Tag Archives: learning

OLE! …or the Organic Learning [Experience]

How did I get to Organic Learning Experience?

A few days ago I had a very interesting conversation with two colleagues in the context of social learning. And I’m writing about it because I’d like to share the thoughts that we shared. More questions than answers of course. 🙂

It started when one asked “What is your educational philosophy”?

As this is not a day-to-day type of question, answering that question slowed the pace a bit, and it took a few moments to get the momentum back. What followed was an very interesting exchange of ideas.

“We need to use what works…”

“All learning should be blended…”

“Learners should be exposed to reality and work together to learn….”

We went on to talk about the various strategies and formats we can use, how we come about to select them. Lots of talk lately about storytelling and engagement.  We need maximum flexibility to adjust with context that changes.

“How do you manage uncertainty?”

We never know exactly what will happen. How things will change. What “curve ball” will be thrown at you, as a designer or as a learner, when you least expect it.

“The uncertainty of our environment must be met with a proportionally varied selection of tools and approaches, to compensate for that uncertainty.”

Agility then comes to mind.

Cybernetics, Conversation Theory, Informal learning followed… Intentional learning…

“What is your preferred online social tool?” 

Do you fit your design with the tool(s) your learners like?

Do you fit your learners to the tool(s) you think would work best?

Do you gently introduce your learners to a new thing that they should like and engage in?

This conversation popped these words in my mind: Organic Learning Experience. Or OLE!

 …a cry of approval, joy, etc.

You know that feeling?

Organic Learning Experience…

The brain works in mysterious ways. Each person is unique, like everyone else. Each person has their own reality, and people with similar realities tend to stick together, understand each other, collaborate better.  Like soap bubbles…   😉

We constantly learn, from all kinds of inputs, delivered to us in all kinds of ways. It adapts to us and we adapt to them, depending on our extrinsic needs and intrinsic interests.

Try to force someone into a fixed mold, and you will get either rejection or frustration: two things completely antagonistic to learning, as it deflects energy from it.

It’s all about providing varied opportunities for learning, in terms of content and channels. We must provide access to informal learning opportunities alongside fixed, formal and planned learning interventions dictated by business requirements.

We cannot keep being like the majestic oak who expands tremendous energy to stay up and hold its ground, because the ground is moving. We need to be as varied as the reeds and other flexible and adaptive plants surrounding us.

Just some thoughts…


Click “Like” if you like this post, and don’t hesitate to share it. And by all means, comment on it.   🙂

What does it mean to be “Agile”

We all hear the word “agile” repeatedly. In all sorts of context. Project management, business, design, etc… Agility is a mindset. A mindset about two things: speed and change.

Speed to get things one quickly to validate pertinence and value. Best example is Agility in product development, and project management. Most of all because we dont want to waste resources, and we want to get it out as fast as possible because it is in demand or you want to be first on the market.

Change because it is constant. Everything is changing constantly: society and business. So the old days of over-planning are gone. Yes, you need to plan, you need a vision, a road map… but you need to test your ideas and assumptions as many times as possible, to make sure you’re on the right track.

We know what has been, but we cannot be sure of what will be, at least not definitely. The target is always moving.

To follow the target, we need to be agile.

But what does it mean to be agile? 

This morning I saw the following diagram posted on LinkedIn by a few people (Marie PineauRomy Schnaiberg and Myriam Plamondon – see references below) which I believe is a good tool to answer that question.

being agile

I like this diagram. It makes complete sense to me. If you think you’re agile, look at each aspects and reflect on it. It might even help you identify things you need to work on if you want to be more agile. Do the same with your company if it wants to be agile. Propose it as a team exercise. Do it separately, anonymously event, and then compare answers. And I mean everyone, management included. 🙂

Come to think of it, this could be used to create an AGILITY Index, for individuals as well as companies. Each of the five aspects could be rated, even double-rated: self-rated and rated by others.

Does it exist? Maybe I should build one. Would you use it?

References* provided by Myriam Plamondon:

  • De Meuse, K. P., Dai, G., & Hallenbeck, G. S. (2010). Learning agility: A construct whose time has come. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 62(2), 119.
  • DeRue, D. S., Ashford, S. J., & Myers, C. G. (2012). Learning agility: In search of conceptual clarity and theoretical grounding. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 5(3), 258-279.

* You’ll find them on the web…


If you like the post, please “like” it.  🙂

Get people to talk about creativity

Last week I was invited to organize an activity to take people out of their comfort zone, during lunch time at the 3rd annual Bootcamp on Training Strategies here in Montreal. That’s me up there presenting the upcoming lunch activity.

The topic I picked? Creativity.

Though people usually associate creativity with artsy or design tasks, the truth is creativity is applied, and required, in any and all tasks in the learning industry. In any industry for that matter: whether you are asked to design a piece, or manage a project, or manage people, or run a business, you are always required to be more or less creative.

The funny, and sad part about creativity, is that we were all extremely creative at some point. In our early life, from the time we opened our eyes for the first time and started to figure things out, to our first years in grade school. But then, most got creativity beaten out of them, to fit the mold our education models dictated. the rest, well, hung in there an did what they felt was right, and kept creativity as part of their being, as part of their soul.

Anyway, enough with that and on to the activity in question. So with the help of a very good friend of mine, who specializes in face-to-face learning, we devised an activity to reflect and discuss the meaning of creativity, its requirements and its implications. To do that we gathered about 60 quotes from various people and authors out of 9 books on creativity and innovation (see list below). Each quote was printed on a card, and cards were randomly grouped on the tables setup for people to eat their lunch. The idea was for each person to read the quote, reflect on it, decide if they agreed or not with it, and discuss it with their lunch buddies. Then, go around and discuss other quotes with other people. I even prepared an explainer video to present a line of questioning to help get the ball rolling.

The result? Mixed. As with any activity, you never know how it will work out. Especially when it’s a free-form activity, in an uncontrolled environment. As I observed and chatted with a few people around the room, I realized people were more inclined to either take a mental break from the sessions or discuss those sessions with other participants.

My takeaway for this type of activity?  A few points:

  • This format is probably better for a crowd specifically geared towards discussing creativity;
  • With this crowd it would have been more engaging to do it as a workshop, in a controlled environment, in which case I would add the concepts of innovation and innovation;
  • ensure to have two types of people in each discussion groups: people that are tasked with producing creative results and people who are tasked with managing them.

All in all this was a very exciting exercise, and full of promises. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Thank you.

Note: Here’s the bibliography we used:

    par Tom Kelly & David Kelly, aux éditions Crown Business
    par Bruce Nussbaum, aux éditions HarperCollins Publishers
    par Daniel Pink, aux éditions RIVERBED BOOKS (New York)
    par Ellen Lupton, aux éditions Princeton Architectural Press (New York)
    par Gordon Mackenzie, aux éditions Viking Penguin
    par Austin Kleon, aux éditions WORKMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY (New York)
    par Austin Kleon, aux éditions WORKMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY (New York)
    par Twyla Tharp, aux éditions SIMON & SCHUSTER (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney)
    par Carmine Gallo, aux éditions McGRAW HILL (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Lisbon, Londo, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, New Delhi, San Juan, Seoul Singapore, Sydney, Toronto)

CSTD 2014 – Sessions


As I mentioned in my previous post, here are some quick notes – key points about my session experiences from this past edition of CSTD 2014… For my keynotes experience, checkout my previous post.

Again, lots of people to see again and lots of new interesting people to connect with.

Here are a few sessions that I found quite interesting and stimulating.

Nicole Bendaly: Enabling Everyday Innovation

Great presenter, great personality. Clear, direct, energetic.

“Not enough ‘meaningful’ sharing…”: there is no such thing as status quo. If growth isn’t happening, deterioration is.

Quick Note: She had us do a nice little brain teaser activity at each table, to figure out common sayings out of scramble letters. It wasn’t as much about the content as it was about collaborating  AND forgetting about what we were thinking BEFORE the session.

We should always look to maximize what we have, and be creative in finding better ways to reach our goals, i.e. INNOVATE.

But for that to really happen, we ALL need to have a common purpose. She gave the example of Southwest airlines. All SW employees, from top to bottom, know and believe why they do what they do: give THE most outstanding services at THE lowest fare. Sounds corny but it sure makes sense.

Define your success statement. Make sure everyone knows it and believes it.

Innovation show be a priority. It should be THE priority. I’ll go further and say it shouldn’t even be a priority, it should be a STATE OF MIND!  🙂

But that’s all fine and dandy, but how do we do it? How do we get everyone on board? What does innovation means? Well… it means different things to different people. You and your team need to find your definition, which will ensure it works. So ask your team: “In order to practice everyday innovation, we need to…” and list the answers. This way your people will own their innovative approach.

All this is great, but there is still another aspect to consider: the CLIMATE in which you function, operate, live your job.

Don’t let your people feel “depleted…”. Ask your team members to rate their “wanting to go to work” regularly, even every morning. They can say it out loud, or keep it to themselves. The point is to be aware of it, share it, and act to correct it when needed.

Everyone should ask themselves: “Do I GIVE energy to others or do I DRAIN it?” Make sure it’s the former, not the latter.

When you need to deal with no-so-good stuff, cover the positive first, highlight it, then address the stuff that needs to be corrected. This will help those who need correcting to change positively.

Then there’s transparency.

Transparency is at the base of everything. It promotes fairness, it helps collaboration. People want to know what’s going on. We all want feedback [constructive is better, but even not so constructive is important because it gives INFORMATION].

Then there’s conversations.

Talk with people, provoke conversations, even discussions with others about all kinds of things. But still recognize what you have control over, so you don’t get shot down too much…   😉

Then… there is… SHARED leadership.

That’s [too] often a tough one. No one person can possibly know everything. Right? It’s OK to say “I don’t know”. Be honest with yourself and others. People appreciate more integrity and honesty than someone who says he or she know it all and can do it all.

Finally she talked about High Impact Learning Organization (HILO). The three-legged stool: Effectiveness AlignmentEfficiency. Break one and you fall down. Address them all and you’ll go places! An HILO has the L&D people sitting at the table with the Business people, when STRATEGY is discussed. A HILO Learning Culture is owned by EVERYONE, including the top of the house.

And there was other stuff… If you have a chance to see Nicole in action, go!

Deri Latimer: The Neuroscience of Leadership

Excellent presenter, great personality. Clear, direct, energetic. Tapped into our emotions.

Quick note: Just saw that Deri will be the opening keynote for CSTD 2015!

Deri opened up with a very personal story to highlight that some people you come across may be hiding their unhappiness, maybe even some shame they’re dealing with: the closet of shame or the self-judging conundrum we all face at one time or another.

The point I got was that we are all wired to connect with others. And that connectiveness is a great way to get out of the closet, to deal with our demons.

Quick group activity: we went around telling others what’s good or great in our life, saying someone different each time. Great opportunity to reflect quickly about what’s important to us.

What follows are bits and pieces of things to consider to be more effective.


Forgot the context, but she addressed multitasking in a revealing way. Someone can be good at multitasking, but the more you multitask, the less efficient you are.

Let’s say you have a total of 100% capacity to deal with stuff. That means that if you have one thing to do, it gets 100% of your attention.

But if you add other things to deal with, your 100% is divided by the number of those things, hence reducing your capacity to do the best you could do for each of those things compared to what you could do if you had 100% for each of them.

Makes total sense, don’t you think?

Take a break

Take a break every 90 minutes, for your brain, the most important tool in your arsenal! This means de-focus from what you’re doing, not jumping on another task! Think about something personal, take a walk, go get some water… DANCE!  (yes, close the door if you want)  Supposedly, dance reduces dementia… got to look it up.  🙂


Mindfullness is the #1 leadership competency. Mindfulness requires PAUSING!

Negative/Positive thinking

Negative thinking narrows perspective, makes you move backward.

Positive thinking widens perspective, makes you move forward.

Negative emotions

It’s a fact that we all have negative emotions. Don’t suppress them, deal with them. But don’t “spray” them around: they can infect others.  😉

When negative emotions want to erupt from within, reframe the situation to see the positive, to make you feel better in the long run (reacting instinctively may seem like a good way to make you feel better, but chances are you’ll regret it afterwards, right?).

Checkout this page I found in which she covers a bunch of things she mentioned in her session.

Andrew Webster: Design Thinking Introduction

Another great presenter. Knows his stuff.

I went to his session because I really like Design Thinking, and I wanted to see how it would be presented to our “people”.  😉

DT originated mainly for product design, but evolved to addressed any problem-solving situation. Learning experiences are built to solve a problem: a gap to fill. It’s not a fix-all approach, but it sure has potential. Look it up you’ll find all kinds of information about it. Check this trailer for a quick peak.

Andrew listed 3 ways to achieve innovation:

  1. By luck: but totally unpredictable.
  2. By genius: but you can’t count on it.
  3. By repeatable process: design thinking.

Design thinking looks for the sweet spot (the solution) between:

  • Being desirable (someone really needs it!)
  • Being feasible (it can actually be built!)
  • Being viable (it makes business sense!)

Design Thinking is best used when:

  • Unknowns outweigh the knowns
  • The problem is more complex then complicated (which would warrant a scientific approach)
  • When human factors are prevalent
  • When you’re looking for a breaktrough

Design thinking needs to be collaborative. You aim to help people more than push a solution. It’s human-centered.

Design thinking starts with observation. Observation of extreme users (real users). Observe the “what” and ask “why” is this behaviour happening? Look for patterns or contradictions: KEEP IT SIMPLE, NON-JUDGEMENTAL. Be EMPATHETIC!

Design Thinking (Change) Tenants

  • Starts with the need (not look for a user for your solution)
  • Participative
  • Human-centered
  • Bias for Action
  • Comfort with uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Letting go, support the better idea

Other points:

  • Multidisciplinary teams
  • Dedicated space (leave stuff around, post on the walls, etc.)
  • Defined project timeline
  • 2:1:3 ratio (2 parts inspire, 1 part ideation, 3 parts implementation)

Voilà!  Looking forward to next year!

CSTD 2014 – Keynotes


As I mentioned in my previous post, here are some quick notes – key points about my experience from this edition of CSTD 2014… Three days of keynotes and sessions, lots of people to see again and lots of new interesting people to connect with.

In this post I’ll start with a couple of keynotes. The sessions will be in a following post.

Keynotes that impressed me:

Daniel Pink: What Motivates Us?

Sadly, I wasn’t fully ready to take notes for that one, the caffeine not yet having reached my brain, getting lifted in a higher altitude by the loud rock music blasting in the room… It surprised me and I really liked it.  🙂

Anyway, great talk, energetic, and full of good points:

  • Talked about explicit versus implicit knowledge…
  • Value of reward versus penalty…
  • Dug into what motivates us, highlighted that money isn’t everything (bonuses/ponctual gain versus fairness in pay)…
  • Autonomy is highly valued – gave examples of giving some “free” time to employees to be creative (with some accountability of course) like Fedex/Ship it Days, 10% time, Genius Hour…
  • Providing a sense of purpose is better than just stating the “what’s in it for me”…
  • Do DIY performance reviews instead of classic authoritarian performance reviews to eliminate wasteful awkward interactions, and increase sense of ownership…

Lots of interesting stuff! Got to get his “Drive” book that many have recommended.

Welby Altidor: Creative Courage

Director of Creation, Cirque du Soleil. Cool! A Montrealer. Yeah!

Quick note: Though many people in the room I’m sure felt like this presentation was a bit too “out there”, as the Cirque du Soleil is totally different from our world, I found that the way Welby did his presentation was totally grounded. Sure his presentation was creative, good visuals and all, what do you expect from a guy from the CDS?  But why can’t we do it like that? It’s not rocket science, is it? We just need to give it a chance, and of course foster the creative juices within our organizations.  Sorry, ranting again…

Welby took is time, driving a compelling message: creativity and agility is [already] in our organization. We just don’t see it clearly [most of the time]. Work with others, draw from their energy. Collaboration is key: when we fail, we mostly fail at collaborating. Realize that problems don’t have an instruction manual. Be a collaborator, a bridge builder: maybe there are others who want the same.

  • Be dumb! …give yourself the freedom to ask stupid questions: you never know what it will trigger and lead to.
  • Don’t ask for permission: we have a role to break the status quo.
  • Be careful of the words we use: they may hinder people’s ability to perform.
  • Choreograph feedback: What do I want the feedback to accomplish? It’s not about controlling the session, it’s about the result we want.
  • Successors: work on giving more space to people around you to grow, even to succeed you.
  • Failure: during a project, put yourself in a state of failure, to create more moments to have feedback, earlier than later to allow to react and adjust.
  • Break rules, but not your principles: give a chance to those who have not done it before.
  • Very little power to control, but a lot to influence.
  • Need more empathy between groups within the same organization.
  • Creativity needs constraints.

Michael Bungay Stanier & Mark Bowden: Be a Presentation Genius

Well that was a great conference closure. These two guys were a riot! My friend and I even thought that we’d leave early to make our train, which in the end, prove harder than we thought: Michael and Guy were just too entertaining!

Basically it was about not only presentation skills but also presentation mindset: as a presenter, you are there FOR the audience, not the other way around. They made a bit of fun of presenters who opt for the traditional way: stiff, arms down, standing behind a podium, reading their notes in a monotone voice… But they also addressed that presenting in front of people is stressful, so “traditional” presenters cannot be stoned unilaterally. Right?  I for one have the jitters in spades when I need to step up. I’m all chatty and energetic one-on-one or with a few other people, but when the time to climb up the never-endif staircase, to stand up there blinded by the light, facing the stoic or sharpened stares all pointed in your direction, well, it can be quite nerve racking. Right?

So they practiced what they preached. They applied their tips and tricks to demonstrate and it can be done with great results. Of course they’re quite use to it. They certainly put on a show. But it all made sense, and quite frankly, when you think about it, it’s common sense.

They did their whole presentation around a series of four letters, one missing, for which we were asked towards the end to identify the words they represent. I’m not going to spill the beans in case you see them in action in the near future.

Quick note:  Mark was a cross between jack Black and Austin Powers…   Very entertaining.

They talked about all kinds of things….

Touch people, to make a connection: at the beginning, as people were coming in and sitting down, they were both walking around introducing themselves and shaking hands. It’s about connecting on a physical level.

Within a few minutes, they got all 700 or so attendees to stand up and do something together: simulate the sound of a coming and passing thunderstorm. (in sequence: rubbing your hands together for the wind, snapping your finder for the rain, slapping your thighs for the hail, stumping your feet for the thunder, then reversing to return to calm… pretty neat!).

Ask a lot of questions, even using questions from the audience to turn it back at them: “That’s a fantastic question: but before I answer this, what are your thoughts about it?” They even joked about it by saying they dont have to prepare because the audience gives the content of the presentation.

To get people involved together, take a few minutes and ask each participant to turn to someone and ask “what was the high point of your week…”, and they reverse the roles.

Body language

Hands down along side the body or in front of the navel is a defensive posture: you’re protecting your vital organs. Open hands on the side, are inviting, and exposing your vital organs: this means trust. If you’re all sitting at a table, push your chair a bit from the table, to expose your stomach area, which also allows using your hands as you talk.

Raise the other presenter’s rank. 

It shows you are not the king. You do not have all the answers.

…and other stuff I couldn’t hear because we did have to leave early.

So that’s it for the keynotes I liked. Next post about a few great sessions.

Feed your brain and your soul: get out there!

Get out there!

Getting out of your normal, daily space is very important not only to breathe fresh air and exercise your body, but also to stimulate your neurones, make new connections, discover what’s out there, outside your bubble. Going to professional gatherings such as conferences is a great way of doing just that.

I had the chance last week to do two conferences: CSTD Conference & Trade Show 2014 and Agile Montreal Tour 2014.

It was simply… exhilarating. Not only because I had not had the chance to do it for many years, but this time was the right moment: lots of talk about change, agility, creativity and innovation. Great keynotes, and a choice of great sessions, at least I was lucky in my selection.

But more importantly, it was about the experience of being with other people, other like-minded people AND other people, period.

You never know where a conversation will lead, you never know what connection you’ll make (besides the Linkedin one). For sure that it is not that easy to walk around strangers, and fight the urge to cluster with the people we know, who will make us feel “safe”. People who know me are surprised when I tell them I’m shy: it’s true, it takes me a lot of energy to make the first step, to engage a stranger in a conversation. I do it not only because I must, but because I know that it just gets easier: a stranger is also a person, with feelings and concerns and yes, fears. If it doesn’t click, it wasn’t meant to be. But if it does, watch out, you’re in for a treat. Just be yourself and you’ll learn something, even maybe about yourself.

So next time you have an opportunity to get together with other people, other than your colleagues (!), to get out of YOUR bubble, TAKE IT!

Anyway, I’ll stop here, and prepare another post on the CSTD conference.

Scoping: Capitalise on your experience to minimise guessing and… risk.


“How long will it take to produce this?”

“Well… who’s going to do it?”

“Who ‘s available? Paul would be great, but he takes longer…”

“Marie too, but someone would need to review it because…”

Does that sound familiar?

Scoping is risky: if you get it wrong, you may lose money, or piss off annoy your client when you’ll ask for more money and time to complete the job. Nobody wants that, right?

Worst: you may end up forcing people to produce something with not enough time to do it properly.

Get better at scoping to hit the target!

on your experience to minimise guessing & minimise risk.

A little while ago I posted Training Projects: How much does it cost? How long will it take? and finished it by suggesting to keep track of the effort spent during your projects, in the same way you estimated it in the first place. This way you collect data on which you can base future estimates.

Create your own ratios 
for  tasks, roles or deliverables.

First you breakdown your project like a story: sequence what needs to be done and identify who will do it. You end up with your lists of deliverables and roles that need to be filled. 

About the roles… Different roles dictate rates, especially when some roles require different levels of expertise. You may use the same person to fill different roles, but if it implies tapping into different levels of expertise, it will raise the question of different rates. You may want to charge one rate to lessen accounting, but this would raise the value your client is getting for the rate you’re charging… One could argue that “higher-paid” resources are faster at “lesser” tasks, but it is a [very] contentious question… Separate role-based rates make it easier to track data and create your own ratios, even if it requires more “accounting”.

So let’s look at an example, very simplified example of a completed tracking table, after a project…

Task Hrs (estimate) Hrs (actual) Role $
Analysis (sum) (sum)
Review materials
12 Senior ID
Meetings and discussion
10 Senior ID
Write-up of Design Document
36 Senior ID
Storyboarding (sum) (sum)
Module 1 (sub-sum) (sub-sum)
Lead Support
7 Senior ID
28 ID
QC Content
4 Copy Editor
Edits after client review
8 ID
Module 2 (sub-sum) (sub-sum)
Lead Support
3 Senior ID

Tracking [more] detailed data allow you to determine your

  • Effort/cost per deliverable
  • Effort/cost per role
  • Effort/cost per unit of learning, like an hour of elearning

With this data you can compare the estimate to the actuals, figure out why there are differences, identify those that you can control, and take notes for the next scoping exercise.   🙂

The level of detail is up to you. For sure the temptation of diving into details is great. We have to be careful with that: too much detail becomes counter-productive. The key is to first define what you want to know, then identify the data you need.

For sure this requires more “accounting”. And to be viable, you likely need a timesheet system that supports it, more [PM] time to enter the estimated data AND discipline of ALL resources to enter the data properly.

Do you think it’s worth it?       🙂