Archive for the 'learning' Category

Feb 07 2015

Learning is everywhere — From Lilia on Mathemagenic

Published by under learning

Too good not to share. Go read it. And look at her son’s amazing Kale photo. I’m not reproducing it here to tease you into clicking into her post. I’m evil that way. ;-)

Learning doesn’t necessary take a lot of time. Mainly it takes a mindset of recognising learning opportunities everywhere and going for them. And a bit of practice – of observing, improvising and not making a duty out of play :)

via Learning is everywhere — Mathemagenic.

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Feb 06 2015

Ford Foundation, Open Access and Really Sharing Knowledge

inandoutKnowledge sharing can be enabled or blocked based on organizational policies and infrastructure. This is essential in sectors that are (or claim to be) for the public good, like non profits, donors and foundations, NGOs and educational institutions. I was happy to read that the Ford Foundation has added Creative Commons approach to all their work, joining the Open Society Foundations, the Packard Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the CGIAR and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ford Foundation Expands Creative Commons Licensing for All Grant-Funded Projects

(New York) – The Ford Foundation announced today that it is adopting an open licensing policy for all grant-funded projects and research to promote greater transparency and accessibility of materials. Effective February 1, grantees and consultants will be required to make foundation-funded materials subject to a Creative Commons license allowing others, free of charge and without requesting permission, the ability to copy, redistribute, and adapt existing materials, provided they give appropriate credit to the original author.

via Ford Foundation Expands Creative Commons Licensing for All Grant-Funded Projects / News from Ford / Newsroom / Ford Foundation.

Walking the talk is harder than publishing the policy. Some people still worry that setting their knowledge free will hurt them. So we need to look at how certain professions are rewarded (or punished) when it comes to sharing intellectual property. For example, our way of educating and validating researchers and scientists (“publish or perish”) still pushes people to withhold (particularly data sets) rather than “set free.” I’d be very interested if any of you have research/data that links the benefits of sharing knowledge to professional advancement. I think we either have some myths to bust, or we have serious infrastructure changes needed.

This is resonant with another article shared with me today, from the Stanford Review on the role of including gender perspective for research breakthroughs.  Being open allows access to thinking of others, to diverse perspectives which then inform our work, decisions and results.

Doing research wrong costs lives and money. Ten drugs were recently withdrawn from the U.S. market because of life-threatening health effects – eight of these posed greater threats for women.

Clearly, doing research right has the potential to save lives and money, and this is the goal of the Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environmentproject directed by Stanford history Professor Londa Schiebinger.

With an international team of more than 60 scientists, engineers and gender experts, Schiebinger has explored how gender analysis can open doors to discovery.

“Once you start looking, you find that taking gender into account can improve almost anything with a human endpoint – stem cell research, assistive technologies for the elderly, automobile design, transportation systems, osteoporosis research in men, and natural language processing,” Schiebinger said.

Open our databases. Open our practices. Open our minds. Open possibilities.

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Feb 01 2015

Slowing Down to Pay ATTENTION – the #365 Photo Practice

January30For a number of years, some of my good buddies have taken part in the #365 photo project.  Alan Levine and Stephen Downes have been most prominent on my radar. I never seriously considered doing it until January 2, 2015. I can’t quite put my finger on why. There are lots of logical reasons – I try and include the visual in my work on a regular basis. But that wasn’t the reason. I’m beginning to think it was because I wanted to pay attention to things differently. So I did not consider it more than that and just started. Just fricken do it.  Forget the logical.

I did not think about themes. I did not think about “getting better at taking pictures.” I did not think about narrative. Just take a picture or pictures, and pick one to post. Voila.

About the same time I noticed that my friend and “inspiring being” Eugene Eric Kim posted Ten Days Into my 365 Photos Project. I had noticed his pictures and thought, “cool, Eugene is doing this too!” And of course, Eugene being someone who I perceive as taking his photographic craft as seriously as he takes his process arts work, I got a bit intimidated by his comments about taking better pictures. (Update: He posted about the project again today in a don’t-miss post.)

I was using my phone and my very cracked and battered Nexus 7 tablet. Oh dear. Then I stopped myself. Remember, I said, I am not doing this as a photographic practice, but as one of paying attention. At the same time, I LOVED Eugene’s reflections and a little thread of light conversation started pinging and pattering between our posts of our pictures on Facebook.  I liked that. I enjoyed when other friends hit the “like” button, or even better, left comments. Last week I was working very hard and the only picture I could muster one night was taking a picture of my feet while I was collapsed on the couch. And the comment was on the energetic nature of my sock color. This little bit of attention  energized me (Thanks, Joy!). My friends were being part of my paying attention. The attention became a network, or a tiny little force-field.

I like that. A lot!

On January 29th, Eugene posted a picture and comments that again twinged me to observe my own practice by observing his. The conversation was so useful to me. Eugene gave me permission to share it and it is captured here. #365Photo Conversation With Eugene. Eugene some interesting things, so if you are interested, click in!

Eugene wrote “My primary criteria is that the photo tell some story about my day.”

I responded, “That was really helpful for me to read, as I’m still very unclear about my own aims and criteria with the project. I think right now my baseline is low – get it done. I also have a tiny tablet and a cell phone as my camera, so I have to discover what makes a “good” picture on those devices. I do get intimidated by beautiful pictures by others (like you) and I have to shut off that voice. I have enjoyed a) trying to be observant of images/moments and b) giving a tiny bit of context when I post. But it is still very emergent.”

Later in the conversation Eugene wrote: “Nancy, even though we didn’t plan it, knowing that you’re doing this too has helped me _tremendously_. Several of your images have already inspired me..” and “I’ve also loved the emergent aspects of this project, which includes this exchange with you! I also love that you’re taking photos with your phone and tablet…” and “to embrace the spirit of the project and all of the unexpected things that are happening as a result.”

liquidnetworkI was nodding affirmatively as I read. My own random experiment has already morphed and changed because of posting pictures on Facebook and engaging with people like Eugene. The social learning aspect is a wonderful and welcome surprise. That network.

So here is my recap so far.

Attention: Attention turns out to feel more like observation. As I take my daily walks, I am starting to “look with new eyes” at what passes around me. Big picture. Detail. Pattern. Getting out of my “to do list” mode and let my mind calm by using my eyes, instead of “thinking, thinking, thinking.”  The unexpected is now paying attention differently to my friends’ #365photos. (And slightly annoyed that I have to go multiple places, but not so annoyed that I find a technological solution to this!)

Identity: I had not at all thought about how my pictures would give a wee window into my worlds to those who see them on Facebook. I always underestimate how much time and attention people give to Facebook. That is both a wonderful and scary thought. Now that I have noticed this, I am resisting taking/curating my photos as an expression of identity. I want to stay with “attention” for now.

Practice: When I was traveling and in a time zone 19 hours away, I got confused about which “day” I was posting for. Ah, the international time line. But travel provides fertile opportunities for pictures. I was worried that I would not be able to post. I can’t always post from my phone while overseas, so I did more with my tablet and wifi. Thanks to Eugene’s positive support, I have let go of worrying about pictures that are literally just snap shots.

I’m liking this!

 

 

 

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Nov 18 2014

Good Suggestions for “Fixing the Q&A” Session

whatsyourstoryerealitiesThere is a useful post on the HBR blog by  that is a good follow-on to yesterday’s post about webinars. Thomas talks about the mismatch between the intention for interaction with the audience, and the poor design of most Q&A sessions that happen after keynotes or talks. Here is a snippet, then I have some amplifications below.

Some solutions to the Q&A dysfunction already exist. Some hire a professional moderator or use software tools to crowdsource the questions. Others experiment with radically new ways to run events, such as the unconference movement. However, those solutions are often expensive or time-consuming to deploy, making them infeasible for many types of events. Here are four techniques that I’ve used with great results, and that can be deployed without any kind of preparation:

  1. Do an inverse Q&A. An inverse Q&A is when I the speaker pose a question to the audience, asking them to discuss it with the person sitting next to them. A good question is, “For you, what was a key take-away from this session? What might you do differently going forward?” People love the opportunity to voice their thoughts to someone and unlike the traditional Q&A, this approach allows everybody to have their say. It also helps them network with each other in a natural manner, which is something many conferences don’t really cater to.
  2. Ask for reactions, not just questions. When you debrief on the small-group discussion, insisting on the question format makes it awkward for the people who just want to share something. As you open the floor, specifically say “What are your reactions to all this? Questions are great, but you are also welcome to just share an observation, it doesn’t have to be in the form of a question.”
  3. Have people vet the questions in groups. An alternative to the inverse Q&A is to ask people to find good questions in groups. Simply say, “Please spend a minute or two in small groups, and try to find a good question or a reflection you think is relevant for everybody.” Then walk around the room and listen as people talk. If you hear an interesting reflection, ask them to bring it up during the joint discussion, or bring it up yourself.
  4. Share a final story after the Q&A. Given that even the best-run Q&A session is unpredictable, it is best to have the Q&A as the second-to-last element. I always stop the Q&A part a few minutes before the end, so I have time to share one final example before getting off the stage. That way, even if the Q&A part falls flat, you can still end your session with a bang instead of a fizzle.The above methods can help you turn any keynote into a better experience. What other techniques — ideally simple ones — have you seen or used?

via 4 Ways to Fix the Q&A Session – Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg – Harvard Business Review.

The first thing I really want to amplify is the focus on questions – thinking about them and forming them more intentionally, both from the presenter and from the people formerly known as the audience.  Crap questions generate crap responses. People seeking to be heard often respond in kind with crap responses because they were so busy getting ready to speak, they weren’t listening. So we also see a relationship between crap questions and poor listening. As a speaker, it is your/mine/our job to bring value by offering good questions and to both role model good listening when we hand off the mic, and to make it easier for people to listen well.

How do we make it easier for people to listen well?

  • Present well. This is covered well other places, but if we are rambly (spell check suggested “brambly” which also fits!), unclear or just off point, we will have lost the audience well before the Q&A. Why not aim for having people SO EXCITED by the time you finish speaking…
  • ...so that the only solution is to let them have a conversation. Start with table or pair conversations so this energy can be unleashed, rather than squelched by passing a single mic and constricting/controlling that energy?
  • Harvest. The presenter’s job is then to harvest what was generated out of all that energy, and Thomas’ suggestions are spot on. You can also do post it note harvests, capture visually, among many options. The point here is you steward, you become of service.

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Nov 10 2014

Ask Me Anything: Knowledge Sharing Through Peer Interviews

This is the third post in a series about how we learn from our work. The first one is here and the second here.

The popular Internet discussion site, Reddit.com has a practice called “Ask Me Anything.”(http://www.reddit.com/r/AMA/) It is a discussion thread where either some notable is invited in or a member offers their expertise and the other members can ask them, well, anything! It is so popular it even has a mobile app so you can follow the AMAs. Some of the AMA’s are amazing… the insights that emerge when someone asks us a question seem to leap over anything we can prepare. I’ve done a ton of keynote talks, and the best ones have been when someone interviews me. They pull out things I had no idea I knew, and I was able to express them naturally and easily.

What is it about someone asking us questions that surfaces great, sharable knowledge?

This is the question that is part of the second of two experiments we are running with the of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grantees of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program. (Read about the first one here.)We have started interviewing ourselves on the KM team, and have offered to interview any grantee to help tease out and share their insights with other grantees and stakeholders. It is a simple, low risk experiment to learn together and share knowledge

Our hypothesis, or Theory of Change, for the peer interviews is fourfold.

  1. HSLWe are often unconscious about what we know (see Dave Snowden’s great piece on “we know more than we can say and we say more than we can write.”) When someone asks us to “tell them a story” about our work, we are able to on the spot reflect, surface and share insights that might otherwise just stay stuck in our heads.
  2. We are short on time so we are reluctant or unable to stop, reflect, write and share. For whatever reasons. If someone can ask us and even help us write it up, we may be able to jump over that barrier.
  3. Pithy write ups of the insights can be valuable ways to cross pollinate learning in a grant portfolio, particularly if they come in small bites in greater frequency than the formal knowledge sharing instruments of regular reports and journal articles.
  4. Interviewing each other is a generative practice. This is because people like to know they have been heard. Not to freak out my dear science brethren and sisters, but the Dalai Lama once said that human beings “need to be heard, seen and loved, and in that order.” (As quoted in a story from Mark Jones, told to Peggy Holman and noted in her book, “Engaging Emergence.”) In the work world, we often swap in “respected” for loved, because talking about love at work seems taboo in many of our cultures. ;-) All the same, when we take the time to interview each other, to listen and to capture the insights, two things happen. One is the person who speaks often makes concrete, as they speak, thinking that was not yet fully formed or articulated. The second is that when people are heard, they are more likely to offer their knowledge in the future. So interviewing becomes a generative practice.

So far I have interviewed our KM team leader, Pete Cranston. On my to do list is to interview our client, the BDS portfolio lead (who is a pretty freaking amazingly open guy, so I look forward to this), and, after our last call (see blog post 2) I want to follow up with one of the grantees who is asking this same question: how do we surface and share our learnings more effectively. He calls it “process learning.” Some folks call it “working out loud.”

So another experiment has begun. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, do you have any stories or insights about peer interviewing as a learning and knowledge sharing method? Please, share them in the comments!

11 responses so far

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