Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

Posts tagged ‘change management’

The Tipping Point

The Tipping PointI am reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m a firm believer that it’s the little things that can make a big difference, especially when it comes to change and new directions. I also see that it’s easy to forget the significance of these little things until it’s too late; much like a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step, great things can be achieved as the result of little things. As much as any other factor, the importance of people and their actions can be crucial in achieving change, as well as a positive and effective working environment..

The law of the few

In chapter 2, Gladwell talks about The law of the few and three personality types which can affect change or start ‘word of mouth epidemics’, as he calls them.

  • Connectors: A connector is someone who brings people together. They know lots of people but, most importantly, they genuinely like people. They see possibilities in everyone they connect with. I can think of three friends who are connectors. They can assemble a crowd at a moment’s notice but are not necessarily the centre of their social groups. What makes my connector friends even more special is that they don’t realise how significant their ability to bring pepole together is nor how responsible they have been for widening so many social circles around them.
  • Mavens: I think I’m a maven. Think about teachers, bloggers, writers, helpers … mavens like to collect and share information with others not for what they get out of it but in the hope that someone else will gain something from it. They are not persuasive but get a kick out of sharing information in order to educate or help others make the best decision for themselves. Mavens are perpetual teachers and students.
  • Salesmen: We all have our own ideas about salesmen. They are persuaders, or people who set out to convince others to make a decision or buy something. I’m definitely not one of these. The best salespeople are optimistic rather than pushy and work to combine the skills of connectors and mavens in order to achieve success – quite an art.

The workplace environment

Turning the lens to the workplace environment now, where do these personality types come into play? I’d say that a good educator needs to be all three. However, how likely is it that an individual will excel in each of these areas? Probably, not very. This is where a positive team environment comes into play. The best functioning teams recognise and harness the skills of their members and their combined strengths complement each other. A good team leader is one who enables this to happen and empowers team members to realise their full potential, both individually and as a group. That, in itself, is an art, particularly where change management is concerned.

Thinking about my work experience, I have worked with some very adept connectors whose ability to open doors and connect the right people to the right job at the right time is invaluable. I have learned much from enthusiastic mavens who have willing shared their knowledge about various topics and equipped me with the skills and information I’ve needed to make my own decisions about how to proceed next. And let’s also say that I have worked with a fair few salesmen in the past; the results have varied from being promised the earth to being promised nothing at all, but all sold with a million dollar smile. 😀

Connectivism and changing times

George Siemens photo

George Siemens

This morning, we had the pleasure of hosting George Siemens. George held two one-hour sessions; one for all staff and another specifically for our learning and teaching development team. George had us all captivated without the aid of slides, the web, or any digital tools. He arrived fresh from the Vice Chancellors’ Symposium 2010 at Massey University on Friday, where he gave a presentation entitled Connectivism and Changing Times: Learning for a Socially Wired World.

George had our staff positively buzzing with ideas and questions during and after the session, some of which I will explore here.

Key roles of knowledge institutions

Throughout history, knowledge institutions have mapped their activities to the societies that exist and that they serve. Universities themselves were developed to service the model of knowledge from a time. Libraries essentially ‘capture’ knowledge and information from an era and the development of the printing press allowed this information to be published and generated further. This contributes to the concept of placedness, that is, activities and events occurring in or around a particular place or within its vicinity. Social network learning can help allow learners access to knowledge and information regardless of their location.

Change theory

George talked about three major types of change.

  1. Paradigm shift: It usually occurs about once every century or 200 years, often as the result of an anomaly in current thinking or practice.
  2. Broad technology adoption: Moving to the adjacent possible, while still retaining the essence of the original underlying experience, ie sustaining change. For example, the introduction of the dynamo to aid factory production. I wonder if the same could be said of technology enhanced learning for existing paper-based programmes, rather than a pedagogical shift to e-learning?
  3. Disruption: Google competed with Microsoft by entering the web market. Our institution could do this by offering a distinct style of open distance learning in New Zealand.

The secret to success with regard to information production nowadays is rapid iteration. That is, in order to keep up with the pace of information development and change, we need to be able to throw out ideas quickly, get feedback quickly, change our ideas quickly and move on. We often don’t have the time it requires to wait for the perfect article or learning resource to be produced before publishing and sharing it. Also, ideas need other people to contribute to them and help develop them. The cost for this is essentially zero thanks to tools such as blogging, microblogging, web cam, laptop, tablet, videos, and so on. This contributes to low-end disruptive change, an area explored by Stephen Marshall during his workshop on e-learning and organisational change a few weeks ago. Stephen gave the example of YouTube, with its low-quality, quickly-made videos by its community of users, taking a serious chunk out of the status and popularity of television production for news and other short video items. Sometimes there is a very valid place for resources that are “quick, dirty and disposable”.

Social network learning – connectivism

George asked, “Who can build and fly a 747 plane?” The answer is, “no-one – on their own”. This is a process that requires connected specialisation between individual expertise and a system which connects the right people with the right skills to do the right task. Just as we relied on social systems in the past to teach our children how to farm or build a house, we can create global social networks to help us understand knowledge. The possibilities are endless.

e-learning and organisational change

Last Monday, I attended a session at Victoria University of Wellington entitled Understanding and supporting organisational change in e-learning. The workshop was presented by Dr Stephen Marshall, Senior Lecturer from the University Teaching Development Centre. The session began by looking at motivators for organisational change. The majority of change in New Zealand education institutions is coercive by nature, that is, driven by external, mostly financial, motivators. However, changes driven by the quality of learning would be more beneficial for students.

Effective change

Effective change needs to incorporate a combination of sustaining and disruptive principles. These are not either/or concepts; both exist and we need to be continuously aware of them. Sustaining change refers to old things being done in new ways, but the nature of an underlying experience remains the same. This ultimately just increases the cost structure of what we’ve always done, as it involves changing the superficial qualities, rather than the nature, of an experience.

Conversely, there are two main types of disruptive change. Low-end disruption occurs where a small proportion of the population who might use a service doesn’t because of cost. This is mostly likely to affect the tertiary education sector, where the traditional target market is changing. High-end or new market disruption is something which changes the way people react with their environment. Early adopters tend to see the high-end disruption possibilities. For example, people learn better when they feel known or recognised as people. This supports the notion of discourse being fundamental to effective learning and teaching. However, the natural tendency is for tertiary institutions to turn high-end disruption into sustaining change, that is, insisting on retaining the old while trying to bring in the new.

Why change?

So, why change at all? Stephen identified three main motivating factors for change in tertiary education:

  • People. The type of person engaging in tertiary education is changing. They have different expectations, lives, careers, and modes of engagement. The group of people we are meant to be servicing is different.
  • Financial. There is constant pressure to be financially efficient in what we provide. This compliance mechanism is trying to drive down the cost of obtaining tertiary qualifications in New Zealand. It has been found that people may be prepared to pay for expensive qualifications once in their lifetime, but not again. This affects the rate of uptake in ongoing management development
  • Technical. People’s ability to work with information is dramatically improving and they are arriving with alternative means for communication.

The eMM

eMM iconThe e-learning Maturity Model (eMM) is a benchmarking methodology designed for institutions and organisations to assess and compare their effectiveness and capability to sustainably develop, deploy and support e-learning. Stephen reported on his findings from his research, using this model to analyse the capability and sustained development of e-learning in New Zealand tertiary education institutes. It is a remarkably comprehensive tool and one which I would like to explore further and in depth

Briefly, the eMM identifies areas that all institutions should be doing, categorised according to five dimensions: delivery, planning, definition (organisational culture), management, and optimisation (making purposeful changes). The model is designed to preserve the core business of an institution while stimulating progress. Organisations that are more capable understand why they have done something well and ensure that it happens again (or improves), rather than just knowing that they have done well.

Two major findings from this research jumped out at me as being particularly relevant to my work as a facilitator for online professional learning. They related to a case study which identified one particular private training organisation (PTE) to be the most successful in terms of the eMM.

  • A professional e-learning culture needs to be firmly established in order for sustainable e-learning and development to take place. This must be embedded throughout the whole organisation: “At [name], we believe/value/do/…”.
  • Staff need to experience e-learning for themselves as students before they can effectively facilitate e-learning with their own students. This PTE runs two induction courses in e-learning in which all staff are required to participate; the first is for all students to complete, and the other is in teaching online. Results showed that there were not only significant benefits for students, but also for staff who used the courses to become familiar with the student experience of e-learning.