November Newsletter 2015

THE STRAND – the latest on learning from WillowDNA

November 2015 Edition

November Round Up

Each month we take a look at some of the most interesting research and articles on online learning, social learning and technology.  

The latest Towards Maturity Benchmarking Report – a view from Clive Shepherd

Our friend, Clive Shepherd, attended the VIP launch of the 2015 Towards Maturity Benchmark study.  His recent post on LinkedIn confirms what many suspected but perhaps hoped was not the case:

“the call seems only to be heard by the already converted. What TM calls the ‘Top Deck’ (those organisations that are showing the best results from their L&D efforts) are shooting ahead, overcoming barriers and exploring all the possibilities for workplace learning in all its contexts, formal and informal. The rest have been stuck for years.”

Our Director Of Learning Solutions, Lisa Minogue-White believes there are many practical steps learning and development can take to put themselves centre stage in delivering the strategic goals of the organisation.  In her commentary on Clive’s post, she suggests that rather than being marginalised, the time for true business partnership could be here.

Performance Catalysts

On the WillowDNA blog this month, we discuss the new learning professional and their role as Performance Catalysts.

‘A catalyst acts in a unique way to make a lower barrier to cause a reaction to happen. Putting the right people together in the right environment at the right time with right tools, that’s how we catalyse that learning’. – Tom Spiglanin.

Whilst much of the current discourse in L&D is about the Learning Revolution and questions about the very survival of the role in organisations, we offers an insight into the critical role learning professionals will take in achieving the strategic goals of orgainsations and why their role is more important than ever.

Book Review

This month, we’ve been reading:

Engaged: he Neuroscience Behind Creating Productive People in Successful Organizations (The Neuroscience of Business)
Amy Brann

At every conference in 2015 and probably 2016, you’ll find sessions on Neuroscience, some well grounded in research, others with something of a pop psych feel.  In this book, Amy Brann, director at Synaptic Potential, Neuroscientist and medical graduate from UCL does a great job of providing a practical, accessible study of the subject.

From quick to apply changes to everyday practice to informing strategic learning plans, there’s frameworks in every chapter to help apply the principles of neuroscience to real learning challenges.


Hot on the heels of our shortlising in 4 categories at the 2015 e-Learning Awards, our partnership with Rock and A Hard Place Learning has been shortlisted for Start Up Of The Year at the LPi Learning Awards.  

Introducing Learning Now Radio

Following our work with Learning Now TV, we are delighted to announce that Lisa Minogue-White has been asked to host Learning Now Radio.

Already 4 episodes in, she has been in conversation with Mike Collins at DPG PLC, David Kelly from the e-Learning Guild, Jane Bozarth and Clark Quinn.  Subscribe today in iTunes and tune into the most interesting discussions in learning and development.


International WOL Week – a view from Helen Blunden

As one of the foremost advocates of Working Out Loud (WOL) and someone who really does lead by example, Helen Blunden from Activate Learning has been publishing her #WOLweek experience each day in her blog.WOL has been a campaign kicked off by Jane Bozarth to exemplify the power of sharing insights, lessons learnt, challenges and solutions. Jane and many others having been sharing their #WOLweek experiences.  Check out the hashtag on Twitter for more examples.


e-Learning Awards 2015
Wednesday 25th November 1.30pm

We are delighted that WillowDNA have been shortlisted in 4 categories at the 2015 e-Learning Awards, including e-learning company of the year.

Follow the hashtag #elawards on the night to see the results come in.

Webinar: Performance Catalysts – the future of Learning and Development
9th December 2015 2pm GMT

This month’s Willow Webinar will explore the role of L&D in the new world of work and introduces the concept of Performance Catalysts.

From what you need to know about technology, how to identify the right type of learning solution aligned to business activities through to tips for evaluation, this webinar will explore what the new learning professional will look like.

Register today and join us for a webinar that will provide great inspiration for your learning strategy in 2016.


On Performance Catalysts
This month’s video – Lisa Minogue-White discusses the future role of L&D and why she believes they will become the organisation’s Performance Catalysts.  ( Filmed whilst nursing a bit of bronchitis!)



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Webinar from WillowDNA – using learning scaffolds to tackle tough subjects

Debbie Lawley and Lisa Minogue-White will be in conversation on learning scaffolds – an approach to online learning design that delivers an effective blend of formal and informal content to tackle more challenging subjects.

Sign up for this webinar and we look forward to seeing you there.

Be a catalyst not a catalogue

This week I posted a quick video to YouTube whilst working gently from home nursing a nasty bit of bronchitis.  The obvious downsides were, as a hyperactive runner and cyclist, an enforced period of stillness does not come naturally to me, but it did give me the opportunity to pour some latent energy into a subject that is typified by a word full of activity – catalyst.

Catalysts remove barriers,  enabling new actions

Catalysts remove barriers, enabling new actions

A conversation I had with Tom Spiglanin at DevLearn 2015 back in October has stuck with me – as a scientist and now learning specialist in his organisation of aerospace experts, he offered to me an explanation of the role he plays.  ‘A catalyst acts in a unique way to make a lower barrier to cause a reaction to happen. Putting the right people together in the right environment at the right time with right tools, that’s how we catalyse that learning’. This could not be more timely, given the recent publication of the Towards Maturity 2015 Industry Benchmark Report.  Change is no longer in the air, it’s happening and there is an argument that those who do not free themselves of the definitions and boundaries of ‘the L&D department’ are going to fail.  They will become irrelevant and surplus to requirements. But learning as part of the workflow is critical to achieving business performance.   It has perhaps never been more important in the technology and innovation age.  So in a paper I have just finished between hot cups of tea, vicks vaporub and antibiotics, I offer a perspective on how learning as performance catalysts operate in the business.  I would love to get your comments on this.  

Commentary on Clive Shepherd’s commentary! The Towards Maturity Benchmarking Report 2015

Next week sees the official publication of this year’s Towards Maturity Benchmarking Report.

It's going to take a deep dive into understanding the business

It’s going to take a deep dive into understanding the business

Having been fortunate enough to catch up with Laura Overton and Marnie Threapleton at DevLearn 2015 where Laura gave something of a sneak preview of what was to come. Our friend, Clive Shepherd was one of the VIPs invited to the preview last week (in advance of the public release which you can tune into on the 5th November).  His recent post on LinkedIn confirms what many suspected but perhaps hoped was not the case: “the call seems only to be heard by the already converted. What TM calls the ‘Top Deck’ (those organisations that are showing the best results from their L&D efforts) are shooting ahead, overcoming barriers and exploring all the possibilities for workplace learning in all its contexts, formal and informal. The rest have been stuck for years.” As Clive says, the future is already here and there’s never been a better time to truly facilitate learning if we can shake off the shackles of the past.  I’ve just interviewed Clark Quinn for Learning Now Radio on this very subject, as its certainly not a UK only problem or just an L&D problem.  A significant barrier that should not be underestimated is how they are perceived by the rest of the business.  There are regular calls for L&D to be on the top table, which for many feels impossible, but the visionary, tenacious few that have done it and seen great results (such as Silver Award winner at the 2015 Learning Awards, Rick Jackson at DHL). Its about starting the conversation in terms of performance challenges and understanding at a deep level the inputs and outputs that make up the value chain to deliver your organisations products or services.  It takes a true partnership approach, a systematic exploration of workflow, an open-minded view of learning and an understanding of how to maximise technology, informal learning opportunities and build effective learning scaffolds that will get you noticed.  Link your solutions to real business metrics and you’ll pack a punch few senior teams could ignore. I for one would love to see some more substantive research in the quantitate impact of just the types of things you mention, such as thriving CoPs, blended learning ecosystems etc. This may seem like a daunting task but with learning as part of the workflow, it should then be a key element and a feed into the business metrics of the organisation. We can shake off the ROI of a single intervention (which in itself is crazy, as life simply isn’t that binary) if we look at the inputs to and knowledge needed to achieve key business objectives. Perhaps it’s time I dusted off the PhD idea 😉

If you need support in creating a learning strategy fit for the new work of work and learning, want to upskill your learning team in some of the key techniques and technologies you need or are looking for a learning provider that delivers content truly fit for business, we’d love to help.

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Latest thinking from DevLearn 2015

Insights and advice from thought leaders, heads of learning and practitioners shaping the future of learning

DevLearn is one of the world’s largest learning technology conferences, which attracts leading speakers from around the globe to share their ideas, case studies and approaches to learning in the new world of work.

Lisa Minogue-White, Head of Learning Solutions at WillowDNA was fortunate enough to take part in this incredible event and each day, has brought you a summary of the key takeaways and ideas from the rich and diverse programme.

Check out her WillowDNA Daily DevLearn vlogs here and if its inspired you to transform your approach to learning, we would be delighted to help.

DevLearn 2015 WillowDNA Daily Vlogs - Day minus 1
WilowDNA DevLearn Daily Vlog Day minus 1!

DevLearn vlog day minus 2 part 2
WilowDNA DevLearn Daily Vlog Day minus 1, part 2

DevLearn Daily Vlog Day 1
WilowDNA DevLearn Daily Vlog Day 1

WillowDNA Daily Vlog DevLearn Day 2
WilowDNA DevLearn Daily Vlog Day 2

WillowDNA DevLearn wrap up
WilowDNA DevLearn Daily Vlog Day 3

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WillowDNA speaking at DevLearn 2015 – Using the Power of Online Communities to Supercharge Your Learning

Returning to the world’s leading e-learning conference, WillowDNA are delighted to contribute to this fantastic event. This year, Lisa Minogue-White, Director of Learning Solutions is exploring how communities are key to effective learning.

One of the major challenges facing organizations is getting the balance between formal and informal right. Capitalizing on the benefits of social learning requires the right environment to facilitate it. The most successful communities have clarity of purpose, support from wider stakeholders, an engaged hub of participants, and a skilled facilitator to nurture it.

The session is for anyone interested in creating a sustainable and effective social learning strategy for their organization, understanding the benefits of a community approach and the right balance between structure and exploration is key.

To register for DevLearn, visit the e-Learning Guild event site

Insights from DevLearn Day 1

iStock_000027129253Medium (1)As always, it’s been an agenda packed to the brim – as a conference the variety and volume of sessions is always impressive and this year, the content has continued to deliver. Some of the key insights I wanted to share were a few key messages from a session by Chris Nekvinda at Cannon Financial Institute. When the board express concerns about social learning and the old objection of ‘what if they tell each other the wrong thing” remember this: ‘The herd will correct incorrect information’ I’ve seen this play out in many organisations and communities of practice.  Where there may have been a reluctance to use community platforms, have user generated content or discussion boards, in reality it ends up being self policed.  Members of the community will critique and review, either challenging or clarifying a position or perhaps even acknowledging that this new view is actually more reflective of working reality than previous held beliefs!  The benefits massively outweigh the limited examples of incorrect input, so it should not be a barrier to taking a more social connected view of learning. The other key takeaway was when you think about the word repository, here in the US there is a link to funeral homes, so what does a content repository imply?  That its the place content goes to lay in repose!  If you are generating huge amounts of learning content but it is laying in repose, then it is time to take a new look at what you are doing!  What do people really use?  Where are they going to find what they need if they are not going to the content you generate?  It’s a useful reminder of keeping the need at the forefront, rather than jumping to a solution.

An open minded approach to learning strategy can mean retracing our steps – MOOCs and Communities

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” Terry Pratchett, Diggers

iStock_000001785644_Large At this month’s Learning Live conference, the L&D question time panel were fairly dismissive of the impact and future of MOOCs, despite some of the most vibrant sessions from the event were on that very topic. So is there another story? Well pinning the hopes of the future of online learning is far to heavy a burden to place on one solution such as MOOCs. However, they can certainly have a deserved place at the table. I’ll be at DevLearn next week exploring how to supercharge your learning with communities and there is a lesson in reinvigoration of a neglected learning and knowledge topic. Communities aren’t new but their value and role in delivering on strategy and building competitive difference is raising again a topic that I first started writing about an delivering consultancy over a decade ago.  Availability and ubiquity of social e-learning technology has made it much easier than when we started out, so a fresh pair of eyes is needed, but many of the principles of creating, nurturing and sustaining communities still hold true.  I am utterly delighted they have come back into the mainstream, they are taking on a different shape and context but there’s so much we can build on. So before we decide MOOCs had their day, its worth digging a little deeper.  This article from Harvard Business Review makes a good defence of their value.  Now as the authors themselves disclose, they are not an entirely independent voice in this debate, but it’s good to see some analysis of data behind the often cited low completion rates.  They have made a start at trying to draw some data out on the tangible value of MOOC participation and although its early days and took a very specific focus, it’s encouraging.  Not for a moment does this suggest that actually MOOCs are the answer and above scrutiny, quite the opposite.  However, as part of the open minded learning ecosystem, each element has to earn its place and that doesn’t always mean filling each place with the next new thing. The principles of creation and curation, the power of the cohort and learning scaffolds live in a good MOOC (something that could also be said for great communities). OK, they are not all perfect, but we can learn from that too!

WillowDNA at Learning Live – Practical personalisation: Creating a learning environment for one and for all

As part of the LPi’s Learning Live conference, Lisa Minogue-White from WillowDNA will facilitate a practical session to help you develop a strategic plan to deliver practical personalisation through learning ecosystems

  • Building the architecture – what does that imply and what skills are needed to make it happen
  • Designing your learning ecosystem – understanding the needs of the learner, the organisation and making sense of what you already have
  • The role of formal learning in the ecosystem – developing academies and the content, tools and skills you need
  • The role of communities and social learning in the ecosystem – fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing and the tools and skills you need
  • Getting started – bringing the streams together to formulate your ecosystem plan

For tickets for Learning Live, visit the LPi site and find out more about the exciting line up for the conference

Forget New Years Resolutions – summer is a great time to do the big thinking

Not sure its the same for you, but New Year is not the time to make any new work based P1060367resolutions – Q4 is traditionally a crazy time where budgets are being agreed, work signed up for the next year then just as you catch your breath, you hit the ground running after the christmas break (which for us also means frantic preparations for exhibitions like Learning Technologies!) However the summer can be a great opportunity to take advantage of the quieter moments in the office to take a coffee with colleagues around the business and listen to whats happening.  Its these types of conversations that can prove invaluable in uncovering the true learning needs in an organisation. By the time the formal development need passes your desk, its almost too late.   Taking a real interest in what’s happening on a day to day basis is when you uncover the SMEs you didn’t know your business had, the communities of practice already working together and collaborating, the outside influencers people turn to for help, the curated content colleagues are sharing with each other. So if you’ve already had your drizzly week in Devon and are back at work, take the time not just to debate whether the clotted cream or jam go first onto the scone but to follow your natural curiosity and find out how your organisation really learns.