Thursday, May 03, 2018

How is learning organized in a self-managed organization?

Every month I read a management book. I am very curious about learning in self-managing organizations. How is this organized? Is self-management also self-directed learning? In April, therefore, I have read the much talked-about book by Frederic Laloux about new ways of organizing (reinventing organizations). I started reading 70-20-10 boek van Jos Arets, Vivian Heijnen en Charles Jennings but this is not an easy book to take with you on the train. So Laloux got priority.

Does a knowmad want to work in a self-managing organization?

I see more and more self-learning professionals around me, knowmads. A knowmad wants meaningful work and is using online networks and resources to learn. Many are looking for space and opportunities to develop themselves and to deal with difficult job assignments, I read a funny blogpost about a manager of a law firm who googled how he wanted to reorganize his office.
George looked around for alternative ways of organizing. “Until that time, I was only aware of the traditional pyramid. This was a problem. So I asked myself: What do we do now?”Geoffrey’s confusion didn’t last long. He adopted a very pragmatic approach. “I just went to Google and searched for things like: Do you need a management structure? Do you need to do performance reviews?
How knowmadic?  I am very curious whether organizations with self-management are places where people learn selfdirected. And how? With this question I  read Laloux. Laloux regularly mentions
Buurtzorg in the Netherlands and AES in the UK as examples he studied.

Be yourself

First some figures about meaningful work. Within Buurtzorg, absenteeism is 60% lower and turnover 33% lower than in comparable home care organizations. That means that people certainly want to work with Buurtzorg. In Laloux there is a chapter about 'wholeness' = I think it's the least down to earth chapter. However, I think 'wholeness' is an important aspect of knowmadic working: being able to be yourself, bringing your own identity and not playing a completely different role at work than at home or at the sports club. "Every time we leave a part of us behind, we cut ourselves off from our potential and our creativity and energy". A knowmad expresses all interests, does not pretend to be different than he/she is. The example of 90 employees and 20 dogs at the office is quite funny. Your dog is also part of your identity :).

Training and coaching

There is little talk about training in the studied organizations. New teams receive training on 'problem-solving approaches' and learn techniques for decision-making within teams. They learn the basics of collaboration, communication, meeting, coaching and other practical skills for self-managed teams such as conflict management. Training programs and workshops are often provided by colleagues. 

Instead of training there is a stronger focus on regional coaches. These coaches develop their own role. A coach supports 40-50 teams. An important (unwritten) rule is that a coach does not provide solutions, but allows the team to make its own choices.

Knowledge versus management hierarchy

A self-managing organization has no hierarchy. A team within Buurtzorg does not have a team leader, but this does not mean that everyone is the same. Nurses take on extra roles based on their expertise or interest. They become experts in a specific area. Someone can listen well and becomes a coach for colleagues. Another person knows everything about a certain disease. They are asked for advice from colleagues from all over the country. The intranet 'BuurtzorgWeb' is needed to find others with expertise. This creates a knowledge hierarchy instead of a hierarchy based on function.

Peer to peer from team to team

Within Buurtzorg, all information is actually openly available on the intranet. Information about the functioning of teams is also available. For example, a team that struggles with something can start looking for another team that performs well and ask how they do it now.

Learning and knowledge creation in working groups

If there are new challenges, a voluntary working group can be set up of professionals who will investigate, experiment and start building expertise. An example is a working group within Buurtzorg investigating new legislation. In another organization, AES even states that people invest 20% of their time in this type of workgroup on a voluntary basis. People develop a second role or expertise. Research in the work groups is also a form of apprenticeship because experienced and less experienced colleagues work together. A working group does not sound dynamic, but I guess the way of working in different than in a committee in a hierarchical organization. 

The advice rule

An important rule within AES is the advice rule. You can be fired if you violate this rule. Anyone can make a decision, but must seek advice from anyone who has an interest or has relevant knowledge. Why is this rule so important that you can be fired for violating it? Firstly, it is good for the knowledge flow: the right people come together and develop new insights. People who advise feel honored. It creates a bond and confidence. The professionals asking are open to advice and do not become arrogant about their own knowledge. It stimulates creative solutions and good decisions. I am curious to see how this rule remains intact under work pressure.

Collective reflection

There are differences between the organizations studied in their emphasis on reflecting. Heiligenfeld is strongly committed to this. Every week on Tuesday there is a reflection of more than one hour with all 350 employees. Every week another topic is on the agenda. They start them with a short introduction and exchange in groups of 6-10. It takes a lot of time but they think it is worth it.

No HR and no talent management required

Interesting: none of the organizations do talent management or career planning. There is no HR function. People have so much room to grow, to take on new roles, to develop expertise that no talent management programs are needed. It grows naturally, in an organic way. Everyone is responsible for his or her own learning process. This often translates in a budget for teams or individuals who can decide to engage in training programs if they want.

Experiment and experiment

Someone in AES said: "everything is constantly changing here!" And so it is. The way of working is focused on improving and experimenting. That is also a way of learning in practice. Every problem is a challenge to learn further. Making better mistakes than doing nothing.


I am very happy that I read Laloux. I find the practices and principles surrounding learning and development in self-managing organizations very interesting, such as the advisory principle. I think that 'ordinary' organizations that want to be agile can copy elements from this. A knowmad will gladly work in a self-managing organization. On the other hand, in these self-managing organizations you will automatically become a knowmad. You are always challenged to learn new things and take on new roles.

It may sound too good. What are the dark sides? It requires a lot of the self-learning ability of the employees. I can imagine that not everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to do something new. Some people leave such an organization because they do not like it. It sounds like I would enjoy it though!

I have read this book with pleasure. Do you have any tips for books that I definitely need to read this year?

ps also interesting: the practices of learning at Kessels and Smit described by Nancy Dixon

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

March was my month of exploring virtual reality for learning and development.

We are the proud owners of 10 Virtual Reality (VR) cardboard glasses. We use them in our learning trajectory. However, we get stuck playing with a roller coaster and walking under the Eiffel Tower. When my daughter started working at the supermarket, she got an introduction course via virtual reality. I think I enjoyed it more than my daughter playing around the various departments of the supermarket :).

I doubted for a long time whether I should dive more into virtual reality, because I do not see myself designing virtual reality applications in the future. In the end I decided to learn more about virtual reality because I can advise organizations about it. Hence March became my virtual reality month. First I was at the meeting of the Spindle with Thomas Baars of HumanityX. For NGOs, storytelling via VR or 360 degree video is interesting. A brainstorm about storytelling via VR provided a long list of ideas. However, you should continuously consider the  added value of VR over ordinary video. An example of storytelling is Clouds over Sidra about a refugee camp in Jordan. What I read a lot about is that VR storytelling helps to develop empathy for, by example, the refugees. However, researcher Jeanine Reutemann warns against thinking to easy about VR= empathy. More is needed than a VR app to develop empathy. 

A meetup about VR

I co-organized a meetup with the LOSmakers. Robin de Lange was our expert and inspirator during this meetup. What I have learned here is that it is precisely the sector of training and education which has a lot of potential for VR. Here the video that I made during the meetup. Robin states that the added value of VR for learning is the fact that you can bring a variety of situation in-house via VR. 

Finally, I interviewed Ronald Christiaans of the Police Academy in the Netherlands. You can read the whole interview on the site of ennuonline. Ronald is pioneering intensively with a multitude of simulations for the police, such as shooting simulations.

What did I learn in March? 

I see that there is a lot of development in VR applications. It is still in its infancy but there is a lot of potential for training applications. It is ideal for practicing difficult or dangerous situations, for example situations such as fighting hooligans, fear of heights, or on patrol in Mali. The immersive nature of VR makes it fun, but also sticky. It can have a huge impact.

You can see that SAMR is at play too. What is just substituting a video with VR and what is really innovative?  there is a lot of substitution going on: VR application developed with a face-to-face training mindset. The first VR applications have been conceived from our current way of thinking. Jeanine showed an example of a VR application in which a powerpoint presentation was given :). Conversely, Robin had brought an application where you could draw in VR. That does turn the idea of ​​drawing upside down.

What I also learned is that VR can range from very expensive to almost cheap. It is also close to augmented reality (AR) and simulations and sometimes it is hard to draw the line. AR has a lot of potential for performance support. VR is not new, think of the flight simulator that has existed for a long time. What is new is that it is becoming cheaper and more accessible. So you can start photographing situations with a 360-degree camera of 300 euros. 

Because VR is so new, there must be room to experiment. Both the Police Academy and HumanityX have this space. If you do not experiment and deliberately set your mind to explore VR you will not wake up in the morning and think of a VR learning solution. Think of our old slogan "If you can not cycle, walking is always faster". Ronald says that you will also invest some money in applications that will not work. You have lost that money or you can also see it as a learning money. Go on a discovery tour to get a better picture of what VR is and what it can accomplish, visit companies or meetups to increase your knowledge. Check with yourself what you want to achieve, and maybe start small. Or big?

Looking for examples and inspiration?

Here's a listly list with examples:

Monday, March 26, 2018

Lessons on learning analytics from a taxi driver

I've been on a surprise strip. You book a trip for three day but without having a clear where you are going to. Very exciting! We had to be at Schiphol by 5 am and although we were still sleepy: the taxi driver was not. He talked a lot, probably to stay awake .... He was very enthusiastic about a new system with data in his taxi. His story reminded me occasionally of an episode of Black Mirror:  Nosedive with a society based upon likes. Everyone gives each other points/likes and you need to have a certain number of points to be able to live somewhere in a certain appartement. It does not work out well for the hero of the story.

The wonderful taxi system

The fantastic system of our taxi driver consists of a point system (it is called cicada) adopted by his taxi company. Every driver earns points with his or her driving style. At first, he first did not care about his score, until it turned out that a female colleague scored highest. Knowing this, stimulated him to want to improve his score. Our driver was already at 98. For a long time his scores remained at 96 and he thought you could never get 100, but ... by keeping his hands on the wheel he was able to increase his score. I asked him what you have to do as a taxi drive to score this high. It comes down to riding evenly, not accelerate or brake suddenly, but also keep your hands on the wheel for example. He knew exactly how many seconds he could be on the radio before his score went down. It became interesting when a training place was released to become an executive driver. Our (black) driver was not nominated. Then someone thought about the scores, and wondered whether the scores should be an indication. Since our driver had the highest score he earned the place in the training and became an executive taxi driver.

From taxi to learning analytics

Clive Shepherd discussed the new skillset that L&D-ers need to develop. One of the new skills is interacting with media, and that includes the use of data. L&D also has to deal with new data which are available because of working with online media. Just think of the data you collect in your LMS or during a webinar. Although I was on vacation, I could not help myself to think about the parallels between the taxi system and learning analytics. With learning analytics you use data to gain insight into how people learn and how to support learning. The taxi data are aimed at a better driving style. The positive thing about the points system is that our driver was not nominated for the training, but because of his points he could prove that he was the best. Could you also provide a more objective assessment using learning analytics? For example, looking for the real experts? What also worked really well is the gamification element. He wanted to get a high score and therefore changed his driving style. Tip is therefore to make learning analytics understandable for learners themselves.

People always tweak the system

One more thing: you have to pay attention to what you measure with your system / learning analytics. Know what you are measuring. Combine it with observations. In the black mirror episode the system has very bad effects because people are going to judge each other. So be aware of the effect on people. Who wins, who looses?

Your data are always indicators, such as the number of minutes hands off the wheel. It was clear that people are always trying to outdo the system. For example, a taxi driver can turn on the radio 5 times in succession for 30 seconds and in between put his hands on the wheel to avoid a lower score. The question is whether that is safer than changing the radio at once. So know what you are actually measuring and ways users may tweak the system. You should never just look at the figures and forget to use your common sense.

By the way our surprise trip took us to Rome!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

You can use Twitter to get new ideas to do your work in a better way

Would you like to show off at work with great ideas? This week I did some intakes for a course about learning technologies which is starting next Monday and I realized that actually very few people are using Twitter. Yes, they do have a Twitter account and may have a look at their timeline some times, but it is not helping them to do their work in a more innovative way. That's a pity, because Twitter can actually help you to generate better ideas.

Knowmads are innovative

I believe that we need to work more and more in a knowmadic way (see this blogpost about knowmad). Technology is driving innovation and new ways of working, but we need people to do this. New ideas can help to solve a recurrent problem or simply ideas which stimulate you to do your work in a different way which may be fun. It is not something I am making up, but something I have experienced myself and which is backed up by a study by MIT.  I read "how Twitter users can generate better ideas" by Salvatore Parise, Eoin Whelan and Steve Todd. The article is based on a 5 year research program in which they studied 10 employee groups in 5 companies. They linked internal brainstorm results to Twitter usage. 

The ideas of twitter users are of higher quality

Twitter users and non-users actually submitted the same number of brainstorm ideas, but the ideas of Twitter users were rated higher (the rating was done anonymously).  Furthermore, there was a correlation between diversity of the Twitter network and the quality of ideas. Loose Twitter networks are better for ideation. 

Become an ideas scout and idea connector

Just being on Twitter is not enough. 205 interviews revealed what skills are necessary to be able to find ideas and be able to translate to your work context. You need what they call an individual absorptive capacity. Two activities were correlated to this capacity: idea scouting and idea connecting. Twitter users who performed both roles were the most innovative. 

An idea scout is an employee who looks outside the organization to bring in new ideas. An idea connector is someone who can assimilate the external ideas and find opportunities within the organization to implement these new concepts

Idea scouting

So how to scout ideas on Twitter? Interviewees said: It’s not the number of people you follow on Twitter that matters; it’s the diversity within your Twitter network. A senior technologist who was interviewed said: “I don’t necessarily want to follow more people. I just want to follow people whose opinions don’t always align with my own, which is kind of an ongoing battle because after a year or so of following the same people, you find that your opinions shift and morph a little, and suddenly you are with a homogenous group of people again.” What I personally do is follow a wide range of people on Twitter. However, the flow is so large I can not read all. I may hence miss Tweets from the people in my network, therefore I  use Hootsuite to be able to follow my warmer networks via lists.

The 70/30 rule

One person had a 70/30 rule to blend serendipity into her Twitter network: 70% of the people she follows are directly relevant to her work, 30% are outside her comfort zone. Several employees mentioned virtual connections to the thoughts of individuals such as former astronaut Buzz Aldrin as catalysts for good ideas. What I do is follow people from other industries (like marketeers) and also writers of books I like. You could also think of having a core of strong ties (people you know well and work with) and weak ties (people who are unknown to you or move in quite different networks).

From weak to strong tie

You can use Twitter as a way to move from weak ties to strong ties, to get to know people better. Twitter is perfect to establish weak ties (by following them), you can start to engage by interacting (such as replying, retweeting) but may also organize face-to-face meetings. In this way Twitter helps you expland your strong network.

Idea connecting

Idea connecting involves translating the idea to the workplace and issues and sharing and discussing those ideas with the appropriate stakeholders. In the interviews people described their roles as listener, curator and alerter. One person said: “I try to sift through all the Twitter content from my network and look for trends and relationships between topics. I then put my analysis and interpretation on it. I feel that’s where my value-add is. I’m not just sending out a bunch of links. I think through what might be valuable to particular groups such as marketing or engineering. This leads to engaging discussion.” My personal experience is that there is also serendipity involved. I follow L&D trend watchers and read about artificial intelligence and chatbot. When I participated in a face-to-face method to reflect about mistakes in order to learn from them I was able to connect that idea to a confession bot idea. Hence Twitter does work for me as a source of new ideas.

Monday, February 19, 2018

(video) tool of the month: 1 second video apps for blended learning

Video is an important online trend. The tool of this month is therefore a video tool: the 1 second video app. Video is already important in online marketing, and learning and training follows this trend. I can hardly imagine an online course or MOOC without video. The classic way to produce a learning video is to hire a professional filmmaker ask them to record and edit the video. However, there are many (more creative) possibilities to use video in the design or facilitation of online learning like interactieve video's, animations with Powtoon, whiteboard animations like Squigl or livestreaming.

1 second videos

Cesar Kuriyama once started recording a 1-second video every day to capture a whole year of his life. After this project he decided to build an app that makes it easy to do this. The app is called 1 Second Everyday. You can record a video every day via a calendar, or choose a video from your smartphone. The app will ask you to choose your one second. After uploading for various days you can produce a video by selecting a number of days. Below you can see an example a video I made, filming my garden every day for a week.

Another example: a video of a student who recorded her life in 2017.

There are various apps to make 1 second videos:

  • 1 sec everyday (5,49 euros)


  • 1 second daily cam (free: you can remove the logo for 1,49 euros)


  • Leap second (free)

  • How to use 1 second video apps for online or blended learning?

    1 second videos are perfect to get participants active in a creative way. A number of ways you can use the app:

    1. To get to know each other 

    You can invite participants to record something about their lives for a week and then share this online, or show the results during a meeting. It is only a 7 seconds video and will give a creative peek into someone's week. This also reminds me of the introduction of the guests in the Dutch television program the quiz: the guests bring one photo of each day of the week.

    2. As a visual start-up of discussions

    Ask people to make 1 second videos of moments during the work that make them happy, and they will be very actively involved with this topic. As a follow-up you can share the videos and talk about what makes you happy. Making the video both engages people and leads to a visual result. It will give a different picture than if you start the conversation without this preparation.

    3. A look into daily practices

    Of course it can also give an image of what someone is doing. Let everyone, for example, every day at noon make a 1 second video of what he or she is doing. This way you get a nice picture of the actual practice. Or a second every hour of the day?

    4. As reflecting aid

    The research on the Rapp-it app showed coaching in combination with the use of a reflection app improved learning. The use of the app helped participants become more aware of learning moments, record and discuss more learning activities. Likewise, a video diary prior to a reflection session can help not to forget important moments (which your memory might do).

    This blogpost can be read in Dutch on Ennuonline.

    Wednesday, January 24, 2018

    Use of Smartphones and exhaustion: the case against mobile learning?

    Last Friday I had a dinner with 3 colleagues, our yearly dinner. We talked about the storm on Thursday which caused the complete halt of the train system in the Netherlands. I was part of a group which exchanged via a Whatsapp group whether to cancel our dinner. The group had such a flurry of messages which made me feel very unproductive in my work because I had my smartphone lying next to my laptop, and every time I looked at the new messages.

    My personal app policy
    One of the colleagues asked me: well, you must have an awful lot of whatsapp groups? He was surprised when I answered that I try to avoid work-related app groups. The reason I avoid it is because I don't want to work continuously on all my client cases, but want to have specific times that I choose to work on these client projects. In our courses we don't start whatsapp groups, unless the participants take the initiative and have a clear purpose for the group. Last Monday I talked to a teacher who said the same thing about Whatsapp. He does not want to participate in the group of his students because it would mean an awful lot of questions about homework during the weekend or late hours.

    What's the influence of smartphones on work/life balance and stress? 
    I found a study looking at the influence of our smartphone use for work purposes and its influence on stress and burnout. The paper is called Smartphone Use, Work–Home Interference, and
    Burnout: A Diary Study on the Role of Recovery. The paper is written by Daantje Derks* and Arnold B. Bakker Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In this study 69 smartphone users completed a dairy questionnaire for 5 successive working days. All participants were required by their employers to use a smartphone.

    The need to recover from work
    Our workload is going up. Many employees have a smartphone, which may or may not be paid by the organization. Organizations increasingly expect employees to immediately respond to work-related messages. The norm is becoming that individuals should be available to others anytime and anyplace. Employees feel a pressure to respond to messages coming through their smartphones (with plings!) and it derails their attention. Furthermore it blurs the boundary between work and private life, even more so when employees are highly committed to their work. The authors use the term Work-Home-Interference (WHI), defined as a negative process of negative interaction in which the employees experience pressure from work and private life which is hard to reconcile. This may be time conflict, role conflict or stress taken from work which makes it hard to relax at home.

    How to recover from work
    Smartphone users may find it even harder to find recovery time in the evening. A core component of recovery is the employee's sense of being away from work: to detox from work. It implies more than just being physically away from work. It suggests that the individual stops thinking about work and disengages mentally from it between work and home domains. In this study, two types of recovery were defined (a) psychological detachment or the ability to disengage oneself mentally from work; and (b) relaxation

    image via pixabay
    Enter: Smartphones at work 
    Smartphones are great for new forms of interaction and collaboration, like contributing to the social intranet or replying mails, and of course the numerous Whatsapp groups. Other positives often associated with smartphones are increased productivity, increased flexibility to work where you want, improved responsiveness, and the availability of real time information. However, checking your mail and responding may often seem like something 'small and quick' but may demand more time than you are aware of. You can only do one thing at the time, hence engaging in smartphone activities often implies not being their with your attention for your family or friends. There is an urge to respond when the smartphone indicates that there are new messages. This seems harmless but does demand attention. In addition, you can't control how many and how often you get messages.
    Hypotheses: The increased productivity associated with staying connected to work in the evening hours is often achieved at the cost of higher stress levels which may lead to poor recovery, impaired performance  fatigue, and sleep complaints. 

    Results of the study: smartphone use increases the Work-Home-Interference 
    The study found strong evidence that smartphone use during after-work hours impact on the work–private life balance negatively. On a daily basis they experiences Work-Home-Interference. This daily WHI is positively related to feelings of burnout operationalized as exhaustion and cynicism. For intensive smartphone users the negative effect is higher than for low- users of smartphones. When faced with high levels of WHI, intensive smartphone users are more exhausted than less intensive smartphone users. It leads to more feelings of exhaustion for the intensive smartphone user. There were also smartphone users who succeeded in experiencing psychological detachment and/or relaxation during after-work hours who experienced less WHI. This might be the opportunity for intensive smartphone users to protect themselves from the potential negative consequences of high WHIK by engaging more in sports or leisure activities.

    I often check my mails during evening hours too. It is actually shocking when you realize that it does create more stress. If people are not aware of the impact? All in all, there is a clear need for organizational policy regarding smartphone use. An organization may set boundaries for use of smartphones. I can imagine it is particularly important to monitor the intensive smartphone users and continuously discuss in teams how people use and experience the work-related smartphone conversations.

    No more mobile and micro- learning? 
    The implication for online and blended learning is huge. One implication is that this is a downside of mobile learning, especially for high smartphone users and highly committed employees. The assumption behind mobile and micro-learning: we always have our smartphones hence it is easier to bring learning content to the smartphone. Of course this may be easier but the risk is that it invades privates lives and induces Work-Home-Interference. Although it may seem trivial to watch a video for 5 minutes, it does have an impact as this study shows on feelings of exhaustion and cynism.

    It also stresses the importance of embedding online learning within workhours. I notice that in various organizations managers think online and blended learning can be done outside office hours (cheaper!). Even when employees are allowed to do it in office hours, it might not be seen as work by their colleagues. To avoid adding to stress online learning should become part of the job as face-to-face is.  

    Monday, January 15, 2018

    Three different views on social learning

    I am not the first to note that social learning is a confusion concept. Every Friday there is an interesting #ldinsight Twitter chat. I joined one Friday when the topic was about social learning. I struggled going from my tweetchat back to twitter and hootsuite trying to keep up with replies :). Any Twitterchat is hard work but it was worst to make sense here because I noticed that we all talked with a different view on social learning. For instance, people talked about groupwork and having time to read quietly. I often see social learning is seen any learning activity which involves more than one person. That's one of the views but not mine.

    I will write down the three main different views I hear when people talk about social learning. I see the social constructivist, the new social learner and the collaborative learners.


    Learning is situated and knowledge is constructed through interaction with others. Knowledge is not constructed indivually but is influenced by others.

    Social learning combines social media tools with a shift in culture encouraging connections
    Social learning is learning with and from others
    Typical remark
    “You can not turn off learning” “Even reading a book is social”
    “I connect and learn through my online network” “just the technology is not enough”
    “We should add some social elements”  “It is all about sharing knowledge and experience”
    Online or offline?
    Typical interventions
    Communities of practice
    Social network inventory – looking for existing communities

    Introduce an Enterprise social network
    Stimulate use of social media
    Working Outloud

    Adding interaction to e-learning
    Collective learning

    Online networks
    Learning from peers

    Images through Robin Higgins on Pixabay

    Not any of these views are wrong. Someone said this distinction is putting ideas in boxes. Personally I think surfacing your underlying ideas about social learning can be helpful in a conversation. Otherwise you might not understand each other. I am a typical social constructivist because I look at learning as meaning making. However, I often adopt the new social learning definition because it is a much clearer definition. The collaborative learning approach is not wrong, but it does not focus on collective learning which is often very important in organizations. Mmm in networks as well in fact.

    Do you relate to any of the three views? Which one?

    Tuesday, January 09, 2018

    Bookreviews Kevin Kelly: mind artificial intelligence, attention and quantified self

     I read two books by Kevin Kelly about technology, one on my kindle and one on paper (not the same book by the way :). The first was What technology wants; the second the Inevitable. I found both through Twitter. Now that I think about it: I get most of the book tips via my Twitter network.

    I have read these two books because I want to know how technology is going to influence my field of work: learning and knowledge. I was also curious about what lens he uses to looks at technology. In my study Irrigation Engineering we learnt about various lenses. For example, you had the techno-optimists who thought that technological developments would solve all problems of developing countries, for example agricultural production would go up by invention of artificial fertilizer and pesticides. On the other hand, there are the skeptics. I was more skeptic because I saw how great the influence of culture and the way people react to technology is. At times people do reject technologies. Farmers in Africa did not make massive use of fertilizers and pesticides at all. Are there differences in visions on (learning) technologies? What lens can I use?

    Kevin Kelly ends his book The inevitable with a clear position: he sees that we are at the beginning of a new phase, the last chapter is hence called 'the beginning' since he sees that we are at the start of a new phase. In this phase we move towards a collective consciousness that he calls the holos. We can not imagine the holos because it is something unseen yet. Another phase change from the past was the invention of the language. The people before the invention of language could not imagine the world with language either. Through language cooperation and coordination got a boost, but also idea development and fantasy. Ideas and knowledge travels with generations through language. The holos is a connection of all people and machines via artificial intelligence. The holos arises because we increasingly share, track, mix, filter, etc. via the internet. He also mentions two different visions on artificial intelligence: hard and soft singularity. The hard singularity theory is that we make a superintelligence that becomes increasingly smart, solves all problems and bypasses us. The soft singularity's theory is based upon a complex interface between people and artificial intelligence.

    Some ideas I take from his books are: 

    • Technology takes an increasingly more central place in our lives. We sleep with the smartphone. My daughter sometimes sits with a laptop on her lap, ipad next to it and a smartphone in her hand. 10,000 years ago, a farmer only ran a few hours a day with a tool in his hand. The rest of the day was technology free. 
    • Apart from an addiction to a smartphone, for example, we may be addicted to what Kelly calls the 'technium', the technological innovation itself. This explains the interest in gadgets. The guild of French scholars has been able to delay the introduction of the printing press in Paris but could not stop it. Hence the general technology advancement seems inevitable?
    • Social changes in history are almost always driven by technology. He clearly recognizes that not all changes due to technology are positive. For instance the large-scale slave trade has become possible because of the sailing ships that could sail across the oceans. A quote from Karl Marx: the hand-mill gives you a society with the feudal lords, the steam-mill society with industrial capitalists.
    • The society and what we are working on is much more about intangibles (services, not tangible things) than about goods. 40% of US exports are intangible.

    the picturephone

    • According to Kelly, new technologies are sometimes inevitable, but every technology needs a momentum. He gives the example of the videophone. Already in 1938 there were prototypes at the German post office. Picturephones were installed on the streets in New York in 1964, but were discontinued because there were only 500 subscribers. Now we use Skype, Zoom, Facetime or use video to call Whatsapp. Often similar technologies are invented or tried out simultaneously in different places. Only if the supporting technology is right and matches the social dynamics is it widely accepted. There is often a point where technology seems to be an option to individuals but in fact society has already changed so that people feel compelled to use it, in fact it is no longer an option. I recognize this with Whatsapp and the chip card for public transport. My mother could still buy tickets, but that is becoming increasingly difficult. Also think about how difficult it is if you do not want to use Whatsapp?
    • He summarizes the major changes of our time in the inevitable: Our time is knowledge / information-oriented, flows of information such as in your timeline are increasing. Sharing, linking, tagging are all on the rise. 40% of the web is commercial information, however 60% is voluntarily shared, from a passion. Artificial intelligence is going to have a big impact. The time of huge influence of Artificial intelligence has arrived because we have cheap computing power, big data and better algorithms. These three are the optimal conditions for artificial intelligence.
    • Can you redesign the economy based upon attention rather than material goods? If information is no longer scarce, then attention is. What if I was paid to look at an advertisement? If information is not scarce, and we can work more efficiently through artificial intelligence, people will focus on actual experiences. They will become very expensive and a new industry. 
    • There is a whole movement of quantified self. There is so much data that you can collect and analyze about yourself. Does this really make us a better person?
    The books offer a lot of ideas about the influence of technology. It is quite overwhelming to me. On a philosophical level, I recognize the inevitably of technological advancements as in society. Being addicted to technology development in general by humanity would explain the focus on new technology and the 'shiny tool syndrome' that I often encounter. The intrusion of technology also gives me an uneasy feeling, as if you lose control. I am not happy about the inevitability. My own feeling says that we do not always need to get better from all new technology and that we still have to stay connected to nature because we depend on it (just look at black mirror). Nor do I believe that technology can solve all our problems, think of climate change, which is quite scary. 

    My question was: what will be the influence of technology on learning and sharing knowledge?. What I will take away from these two books is the increasing importance of information, we have to relate to information in a different way. We drown in information but does it help us further? Dealing with big data and information is becoming increasingly important. Attention is becoming scarce. Artificial intelligence will play a major role in this. The quantified self also comes back. 

    A conclusion is to pay attention to: (1) artificial intelligence (2) attention scarcity and focus and (3) learning through feedback about ourselves (quantified self). As far as the hard and soft singularity is concerned, I certainly believe in the soft singularity that we determine how artificial intelligence will support us. 

    What kind of feeling do you get from all these developments?

    Monday, December 11, 2017

    There's a bot for that! Chatbots to stimulate learning and reflection

    I try to explain to Erik, a colleague what a chatbot is: "with a chatbot you can have a conversation in a messenger program, like Facebook messenger" Answer: "OKeee, so it is the virtual employee on a website who answers your questions?" "Mmm, ha, yes, these are also chatbots, but there are many more types of chatbots, think of CNN's chatbot on Facebook who will tell you about the latest newsitems via chat". "Ah, so it's another way to get news? I'm not on Facebook messenger myself so I do not know what a chat is."
    the Dutch Eva Jinek Chatbot with background news
    Actually it is not so easy to explain what a chatbot is to someone who has no experience with it. Perhaps the best way to start understanding this phenomenon is to follow a number of them, and get a feeling for it. Choose from my list below with nice chatbots or choose yourself from the long list of bots on the website There’s a bot for that.
    1. Use the Duolingo bot to learn a language. For Spanish, French, German. Via the Apple appstore
    2. Poncho de Weather cat will tell you the weather and crack a joke via Facebook messenger
    3. Work on your health with the Healthybot. Works through Slack
    4. You can get relevant HBR articles via Slack 
    5. The Heston bot voor Skype will bring your cooking skills to Michelin stardom.  
    Why are chatbots hot? Messenging programs are are chat programs such as Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, Skype chat or Slack chat in which you chat one-to-one with someone. Communication in sessenging programmes are surpassing the number of communications in social media. About 1.4 billion people used Messaging Apps in 2016. This means that they are already chatting a lot and are for instance every day on Facebook's messenger with friends. It is a good strategy to go to people where they already are, so they do not have to develop new habits or get to know new platforms.

    Chatbots to support learning & development You can be very creative thinking about possible solutions with chatbots! Personally I am thinking there is huge potential for the following categories:
    • Reflective or coach bots. Bots can support reflection very well. I work with colleagues on a 'confessional' bot based on the principles of 'the confessional box'. The interesting thing is that sometimes reflection works better with a bot who doesn't judge you. This is also used in therapies. Read for instance about Eliza the therapeutic chatbot.
    • Educational bots. There are bots who can show you new things and teach you something like about art. In the Netherlands for instance there is the KBlab chatbot who will send you a piece of art from the Dutch Cultural Heritage collection every day with some explanation. 
    • Language bots. To learn a language you can converse with bots in your preferred language. See duolingo bots.
    • Helpdesk bots. Of course, you can also use a chatbot similar to a customer bot on a website but now helping your employees. For instance let a bot explain how to use a platform. 
    • Teacher or facilitator bots. These facilitate online courses. A chatbot can help you with the online sessions and guide you through the program. Read the interesting experience of Helen Blunden.
    • Quantified self bots. There are bots who ask you for information and return it to you at certain time. This can be very insightful for self reflection. An example of this is He will asks you at the end of every day how your day was. After a week or month you can see the overview and reflect on it. On which days did you feel the best and why?
    The bot or not test by the VPRO
    Are all chatbots clumsy? A nice test by the Dutch VPRO is bot or not. On the site you could chat and were brought into contact with a person or a chatbot. You wouldn't know. You'd have to guess which one you had in front of you. I got it wrong! 18% of the bots are convincing enough. Bots are getting smarter in conversation. For this you need artificial intelligence, so that the bot can learn from the answers and become smarter. However, not all chatbots are driven by artificial intelligence. Here's an article explaining 4 different type of bots.You can create an simple programmed chatbot with programs such as Flow.xo, Dialogflow or Chatfuel. In 2 times 4 hours we were able to built a simple version of the confession bot.

    Want to know more? Are you curious? In November, Ennuonline collected a video, article or blog every day about chatbots for learning. You can find this list embedded below or via listly.

    Thursday, November 30, 2017

    10 community principles to make your MOOC stronger

    In January we had a lot of fun facilitating our knowmad MOOC. 600 people participated and we had quite intense exchanges. We received many compliments for the way we facilitated it: personal and quick responses. A social MOOC requires a good design of the learning activities, design of the platform and spacing of activities. I think there were many details in our MOOC that made it a success. If you want to read something about the content, check out my some of my blogposts about the knowmad.

    An example is our online network café and the wrap up with a meetup. It is nice to see that the network café idea and the 'space for informal conversation' have been copied in many other MOOCs. Do you recognize this: sometimes you can not even properly say why you are doing something, at time it is so instinctively or a gut feeling.

    Hence it was a good idea of Jos Maassen from MOOCfactory to invite Peter Staal from Bind and myself to exchange about the design of a social MOOC and what you can learn from the way you facilitate a community. There are definitely parallel processes. This conversation has produced an article called: 10 community principes to make your MOOC stronger.

    The 10 tips are:

    1. Size matters. Keep the MOOC small (couple of 100rds) or work with subgroups in which people with a specific interest can meet each other.

    2. Build trust. Under the guidance of a reliable and present moderator, participants are more inclined to share information, to express their doubts, to stimulate discussion, or to ask questions.

    3. Develop Tacit knowledge. People in a community share knowledge with each other by entering into conversation, the so-called tacit knowledge. Facilitate a process in which people with similar interests find each other in forums to engage in discussion.

    4. Find a balance between 'Connecting and collecting'. In the case of a social MOOC, participants want to gain knowledge (collecting) and get to know new people (connecting).

    5. Use Peer pressure. Group pressure is a well-known phenomenon that can also strengthen the learning process. For example, state how many people have already responded or are 'through the gate' to stimulate engagement.

    6. Involve experts and key persons in the domain. A cMOOC is not about transferring knowledge from you to novices. You do need experienced people and thought leaders. To make the discussions interesting, it is important to involve the experts and key figures (influencers) in the MOOC besides novices.

    7. Allow for reputation building. Once people are together in a group, they build up a reputation. A social MOOC must facilitate that people can also build up online reputation by recognizing contributions or eg through leadership boards.

    8. Connect online and offline. In this digital era, the online section is the most important in a cMOOC. But the offline aspect also remains utterly important, arrange for meetups or facilitate that people who live together can look for each other. Incidentally, this can also be looked up online via skype or zoom.

    9. Provide public but also private spaces. Many people find it difficult to share their thoughts with a community of roughly a thousand people and prefer to do this in a smaller group or one on one. In this way trust and social capital are built up.

    10. A warm but obligatory welcome Important in a new community: the feeling of coming home. A personal welcome and a good follow-up are therefore crucial.

    You can read the whole article on the site of HT2: 10 community principes to make your MOOC stronger.

    Friday, October 20, 2017

    Why you should be interested in artificial intelligence as L&D professional

    In our book Leren in tijden van tweets, apps en likes there is a clear call for people working with learning, change and innovation processes to dive into technology. Everyone sees that technology is increasingly taking an important place in our lives- even people who are not into technology. I did intakes with vocational teachers this week and I heard that they experienced daily competition with mobile phones. The attention span of students got shorter. If you compete with technology you might make technology work for you and help you? My advice is be curious about technology and get started. But how deep do you dive into different technologies and tools? and why? There are so many developments, think of blockchain, of which I do not know what it actually is. Sometimes it feels like you are in a tsunami of new developments and you let it flow by. For learning professional e-learning seems a clearer need than knowing about artificial intelligence and blockchain.

    the allerhande recipes
    Artificial Intelligence- What the heck?

    A great example of such a what-the-heck development is artificial intelligence (AI). Artificial intelligence is a collective name for software that manages creative thinking by the computer: the learning computer. I've heard about AI regularly, but a lot of it is at the level of 'HEEE, it's coming'. What can you really do? What's going to change? It doesn't click for me unless I get to work with it and start to apply it. A clear application of AI are chat bots. I have written about chatbots before. Those crazy puppets are everywhere if you have an eye for! Especially in Facebook messenger there are many chat bots to follow. I follow Poncho for the weather and a joke, and the allerhande chatbot with a daily recipe. For Slack users: the Slackbot helps you with all your questions about Slack. By the way, there are also chatbots which are not driven by AI, but those will be less smart in their conversations.

    What is the influence of AI on the L&D profession? 

    During the L&D unconference in Rotterdam I hence threw the  above question to the group: I thought I would be alone in my group, but there were 8 people with interest in the topic. Additionally, those who did not attend seemed to regret it :). The nice thing was that there were concrete experiences in the group with AI applications. The first was the experience of a bank to have Watson analyze credit applications. You will have to teach Watson how to do this, but then you can save a lot of time. Another application shared: At a factory in Japan, a robot runs around (powered by AI) that connects with employees and coaches workers, for example, to take a break. It's not a big brother, but a very helpful robot. The time saved by the use of AI can be put into more creative tasks. A third example was an application that receives information from the internet to make predictions about the market.

    The Calimero effect

    The AI group acknowledged that you as L&D-er might be afraid of this type of development or may think it's got nothing to do with your business. The famous Calimero effect: What can we do as advisers / trainers / facilitators? This too big for us and something for the ICTs and decision makers and visionaries in the organization. It's not for us but for others. Perhaps AI will take over L & D's work by doing performance support tasks, for example. There is already one AI online teacher doing a great job. Or people are scared of the smart youth who understand it all. Look at the example of  Tanmay Bakshi a 12-year old programmer of IBM.

    You will only see it when you get it

    This famous quote by Cruijf applies to AI.  You can only imagine or dream up an application if you have seen enough examples and those examples inspired you. Because I opened my eyes (with a group of colleagues), we see different applications. For example, we will experiment with an online confession box for reflection. We could not have thought of this AI application if we had not followed the developments and many examples. In addition, many applications already use AI, think of your news feed on Facebook (does it?) Or your results in Google search. The danger here is that we are increasingly dealing with filter bubbles, you are getting more and more closed in the same line of thought.  Think of the Netflix bubbles. It might be another role for L&D? Ger Driesen calls this the bubble bursting role.

    So what to do as learning and development professional?
    • Read, watch, follow. Read an article, attend a summit or start to follow some chatbots. This is a dutch article by Ger Driesen over de invloed op HRD van AI.
    • Investigate whether there are AI projects in the core business and try and learn from those. 
    • Help people in the organization to prepare for robotization.
    • Brainstorm applications of AI to support your work and make it easier. Think of the selections of CVs, relevant chatbots or analysis of online learning data. You might be able to start an innovative project together with others. 
    • Take up a role in the consciousness about algorithms. Burst the bubbles.
    Are you working with AI? I'd be happy to know about it in a reaction. 

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    To conference or to unconference?

    I was hesitating for a long time whether I would attend the L&D unconference, organized by Ger Driesen in collaboration with the L&D connect community. The unconference costs you a whole day of your time and follows the open space method. There was a theme: the future of L&D. With open space it is very unclear what you will get in return for your time investment. But ..... I have been going to the learning technologies conference in London for 3 years, and people (including me) always complain that the program is organized around the sage on stage. At such a conference, you do not get to talk to your fellow practitioners in the same way. What a dilemma to go or not to go. Eventually, I decided to go based the fact that it was in Rotterdam (which is really close to my home). By subway through the rain to the office of Anewspring. I soon met someone from the UK whom I knew of the Londen conference but we had not changed more than 20 words. Already a nice start to hear what he does.
    And yes, the rest of the day was delicious (google translates lekker with delicious :) as well. It felt like a long break during the entire day, where you can talk to interesting people endlessly about interesting subjects. It started with a brainstorm in small groups about the subjects you would like to discuss. I put up: the influence of artificial intelligence on L & D and new forms to stimulate self-directed learning. Already during this exchange I learned about a nice example (from Philips) where people were tested on a particular subject. On the basis of the answers they were directed to certain new sources or courses. A form to stimulate self-directed learning for people who do not know what they do not know. I was familiar with open space in organizations, but not with open space with a group of unknown people. In open space, the 'law of the two feet' means that you have to make sure that you have interesting conversations, so you can also change groups. The first time I walked away from a group, however, it felt like a rejection of the group, but I was glad I did. So I really had good conversations all day long by taking care of myself.

    Changing relationships
    Two conversations that had a lot of impact on my thinking were about relationships: depth in relationships, networks and how that changes over time over the internet. For example, there are elderly who have a strong network of 10-12 friends who support each other through thick and thin. The disadvantage is that this can be a really closed network. When you are a member of a closed network, you start to put everything which is said and done under a magnifying glass. Your world is small. I myself have a large network through my work abroad. Whoever I'm following online is by chance, one invites me to Facebook, the other on Instagram, the third I have on Whatsapp, I don't have a conscious strategy. You have to make choices with who you really want to make contact. Many of my online networks I follow from afar, but sometimes there is an invitation to go for lunch, meet again or work together. It has become much more fluid. The disadvantage of a fluid network may be that it becomes superficial. Do you care when someone in your larger network falls ill or looses a job? See also this documentary by Gino Bronkhorst. Gino is going to send all his facebook friends a message to inquire how they are really doing. Some answer: "Why do you want to know?"

    The assumption is that you are a Facebook contact, which is not the same as a close friend really caring about you and showing interest. But there are also real friends on Facebook, and half friends, and former friends. My conclusion is that there are many shades of friendship, more than before. Friend networks have become much bigger. We don't get rid of people, they will still be there on some social network. Changing the categories of friendship is also faster. Even a best friend can move to the outside of your network.

    We also talked about the future: imagine that all you do is supported by augmented reality as in video below. You can read emotion analysis during your date. You get the suggestion to smile or change topic. Who are you in this future world, what happens to your identity?


    This reflection on changing relationships can also be transferred to describe changes in professional networking. These networks have also become larger than before the internet because we connect with more people online as simple contacts: I currently passed the 1000 line at Linkedin. Your network is more in motion than before, more fluid. And the day still has only 24 hours. So we need to learn to develop the art of networking when networks are fluid: what contacts do we want to invest in and which contacts remains at the edges?. What levels of colleagues do you distinguish? Is your network sufficiently diverse? Do you invest in the right contacts? I think almost nobody really does this consciously and well. Or?

    The subject of Artificial Intelligence was also very interesting - I will write a separate blog about it. So I got home with lots of food for thought, renewed enthusiasm for open space and also a number of tool sites to look out like Degreed. The next time I hear someone complain at a conference I will ask why they do not go to an unconference ...