Social Learning in the Workplace


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Presentation at the Liquid Learning Forum in Sydney, Australia, October 2010.

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  • Introduce myself
    Good afternoon and welcome. My name is Heather Dickinson and I’m here to present how I’ve experienced social learning work in the workplace through my former experience at Suncorp as a Senior Instructional Designer. What I’m about to present is an accumulation of an evolution I’ve seen in L&D over the past 10 years. I’m passionate about learning holistically – not just in a formal learning environment but how adults really learn in the workplace. My experience at Suncorp – and in particular, with the IT department, has bridged a gap that was in my mind about how we can truly influence learning in the workplace.

    Key Messages:

    Changing world
    Work differently – but how?
    Suncorp Agile experience
    What does this mean for L&D?

    What is Social Learning? Social learning is about getting things done in networks. It emphasizes interactions among humans as a major source of information about ourselves and/or the physical world (Hergenhahn, 1982). From a learning perspective, it derives itself from cognitive/constructivism theories – that knowledge is not transmitted but created by learners themselves. Group discussion, interaction, hands-on, reflective practices, problem and enquiry based learning.

    The challenge for the workplace I believe is depicted in this Dilbert cartoon. Quote from Harold Jarche – member of the Internet Time Alliance group. “A cultural change is required in the way we organize our work because of two related factors: Networks & Complexity.”
    To paraphrase Jon Husband – “there are emerging patterns and dynamics related to interconnected people and interlinked information flows, which are bypassing established traditional structures and services.”

    Explain the journey and what I’m about to present

    for us?
  • Source of the 80/20 ratio of formal to informal.
    Late Peter Henschel, then executive director of the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL). Anthropological approach to research. Other studies – 70 other 80 some say 90% Variance comes from “what is informal learning”? – many definitions. Ratio varies depending on context. Learning to ride a bike involves a lot more informal learning that how to fly a plane. (p.91, The Working Smarter Fieldbook)

    Jay Cross – the promotion of informal learning is not to replace formal training but to open up the possibilities of supporting the other 80% of learning that has been ignored for far too long

    The terms formal and informal learning have nothing to do with the formality of the learning, but rather with the direction of who controls the learning objectives and goals. In a formal learning environment the training or learning department sets the goals and objectives (Push), while informal learning means the learner sets the goals and objective (pull) (Cofer, 2000).
  • Interesting Dilbert comic strip – posted September 2010

    Show of hands – for your organisation, can you do any of the following:
    Access Facebook at work?
    Access Linked In at work?
    Access a micro blogging site at work (Twitter or internally – Yammer?)
    Is social media encouraged or discouraged?
  • Show of hands again – at home, do you or your family do any of the following:
    Access Facebook
    Access LinkedIn
    Access blogging sites – e.g. Twitter
    Use Skype?

    Why the difference? At the end of the day they are only tools that enable discussion and collaboration. A means to an end.

  • Is there becoming a great divide?

    What does this mean for learning?.....very exciting for us if we choose to embrace the change
  • Malcolm Knowles – originator of “informal learning” 1970 – Informal Adult Education: A Guide for Administartors, Leaders, and Teachers.
    Jay Cross – 2007 – “informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That inspire Innovation and Performance (2007)
    Honey & Mumford
    Learning Organisations
    Keep in mind – what role does L&D play in the 21st century organisation?
  • Consider Peter Senge work on Learning Organisations
    It encourages organizations to shift to a more interconnected way of thinking. Organizations should become more like communities that employees can feel a commitment to.[1] They will work harder for an organization they are committed to.[citation needed] The environment should allow for a community of[clarification needed]
  • Link Agile to Social Learning

    For social learning to be successful, there needs to be a radical change in the way we work – like the journey at Suncorp.
    We operate in a “workscape” that is similar to an ecosystem
    We do not function alone. How many of you have tried to implement pre and post learning into your courses? What success have you had with people actually doing the pre and post course work without the use of a “push” “big stick” strategy but a “pull” strategy?
    You can’t do it alone. If we are to operate in the 21st Century we need to take our “school based” “teacher” hat off and look at learning as part of what happens in the workplace. It doesn’t occur in isolation. People don’t’ just go to one of our “blended learning events” and miraculously change. We can’t go and teach how to do “Performance Management” if at the end of the day, people are really being rewarded based on working long hours and getting results through aggressive behaviour.
    This applies to learning in the 21st Century. Blended learning and/or integrated learning can only be successful if the organisation’s business model is based in today’s world.
  • From Harold Jarche – Networks and Interactivity (Internet Time Alliance) - “There is little doubt that industrial management and all that it has created (chain of command, human resources, line & staff, production, etc.) are the wrong models for the emerging, networked workplace. This is a workplace with increasing numbers of free-agents and permanent employees who don’t have a job for life, especially as the average lifespan of corporations decreases while those of workers increases. Many workers, including white collar ones, can’t afford to retire. Existing management models and support functions were developed to keep things stable and ensure that people conformed to corporate culture. There is much less time to do that as workplace culture evolves with society, markets and technology.
  • Discuss slide

    Let me paint the following scenario....
    Company A....
    Imagine a large organisation, around 15,000 people, Based across geographies – Australia and New Zealand
    Add to it 27 competing brands across finance, insurance and wealth management
    Most people don’t naturally share – they compete
    They operate in silos – my scope is my team, project etc nothing else matters
    They don’t ask or discuss problems – they work it out themselves, they are paid to know
    They come up with solutions which while great – they find out that someone else, somewhere else in the organisation or industry had already figured it out long before them and perhaps did it better
    Hands up if this sounds like any of the organisations you’ve worked for in the past?
    Now imagine Company B....
    Still 15,000 people , Still based across multiple geographies, Still multi-branded
    But they actively connect with others to build their networks
    They think about the bigger picture – the organisational goals, not just by brand or individual
    They share what they’re working on, They ask questions and seek feedback, They leverage and reuse what they already know
    They work together on problems and find better solutions as a result
    Both organisations have similar challenges. The difference between these organisations is that the people in the second organisation actively collaborate and this makes for better outcomes.

    Introduce the Suncorp Agile Journey.

  • Who has heard of Agile before – as a project management tool? Agile is a philosophy – a way of thinking. It has been developed for software development but has principles, values and practices that branch out far greater than simply creating a piece of software.

    Discuss the Agile timeline – key milestones.

    What is Agile?
    Agile is not a specific process that a development team can follow. Agile is a philosophy or new way of thinking about software development and the managerial practices of software development. To be truly "Agile", developers, management and customers need to understand and actively participate in putting Agile values and principles into practice.

    From Suncorp’s research it is still unique in the world for offering an integrated course list that covers Agile projects from end to end. It won the Australia Computer Society Award in 2009 for their Service Delivery and Training Award which recognised the excellence and innovation of our unique curriculum of integrating leading edge Agile tools and courses across the entire software development and management landscape - the only one in the world!
    They are currently 13 courses and another 2-3 in the pipeline.
    Our training partner, Software Education trains using our Agile Curriculum in most capitial cities of Australia and New Zealand and we are investigating expanding to Western Australia given the demand requested at the recent Agile Australia conference.

    At Suncorp in the now Suncorp Business Services department, and across the business in IT and non IT projects – Agile is the methodology used to manage projects.

  • Agile is nothing more than a label for a set of values, principles and practices that have been shown to improve the efficiency, productivity, and quality of traditionally - software delivery.

    The key objective of agile is business value generation and risk mitigation in all projects not just software development.  Business have taken it up for all manner of projects now as they see the costs savings and giving customers what they want!

  • Trust: Creating trust with respect, fairness and caring. Creating a ‘safe to fail’ environment, and empowering teams to show initiative and make decisions (compare to theories on learning organisation)
    Innovative Accountability: To show initiative and creativeness in delivering business value, Being accountable, Holding others accountable
    Courage: Having the courage to give timely and honest feedback To share and collaborate with all parties. Be transparent with no hidden agendas
    It’s all about culture: Introducing Agile is part of a major change piece to change the culture.  If the culture is not right, Agile will fail!
  • Business Value: Focus on business benefits as opposed to only cost and budgets. Focus on quality of software through rigorous testing.
    Collaboration: Achieving shared understanding between ALL parties through conversation, continuous feedback and transparency of information
    Flexibility: Adaptive to business demands and new business requirements
    Team work: Teams fully accountable and empowered to make operational decisions and escalate for tactical and strategic decision making.
    Simplicity : Using simple techniques and practices with lightweight documentation. Challenging sacred cows and eliminating waste at all levels
    Speed: Time boxed, rapid iterative delivery of working software

  • Practices

    Stand up: Short/sharp, What did I do yesterday, what do I plan to do today and what are my blockers?
    Retrospective: tune team performance – what worked well? What didn’t work so well, what still puzzles me?
    Showcase: time to share: Core team and stakeholders – build for feedback, course correction & reprioritisation

    Teams select techniques to best achieve their business objectives.
    Best practices and knowledge sharing flourish.
    None are mandatory
    Each project team picks the ones that suite them

    Link to adult theories
  • Why collaborate?
    When we talk about collaboration what do we mean?
    Collaboration is less about tools and more about people.
    At Suncorp, we’ve defined collaboration as a mindset and way of working that relies on the diverse wisdom of the crowd to learn, share knowledge and build relationships.
    And what does this look like....?
    For Suncorp, they believe if we get this right, ie it’s just naturally the way we do things at work, then they’ll be a better organisation for our people, customers, shareholders and the community.
    For the IT department, it's about being a better asset for the organisation.
  • 25
  • Clark Quinn – p86. The Working Smarter Fieldbook

    Our role is cultivation. Acknowledge the informal learning and play the role of the caretaker, or a metaphor for encouraging communities – cultivation.

  • Seed: You need to put in place the network tools individuals can register and then create the types of connections they need
    Discussions, forums, blogs, wikis & IM – be able to tag and search. Create the environment and make people aware that it exists.

    Get involved in pushing the boundaries, challenging control, opening the organisation from silos to open source.
  • Feed: Nurture the network.
    Know what goals are and their roles
    Use the community to express what needs doing (not what to do)
    Encourage people onboard
    Leaders support and model behaviour
    Elicit questions and answers
  • Weed
    You may have to help people learn how to participate
    You may well find some inappropriate behaviour, and help those learn what’s acceptable
    Develop and modify policies and procedures
    May have to address cultural issues that stunt participation – e.g. lack of tolerance for diversity, openness to new ideas, safety and other factors to facilitate a learning organisation.
  • Social Learning in the Workplace

    1. 1. Social Learning in the Workplace The Collaboration Journey at Suncorp Heather Dickinson Think Design Execute Pty Ltd
    2. 2. 80/20 Ratio of formal & informal learning 80/20 Ratio Formal Learning Informal Learning Source: Peter Henschel: Institute of Research on Learning (IRL)
    3. 3.  What is social learning in the workplace?  If you were to integrate social learning into your workplace, what factors would need to be present (or eliminated!) for it to work effectively?  What is L&D’s role when it comes to implementing social learning? At table….
    4. 4. Dilbert Source: 13 September 2010 -
    5. 5. Changing World
    6. 6. Work Home
    7. 7. Aligns Adult Learning Theories
    8. 8. Solving problems systematically Experimenting with new approaches to work Learning from past experience Learning from others Transferring knowledge throughout the organisation Consider principles of Learning Organisations Source: Garvin, D “Building a Learning Organisation,” Harvard Business Review, July-August 1993
    9. 9. Incorporating Social Learning Image Credit:
    10. 10. Emerging Transition to Social Business Model 20th Century 21st Century
    11. 11. The Emerging Transition To Social Business Models • Non-Social Interaction • Value in Transactions • Business Stability • Well-Defined Industries • One-Way Markets • Limited Information • Resource Abundance 20th Century • Pervasive Social Interaction • Value in Relationships • Business Flux • Industry Transformation • Two-Way Markets • Information Abundance • Resource Constraints 21st Century Institutions Forces • Ambient Communications • Global Information Flows • Social Computing • Market Discontinuity Communities control Global Marketplace Image Credit: Dion Hinchcliffe, 2010
    12. 12. • Financial services group • Top 20 Australian company • Australia’s largest general insurance companies • 5th largest bank • Over 15,000 employees across Australia and New Zealand • Group total assets in excess of A$95bn • Over 9 million customers • 27 leading financial service brands with end to end ownership of brands and distribution channels. 12 Suncorp Group overview
    13. 13. The drive to go Agile? Needed to be able to:  Support teams as they learn to “do more with less”  Improve the speed of delivery and the quality of deliverables  Deliver solutions our customers want  Value added partners at the table
    14. 14. Traditional Project Management
    15. 15. Agile Project Management
    16. 16.  Clarify the problem (focusing question)  Make it visible (BVC)  Identify key value sliders  Workshop the ideas with all key stakeholders  Timebox  Keep it high level and simple  Achieve shared understanding of outcomes  All stakeholders involved and active contributors from the start and all through Key practices
    17. 17.  Power of Conversation  A promise for a conversation  Card, conservation, confirmation  Written in the format: As an (customer, user) I need (what they need) So that (why they need it – what do/enable) Stories
    18. 18. Introduction of Agile Jeff Smith Group Executive Business Technology 2007 Internal Agile Academy developed 2008 Dec 2009 trained over 3000 employees March 2009, external Agile Academy launched 5 courses Agile Academy’s foundation training partner Software Education delivers first external courses Sept 2009, Agile Academy won Aus Computer Society (ACS) Award 2010, Agile Academy releases 8 new courses
    19. 19. Building Blocks of Agile Practices Principles Values Approach
    20. 20. Values Trust Innovative Accountability Courage Honesty It’s all about culture
    21. 21. Principles • Business Value • Collaboration • Flexibility • Team work • Simplicity • Speed
    22. 22. Practices Stand-Ups Retrospectives Showcases Pair Programming Adaptive Planning Sustainable Pace Automated Testing Test Driven Development Continuous Integration etc SlideShare_Craig Smith
    23. 23. A mindset and way of working that relies on the diverse wisdom of the crowd to learn, share knowledge and build relationships. 23 Collaboration
    24. 24. Example of Yammer
    25. 25.  Agile Academy has 510+ followers, Meet Up 259, Linked In 265  Channel BT named best use of VC facilities  1,000 members on Yammer in first month  Roll out MOC for all IT employees  1,000 ideas in innovation tribe, connecting business  Living Agile Tribe gains approval for Yammer Gold  Channel BT rated #1 channel across Suncorp  IT channels reused across business  Yammer thread leads to ATM iPhone app technology  BT renames division through Yammer crowdsourcing  Thought leaders invited to senior Leadership Conference 25 Value from Social Media
    26. 26. Role of L&D?
    27. 27. Seed
    28. 28. Feed
    29. 29. Weed
    30. 30. Closing  Role of Learning and Development in the 21st Century?  How will our value be measured?  What will we be doing?  Grey line between L&D and Organisational Capability  How can we influence organisational culture to truly embed learning into the organisation?
    31. 31.  Daniel Pink:  Internet Time Alliance: www.  Jane Hart:  Jay Cross:  The Working Smarter Fieldbook, June 2010  Agile Academy:  Harold Jarche:  Dion Hinchcliffe:  Craig Smith (Suncorp Delivery Coach): when-a-team-comes-together  Seth Godin:  The impact of e-learning champions on embedding e-learning in organisations, industry or communities learning_Champions_Final_Report.pdf Useful Links