Internal leverage!

The world has a ton of problems. And sometimes, you cant help but thank God that some of them are there. For they make living and life worthwhile. The quest for solutions may not lead a person to solutions always. But invariably the learning that comes from such quests are far more important than the solutions themselves. But on that topic, another time. Another post.

But pause for a moment and wonder at what kind of creative solutions are needed to solve the problems that we face today?  Not at all times can we have a ‘total revamp’ or ‘blue sky’ technology as an answer to our problem. Yes, it would be good and in some cases pretty much necessary too. But most cases, as in life, we do not get presented with the cleanest of slate to restart from scratch.  Yet, the solutions that ordinary people come up in their lives are both incredible and ‘just what is needed’ from what is already there.

Take a look at these one minuter videos that have been around for a while now, but always never fail to inspire every time I view them!

May I invite you to pause and think about organisational equivalent of problems like these. And solutions found.

Large organisations boast of such a fabulous diversity and depth of knowledge and talent , that it is a shame that much of it goes under leveraged! If you are a leader in a large organisation, when was the last time you looked within in the quest for answers to problems you are confronted with, before dialing for help outside?

Large organisations and their talent can be better leveraged. Lets say you are seeking a solution to say, ‘how best to design a workshop’ (an example I choose, because of frequently being faced with it). How many times have you thought of asking the folks in sales ? Or maybe Marketing ? Or administration? Or manufacturing? I mean, anybody in the building.

The answer may not be directly something that could help, but it sure is going to be something that I could build on. People may not know a thing about learning design, but they know the organisation pretty well! And when structured approaches to seek their thought and apply it well are sought, the solutions work like magic.

What perhaps is required is a problem that is not only large enough, but for a which an answer is sincerely sought. Combined with a diversity of intelligent minds some of who have are seeking those answers and buffeted by some quick first steps!

Leaders and managers who have the ability to entertain and examine ideas objectively without necessarily embracing them, are an important component of such collaborative on the ground innovation. More such managers in a system, more leveraging and energising that comes by the organisation!

Now, now, does it not have challenges? Ofcourse it does. The solutions evolved sometimes aren’t the best in class. They may not have the gleam of a finished product from an assembly line. But they are precisely that. They aren’t from an assembly line! They are put together!

The other challenge with such a solution is the fact that it may not have the best of whats in vogue outside of the organisation. That needs to be consciously built. Knowledge of best practices and latest research is so available on public platforms that if you are determined to get it, there can be no stopping!

Having worked on several such projects and veering to believe that organisation intelligence and talent needs to be grossly better leveraged and makes life easier on several counts!

  • At one level a non-assembly line but the most appropriate solution is found.
  • At another, far deeper level, it energises the organisation no-end! People who find themselves valued and whose views and opinions are sincerely sought do not mind giving an extra bit to help the project through!
  • Add, diversity of work! I have been coding all day and suddenly someone swings by and asks, “hey, we want to fix our leadership issues. Would you like to play a part?”
  • Plus, once all ideas are incorporated, guess what, change management and implementation is held by a far wider set.
  • At yet another deeper level, could you think of any better way of cross pollination of ideas and forming of relationships between diverse groups who otherwise maybe quite oblivious to the other’s existence, leave alone work and problems? Organisations give an arm and a limb for something like that!

The next time you have a problem that you want to solve, look inside around. Sometimes, the people standing very close to you can have an idea or two that perhaps no can come to you with!

Don’t get me wrong. External consultants have expertise and specialisation that are hard to match. It is important to build that expertise on the foundation of assimilation of internal strengths as well!  I have cherished working with several external consultants. And all of them who have left an imprint are ones that began by leveraging on diverse thought streams within the organisation!

The ugliness in learning

For several months now, I have been working on picking up some photography skills. But more on that later.
A few years ago, I started clicking around with a prosumer camera in the perpetual quest for a new stories, ever since I started blogging. I recall it being tough to use it.

But I did all the typical things. Read up-Click-Review-submit-get feedback etc! The learning progressed and the quality of the pictures improved. And as the blogging gained traction, there were quite a few appreciative comments about the photography skills as well.

After a few years of playing with it and becoming aware of the camera’s and my own limitations further fuelled by a desire to better quality pictures, a few months back, I invested in a professional DSLR camera. Yes, investment is the word.
Ever since then, its been a battle of sorts. For all the money the camera sucked in, it comes with a multitude of bells, whistles and hooters. It took me a good two days to figure out the basics and many months to get comfortable with it.

Infact I still am on the journey.

Every day, was is a new learning. But it was is clumsy. A struggle. Sometimes, the best of family moments reduced to a plain white sheet or a thick cloak of black in the quest of capturing the moment to perfection.

But guess what, am getting better. I still have to think about every single angle, button and setting. Still messing up. But the gap between mess-ups have only increased. Which is good news.

The four stages of competence  holds my transition rather well. Where I reasonably assumed that the virtue of clicking around for a few years with a prosumer camera automatically gave me the skill to click good pictures with the DSLR as well. How wrong I was.

Very quickly I became conscious about my what a fool I was making of myself. Especially when the family frowns at a lousy mess up of a snap, usually of a critical family moment and wondering aloud, ‘whatever happened to you?’. Pregnant in that question is the automatic upgrade in expectation because of my upgrade to a far more sophisticated camera!

From then on I have been at it. Reading. Reviewing. Clicking. Sharing. More clicking. And seeking feedback. Some feedback is not sophisticated or polite. Yet others are. All of it is valid. But now, by the constant seeking and playing the new tricks that I pick up, I am consciously getting more competent with it than before. At a slower pace than several others, but hey, am enjoying the journey clicking snaps like this! It may not be piping hot but hey, its spewing action!


Hopefully there will be a time, when all of this would come easy. When I would be unconsciously competent. When flicking a the buttons based on the time of the day and the mood to capture, would be second nature.

But until I get there, there is going to be a process of learning. But the point to this post is this : That the road from now on is going to be clumsy! With a collection of gross errors and gingerly mishaps and lousy pictures as proof.

A learning process runs a high potential of snapping or not starting because of the ‘ugliness’ if I were to call it that, of the trying out of the new learning. A workshop could have been energizing and the learners left with a keen desire to try.

But the real learning comes in the trying to implement the learning! In the trying, there is a good chance of failure and making a fool of oneself. Learning professionals must increasingly devote time to this phase where learner performance and trial is supported. There could be a multitude of things that could be done.  And needs to be urgently.

Will Thalheirmer‘s work has been illustrative.

Lets face it, learning is inherently challenging at this phase. A phase where well intentioned goals melt. It is this phase that needs L&D folks to shine their torch on. Especially so, if the context for learning isn’t anchored well and transfer of learning isn’t a mandate. Alas in the melee of organizing programs, collecting feedback and presenting budgets, this is missed.

While performance support tools are many, the role of the immediate manager and colleagues play a role that is often neglected as part of the learning design. In my experience, even an expression of interest on the learning by the immediate manager, has remarkable results for starters.

That brings to bear the question, my pet peeve of sorts: how are immediate managers of learners being involved?
See, as far as my photography where this post began, my wife, family and an extended array of friends, play the role of the ‘interested colleague / friend/boss’! Keen on seeing what new pictures have been clicked and often offering their views!

That in itself has helped me stay the course.

Someday, I wont be consciously reaching out for buttons and manuals. Towards that quest, I am clicking away. Of course  all support is deeply appreciated!