This article talks about the importance of supporting the Primary Years Programe students in taking global action from a very young age through learning processes: play-based learning and creative inquiry.
“Don’t try to think outside the box – get outside the box, then think!”
― Adam Hartung
Often, the learning function remains slow to adapt and catch up with changes in the consumer and entertainment markets, which in many aspects tend to set the pace for how people interact with content and technology. As learning professionals, we cannot afford to do the same things in the same way and hope our audiences learn and positively change their behavior and outcomes. It is imperative that not only training departments but also individual learning professionals adapt, and quickly, to this digital era.
What follows is a brief list of trends for learning professionals to look out for as we define the future of learning.
Learning Marketplace and Central Learning Experience
We are in the post-TV era, which has seen a separation between the content viewing experience and the television set. Viewers don’t wait a week until the next episode comes on TV; instead, new viewing habits have emerged, turning “binge-watch” into 2015’s word of the year. A simple universal search on smart TV players shows viewers what they want, when they want it, across several content provider apps on one single screen.
The learning management system (LMS) as we know it is morphing, albeit slowly, into a learning marketplace where learners can find both internal and external content to fulfill their needs. As Brandon Carson, director of learning at The Home Depot, pointed out in a recent conversation: “A true multichannel learning strategy moves training away from being a transactional event and enables learning across multiple devices/feeds/content sources based on the learner’s context.”
Technology allows learners to create playlists and aggregate achievements from several sources of learning content into one single profile. That includes informal content providers like YouTube and on-the-job learning such as speaking engagements. We’re seeing the rise of learning “hubs,” such as Degreed, because many in our industry see the gap between tracking and aggregating formal and informal, self-directed, learning experiences.
“What is evolving is the LMS’s role as the central starting point for all training,” said Carson.
Innovation at the Core of the Learning Experience
Learning professionals MUST explore new frontiers for digital interactive learning and have the courage to set the resources aside to pilot new initiatives based on trends: virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, to name a few constants in discussions at industry events. Our learners aren’t content with the status quo. If there are tools and trends out there that help us create more impactful learning experiences that cater to how people learn best, it is imperative that we investigate and integrate some of these innovations into the learning experience.
Take collaboration and blended learning, for instance. Nearly all (94 percent) of companies surveyed for Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report say collaboration is critical to their organization’s success. Informal and collaborative learning enable employees to share knowledge and equip themselves with skills they might not otherwise acquire via formal learning channels. This creates a culture of continuous learning, where employees feel inspired and encouraged to share information. Our employees are already using innovative technology to collaborate outside of the workplace. If we want to stay relevant, we must also seek constant innovation in how we empower our workforce to make use of the latest technology and processes to share knowledge.
Reinventing Learning Professionals
By this I mean reinventing not only what we create and how we do it, but reinventing ourselves daily as well. Curators, enablers, facilitators, and innovators are just a few of the hats we need to wear every day if we are to optimize learning. Our role isn’t solely to create content, or even to “create learning.” Learning is undeniably already happening every second of the day through formal, informal, and peer-to-peer experiences. Our main role is to be catalysts and champions of learning for our audiences. To achieve that, we need to be better learners ourselves.Learning professionals need to adapt our skills to produce only the relevant content to the story we’re trying to tell our learners, not more, not less. In the Information Age and beyond, content is likely already there. Context is where learning organizations should focus most of their efforts, helping learners make sense of things for their role, for their specific time in their careers. We need to develop meaningful learning experiences and faster than before. The old processes won’t cut it anymore. Knowing a specific authoring tool is not a valuable skill in itself any longer. In order to adapt to this fast-paced changing world, we need to practice what we preach when designing learning experiences for our audiences, become better learners ourselves, nurture a sense of wonder, and invest in our own careers.
Lean, Agile Learning Development
Learning professionals have a growing need to master processes and tools that facilitate rapid design and development of learning experiences that are more akin to known Agile application development-oriented methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, and Lean, that provide more user-centric design and a quicker go-to-market time for learning experiences, on time and on budget. There have been a few Agile processes adapted to learning content creation, such as SAM and RCD. Learning organizations need to have mastery of different Agile methodologies that work for them and that can be applied to any given type of project at the moment of need.
Learning experiences can no longer afford to take months of development before they’re ready for prime time.
According to Ajay Pangarkar, employee performance specialist and three-time author at CentralKnowledge.com: “Lean or agile learning isn’t about the learning method or tool. It’s leveraging and applying available resources to derive maximum learning value. Lean learning creates seamless learning processes, and being agile provides adaptability and innovative learning applications, contributing to reducing costs within existing business systems.”
Kelly Rider, vice president of L&D content strategy and experience at SAP, states that as professionals in the learning industry, “We must acquire new skills and mind-set to better meet the expectations of our learners who increasingly need access to information faster than we can produce.” And we must develop acute strategic thinking skills to ensure that the content we do create is carefully tied to business objectives and learner needs. As Rider adds: “What’s the point of creating content if it goes unused? Content is a business asset; it requires an investment and should be held accountable as such.”
The digital “makeover” of the learning industry isn’t so much about technology, but about adapting to innovative processes that support the learning continuum experience by our learners. We must place the learner back in the center of the learning experience, making context first priority.
An important piece of this digital learning transformation is effective application of innovation processes in the design and development of learning experiences.
Original post: https://news.sap.com/2017/06/a-digital-learning-makeover
Maysa Jalbout has spent her career advocating for greater and better support for education, youth and refugees. She has done so through the non-profit sector, government aid and for over a decade in philanthropy. She is currently a member of the IB Board of Governors and is Chief Executive Officer of the Abdulla Al Ghurair […]
Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post by Loryan Strant, Consultant at Loryan Strant Consulting and Microsoft MVP. For more on Loryan, please visit his website.
Learn how to achieve 90% Teams and Yammer adoption with our upcoming webinar featuring Dux Raymond Sy and Microsoft’s Steve Nguyen Register today, all questions will be answered.
Learn how to deploy, manage, name, and adopt Microsoft Teams with our full length series
- The Basics Of Office 365 Groups
- What are Office 365 Groups? One Question with Tons of Answers
- Learn How Microsoft Teams & Groups Work Together
- Learn How To Use Microsoft Teams: Expert Tips and Tricks
- Best Practices for Naming & Categorizing Microsoft Teams
- When To Use Microsoft Teams vs. Other Collaboration Tools
Much like the battle between the titular characters in Batman v Superman, the title of this piece is misleading – albeit a common misconception.
Without giving away any movie spoilers, what I can say is that despite perceptions that Office 365 Groups and Teams are opposing solutions, the reality is that they are actually complimentary. In fact, these two need to work together if we are ever to defeat the evils of emails and boring file shares.
When Microsoft Teams was launched into Public Preview in November 2016 there was a lot of confusion as this Slack competitor seemed to come out of nowhere. One thing was clear though – Teams sits inside the Office 365 Groups substrate.
Today, instead of pitting Office 365 Groups vs Teams, I’m going to do my best to help you untwist the product names and understand how the technology actually coexists in your tenant.
If you are interested in Microsoft Teams and Office 365 check out our latest eBook: Your Digital Transformation Roadmap>
Also, watch Microsoft MVP Dux Raymond Sy as he hosts an hour long, live question and answer session with Microsoft’s Dan Stevenson, Principal Group Program Manager for Microsoft Teams! Watch On Demand>
Playing with Words: Office 365 Groups vs Teams
Dictionary.com defines a group as (noun) “any collection or assemblage of persons or things.” Ok great, makes sense. And these Groups are built around Office 365 technologies so let’s call them Office 365 Groups.
But another definition is:
So a Group can be a group of people. Let’s see where this goes with Teams.
Dictionary.com defines a team as (noun) “a number of persons forming one of the sides in a game or contest”. Ok, we’re not playing a game or contest so let’s look at the next definition: “a number of persons associated in some joint action”.
Got it, but why is it called “Microsoft Teams” when it’s only available as a part of Office 365? By using the same logic above with Groups shouldn’t it be called “Office 365 Teams”?
From a user perspective, while “group” and “team” have different meanings, the intent appears to be the same thing. Or is “Groups” more about a group of technologies, whereas “Teams” is more about a team of people?
I don’t know for certain. But semantics and meanings aside, what we do end up with is a couple of key scenarios that need to be understood.
Like what you read? Be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay in the fold for all things Office 365, SharePoint and more!
Use Case 1: Have an existing Group and want to create a new Team
If a group of users is already using Office 365 Groups, then they already have:
- Exchange mailbox and calendar
- File storage (powered by SharePoint)
- OneNote notebook
- Planner (just one)
Let’s say Bob wants to create a Microsoft Team. Bob can simply make one and connect it to an existing Office 365 Group.
- Teams do not show existing file storage from the Group unless you add a SharePoint tab, which is confusing and adds extra tabs as you already have one for Files.
- Teams do not display the existing Groups’ OneNote content, only the sections that were created for each channel
- The existing Planner already in the Group is not accessible at all from the Teams interface
- New Planner tasks created in separate channels within the Team do not show up in Groups or Planner
Use Case 2: Create a Team without connecting it to an existing Group
What happens if someone creates a new Team but doesn’t connect it to an existing Group? This can quite easily happen as Teams are invite-only, and unlike Yammer groups, you can’t browse what other Teams might already exist. For example, Bob is a member of the “Sales” Group, but Sally isn’t a member of that Group. Not knowing that the Group exists, Sally goes out and creates a “Sales” Team. But just like an Office 365 Group is made any time a user creates a Yammer group, each new Team also gets an Office 365 Group.
This means Sally has inadvertently created a new “Sales” Group that serves a similar purpose, and likely has a similar name to the “Sales” Group Bob was already in.
You get a group
That’s a problem as we now have potential duplication and naming confusion.
The only way around this is to delete Sally’s Microsoft Team and subsequent Office 365 Group, and instead create a new Team that is purposely connected to the existing Group Bob is a part of.
Phew, what a mouthful! But let’s take this scenario a step further…
Imagine if Sally’s new Team/Group wasn’t detected straightaway and carried on with adding content, conversations, and Team members! It would be confusing for the users because of the duplicate workflow, and then someone eventually has to clean up the mess to move the file content from this Team to the other Team. But then we run into an issue because there is no way at this point to migrate Team chats!
Even if we get through all that and make it work properly – there’s been a lot of confusion already separate the fact that Teams present a different interface for working.
Let’s not continue down that rabbit hole for now, and instead let’s look at the third, and significantly simpler scenario…
Use Case 3: Create a Team and only a Team
This is considerably simpler for Bob or Sally to do than the previous scenarios as everything is new and clean, so you don’t have to worry about duplicating existing content.
When Microsoft released Teams, they pushed it as a fundamental shift from how organisations and groups (err… teams?) of users work. It‘s the chat-based, fast-paced alternative to Exchange emails. It’s highly likely that those who simply want a Team and only a team are the type of users that don’t care for emails.
This leads me to confess that I’ve created yet another misleading title. As we’ve already covered, when you create a Microsoft Team you will also always get an Office 365 Group unless it is deactivated.
Wait… what? I’m trying to get away from group email, that’s why we’re using Teams in the first place! The shared Team OneNote, Planner, calendar, and file storage make sense, but what are we supposed to do with this mailbox? We use Teams to communicate for everything!
Best Case Scenario
Office 365 Groups vs Teams
The reality is that creating a new Team is the best and easiest way to go, but that’s not really possible if you’ve already invested time in building out your Office 365 Groups. If, however, the amount of investment in your Office 365 Group content isn’t that great, you can shuffle some things around to make that work.
In my personal experience, I had three existing Groups with OneNote content, files, and emails. In only one of those three instances was there any Planner content. All I simply had to do for all the other content was:
- Move the files to the appropriate channel folder created
- Move the OneNote pages to the appropriate section created
- Figure out what to do with the Planner tasks and buckets
Luckily there weren’t that many so we manually re-created them.
But, that’s not necessarily practical in a larger organisation or with users who are less in the know.
Staying in Control
It is important when considering the deployment of Office 365 Groups vs Teams that we give it some thought before “going viral.” While these technologies make it easy for end users to simply press a button and get going, we need to keep this behaviour in check without stifling it.
We need to ensure these key areas are covered:
- User education
- Data management (duplication and versioning)
Instead of pitting Office 365 Groups vs Teams, the two together provide a very powerful disruptor in the way we work on a daily basis. However, we need think them through to ensure that the disruption leads to a positive outcome and improved user experience, not confusion and frustration.
As a takeaway, we’ve put together a one-sheet of things to consider when rolling out Teams.
Have a question or want to chat more about Teams or Groups? Leave me a comment below or chat with me on twitter @LoryanStrant!
Strant, L (2018). Office 365 Groups vs Teams: How to Successfully Deploy Bot. Available at: https://www.avepoint.com/blog/microsoft-teams/office-365-groups-vs-teams/ [Accessed 31st October 2018].
Fed up with Moodle, Blackboard or Canvas and think you could do better? If so, JISC have set up a challenge for you to design a future VLE. Things have changed since the early days of the first VLE’s, such as AI, VR, more inclusive and accessible learning or even wearable technologies. What would the learning technology environment of the future look like without the constraints of a computer, phone ot tablet screen? This is such a good idea!
Here’s a video explaining the brief:
And there are prizes!!!!
£1000 for the best idea from the shortlist
Two runners-up prizes of £250
All short-listed ideas will be showcased on JISC’s edtech blog and the winning ideas will be showcased at Digifest 2019.
Book review: Professional services leadership handbook by Nigel Clark, Ben Kent, Alastair Beddow and Adrian Furner
The Professional services leadership handbook (subtitled “How to lead a professional services firm in a new age of competitive disruption”) was published in 2017 and it has taken a while to read and digest the contents and write this review. Professional services leadership is an important topic and the book contains a huge amount of valuable information and ideas for managing partners and other leaders in the professions. It will also prove useful to those designing leadership and management development programmes.
The book is structured around a leadership triangle: Business, People and Clients (with self in the centre) and shows that there is a need to keep these elements balanced. Happily, the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) for successful leaders gets an early mention. Visibility, adaptability, forward-thinking and celebrating success are amongst the qualities mentioned by those interviewed.
Professional service firms interviewed for case studies include: Allen & Overy, Arup, Bird & Bird, Birkett Long, Brachers, Buzzacott, Coffin Mew, Cripps, Dentons, EY, Farrer & Co, Fox Williams, Grant Thornton, GVA, Herbert Smith Freehills, Irwin Mitchell, KLegal, Kreston Reeves, Mills & Reeve, Moore Stephens, Mourant Ozannes, PwC, Reed Smith, RSM, Saffery Champness and Thomson Snell & Passmore.
Part One – Business leadership
“Creating a strategy is one of the most important tasks for a newly appointed leader”. There are echoes here of the book Rocket Fuel where successful businesses combine visionaries and integrators. The need to listen more than talk and to ask fundamental questions was stressed in the case studies.
I really like the bow-tie process for creating a strategy – it’s a useful addition to any strategy development tool kit:
- Analyse (decision grid, desk research, interviews, financial analysis)
- Consult (employee surveys, strategy development groups, off-site meetings)
- Decide (vision for the future – at least three years ahead, priorities, what we will and won’t do)
- Distil strategy into fundamental principles (one page plan)
- Cascade the strategy throughout the firm
- Implement (achieve buy-in internally, change processes, organisational design)
- Track and adapt (Financial KPIS, Clients KPIs, Employee KPIs, Annual reviews0
It was good to see evidence of the 4Ps of marketing (Place, Products, Price, Promotion) in the decision grid although I wasn’t clear where goal setting fitted in. There was, however, a useful interview discussion guide to examine client needs and market trends and a good five-step approach to effective law firm conferences:
- Breakout groups and consultations
- Plenary session
The example one page strategy plan was insightful too – simple and elegant.
The six ages of innovation are outlined (expansion into new markets, sector focus, integrating technology into service delivery, reducing the cost of service delivery though “unbundling”, solving problems in new ways by “rebundling” and the technology supported professional).
After a review of innovation at Allen & Overy, the authors present their innovation lifecycle:
- Phase Zero – Innovation strategy formulation
- Phase One – Ideation (like the sandbox references)
- Phase Two – Prioritise
- Phase Three – Prototype
- Phase Four – Test
- Phase Five – Scale
Performance – profitability
Using a fictionalised example of a private client department, the authors explore their model of the eight profit levers for professional services firms (organised around structure, time management and client management).
I was a little disappointed that there were only brief references to pricing – mentioning four types (hourly rate, fixed fee, success-based and blended – no mention of value pricing) but pleased to see that project management was recommended as a way to plug profit leakage across the client lifecycle. The authors also touch on the need to improve profitability through cultural change. They mention topics such as delegation and frank conversations with clients about pricing and scoping.
Part Two – Client leadership
With the authors being so expert in research, it’s no surprise that they urge leaders to challenge assumptions about clients and develop deeper knowledge and understanding about clients’ businesses. There is sensible advice to analyse clients and identify high priority segments. I particularly liked the comment “It is not uncommon for firms to over-service their largest clients but at the same time to cut prices by offering volume discounts to maintain a flow of work”.
The client portfolio assessment tool (considering revenue and profitability) looks similar to the Boston Consulting Groups (BCG) product portfolio model. Client relationship factors to consider include: profitable, long term, challenge, fresh and culture. Whilst I felt this oversimplified things I liked the questions to guide discussions about key clients.
I was also pleased to see a strong section on understanding the trends and issues in firm and client markets. The authors note that leading firms adopt an issues based approach rather than the service or sector led approaches adopted by so many. There were some interesting insights in the client feedback maturity curve (crown jewels, annual audit, integrators and client-centric).
There’s a chapter on fostering a client-focused culture in firms and segmentation (with personas) underpins the approach. The authors note: values of respect, client advocacy, relationship management programmes, spending time with clients, industry sector knowledge, cross-firm communication about client interests and leadership that celebrates strong client behaviours.
There’s a good section on client experience and client journey mapping examining the benefits of: deeper understanding of the needs of different client segments, greater focus on the moments that matter, articulated best practice, reducing inefficiency and evidence-based differentiation. The role of client champions is explored with particular reference to co-creation.
There’s a final chapter in this section on sales. The five client relationship management essentials are seen as: clients, partners, team, plan and rewards. There are insights into CRM processes: identify priority clients, delegate responsibility, support from an informed and co-ordinated team, plan of activity and link to performance and reward. A version of the Pace pipeline model (profile, positioning, prospecting, pursing and proposal) is used along with a version of the decision-making unit.
Part Three – People leadership
This starts with advice on fostering a commercial mind set and notes the importance of role models. There’s some solid, albeit basic, advice about aligning the firm’s strategy with people and a useful skills and capabilities diagnostic with references to T-shaped people (see https://www.kimtasso.com/future-marketing-manager-t-shaped-people-senior-promotions-management-vs-leadership/).
There’s interesting case studies and advice on increasing the commerciality of senior and junior staff and the supporting training programmes. Then the authors move onto motivating high-performing teams (commitment, trust, culture, responsibilities, decision-making, communication and co-ordination). There are nods to the differences in Millennials – who prioritise career and personal development above remuneration. It mentions that Grant Thornton has moved to a shared enterprise model for this reason. There’s advice too on getting the most from business services teams.
Continuous improvement and performance improvement and management are tackled. The final section on self-leadership leads into an interesting assessment of leadership potential (reach, culture, follower draw/purpose, horizon, driver and style). The diagram of the six routes to leadership in professional firms is insightful. Leadership development edges into brand me with questions about “what do you want to be known for?”. The leadership style mapper is helpful. There are comments about delegation and time management to avoid burnout – and the authors address the question of whether or not to retain client work.
It’s a really good book that’s based on a deep knowledge of professional partnerships and stuffed with great advice based on insight from many years’ experience of working with PSFs. It took me a while to read the book as it contains so much information. And so I fear that those who would gain most from the book – those in leadership positions in the professions – might not devote the time and attention that it deserves. Leaders in marketing, business development, human resources and any other services team in a professional services firm will find the book immensely valuable.
In many ways it reminded me of the book I wrote for property leaders back in 2009 called “Growing your property partnership – Plans, promotion and people” https://www.kimtasso.com/publications/growing-your-property-partnership/ Although I omitted sections on finance and technology as often property partnerships excel in these areas but lack the strategy, human resources and business development expertise.
Contents of Professional services leadership handbook
The book contains the following sections:
Part One – Business Leadership
Vision – how to create and implement a robust strategic plan
Innovation – how to reap the benefits of innovation in your firm
Performance – how to improve the profitability of client engagements
Part Two – Client leadership
Understanding – how to stay attuned to the changing needs of your clients and markets
Connecting – how to foster a client-focused culture in your firm
Sales – how to improve your firm’s client development success
Part Three – People leadership
Future-fit – how to foster a commercial mind set in your firm
Motivate and collaborate – how to create high-performing teams
Performance – how to establish a culture of continuous improvement
Part Four – Self leadership
Forward reflection – how to assess your leadership potential
Capability – how to develop the skills, competencies and experiences to be a successful leader
Balance – how to succeed as a leader without burning out
Interesting facts and statistics
There are lots of great nuggets throughout the book, including:
- PwC’s research on the legal sector is quoted: “Between 2010 and 2016 average profit margins for all but the top 10 UK law firms remained stagnant or had declined. The squeezed middle saw an average drop in margins from 27.2% to 23.1%” This is compared to the average annual 45% growth at technology-enabled companies such as Axiom.
- Research amongst CMOs at leading professional service firms in 2017 revealed only 12% had a formal process for testing or co-creating innovation ideas with clients. Just 14% had a designated budget for innovation projects. 36% design joined up propositions to package their services to clients in new ways.
- As a rule of thumb, professional service firms should aim for 40-50% of turnover being spent on professional salaries, 30% on overheads (including support staff salaries) with the rest as profit (20-30%).
- Top City law firms expect their lawyers to charge at least 1,600 hours per year with some Magic Circle and US firms having even higher targets – close to 2,000
- PwC lists 12 issues on its web site and shows how its expertise helps clients address these issues.
- Research amongst CMOs and head of BD in PSF shows 48% plan to create a client journey map within the next 12 months and 235 plan to develop a client charter that sets out the firm’s service promise to clients at different points on the client journey (Beddow, 2017)
- Less than a quarter (21%) of CMOs and heads of business development in PSFs directly measure and reward performance based on the quality of the client experience delivered
- Addleshaw Goddard launched its Client Development Centre in 2005 through which it collaborates with its clients to address some of the wider organisational challenges, not just legal probems, through the delivery of bespoke advice, consultancy and training
- The optimal blend of learning is referred to as the 70:20:10 approach for experiential learning, social learning and formal learning
- The more practice areas within a firm that a client uses, te lower their overall satisfaction score. Yet Heidi k Gardener has shown that the more cross-practice projects a lawyer works on , the higher the hourly rate achieved compared with peers working on single-practice proects.
Other strategy, leadership and change management books
Other strategy, leadership and change management books I have reviewed – not all of which are aimed at professional services – include:
I have been busy writing a new book, and the last month has involved a lot of research and writing, completing, editing and polishing of my manuscript for final submission later this month. It's a book I was commissioned to write for Kogan Page, and will be aimed at the learning and development (L and D) sector. It's quite a departure for me, because my last 5 books have focused on learning and technology for schools, colleges and universities. It was about time I tackled another sector of learning and I have become very familiar with leaning and development in organisations over the last decade.
Although this book is focused on digital technology and future developments for learning in the corporate sector, I believe it still has many facets that educators in all sectors will find interesting, challenging and informative.
The title of the book is 'Digital Learning in Organisations', and is already being marketed on Amazon and other online outlets. It will contain 11 chapters (12 if you count the extended introduction I have written). With titles such as 'Hyperconnected Communities of Practice', 'Connection and Disruption' and 'Knowledge Networks', I hope you can see where I'm taking the book. There are chapters on game based learning and digital readiness (literacies), as well as a closing chapter entitled 'How We Shape Our Futures', which focuses on the future of learning, new and emerging technologies, risk factors, societal challenges, cyborg cultures, Artificial Intelligence, humanisation of technology and other futurist perspectives.
Digital Learning in Organisations will be published by Kogan Page in both paperback and ebook formats in April 2019.
Digital learning in organisations by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Employers have used just under 14 per cent of their apprenticeship levy funds in the first 18 months since the policy was introduced, FE Week can reveal.
Last month, skills minister Anne Milton revealed the total balance of employers’ apprenticeship service accounts was £2.7 billion as of the end of September.
In response to a Freedom of Information request from this newspaper, the Department for Education said that £370 million of this had been drawn down, amounting to 13.7 per cent.
Large employers have been made to pay the apprenticeship levy since it was launched in April 2017. The money goes into a pot, which employers have two years to claim back for spending on apprenticeship training.
But concerns have been raised that employers are not spending their funds quickly enough. Last week, for example, Health Education England urged NHS trusts to use or transfer their levy cash with greater speed to avoid losing the money.
Recent policy changes have aimed to increase levy spending. From April 2019, levy-paying employers will be able to share more of their annual funds with smaller organisations, when the levy transfer facility rises from 10 to 25 per cent.
And in last month’s Budget, the chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the 10 per cent fee small businesses have to pay when they take on apprentices will be halved.
Levy money also has other purposes. Unspent funds from the national pot are used in ways that include funding apprenticeships for small, non-levy paying employers, for English and maths qualifications and for extra support for apprentices who are care leavers or have special needs.
FE Week asked the DfE how much of the levy pot has so far been used on these different areas, but it refused to say.
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said the government “needn’t panic over these figures” and said the new measures will “allow more headroom for small and medium sized enterprises to engage” with the levy.
“More employers are engaged than before but it takes time to build strategies and pilot programmes. However, there are obstacles such as inflexibility in the off-the-job training rule which needs sorting,” he said.
John Cope, head of education and skills policy at the CBI, said employers are “committed to high-quality apprenticeships and making the levy work” but warned that “big challenges remain”.
He added: “The government was right to say in the Budget that it’ll work with business in the lead up to the spending review to evolve the system into a more accessible skills levy.”
The government had hoped the apprenticeship levy would encourage more employers to invest in training and help it hit its manifesto target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020. However, starts have fallen dramatically since its launch.
The latest figures, released on October 26, revealed that apprenticeship starts for July were down 43 per cent on the same month in 2016, before the introduction of the levy.
In June, FE Week reported that employers had used just 10 per cent of their apprenticeship levy funds in the first 12 months since it was introduced, with £207 million being drawn down out of a budget of £2.01 billion.
Fantastically indepth article that really goes beyond Pearson to think about what AI means for learning/education - and what is wrong with Netflix/Amazon anologies.
Almost five years ago, when Pearson announced that the company would reorganize itself around efficacy, I was impressed by the degree to which the company was going "all in" on a very much unproven strategy. It was incredibly bold. I wrote,
In all my years of covering the ed tech industry, I have never seen a company be so explicit and detailed about their strategy as Pearson is being now with their efficacy publications. Yes, there is plenty of marketing speak here. But there is also quite a bit about what they are actually doing as a company internally—details about pilots and quality reviews and hiring processes and M&A criteria. These are the gears that make a company go. The changes that Pearson is making in these areas are the best clues we can possibly have as to what the company really means when they say that they want efficacy to be at the core of their business going forward. And they have published this information for all the world to see.
These now-public details suggest a hugely ambitious change effort within the company. Phil and I have consulted for a few textbook publishers, including Pearson, and I worked for Cengage for a year and a half. We have a pretty good idea of the magnitude of the change management challenges these companies face right now and the strategies that various publishers are bringing to bear in an effort to meet them. I can say with absolute conviction that what Pearson has announced is no half-hearted attempt or PR window dressing, and I can say with equal conviction that what they are attempting will be enormously difficult to pull off. They are not screwing around. Whatever happens going forward, Pearson is likely to be a business school case study for the ages.
Pearson bet the farm on efficacy. As far as I can tell, they are still betting the farm on efficacy. If anything, they have doubled down in the five years since I wrote those words.
There are a number of reasons why this bet is remarkable, not least of which is that we still don't know if a curricular materials company can be successful in the long run by promoting efficacy as a primary value proposition. In addition to all the hard work that Pearson needs to do to credibly claim that their products support some sensible definition of efficacy, they also have to tackle the equally hard challenge of convincing faculty that the company's vision of efficacy, as delivered in their products, is a good reason to pick their product instead of the (many) alternatives. They have an enormous customer communications challenge. That was one of the main points of my original 7,000-word post on the company's strategy.
Which is why I find it mystifying to see an article in Forbes which seems almost designed to distract from or even directly undermine the efficacy message that the company has been carefully honing over the last half a decade. The article, "How 174 Year Old Pearson Is Developing The Netflix Of Education" is a longish interview with Albert Hitchcock, Pearson's Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer. The jarring title refers back to Mr. Hitchcock's previous use of the analogy in an interview entitled 'Pearson aims to become the 'Netflix' of education.' In responding to that first piece two years ago, I wrote,
Given his profile on LinkedIn, Mr. Hitchcock appears to be new to education except for whatever memories he has of his own days as a student. Let me offer a couple of suggestions on how to get along in education for him and the many vendor employees who are in a similar situation:
- Never, ever, say that you want your company to be the Uber of education, the Airbnb of education, the Pokemon GO of education, or the [insert name of tech darling] of education unless you really enjoy being a recluse (or you are secretly a double agent for your employer's direct competitor).
- If you absolutely must say something like the above, then do not say you are the Netflix of education. Honestly, Netflix isn't even great at being the Netflix of movies. The last time they recommended a movie that I actually wanted to watch was...uh...never.
There is a recurring cultural fantasy that "solving" the education "problem" consists of creating a customized playlist of little content bits. So really, more like the Spotify of education, if you want to play that game. This idea enrages educators because it trivializes what they do. Nobody who has taught believes that proper sequencing of content chunks is the hard part. (For a fully fleshed out prior example—or a "worked example" in teaching parlance—of how the sorts of comments Mr. Hitchcock have made typically play out in educational corporate branding over time, see my post-mortem on Udacity's pivot away from higher education.)
In the more recent Forbes piece, the interviewer picks up on the Netflix analogy and asks Mr. Hitchcock about it. Not only does Mr. Hitchcock choose not to disavow the analogy; he expands on it by adding Spotify and Amazon. I'll parse his exact language later in this post in the interest of fairness, but my point from the previous post stands. Regardless of the intention behind the analogies, they are toxic and should be avoided at all costs. This is doubly true for Pearson because, as I will explain in the next section of this post, they also run directly counter to the more credible, more refined articulation of the efficacy strategy that the company is promoting in 2018.
The fact that the analogies did make it into an interview with a mainstream publication like Forbes raises some larger questions. Is Pearson less committed to efficacy than I have believed them to be? Is there poor alignment in the company around what efficacy means? Are they just really bad at messaging? Did Mr. Hitchcock's intent somehow get represented unfairly by a few poorly chosen words that were then taken out of context by an editor?
To find out the answers to these questions, I spoke with Pearson's President of Global Product Tim Bozik, SVP of Efficacy and Research Kate Edwards, and CEO John Fallon. Here's the short version of what I have concluded, based on those interviews and other evidence:
- I am mostly still convinced that Pearson is fully committed to efficacy as a primary value proposition for all of their products and services going forward.
- I do believe that the Forbes interviewer was bad, as were some of the editorial choices made by the publication. (Particularly the headline.)
- Even granting the benefit of the doubt on the previous point, Mr. Hitchcock made a number of very bad choices that no executive in his position should make and that cannot be explained away by blaming the editor or the interviewer.
- Mr. Bozik and Ms. Edwards seemed fully aligned on what Pearson means by efficacy, how to talk about it, and how central it is to the company. Within the rules that they were bound to follow in an on-the-record interview through formal PR channels, they did the best job they could to articulate the most attractive and compelling version of Pearson's efficacy strategy while diplomatically establishing some distance from Mr. Hitchcock's questionable analogies.
- Mr. Fallon chose a different path. He went to some lengths to justify or explain away the analogies. In doing so, he re-opened questions that Ms. Edwards and Mr. Bozik had all but closed for me regarding whether Pearson has the sensitivity and message discipline they will need to earn their customers' trust regarding their commitment to efficacy.
For the long version, read on.
But before you do, you should be aware of our conflicts of interest, which I'm going to describe in more than the usual detail. Pearson is a current sponsor of the Empirical Educator Project. In addition, they have periodically engaged us in consulting projects over the years (although we do not have any current engagements with them.) Some of these projects have involved their efficacy work, either directly or indirectly. We received prior permission from the company to blog publicly about the first such engagement. Most recently, we were hired to review the company's public efficacy reports, provide the kind of feedback that we might publish in a blog post, and offer suggestions for improving the work. You can judge for yourself whether these engagements make us more or less trustworthy in our assessments.
Netflix and Spotify analogies are fundamentally incompatible with Pearson's view of efficacy
In order to understand why these analogies are particularly bad for Pearson's efficacy effort, it's important to understand how the company's position on efficacy has evolved. In that original post five years ago, I wrote,
Let's think some more about the analogy to efficacy in health care. Suppose Pfizer declared that they were going to define the standards by which efficacy in medicine would be measured. They would conduct internal research, cross-reference it with external research, come up with a rating system for the research, and define what it means for medicines to be effective. They would then apply those standards to their own medicines. And, after all is said and done, they would share their system with physicians and university researchers in the hopes that the medical community might be reassured about the quality of Pfizer's products and maybe even contribute some ideas to the framework around the edges. How confident would we be that what Pfizer delivers would consistently be in the objective best interest of improving health? This is not entirely hypothetical; much of the drug research that happens today is sponsored by drug companies. Unsurprisingly, this state of affairs is viewed by many as deeply problematic, to say the least. It certainly doesn't help the brand value of Pfizer. But at least much of that medical research is conducted by physicians and academic researchers and is subject to the scientific peer review process. Pearson is creating their framework largely on their own, selectively inviting in external participants here and there.
I get why they had to do this. The company is bleeding money, it will take some time to stop the flow of blood, and they couldn't wait to build consensus before they tied the tourniquet. But it is not going to get them where they want to go. While there are obvious concerns about ethics and about whether such a company-driven approach is fundamentally compatible with progress on complex questions such as defining what an education is good for and how we know when we have achieved these ends, I want to focus on the business aspects of the problem. I want to focus on why continuing down this path is bad for Pearson. Or rather, why driving hard toward becoming facilitators rather than owners of efficacy research is good for Pearson.
I could give a number of examples, but one should hopefully suffice. In preparing to write this post, I asked Annie Cellini, Pearson's Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, whether Pearson intends to share the completed rubrics for their products with customers and prospects. This was her reply:
Though we don't plan to share product efficacy scoring as part of our sales and marketing materials per se, where a product has a strong research and evidence base, we will communicate that to customers. It's also worth saying that the most important output of an efficacy review isn't a rubric score. We believe that much of a review's value comes from the conversations that it prompts teams to have, which focus on the path forward, and on how to improve the product or service from a learner perspective. A poor score does not mean the product doesn’t work well. It often means that teams are not collecting the type of data needed in order to get a sufficiently robust view of the product’s efficacy, or they may not have a sufficiently practical plan to continuously enhance the product based on data. Their improvement plan will encourage them to start gathering new information, to start working in new ways, and to make sure that their customers are aligned with the outcomes they plan to achieve and understand their role in the product's path to efficacy.
This is a perfectly sensible and responsible reply if you believe that the main value of the Efficacy Framework to customers is in the data that results from the work a product team does after an efficacy review. But remember, the magic of the rubric is in the norming conversations. Annie's reply suggests that Pearson understands this in terms of the Pearson-internal processes but not yet in terms of their relationships with their customers. If Pearson were to say to faculty, "Here's what we think we know about the efficacy of this product, here's what we don't know yet, and here is how we are thinking about the question," they might get a number of responses. Maybe they would get, "Oh, well here's how I know that it's effective with my class." Or "The reason that you don't have a good answer on effectiveness yet is that your rubric doesn't provide a way to capture the educational value that your product delivers for my students." Or "I don't use this product because it has direct educational effectiveness. It frees me up from some grunt work so that I can conduct activities with the class that have educational impact." Most of all, if you're John Fallon, you really want faculty to say to their sales reps, "Huh. I never thought about the product in quite those terms, and it makes me think a little differently about how I might use it going forward. What can you tell me about the effectiveness of this other product that I'm thinking about using, at least as Pearson sees it?" And you really want your sales reps to run back to the product teams, hair on fire, saying "Quick! Tell me everything you know about the effectiveness of this product!"
Pearson won't get that conversation by just publishing end results of their internal analysis when they have them, which means that they have a high risk of failing to align their products with the needs and desires of their market if they think about the relationship between their framework and their customers in that way. I don't think Pearson fully gets that yet. While the authors of The Incomplete Guide frequently invoke terms like "community" and "leaders" in the document, they generally seem to mean the community and leaders within Pearson. The company's efforts to reach out to the academic community for feedback and participation are generally framed as an extension of their efforts rather than the very heart of them. And yet, Pearson's brightest possible future is not as a company that designs educationally effective products, but as one that facilitates conversation and research about efficacy within the broader academic community (and in so doing is able to design products that their customers agree are effective for important educational goals as determined by meaningful measures).
The Netflix, Spotify and, to a lesser extent, Amazon analogies all speak directly to the question of whether Pearson intends to define efficacy for educators or with educators. Netflix famously just deleted—not just removed, but deleted—all user reviews and switched from a five-star review system to a simple "thumbs-up/thumbs-down." The subhead on the Vanity Fair article I linked to in the previous sentence is "A step closer to a wholly 'because you watched' world." The implication is that Netflix trusts the algorithm more than the humans to evaluate quality. Equally famously, Apple CEO Tim Cook has highlighted the company's decision to use human curators of music, in contrast to Spotify's decision to rely completely on its algorithms:
We worry about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.
Whenever Pearson makes any mention of Netflix or Spotify—or Amazon, which is known for its recommendation engine as well—the company risks appearing to come down on the side of the algorithm over the human. Educators worry about the humanity being drained out of teaching, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft. In 2018, is that where Pearson has come down on their definition of efficacy?
Not as far as I can tell.
Pearson, in fact, recently made a high-profile hire away from Intel of artificial intelligence expert Milena Marinova. Here's how she described her work in an interview with The Bookseller:
Right now, I am working on developing human-centric AI – this means making the learning experience better for students and teachers; enabling lifelong learning through more accessible and affordable products; and building better products and solutions using new technology.
What does "human-centric AI" mean in this context? Mr. Bozik commented on this directly in our interview. He described it as an effort to help teachers and students get a better view into their own learning. He said the company is placing a strong emphasis on early intervention and formative assessment, and providing "feedback and insights." He also said,
Pearson strives for respect for both the ambition and the humility of [its efficacy strategy]. The ambition is that efficacy means outcomes. Full stop. It's the potential to help people live better lives. That is our purpose. The humility part is that it’s hard. We don’t underestimate the difficulty of it. It starts with having an empathy for teachers and learners, rather than just teaching and learning.
For Ms. Edwards' perspective, while I could quote her from my interview, I think you'll get a better sense of her from her lightning talk at the Empirical Educator Project summit in February:
Here's the part of her talk that jumps out as relevant to the question at hand:
How do we maximize the uniquely human attributes that educators—faculty—bring to the table, and combine them with all the productivity enhancements that come from things like data science, AI, and the improvements we're seeing as the result of technology. All with the emphasis on helping students achieve outcomes that really matter to them.
Ms. Edwards then goes on to talk about the resources that Pearson either has already contributed or will contribute under a Creative Commons license. These include a set of rubrics for evaluating curricular materials (or course designs) based on a set of academically accepted and empirically verified learning science principles and a set of tools for instructors that want to conduct action research. It's these contributions, these public actions, that speak the most persuasively to Phil and me when we evaluate a company's intent. (For more on Ms. Edwards' views and her characterization of Pearson's efficacy work, you can read her recent posts on LinkedIn.)
Taken together with Pearson's other work, such as their first publicly released efficacy reports on their products, the message conveyed by the actual work that I have seen from the company is clear: They aspire to define efficacy with educators and students. As I wrote earlier in this post, I have had opportunities to view this work from inside and out over the past five years. I honestly believe that the people working on the efficacy and product teams—Ms. Edwards' and Mr. Bozik's teams, respectively—buy into that goal and are actively working toward it.
Pearson's intent doesn't matter if nobody believes them
The problem is that intent of the people working at the company, level of commitment to that intent by the CEO and the small circle of people that make decisions within a company, and customer perception of intent are three different things. When I published my post the first time Mr. Hitchcock was quoted talking about Netflix, some of the people who worked on product design and efficacy at Pearson were quite angry with me. They felt that I had misrepresented Pearson's position, because—and this is key—they also felt that Mr. Hitchcock's comments were not representative of Pearson's position. I replied that I wasn't sure there was any way to determine what Pearson's position is. Mr. Hitchcock is quite senior. He reports directly to the CEO. I could ask other executives for their own responses, but they wouldn't be any more authoritative than Mr. Hitchcock's. Unless I could speak directly to Mr. Fallon—which I didn't believe would be possible at the time—I had no way of definitively determining which beliefs the elusive entity known as "Pearson" holds.
What I did know is how academia would receive the phrase "the Netflix of Education." I knew this because Mr. Hitchcock was not the first person to use it, as was acknowledged by a Pearson employee in a 2016 EdSurge story entitled "Why We Don't Need a 'Netflix for Education.'" Its toxicity was widely known inside Pearson, at least within the product and efficacy groups.
Last month, five years into the massive effort to align the company around efficacy, the analogy shows up again, expanded upon, by the same senior executive. And this time, it's not published in a specialty IT outlet. It's in Forbes. Interviews at that level do not happen at big companies without being vetted. If you're a senior executive at a company like Pearson, you go through formal media training, and you are often accompanied on interviews by a PR professional. These tend to be usually serious, orchestrated affairs. There are rules. How was it possible that this interview was approved, went through the proper channels, and went off the rails? Do Pearson executives see it as being as far off-message as I do? Is there conflict or confusion about the efficacy strategy at the highest levels of the organization that isn't obvious to the casual observer?
Let's take a look at what Mr. Hitchcock actually said and then turn to the executive on-the-record reactions to it.
Mr. Hitchcock's comments were bad and cannot be explained away by bad editing
Here's the part of the article where Netflix came up:
High: You described the vision of delivering Pearson's education, content, and services through a single platform as creating the "Netflix of Education." Could you talk about this long-term vision?
Hitchcock: The intention of the message was to have the viewpoint that we needed to move to a platform type of model where we have all our products, services, and capabilities that we deliver to our customers in a single ecosystem. A great deal has been written around this model at Pearson, and that is especially relevant as our company grew through acquisitions. Ours is a diverse business that is over 170 years old and has had many different types of companies under the umbrella of Pearson for many years. Recently, education has become the primary focus, but that complexity that was acquired over those decades was inherent within the company. The way we serve our customers had been across many different brands and many different types of digital products. We sell millions of books and material on the digital side. We had to figure out how to transform that to be a consistent, high-quality branding experience and one that is comparable to the best customer experiences out there.
Silicon Valley companies create the benchmark for the digital experience by being platform businesses. Our vision is to leverage the opportunity to transform along similar lines in terms of having a single platform globally that could deliver all our educational content and courseware. Furthermore, this would allow us to move into a more personalized experience that delivers high-quality education outcomes. It would be game-changing for not only Pearson, but for the entire industry if we could create that single platform, similar to Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon. [Emphasis added.] This platform would be highly scalable, global in nature, high-quality, and a platform that could deliver all our experiences around the world to millions of learners. We are currently working to deliver high-quality courses to students that are proven to help them learn and progress their lives through education and ultimately to their professional lives.
In the interest of fairness, I'll enumerate the extenuating circumstances:
- The interviewer, not Mr. Hitchcock, brought up Netflix. And a Forbes editor, not Mr. Hitchcock, chose to feature Netflix in the headline.
- Mr. Hitchcock seems to be making a point about the need to support a seamless, end-to-end, born-digital customer experience for students. Further, he is absolutely correct that Pearson, like all of the larger textbook publishers, grew through acquisition and have had a patchwork of many different systems that were never designed to work together. These are entirely valid and important issues for Pearson's CTO and COO to discuss.
- He does not take the last, most toxic step (this time) of describing Pearson as the "Netflix of education." In fact, he seems to make a modest effort to narrow the scope of the analogy in response to the question: "The intention of the message was to have the viewpoint...."
Is it possible that Mr. Hitchcock meant something innocuous and unobjectionable by the analogy? Yes, it is. Is it possible that he honestly tried, in his own way, to communicate the narrowness of his intent with the analogy? Absolutely. Is this a relatively minor and understandable slip that would have been fine if it had just been worded a little more clearly?
I reiterate: There are no circumstances under which any EdTech executive should ever make an analogy between their company or offering and Netflix or Spotify. Period. Full Stop. It is not a mistake that anyone in Mr. Hitchcock's position should ever make. In fact, if the analogy is brought up by an interviewer, as it was in this case, the first words out of the executive's response should be "To be clear, Pearson does not aspire to be the Netflix of education." That goes doubly for Mr. Hitchcock because he actually said that once before and should have taken the opportunity to correct the record, and trebly because the analogy can easily be interpreted as being in direct contradiction to the company's bet-the-farm strategy, around which it has taken them five years to arrive at their current calibration in message and in action.
Nor can this easily be chocked up to bad editing. In fact, I question whether there was any significant editing whatsoever. This isn't one of those tightly written articles in the reporter's own voice with a one- or two-sentence quote sprinkled in here or there. This is an interview, with short questions followed by long answers that do not appear to be heavily edited for clarity or brevity.
Even worse, there is a pattern to Mr. Hitchcock's answers which leave the distinct impression that he, the CTO and COO, is directly responsible for or taking credit for the company's strategy on teaching and learning. He deftly pairs "I believe" statements with "Pearson has done" statements. It's very easy to read these statements as Mr. Hitchcock making a causal connection between his beliefs and Pearson's strategy decisions, which is an impression that is only reinforced by the sycophantic fawning of the interviewer.
Here's an example:
High: How is the process of experimentation around new technologies done? Specifically, as new technologies emerge, how do you encourage your team to begin to experiment and to decipher more of the specifics of how that might be leveraged?
Hitchcock: [...] Overall, I believe it is a combination of aspects. I believe it is about us looking at other ideas that other companies are implementing and seeing where we can bring these concepts together to deliver with the lasting initiatives that we are trying to put in place at Pearson. Then, as we create the single platform, it is about how we start thinking about future R&D and looking forward towards a five-year horizon. It is about seeing the ideas that are coming that we can then bolt into the platform to take us to the next level. More specifically, with AI, we recently hired a senior leader from Intel to help us to bring the entire AI area to focus in terms of what it is going to do for our business. We are building AI and machine learning capabilities and technology in other areas of our company to look at how we transform all aspects of our business using AI and machine learning.
As I mentioned earlier, it is true that Pearson has hired a senior AI leader from intel. She reports to Mr. Bozik, not Mr. Hitchcock. As President of Global Product, Mr. Bozik's part of the company makes product design decisions. Mr. Hitchcock's group is in charge of the software development required to build the product. Both men report directly to Mr. Fallon. Ms. Edwards reports to Mr. Bozik. I don't know what role Mr. Hitchcock may or may not have played in the new hire, but she definitely does not work for him. That is not at all clear from the interview.
Here's another example:
High: With new technology and innovation, you underscored how the pace of change is faster than ever. Additionally, fostering learning agility for individuals, enterprises, and the people who work within companies has become an important topic especially given the fact that a skill that one has today may be rendered obsolete quickly. How do you work to stay agile and ensure that your organization is doing the same thing?
Hitchcock: We recently released a report with the Oxford Martin School on the future skills and learning that will be required in the workplace. One of the things we focused on is the aspect of employability and equipping students with the skills that are necessary for future employment and progression within employment. One of the areas I believe is a great opportunity for Pearson is to increasingly serve education, not just through school and formal education, but with employers to transform their workforce. When I connect to our suppliers in the technology industry or my fellow CIOs, one thing that is evident is that nearly every company is faced with the challenge of re-skilling their workforce. This must be done to cope with the demands of the digital revolution that we are going through and the impact of AI, robotics, and other emerging technologies. I believe Pearson is exceptionally well positioned to assist companies in transforming the skills they need to acquire and develop.
I started out as an engineer, and I became incorporated and then chartered through the Institute of Engineering and Technology. An engineer is no different than a surgeon or an accountant in the sense that the profession demands ongoing development certifications. I believe people want to continue the learning part. Because of this, the opportunity is there for us to become the delivery of lifelong learning for both individuals, education institutions, and government to achieve that. In terms of how we do that internally, at Pearson, there is a big focus on internal employee development.
We started the Technology Academy shortly after I joined to try and take the technology workforce to the next level in terms of their abilities to equip them with the skills needed for our own journey around the digital change. That is something we will continue to work on and sponsor. We work very closely with institutions and universities to do that as well as our own people. It is a fascinating journey and an incredibly important one for society over the next few years. As society changes, we need to evolve to support the future digital requirements.
One could be forgiven for assuming, based on this answer, that Pearson's focus on workplace skills and continuing education was Mr. Hitchcock's idea, which he arrived at on his own based on his personal biographical experience. But again, Mr. Bozik and Ms. Edwards have far more authority to set this kind of product strategy than Mr. Hitchcock does.
The net effect of Mr. Hitchcock's answers is a real problem for Pearson's brand. What is a typical academic's nightmare vision of Pearson's worst possible future? A company whose ideas of education come from its CTO; a man whose previous job was being CIO for a phone company, who thinks that Spotify and Netflix are positive examples of the company that Pearson wants to become and isn't afraid to say so, repeatedly, in public, despite previous criticism for having done so.
Also? No mention of efficacy in the article. Anywhere. Not once. Not a word. Not a whisper. In an wide-ranging, open-ended interview about Pearson's future.
Pearson's senior executives tried their best to clean up the mess
As I mentioned earlier, it's hard to figure out Pearson's official position on...well...anything. But Pearson's official position, or what the organization collectively "thinks," is a critical question in this case. Given that the interview of somebody who directly reports to the CEO, and who repeated (and arguably expanded upon) an analogy for which the company had taken flak, the question is whether the root of the problem is a failure of corporate communication or a failure of alignment of senior management. This is a high-stakes question. And it's one that can only be answered definitively by Pearson's most senior executives.
Given that, I wanted to get as close to a definitive answer as possible. So I did something that we don't typically do at e-Literate. I went through proper PR channels. There are a number of reasons we don't like gathering information this way. One is that the people we are talking to are chaperoned and constrained to hew as closely as possible to the company line. When we approach people informally, they are freer to give us information off the record that provides further validation or nuance to their on-the-record comments. We also generally try to cultivate an approach to our analysis that doesn't depend on executives continuing to grant us access because we believe that doing so minimizes one kind of pressure on our objectivity.
But for this particular interview, the constraints of the formal channel were helpful. I could already make pretty good inferences about what Ms. Edwards and Mr. Bozik likely think as individuals. I have gotten to know Ms. Edwards through the Empirical Educator Project and, while I haven't had much direct exposure to Mr. Bozik, I know quite a bit about the work that has come out of his shop. Further, neither Ms. Edwards nor Mr. Bozik were responsible for—or could be individually responsible for—Mr. Hitchcock's comments. As his peers, they were not in a position to make statements that were more definitive than his.
By going through the formal PR channel, I could speak not just to them but through them to the aggregate entity known as "Pearson." I wanted Mr. Bozik and Ms. Edwards to have the kind of pre-interview huddle orchestrated by PR that occurs when these media requests are made, and I wanted them to be constrained by whatever had been decided in that huddle. By doing so, they could provide answers that are official in a way that they wouldn't be through less formal channels. Their job in this kind of an interview is to give their best, most honest version of the official company line.
(By the way, I didn't ask specifically for these two executives. Part of the experiment was to see who Pearson decided to send. They did not decide to send Mr. Hitchcock. I don't know if that was purely due to scheduling conflicts or if there were other considerations.)
Let's be clear: 90% of my interview with Mr. Bozik and Ms. Edwards was kabuki theater. It was highly ritualized and scripted, with moments of drama that were entirely predictable. That was by design and in no way their fault. They were constrained by the script. I even gave them my basic line of questioning in advance so that the "company" could formulate "its" answers in advance. My questions consisted of four parts:
- Describe Pearson's current view of what "efficacy" means, preferably covering specific examples of efficacy work
- Clarify Mr. Hitchcock’s role in the company specifically as it pertains to decision-making around the efficacy initiative and its integration with product design
- Review Mr. Hitchcock's comments in Forbes, in the context of the first two parts of our discussion
- Describe Pearson's official position on whether and in what sense it aspires to be the Netflix, Spotify, or Amazon of education
The answers to the first two sets of questions were entirely predictable. I wanted to make sure that the official characterizations in the interview were consistent with what I thought I already knew. They were. Mr. Bozik and Ms. Edwards did their job. They faithfully described what I had come to understand as the company's official positions on those questions. The third and fourth sets of questions were the test. In the third, Mr. Bozik did his best to provide the most charitable honest reading of Mr. Hitchcock's comments that he could. Again, he did his job.
When I asked him the fourth question, using more or less the same words as above, he gave the the only correct answer: "Let's be clear: Pearson does not aspire to be the Netflix or Spotify of education." Those were the very first words out of his mouth. Yet again, he did his job.
At that point, I went off-script. I asked him how, given that statement, Mr. Hitchcock could use that analogy for a second time. In the entire ninety-minute interview, this was the only moment when Mr. Bozik seemed to struggle for words. As he should have. Because there is no good answer to that question.
I had put him in an impossible situation. He was bound by the rules of the kabuki play we were in to give answers that support the company line (and his colleague). He didn't have the option to say, "Off the record, it was a dumb thing to say." He had only two options he could take without breaking the rules of engagement: rationalize that which I believe he knew was wrong, or flail around for the best honest answer he could give.
Mr. Bozik chose to flail. I think better of him for it.
But their CEO blew it
At the end of the interview, I found out that Pearson was going to grant my request to speak directly to the company's CEO. I honestly didn't expect that request to be met. Pearson is at least several times as large as the next largest ed tech company that we cover. By some measures, they are an order of magnitude larger. So I was surprised and gratified that Mr. Fallon was willing to make time for the conversation.
And it was an important step for the specific purpose at hand. Mr. Fallon is the only person at Pearson who is empowered to fully repudiate statements by the man who reports directly to him. (This isn't true at all companies, but it tends to be true at companies as large as Pearson.) Once again, I telegraphed my line of questioning in advance, which was essentially an abbreviated version of the same approach I had used with the previous interview.
To my surprise, Mr. Fallon jumped ahead to address Mr. Hitchcock's comments directly. And to more or less defend them. He argued that a key constituency for Pearson is what he called the "Spotify generation," or "Generation Z," to which he attributed the following characteristics:
- They would rather rent or subscribe than own
- They have a higher expectation of the use of video
- They probably expect to be able to engage with courses through shorter and more frequent modules
- They have higher expectations of user experience
The first characteristic is arguable. Within the world of curricular materials, students are strongly price-sensitive. The primary mechanism that the industry has offered students to get a lower price is rental/subscription. Students have tended to rent or subscribe to curricular materials. Does this mean that they prefer rental or subscription, or just that they are picking the least expensive option? The publishers have a financial interest in promoting rental and subscription, but the evidence of a Spotify-style preference among students seems limited.
The other three characteristics are probably true and definitely not new. All three are trends that the sector has known about and anticipated for literally decades. Before there was the Spotify or Netflix of education, there was the iTunes playlist of education. And before that, there were re-usable learning objects. All of these points are sufficiently simple, accessible, and well understood already that an analogy to Spotify or Netflix adds nothing useful.
Mr. Fallon was intent on getting me to admit that there is a reasonable interpretation of the analogy. Which I did. But his defense missed the point entirely. Sure, in principle, with some thought, one can find a non-offensive explanation for an analogy to Spotify or Netflix. But why would you bother to make such an analogy in the first place? And for heaven's sake, why would you do so in public when you know that your customers are likely to find it offensive by default?
When I pressed, Mr. Fallon said, "You have never heard or read me say that Pearson wants to be the Netflix or Spotify of education."
That is a carefully parsed sentence.
In fairness, Mr. Fallon then went on to demonstrate to me that he knows exactly what the company's official and nuanced 2018 version of efficacy is. He can cite it chapter and verse. He can refer to prior public statements that align with that vision, such as his recommendation of World Without Mind, a book about the dangers of romanticizing the power of artificial intelligence. He can speak at length and in detail about the challenges of the lack of agreed-upon frameworks for student data privacy in educational research.
Which is not surprising. Mr. Fallon is a smart guy. Furthermore, he was the one who bet Pearson's future on efficacy. It's probably not an exaggeration to say that he bet his career on it as well. It would be surprising if he didn't know this stuff inside and out. I'm not sure why he didn't just say the analogies were bad and do not represent Pearson's position. Maybe he was just trying to convince me that this was a non-story and not worth writing about. Had he simply led with the points about the challenges of doing efficacy right and refrained from vigorously defending the indefensible, he might have succeeded. Instead, after all of the work involved in making the interviews happen, and all of Pearson's executive time and PR time spent dealing with me, we're right back where we started.
I don't know Pearson's official position on the analogy to Netflix or Spotify because Mr. Fallon—the only person at the company who is fully empowered to definitively lay the question to rest—chose to parse words and defend a bad interview rather than just saying, "Yeah, we don't think about our goals that way and shouldn't say things like that." In a few sentences, Mr. Fallon could have closed the door on the one aspect of the Forbes article that I feel compelled to write about. But he didn't.
To be clear, the aspect in question isn't that Mr. Hitchcock said something dumb in public. And it's not that Mr. Fallon was unwilling to admit on the record that Mr. Hitchcock said something dumb. It's that Pearson, as represented by the behavior of its CEO, does not appear to fully recognize, or at least fully acknowledge, how delicate and existential a messaging challenge they've created by betting their future on efficacy.
Pearson still communicates like a roll-up, and it can't afford to do so anymore
So here's the real question: Why? Why has Pearson made these unforced errors and then, having made them, compounded them?
Once again, I can't know the answer for certain. There often are some organizational politics behind stories like this one. That sort of thing is largely outside of our purview at e-Literate. But the company's behavior may also be symptomatic of a more systemic problem. As I said earlier, Mr. Hitchcock was absolutely correct in saying that Pearson had a huge technology mess resulting from the fact that it is a "roll-up"—a big company that was created by buying up many small companies. He is also correct in saying that Pearson cannot compete unless they fix that mess by creating one seamless platform. (This is exactly where it is tempting to make analogies to giant internet companies and exactly where EdTech executives should resist that temptation.)
Pearson has had an analogous problem with their organizational culture (as have all the major textbook publishers). It used to be that every editor had his or her own fiefdom, run relatively independently from the others. This doesn't work when you all have to deliver content via a common and complex technology platform and when you have to adhere to common standards of learning design. The company has been working on changing that culture for a while, has made some progress, and probably isn't finished yet.
But there's a third leg to this stool which appears to be the one that Pearson is falling over: message discipline (which is icky marketing-speak for "stick to talking about the things you think are important to communicate and don't go off on tangents about things that are less important"). Even just a few years ago, it would have been impossible to describe the company's official positions or priorities on much because they were a conglomerate. What priorities do textbook editors share with the publishers of the Financial Times and the people who run Penguin Books? There has always been a certain amount of laissez faire chaos in Pearson's communications, for understandable reasons. But the company has been selling off all the parts of the business that don't fit under the common theme of educational impact. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that Pearson aspires to sell only one thing, and that thing is efficacy.
And yet, they don't communicate that way. They still communicate like a company with lots of products and lots of messages for lots of different audiences. They have not made this part of their transformation and, based on what what I have seen during the course of writing this story, I'm not confident that they even know that they need to make this change. I have no reason to believe this is the fault of Pearson's marketing and communications people. It's much more likely that the problem is the prioritization that is being given to them, or not being given to them, from the top.
Nobody yet knows if a large education vendor can succeed by making efficacy its main product. But I can say one thing with confidence: They won't succeed if they don't sell it. And right now, they are not selling it. They say some things about efficacy, but they say some things about a lot of things, like Netflix, and Spotify, and Microsoft Hololens, and jobs of the future, and probably lots of other stuff that Gmail mercifully filters out for me. If they want their monumental bet to have a real chance of paying off, then they need to be talking about efficacy. Only efficacy. Always efficacy. Everything else needs to be subordinated to a very specific, meticulously crafted, always-being-tuned message about efficacy. Anything that outright clashes or distracts from that message should be mercilessly cut. Any missteps should be immediately and definitively corrected. Saying something stupid in public is a recoverable sin for a company. Failing to relentlessly focus on communicating the complex and somewhat controversial value proposition, upon which you have bet the entire future of your company, to an academic audience that is not terribly inclined to listen to or trust your messages in the first place? That may not be a recoverable mistake.
Lidl’s €500 million ‘Elvis’ Project Fail: A Textbook Example Of How Not To Approach A Massive Transformation Program
Professional development: investigating the relationships between employee motives, learning opportunities, and activities
Purpose This paper aims to review the latest management developments across the globe and pinpoint practical implications from cutting-edge research and case studies. Design/methodology/approach This briefing is prepared by an independent writer who adds their own impartial comments and places the articles in context. Findings Employees are increasingly becoming facilitators of their own professional career path and development. A highly motivated employee wanting to learn and train for their own personal development will be more aware of potential learning opportunities available to them, and will be more inclined to engage in them. For improved productivity and success, organizations need both engaged and committed employees and to offer a range of learning opportunities. Practical implications The paper provides strategic insights and practical thinking that have influenced some of the world’s leading organizations. Originality/value The briefing saves busy executives and researchers hours of reading time by selecting only the very best, most pertinent information and presenting it in a condensed and easy-to-digest format.
Learning-path types, motives and strategies: an analysis of empirical research in occupations in The Netherlands
Purpose This paper aims to review the latest management developments across the globe and pinpoint practical implications from cutting-edge research and case studies. Design/methodology/approach This briefing is prepared by an independent writer who adds their own impartial comments and places the articles in context. Findings In today’s workplace, employees are taking responsibility for their own learning and development. The learning paths they take are often strategically motivated and directed, as opposed to simply provided and planned by human resource professionals. Some learning-path types can be found specific to certain occupations, while learning-path strategies and motives can be found in employees regardless of occupation. For successful learning, individual learning paths must be recognized and it is also necessary to consider a specific occupational context. Practical implications The paper provides strategic insights and practical thinking that have influenced some of the world’s leading organizations. Originality/value The briefing saves busy executives and researchers hours of reading time by selecting only the very best, most pertinent information and presenting it in a condensed and easy-to-digest format.
Many factors make an organization prone to sexual harassment: a hierarchical structure, a male-dominated environment, and a climate that tolerates transgressions — particularly when they are committed by those with power. Medicine has all three of these elements. And academic medicine, compared to other scientific fields, has the highest incidence of gender and sexual harassment. Thirty to seventy percent of female physicians and as many as half of female medical students report being sexually harassed.
As we wrote in a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, “Imagine a medical-school dean addressing the incoming class with this demoralizing prediction: ‘Look at the woman to your left and then at the woman to your right. On average, one of them will be sexually harassed during the next 4 years, before she has even begun her career as a physician’.”
The efforts of many healthcare organizations and medical centers tend to go little further than avoiding litigation. This needs to change. We propose a number of actions institutions must take to eliminate sexual harassment and create a safe environment that allows everyone in the health care workforce to do their best work on behalf of their patients.
Sponsored by MedtronicCreating better outcomes at reduced cost.
Quantitative and qualitative assessment. The first step is for healthcare organizations to commit to understanding the problem. They must thoroughly and repeatedly measure the nature, prevalence, and severity of harassment and discrimination. Since this is unlikely to happen spontaneously, boards of directors and trustees should require open reporting of aggregate data, forums where employees can share ideas on how to reduce or eliminate harassment, and tying compensation of executives, deans, and chairs to outcomes.
Organizations should use standardized and validated instruments to survey their employees and do so annually, and anonymously. (You can find one such survey available from NASEM and another from the AAU. Our company, Equity Quotient, also offers one.) Survey data, along with aggregated data on reports of harassment, should be reported throughout the organization. Measurement will allow each organization to ascertain where exactly it needs to improve, test hypotheses and solutions that fit its culture and needs, and track progress.
Policy improvement. Every health care organization needs to promote a clear, comprehensive policy that conveys a firm commitment to safety, respect, inclusion and equality. It should contain guidelines for standards of behavior, employee reporting of sexual harassment, and institutional responses to offensive or abusive behavior, discrimination, and retaliation. The Association of Title IX Administrators have examples of such policies, as does the National Council of Non-Profits. Organizations can use these for reference, modifying them as appropriate for their own needs.
In addition, secure methods of reporting harassment should be readily available to employees and supported by initiatives to keep the reporting options visible and familiar to the entire community. Targets of harassment should have ready access to counseling and support, even if they choose not to pursue formal reporting processes. These resources should be available outside of the institution itself, to increase the comfort of people reporting harassment and to remove potential biases that may occur when counselors are employed within the same institution where the harassment occurred.
Follow through. Organizations need to pair policy with clear and consistent action. The NASEM report stated, “Too often, judicial interpretation of [anti-discrimination laws] has incentivized institutions to create policies and training on sexual harassment that focus on symbolic compliance with current law and avoiding liability, and not on preventing sexual harassment.” The key phrase here is “symbolic compliance”: nearly every healthcare organization has a policy, but whether that policy is merely a checkbox or actually functions well in practice is a distinguishing feature of organizations that are serious about the problem.
Human Resources commonly takes the lead in crafting and enforcing a strong policy. HR should be responsible for ensuring, among other things, that leadership has clearly communicated a zero-tolerance position; that employees trust the current procedures; and that reporting mechanisms are easy to understand. A useful list of key questions for leaders to ask themselves about their approach to sexual harassment, from the law firm Cleary Gottlieb, can be found here. It asks, for example, how well senior management communicates its zero-tolerance stance and who should oversee investigations of harassment allegations. While internal processes may provide efficiency, independent external investigations should be undertaken when there is any question about the objectivity of the internal inquiry.
Finally, organizational responses need to be applied with consistency. Victims will only come forward if they feel safe doing so and know their report will result in a rapid, thorough, and fair investigation, and, if misconduct is discovered, that their harassers will be punished, no matter their rank or reputation. Perpetrators must not be allowed to go on “extended leave,” quietly retire, or accept reassignment at another healthcare system through an under-the-table arrangement: all “cover your ass” practices that communicate tolerance of egregious behaviors do nothing to discourage further misbehavior. These provisions will reduce the possibility of retaliation, impediments to professional advancement, and further trauma.
Calculate cost and report. The economic, reputational, and human costs of harassment are huge. The University of Southern California (USC), for example, has faced allegations of sexual assault among its medical staff, in addition to allegations of sexual assault of patients by a USC staff gynecologist, for which USC recently offered a $215 million settlement to the victims. In another case, despite knowing there had been a $135,000 settlement with a woman who had reported sexual harassment and retaliation by Dr. Rohit Varma in 2003, USC leadership installed the ophthalmologist as dean of the School of Medicine. Dr. Varma resigned under a cloud less than a year later when leadership, responding to previously undisclosed information, acknowledged it has lost confidence in his ability to lead the school.
Even aside from the impacts of litigation and restitution of harms, the economic, health and psychological consequences of harassment are grave and have reached crisis levels in medicine. Sexual harassment and discrimination undermine women’s physical and mental health, resulting in increased risk for anxiety, depression, burnout, PTSD, and a host of other negative personal and financial consequences. The negative effects of harassment also affect the well-being and productivity of colleagues and entire organizations. In healthcare, this ripple effect is particularly serious, as it may threaten the quality of patient care. Organizational leaders should strive to calculate actuarial costs of sexual harassment in their institutions — in terms of accumulated absences, lost productivity, compromised hiring and retention, legal costs, and reputational harm, and report those costs to their board of directors/trustees. Leaders’ compensation should be tied to decreasing these costs. To the extent possible, executive teams need to make these costs transparent, so that investments in prevention of harassment are understood to be cost effective.
Clearly it is a challenge to put hard numbers on some of these — how do you measure the dollar value of reputational harm? — and indeed no organization that we know of is doing this yet. Nonetheless, such accounting is an essential element of addressing harassment and every health care organization must start making the effort.
Leadership. Harassment thrives in settings dominated by men. Thus it is essential to increase representation of women in leadership roles and assure accompanying equity in salary and power. Among the initiatives that can help are mentorship and sponsorship programs, which are essential to career progression. For example, Drexel University’s Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) program, a year-long fellowship for women leadership in the schools of medicine, dentistry, public health, and pharmacy, provides skills training, mentorship and a network of ELAM graduates who provide support after the completion of the fellowship year. Health care institutions might also take look at successes in other industries; at Eli Lilly, for example, with a mandate from CEO David Ricks, leadership has embraced mentorship, training, and promotion programs that have dramatically increased the percent of women in the company’s senior ranks.
Sexual harassment in medicine undermines an abiding principle of our profession: First do no harm. This year marked the first time that women outnumbered men entering medical school. Medicine cannot sustain a culture that systematically undermines the authority, physical and mental health, and success of such a large portion of its physician workforce. As a profession, we know a little bit about healing. It doesn’t happen in the dark, without data. It doesn’t happen by protecting or fencing off disease-ridden parts of the body. It happens with scientific precision, objectivity, decisiveness, and consistency. We must take down the traditional hierarchies in medicine that provide a fertile ground for harassment, survey ourselves, and ask the difficult (and sometimes painful) questions about how our culture fails our employees. We must support and strengthen women physicians, and build a climate where transgressions are unacceptable. The time to heal ourselves is now.
Cedefop organised the second policy learning forum on apprenticeships, a European vocational skills week event, on 18 and 19 October in Thessaloniki.
Jisc, the University of Leicester, and Milton Keynes College have joined forces with Microsoft to help students and teachers improve their digital skills.
The four organisations will work together on a guide that lets students and staff to reflect on their digital skills, pointing them towards courses to help them improve.
The free tool is designed to create a generation of digital leaders who will thrive in workplaces that increasingly rely on technology.
more than 500,000 highly-skilled workers will be needed to fill digital roles by 2022
It is thought that 65% of today’s students will end up working in jobs that don’t exist yet, and more than 500,000 highly-skilled workers will be needed to fill digital roles by 2022 – three times the number of UK computer science students who graduated in the past ten years.
Shri Footring, senior co-design manager at Jisc said:
“At Jisc we firmly believe that both students and staff need to be armed with the right skills when it comes to technology, in order to help them thrive in the workplace of the future, so we’re thrilled to have worked with Microsoft, University of Leicester, and Milton Keynes College on this important resource.
“Our recent survey of more than 37,000 students found that only 41% of students feel prepared for the digital workplace and we’re committed to supporting both students and staff to improve this statistic and gain the skills they need.”
“Today’s world is digital and mobile, app-based and personal. To thrive in it, greater confidence around how best to harness technology and new digital skills are vital; but not everyone has them.
“Our easy-to-use online tool is designed to help you assess your digital literacy and capabilities and identify the necessary courses and resources to accelerate your learning, research capabilities or impact as a teacher. It will guide you through a three-level curriculum with plenty of free online resources to raise your digital readiness to new heights and help you become future leaders in business and academia.”
“We’ve worked in conjunction with Jisc and Microsoft to categorise key skills into three levels – bronze, silver and gold – depending on whether they will help drive productivity, creativity or innovation.
"For each level we’ve also developed three core learning paths, so you can take charge of our own development and navigate the necessary online courses and learning resources you need to succeed.”
Gold, silver and bronze courses
The new Microsoft resource uses the Jisc digital capability framework as a starting point, bringing in work done at the University of Leicester on developing personas as well a reward and recognition system developed at Milton Keynes College to create interactive, targeted development pathways.
Students, academics, researchers and administrators can take free online courses at gold, silver and bronze levels, depending on their skill level.
- Bronze courses offer information on how to work confidently, collaboratively and effectively in a digital world, and include help with Office 365 Education, OneNote, Sway, GDPR, the cloud, Microsoft Teams and using Skype in the classroom, among other topics
- Silver courses focus on creativity and collaboration, and look at accessibility, inclusion, Power BI, amplifying student voices and problem-based learning
- Gold courses are for anyone who wants to use technology to innovate and inspire others. These courses offer help with growing a professional network, searching for jobs and becoming a Skype Master Teacher to learn from other education professionals across the world
The values piece is far too often correct.
“Research shows that teams will organize themselves in different ways in response to how different types of complexity strains their sensemaking capacities. In order to increase their sensemaking potential, teams will reorganize their relationships in recognizable ways. We can think of these as emergent patterns of collective sensemaking.” —Bonnitta Roy
The increasing complexity of work is a result of automation, such as AI & robots, who are taking away any repetitive tasks, leaving barely repeatable tasks for humans. In addition to this automation of any work that can be described in a flowchart, we also have a larger number of human connections to deal with and humans by nature are complex. Robin Dunbar showed that we are only able to have a maximum of about 150 real human relationships before our cognitive capabilities are maxed out. Note that 150 is the size of an infantry company, a standard size that has stood the test of battle and time. But I, and many others, have thousands of connections on social media platforms like LinkedIn. How can we make sense of these?
Working in complex environments requires constant sensemaking, connecting outside the organization with the work being done inside. Increasing awareness of new ideas, methods, and processes often comes through serendipitous encounters outside the workflow. Getting work done today means finding a balance between sharing complex knowledge to get work done (collaboration), and innovating in internet time (cooperation). We have to develop methods to connect cooperative learning with collaborative action. Work is learning and learning is the work. It’s just that learning today has little in common with the education and training of yesterday.
“With every industrial revolution, there has been a corresponding learning revolution that, at the time, looked prohibitively expensive. However, the cost of maintaining the status quo in the past was the cost of missed opportunity which, in many cases, was a fortune.” —Jesse Martin
Learning is the great opportunity in organizational design today. The challenge is to connect knowledge flows inside and outside. A major factor is decreasing control mechanisms and enabling temporary, negotiated hierarchies to get work done. This work is done by individuals who are continuously engaged in sensemaking with their work teams, in communities of practice with their peers, and outside the organization in looser professional social networks to stay connected to the evolving economic and political realities.
Learning at work means enabling individuals to take control of their professional development. Workers in a creative network economy are no longer replaceable machine parts, filling defined job descriptions, but rather knowledge artisans, choosing their work and tools. This type of work is the counter-force to the majority of the gig economy where workers are merely training machines to replace them over time. For example, an Über driver is just a training vehicle for autonomous cars. Knowledge artisans are the future of creative, passionate, curious, and even humourous human work. But to do this kind of work we need organizations designed around agile sensemaking.
The challenge for organizations, especially larger ones, is to find ways of understanding what is happening throughout the system and ensuring it is communicated within the network. Knowledge artisans have to seek new ideas from their professional social networks and then filter them through more focused conversations with their trusted communities of practice. They can make sense of embryonic ideas by doing new things, alone or with their work teams. Knowledge artisans use the implicit understanding gained in their communities and networks to discern with whom and when to share their knowledge.
Communities of practice in essence act as filters of new knowledge in order to find competitive knowledge for the organization. People who understand the context of the work teams must therefore participate in communities of practice, as only they can identify what new knowledge could be competitive. Knowledge artisans need time and support to get away from their teams and see the bigger picture.
Radical innovation only comes from networks with large structural holes which are more diverse. This is why social networks cannot also be work teams, or they become echo chambers. Work teams can focus intensely on incremental innovation, to get better at what they already do. Communities of practice, with both strong and weak social ties, then become a bridge on this network continuum, enabling both individual and interactive creativity.
Working and learning in perpetual beta — constant change while getting things done — requires agile sensemaking.
The Agile Sensemaking Model (2018)
Most people running a community aren’t working from a strategy.
Without a community strategy, you’re letting yourself and your community down.
You’re making it more difficult for others to take you seriously.
You’re making it impossible for your colleagues to know how the community helps them and what help they need to offer in return.
You’re making it impossible for your boss and her boss to know what resources you’ll need and when you will need them.
You’re not accountable to any metrics and can’t prove the success of anything you do.
You’re not leading your community, you’re following it.
You’re not deciding what you need members to do, you’re reacting to what they already do.
You have no idea what motivates your members or how to amplify those motivations.
You resort to using a rising number of tactics instead of narrowing down your tactics to those that matter.
You collect a lot of data without any idea how to use it to improve your results.
Without a good community strategy, you’re not treating your work with the professionalism and thought with which it deserves to be treated.
Next week we’re going to open registrations for the Autumn semester of our Strategic Community Management course.
It’s helped over 200 community professionals create, rebuild, and rethink their community strategies. If your strategy isn’t driving your community forward today, I strongly recommend you consider it.
North West London Clinical Commissioning Group under fire as cost of implementing management consultants’ plan soars to £1.3bn
A large NHS body has spent millions of pounds on management consultants for a plan designed to save money – but which could cost more than £1bn to put into practice.
Over the past six years, the North West London Clinical Commissioning Groups has spent £66m on 41 different management consulting firms – including the big four: McKinsey, EY, Deloitte and PwC – for a five-year programme to improve healthcare in the area while closing a £1.4bn budget gap forecast by 2021. However, costs have ballooned and the trust said it now needs £1.3bn to implement the programme. It declined to quantify the savings that have been made to date.
Between 2010-11 and 2016-17, health spending increased by an average of 1.2% above inflation and increases are due to continue in real terms at a similar rate until the end of this parliament. This is far below the annual inflation-proof growth rate that the NHS enjoyed before 2010 of almost 4% stretching back to the 1950s. As budgets tighten, NHS organisations have been struggling to live within their means. In the financial year 2015-16, acute trusts recorded a deficit of £2.6bn. This was reduced to £800m last year, though only after a £1.8bn bung from the Department of Health, which shows the deficit remained the same year on year.
This article was amended on 21 July 2018 to remove incorrect references to the London North West NHS trust