and compliance with respect to employees.

"However, when the World Wide Web came along with the ability to share and create new knowledge in all the disciplines, the game changed dramatically for business!

 It is naive to believe, given the exponential growth in knowledge and technology, that the instructional designer and trainer are able keep up as they did before and still maintain the expected level of performance. The myth of multitasking especially in regards to this issue will lead to mediocrity for business performance against other organizations more in tune with the realities of growth in the global economy. 
Something else that fits the requirements is needed.

Business organizations have stated very clearly that what they want in the way of the primary quality in future employees is that they are problem finders and then problem solvers. They want employees who can act proactively rather than reactively in this regard. They want employees to be able to analyze a situation, detect potential problems and then arrive at preemptive solutions. As pointed out earlier, the instructional designer and trainer can not be expected to meet the new requirements of the roles they play. They need to empower employees to engage and have access to a network where these requirements can be met.

So, given the rationale for change, why are some companies so resistant to what needs to be done? Perhaps the actor, Jack Nicholson, said it best in the movie titled: "A Few Good Men":

Could this be in part the explanation?

Next....A description of the functions of the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network

Monday, November 30, 2015

Developing a Learning Portal--Part II--Functions of the Connecting Networks

The last post described how the Learning Portal was a gateway to one of 6 global hubs. The following diagram is an example of what a learner might see upon entering the Learning Portal. As I mentioned before, how immersive you want to make the experience is up to the organization. It is prudent to remember a couple points in this regard:
  1. Creation of effective immersive functional networks is not as difficult as it once was. We now have the necessary tools to design the immersive environment and they can be quite cost effective. The development of WebVR is just the beginning.
  2. If we have learned anything from the experience of Second Life VR  it is that learning experiences that appeal to as many of the senses as possible and are social in nature tend to result in better engagement and deeper, sustainable learning for the learners. We can not defeat the idea that Man is a social animal but we can harness its potential.
 A Modifiable Rendition of  a Learning Portal
 Naturally, the pathways could be modified to suit our interests but it does give you the concept in mind. The Learning Hub itself acts as the core of the central nervous system and could also be a stopping off point for those going and returning to the other networks.

Functions of Connecting Networks

 In looking at the functions of these connected global networks, there are two points worth repeating:

  1. Business organizations are very much like living organisms. Like living organisms, balance and symmetry in the functions of its parts is necessary in order for it to remain vibrant and healthy.
  2. In an age of information and learning, the sector of education and the sector of business have a necessary digital symbiotic relationship that under the the previous industrial economy was not there.
The Business and Innovation Council--The Path to Collaborative Open Innovation Networks
One of the confounding barriers to innovation becoming systemic within a business organization is being able to devote enough organizational resources to it so that it becomes a natural company mindset and actually develops into a core value for the organization which like other core values the organization is unwilling to compromise on. There is great inequity among business organizations due to the ability of an organization to marshal enough resources in relation to the organization's size. As a result many organizations fall into the trap of "herding" mentioned in the previous post where an organization becomes merely a purchaser of innovation but never a creator of it. This maintains the industrial economy mindset in a world where it does not fit. The question then becomes:

"Is there another potential solution that will restore some equity to organizations that are trying to re-shape their learning culture and establish innovative thinking as a core value?"

The functions of the Business and Innovation Council Network are principally :
  1. Provide a forum for businesses to encourage new and innovative ideas by employees to be brought forward where they can be discussed openly with an understanding that proprietary concerns need to be addressed.
  2. Explore and nurture the development of Collaborative Open Innovation Networks as an alternative to what is presently available.
What is a "Collaborative Open Innovation Network and what are its charactertistics"?

 Manos Giannadakis (2014) describes the characteristics of COIN's very effectively in the following Slideshare from Dec. 2014:

    Collaborative Innovation Networks from Manos Giannadakis

     Another important collaborative characteristic of this type of network is that it would be designed in such a way that it could collaborate with other councils in other global learning portals to share common problems and seek appropriate solutions that will keep innovation moving forward. It could also help coordinate business opportunities to help developing nations within a specific family of nations develop E-Learning access that is more in line with that of developing nations. The form that this could take could range from establishing appropriate infrastructure to the creation of targeted MOOCS to address educational needs specific to a particular region.

    Next---The importance of Cross-Disciplinary Research and Mentor Networks to business organizations

    Thursday, November 26, 2015

    Learning Culture Environments--Developing a Learning Portal-Part I

    In the quest to transform a business organization's learning culture, it is important to consider the resources necessary to support such a challenge. To guide us in this quest, it is essential to be very much aware of how learners in this connected age use technology as a means to pursue individualized learning. The recent movement towards developing mobile learning where a learner can use any device anywhere there is high speed Internet access, 24/7 is becoming an important factor not only in formal learning but also in informal learning. In some major cities such as New York, plans are in place to develop Wanfi in which no matter where you are in the city, you have access to the web. The concept of "wifi hotspots" will soon become a curious artifact of this age.


    The Formal and Informal Learning Environments

    Ideally, a learning culture should include a formal and informal learning component in order to be complete. In the formal learning environment, the use of a blended E-Learning approach would produce the best results. In such an approach the following characteristics would be evident:

    • The Learning Principles Expert in collaboration with the Instructional Designer would focus on designing irresistibly engaging learning experiences in which the learners play active interactive roles.
    • The use of problem based scenarios and simulations in an online environment would be used where collaboration among learners in the assigned tasks is a key skillset that would be developed and assessed.
    • The role of the trainer would be as the "guide or mentor on the side" rather than the "sage on the stage". The trainer could take on an interactive role within the scenario or simulation where he or she helps guide by interacting with learners by asking them important questions during different points in the simulation or scenario. The purpose of the questions is to help the collaborative group clarify their decision making.
    • Immediate and credible feedback is received by the learners. It is the experiential element of this approach that leads to a deeper, sustainable level of understanding.
    An important upgrading in IT resources is needed in order to transform the learning culture into a learning culture that is able to support both formal and informal learning. There are many companies that attempt to do effective blended and virtual E-Learning with network structures that are out of date.

    The Learning Portal 
     One of the purposes of the learning portal is to promote collaboration and innovation by connecting with designed network structures beyond the walls of the organization. In order to do this globally, we can break learning portals into collections of networks or hubs that service a given area of the globe. The diagram below is an example of a collection of collaborative networks that serve as a template to conceptualize what a learning portal might look like. The arrows represent the pathways for collaboration among networks. Each of the networks have a specific function important to the development of the learning culture for an organization. The reason for the development of such hubs is to overcome the problem of asynchronous access for the purpose of collaboration. So what this means is that a group of employees could login to the learning hub which would then connect them to the network that they wish to collaborate in.This particular learning hub would represent one of six defined areas of the globe.


     These structures I have described before but with the advancement of technology since that time, we now have the capability to develop them. Within each of the network structures, interaction can take place in an immersive environment or a variation of it. An example of a regional learning hub is shown below:

    A description of the function of each of these networks in relation to the learning culture for an organization will be in my next post.

    [If you consider the above posting worth sharing for the purpose of thoughtful discussion, please feel free to share it on Twitter, Facebook...etc.]

    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    Transforming a Traditional Learning Culture---Creating Learning Portals

    Two important questions to consider in the transformation of the business learning culture are:

    1. Who will the Learning Principles Expert answer to in regards to their responsibilities?
    2. What company resources will be necessary in supporting the transformation?
    In dealing with the first question we have to ask ourselves a question of clarification which is:

    "What should the profile of the person who oversees the needed transformation look like?"

     As I mentioned in a previous post, the number of books, articles and other forms of communication dealing with leadership skills are almost as numerous as grains of sand at a beach. The question to consider is what qualities need to come into the spotlight when you are talking about changing a learning culture. How does this scenario impact what we should see in a profile of someone who oversees the Learning Principles Expert?  In general, the leadership competencies we should see when we are considering our goal of learning culture transformation might include the following:

    • tech literate
    • collaborative
    • visionary
    • confident and courageous
    • resilient
    • outward facing
    • systems thinker
    • energetic
    Given the above, one quality that should be added is whether or not the individual has a high degree of "learning agility".

    Why is this an important for leaders?

    What would this look like in observable terms?

    We have to keep in mind that such an individual acts more like a "human bridge"  between the Learning Principles Expert and his or her collaborative team and upper management to whom he or she has to be able to translate and defend the efforts being made, act as a mediator, and at times be a staunch advocate on behalf of the collaborative group tasked with modifying the learning culture.
    What kind of resources would be needed to support the transformation of the learning culture? This is where it gets really interesting and cost efficient for business organizations because it takes advantage of the online world and blended learning potential in ways that promote "open innovation".
     More about this in the next post ..
    [Remember to feel free in sharing these posts on social media if you deem them good for promoting discussion]

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015

    Transforming a Traditional Learning Culture into a Hybrid Adaptive Form--The Learning Principles Expert

    Perhaps a good analogy of what we hope to accomplish would be the biological process of a metamorphosis that occurs in the life cycle of a monarch butterfly.

    Some of the similarities that we can note are:

    • Like the Monarch butterfly, business is a living organism that proceeds through stages of change in its life-cycle
    • At the larva stage, changes in a business may just involve tweaks or enhancements that are not readily noteworthy while the vision, mission and service remain largely unchanged. Outside appearance, much like varieties of larvae, seem similar with the idea of "branding" being the distinguishing mark.
    • Movement to the next stage of change, as in the case of the monarch butterfly, always involves struggle against institutional inertia.
    • Movement to the next stage is also impacted by outside forces which may cause an organization to reach a plateau or to even cease operation and disappear as would be the case of a predator impacting the Monarch butterfly at one of its vulnerable stages.
    • When the monarch butterfly fulfills its final transformation, its opportunities to escape its former constraints and reach out to the greater world increases. What awaits business organizations that transform their learning cultures to their ultimate conclusion is a greater, more adaptive and more in sync connection with the expanding opportunities in a digitally connected collaborative world.
    A Stage in the Transformation of a Business Learning Culture: The Learning Principles Expert
    The obvious questions to ask in regards to this position are:
    "What will the responsibilities be of someone in such a role?"
    "Who will such a person report to?"
    "What kind of organization resources would be needed to support such a role?" 

    Some proposed responsibilities for such a person might be:

    1. Creating and Tracking Learning Profiles for Employees: If we accept the idea that in an information and learning age, we need to have employees always learning in order to support informed organizational goals then it makes sense that we use every opportunity to encourage and empower the learning activities of our employees. Both formal and informal learning are important and should be harnessed to the benefit of organizational goals. This would also help the organization obtain clear data on the intellectual and creative talent that exists within their staff. This is especially important in giving direction towards the goal of encouraging innovative thinking as a natural mindset in the work place.
    2. Collaborate with the Instructional Designer: A person in this role should be an expert on current adult learning principles as well as someone who is knowledgeable of the many ways on how adults use technology, such as social media, in their learning. This person should be an experienced educator with a sound understanding of effective pedagogical principles and also new and innovative pedagogical principles. The reason for this prerequisite is that in order to create an effective learning culture, you need a person who has the skillsets to create irresistibly engaging learning experiences in collaboration with the instructional designer.
    3. Design Learning Networks Connecting the Greater Global Business Network: One of the new and evolving initiatives that will prove very important to the survival of business organizations is called "open innovation". In order to make innovation more cost effective and overcome the "herding" mistake mentioned in the previous post this is a path that should be explored. An example of this type of thinking is the "open source software movement" that has resulted in very powerful and useful software applications without the huge capital required in the development and testing that is often seen in large software companies. The same type of thinking could be used as one path to innovation. You could maintain it as proprietary within a large organization or create temporary partnerships with other organizations within your particular business sector.
    4. Design Forums for Employee Innovative Idea Presentation and Testing: If we truly want to see employees engaged in collaborating on real world problems germane to organization interests then forums need to be designed where employees and their collaborative groups can present such ideas to a diversified but expert forum for exploration. Employees need to know that they are making meaningful contributions in helping the organization succeed. They need to feel that they are stakeholders in their future and that of the organization.
    One of the vehicles for accomplishing the above is to put into place effective blended learning practices. A Learning Principles Expert could lead the way in such an endeavour.
    The purpose of the above suggestions is to provoke some introspection and discussion. It is not all inclusive but it is a step to cause thoughtful engagement in the cause of transforming the learning culture so that an organization can adapt to the changing world outside its walls.
     Next... a consideration of the next two questions mentioned above

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Re-Writing the DNA of a Learning Culture--Part III

    In the last post, it was suggested that even though the design of an effective learning culture within a business organization has been demonstrated by example to be good for the long term prospects of an organization in an age of learning and innovation, there are still barriers to following through on what needs to be done that originate with the nature of today's business culture. A point that I made is that an effective learning culture is a driver for systemic innovation within an organization.


     In a very good post by Moe Glenner posted in LinkedIn titled: "Can Big Tech Regain Its Innovation Mojo", Moe suggests that there has been a shift in thinking towards not doing innovation within the company but instead, purchasing innovation. This approach to innovation in the long term is counter productive and represents one of the strategic challenges for a business looking to compete effectively in a globally networked economy. Henry Doss, an expert on innovation and its relationship to leadership, in an article for Forbes(Jan. 2015) titled: "Why Big Business Fails At Innovation" labelled this approach as "Herding" and describes it in the following as:

    "When businesses outsource innovation and limit themselves to the purchase of innovative output from suppliers, they inevitably position themselves in the "me too" category. If there is a truly innovative product, strategy, market positioning or management paradigm out there to be bought and sold, then of course everyone is in the market for it. And inevitably, this competition to buy the newest innovation leads to purchase herding behaviour, with everyone leaping into the market place to "buy innovation".

    This consumerism mindset which is part of the industrial age of thinking about things takes us away from being creators of new knowledge and skillsets and back into the past with all of its assumptions which are really out of place in the digital economy.

    Credit: Robin Teigland

    If we maintain this type of mindset then creating an effective learning culture is irrelevant because the business culture maintains the approach of "doing things the way that we have always done things".
    With respect to L&D , there is a tug of war going on between the traditionalist perspective for business culture vs the new and evolving perspective that sees the need for developing an effective learning culture. In another very effective LinkedIn post by learning strategist, Deirdre Jensen titled: "The L&D  World is Splitting in Two", she details the nature of this struggle. I fall into the new camp and will suggest a new role that business organizations should consider in their attempts to transform their culture to one in tune with 21st century realities.

    Re-Writing the DNA of the Corporate Learning Culture: The Learning Principles Expert

    What I am going to suggest is changes to the learning culture in an incremental but discerning manner, starting with the creation of a new role tiled the Learning Principles Expert. This is predicated on the understanding that the roles of those who are intimately involved with the learning culture need reformation.

    Rationale: We live in an age of learning where knowledge is growing at an exponential rate across many disciplines, many of which have direct impact on the business interests of organizations on a global scale. In this age, the creation of global networks that will enable business to collaborate across international borders are becoming an essential as we see the establishment of trading blocs such as the Trans Pacific Trading Partnership which is a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries concerning a variety of matters of economic policy, about which agreement was reached on 5 October 2015 after 7 years of negotiations. The pattern for these networks is already in play. The ability of employees within an organization to be effective real world problem solvers and online collaborators is becoming a 21st century essential. The use of  effective "blended online learning" by employees needs to become more and more an essential in the recruitment of talented staff.

    Organizational Fit: A great idea, not my own, that has been suggested by others is the establishment of a "Guru" line within the organizational structure with its own separate line for advancement and funding. One of the problems of merely placing it within L&D is the inevitable budget struggle. For the Learning Principles Expert, this is the approach that I would suggest.

    What are the responsibilities of a Learning Principles Expert? This will be the focus of my next post...

    [If you feel that the ideas presented in this post should be broadcast further a field to promote open discussion and hopefully, inspire great ideas, then please use social media to pass this on or put a link to this blog for reference by others within your organization!]

    Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    Re-Writing the DNA of a Learning Culture--Part II

    In the previous post I suggested that we could learn much about an effective learning culture by looking at large corporations that are doing it such as Apple and Google. The objection that is offered about basing a business case for effective learning cultures on the example of Apple and Google might go something like this:

    "Wait a minute! It is unreasonable to use Google and Apple as examples since they represent the exceptions and not the state of the majority. Basing a major business decision on such a small sample does not make sound business sense, despite how good their ROI has been over the years. Besides what about our organization which is a medium size business? We are not at the top of the Fortune 500 index! "

     Perhaps, a sampling of the opinions of other leaders would help clarify the case even further.

    Tom Glocer, former CEO of Thomson Reuters makes the business case for implementing an effective learning culture when he states:

    "The best employees are the curious employees and those that want life-long learning. They want to know how things work. Stimulate that curiosity and desire for learning within your employees and you will open doors for innovation.."

    Again returning to the business case of Google Inc., Glocer states:

    "..The dedication the company shows to investing in the individual is often valued higher than compensation..."

    David Westin, former President of ABC News states:
    "In a world of constant change, you need to have people learning what is new and what is available, just to achieve mission..."

    With regards to the state of a learning culture, Lori Figueiredo, an innovator and entrepreneur puts it succinctly when she states:
    "At the end of the day, learning is not about bums on seats. It's part of a process to achieve a wider purpose."

    Bottom Line---You don't argue with success; you learn from it and you adapt to excel and survive.


    Re-Writing the DNA of a Learning Culture--Facing the Barriers

    The choice of the term "DNA" in the title is deliberate and I believe, appropriate. When you consider that a business is in fact a living organism, then like any other organism there are a fundamental core set of instructions from which everything else in the business organization flows. This DNA code is what makes up what we would term the corporate"culture". This also means that the learning culture of a business organization is defined and controlled by the coding of the business culture itself. Any change that needs to happen with regards to innovation and the learning culture has to be approached first at this level. However, also coded into the DNA of a corporate culture are mindsets that were appropriate in their time but have now gone beyond their "best before dates" and are now impediments to any form of effective learning culture taking root and also the possibility of innovative thinking becoming a systemic, natural mindset for the growth of a 21st century organization.

    Mark Cuban, shark tank star and owner of the Dallas Mavericks points to a problem with some big companies which is that they have lost their ability to be "audacious companies". The mindset required to be an audacious company is described as being bold, courageous and even heroic on one hand but on the other hand are defiant, presumptuous, irreverent, cocky and sometimes disrespectful.

    What is being suggested here is a counter-cultural mindset and perspective. Too many companies suffer from what may be termed as "short -termism" which suggests that big companies are not adept at monetising ideas because they're so focused on delivering short-term performance to meet shareholder demands. Effective learning is not just for the employees and officers of an organization. There is a responsibility to educate the stakeholders. It is a reason that systemic innovation rarely takes hold and a reason why the learning culture is not properly supported and refined within an organization. This is why a re-write of the DNA of a learning culture within an organization is necessary. This is only one of a number of barriers.

    Next.... Part III--Other barriers and the role of the Learning principles Expert(Guru?)