When Work no longer works

by Kailash Gyawali (Flickr)I remember when Work was the place you went to, to get things done. Increasingly I find that when I really have to get things done - which in my industry is coming up with new ideas and designs for executive leadership development work (apart from managing a whole lot of people and bringing in revenue), work is probably the last place I would think of to do this well. Why is this? Well, frankly work is the place where I am interrupted a lot by others, where unexpected demands happen and where there is little time to think slowly, deeply and well. For a truly wonderous and succinct description for the world of work as interruption, Jason Fried's talk at TED on why work doesn't happen at work is a gem. I have become interested in this because I have to give a plenary session in two weeks time at The Future of Learning conference - a crosss continental initiative hosted by Ashridge, Melbourne Business School and UCT GSB.

The irony is that as I write this, it is not from work. I am doing this from home today - where I generally think very well. The topic of my paper is Learner Readiness -which within this context is rather paradoxical. If we no longer work well at work, where else are we learning and what kind of readiness for learning should we be building? I am in agreement with the move towards learning as a lifestyle and Dave Duarte's superb insightson this - where learning is a way of being, not just something which happens in very particular places - but rather as something which is part of what we do in multiple spaces to be enriched and fulfilled human beings.

Remember that old chestnut, the 70/20/10 Model which said 70% of learning happens on the job, 20% comes from observing and working with role models at work and 10% comes from formal training. What do we do now when increasingly, what we teach impacts people in their personal and professional lives? The model does not allow for home as a place of learning. Neither does it allow for the very real impact of coaching would would perhaps change the 20% rule significantly. I would say that today 10% of learning happens at work, upwards of 50% through coaching - either executive or peer and that upwards of 40% happens in those other places where home is a significant player - because with the addition of new technologies -we are no longer able to discretely box 'work' into the thing we do at the office.

I think this shift has a significant impact on what we design for organisations when it comes to their leadership development and critically when it comes to building learner readiness because it is no longer readiness just for the office but in actual fact readiness as a way of engaging in the world through the multiple places where we learn continuously.

The Curious Paradox of Curiosity as a Learning Enabler

This is the abstract for a paper I am currently writing for a conference on The Future of Learning - What excites me about the notion of curiosity as an area for study is that it is an arena which is so often spoken of as something which re-enervates but is also an area which has so many conflicting opinions about what really consitiutes its becoming.

I suppose that if one is going to undertake an investigation of a field of study it is important to put a stick in the ground. For me, curiosity is something which helps to increase the quality of our attention. Interestingly enough I found Todd Kashan had the same idea in his 2009 book on Curiosity? I would really appreciate comments and recommendations for where else to start looking for material on curiosity as a filter for attention.

ABSTRACT Information consumes attention. In an age of information overload and ‘filter failure’ (Shirky, 2008), human attention has become a scarce resource (Lanham, 2007). In the realm of this attention economy, it is argued that the notion of curiosity emerges as a necessary regenerative foil to this attention deficit. For we enjoy our curiosity even when it is not sated (Schmitt & Lahroodi, 2008). Curiosity heightens levels of engagement with information (Harvey et al, 2007) but is paradoxically an effective response to regenerating attention, specifically in organisational contexts where attention is constantly under erasure. Thus the very nature of curiosity is a paradoxical enabler of learning. It requires the subject to both suspend judgment in the sense of Otto Scharmer’s Open Mind (2007) and simultaneously stimulates critical thinking through engaging with what is perceived as “the spiral of curiosity” (Harvey et al, 2007: 44). The paper concludes by evidencing ways in which curiosity can be construed, harnessed and applied as a continuous enabler in the learning mix. The Attention Audit, undertaken on many of our leadership interventions will be discussed to illustrate this point.