Thursday, 10 January 2013


Happy New Year and thank you to all who take the time to read my thoughts - I appreciate it!

At the close of a year one wonders what will be the buzz of the new one.  As I write this my inbox is still bombarded by predictions for 2013 and the Twitter chat rooms are waking their communities up gently with sessions about aspirations, challenges, plans and the like.  But already one thing is clear to me from the increasingly back to normal volume of posts on my screen – the word for 2013 is TRUST.

Frances Ferguson uses a quote from JM Barrie to title her post on the subject

“ All the world is made of faith and trust and pixie dust”

She says:

“It is never enough to assume that people will change just because we ask them to. The route to success is to create the environment where the beliefs of our audience shift, so they know that this new way of doing things is right and, more importantly, they know why too.

Very true in the old order where the trainer had the opportunity to work with the learner to help them open their mind to the possibility of doing things differently.  That was core to the old push model.  But the world has changed – we now live in a pull society where the learner first has to recognise for themselves the need to change. He or she then has the daunting task of finding a place to do it in which they feel safe – somewhere they trust in order to make themselves vulnerable as they explore new approaches, experiment with new skills, even offer their own views for review by others they may not even know. That is a scary prospect and one that has ample opportunity for hurt and disillusionment.

Maria van Vlodrop, writing in the Training Journal, refers back to TIME magazine’s interview with Mark Zuckerberg in 2007 in which “authenticity” was a key feature.

But we live in a world of big data - and just how does the workforce glean golden nuggets within a galaxy of information? What is valid, what is not? What is authentic, what is not? Whose information do you trust - and why?
My view is that successful collaboration is based on real relationships where people communicate naturally, trust each other - and where authenticity is the secret of success, just as Mark Zuckerberg said. And here I see L&D extending its current responsibilities to foster relationships, build profiles and create a pool of truly trusted people across company disciplines from sales, to operations, to distribution, to production to deliver authentic information.
Nurturing authenticity will be one new string to the L&D bow. Shaping judgement will be a second. While L&D becomes the curator and filter of knowledge drawn from inside the enterprise and beyond; creator of circles of trust, and champion of active collaboration, at the end of the day, people will need to use their own judgement on what information to use. How will L&D encourage a good judgement skill-set? My view is that we can ensure that knowledge is available in the right context from a trusted source.”
In the last post I wrote in my 2011 series about developing successful online communities and virtual teams I emphasised the need for care to be taken in what we write in order to recognise the potential recipient – their feelings, insecurities, capacity to accept feedback etc. 
Over the past year I have been involved in various direct and indirect ways with a number of activities that have required some sensitivity in drawing together people from very different cultures, disciplines, levels of comfort with the technologies.  There have been moments where tension and difficulties have arisen, mostly innocently, as a result of a lack of care for how information is received. People have on occasion felt insecure, even hurt by what has been said and not said. Much work has been needed to ensure those communities develop into and remain safe places for people to collaborate, share and learn.
So, back to Maria:
A ...... string (for 2013) will be to sharpen people's writing skills - the ability to communicate clearly and convincingly online is wide open to criticism. Everyone is a critic and can read and judge performance online daily, good or bad. People are realising that they have to be 'on' all of the time.  It's a brand new communications world and L&D can play an important role in developing these skills.”
Yes, communication in our connected world is a new paradigm. Short, instant, with a very limited vocabulary, little regard to established grammatical forms – it is fraught with the opportunity for miscommunication, misunderstanding, misinterpretation and hurt.  The written word has always been, and will always be, a minefield for personal relationships. Yes, we can develop new written skills for the new order but we will still fail in creating the environment for “pull” learning if we cannot make people feel safe.
Many of us are experimenting with media and platforms to find ways to harness the power of technology to aid, encourage and enhance personal learning. We live in a time where the means of communication have expanded exponentially. Great.  We are engaged in exploring the seemingly endless list of possibilities.  I believe there is a dawning realisation that it is not about having to be everywhere because suddenly we do not all have to be in the same place – and therefore the only way we can keep up is by being where everyone else is.  Instead I believe we are beginning to re-assert our critical minds away from blindly rushing into new environments into working out what we need, where it is going to come from, and which are the most appropriate tools for accessing it. If we achieve that we will have done much to recognise our humanity and individuality in the face of the information and technology tsunami that is so scary to so many people.
2013 for me? Using less to do more.  Thinking more critically than I have done previously about the vehicles and environments in which I engage to achieve particular ends. Working where I can trust and feel trusted. Always pursuing new insight into how to help people discover and realise their potential – by trying things out even when I feel at some personal risk by doing so. But always I hope in what I say and do with a focus on how it will assist others – I may fail but  my intent out of my lifelong passion for learning will be to experience to find new ways to learn that are safe and have depth.