“This will be the best coffee break you will ever have.” So said Kev Wyke (pictured) a faciltator of the #lnd connect Unconference, as he laid out the rules for how the event would run.
Around 40 learning and development professionals gathered in Manchester on 11 February 2016 for the city’s first LnD Connect Unconference. The reason it would be the best coffee break ever is because unconferences are light on structure, heavy on conversation. You can read more about how the day worked in this piece by Tim Scott.
Early on, participants suggested the topics that they would like to discuss. This is what they came up with:
- Using Twitter in learning
- 70:20:10 – perfect or problem
- Neuroscience, fad or fab
- How to make global learning happen
- Digital skills for L&D
- How to build and develop really good learning communities
- How to create communities of practice
- How do delivery methods need to change given instant access and the shorter attention of younger generations?
- Psychometrics – good, bad or worth it?
- The role of the facilitator
- Building design capability within internal learning teams
- Creative training for hourly paid workers in process jobs
- Proving impact
- Change or evolution for L&D?
- Role of L&D in culture change
- Unlearning to create change
- Building the credibility of L&D while embracing innovation and creativity
As you can see, this list of topics would make for a compelling conference in any format. More importantly, the list shows the challenges – and areas of interest – that L&D professionals are facing currently.
The topics were then put into a schedule for the day and those who suggested the topics were invited to convene a conversation.
I attended discussions on developing digital skills in L&D and making a big impact with no budget. Maybe these two topics don’t, at first, seem like obvious bedfellows but put technology into the mix and they are.
Developing digital skills such as web search skills can help with:
- Personal and professional development
- Horizon scanning for trends in L&D
- Sourcing high quality content for internal learning programmes
The technology can also connect people with people (peer learning) and people to ideas. Connecting people to ideas can be the spark for conversation, which in turn can act as a catalyst for community building.
All of the above can be done for free, the only cost is time. If this sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. This is the basis for how companies like Google learn, by connecting colleagues and enabling the sharing of ideas and expertise.
The discussions were very insightful as many people are in different places on skills. There was interest in how L&D professionals can develop digital skills and where they could discuss new technologies. There is still a big question around which technologies to use within organisations. And for many L&D professionals, developing their own digital skills remains a challenge.
And so is measuring impact. The discussions revealed that measuring impact is hugely important and is still a big challenge for L&D professionals. Here are some thoughts shared in the discussion:
We need to infiltrate the business and understanding what needs to be improved. It is an anthropological approach. We need to be there in the business to understand what support is needed.
We need controlled trials to test out whether ideas work before rolling them out eg a leadership programme over 18 months.
We must understand whether what L&D does will make a difference.
Concentrate on where you want to have the impact.
If what you are doing is not important then don’t measure it but also ask why you are doing it in the first place. If it is important then wouldn’t you want to know whether it worked.
It was interesting to see that some participants didn’t need to have impact measures in place as they ‘just knew’ some training would work.
At the end of the day, everyone came together to share what they had got from the day. These are some of the verbatim responses that show how useful and powerful the unconference format can be.
- My head’s buzzing with thoughts and connections. How do we upskill ourselves – connections are important. I’m reassured L&D is not dead.
- There have been generous behaviours in the conversations. A lot of listening and generosity in sharing ideas. it’s been a useful use of time.
- I need to reflect and process.
- I now understand why we [my organisation] are going digital
- I like the concept of the unconference. I like the unstructured structure and that we created it.
- I made great connections and learned loads – the power of having a lack of structure.
- Technology is massive and we need to create a space for finding out more about it.
- I work on my own so have enjoyed absorbing knowledge
- I loved the co-creation process
- This has ignited a spark that had gone dead
- I enjoyed the reflection and being able to do this with some great people. It has also prompted me to put up or shut up.
- Helped my personal journey, interesting conversation
- It has made me go on Twitter properly
- I’ve learned loads. The networking is so much easier
- I am reassured there are no golden answers
- It has been an absolute joy to meet you all who I follow on Twitter
- I’ve enjoyed spending time with people who do L&D and understand what I’m talking about
- Good to challenge and stimulate my thinking
- Great conversations, good giggles and a great set of people to spend the day with
- Connections, contribution, creativity, challenges
- This is the living embodiment of Twitter. I’ll be thinking about this for weeks
- I love the informality
This list acts as a great conclusion to the day – there were many and varied tangible benefits to attending. I’d add one more thing. The topics for discussion and the questions they prompted showed that L&D professionals are really questioning how learning can have a greater impact on personal and organisational performance. The event was entitled ‘Embracing change’ and it felt that this group was fully embracing what that means in the context of their own work and workplaces.
More on the LnD Connect Manchester Unconference
- The L&D Connect Unconference – 11 February 2016
- L&D Connect Unconference 2016
- Shaun Gagie summarises our first session (on learning communities) at ldcu16
- Intro to the ldcu16 unconference
- Analysis of tweets from ldcu16
- #ldcu16 aka- my first ‘unconference’
And here are some images from the day . . .