The Learning Asylum

Time to escape the mad house

November 9, 2013
by Mike Collins

Bringing the Disney experience to Conferences

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to go to America for three weeks. A fantastic holiday of a life-time where I visited my sister Lucy in Minnesota for a week before heading down to the sunshine state of Florida for some Disney mayhem.

There was a strange Déjà vu about the whole thing as it was the exact trip I completed in 1994 when I played school football in Minnesota before meeting up with my folks down in Florida for…yes you’ve guessed it,  some Disney mayhem.

This time was very different as I had my two boys with me and I was the chap in charge of the mayhem.

Whilst I could share photos until you lose the will the live and recount countless stories of this trip or that trip and the fun we had together; I want to focus on a particular thing I took away from my Disney experience. That is the use of their smartphone app My Disney World.

I used this app extensively over my holiday and during every trip to one of the Magic Disney kingdoms. Why wouldn’t I, it had everything I needed to help me make the most of every day and contained maps, up to date queue times, real time information on shows, pictures, updates and messages keeping me, the paying customer, in control and able to make informed decisions on how we spent our day. Disney of course provided free WiFi in most places within their parks so I could get access to the app and had help to make those critical decisions and learn more about what was happening. Check out some pictures below:

My Disney World

What I particularly liked was the real time information on queue times and messages sent through the app on what was happening in the park at key times. I could quite easily then bring up the map and work out which direction to go as to avoid the long waits. Just in time performance support.

There are other things I was going to write about this linked to just in time learning but the recent CIPD ACE Conference made me think again. Enter the @CIPD_Events app launched a few days before the CIPD ACE Conference here I’ve seen this done before at Learning Technologies Conference so it wasn’t the first conference app I’ve seen however it was easily an improvement on what has gone before. Even in my ‘exhibitor’ role with DPG plc I put the app through it’s paces (waving my pom poms) and really liked what I saw throughout the two days. Here are some screen shots:

CIPD Events App

These screen shots really don’t do it justice but hopefully give you a flavour of what you had (or didn’t have) at your disposal.

Let’s face it whether you are part of the conference or the exhibition there is SO MUCH going on over the two days it is easy to get side tracked or distracted and it’s easy to miss things that you’d really benefit from. Apparently the ‘My Agenda’ section was excellent and was a useful tool to help manage your schedule over the two days.

It wasn’t by any means the finished article but well done to the digital team from CIPD for creating an app that offered real value and added another dimension to the conference experience.

The Twitter feed was good however it would have been better to follow the actual hashtag #CIPD13 of the event rather than @CIPD_Events – even better why couldn’t we get options of what Twitter feed to follow from @CIPD_Events to the specific #CIPD13 stream or even speaker / bloggers supporting the event.

I particularly likes the updates / messages that came through during the day and think this is an area than can be developed further thinking about the real time Disney updates. These updates gave me a sense of belonging and being a part of something. I think this could be taken a step further with countdown’s to sessions, photos, and key info being shared leading up to and after sessions – this should also include free sessions and could work well for those who register interest for a session. I’d like to see things like user generated content being shared in ‘photo of the day’ and more two way communication between ‘The App’ and conference / exhibition attendees.

‘The App’ of course are those members of the CIPD team / volunteers who were helping, supporting, guiding, advising, showing, answering questions etc etc and in the absence of any fancy mechanics could text, email, whatsapp, tweet, vine, instagram, diigo or drive real time info from in and around the conference / exhibition to be distributed in the right way through actual app.

I’d love to be able to register my interest for things happening throughout the two days and get relevant updates or key bits of information about it e.g. the Hack. Personalise our experience by provided information on things we’re interested in and encourage us to get involved as it could be the difference between thinking “Oh well there’s always next year” and “right let’s head over there now and get involved”

EDIT: Thanks to @awooler for some great insights in the Jiveworld conference app and their use of games.

Thinking about the amount of games we play with our trusted smart phones why not have some fun with them at conferences. There was a treasure hunt during the conference to collect stickers from exhibition stands. Why not replace this with Q Codes stuck in various places throughout the exhibition? You could send clues via the app and if you flash the Q code it appears on your profile and you could do a badge system and league table updated in real time. Find all the Q codes in the restaurant areas and get the ‘Hungry Eater’ badge and a free coffee. You could do a lot with this and add some fun / competition to the exhibition / conference.

Even something as small as what food & drink is where, what’s being served and how much it costs would be useful.

I think we’ve only just started to see the potential of Conference apps and what extra they can bring but bravo to CIPD for making this years conference a little bit more magical.

Did you use the app?

What did you like about it?

What are your thoughts on how the app and how apps like this can be used to improve the Conference experience?

November 8, 2013
by Mike Collins

Talk is cheap with empty rhetoric

As I sit here after 11pm after two days on the @DPGplc stand at a buzzing #CIPD13, I can’t get away from a few thoughts and feelings. It’s niggled me all day so I’m just going to put it down and see what happens.

This morning I attended HR Unscrambled hosted by @Dougshaw1 and @OD_Optimist. A fantastic thought-provoking start to the day.

I thoroughly enjoyed talking to people who viewed bacon butties with an assortment of sauces, caffeine and meaningful conversation as a viable alternative to a lie-in.

It was entitled HR Unscrambled – Co-creating the Future of HR and the event info went something like this

Whether you’re passionate about improving organisational culture, employee-led change, employee communication or anything else that will help make work better, we’d like to invite you to HR Unscrambled.

HR Unscrambled is a breakfast unconference, where you will meet and talk with other HR professionals who want to make work and working lives the best they can be. You will spend time meeting new people and talking in small groups about the things that matter to you. After the session, the key themes and outputs will be written up and shared with you.

It was enough to provide a hook to leave my warm duvet in the midst of morning darkness to go and make some new connections and chat about where HR sees itself now and in the future AND (more importantly) how we are going to create this future together. I’m not a HR generalist / specialist / sensationalist or any other -ist you care to think about but I do have a deep rooted desire to make work and working lives the best they can be. Count……….in

There were a few people I knew and more importantly a lot that I didn’t and, in true unconference style we started to develop the topics to explore in-more depth and detail. As Doug and Meg started to collect and collate the ideas a  surprising theme started to emerge – all the groups were talking about LEARNING. Yes I know… I’ll repeat that, a HR event at 8am in the morning talking about making work and working lives the best they can, the overwhelming topic of conversation was based around LEARNING. Not just learning but how people could and wanted to learn had changed AND more importantly how the skills needed to operate effectively in the workplace of today need to change. I was hooked on this and it brought back strong memories of my first unconference hosted and facilitated by the gang at @LnDConnect. It was insightful, exciting and enthusiastic chatter.

Now this is where is gets interesting (or frustrating) as the LnDConnect unconference touched on many of the themes coming out during the Unscrambled conversations. It was 18 months since that event and the lasting effects are still with me as I was inspired and enthused to write a summary and a follow up post called Assumed Constraints and L&D thinking.

In the 18 months since that event I’ve started a new job with @DPGplc and have developed the DPG Community which now has almost 2000 members and has radically changed DPG’s approach to delivering and facilitating all our programmes including CIPD qualifications – putting social, sharing and collaboration at the heart of everything we do. I’m not saying this with a self-congratulating pat on the back and “hey check me out – look what I’ve done” but it is proof that with the right attitude, desire and people around you, you can achieve a lot in a short space of time. I want to share this journey, warts and all so people can learn from it and do it better.

Here I am again following a similar event writing another blog…… but something this time has changed. It’s a grim realisation that we DO talk a different language to everyone else and we confuse the hell out of people, there are those that ‘get it’ however (as @Dds180 quite rightly said) we’re good at sharing this stuff amongst the same people. Why? Because it’s a safe environment to do so – the real challenge is with those we work with on a day to day basis within and outside of HR and L&D – that’s where change needs to happen. Not with those who are already converted.

I’ve joined a few of the dots – rather messily and incoherently as this blog would suggest but let’s delve deeper in to the thoughts of a madman and stop looking at this through the eyes of HR…

  1. Whether you’re passionate about improving employee communication

What does this mean? Sounds like typical HR drivel to me….’employee communication’. How about changing it to

  1. Whether your passionate about connecting people and helping them talk to one another and encouraging them to learn from each another

How about another one….

2. Whether you’re passionate about improving employee-led change

Uh oh, the HR BS express is building up speed, how about as an alternative

2. Whether you’re passionate about listening to the ideas and suggestions of others and taking action to help make them a happen.

And the last one…

3. Whether you’re passionate about improving organisational culture

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN????? Talk to me in a language that I understand – please! This is slightly longer but how about…

3. Whether you’re passionate about helping people connect with what they do and how they do it, instilling a sense of pride and belief in themselves that shines through in all that they do.

All of these have a problem. The problem is us.

Throughout #CIPD13 and Unscrambled in the conversations that I’ve had, I get a sense that in most organisations L&D and HR sorry, the PEOPLE in L&D and HR provide barriers the channels through which everything ‘employee’ must go – training, performance, induction, policies, processes, content, learning, communication, change, culture etc etc

We are our own worst enemy because the change and the future that ‘we’ talk about when we come to these events means radical change to the way in which we think, act, operate and *shock horror* how we view ourselves as a function and what we actually do as a function. Do we view this change as a threat to our very existence? You bet.

If we view change as a threat then what hope have the people within the organisations got? We wonder why things are happening much more s  l  o  w  l  y than expected and there you have it – we are the reason. We are dragging our feet while the world around us changes.

I had some great conversations today but a lot of those conversations were around “we should do”, “we could do”, “we want to”. I say:

If you should then you MUST

If you could then you CAN

If you want to then you WILL

Whatever you do, don’t just talk about doing it, as talk is cheap – it’s time for action not empty rhetoric.

The themes of #CIPD13 were:

  • Lighting up your HR strategy
  • Finding bright HR ideas
  • Leading HR in to the Future

It’s action that will do all three things -  not lip service.

What action are you taking after CIPD13? What are you going to do differently and how are you doing it?

How are you going to share this with others?

Let’s make sure that next time we’re together we’re not still talking about the should’s, could’s and want to’s.

August 9, 2013
by Mike Collins

Leadership Qualities in a Changing World

By Mike Collins on the 9th August 2013

I recently attended a workshop entitled “Getting the most from your Apprentice” hosted by the Apprentice Academy. It was an interesting session that I wanted to play back, as it looked at starting work through the eyes of 16-18 yr old. Without showing my age too much we started the day with a music quiz and the first 8 songs (I knew) were made and released before our Apprentice @Little_Figs was even born! A point well made as what ever you make of the Generation X, Y & Z debate there are differences in attitude, behaviour and expectations of a 16 yr old starting work than anyone else already in the workplace.

We discussed what these differences could be and the conversation centered around 4 key areas and the changes we’d seen in these areas in the last 10 years. These were:

  • Technology
  • Entertainment
  • Science
  • Attitudes

In terms of technology we’ve had the advent of the smart phone and apps plus the meteoric rise in social networks.It’s incredible to think that a 64Gb memory card can now fit on the end of your finger.

Entertainment has changed to become on-demand – arranged around your lifestyle and the rise in reality TV has led to instant fame / celebrity obsessed generation. Internet streaming / downloading has changed the landscape (and industries) of music, TV and film and can you compare a Commodore 64 with a Playstation 4….

For science we discussed breakthroughs in cures for diseases and GM foods, global warming and an aging population as people are living longer.

Finally we discussed a change in attitudes towards things like gay marriage, female vicars and an understanding of other cultures. Growing up in a post 9/11 world and how this would influence how you view the world.

Remember 10 years ago most apprentices were 6-8 years old so growing up in this world I’ve briefly described above will have had a massive impact and a great influence on them. So what does this mean for the workplace?

The conversation then turned to discuss what the needs and wants of an apprentice were and we (rightly or wrongly) used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to understand what this looks like for a 16 yr old entering the workplace. I quite enjoyed this session as it made me question everything I consider to be important and made me look at starting work from a totally different perspective. What are the safety needs of a young 16 yr old and how do their social needs differ to mine? How do you develop a sense of self and confidence in a 16 yr old? These are things that must be considered and thought through in order to make an apprenticeship work and more importantly to coin the phrase from the workshop, “to get the most out of your apprentice.”

Finally we talked about leadership and what were the qualities that people (not just apprentices) looked for in a leader. I’ve got a vested interest here as I’ve talked about the role of leaders in a social age here and taken the conversation further with @JulianStaddon & @MartinCouzins here. @DougShaw1 has also penned a short series on Social Leadership here . It’s something I’m interested in from the perspective of a community manager and how social networks are changing how leaders can be more human, more accessible, become better communicators and inspire change.

We were given a list of leadership qualities and were asked to select 7 that were most important to us as individuals and prioritise our choices with 1 being the most important and 7 being the least important

This was the list provided

  • Is able to analyse and think creatively
  • Encourages challenges to the status quo
  • Is honest and consistent
  • Remains aloof from people he/she leads
  • Seen as a communicator, networker and achiever
  • Sacrifices himsef/herself in the interests of their work
  • Is able to draw people together with a shared vision
  • Seen to be the best professional
  • Is decisive, determined and ready to take risks
  • Trusts others to lead
  • His/her view of reality is the only one that counts
  • Is Charismatic
  • Shows genuine concern for others
  • Knows all the answers all the time
  • Is accessible, approachable and flexible
  • Manages changes sensitively and skilfully
  • Never be seen to be vulnerable

Wowsers, quite a list and one that I worked through diligently and thought through carefully. I then came up with my 7 which you can see below:

  1. Is able to draw people together with a shared vision
  2. Is honest and consistent
  3. Trusts others to lead
  4. Is accessible, approachable and flexible
  5. Manages change sensitively and skilfully
  6. Seen as a communicator , networker and achiever
  7. Shows genuine concern for others

Unfortunately there was a right answer as this exercise was linked to validated and recent research which I’ll share in my next post. What I’d be interested in if you’re not familiar with the research is thinking through the list and picking out and prioritising what your 7 leadership qualities would be.

Thinking through the change that we’ve had in the last 10 years and how quickly the world is changing around us what leadership qualities are most important and relevant now. What sort of leaders are going to inspire the apprentices that are entering the workplace given the up-bringing and change they have seen in the last 10 years as they’ve grown up.

I’ll share the top 7 according to the research next week but in the meantime – what’s important to you?

Let me know the top 7 leadership qualities that are most important for you in comments below

August 1, 2013
by Mike Collins

Will the real apprentice please stand up

By Mike Collins on the 1st August 2013

I’ve not watched any episodes of this year’s Apprentice. It just hasn’t appealed to me, I set the sky box up and did a series link but I’ve never found the time or had the inclination to sit down and watch the programme. I’ve heard bits and bobs about it from various sources and heard the odd conversation but I’ve not taking much notice of it. I’ve not wanted to. Continue Reading →

April 19, 2013
by Mike Collins

Rebel with a cause

By Mike Collins on the 19th April 2013

Another new experience under the belt. This time a short talk at the PPMA conference (not the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association) rather the Public Sector People Manager’s conference – you can check the #ppmahr13 hashtag for tweets from the day.

This is a quick summary of my session as my wifi is running out but I want to thank Perry Timms for getting me involved and Peter Cook for delivering an inspiring session that I was able to play a part in. Although how you follow someone who plays a guitar round the back of his head beats me.

Continue Reading →

March 23, 2013
by Mike Collins

The slope of enlightenment

By Mike Collins on the 22nd March 2013

In my last blog alter egos I started to share some personal traits and experiences that led me in to the world of developing communities to support learning. It wasn’t an overnight thing and it’s still very much work in  progress and I’m learning each day. I remember joining my first online community The Learning and Skills Group and being excited about what was happening in front of my eyes and like any newbie I lurked.  I lurked……and I lurked. Continue Reading →

March 5, 2013
by Mike Collins

Alter egos

By Mike Collins on the 5th March 2013

Since my last blog I’ve been reflecting on the latest and greatest #LDconnect unconference, spending a lot of time thinking about one of the topics we discussed Get inside learners headsHow do we get inside the learners heads!“. It was a very interesting discussion that we only really scratched the surface of and I’ve been deep in thought ever since. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever thought about things as deeply in my professional career. They might not be particularly interesting thoughts for some or they may be thoughts that you’ve already had but they are my thoughts all the same and I’ve a few blog posts (this is the first) that have formed in my head that I wanted to capture to help with this thinking. I’d love to get your thoughts on this as well. Continue Reading →

February 2, 2013
by Mike Collins

Lets Connect, Lets #LDConnect

By Mike Collins on the 2nd February 2013

This week has been a mixed week. It started on a real high when I attended the second ever L&D Connect event and ended in a mighty low when I had to leave the Learning and Skills Exhibition early on the second day due to the dreaded norovirus. Continue Reading →

January 13, 2013
by Mike Collins

Anything is possible…

By Mike Collins on the 13th January 2013

2012 was a BIG year for me in terms of career development after leaving Direct Line Group (formerly RBS Insurance) to pursue a community management role with DPG plc. I left the organisation I’d been with for 11 years and the safety net that this provided to create and develop a brand new and exciting role. Continue Reading →

December 4, 2012
by Mike Collins

Your business IS a community

By Mike Collins on the 4th December 2012

I have the pleasure of speaking tonight at a Playground session hosted by Catherine Wilks of Inmovement  on the topic of The Highest Forms of Engagement

I’m excited about being involved in this event as it’s got some interesting speakers and angles but also because I get to talk about the role of communities in helping create engagement and as many of you will know this is a BIG passion of mine. Continue Reading →