Thursday, 29 January 2015

The illusion of a lack of time

Inspired by another good #pkmchat today I thought I'd fully planned on expanding upon my ideas of a flipped conference (or un-conference seems to be the newly adopted name for what seems to be essentially the same thing).  I still might, but something at the end of the chat pushed my buttons.  It was the question of time.  The last point posed why don't we organise a conference and the answer from several learning leaders who I have the greatest respect for was 'time'.  Simply put this isn't true.

Yes I believe in the purely physical theory of relativity and have blogged on it before, but this is something slightly different - the age old excuse of 'I don't have time...'  Thing is, I've used the same excuse myself many a time and it's almost always not the actual reason for not doing something.  The real use of 'not enough time' is when the task you have to do by a given deadline will take a greater amount of time than that which remains between now and then.  For example if I want lunch in ten minutes and I want to bake a loaf of bread, I can rightfully proclaim I don't have enough time to achieve this.

So if time isn't the issue what is the issue?  In essence it's need or desire.  Put another way I could say it's actually how important the outcome is to the individual.  For example, if I really want to travel to Auckland from Tauranga (stay with me - pick two cities 2 hours apart anywhere in the world if you want) tonight I can - I still have time as it's only 5.30pm here...  The reason I don't go is it's not important enough for me.  To test that if someone offered me a million dollars to drive to Auckland tonight I'd already be working out how to spend the money on the drive (and wondering what car I'd come back in).  The issue of time wouldn't come in to it at all as it would become a matter of greater importance.

So when someone says 'I don't have time' what they really mean is 'it's not important enough for me to invest the time I have'... and that's probably why we say we don't have time.  It's not because it's literally what we mean, it's just that investing our time in something needs to have some motivator - something we really want to do.  So by saying that one doesn't have time we are able to soften the blow of saying 'you know, I don't really want to, it's just not that important to me'.

Something to keep in mind through all of this is that for the great majority of us we waste enormous amounts of 'time' - whether that's surfing the internet inanely, working in a job we hate, sleeping more than we need, or whatever your poison may be (games?).  Of course, what some people may consider a waste may be vital for us and the way we function - or it may just be procrastination - the difficult thing is working out what holds us back and what is necessary.  I'm sure on some level I don't need 7-8 hours sleep but for me that feels right and I'm comfy with that - but some of the word games I play hold no purpose but to waste some of the time I hold so precious.

Before I end, let me add one point around business and lack of time that my dad used to say to me; if you want something doing ask a busy person, they'll make time.

Next time you use 'I don't have time' just think about what you're really saying and maybe look at what the real reason is - perhaps you should answer more with a question of your own 'why'?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Learning to Dream

Okay, hammy title for a post, but seeing as my friends in the USA are celebrating Martin Luther King (MLK) day over there I thought it might be a good idea to lock in to.  Why?  Because MLK was a visionary not only in the way he thought the world could be, but in his methodology and the way he sought to change things.

In learning we often get so hung up on the way things are and the way to change them that we're almost as bad as the people we fight against.  A great example of this came from a thread I read on recently where several educational experts proclaimed it was better to have no elearning than it was to have bad elearning.  Once upon a time learning became so focussed on learning objectives that if we didn't clearly state them and write them up three times then the whole of our learning was worthless.  The point we miss when we get overly prescriptive about learning is the same as people get who ignore it altogether; we need to relax our rules a little and worry less about getting it technically right, because right is only a matter of opinion.

I know I know, you've heard me fire off before about how knowledge is overrated but this here is my dream so hear me out.  Learning is lifelong, it's pervasive and in everything we do.  We learn as we go through life and we learn that the more we find out the more we realise we do not know.  What we consider as fact is often the popular opinion of the time and a true learning mind will always open itself up to the possiblities that there are other ways to do things and other 'rights'.

If going through life without learning is ignorance, then imposing rules on that learning that might one day be proved to be (if not wrong) less right than they currently are is another type of ignorance.  And the big takeway from MLK day for me is that you can't fight ignorance with ignorance.  If you want to bring learning into an organisation that's been in the dark then you need to show them the light and encourage them; even if it means letting them make some mistakes and working through those with them.

Recently at a #pkmchat there was raised the idea of mistakes and how we view mistakes and can learn from them.  Funny thing is that we often think very negatively of mistakes and failure can be seen as an example of a big mistake.  I tried to say then and will express now that mistakes and even failure aren't necessary bad things.  There's an old adage that you win some and your learn some, every failure, wrong step or mistake has the opportunity for you to learn and apply something new - the opportunities are in everything we do.  We can apply this to workplaces that may not think of themselves as a learning organisation, before we condemn them for a lack of learning policies, look and see what they do when someone gets things wrong.  If they are using that beyond a punitive measure then maybe they're already embracing the idea of learning.

One of the common misconceptions that exists in many learning circles is that learning only becomes learning if you write it down or record it somewhere.  I don't know when or how we could so closed on our ideas about learning but this simply isn't the case.  Read some fiction - go on read for pleasure - I guarantee that at some point in the future something will come up in conversation that relates to it (yes, even in sci-fi) and you'll either share that or make a connection in your head.  My theory on learning is one of evolving - your thoughts and ideas continue to be shaped througout your life as long as you allow your mind to keep open to it.

So with my usual mish-mash of ideas in my head, here's my learning dream:

I'd like to see a world where we embrace learning to its fullest, a world where the most successful organisations embrace a culture and attitude of learning where it's less about getting the learning right and more about the learning itself.  A culture where people are free to learn in their own way and a culture where every wrong step or mistake is viewed as a potential opportunity to evolve and learn both for individuals and the organisations.  Learning would be no longer buried as the poor cousin to performance, but seen as the way in which we get the most from ourselves, our people and the organisation itself to unlock the true potential we hold as both individuals and groups.  Perhaps most importantly of all a culture where learning, like the best things in life, is shared and celebrated.

If that's not for you that's fine - I'm sure there's plenty of grammatical errors in there for you to correct me on.

Please comment on my blog - if you have one yourself, please put the link in your comment and I'll try to reciprocate :)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

What is a learnachist?

So today during a productive #pkmchat whilst simultaneously walking the dog (yes, I'm a huge fan of multitasking) I decided to coin a new phrase to determine my mind set.  A self-proclaimed "anarchist" I am.  Of course, that's all well and good but I may be the only one who knows what this is or at least what my intention was for calling myself one! 

An anarchist is often thought about as someone using violent means to overthrow the government, monarchy or leadership structures of their society.  Clearly I don't put myself in this camp with learning, I've never felt the uncontrollable desire to physically attack a learning model (the odd trainer maybe.. but fortunately I've controlled myself thus far) but challenge them?  Now that's another thing.  To me an anarchist is simply one who believes in things without rulers or fixed hierarchical structures.  The action of whether an anarchist is passive or agressive is not defined by the word itself - many anarchists are entirely peaceful just as some are violent and some are insane.

If you hadn't guessed it the term "learnachist" is a contraction of learning and anarchist; a learning anarchist if you will.  So why would someone who's spent over 20 years in the world of education, training and learning (not to mention elearning and learning technologies) class themselves as anti that?  Thing is I'm not anti learning - in fact I'm very heavily pro-learning - but as I chat again and again on learning type chats on Twitter and read articles of others in my chosen field I can't help feeling that I see things a little differently.

What I'd like to see is a world where learning was less formal, less structured, less controlled and more free.  My main reason for thinking this way is that whilst you can make someone carry out an activity like attending a lecture or sitting an exam, that's not the same as them actually learning something.  That's something that's down to the individual, the environment they're in, the motivation they have and the networks and people they interact with.  For me, learning isn't so much an activity it's a way of life or an attitude.  Too often we seem to focus on the structures and rules and actually forget that without the attitude of the 'learner' then learning itself isn't the outcome.

One of the triggers that helped me realise my learnachist nature was the way that people place such a high currency on things like knowledge and (more recently) notes.  If structured learning tells us that you have to take notes (bring back school days memories anyone?) for learning to have taken place then I'm anti that structure.  Don't get me wrong if you want to take notes then that's great, but don't think just because you take notes your learning or conversely that if you don't take notes you're not! What's more important is that because of something you've read, seen or done you've changed your perspective somehow or can do something differently or more than you could before.  I call that theory #evolve.  If you can evolve because of external (or even internal) influence then you're learning - regardless of whether someone structures it that way or tells you so.

So here's my call to action (no, not to attack anyone) but to question things including the learning structures themselves.  Do we really think reading and taking notes is the definition of learning?  Is learning something that happens because of the way we set up activities and resources, in spite of it or independently?  This questioning and looking at things in a variety of ways is at the heart of real learning.  Simply recalling stuff from someone else?  Nah, best left to Xerox I reckon...