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Reflection on keeping an e-learning blog for 1,000 days

Fig. 1. The Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE).

Expressed as a Wordle. A personal collection of key influencers based on those tagged in this blog. Includes my own reading and indulgences.

On Friday, at midday, my ou student blog reached a significant milestone.

I’ve been at it for 33 months. I’ve blogged the best part of FIVE modules now – most of which required or invited some use of the blog platform (or another). It required little encouragement – I used to keep a diary and have found since 1999 that in their digital form they are an extraordinarily versatile way to gather, consider, share and develop ideas.

Modules 

  • H807 – Innovations in e-Learning
  • H808 – Technology Enhanced Learning: Practices and debate
  • H800 – The e-Learning Professional
  • B822 – Creativity, Innovation & Change
  • H810 – Accessibility online learning: supporting disabled students

The investment in time, on average, an hour a day in addition to – though sometimes instead of coursework over 1000+ days.

(This excludes 8 months I spent on the Masters in Open and Distance Learning in 2001)

To mark this event, and as I need to go through this online diary, this e-journal, this ‘web-log’ (as they were also once momentarily called) ahead of some exciting meetings coming up next week I thought a simple task might be to click through the tags to identify who have been the key influencers in my reading and thinking over the last two and a half years.

Fig.2. Another way of looking at it. Betham, Conole and Weller are key MOADE authors from the Open University. John Seely Brown is a vital undercurrent, Engestrom one of several enthusiasms like Vygostky. While Gagne, second hand hardback, needs to be on your desk for frequent reference.

What I thought would take an hour has taken nearly 40 hours.

Clicking on a tag opens a corner of my head, the notes take me back to that day, that week, that assignment or task. It also takes me back to the discussions, resources and papers. And when I find an error the proof-reader in me has to fix. Aptly, as we approach November 5th, and living in Lewes where there are marches and fireworks from late October for a couple of weeks peaking of course all evening on the 5th, my head feels as if someone has accidentally set light to a box of assorted fireworks.

Just as well. Meetings these days are like a viva voce with eager ears and probing questions – they want the content of my mind and whatever else I bring to the subject after thirty years in corporate training and communications.

Fig. 3. Wordle allows you to say how many words you want to include in the mix. To create weight I had to repeat the names I consider most important twice, three or four times in the list. I also removed first names as these would scattered into the mix independently like peppercorns in a pan of vegetable stock.

The Task

  • List all authors who have been part of my learning and thinking over the last couple of years.
  • Include authors that my antennae have picked up that are relevant to my interest in learning, design, the moving image and the english language.
  • Visualise this and draw some conclusions

Fig.4. This even makes the key protagonists look like an advertising agency Gagne, BeethamConole and Weller.

The Outcome

I can never finish. Take this morning. I stumble upon my notes on three case studies on the use of e-portfolios from H807 which I covered from February 2010-September 2010. To begin with I feel compelled to correct the referencing in order to understand the value, pertinence and good manners (let alone the legal duty) to cite things correctly. (Even though this post was locked – a ‘private’ dump of grabs and my thoughts).

Then I add an image or two.

These days I feel a post requires a visual expression of its contents to open and benefits from whatever other diagrams, charts or images you can conjure from your mind or a Google Search – ‘the word’ + images creative commons – is how I play it.

Fig. 5. From David Oglivy’s book ‘Ogilvy on advertising’ – a simple suggestion – a striking image, a pertinent headline and always caption the picture. Then write your body copy.

A background in advertising has something to do with this and the influence of David Ogilvy.

I spend over two hours on the first of three case studies in just one single post. At the time I rubbished e-portfolios. The notes and references are there. Tapped back in I can now make something of it. A second time round the terms, the ideas – even some of the authors are familiar. It makes for an easier and relevant read. What is more, it is current and pertinent. A blog can be a portfolio – indeed this is what I’d recommend.

From time to time I will have to emerge from this tramp through the jungle of my MAODE mind.

Not least to work, to sleep, to cook and play.

Fig. 6. In a word

Along the way this behaviour, these actions, me being me, has found me working at the Open University for a year, and then at Lumesse a global corporate e-learning company. In the last month two international organisations have had me in, in the last week four more have been in touch online including interest from Australia, France and North America. Next week a magical triad may occur when I broker a collaboration between two of them with me holding their respective hands to initiate a project. There could be no better validation for the quality, depth, impact and life-changing consequences of seeing this OU degree through.

On verra (we will see)

USEFUL LINKS

Wordle

Date duration calculator

REFERENCE

Gagne, R.N. (1965) Conditions of Learning : Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Analogical Thinking in Business, Organisations and Mangement Styles

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?

(My concpetion of 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.

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

Analogical thinking in business

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?

(My concpetion of 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.

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

Rogers’ Criteria of assessment – diffusion of innovations

Diffusion of Innovation model

Diffusion of Innovation model (Photo credit: mrwilleeumm)

 

Rogers Criteria of assessment:

 

  1. Relative advantage
  2. Compatibility
  3. Complexity
  4.  Trialability
  5. Observability

 

DOKI & iTV (WAYL) were chased intuitively – if a client would back it, then it was ok. This chase continued with projects developed to support equally speculative broadcast / internet linked projects. From a business perspective this was encouraging clients to chase chimera.

 

We should have know better and offered value in money made or saving made … networking for the NHS was developed within their far more cautious framework. The advantages had to be apparent and the transition compatible. Though apparently complex the technology & the players were in place to take the next step. It could be trialled at a limited number of outlets and observations shared with the team.

 

The relationship with Ragdoll was different again; all they wanted was a website. We tried to steer them towards something that would be a credible tool for selling product (their programmes & merchandise). We all got tantalised by the creative opportunities.

 

With FTKnowlege it was another leap in the dark, feeling their brand name could be instantly attached to a distance learning MBA programme and feeling their was a need to get in their first. The view being that not to do otherwise would see other Amazons and the like taking a huge market share.

 

REFERENCES

 

Kaye, R. and Hawkridge, D. (eds) (2003) Learning and Teaching for Business: Case Studies of Successful Innovation, London and Sterling, Kogan Page.

 

Rogers, E.M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn), New York, Simon and Schuster.

 

Diffusion of Innovations – Rogers

The diffusion of innovations according to Roge...

The diffusion of innovations according to Rogers (1962). With successive groups of consumers adopting the new technology (shown in blue), its market share (yellow) will eventually reach the saturation level. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1) Relative advantage
2) Compatibility
3) Complexity
4) Trialability
5) Observability

DOKI & iTV (WAYL) were chased intuitively – if a client would back it, then it was ok. This chase continued with projects developed to support equally speculative broadcast / internet linked projects. From a business perspective this was encouraging clients to chase chimera.

We should have know better and offered value in money made or saving made … networking for the NHS was developed within their far more cautious framework. The advantages had to be apparent and the transition compatible. Though apparently complex the technology & the players were in place to take the next step. It could be trialled at a limited number of outlets and observations shared with the team.

The relationship with Ragdoll was different again; all they wanted was a website. We tried to steer them towards something that would be a credible tool for selling product (their programmes & merchandise). We all got tantalised by the creative opportunities.

With FTKnowlege it was another leap in the dark, feeling their brand name could be instantly attached to a distance learning MBA programme and feeling their was a need to get in their first. The view being that not to do otherwise would see other Amazons and the like taking a huge market share.

REFERENCES

Kaye, R. and Hawkridge, D. (eds) (2003) Learning and Teaching for Business: Case Studies of Successful Innovation, London and Sterling, Kogan Page.

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