Tag Archives: Learning

Sir Ken Robinson: Education, Our Kids and the Future

My wife sent me an email with a link to the Top 20 TedTalks since 2006, ranked by ‘views’. I watched the number 1 on the list by Sir Ken Robinson (>13m) and was so impressed and inspired I felt compelled to share with the remaining 6 billion people who are yet to watch his presentation (well, those who read my blogs may be a little lower in numbers, but it’s a start!).

I must confess I had never heard of Sir Ken previously, however, quite simply, his TedTalk is a must see! His views regarding learning, children and where we are getting it wrong are unique and thought-provoking. There are many outcomes that we are seeing as adults that link back to our childhoods and early education. There are also many key statements made that we can take away and apply to our own learning and application. Effective leaders will relate to many of these points.

I have also highlighted a few of the key quotes, for those who may wish to recap after viewing the talk – I would not skip watching it though, as Sir Ken Robinson has a keen wit and a style of delivery that is hard to match. I guess that is why 13.5 million people have already had a look. Spend 20 minutes now viewing it yourself – you will not be disappointed.

My contention is, all kids have tremendous talents…and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. So, I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity is now as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.

Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original…and by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies this  way. We stigmatize mistakes. If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.

In the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history.

What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely and that we avert some of the scenarios that we’ve talked about. And the only way we’ll do this is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are. Our task is to educate the whole being, so they can face this future. By the way, we may not see this future, but our kids will. Our job is to help them make something of it.

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Development and Training – Same, Same: Maybe Not?

Are learning, training and development the same thing? The short answer is no, however training is one avenue to learning and development. Why does defining the difference matter – aren’t I really just splitting hairs? Now, that is the interesting question!!

CoachStation: Development and training - Same, Same? Learn  and Lead

Having worked with many varied people and business cultures and recognising the similarities and differences, it is clear to me that many managers think training and development are the same thing. I have seen examples where a manager has sent one of their team to training to ‘rectify’ a skill gap and behaviour. Attending the training did not make the difference expected by the manager, so he sent the employee back on the 2-day training course at the next available opportunity.

Of course, there was no change as a result. When this manager attempted to send the same employee a third time, I felt it necessary to intervene and ask the pertinent questions to broaden the manager’s thinking and related actions.

I have written about this before, however it continues to surprise me that people in leadership roles too often do not have the skills, foresight or desire to understand the different components of learning and development in practice, not simply as a field within the HR function.

Professional Development refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching,communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.

Personal Development includes activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitates employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. The concept is not limited to self-help but includes formal and informal activities for developing others, in roles such as teacher, guide, counsellor, manager, coach, or mentor. Finally, as personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations.

Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies…(and) goals of improving one’s capability, capacity and performance. (1)

At face value the definitions are similar, however there is a significant, almost palpable difference, possibly not obvious in the definitions, but evident in practice. Training is the imparting of knowledge. It is the provider of information, the opportunity to be exposed to new concepts, tools, standards or similar. In itself, it is rarely the changer of behaviours.

Having knowledge is one thing, applying this knowledge in a practical and discernible way that makes a difference, is quite another.

In order to make sure the learner takes in the information in a way that makes a difference for them, the learning must be reinforced post-training. This is where the manager or leader has a huge part to play. It is also where the process breaks down most often. Understanding and applying the basic principles of adult learning are sufficient to aid in development, reinforcing the knowledge gained from training. These principles assert that:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

I recently created a model to visually demonstrate the principle that training, coaching and understanding the nuances between people has significant power in the transformational development of an individual. Any one of the components can make a difference, but rarely does a person have the ability, knowledge or drive to take the learning program to its ultimate state of change without assistance. This is one of the key reasons that training, coaching and self-development tools exist in the first place.

CoachStation: Development Model - Training, Coaching, Profiling and Leadership

John Wenger of quantum shifting articulates this exceptionally well:

For many of you in a leadership position, you probably don’t need more top tips or knowledge about your job.  You probably don’t need much more information about ‘stuff’; you would probably enjoy developing something else, something deeper that frees you up to apply the knowledge and information you have already acquired with greater ease and finesse.  It’s one thing to know about emotional intelligence, for example.  It’s quite another thing for you to apply this elegantly in a living, breathing workplace with real life people in real life situations…(when) more organisations wake up to the idea that, rather than sending people on more training courses that treat them like receptacles for yet more tools, tricks and tips, they should be investing in developing the users of these tools.

Many pertinent questions can be asked relevant to this theme, some of which may be applicable to you:

  • Do each of your team members have a development plan?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, when was the last time you meaningfully revisited this with your employee?
  • How actively involved are you in the development of your team?
  • When a member of your team is scheduled to participate in a training session, has the purpose been linked to an actual development need and/or built into their development plan?
  • Do you discuss expected outcomes and learning prior to the training session? Do you follow it up post-training?
  • In what ways do you reinforce the development of each of your employees,every week?

A good leader recognises that there is a difference between training and development.

An effective leader ensures that he or she is not only aware but actively participates in the development of each individual – this is a responsibility of the role. What are your thoughts?

(1) Source: Wikipedia, accessed on 18/7/12

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How Important Is Reading To Development and Leadership?

CoachStation: Reading Is Critical to Development - As Easy As ABC

In one of those coincidental yet surprisingly common situations, I have been engaged in several scenarios regarding the importance of reading in recent weeks.

As a keen reader, this stimulated thought regarding my current situation and what has led me to where I am today – do I believe there is a link?

I recently left permanent employment to focus my time and energy full-time on a consulting business I have been developing for the past two years. As with most small business owners, I am keen to succeed for my own reasons (making a difference, ego, challenging myself etc.) as much as external factors such as earning an income and supporting my family. I was keen to investigate how much I have learned through what I have read as opposed to what I have done.

How does reading assist in people development and is there a link to leadership capability?

What has led me to this point? It is certainly a timing factor, with opportunity, networks and experience all colliding this year. It has an encouragement element, with my wife and those whose views I value most being very supportive. The drive to change my situation and maximise my skills and opportunities suggest there is more to it than that though. Clearly skills and knowledge have some part to play in building experience and intuitively, experience derives from application of skills and knowledge also.

So, how do we develop skills and knowledge?

Through many resources, several already listed, but I want to concentrate on the importance of reading and its link to development and leadership. I agree with Frances Whiting who recently stated:

Out of all the gifts my parents gave to me, a love of reading has been the greatest

Reading is a passion my wife and I share and one that we are instilling in our three daughters. I am an advocate of reading! I am passionate that we should all read more! I know many people who read very little or nothing at all beyond the daily newspaper or similar.

When I reflect on my development, reading has been critical in providing avenues to challenge my thinking. It is my time. A safe and rewarding opportunity. I get to challenge myself with absolute frankness and honesty. My thoughts are between the words on the page and myself.

Interestingly, whilst researching this subject I found an outstanding blog on the same theme written by Mike Myatt. He shares some interesting (slightly disturbing!) statistics and clearly draws the link between reading and an individual’s ability to develop their leadership capability and knowledge.

All great leaders have one thing in common: They read voraciously. Did you know that the average American only reads one book a year? Worse than this is the fact that 60% of average Americans only get through the first chapter. Contrast this with the fact that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read an average of four to five books a month…Furthermore, studies show that active readers are likely to have annual incomes more than 5 times greater than those who spend little or no time reading.

Fascinating stuff, no matter what your motivations are. I am sure there are other useful readings available, however as with most learning, the key to making a difference through gained knowledge is to use the information to advantage in some way. The written word, in whatever form, provides the opportunity to expand thoughts and subsequently take action in a way that may not have existed in your mind until it was read.

Obviously, reading is not the only source of learning. However, I would argue that without a regular rhythm of seeking knowledge through the written word, each of us is limiting our capacity to learn and grow. I can see this change occurring every week in my children – I know that reading is playing its part. The evidence in those I have led and worked with is apparent. Those who read have a deeper level of knowledge. I also know it has been a game-changer for me!

I believe that an interest in reading starts early and is a life-long journey. Most people I know who are not keen readers as adults were also not prolific readers as children. The diagram below is interesting in many ways but particularly the high relevance that reading has on the stages of development from birth through to adulthood.

CoachStation: Stages of Reading Development

That does not mean that you cannot change your situation – the choices remain your own to make.

I may well be preaching (or writing) to the converted if you have read this far, as it probably indicates you are someone who is seeking development through reading by seeking out blogs such as this.

If this is the case, challenge yourself to challenge others:

How do you think you can influence someone in your life to develop themselves even further through the power of reading?

If you like, also let me know your thoughts and responses to the questions:

  • Do you believe reading has assisted in your development?
  • What sort of reading stimulates your thoughts i.e. books, articles, magazines etc?
  • Do you find there is a difference between reading a physical book as opposed to an eReader, such as Kindle?

…and most importantly, keep on reading to continue growing!

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