Monday, November 28, 2016

‘Google It: The Secret Online Lives of UK Managers’ Sketchnote

Rachel Burnham writes: Last week I was fortunate to be one of a number of L&Ders to be at the launch, on board HMS Belfast, of a new research report from GoodPractice.  The new report ‘Google It: The Secret Online Lives of UK Managers’ explores the way that managers are addressing their learning needs.  This new report builds on a report from 2015, also from GoodPractice, called the ‘Secret Learning Life of UK Managers’.  The research carried out with ComRes digs into a number of ways that managers say they are using to respond to workplace challenges and in particular the way they are using online searches for this.

The launch involved a presentation of key points from the research by Owen Ferguson, one of the authors.  The report can be found here and a storify of the tweets from the launch which was put together by Martin Couzins will give you an outline of the key points.  Here is my Sketchnote of the event:

Donald Taylor was in the chair for the launch and he began the event by reminding us that this report was important, firstly because it was based on research.  He made the point that we have comparatively little research to base our L&D work on and so it is great when new work is done.  When many of the old models used within L&D are being questioned, we need new evidence based ideas to replace them with.  

Secondly, this report is important because it is about managers and they play a crucial part in the effectiveness of the L&D work with other employees.  I would also add that anything that helps us to understand how to better enable effective management is important, because effective line management is so vital for improving productivity – this is something I have written about in a previous blog 'Productivity, fairy dust and developing effective managers'

The third point I would make is that this research raises a number of interesting questions for those of us in L&D, such as:

·       How do we encourage managers and others using online searches to do this effectively and critically evaluate what they find?  How does this fit with broader ideas of curation and Personal Knowledge Mastery?

·       Are external social networks relevant for all occupational groups?  Where they are relevant, where are these networks to be found?  How do we help employees find relevant networks?

·       Have we been too quick to see internal social networks as established ways of working – when actually they are still struggling to get going in many organisations?  What approaches can be used to nurture the effective use of internal social networks?

This research has certainly got me thinking and has got me questioning a few aspects of my own practice.   Have a read for yourself and see what questions it raises for you.   I’d love to hear what you think?

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Technology: Twas ever thus...?

Rachel Burnham writes: When I was 10 and in the final year at my junior school, we followed a series of television programmes about communication through the ages – I remember enjoying the mix of history and science.  There were two episodes that stood out for me.  The first concerned the puzzle to understand and translate Egyptian hieroglyphs and how the finding of the Rosetta Stone, which contained the same text in three languages: hieroglyphs; demotic script; and Ancient Greek, allowed the former to be translated.  The second was the very final episode which concerned communication in the future - my abiding memory from this, is of people talking to each other at a distance and being able to see other through a device like a television screen.  This seemed like an impossible dream then!  And for years afterwards it seemed to me as though this would always be a fantasy, akin to Star Trek’s voyages.

And as I continued on in education, nothing much seemed to change.  There were no signs of computers at all throughout the whole of the rest of my schooling.  After school I took a year out and worked for the Open University here in Manchester – there I did get to see and even use a computer – of course the OU were and are pioneers in the use of technology – I remember the row of terminals which we used to access student records down the line from the main frame at the OU headquarters.  At university, I was lucky to be able to type all my assignments, unlike most of my peers who had to hand write theirs – on a portable manual typewriter!   We did get to do some computing in one course, where we learnt to write a program to order numbers (if I remember rightly?).    So, nothing much seemed to be changing for a very long time and the idea of talking to someone, whilst seeing them, still seemed an impossible dream.

Working in a series of voluntary organisations in the first part of my career, computers were around, but few and far between.  Then suddenly we all had one, and they were networked, and overnight everything changed.  The future happened all in a rush!  Now what once seemed an impossible dream is a daily commonplace and computers pervade every aspect of our lives, not just work.  And this technology is changing and developing constantly.

At this week’s CIPD Annual Conference I attended a number of sessions which explicitly focused on work and the future – the theme of the conference.   My Sketchnotes from the conference can be found in a previous postIn one of these sessions Dr Almuth McDowell and Dr Richard Mackinnon discussed with David D’Sousa ‘Digital Work’.  They began by focusing on now, rather than the future, partly because we are so bad at predicting the future, but also because now is just so interesting – there is so much happening right now, that we need to get our heads around.   Though Richard Mackinnon reminded us that all through the 60’s and 70’s people commented on the huge pace of change and the way that technology was central to this, so this isn’t new.   So, perhaps this has always been the case down the ages as each ‘new technology’ has been introduced – for that generation, for that age, the change was huge.  May be these changes feel huge to us, because they are our changes – the changes and the challenges for our generations.

This panel talked about the way that technology was replacing some jobs and at the same time leading to the creation of new jobs.  Whilst other jobs are transforming from one thing to something very different eg fighter pilot to drone pilot.  These sorts of changes have many implications in terms of the cognitive requirements of jobs, the implications for managing the ethics of this and how to help people to learn & develop into these changing roles.  The panel identified a series of skills that will continue to be vital for the future amidst all this change such as adaptability, resilience, problem-solving, emotional intelligence and not information, but where & how to find it.

In a similar vein, Daniel Susskind spoke about technology and the future of the professions.  This was based upon the research that he and his father have carried out and written up in their book ‘The Future of the Professions’.  Based on his session, I would highly recommend reading this book. 

He explored with us why we have professions and why they are challenged by the way that technology is developing.  He identified that the professions are facing four key challenges: cost; antiquated ways of working; opaque ways of working and simply underperforming.  It is clear that there are massive changes afoot for a great many professions and that these changes are already here and happening now.

Linking back to the previous session, if we had been called on to predict which jobs would be affected by technology, we would most likely have focused on low skills jobs being replaced by automation.  However, Susskind, explored the ways which technology is affecting professional work, so that high skilled roles are being replaced by lower skilled roles supported by technology.  For example, rather than a specialist doctor needing to diagnose a condition, a nurse (so still a skilled role, but not so specialist a role) could undertake this, when supported with technology to aid diagnosis - with the possible additional advantage to the patient, that the nurse has the people and empathetic skills lacking in many doctors.

Susskind explained that one of the reasons we have found it so hard to predict how technology can develop, is that we have often assumed that machines will need to tackle tasks in the way that humans do.  When actually they don’t.  Once this mental hurdle had been crossed, there have been found many ways of using technology to tackle tasks that could previously only be done by skilled people. 

Actually, it occurs to me, that actually not only do machines not need to do things in the way we have done them, neither do we.

Which brings me, to the final keynote of the conference, which was delivered by Gianpiero Petriglieri, from INSEAD on leadership.  He was exploring why leadership is about more than just competences, particularly in what he called this ‘age of nomadic professionalism’.  He discussed that way that effective leaders make us feel and that involves ‘a cocktail of skills and passion’.  He spoke about how effective leaders create meaning for others through the way they convey and live a story which converts anxiety to hope.  He spoke of how they are prepared to sacrifice for that story.  He looked at leadership as having two aspects of performance – achieving aims, but also embodying shared values.  So he was suggesting that leadership does not need to be done as it has been done in the past.  He defined global leadership now as:

‘the courage, capacity, curiosity and commitment


work with, learn from and give ‘voice’ to the other’.

This was a hopeful and inspiring note to close the conference on.   We need courage, capacity, curiosity and commitment to respond to the changes that our world and our workplaces are facing both from technology and the other economic and political challenges.  We will need to hear and work with other ‘voices’ to do that.  This view of leadership is very different to that which most of us have experienced in the workplace to date – and it seems a very long way from the model being expressed in the political sphere at present. 

There are challenges a-plenty for us all here, whether in relation to digital work, the impact of technology on professions, including our own and the kind of leadership that is needed.  And the future is here and now!

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sketchnotes from CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition 2016

Rachel Burnham writes: I have spent the last couple of days exploring the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition.  Here is my collection of Sketchnotes from the event, including one from the Leaders in Learning event which preceded the main conference.



Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Networking: What is a Personal Learning Network?

Rachel Burnham writes: Thank you very much for all the comments and feedback on the blog post I wrote last week ‘Networking: How my perceptions and practice have changed’.  It seemed to reflect a lot of people’s experiences both with  ‘traditional networking’ and how this has been changing to a more positive and helpful approach to networking as a vehicle for learning.

So, I thought it might be useful to explore in a bit more detail what a ‘Personal Learning Network’  or PLN means to me.  For me, a personal learning network is ‘those people who you learn from and with’. 

It is a network, which is loose and open, rather than a defined group of individuals.  Some of the connections are close and frequent, some more fleeting and transient.

The first part of that definition, ‘those people who you learn from’ is perhaps what we might immediately think of when focusing on networking for learning.  People who we learn from because they share useful information, put us in touch with resources or other people that are helpful or share articles and ideas that help us to become better informed or extend our networks. It can also include people who inspire us, who we may seek to emulate in some respect – perhaps to try out a specific tool that they have used, or to develop some aspect of a skill that they excel at or to adopt a behavior or approach they use.  These are people who are role models, sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways.

One of the people who responded to my previous post was @MJCarty, who had previously written in his blog that the idea of PLNs made him feel uncomfortable or twitchy and that the concept of a PLN ‘could be interpreted as a framework for consciously using people for just one purpose’.  This got me to question my thinking about PLNs more – could you use a PLN to ‘suck the learning out of other people’? Perhaps as it was Halloween this week, I heard this in more of a blood-sucking way than I would have done otherwise.  But it made me realise, just how integral for me to a personal learning network are the values of generosity and mutuality.

I think what makes me ‘twitchy’ is the idea of ‘thought leadership’. That there are some people set up – by themselves, by other people, by particular platforms – I’m not quite sure – but I know that it doesn’t sit well with me.  That setting apart of some individuals to lead the thinking of others is in my view, almost completely the opposite to the idea of a personal learning network.

I think the most important part of a personal learning network is the learning with other people.  It isn’t enough to just take learning from others, I think the joy – the magic, if you like – really happens when you are also contributing.

That may be through sharing resources; helping people to make connections; acknowledging others contributions and through this encouraging them in their explorations; and sharing from your own experience.  This links it with the idea of Working Out Loud (WOL).

I think that learning with others is at the heart of a personal learning network and this involves dialogue and doing.  The dialogue can come in many forms – in person conversations over a cup of tea, a quick tweet or two, exchanges within a twitter chat – I know I learn so much from participating in the regular Friday 8am – 9am (GMT) #LDInsight twitter chat.   Dialogue can be quite spaced out - reading someone’s blog, reflecting on it and some way down the line writing your own take on that topic - that is a conversation too – with more time for reflection than we usually allow within an in person conversation and it may be all the better for that! 

A conversation may begin with one group of people and continue with someone else in a different setting. Some of my learning has come about from dialogue that started out in MOOCs or other on-line courses that I’ve participated in and have spilled out into other forums and conversations.  There are colleagues who I work with who I rarely see in person, but we share ideas, offer feedback and just talk through an almost seamless mix of texts, phone calls, emails, tweets and Dropbox inclusions.  Through this dialogue the focus may transmute, the prism through which you see a question or topic may change and something quite different can emerge.

Just as important, is learning by doing. Taking some insight or idea and incorporating into your practice or experimenting with it. Our personal learning networks include our colleagues and clients who we work with on a daily or occasional basis. The trusted practice partners who we try out new approaches with.  The people we seek feedback from and those who generously offer it, even when we haven’t asked. The colleagues or clients who are willing to take a risk or who sometimes place demands on us that push us into learning something new.   

So, for me my Personal Learning Network is all those who I learn from and with.  And that includes you! 

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.