Tag Archives: Learning Organization

Moving from SMEs to LMPs: Learning Matter Practitioners.

13 Jan

There are countless resources on how to work with subject matter experts (SMEs). How to get the information you need from them. How to get their buy-in. How to negotiate what’s learning content from organized resources. How to help your SMEs understand how instructional designers do our jobs, and why. This battle for cooperation, if not partnership, with SMEs has been well-worn topic for a long time.

But in this new world of building learning landscapes and personal knowledge management (PKM) (what I call The Learning Age), we’d be better off if we approach the problem in a new way.

SMEs are just another node in a networked world/workplace. Let's work to integrate their expertise to be available to all.

SMEs are just another node in a networked world/workplace that includes data, workers and support systems. Let’s work to integrate their expertise to be available to all. 

Perhaps instead of wrangling content, divining applicable knowledge from content, and support information from noise, we should spend more time inviting SMEs into the world of networked learning. The days of heading to the mountain top to receive golden nuggets are over. Content is everywhere, information can be found—or at least should be able to be found—easily. Our SME is not the font of content, or knowledge, but of experience. That is, how the knowledge is applied effectively, efficiently, and with 360° understanding of the context.

In other words, we need to train our SMEs to become LMPs—learning matter practitioners. Not that they need to be great teachers or steeped in instructional design, but they do need to be taught how to share their work (WOL, work out loud!), deliver insights in useful, accessible ways, and be available to people across their organization and (perhaps) industry. If SMEs don’t document, share, comment, tweet, blog, and visit with others, then that is an area for learning practitioners to invest time and programming dollars.

This may require that most daring of high-wire acts, the change in workplace culture. Spoiler: The change is happening under our feet anyway. Let’s invite even the most siloed SME to join the emerging networked workplace.

Some now claim that 81% of workplace learners are responsible for managing their own professional development (PD), and 91% expect technology to enable quicker responses to learning/change conditions. Whatever the actual numbers may be, the trend toward individually initiated PD is clear. Whether SMEs know it or not, or are resistant or not, “traditional” SME status will only be as elevated as their ability to integrate hard-won experience into the dynamic, shape-shifting network of the modern workplace. Now that is a learning challenge for us to dig our hands into.

Collaboration as Learning? Collaboration IS Learning (or certainly should be!)

9 Jul

I’ve discussed in earlier posts my strong belief that learning is based in discourse. Through conversation, examination, doubt and reaffirmation we arrive to that place where we are confident in our understanding, our knowledge that we’ve learned something significant. Even if it is internal dialog, there is no substitute for point – counter-point.

It seems like a logical extension then, that the waves of tools, systems and organizational necessities to make collaboration more effective would take us a good distance towards learning workers and learning organizations.  But, for many of us, that has been far from the case.

The more often I speak into a triangular phone, the more I stare at the moving mouse of a screencast or web meeting, the less I feel like I am collaborating (or learning!). Why? Peter Senge, the godfather of learning organizations, had an interesting post the other day about this very topic. Real Collaboration Takes More than Meetings and PowerPoints dives into the heart of this conundrum.

The main takeaway of his post is that collaboration takes deliberate effort, and a workplace culture that demands it. Collaboration should not be, in fact cannot be, passive.

Rob Cottingham, via timesunion.com

Rob Cottingham, via timesunion.com

Collaboration is an act, a participation in a conversation that, if well-managed, drives to reveal facts and decision points. As Senge points out in one good example,

Practices for fostering thinking together need to be embedded in meetings as well. Whenever any of these networks meet, there are few “PowerPoint shows.” The vast majority of the time is spent in small working sessions and larger plenary dialogues….

Yes, our old friend dialog. It what makes the first Star Wars movie so much better than all the rest.

Hmmmm…. Active, engaged, participatory, the very opposite of passivity: Gosh, that sounds a lot like what trainers and Instructional Designers say all the time! Right, collaboration is learning when done well. If you have nothing to learn, and nothing to share, then why collaborate at all? The key is to manage the time, tools and cultural expectations to allow learning to happen.

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