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Learning at the speed of desire

Fig.1. My whirlwind of postgraduate learning. (c) J F Vernon (2013)

For a brief period I have been a registered student at three universities: Oxford Brookes (FSLT14), the Open University (MAODE H818)  and the University of Birmingham (MA First World War). This is what my mind needs to feel I am ‘in the flow’. Live TV does it too – behind the camera, anything can go wrong, or go right.

The first two online and the latter campus based. My motives for joining FLST14 were to push my learning towards education in Higher Education and applied learning in business – as a practitioner I’ve been making the transition from production and learning services to the education side for a good decade – seeking to be part of the learning process rather than creating resources at a distance. First Steps into Learning and Teaching 2014 (FSLT14) came along where I have had a brief window and for an opportunity to revisit, understand and apply this process of reflection it worked where previous efforts to crack this have failed. I’m also, in some respects, testing from a professional perspective different learning platforms and approaches.

I’ve done three MOOCs in as many years – some huge, one so closely managed it was like a formal MBA module. I’ve done and nearly completed a FutureLearn MOOC too (WebSciences) and enjoyed taking part in another FutureLearn MOOC on Hamlet (University of Birmingham) as an observer. I can see myself doing a couple of these a year: they replace an inclination of buying hefty, coffee-table non-fiction books on a thing in the belief that ownership alone will result in the transmission of knowledge from the page to my head. For the last decade I’ve applied the same principle to eBooks which hasn’t worked either. I need to be reading the things for a reason – increasingly this is because, voluntairly, I need to respond with a book review, intelligent intercourse in a seminar or in an essay that will be assessed and graded.

It is interesting to be back in class: lectures and reading lists with essays to write, but the comparison I make for FSLT14 is with other online modules.

Where, for me FSLT14 worked so well as that it clearly knows what it can and cannot deliver. It is a Bonsai tree, not the entire forest. It might even be a cherry-tree haphazardly trained along the back wall of the garage if I am to continue the metaphor. This is a blessing. More is definitely less.

I’ve been on modules that say it is 14 hours a week but it quickly becomes apparent that it is more like 22 hours – sometimes they excuse this by having ‘Optional’ activities, but these are ambitiously long, even indulgent reading lists set up us students to feel we may be failing or inadequate if we can’t or don’t take an interest in these. I am not a strategic learner; I expect those responsible for the learning design to do this. If you go to the trouble of putting a book or paper it is because you expect students to read it – rather than, what I feel the academic is doing – showing off how much they have read. Research shows that activities that are marked ‘optional’ are not done. I find, where I do these any effort lands on deaf ears – no one else could give a monkey’s … That said, I’ve also just completed an OU heavy-weight H818: The Networked Practitioner.

Here the commitment and presence of the Chair was palpable and of enormous value. As students it is encouraging to us to have those who designed a course to show maintain their presence.

On the one hand you have the course content, designed and posted online, on a railway track learning journey that is suitably detailed, but never overwhelming. You can battle on alone, or join in. With fellow students this is straight forward, it is simply a matter of sticking your head over the garden fence on a regular basis and returning the compliment of someone commenting or providing feedback to do the same to them … while being mindful as you become one of the experts to look after those who may feel on the edge of things. How, when and if the tutor is a presence depends on if they go by their contracted hours, or are indulgent enough as a vocational educator to be around. I feel a tutor should host their group. Over four years, and seven modules I’ve had seven tutors, of course, though seen and probably remarked on the actions, behaviours, strengths and weaknesses of at least another 14 tutors. Some what the French call ‘animateurs’ – they galvanise their group; others are withdrawn, very academic and correct – but brilliant in their own way. Others become, for want of a phrase ‘one of the lads’. I’m less certain that this works or is appropriate – not in primary, secondary or tertiary education. And so on. The worse are the ones who simply are not there. Who seem to have less idea what is going on than their students and as you’d expect a student who is struggling to do start to winge and make excuses. I’ve never had to do it so I ought to be more circumspect; I am sure that it can only be reasonable to expect tutors to work their contracted hours. My view of education and being an educator is more Socratic. I expect their presence.

With seven significant online postgraduate modules under my belt this is of course not the typical picture: some are heavily based on reading, others on activities with assessments patterns to suit. Mentioning the ‘traditional’ course I am doing, actually 1000 pages to read per week is clearly excessive isn’t it? You give up lie-ins and TV, and other hobbies …  (By the way, I share regularly in the OU Student Blog platform thoughts and hopes with someone who has now completed 21 postgraduate modules with the Open University. I think this equates to four degrees!!)

Fig. 1. Muir Woods. One visit wasn’t enough. I spent three days in here.

I describe my inability to see the wood for the trees as I was too busy enjoying being a woodsman.

I could not stand back and reflect on what had taken place – not during the course, though perhaps a few months later. I return to this horticultural metaphor as I found with FSLT14 that I could fit it in, no more, no less. I could see it for what it was and admired its focus. During FSLT14 I feel I have become fluent in the language of education. It has been the tipping point, the moment, where like learning a new language you feel the fog has cleared.

This has been possible because of its modesty and humanity – there is an intimacy in the connectedness that I haven’t found elsewhere – perhaps in specialist interest groups in LinkedIn and Google+

Fig.2. Dr. Zbigiew Pelczynski taking his grandson for a walk

Our feedback session felt like an Oxbridge Tutorial; I’ve had the privilege of learning through that system as an undergraduate but took it for granted thinking that it was how all university’s could do things. There is significant value in a few people being able to talk around a topic and have enough time to take in what people were saying. And of course, the global reach of this is such a revealing way to consider your own position and practice. My insight on the Oxbridge tutorial system – I was an undergraduate thirty years ago, has been embellished by marriage to the daughter of a prominent Oxford tutor and personality, Dr Zbigniew Pelczynski. I interviewed him about the tutorial system and shared this online. Ever since I’ve pondered how Web 2.0 could be used to give tens of millions the Oxbridge tutorial experience – some institutions are doing this already. The Webscience MOOC I did, though hosted by two University of Southampton professors, was populated, on rotation I think, by four PhD students each week. This meant, as we have come to expect using communications platforms, that more often or not, a reply came to whatever you posted in a few hours, or sooner – rather than days later or not at all. As an online student you start to recognise the pattern a tutor has – never on a weekday, never at the weekend, only on a Tuesday. That’s their plan, but it feels like a gross misappropriation of powers they ought not to have … to effectively ignore you until they can be bothered. All should and could be receiving updated posts on an RSS feed.

Fig.3. Something I drew.

Setting out to become a ‘Master’ of anything at all – ‘Open and Distance Education’ has received my attention, though four years ago I was interviewed to take an MA in Fine Art.

True! It has taken this extra year, a couple of modules beyond graduating with the MA, to feel that I can describe myself as a ‘Master’. It’ll be another six years before I can, some theorists think, a ‘Scholar’. But I, like John Seely Brown, do not believe in this ‘10,000 hours’ thing – I’ve read the original research paper on musicians learning violin at the Berlin Conservatoire. Playing a musical instrument does not readily translate to anything else or everything else, especially where most violinists start at the age of 4. Which is when Picasso picked up a paint brush under the tutelage of his father, an art teacher from the local university. What were your learning at age 4 that you have developed into an expertise ten or twenty years later? Picasso, in his words, could paint like Rubens by the time he was 14. And we know about Mozart. There’s value in starting young and sticking with it: swimming anyone? Singing too.

Web 2.0 allows ‘learning at the speed of need’, to prefer learning over TV or the gym, over friends and relationships, walking the dog and the garden.

I have for the last five months been working on two MA degrees in parallel – not something I would have considered even three years ago. Not only do I think it is doable, I think, with the right course, you can contain it to the 14 hours a week each requires. The magic, the synergy, the insights that come from this greater intensity is, going back to it, what Oxford and Cambridge expect when they ‘hot house’ students through their short, eight week terms. And how many hours are they expected to put in? At the Oxford Internet institute I was advised that the MA students would be doing 44+ hours a week. Intensity works once you are up to speed. For this means getting myself into ‘the flow’ as Mihaly Csikzentmihayli puts it.

Reflecting on FLST14

I will never tire of the kind of engagement that comes from working online. Despite being able to contribute far less than usual during the five weeks of FSLT14 I nonetheless folloed the steady, manageable stream of points being made in the threaded discussions which were never too overwhelming. The greatest value for me came from reading the assignments of others and in my own live session which, because there were three students and two tutors resulted in far more of a tutorial like atmosphere – I wish I’d had a chance to join all the others too as my perspective of what each speaker had to say was hugely magnified by hearing them explain, excuse, enthuse, apoligise for, compare or give reason to their response. I must remember too that committing your words, publishing them to the Web, is still a big thing for many people – not that many of us are still blogging as they did in 1999.

Worth remarking is that this intimate, manageable, not overly designed and human online course possibly achieved so much because it was delivered on a human scale and did what it set out to do. I have to wonder on the value, it did come up, of doing nothing as a learning theory (Knud Illeris) that the pauses and spaces in learning matter – that reflection occurs not just as a formal exercise, but occurs simply by taking things more slowly, and not just that, but stopping too.

Have I learnt by osmosis? I’ve read everything but unusually for me not jumped in to comment all the time. I did this because I felt I would be unable to keep up the discussion very closely, perhaps responding every few days, simply because I am online working and writing elsewhere.

I am not an educator in higher education, though I have had experience of teaching, talking and giving workshops at every level from primary school to MBA, in the conference hall or by the pool, in a class and online to one or being followed by many hundreds. This peripatetic online presence may shape up into something more formal as a regular moderator or tutor or I may retreat to whatever space suits me best to research and write.

Three years ago I challenged Martin Weller on how long it would take to recognise someone as a digital scholar – he said ten years, I said four. At the time I thought of voices like that of Andrew Sullivan as a scholarly voice of the digital age – but with a BA from Oxford, and MA and Phd from Harvard however much he lives out his life as a professional blogger he is surely the scholar who uses the digital platform, rather than a product of it. So I got that wrong. My thinking is that the scholar who is of the digital environment can still do it in four years, but we need to think of students who exploit it exclusively, and probably of necessity because of their circumstances – and indicated by fast tracking teenagers taking degrees here, and never moving on to the campus for their MA and PhD – or only tangentially. After all, at what point does all learning becoming blended between the online and the ‘off line’ and as appears to be happening, once again, all learning is simply that, without the need to add an e or an m in front of it.

Much more to reflect on – to chew the cud online.

Why did the people on a course I ran learn what they learned?

Fig. 1. Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ reversioned.

I did something …

This is my take on Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ which I will use to explore what I ‘did’. I ran a creative problem solving workshop. The motivation for attendees was to pick up some creative problem solving techniques, to solve a problem we had with using social media and to do some team building. The objective for me was to crack this problem and to introduce a more creative and collaborative approach to problem solving.

Fig. 2. Coach to Olympians running a workshop – part class, part ‘pool side’

I couldn’t help but draw on experience as a Club Swimming Coach planning programmes of swimming for a squad swimmers and as the ‘workforce development’ running training programmes for our club’s teachers and coaches. Planning and preparation when you are putting athletes in the pool several times a week over months is vital. On a smaller scale this workshop required a schedule, to the minute, with some contingency, allowing you to build in flexibility for both content and timings.

Fig. 3. Planned to the minute – my creative problem solving workshop

The plan was for five to six creative problem solving techniques to be used, top and tailed by, using terms from swimming, a ‘warm up’ and a ‘warm down’. The modus operandi of the Residential School had been to introduce, experience and play with as many creative problem solving techniques as possible.

Fig. 4. As a prop, food and aid memoir a bunch of bananas has multiple uses

‘Bunch of Bananas’ is a creative problem solving technique that suggests that you include in the group a ‘plant’ – a person over whom other’s will slip, like the proverbial banana. My take on this was to introduce two outsiders – a Russian academic who would bring a different take on things and the a mathematician and senior programmer.

Fig. 5. ‘Mother-in-law, Samurai, Tiger’ is a great warm up, while stretching like an Olympic swimmer was an apt ‘warm down’ at the end of the session.

We did a warm up called  ‘Mother-in-law, Samurai, Tiger’. This is the team equivalent of ‘Paper, Scissors, Stone’ where two teams face each other and on the count of three, having agreed what their response would as a team, they either ‘Tut-tut’ and wag their finger like a mother-in-law, ‘growl’ and get their claws out like a Tiger, or shout ‘ha!’ while posing like a Samurai warrior brandishing his sword. This is the ‘warm down’ to stick with the swimming coaching metaphor was to have participants get into the ‘streamlined’ position that swimmers adopt – essentially a stretching exercise.

Fig. 6. Human Sculpture and Timeline are useful ways to have people look at and feel a problem in a different way and from a different angle.

In between we did a mixture of physical and mental activities, including Human Sculpture where one person becomes the sculptor and uses everyone else to form a tableau or sculpture that expresses their talk on the problem. Another was timeline where you imagine looking at the problem from the perspective of the past and future.

Now, stand back  …

Standing back I’d say that running a workshop for colleagues has advantages and disadvantages. How would a director or line manager feel about their views being exposed like this. On the other hand if well managed it becomes a team building exercise too.

The challenge is to know what risks to take and how to build in flexibility, not just in timing, but in the kind of activities. This requires that despite the plan you are alert to signals that suggest an activity should be developed or dropped.

Workshops and seminars I take have a common element – there is ‘hands on’ activity.

The goal is that at the end of the session people feel confident that they could do these things themselves. I’m less comfortable about teaching where the communication is one way – me talking and them taking notes. I value encouraging self-discover and people being on their feet, interacting and having fun.

The workshop was experiential

It was collaborative and iterative, it was problem-based learning that used communication skills.

How did you feel about that ?  

Fig. 7. How we like to be ‘in the flow’ rather either bored or stressed from being too challenged. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975) Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level.

I felt ‘in the flow’ for most of the time, suitably challenged and never bored. Though anxious and surprised when a colleague gave me a drubbing the day after feeling that they had been tricked into attending. This came as a surprise, the other surprise was how away from their desk and computers the apparently introverted could become so animated and responsive.

I felt like a party planner. I was hosting an event. The atmosphere of controlled enthusiasm would be down to me. I would be, to use a French expression, the ‘animateur’ or ‘realisateur’ – the one who would make this happen and bring it to life.

Fig. 8. For all the playful activities, we are still reliant on Post It Notes and flip charts

Now what ?

On this occasion we delivered a couple of distinct responses to the problem. People reflected on the experienced and felt it was both enjoyable and of practical value. The request was not that others would host such an exercise, but that I would do more. I was subsequently booked to run a few more workshops on specific topics with different groups in the faculty. The question that we couldn’t resolve was whether were  a ‘creative organisation’ ? My own conclusion being that we quite palpably were not.

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1975). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-87589-261-2

Experiential learning theory. (Available from http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/gibbs/ch2.htm. Accessed 22FEB14)

Gundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Te hniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57

Henry, J and the course team (2006, 2010) ‘Creativity, Cognition and Development” Book 1 B822 Creativity, Innovation and Change.

Henry, J (2010) ‘Set Breakers’ Henry (P. 96)

Kolb, D.A. 1984 Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

McCaskey, M.B. (1988) ‘The challenge of managing ambiguity’, in Pondy, L.R, Boland, R.J and Thomas, H (eds) Managing Ambiguity and Change, new York, pp 2-11

Henry, J & Martin J (2010) Book 2 Managing Problems Creatively

Schon, A.A. (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professionals think in Action, London: Temple Smith

Tassoul, M, & Buijs, J ( 2007, )’Clustering: An Essential Step from Diverging to Converging’, Creativity & Innovation Management, 16, 1, pp. 16-26, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 22 February 2014.

 

 

 

A five minute presentation on facilitating a creative workshop

Challenged over the last couple of weeks to create a 10 minute presentation as part of the Open University postgraduate module H818:The Networked Practitioner (part of the Masters in Open and Distance Education) I’ve barely had time to reflect on this experience when I find for Oxford Brookes University I am creating a 5 minute presentation as part of their online course First Steps into Learning and Teaching 2014 (FSLT14).

A 5 minute presentation takes twice as long to write than a 10 minute presentation.

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. Blaise Pascal

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

Anything less than a minute is a TV commercial and might take months to get right.

I’ve known this ever since I took an interest in working in TV (Drama short on Channel 4, otherwise 150+ videos in L&D)

I am at least starting to get the tools I use to sing:

  • Picasa for my cloud based albums of pictures
  • Brushes to layer images
  • Studio to turn images into graphics

Both these for the iPad (I love the tactile)

Other Apps are available.

My issue with the FSLT 14 brief concerns the assumption that a non-wordy presentation – PowerPoint has been banned, any text may only appear on the overlay – is that the first, second and third rule of any ‘audio visual’ presentation such as this is (to quote Alfred Hitchcock):

‘the script, the script, the script’.

You have to write words to rationalise and order the visual.

You write a script in two columns: one describes what you see (the most important), the second what you hear (which is likely to be the spoken, or acted word – as well as sound effects and music).

This format works

Anyone familiar with a screenplay or TV script will be as capable of reading such a script and seeing that happens as a conductor can read a score and hear the music.

It remains word heavy.

Galleries of images and instant search for images is both distracting and limiting. They encourage the ‘creative’ to shoehorn inappropriate, compromise and copyright images into their work.

Far better, not that I’m about to do it, is to stick to the words in the script (easily edited and re-written for effect) and at most doodle an impression of an image: I like using a drawing pen on a large sheet of cartridge paper, though a stylus on the screen of an iPad might do.

So, I’m locked down in ‘writing mode’ at the best time of the day on the best day of the week – early on Sunday morning.

And I’m sharing this practice online. Though currently my expectation of feedback is limited. I miss the way were over a decade ago writing in Diaryland. Feedback guaranteed on the 24 hour cycle as fellow bloggers picked it up around the globe. I know what’s happened, and this blog is testament to that given that I transferred content from 1999-2004 to this space – I have spread myself too thinly.

Who knows what I am writing about anymore?

In this first years it was a balance of writing and the personal following authors who did the same and that group of us who were ‘always there for each other’ had one thing in common – the desire to develop a ‘voice’ and have stories to share.

It may only be five minutes, but I need at least to remember that this is a story – that above anything else, narrative works. The ten minuter I completed and presented earlier this week was too worthy, too explanatory. Let’s see if I can evoke the feelings that came from the workshop I ran:

  • risk
  • laughter
  • revelatory
  • results

Let’s also see if I can write what in my heart I want to say, rather than trying to write what anonymous others expect to hear. I do so loathe guides on assignment marking which can reduce something exploratory, that should have momentum and flow, into a ‘tick box exercise’.

Onwards.

And the first thing I do?

I turn to Brushes and draw my own graphic and will see if I can, like Julian Stodd, settle on a graphics style rather than relying on images purged from the Web. I want to use my own photos, but this too requires that I take pictures that deliver the right message.

A couple of hours later I have this.  And on reflection, prefer the process of devising your own take on someone else’s graphic, just as one ought not to quote verbatim from other authors, but interpret your take and understanding of their thinking.

 Based on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb, 1994)

REFERENCE

Argyris, C, & Schön, D (2007) ‘Organizational Learning’, Bloomsbury Business Library – Management Library, p. 78, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 February 2014.

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

FURTHER READING

James Atherton http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/experience.htm

Ed Batista http://www.edbatista.com/2007/10/experiential.html

Roger Greenaway http://reviewing.co.uk/research/experiential.learning.htm#3

 

Towards an assessment of my teaching

I often share a post I am writing as I do so. In this case having identified the story to tell : running a workshop to solve a ‘messy’ business problem I am pulling together or creating supporting images, in the above case a grab and mashup from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ – my goal is to be recognised as one. In a forum post as an Open University ‘Master of arts in Open and Distance Education’ (I graduated in early 2013) I suggested this could be achieved in four years – John Seely Brown thinks that eLearning speeds things up, while Weller reckons on ten years.

Reflecting on a presentation on learning to students at Oxford Brookes University

Fig.1. Rescue having failed a 4 tonne whale is dragged from Stinson Beach. 

As a student on Oxford Brookes University’s online course ‘First Steps into Teaching and Learning 2014’ here in week 4 we have been challenged to consider an experience from teaching or being taught and in a five minute presentation reflect on this.

My interest is teaching postgraduates and/or ‘in the workplace’.

I should be feeling I’ve stumbled into the right time and place with this one having just given a ten minute presentation online as part of the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education module H818: The Networked Practitioner, however with that one, despite every expectation to exploit my love of and experience with linear and interactive media I resorted to a Powerpoint. I needed to improve the script up to the line and this offered the flexibility I could not have had with a Prezi or video. There were too many cumbersome technical barriers and trips that I wasn’t happy to pursue or risk.

What I’m doing here is thinking through a presentation I need to prepare. Sharing this, if and where feedback can be garnered, then informs the decisions I take.

My immediate idea, often my best, is to do a selfie-video talking to camera while hurtling around a roller-coaster at Thorp Park. It would sum up the terror, thrill, highs and lows of taking a day long workshop with a class of some 40 year 9s (12/13 year olds) in a secondary school that had/has a checkered history.

The second idea, to change the setting radically, would be a workshop with nine on creative problem solving – the objective was to come up with answers to a messy problem, though the motivation to be present for most was to experience a variety of creative problem solving activities that I had lined up. This nine in an organisation, included MBAs, prospective MBAs, a senior lecture, junior and senior managers and officers: colleagues and invited guests from different departments. This example is probably the most appropriate.

A third might be something I attended as a student – apt because doing this in 2009/2010 in part stimulated me to take an interest in learning: I wanted to know what was going wrong. Here we had prospective club swimming coaches doing everything that was unnatural to them – working from a hefty tome of paper, sitting through a lecture/seminar and expecting assessment to be achieved by filling in the blanks on course sheet handouts. This from people with few exceptions who left school with few or no qualifications – often troubled by Dyslexia. They were swimming coaches to dodge this very kind of experience. It was, you could tell, hell for some. The misalignment could not have been greater. Here the immediate visual image, apt given the subject matter, would be to watch a fish out of water drown – or nearly drown and be rescued. What really grated for me in this course was the rubbish that was taught – too many gross simplifications and spurious science.

Based on the above I should challenge myself to do the video as I need to crack loading and editing. The fish out of water, whale actually, I can illustrate from photographs and the experience this summer of being present as a 4 tonne whale beached and drowned on Stinson Beach, California (See Fig.1. above).

What are the benefits or drawbacks of each of self-assessed, one-to-one and group modes of learning?

Fig. 1Working with Activity Theory (based on Yrjo Engestrom)
What are the benefits or drawbacks of each of self-assessed, one-to-one and group modes of learning?

Benefits

Drawbacks

Self-assessed engagement with content: books, online multimedia, etc?

Feeds off innate motivation and curiosity to learn at your own pace chasing your own lines of enquiry.

Undirected or ‘governed’ it can do two things: grind to a halt, or spin obsessively out of control, and in either case not lead to meeting any learning objectives – if there were any in the first place.

One-to-one feedback with a tutor: face to face or in correspondence/online

The traditional ‘Oxbridge’ tutorial where a ‘great mind’ and educator supervises and supports and hopefully motivates and directed the student ‘intimately’. Online a similar experience can be recreated, even bettered, complementing face-to-face and/or offering something different.

The two don’t get on so knowledge transfer is challenged, the student is demotivated and both give up on the relationship or resort to formal guidelines and behaviours that might be described bluntly as the ‘carrot and stick’. Online, as dependent as ever on human foibles, there is the added potential difficulty in relation to digital literacy, acceptance, familiarity or stonewalling.

Group-work and peer mentoring: face to face or online?

Likeminds and mutual empathy better able to respond to life’s rollercoaster. Exposure to diverse ideas and behaviours. Exploitation of the ‘connectedness’, search power and serendipty of Web 2.0

Overwhelming, learning to handle ‘exposure’ and privacy issues – some people feel as uncomfortable ‘being’ online as an agrophobic in a shopping mall. Distractions. False trails and digital ‘rabbit holes’. False belief that there is a short cut to learning if the answers are given to you.

Fig.2. Learning and the role of context.

REFERENCE

Engeström (2001) article, Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualisation

Sharples, M., Meek, S. & Priestnall, G. (2012) Zapp: Learning about the Distant Landscape. In M. Specht, J. Multisilta & M. Sharples (eds.), Proceedings of 11th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning (mLearn 2012), Helsinki, October 2012, pp. 126-133. Preprint available as 320Kb pdf

Creative Problem Solving Techniques Library : Human Sculpture & Timeline

Fig.1 Bodies in urban spaces 

Image Credit Flickr User Andrew Russeth // Bodies in Urban Spaces 

(These are not the original participants though it may be interesting to introduce a fun version of ‘human sculpture’ as a Christmas Entertainment. As a team creating a tableau from a movie or some such?)

The Human Sculpture

We were invited to offer a personal problem; it was made quite clear that we had to be comfortable with this. Without saying what the problem was and with the facilitator’s help a ‘human sculpture’ was made to represent the problem. In this instance there were forces pulling him in two directions (partner and ego) with this person’s current/former employer behind and his future employment/employer in front.

There were therefore FIVE participants who made up the ‘sculpture’.

It was fascinating to have each factor comment on how they felt, even if this ‘factor’ was an entity, psyche or ‘unknown’ future.

This was recognised as a way to see the problem for what it is, for the problem owner to see it as others see it, to get the sentence that an entity, played out as a person, can have feelings.

I particularly liked the idea of being able to talk to the desired or possible outcome in a kind of role play.

The technique from the B822 Technique Library where you do something similar is with ‘Timeline’ placing people at points now and in the future. In a way I did this years ago to visualise a careers advice video using members of a Youth Theatre who had to be someone 1, 5 and 10 years along a career path based on different decisions they took at 14/16 regarding school, a job, training or university.

From the B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’ Residential School

P.S. The image above might offer part of our conclusion, that all the factors should be brought into consideration. What is more, where the problem isn’t too sensitive or the individual/participants want an aide memoire then a series of pictures could be taken.

When is it appropriate to use Creative Problem Solving?

Curiosity, Forgiveness, Love … everyday attributes of the innovative organisation?

B822 BK 2 C6 Precepts

Especially actions that DISCOURAGE speculation/creativity Henry (2010:93)

Curiosity Charles Handy (1991) Creativity in Management, Radio 1, B822
Forgiveness Charles Handy (1991)
Love Charles Handy (1991)
A sense of direction Schon, D.A. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner

Some ‘Set Breakers’ Henry (2010:96)

1. Develop broad background experience and many interests

2. Find and challenge your own blind spots

3. Explore many different perspectives

4. Challenge yourself

5. Develop good browsing facilities

6. Change techniques or different mental modes

7. Seek out people with other points of view

8. In a group

Relevance bias

1. Dry Run

2. Quota of alternatives

3. Inverse optional question

4. Checklist of transformations

5. Reverse the problem

6. Boundary relaxation

7. What difference?

8. Get several people to try it

9. Deep questioning

10. Challenge

11. Fresh eye

6.4 Value of Play

1. Play is key to learning activity

2. The objects of play are both objective and subjective

3. The ability of play helps create the sense of independence.

4. Play offers a protected area of illusion

5. Plays is a way of managing unfulfilled need.

6. Play can lead to a particular state of mind.

7. Play breaks down outside certain emotional limits.

8. Shared play builds relationships

A. Choice of Setting

B. Choice of team members

C. Climate to aim for

D. Don’t demystify

E. Management of coping mechanisms

F. An aid to team building

McCaskey (1988)

· Problem finding (experience)

· Map building

· Janusian Thinking

· Controlling and not controlling

· Using domain and direction

· Planning rather than goal-directed planning

· Humour that oils

· Charisma

· Using ad hoc structures such as task force and project teams

· Using a core group embedded in a network of contracts and information

· ‘Turbulence management’

N.B. Creativity needs space vs. time pressure, interruption

· Create Space

6.8 involve others

The more participants you have, the more ideas you get.

‘Successfully creative people are often deeply committed to a particular domain, that has strong internal significance to them, and they focus very firmly on particular goals’. (e.g. Tessa Ross, Lionel Wigram, William Hague)

‘Passion and persistence can motivate sustained work; attract the loyalty of helpers; create awareness of you and your project in people who have relevant resources; and reassure those who need to take risks on your behalf.’ Henry (2010:114)

CATWOE p115

  • Blind chance
  • Wide-ranging exploration
  • The prepared mind
  • Individualised Action

6.12 Manage the Process Henry (2010:1113)

· Get the parameters right

· Record

· Sustain pace and energy

· Develop trust

· Keep the experience positive

· Plan

· Do – analyse either side and separately

· What?

· Why?

Learn from experience of others

  • Experiment

REFERENCE

Adams, J.L. (1987) Chase, Chance and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty; New York; Columbia University Press.

Austin, J.H. (1978) Chase, Chance and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty: New York: Columbia University Press.

McCaskey, M.B. (1988) ‘The challenge of managing ambiguity’, in Pondy, L.R, Boland, R.J and Thomas, H (eds) Managing Ambiguity and Change, new York, pp 2-11

Schon, A.A. (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professionals think in Action, London: Temple Smith

Wetherall, A. and Nunamaker, J (1999) Getting Results from Electronic Meetings

Winnicott, D.W (1972) Playing and Reality. Harmondsworth (1983) Davis, M and Wallbridge, D (1983) Boundary and Space: An Introduction to the Work of D.W. Winnicott. Harmondsorth.

Analogical Thinking in Business, Organisations and Mangement Styles

 

 

 

Fig. 1. The School of Communication Arts (1986 intake)

(My idea on how to promote the School of Communication Arts. Which one am I?)

 

In the past I used successfully the idea of ‘nurturing’ to represent first a school (Arts College) and then my own services to graduate recruiters.

Analogical thinking, from Churchill’s ‘iron curtain’ to the invention of Velcro.

(Indeed neurologists believe there is a gene that causes human beings to think in metaphors and that it is exactly this that allows us to invent, in fact  creativity in the face of adversity still rings true today, though we are not  facing a Sabre-toothed tiger at the entrance to the cave, or changing climate  with the onset of the ice age.)

Analogy – transfer of an idea from one domain to another.

Metaphor – resemblance or flavour. A way of making the strange familiar p.85. Or the hard to comprehend (trees, ecosystems, architecture, traffic lights).

Morgan (1986)

Kinds of metaphor:

·         Mechanistic

·         Ecological

·         Social

·         Cognitive

·         Systematic

Metaphors as labels:

Manager as captain or conductor.

Morgan (1986, 1997)

·         Machine

·         Organism

·         Culture

·         Brain

·         Political System

·         Psychic prison

·         Flux

·         Transformation

·         Instrument of domination

ACTIVITY 4.1

1) Pick three metaphors (a, b, c) for organisations, for instance the organisation as machine, organism or political system.

2) List the characteristics you associate with each.

3) Try and relate each characteristic to a feature in an organisation that you know.

4) What features of organisations do these characteristics highlight, and what do they conceal?

A) As an orchestra, ABB, 1999. A corporate cliché I have seen applied to Abbey National and others. Visually it may have resonance, though the cost of featuring musicians, let alone playing a piece where used is prohibitive to all but the largest organisations. The characteristics are of complementary divisions ‘playing the same tune’ with woodwind, strings and brass, for example representing the different businesses. With a single conductor it may better fit the largely privately owned enterprise, say a Richard Branson and Virgin, or a Russian Oligarch, though no longer News International and the Murdochs. The features perhaps work for News International with newspapers and TV interests, even having a go with MySpace being largely media, whilst Branson is more the empirical Napoleonic conqueror of anything going?

B) As a strawberry plant, i.e. a federal organisation that has grown organically rather than by acquisition, perhaps like a clearing bank? Perhaps like a franchise such as Kall-Kwik. Or a retail chain, appropriately, such as Body Shop. The characteristics I think of are independently managed businesses that sell the same range of products, with common branding and sales materials, though with some localisation. This works well in relation to the plant performing differently on a variety of local soils/climates i.e. the same organism but in different settings/opportunities to flourish or not.

An empire

C) As an empire, where a holding company or private equity group has gone on the acquisition trail buying up businesses for the opportunity, rather than as sets of businesses that complement each other, so take over, create economies of scale in management and Head Office functions. The characteristics here feel as if it should be military with no good outcome, ala ‘Wall Street’, though there are or nave been more benevolent, squid give groups or holdings companies in the past such as the long gone Ferguson Industrial Holdings PLC, or perhaps Unipart Group of Companies (UGC). This suggests a dictator at the top, though the leaders can be benevolent even if a tall pyramid is the business structure.

If the organisation doesn’t fit the metaphor, it is too simplistic a metaphor!  

The metaphor can intone a favourable or negative bias. For example, if asked in research to describe the organisation you work for as a car do you want it to be a Citroen 2CV, or a VW Golf, a Rolls-Royce or Ford Escort, a 1980s Ford Cortina or a Triumph Stag?

A business that is a machine I the digital age is surely going to get left behind through its rigid bureaucracies and hierarchies, a predilection for quantitative measures (ROI and KPIs) too?

In 2011 it seems archaic to think of teachers or tutors in this way, people who are moderators, coaches or facilitators. (The ecological metaphor is used with a cartoon not dissimilar to my own p.88 not shown here for copyright reasons, to represent people as seedlings or potted plants).

From Table 4.1 metaphors of businesses in relation to:

  • Character
  • Flair
  • Structure
  • Climate
  • Style
  • Authority
  •  Form
  •  Control
  • Decisions
  • Strategy
  • Adaptability
  • Orientation
  • Approach
  • Procedure
  • Attitude

ACTIVITY 4.2

Take expressions of the above for a ‘Machine like business, as 0 on a scale and

‘Organic’ as 10, then decide where:

a) you place your own organisation and b) yourself.

ACTIVITY 4.3

I’ll do this one offline.

Other metaphors might include:

  • Brain
  • Knowledge
  • Learning

Network (Morgan, 1993) business as a spider-plant.

Federal (Handy, 1989) business as shamrock

Chaos and complexity.

Brains and cities.

Supporting ‘patterns of transformation that emerge spontaneously in complex adaptive systems’. (Henry 2006:95)

Complex adaptive systems: termites, flock movements,  (anecdote of the aeroplane simulator managed by parts of an audience that  collectively cancels out the oddball, incompetent, inattentive or would-be plane-crashing individuals) p96 (Berreby, 1998:45 and Clark, 1997:75).

Self-organisation

‘people do not need to be told what to do: they are intelligent agents continuously learning and modifying their behaviour on the basis if feedback’. Handy (2010:97)

See DVD 2, Video 3

N.B. The metaphors chosen tend to reflect the chooser’s values. (Henry 2006:98)

Activity 4.4

What metaphor would you use to describe your organisation?

Activity 4.5

Describe the process of management as you experience it.

  • Warlike
  • Sporting
  • Spiritual

Activity 4.6

A metaphor to describe my management style.

Activity 4.7

Note metaphors to describe daily management styles.

Activity 4.8

Take a current task, associate with it an appropriate metaphor then give it  another that is far removed from the first.

Organisational paradigms p.104

Functionalist paradigm – world as an objective reality.

Kolb (1984) drawing on Pepper (1942)

Four ways of thinking about the world:

  1. Mechanistic
  2. Realist
  3. Organicist
  4. Pragmatic

And thinking styles:

  • Assimilator
  • Converger
  • Diverger
  • Accommodator

Table 4.2 Organisational metaphors and paradigms

Activity 4.9 WHAT METAPHOR WOULD YOU OFFER FOR MANAGEMENT IN THE 21st CENTURY?

 I’ve experienced many, including from the table:

·         Chaos/postmodern/play

 I know of:

·         System/participatory/co-create

 I like the sound of:

·         Drama/interpretive/enact

For the 21st Century I like the model of the modern ideas lab in which innovative ideas are trialled, developed then kicked out with a chunk of financing to thrive however turns out best! 

This is the sink or swim analogy.  

But after suitable teaching/coaching. Or perhaps a metaphor of procreation, raising and nurturing a child then letting them go? So organic or animal (or in particular mammalian or human).

Stacy (1996) and danger of controls, procedures and Pre-specified objectives.

FURTHER READING

Morgan, G. ‘Paradigms, metaphors and puzzle-solving’, C9 in Henry (1999a)

FROM MY OU STUDENT BLOG

‘Consider this medium as like talking with your fingers – half-way between spoken conversation and written discourse.’ (Hawkridge, Morgan and Jeffs, 1997,  quoted in Salmon 2005)

Salmon, G (2005) E-moderating. The Key to teaching and learning online.

REFERENCE

Berreby, D (1998) ‘Complexity theory: fact-free science or business tool?

Strategy and Business, No. 10, pp. 40-50.

Clark, A (1997) Being there. Cambridge, MA. MIT

Henry, J & the MBA Course Team (2006, 2010) B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’  Book 1 ‘Creativity, Cognition and Development’. The Open University Business School

Morgan, G. (1986 2nd 1997) Images of Organisation

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