The Asylum has moved

Just a quick note to let you know that as of today I’ll be self-hosting the Learning Asylum blog and have moved the blog to a new domain

The new website is ****drum roll****

All future posts will be there until I decide what to do with this site….

Many thanks for reading, for following and all your comments and I hope to see you on my new blog soon


One Bad Egg

I feel as though I’ve not blogged for ages, it’s been a few weeks at least. It’s not that I’ve not been thinking about things rather that starting a new job does take its toll on your time and energy. Anyhoo this is something that I’ve wanted to get off my chest for a while so hopefully getting this off my chest will help me focus on some of the posts I need to come back to and things I’ve been thinking about and doing in the new job. It’s all very exciting stuff and I’m enjoying the new challenge with DPG immensely.

So back to One Bad Egg,”what’s it all about then” I hear you ask….well let me tell you. I’ve been lucky enough throughout my career to work well with 99.9% of people I’ve encountered and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some talented and hard working people. I’ve had to agree to disagree with people in the past however, during these times mutual respect has always been present. In one way or another we’ve had to compromise and still achieved what we both wanted and it’s never nice to disagree, but it happens. In all these circumstances communication has been the key on both sides with a healthy portion of honesty, integrity and an appreciation of the others’ position.

So what about the 0.01%?

I wanted to share my experience of when I came in to contact with someone that I didn’t work well with and explain why there was no connection and the sorts of things I observed whilst working with this “consultant” that has prompted me to share this. I’ve also reflected on my own actions and behaviour during the episode and asked myself what I’d do differently on more than one occasion.

I had the challenge of working with this “consultant” earlier this year and and here are some things I’d recommend this person to consider and reflect on before taking their next position. Before I do this I want to be clear I’m not writing this post because I’m bitter (well maybe a bit) or want to bad mouth this person as no names will be mentioned. I think it’s important to understand and analyse why these things happen, to share them and reflect on what you have learned from them.

So here goes,

Dear “Consultant”….

1) During the recruitment process ensure you have the right skills to do the job you’re hired to do. This means don’t pass other peoples work off as your own and being honest with your own skill set. I appreciate everyone needs to learn but don’t pass yourself off as an expert if you have no expertise.

2) Don’t lie. Pretty big one here but fundamental to building good relationships, establishing credibility and trust. I’ll tell you why it’s more important now more than ever, networks. If you have held a position in the past or are a great ‘consultant’ the likelihood is you’ll have a LinkedIn profile and maybe a Twitter account. Chances are so will the the people that you’ve worked with in the past and the online L&D / HR community isn’t THAT big. Think about it.

3) Divide & Conquer is NOT the best strategy when joining a new organisation in any capacity. The purpose of being a consultant is to consult with the people within the organisation and to understand what that organisation wishes to achieve and help them achieve it. If you want to achieve change and expect to be seen as a leader then don’t openly dismiss the collective experience of an entire team or ignore the subject matter experts you have access to, don’t think that those who talk the loudest are right and don’t be a bully.

4) Don’t push your own agenda. I think this is linked to the above point but don’t try and push the direction of a project in a particular way as it will grease the palms of your crony mates who have businesses.

5) Try listening to feedback, seems like a given for someone in a role like a ‘change agent’ or ‘transformation consultant” but when members of your team give you feedback on your conduct, style and approach it may be useful to listen and to take some sort of action and make a change.

6) Don’t use obvious delay tactics in terms of extending timelines or ‘playing safe’, you may think this is a clever move especially when you’re on great day rates however try not to make it so obvious or make it clear that you don’t rate the knowledge and skills around you and “wish to bring in your own team”.

All six points still resonate very strongly with me now, even two months since the “consultant” moved on to other things and didn’t have their contract renewed. Incidentally the person the consultant brought in who could actually do the job is still there (oh the irony).

So why does it still bother me now?

It bothers me because it didn’t have to be that way, we had a fantastic opportunity to do something special and we let it slip. I imagine that those of you who read this will also feel quite strongly about the points I’ve mentioned. Many of you maybe consultants and I’m sure you wouldn’t behave in this way in a million years and perhaps you’re even shocked, perhaps you’re not.

Before this episode I didn’t think that consultants like this existed, perhaps I was and still am a little naive. Having surrounded myself with a network full of people who seemingly do things the right way, I may have got blindsided and in actual fact this sort of behaviour is actually still rife. I don’t honestly think so and I’ve taken a lot from this experience, the main things I’ve learned are how NOT to do things. You learn from your mistakes, or other peoples so perhaps this has been more effective than learning HOW to do things……either way I’m stronger from this experience.

At times you do need to break a few eggs to make an omelette but beware of the “One Bad Egg”. The impact they can have should not be underestimated and they can leave a rather sour taste in your mouth.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Have you ever had to deal with one of these bad eggs?

Would be interesting in your thoughts on this or any related experiences you can share

Photo credit

#CHRU4 Visual Minutes

I recently attended the Connect HR Unconference #CHRU4 “The power of a socially engaged organisation”. A great event and one that had a very unique approach to capturing the minutes from the days conversations. The minutes were captured by a team of artists from Creative Connection and at the end of the day I took a close up video of the minutes to capture the images and words that had been recorded. I had no idea what I was going to do with the video and after some technical issues and some fab support from Jon Bartlett aka @Projectlibero we managed to get the video on YouTube.

I’ve watched the video a few times and I think I’ll be able to get some good blogs out of the content but in the meantime I thought I’d share the video and just highlight some phrases  that really stood out for me;

  • I hope the connections made today will last
  • Find your tribe
  • Figure out your own beliefs
  • Not everything that counts can be counted
  • Super charged social media learning
  • Dispersion of authority
  • Conversation is the new currency
  • Words are all we have
  • Generate your own content and share it with the world
  • You can’t force engagement but you can stimulate it
  • Set them free stop shutting the conversation down
  • True change is in the hands of employees
  • Give people a voice – freedom not fear = a democratic workplace
  • I work best when I’m trusted
  • How do you get an organisation to trust what you are saying?
  • Can tools change culture or does culture change with new tools
  • Tackling paranoia around transparency and collaboration
  • Overcoming resistance
  • You can’t force social

As you can see there are some great themes here worth discussing in more detail and there’s plenty more; these were just the bits that really stood out to me. I’ll be following this up with a post on the “You can’t force social” theme but in the meantime enjoy the video and let me know if these are the stand outs for you as well or if there are any others that you’ve spotted and are worth highlighting in the comments below.


Effective real-time online delivery

I was really pleased and proud to be asked by @Kategraham23 to be part of the panel on the recent eLearning Network webinar entitled Ten things you always wanted to know about live online learning but were afraid to ask!

I was in illustrious company with @Viv_Cole , @Philipgreen and @Brighttweet making up the other panel members, and whilst I don’t consider myself to be an expert I was looking forward to sharing my own adventures into live online learning.

There were over 40 questions submitted and these were then whittled down to 10, 3 of these questions were given to me and I wanted to share the notes I made on my journey back to Manchester after the session.

Q1) What virtual classroom technology would you recommend?

Following Learning Technologies in 2008 I set up a free 2 weeks trial of WebEx and designed a session that used as much of the functionality as possible and made it as interactive as I could and delivered it to my then leadership team. We agreed a permanent licence and since then have used it to facilitate focus groups, team meetings, workshops, systems training both on and off shore and we are now transforming a selection of traditional courses & workshops in to online format. Last year we did some more thorough research and looked at

  • iLinc
  • Adobe Connect – which we’d had a free trial of in the past
  • Dim Dim
  • Ivocalize
  • Eluminate
  • MS Live meeting

Whilst some had unique differences (including cost & licence model) we have continued to use WebEx has our preferred supplier due to its simplicity and it gives us everything we need. We use Meeting Centre the most and you could argue that this isn’t a specialist VC tool, it certainly isn’t as advanced as Adobe Connect the tool we were using. However it is flexible and cost effective and we have combined it with other tools such as Genesis teleconferencing to add more flexibility and we can record the sessions. I’ve put the tool through its paces and really pushed what can be achieved, some things have worked really well and others haven’t but we’ve learned along the way and shared our successes. Everyone will have a personal preference based on their experience so there is no right or wrong answer just go with what works for you.

The last thing to mention that was a contributing factor is our existing technology, different operating systems, versions of IE and Flash did have a bearing on what tools worked effectively.

Q2) What factors influence the success & failure of a Virtual Classroom in terms of effectiveness?

  • Totally dependent on the size of the class, content and length of the session. Background noise (distractions) and experience of facilitator and class attendees.
  • Design of the session, structure & visuals important – limit amount of text on screen & use images where possible
  • Engagement & interactivity e.g broadcast / push info then polls, emoticons /chat only – we also use two facilitators where possible to ensure questions aren’t missed
  • If smaller group then the aim is to base it on conversation and use the whiteboards, chat, voice, polls, sharing applications and where appropriate allow individuals to take ownership of presenters computer
  • Breakout areas can be used effectively in the right situation for group work
  • Peoples attitudes and willingness / confidence in using the technology – spend time at the beginning for 5 minutes acclimatising ppl to the tools – make it fun & human – be yourself , yes there are differences to online facilitation to face to face but being yourself is important and just like in face to face situations things won’t always go to plan – don’t panic it happens.
  • Before session starts I like to allow drawing and take screen shots of the finished screen, we play wacky races, do text twisters and know your geography (group size permitting)
  • Practice and rehearse
  • Set expectations and recognise different levels of experience
  • Pre-work / reading & positioning – if possible relate to things that have been done or in the process of being done then it’s more relevant and not just theory
  • Follow up – we record most sessions and more recently we personalise the chats (so they can provide evidence of participation) and add all resources to a shared online community to continue to the conversations and do follow ups via line managers.
  • Keep it simple – Failure = trying to do too much or using tools for the sake of it, 1 way traffic (facilitator talking)
  • Use polls to gauge feedback and use both multiple choice and freetext

Q3) How effective is Virtual Classroom compared to face to face training?

Wow, big question this… my humble opinion and experience they can be more effective than face to face training – but it of course depends on situation and content. Some benefits we’ve found:

  • Big difference for us is reduction in travel and the ability to connect and use SME expertise
  • Just in time performance support – can organise and get people together much quicker
  • Much easier than organising a face to face event – reduces time away from role, enables us to be more proactive and specific in terms of learners.
  • Some learners who aren’t has confident in f2f situations are more comfortable using chat and engage more in online learning events
  • Obviously not appropriate to use where human interaction is needed e.g role plays or behavioural stuff where reactions are critical.
  • System training imo opinion is much better online – why you would organise a face to face session to cover a new system when you can facilitate , share system, use show me try me and record the session all online to use as reference
  • It’s a cultural shift for many, my journey started 4 years ago and I’m still learning and trying new things. There is STILL a huge barrier to overcome and that is peoples’ perception that VC is just not an effective means of learning. This goes for L&D professionals as well as learners…
  • Maybe the two shouldn’t be exclusive or indeed compared and instead be used to compliment one another where ever possible to make the learning process more effective

That’s it, they were my 3 questions and there were also some great points made by the other members of the panel. You can catch up on other tips via @elearningnetwk. I really enjoyed the session and would like to thank @kategraham23 and the @elearningnetwk team for the opportunity to be involved.

I hope you’ve found this useful and I’d love to hear where you are on your own journey towards using live online learning?

How would you answer those questions yourself?

The highway to institutionalism

I did something a few weeks ago that I’d never done before, I handed in my resignation. It’s a strange feeling coming into work knowing that this week is your last. After 11 years with the same organisation these last four days are going to be a mixed bag.

On the one hand I’m sad to be leaving an organisation that has, (since the age of 22) provided me with a great career and opportunities to grow and develop. I’m sad to be leaving such a talented team at such an exciting time for the business. I also feel extremely lucky that I can call many of my colleagues friends. These friendships won’t end with my contract and I know we’ll be staying in touch and I’ll be following their journey into a bright future, I just won’t be playing a direct role in it.

On the other hand I am nervous and excited about the future in ways that I’ve never been before. There is a quotation in The Shawshank Redemption by “Red” Redding (played by Morgan Freeman) that I always liked, it goes like this;

These walls are funny. First you hate them, then you get used to them. After long enough, you get so you depend on them. That’s “institutionalized.”

After 11 years of working within a corporate in the financial services industry I started to understand exactly what Red meant. I’d like to think in the last 4 years in my role within L&D, I did things differently and brought something new to the party. I’d like to think that I’ve encouraged my colleagues to challenge existing thinking, but no matter how new or different, there were limitations due to having to operate within the confines of the walls.

I know every organisation has these walls in some sort of capacity whether they are put up by policy, process, technology, culture or even people. The hardest walls to scale are put up by people who are content to work without ever feeling the need to look over them and gaze upon the exciting things that lie beyond. I took a peak over the wall a few years ago and I liked what I saw so I’ve decided to take a running jump over the wall and I believe I will land on the other side with a world of opportunity at my feet.

As well as this feeling of institutionalism, I’ve also somewhat selfishly been thinking about brand me, 11 years working for one organisation shows what?

  • I’m loyal?
  • I’m consistent?
  • I’m dependable?
  • I’m in a job for life?
  • I’m one dimensional with a great knowledge of an insurance business but no experience of any other industry?

I’ve been lucky enough to work in a variety of roles during this time and have reached a position of relative authority and influence but it’s still in financial services. Plainly speaking I need more, as @kevwyke would say I need to feed my soul; to grow and develop from a personal perspective but also from a professional viewpoint where the world is changing so quickly. What is my USP and how can I keep pace with this change?

There are two lines to bring this to life from the first verse in “My Way” by Frank Sinatra;

I’ve lived a life that’s full

I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway

Well for the last 11 years I’ve been on the same road and it’s time to get off and join a new one. It’s time to travel on new roads that will take me to different junctions, crossroads and new horizons. I’m sure I’ll come across road works, diversions and have to put my hazard lights on along the way but ultimately I’ll be in the driving seat and will be able to take any route possible to reach new destinations.

So that’s my week, sad but excited, nervous but eager and as I get ready for the leap over the wall, I feel a sense of freedom that I’ve not felt in a long time.


Say what you see

I always remember Saturday evenings as being magical. It was family time, we’d play games and then be treated to some Saturday night telly. For those that can remember we’re talking TV gold; Beadles About, You’ve Been Framed (with Jeremy Beadle), Family Fortunes (with Les Dennis), Gladiators (with John Fashanu & Ulrika Johnson) and my all time favourite programme Catch Phrase with the legend that is Robert ‘Roy’ Walker (pictured).

Roy, together with his partner in crime Mr Chips, presented in my mind what was one of the greatest TV shows of all time. The premise was simple, contestants had to guess the famous catchphrase from short clips of pictures as quickly possible. Meanwhile Roy would actively encourage them with his very own catch phrase “Say what you see”.

It’s this catch phrase that takes the focus back to my recent blogging exploits. I’ve really enjoyed discussing the themes from my first three blogs and it’s the comments that have provided the ideas for each subsequent post.

This one is no different and the series (if you can call them a series) fit in with where I am right now in a lot of ways. This wasn’t planned although you could argue that it fits together a little bit too well.  It can be one for the conspiracy theorists to analyse in a week or two.

Here’s a brief summary of the three posts;

Summary of the World Café session at LnD Connect Unconference

There is so much in here but the discussions centred around 3 key questions

1)      What L&D should STOP doing?

2)      What excites you right now in L&D?

3)      What does the future hold?

It was the comments from @Burrough & @PerryTimms that gave the idea for the next post as they mentioned “a better future” and “personal leadership” but there were also doubts raised that this small group of people could change a profession.

Assumed Constraints & L&D Thinking

After attending the Unconference, I felt and still do feel like I can make a change; I know everyone who attended feels the same.  The doubts raised around the ability to make a change reminded me of a book I read Self-Leadership and the One Minute Manager. In the book assumed constraints and elephant thinking are introduced as part of the story and I believe, L&D professionals can suffer from assumed constraints “I can’t do that as it’s not been done before”.  The link to elephant thinking reflected that if enough people break away from the post and traditional L&D thinking then the profession will change and the post itself will be removed forever. It was the comments by David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum) that introduced the Diffusion of Innovation that prompted the next post.

You are NOT an innovator

So if we want to create a better future and make lasting change this needs personal leadership, an ability to be original or innovative and then action to get there right? I used a conversation I had via Twitter to get the conversation going on whether L&D are in fact being innovative or just regurgitators of other peoples’ ideas.  Great comments followed and in summary WHATEVER you call this change, the consensus was that L&D / HR professionals are the ones that need to make it happen, support the early adopters and follow it through past the tipping point and in to main stream adoption.

So where does this leave us?

Well I don’t know about you but it leaves me in the same place as before and after the Unconference, I still want to make a change and do things differently.  It might not be innovation in the opinion of Harvey Briggs in his post The Innovation Obsession (thanks to @CraigTaylor74 for the link) but I don’t care about that as there is one important element in the post that links all this together and one that we all need to share.  In his post Harvey states

“Vision is the ability to see the world as it could be and create a path to that future”.

I couldn’t agree more with this statement in relation to workplace learning right now, in fact it’s more than workplace learning it’s the actual future of the workplace itself. There are those who can see this change and are talking about it and sharing their ideas on it and there are those actually doing it. I really like the work that @RyanTracey is doing at the moment highlighted in his post How to revamp your learning model and I know he’s not alone. It’s not a pipe dream, it’s possible but it’s not easy and I’ve attended numerous conferences and listened to speakers who talk about it like it is easy to do. The only bubble I’m willing to burst is the “think it’s easy” bubble.

We need people in L&D with the vision to see the world of workplace learning differently and we need to help our colleagues and the people in the places that we work see this too and take them on the journey with us.

In terms of an organisational vision this is usually brought to life by some sort of vision statement which supports the organisations’ strategic objectives. L&D must support the organisational objectives of course but HOW we do that now and in the future is up to us. What’s your vision around learning, do you even have one?

That is the question you need to ask yourself right now, have you or the people who make the decisions in and around L&D / HR got the vision to see how the world could be and support their organisation achieve and exceed its objectives in the next 1,2 or 3 years and beyond?

If it’s not you, go and have a conversation with those in your organisation who are responsible for the vision and strategy for learning and development, HR or technology. Ask them a simple question on the future of the workplace , ask them;

What do you see?

It’s a simple question to ask but one that could prompt a very powerful reply and discussion and one that should give you an insight in to what you are going to do differently in the next 12 months.

If the answer does not match with your hopes and expectations then you need to ask yourself;

How can YOU influence this vision?

How can YOU help create that better future?

You can’t do this by staying silent, you cannot do this by attending conferences or unconferences or any external events with as @Burrough says ‘enlightened minds’. We need to take action and do things differently and demonstrate the value in our own organisations with our own colleagues. We need to be making these changes ourselves and role modelling at every opportunity. It might be the #PunkHR approach outlined by @PerryTimms in his post The emergence of Punk HR or it might be a Revamp of the Learning Model, the point is it’s something OTHER than silence and the thinking that someone else will do it.

Harvey Briggs was right about one thing, vision is the start of change. Well this is what we need in the HR and L&D profession, people with vision and the ability to see things differently and in order to create a vision we must look to Roy for inspiration.

We must say what we see and help others see the world as it could be.

It’s the only way we’ll change our profession

You are NOT an innovator

I remember having a twitter conversation with a couple of members of my network a while ago about innovation. I can’t remember the exact exchange but I remember feeling quite dejected and disappointed by the replies. A comment on Assumed Constraints & L&D Thinking by David Goddin aka @changecontinuum  brought the memory back to me but thankfully this time there were no feelings of disappointment.

Explaining the context of the conversation will probably help here and I won’t mention names but I tweeted that I was enjoying doing different things at work and used the word innovating. A couple of replies came back that developed in to a conversation that concluded that what I was doing wasn’t innovative or innovating it was merely using the ideas and methods of others and regurgitating them in my own organisation.

Being that these comments were from L&D practitioners on Twitter, it kind of burst my bubble and for about 10 minutes dampened by spirits and enthusiasm. Oh well, I wasn’t innovating but I was putting new ideas in to practice and changing the way things were being done……hang on, what’s the definition of innovation again?

Wikipedia explains innovation to be;

Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a new idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.

On a side note, I have to say I’ve always fancied being an inventor, ever since the age of 7 when I first watched Dr Emmett Brown invent time travel in Back to the Future.

Sadly the desire did not transfer in to ability so the dreams of being a crack pot inventor disappeared faster than the Delorean when it hit 88 miles per hour.

Anyway back to the case in point and David mentions the Diffusion of Innovation (shown below) in his comment

David goes on to say

I think what we’re seeing at the moment is the movement of innovators and early adopters. The two big “unknowns” for me are what is the tipping point (after which there is relatively rapid adoption) and which technologies (& beliefs?) will fail.

Personally, I think the tipping point is going to be very difficult to measure, because of my interest in community based learning I’m going to suggest that the huge rise in social enterprise platforms or social bolt-ons is evidence that online collaborative tools have reached an early majority. But early majority of whom, learning providers, learning technology companies or of normal employees adopting their use?

My own experiences of networks have shown me that adoption takes time and trying to change the way in which people work and share information is a challenge regardless of the tools available. To bring this to life, I had a conversation with a colleague today around setting up an online community and we laughed at how 3 years ago I was really pushing this platform for use across our own L&D team. Well it’s taken 3 years to get to the late majority phase within my own team of learning professionals; we are only now working with early adopters to develop communities across other areas of our business.  The technology is only the enabler and what we are in fact talking about is changing the mind-set and the culture of an organisation and its’ people in order to transform the way they learn, communicate and ultimately work.

If it wasn’t me it might have been someone else but the point is something new was introduced in to our organisation, a new idea. A need was established, the idea was developed and we tried something different – the innovation was to see an idea and apply it in an organisational context and do something that had never been done before.

If you are in L&D and you are bringing new ideas, tools and methods in to your organisation that haven’t been tried before then in my mind you are an innovator, look at the Diffusion of Innovation curve and find and work with your early adopters and get to that magic tipping point.

If L&D ARE the agents of change then surely we MUST be innovators and recognise this as the first step to main stream adoption. In fact don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are NOT an innovator…be bold, be brave

….and go forth and innovate.

Do you agree, are L&D innovators or just regurgitating other peoples’ inventions ?

Can you share any examples of where you have been an innovator (or even a laggard)?

What’s your next innovation and what’s the plan to reach the tipping point?