Automating the Coaching Request – Working Out Loud

Our internal coaching network currently has a convoluted, manual process for processing a request for coaching. We, like many others, are tightening belts and therefore have limits around what technology we can leverage in applying a bit of automation. Therefore, I am now exploring how we can make best use of the various apps and tools available via Microsoft365, which is the current operating system for our organisation.

In the spirit of working out loud, and providing me with somewhere to expand on my thinking this seems like a good place to record my ideas, and possibly receive some feedback on whether I am heading down wrong or overly complex routes.

Our current route looks like this:

Blue boxes denote actions that have to be taken by our team.

Issues with this process:
– requires a lot of manual input from Admin Team and Coaching Network Lead
– initial coaching request can be waiting long periods before being opened, due to heavy e-mail traffic into inbox
– volunteer request can also be waiting long periods before being opened by network members, due to heavy e-mail traffic in their inbox
– additional time lost whilst waiting for Coaching Network Lead to confirm volunteer as best fit for relationship
– volunteer coach does not always notify Admin Team when relationship has concluded

Things to keep in mind when making changes:
– requests linked to formalised HR processes need to be identified to Coaching Network Lead
– requests made on behalf of others (e.g. by line-manager) need to be identified to Coaching Network Lead
– full details of coaching request only being made available to limited number of people (i.e. Admin Team, Coaching Network Lead, Confirmed Coach)
– Admin Team likely to be reduced to single member of staff
– no additional monies available

Initial possibilities with known apps/tools if functionality allows:

Next steps:
– check limitations on functionality of MSFlow for identified activities
– consider activity content of initial MSForm (i.e. identifying if request is linked to formal HR process or on behalf of other) and whether this can trigger activity
– check for alternate process, using other MS applications
– using PowerBI for snapshot dashboard and reporting

Anything else I should be considering? Anything I have misunderstood or missed entirely? Do you already have this flow created and are happy to share?

Image: organicwal – created in PowerPoint

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Automating the Coaching Request – Working Out Loud by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Agile future – but what if they need a workplace?

Almost immediately after it was suggested that during this pandemic those who can should work from home, people were talking about the benefits. All those lovely things that make working in an agile manner the best thing in the world: less commuting, flexible working hours, less synchronous conversations, etc. A recent Donald Clark Plan B blog covers several of the potential benefits that this new world may hold. And in general, I agree.

Some organisations across the world are talking about closing office-blocks, moving everyone to remote working on a permanent basis. From the perspective of the employer this makes great sense. Why have an entire building open with all the associated costs, when you can still deliver the same service by leveraging technology.

Discussions about post-pandemic return obviously recognise the need for staff wellbeing and focus on implementing social distancing thereby only allowing space for reduced staffing numbers or operating shift patterns to allow rush hour avoidance and over population of locations. With some employers considering whether all this disruption is adding to employee stress thus having an effect on their output.

If we are entering a brave new world where home-based working is becoming the norm this in itself raises wellbeing concerns. However, many of the conversations revolve around the easily known: working environment being ergonomic, climate controlled and safe; still feeling part of a team; maintaining separation between work and home life; setting availability expectations.

As known things, an employer can see them and considers identifying solutions as achievable. Therefore, they struggle to recognise that there would be other reasons for a person wanting to attend a physical office:

a break from the solitude – a few short video/phone conversations does not replace that feeling of being surrounded by other people and knowing you can stop at any moment and just have a chat

a break from the fear – sometimes the hours at work are a daily refuge for those trapped in a destructive or abusive relationship/family dynamic

a break from the pressure – for some having a relationship and/or family, whilst fulfilling, can sometimes feel ‘too much’ and they need the opportunity to surround themselves with others, whilst focusing on non-personal objectives

a break from the chaos – not everyone lives in a property with multiple rooms, lots of storage space or private (uninterrupted) workspace

a break for the health – some live in poorly maintained buildings that whilst structurally safe still affect their health both physically and psychologically

I am sure there are more reasons given that these are based purely on my own experience and an admittedly small sample of friends and colleagues. Yes these may be the extreme and not apply to the majority, but they are a reality for some and I would be surprised if that did not include at least one person you work with.

Is there a danger of sacrificing social health for economic performance? Is there a workable solution? Should it be the employer’s concern anyway?

Image: wallpaperflare

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Agile future – but what if they need the workplace by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tetrading – Mastering my Personal Knowledge 4

This is a thought-in-process post (Working Out Loud?) so feel free to provide me with some ideas, opinions and guidance.

Harold Jarche’s (@hjarche) Personal Knowledge Mastery learning programme has been asking us to think about any current or new media (medium) we use, or are due to start using. Then, to apply Marshall McLuhan’s tetrad of media effects, which was first seen in Laws of Media (1988).

To complete the tetrad the following questions need to be answered:

  1. What does the medium enhance (or Extend)?
  2. What does the medium make obsolete?
  3. What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
  4. What does the medium reverse or flip into when pushed to extremes?

Our organisation is currently procuring a new Learning Management System, so I chose this for my first attempt:

McLuhan’s media tetrad

I am looking at a localised, organisation-specific impact and I am sure that if I were to view this from a higher vantage point the content would change.

Do the entries in each diamond answer the questions asked? Is the Reverse a true opposite to the Extends? What might the bigger picture include in the diamonds?

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Tetrading – Mastering my Personal Knowledge 4 by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sooo Lazy! – Mastering my Personal Knowledge 3

As I continue to progress through Harold Jarche’s (@hjarche) Personal Knowledge Mastery learning programme I am having to admit to myself that I have a major failing when it comes to the Sense part of the Seek>Sense>Share framework. I am sooo lazy!

Dave: “I need some information on this topic.”

Search engine: “Here’s the headline from a bias publication written in 1976”

Dave: “Answer found!”

This may be an exaggeration but unless I am truly invested in the subject my levels of research carried out to confirm validity and reliability are woefully inadequate. Couple this with ingrained trust for the initial source and the danger of my Share activity spreading unsupported opinions is increased.

As we continue to move from the centralised broadcast method of learning and development my (and the rest of the workforce’s) ability to curate effectively requires a greater commitment to deep diving on the knowledge that comes through our filter.

Harold’s programme (via Maria Popova at re-introduced me to James T. Mangan and his 1936 book: You can do anything! As Maria points out, Mangan is not what most would consider a reliable source but his 14 Ways to Acquire Knowledge do provide some good pointers on how to approach and make the most of new knowledge. But where to start?

Of the 14, numbers 5 and 6 seemed most relevant:

5 – Walk Around It – the need to look wider around, and deeper into, the knowledge you are presented with.

6 – Experiment – the willingness to take the knowledge, apply it and explore the outcomes.

These are simple ideas; so simple that I find myself frustrated at how infrequently they get applied to all new knowledge.

I recognise that one of the factors contributing to this failure to apply, is my natural tendency to approach more than one subject at a time thus creating a sense of urgency that drives me to only take a shallow dive and potentially take an item at face value.

The bonus of using this blog to explore my understanding of the learning programme is the opportunity it affords me to focus on one thing and take the time to explore it. Putting my thoughts onto the screen and committing to release them into the world is making me check the knowledge at a much deeper level than I may have done.

Hopefully this ‘one thing at a time’ approach is enabling me to experiment more and get a better grasp of the subject, which should improve the reliability of my Share.

Do you focus on one subject at a time, or try to explore everything all at once? How much time do you dedicate to checking your understanding of new knowledge? Any advice for this explorer?

Image – shanghaistoneman (

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Sooo lazy! – Mastering my Personal Knowledge 3 by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Purge – Mastering my Personal Knowledge 2

As I continue through Harold Jarche’s (@hjarche) Personal Knowledge Mastery learning programme, I am being driven to think more about the Seek>Sense>Share model; where I am Seeking and what tools I use for my Sensemaking.

Each year Jane Hart (@C4LPT) compiles a top 200 Tools for Learning and our challenge was to search through for a (free) app/tool we haven’t used before and give it a go. Easy!

Actually, no. As I scrolled down the list and started to hit triple digits I realised that this was going to prove more difficult than I expected. It was a strange feeling to find I had used (or at the very least tested) the majority of the tools.

My initial reaction was “Wow Dave! You’re really on the ball and willing to try out new tech/software.” My reflective thought however, was “Ok Dave! Maybe you need to think more about whether you are just chasing the ‘New Shiny’. And perhaps you would better served by waiting until others have experimented, before considering if the tool will bring anything useful to your repertoire(?)”

This revelation coincided with my tablet issuing the immortal “…I’m too full for anymore updates…”, or something along those lines. And on looking at the screen it was clear that the number of apps was becoming a major problem.

Harold encouraged me to revisit the list, review those I have tried, rate them for usefulness and consider thinning the herd. So here we are.

I don’t have the patience to review every tool and always try to avoid arbitrary numbers, so have decided that because I have a 2 hour gap between meetings tomorrow this is how long I will give myself to work down Jane’s list and review as many as possible. (Yeah, I know that’s still kind of arbitrary, but needs must).

Results: (29 items)

ToolDescriptionMy experienceUsefulness Rating */10
YouTubevideo platformI use YouTube every day! Whether that is for general entertainment (We all need kittens) or for learning.10
Google Searchweb search engineIf I cannot find a video, I will search on here to find information on what I need to learn.9
PowerPointpresentation appHmm, I don’t learn very well from presentations however, because I have to deliver in that medium the act of building them helps to embed my learning around a subject.5
Twittersocial networkAs I look through my feed several times a day, this is where I am most likely to come across new learning. Also, I am now just as likely to search on here as Google, to track down information.10
LinkedInsocial networkOther than to connect and search for jobs, I very rarely use LinkedIn.1
Google Docs & Drivefile sharing and collaborationWhen not in work I use a Chromebook, so use these a lot; for writing and therefore, embedding new learning.5
Wordwordprocessing appMost documents are in this format, so yes, by default I learn from Word.6
Wikipediaonline encyclopaediaDo not make as much use of this as I should. Tend to only view if Google points me that way and am not adept at filtering information whilst in there.4
WordPressblogging/website platformWhen I see something highlighted on Twitter or Google, or am pointed via an RSS I will read people’s blogs. But I do not actively search for items on there.7
Zoomvideo conferencing platformVery rarely use Zoom (our organisation uses MSTeams) and have only attended a few Webinars using it (they weren’t great, but that was the fault of the provider not the tool).2
Microsoft Teamsteam collaboration platformUse this a lot! For meetings, collaborative working, messaging, delivering/attending webinars and generally for producing/consuming documents/files.8
Slackteam collaboration platformUsed it twice: a) to take part in a D&D campaign; b) take part in a Working Out Loud circle. Haven’t had much opportunity to use since.2
LinkedIn Learning [Lynda]online coursesOther than as a tester when our organisation was exploring whether to buy a license, have not used it. The items I did test, whilst interesting, were not great.1
WhatsAppmessaging appUse for family and friends messaging/video chats, but for very little else.6
Feedlynews aggregatorHave this all set-up with several sources selected for content……have only accessed it on several occasions. However, that is about to change!2
Excelspreadsheet appAs with Word, most data tables are presented in this format so obviously use to create/consume.5
Dropboxfile sharing platformAt one time I did use this a lot however, have moved mainly to Google Drive, SharePoint and OneDrive1
Facebooksocial networkI am ashamed to say (given the algorithms echo-chamber nature) I do access a lot of news content via FB. It is a vital forum for less tech-savvy members of mine and my partners family/friend groups. The only saving grace may be that I do tend to gather from all areas (e.g. political left and right) and then trace sources/biases.7
Skypemessaging platformIt has been many months since I last used Skype and even then I only used it for InstantMessenger in work and the very occasional videocall.1
Articulatecourse authoring toolsFor a long time this was the tool I had to use for building my e-Learning provision. It, along with other authoring tools helped me approach learning differently.4
Kahootclassroom engagement toolHave only used this from the participant viewpoint when supporting a student programme in the University. Not my favourite audience participation tool, and the sessions I attended didn’t use it to great effect.2
OneNotedigital notebookUse this regularly for notetaking in work and collaborative content building.5
Camtasiascreencasting toolHave used this to build video and audio content and always found it useful. It has helped me recognise my vocal and visual ticks and have a greater appreciation for talking speed and leaving thinking space between sentences.7
TED Talksonline talksNever bothered installing the App as I tend to access via YouTube or Google search. Very useful provision for sparking new or challenging long held ideas – however, I do find I spend a lot of time investigating validity due to the ‘car salesperson’ style of message delivery.6
Evernotedigital notebookAt one time I did use this a lot however, I now seem to make better use of Chrome bookmarking, OneNote, Google Keep and Trello1
Google Formssurvey toolHave used in the past, but never to any great extent as have access to bespoke survey tool and now use MSForms for simple needs.1
Snagitscreen capture toolUsed for a short period to try it out, but have access to several other tools already installed on managed equipment.1
Trelloproject management appUse Trello a lot for many different purposes: General ToDo lists; Projects; Useful links; and, planning of long holiday (living itinerary for others to see where we are, with contact details, etc)10

So that was fun, but what did I discover?

1 – I am quite good (Bad?) about abandoning tools if there is something easier/better out there.

2 – I am the person who highlights to others that a new tool might be useful for their need.

3 – I do try and find ways of using tools for things they were not originally designed for.

4- I need to be clearer with myself about what I learn when using a tool.

5 – I am very bad about deleting apps for tools I no longer use (Within 5 mins of looking at this list I had uninstalled the LinkedIn, Skype, DropBox and Evernote apps from all my devices.)

6 – I am frustrated at having to use less-effective tools at work, because the better ones are not part of our managed applications bundle.

6.1 – I need to be more forgiving of the tools in work and find ways to use them more effectively.

6.2 – I also need to continue pushing for the more-effective tools to be added to our bundle.

7 – I am unlikely to stop chasing the new shiny……and I’m ok with that.

There are many more on Jane’s list that I want to revisit and some new ones I want to explore. Hopefully I will find some more apps in my current list that can be removed. Let the Purge commence.

Do you have tools (Apps) that are now just filling space? Are there tools you can make more useful by thoroughly exploring their functionality? Are there more New Shiny’s I should go and play with?

image – blakespot via Flickr

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The Purge – Mastering my Personal Knowledge 2 by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Stop the noise – Mastering my Personal Knowledge 1

I recently started on @hjarche‘s Personal Knowledge Mastery learning programme and, as hoped, it has re-energised my desire to share. One of the tasks this week, was to focus on Sensemaking which, although I may do it internally, is something I quite often fail to show when sharing to a wider audience.

As I scroll through my Twitter feed, something that does sometimes annoy me is the repetition of postings; that one thing that everybody has read, found ‘worthy’ and decides to highlight to their followers without explaining why they are sharing it. Yet I am as guilty as everyone else on this. When I find something interesting, important or just a view-point I agree with I hit the retweet button and that’s ‘job done’.

A previous attendee on Harold’s programme, Karen Jeannette, decided to examine their recent on-line activity and reflect on “conversations and resources I’ve liked, shared, or added as favorites from across the web in the past few weeks“. This gave me a prod to look at my own activity, but I decided to limit it to Twitter and only over one week.

N.B. For those of you in the far-flung future: I am doing this at a time when the world is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic whilst also raising our voices to challenge racism and abuse of power through the #BlackLivesMatter movement, so a large majority of my activity is an attempt to amplify the message.

Retweets linked to Covid-19 (without adding a comment):

@Kevin_Maguire; @carolecadwalla; @thomasdolphin; @Dr2NisreenAlwan

Retweets linked to Black Lives Matter #BLM (without adding a comment):

@legally_lola; @goIdnangeI; @Unnamedinsider@hjarche; @m_d_mccoy; @revgregbrewer; @GeekTrader; @jonlis1; @perkin_amalaraj; @perkin_amalaraj; @clairewillett; @BooksNCrannies_; @runjewels; @rauhling_bizzle; @trevormeyer_; @gavinoattes; @ddale8; @VicStoddard; @brittany_artus; @wkamaubell; @nadinebh_; @greg_doucette; @NickAndert; @lisaannejenkins

[General] Retweets (without adding comment):

@txkate__ – talks about her soon to be ex-husband’s reaction to finding out she had been sexually assaulted
@D0NALDGL0VERR – shares pictures of the singer/actor Donald Glover (In each picture of the thread his smile gets gradually gets wider) – just a nice escape from the soul-crushing elements that were appearing in my feed

Retweets (with comment):

1:07 PM · Jun 2, 2020@perkin_amalaraj shared a link to a Google Doc giving details on how we can support black lives in the UK
My comment: Don’t just watch and feel impotent anger; do something.

11:16 PM · Jun 3, 2020 – video by @DrJessTaylor in which she decries the pretension and elitism of people accusing her of ‘dumbing down’ language for her recent book
My comment: If we want people to learn, we must ensure they can ALL understand the message!

6:23 AM · Jun 4, 2020 – video of cat, that starts out cute and moves to very creepy. As I said in the tweet “watch before bed for best results” [insert evil laugh]
My comment: Love this. Please watch just before bed for the best results

7:35 AM · Jun 5, 2020 – comment from @jennylandreth about the ridiculous idea that a new royal yacht would boost the country’s morale.
My comment: Think would have to……….agree with this!

8:26 AM · Jun 5, 2020@neilmosley5 shares an article by Sarah Bergsen, Erik Meester, Paul Kirschner and Anna Bosman challenging the move to a Constructivism approach in education. This article started to raise questions for me about the approach we take in #LearningAndDevelopment when considering #Andragogy and #AdultLearning in general.
My comment: Do we in #LnD approach andragogy with this in mind? Do we follow the scaffolding approach? Are we just delegating the learning responsibility to ‘novice’ level individuals by taking a ‘self-directed learning’ approach? Does this even have any baring on adult learning? *Thoughts*

9:01 AM · Jun 6, 2020 – a thread from @TatianaTMac detailing some of the ways white people can “focus on current & systemic change” in the fight against racism
My comment: This is not a sprint; it’s a life-long commitment to think against social conditioning.

Blended Learning (Automated)

1st June 2020; 2nd June 2020; 3rd June 2020; 4th June 2020; 5th June 2020; 6th June 2020

When I started this exercise I was not expecting the volume of retweets I found, but the more I reflect the more I realise that given my feelings about the #BLM movement it is actually a very small number.

To comment or not to comment, that is a really pertinent question at the moment. I decided early on that any retweets linked to #BLM require no comment from me for 2 reasons:

1 –  it is about the message they provide, not my view on them

2 – the message is clear in these tweets and do not require me to clarify anything

Also, anything I add makes the tweet about me, rather than the subject – he says, whilst writing a self-centred blog!

Looking at the tweets where I did add comments, only two of them truly demonstrated I had made a deeper exploration of the content and attempted some Sensemaking before sharing. Also, only one of those included a comment that added something to the conversation rather than just echoing the content.

From a professional standpoint this may not have been the best week to snapshot, given that only one of my retweets was about Learning and Development, but it has made me stop and think about whether I am just adding to the noise, or am I bringing value?

That being said, I still stand by my decision to not comment (unless absolutely necessary for clarification) on #BLM retweets – I see my voice as adding no real value to those, but the messages still need to be shared.

Do you add value with comments on your retweets? Does it really matter? How do you filter through the noise?

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Stop the noise – Mastering my Personal Knowledge 1 by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

A strategy to reach Strategic


Following more and more calls to provide them to the wider workforce, my employer asked me to attend training on three separate Psychometric tools, the last of which I finished a couple of weeks ago. Due to scheduling and the academic financial year-end, I had to complete all three courses in the space of one month. Apart from my dreams now being dominated by distribution curves and large segmented circles this condensed timeframe also provided me with a unique opportunity (for me anyway) to seek targeted 360 feedback from a much wider source group than I would usually attempt – manager, strategic officers, colleagues, indirect-reports, clients, family, friends, coachees.

At the moment I seem to have at least one conversation per week about the benefits of individuals seeking 360 feedback on their performance and development needs, but often fail to abide by my own advice. This glut of tools afforded me the opportunity to think about the future and how my current collection of skills/knowledge/strengths will be able to contribute to that easily or require further development, also which others i need to seek out and add.

Previously I have found the hardest part of any 360 feedback to be the comments that highlight areas I should be looking to develop because, like many others, my initial reaction was to see them as a personal attack. As I have matured emotionally my view has changed and i try (some words still sting) to take the view others have provided me as a map for my development plan and, if not anonymous, thanking them individually for the feedback asking for clarification of what they think I could do to improve.

Whilst most of my strengths were no great surprise to anyone that knows me, there were a couple that seemed to have deepened over the last twelve months bringing home to me how my focus in the workplace has moved towards a much more strategic place. However, my main strengths have always been more people focussed, with me getting the most enthused by that feeling of enabling someone to achieve or develop, which in the Learning and Development field is an obvious bonus and what also helps me to be a good Coach.

The feedback from those closest to me has highlighted that my desire to always be supportive of others can result in a bit of overstretching which if not checked could lead to the danger area of ‘letting others down’ – an event which would have not only negative impact on others opinion of me but also my own opinion of me (always my own harshest critic).

So here’s the crunch, to realise my development desires there is an expectation that I should reduce the amount of direct support I provide and focus more on the organisational (strategic) view, whilst maintaining the drive that I get from providing that direct support. Not always an easy balancing act.

Next steps: After much reflection and discussion I realise that one of the best ways for me to address this is to seek guidance from someone who has already been there. Therefore, as a starting point my next step is to seek out an appropriate mentor and this is where my Personal Learning Network comes into its own, a community full of experienced professionals much further down this road than myself who are hopefully willing and able to offer their mentorship.

Once again I ask you to wish me luck and would welcome any insights you may have to help me in my development journey.

Shhh, don’t tell everyone but I’m #WOL

As part of my new found commitment to engaging more on-line, I thought a good choice for development would be my blogging. Looking at my WordPress account you will see a sparodical mess of content with no consistency of topic, length or validity and if I were share access to my drafts you would find nearly 20 false starts spanning a few years. If I’m going to be serious about my reinvigoration a good way for me is to use this place is for summing-up and reflecting on my week.

In essence I’m going to be Working Out Loud, and am hoping to not only improve my blogging (and drawing) skills but also provide some focus for my reflection.

One of the biggest hurdles though, is my need to present a perfect blog (hence the numerous false starts). Reading an article from PsychologyToday this morning reminded me of how much editing I indulge in; consranrly checking and re-checking spelling, structure, grammar, punctuation and how I need to let that go and just post (See, I resisted the urge to correct consranrly to constantly…..damn it!)

So, here’s hoping that not only can I let go and produce, but at least one person finds this an interesting journey and deicdes to contribute to my thought processes.

Wish me luck!

SoMe 2: the returning

I have been away from the wider social media environment for quite a while. Oh, I may have sent the occaisional random tweet, liked a few things and responded when needed but mainly staying connected with my family/close friends via the book of many faces has been the limit of my digital engagement (and not a great deal of that).

Back in April I realised how much of an impact this absence was having. Yes I was still reading some blogs, tweets and watching the odd vlog but that was all. Following a bout of illness I ended up being home during one of the many power cuts we seemed to suffer in the old house, with no TV/WiFi to distract me and no desire to start a new book. Eventually growing bored of counting wood chips in the very old wallpaper I turned to my phone which thankfully was able to achieve a fairly steady 4G and delved into the twitterverse looking for political satire and “10 things you didn’t know…” lists.

Ten minutes into my browsing I saw a conversation on Change Managment and in a fit of enthusiasim made a comment, resulting in several hours of direct messaging and e-mail sharing, creating a whole new focus for a session I was due to facilitate on my return to work.

This brought home to me the benefits of engaging as opposed to merely lurking and a clear view of how far I had pulled back from my personal learning network. Therefore, since then I have slowly started to return to ‘the conversation’; liking, sharing and commenting at any opportunity, making better use of the other social media tools and increasing not only my pressence but also my enthusiasim. Hence this post and those that follow…..hopefully!

N.B. It is a sign of the awesomeness (yes I did just use that word) of my Personal Learning Network, that they instantly started interacting with me and it was as if I hadn’t been gone.

Wondering whether others have found themselves slipping away from ‘the conversation’ and what it was that brought you back?

Please, tell me a story!

I am a voracious reader of fiction, capable of ploughing through a 400 page book in a day (if on my own and not doing anything else) and have a tendency to remember the content for a very long time. Research and academic texts* on the other hand have always been a struggle, the words running together as I try to transfer the knowledge from the densely filled page to my struggling-to-stay-awake brain.

This difficulty with factual works has had a detrimental effect on my ability to pursue academic recognition, making the writing of a simple assignment into a mountain of Snowdonian proportions.

Everyone I spoke to about the best way to approach research and academic text would recommend the well practiced dip-in method of searching the contents list to find what you wanted and briefly reading that part in isolation. And whilst I eventually taught myself to do this, it was never satisfying to my curiosity and failed to get information to stay in my head for longer than the time taken to finish the assignment.

However, this month brought a breakthrough. Last weekend I finished reading Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance by Matthew Syed which I managed to read cover-to-cover (ok, e-reader page to e-reader page) in a surprisingly short amount of time….for me! Not only did I read it with relative ease but also found it possible to quickly quote and paraphrase it to others in support of my viewpoint.

Which begs the question, why was this text different?

Was it because I find the subject interesting?

Maybe, but I am hugely passionate about Coaching and its benefits yet find it difficult to crack the sheen on many of the accusing spines looking down on me from the bookshelf.

Is it due to the fact that the findings support my own experience (talk about cognitive dissonance)?

Another good reason for sure, but I have at least four publications on leadership in my current line of sight that provide lots of support to my views on that subject and only one of them has been used extensively.

Wait! Of course! It’s the ‘density’ issue, after all it isn’t exactly a massive tome is it?

Possibly, but on my desk is a paperback with no more than 150 pages about another passion of mine (non-work) but I’m struggling to get past page 23.

Do you think it could be because it’s easy to see the real world application?

Interesting idea but, to be fair, most of the good books have case studies and anecdotes that enable us to visualise them in practice so I doubt it’s that.

The question of why this book was really troubling me so revisiting its pages the answer became clear and was something much more revealing about me and how I absorb information.

It’s a story!

The author managed to structure the content so that there is a clear progressive exploration of his findings. Whether by design or happy accident is unclear (I would like to believe it was a deliberate action) but he has managed to hit on the basic premise of a story; take the reader on a journey with a satisfying denouement.

Of course his writing style and use of language, carried over from the day job I’m sure, smooth the passage but in general it is the overall structure that seemed to engage and motivate me. Which in conjunction with the other reasons shown above made this a very accessible read for me.

In Learning and Development circles we talk about the importance of using stories to help people learn and I have read some works where individual sections follow this idea, but it seems to be rare for a whole publication to have an almost narrative flow.

Obviously, each to their own and I’m sure there will be some who find the work fails to engage them, or can not see the route I followed. But for me it worked and has managed to reignite my desire to read more factual texts and that can be no bad thing.

Also, it has reminded me to stop and think about the way we support people through learning and that embracing curation should not preclude us from considering the story we create.

So, this brings me back to my request: when you want me to learn.

Please, tell me a story!

* after a lengthy discussion with my academic and researcher colleagues we were still undecided as to whether Matthew’s book falls easily into either of these categories, but they will suffice for making my point……..maybe!

Image: Once upon a time – Steve Czajka

Creative Commons License
Please, tell me a story by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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