I always appreciate getting updates from Mervyn Dinnen’s blog, not least as the most recent – In Praise of Experience During a Time of Social Media Crisis – pointed me at a fascinating brouhaha I’d not previously been aware of: the case of Cathryn Sloane and a Nextgen Journal article – Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25 – that inflamed rather a lot of passions.
We’ll note the title of the original Journal before we move on, as it illustrates a larger point: the web is an open medium – while we can use titles and names and brands to position ourselves as appealing to particular demographics, the rest of the world is only a click away from stumbling on us. The article title was, of course, the real ‘flamebait’ here, although the article’s tone didn’t help the writer’s case for anyone outside the magical demographic that she sought to ordain and claim. If you must diss everyone over 25, at least do it somewhere where they won’t find it: just realise that the social media you are trumpeting make that harder than ever to achieve.
Those of you who are already familiar with ASK’s approach and methodology may already be aware that amongst our passions is a commitment to ‘asking the right questions’. In times of change and of debate, doing so is doubly important: if debate is required, asking the right questions enables it to be informed. While we may individually have preferences for ‘analysis’ or ‘feeling’, an absence of answers must to some extent mean that we are not really seeing the things that we are responding to.
One such arena is organisational learning and development, where training activity is no longer so focused on the classroom. This change has many drivers – the advent of online technologies and the role of innovations such as the internet, wi-fi and handheld devices in delivery, a growing pressure for ‘on-demand’ learning (possibly influenced by lean production approaches), and budgetary pressures, which recent years have only amplified.
Forgive us for hanging a broader point off a recent political headline (especially as we’ve apologised for this already this month), but the reshuffles of both the government ministers and their Shadow counterparts – and the media commentary on them – does beg a larger question or two.
The headlines (see, for example, The Daily Express, Daily Mail, New Statesman, Sky and BBC News) tell us as much about the commentators as they do about the content, although The Spectator deserves an honourable mention for a deadpan headline that may more accurately reflect general public interest: Small Reshuffle in Britain; Not Many Dead.
What’s interesting about the interpretations and responses is the factionalism – looking for signs as to what the changes mean in terms of which interests, tendencies and allegiances are being advantaged. Accepting – naturally – that organisations are not political parties, there are important points here about diversity and strength, sustainability and vanity (and possibly also the difference between product and branding).
ASK has long held that line managers are critical to enhancing organisational effectiveness, workplace productivity and the transfer and application of learning: their active involvement in, engagement and support for these activities are vital to their success.
In relation to leadership development, we have long been adamant that three things – a focus on behaviour as well as knowledge, the development of self-awareness, and the follow-through and support activities that take place after interventions – must each be aligned with line manager behaviour, reward and recognition strategies and performance management practices. As the results of our Learning Transfer Survey 2012 argued:
The line manager has been identified in the academic literature as more influential in learning transfer than either the learner or the trainer.”
Yet as the survey showed, learning transfer practises that involve line managers remain among the least frequently used. While the earlier 2010 survey had identified:
[…] the ‘gap’ between the trainer, who is accountable for the learning experience, and the learner’s manager, who is necessarily responsible for what happens in the workplace”
and the use of manager-related transfer practises has increased in the intervening two years, the gap is still very much in evidence.
The ‘talent – born or made?’ debate is one of those L&D issues that resurfaces from time to time, although it’s not entirely clear in any empirical sense why this should be the case. Perhaps its longevity as an issue is something that we can chalk down to the power of belief: advocates of each side of the argument could be forgiven – or at least understood – for succumbing to the attractions of their case. One would hope, however, that those working as coaches, trainers, educators or developers might be more swayed by the ‘made’ argument. If not, there is more than a suggestion that they are denying the potential impact of their work – and potential is surely the critical word here – or tacitly abnegating responsibility.
Much of the writing around the debate is drawn from the world of sport. Regular blog readers will be familiar with past posts about Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers (which wrote about hockey players as well as Bill Gates) and former tennis player-turned-journalist, Matthew Syed (whose Bounce remains possibly our favourite book on the subject – and, albeit perhaps inadvertently, about learning transfer.) So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that my eye was caught by the sub-head on a recent article in The Guardian, provocatively titled – at least in it’s original printed form - Born to Win. I could be journalistically witty and say something about ‘Red Bull to a rag’, but the lines that spiked my interest were these:
The ’10,000 hour rule’ now dictates the way many athletes are trained. But practice makes little difference, says David Epstein in an extract from his new book, without the ‘trainability’ gene.”
The tension in my living room is electrifying. Well, it’s not every day you find out you have a bumblebee colony in your back-garden, is it? Only an hour to go, and I can go back to watch them woozily float in and out of their nest, paralytic on nectar, and quietly congratulating myself on allowing them to live in harmony with nature. A quick whizz through The Apprentice Final and I can go back to doing something positive about sustainability …
The first relief comes when Dara O’Briain appears to explain that, despite the TV listings, there won’t actually be two hours of this: the show runs straight into the ‘You’re Hired/Fired’ sequence, where there will be plentiful opportunities for those of us in the remedial stream to revisit the copious learning opportunities that Series 9 has brought us. And demonstrating the serious commitment to business education and the antipathy towards mockery that epitomises the show, the panel includes business gurus and ethical masterminds, Lorraine Kelly and Hugh Dennis. (Has anyone else noticed the percentage of comedians on the You’re Fired panels – I know we’re making entertainment here, but making entertainment of what exactly?)
Five green candidates, hanging on the phone … Yes, it’s the favourite televisual moment of every misanthrope from Maidstone to Motherwell: The Apprentice Interviews, where we get to see someone deluded enough to buy their dreams off eBay proposing a business that consists of other people doing the same. Only with some very dodgy maths, some porky-pie revelations and a welcome return to our screens of Margaret Mountford. (Ma’am, you’re too classy for this, but thank you for dropping by.) If the series is a long canter round a rather predictable track, this episode is the unexpectedly massive water-jump 20 furlongs from the finishing line. And it’s surprising how wet some people can be.
Almost over, everyone. Just one last demented task and then we get the interviews, where we get to see The Blessed Margaret and Claude rip the grins off the candidates’ faces and feed their ties into the shredding machine. As you can tell, my favourite part of the series, most years. It seems a fitting end to the credibility of some of the candidates, as the series they’re operating in long since parted company with its own. (A viewed shared, incidentally, by The University of Leicester’s Professor Martin Parker, who reels in horror at the image of business it portrays and encourages: Continue reading
Harriet Green OBE has many outstanding qualities: attracting attention to her opinions, her abilities and to herself are just three of them, judging by coverage in recent days in The Times and The Telegraph. Her business abilities clearly extend to knowing which elements of a story will capture both an audience’s and a journalist’s attention: her message to other women to contact blue chip company Chairs directly rather than using headhunters or recruitment consultants – and using her own example as evidence of the success of this approach – makes no mention, for example, that she holds an OBE and is a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group. Not everyone who is chipping away at the glass ceiling possesses quite such a diamond-tipped chisel. I hope that it’s not cynicism that leaves me wondering whether chutzpah alone would have been quite so effective.
Oh Jesus, it’s the food episode. I’ve endured eight weeks of having my intelligence insulted, and now they’ve started on my social status and my culinary skills. I am plainly not a ‘busy executive’: before settling down to watch this, I cooked – from scratch, with actual ingredients – chicken breasts in a honey, port and lavender glaze served with an Iranian vegetable dish containing carrots, dates, raisins and pomegranate molasses. I need no more proof that I am not in the demographic for this televisual bun fight: I am just too classy. Hell, I even washed the fork before I jammed it in my thigh so I’d make it through a whole episode …
As 6am rolls around again, the novelty of the early starts is plainly no longer working. Alex is (thankfully) fully dressed as he answers the phone, and the residue … sorry, remaining candidates are chauffeured off to The Gherkin. En route, Luisa reveals a hitherto suppressed talent for comedy, as she complains about being called aggressive. Alex meanwhile frets about why no-one takes him seriously enough to make him PM. Answers on a postcard everyone … Quite why they have to stand in Searcey’s Restaurant to be told ready-meals are big business is beyond me: nor have the r’n’r shots of the Apprentice house shown a lot of chopping and dicing action going down. But Lord S has laid on three top retailers for them to pitch to, and Voiceover Man gets to spout some stomach-turning puns. Most orders placed wins (so price doesn’t matter, I assume?), but they have some ludicrously short amount of time to create a ready meal and – ooh, let me guess – branding. Never saw that coming.