This short article summarises the shift that is happening from expert-led instruction to facilitation, and a focus on people learning together and from each other in the flow of day-to-day activities.
Learning at work, and for work, is moving rapidly away from expert-led ‘chalk and talk’ courses to a multitude of exciting new ways to learn. These still have their place, of course, but the options for digitally-enhanced formal and informal learning opportunities have massively expanded.
It could be maybe joining in chats on Twitter to share ideas and experiences with others, or trying out ideas that others write about. See for example this blog post from Amy Burvall, which fizzes with fabulous ideas and creativity.
From courses to resources
Formal learning that we do as part of our work is also changing.
The shift is summed up by the phrase ‘from courses to resources’, where learning that takes place all the time, in the flow of work, is supported by resources created from people in an organisation sharing what they know and do.
Ray Kurzweil, “one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists, with a thirty-year track record of accurate predictions” believes that ‘passion projects’ are the best way to learn. These are projects that we care about deeply. They can be self-initiated, or they can be as part of a formal initiative by a company’s management
Self-initiated passion projects
A real example of this is a senior nurse who decided to change the performance culture on the hospital ward she had taken responsibility for. She did it by tackling one issue at a time, starting with improving attendance and moving on to establish other habits in her team. She did these things on her own initiative, because patient care is her priority.
This is another real example. The culture in this company is highly collaborative, and its people create exceptional value for customers. Informal networks are strong. So much of this good practice is ‘in the blood’; it’s just what happens.
A situation has arisen where it would be helpful for others to know what good things people are doing. The company asked for suggestions for small projects to improve how good practice is captured, communicated and shared. People then signed up to the projects they most cared about.
What’s a Tiny Triumph?
This brings us to Tiny Triumphs. These are small, step-by-step experiments that help you to experience new ways of working and learning. The name and concept are heavily influenced by Peter Fryer’s concept of Trojan Mice.
Small, step-by-step experiments
that help you to experience
new ways of working and learning”
Small actions can result in big outcomes. Lots of people doing small experiments can be the small fires that come together to ignite far-reaching change.
By the way, ‘triumph’ does not imply success. The triumph is that someone dares to do something in the first place – and learns from the experience, whether or not the experiment succeeds.
How Might You Benefit?
I’ve worked with mainly senior people using small, focused projects to introduce new technologies or working practices into their organisations. This was through an innovative post-graduate Master’s course at a UK university, and then later with the same university in partnership with a Russian university.
For some of these people, they had a business problem that needed addressing. For others, they were curious to learn about how ideas could be applied to change or improve some feature of their work.
They benefitted from:
How Organisations Benefit
Organisations benefit when customers benefit, and that can be in many ways – improved customer service, improved quality, reduced costs, reduced time-to-market for products, etc.
Small projects show what’s possible and build confidence.
The big impact small projects can make applies whether the project is strategic or operational.
My favourite strategic example is the Finance Director in a Siberian city. He wanted to improve the quality of delivery of services to citizens. He started with an IT system to improve land registry procedures. This involved a network of stakeholders, including banks, commercial companies, plus local and regional government agencies.
The technology is this case was straightforward, the complexity of institutional relationships certainly was not. The Financial Director used the project to demonstrate benefits to the city, and ultimately the project participants, and to persuade people who were at first resistant.
The outcome of the project was successful. He was given permission to continue his push for customer focus to other service areas.
This next example is how a new-in-post Managing Director turned around the performance of an ailing small factory. Recently acquired by an efficient, commercially successful parent company, this factory’s processes were a mess. Deliveries to customers were consistently overdue.
The Managing Director was brought in to change the performance culture, making customer-focus the top priority for the business. He did it by breaking this big project into a series of small projects, beginning with quick wins that got people’s attention.
He then set about involving people on the factory floor in finding solutions for changing things. It wasn’t easy but through an accumulation of small successes, he began to take the business in the direction he wanted it to go.
This article describes the experience of someone in operations who recognised a problem, and proposed a solution to fix the problem.
A nurse could see that sheets used for incontinent patients were probably increasing the risk of lesions. Together with a colleague, she gathered data to make the case for using an alternative. They then ensured the alternative was used, as well as “spreading the word” to other groups.
You Can Do It!
Social technologies that connect us to people, information and knowledge are potentially democratising. Many of us are using them to shape the sort of futures we want.
We are now getting together with others in self-directed communities to co-create and share knowledge around things that we are passionate about.
That includes taking responsibility for improving some feature of the work that we do (for our own satisfaction), and developing the skills we need for new ways of working and learning.
Learning through small, practical experiments can make a big impact – both to you and the company you work for.