How much room can be left for improvisation in training?

This post outlines my reply during a recent Epsilon Group LinkedIn discussion on “improvisation of training content. The question asked by Pascal Denhaerinck * of ONE Management was:


* You can can find Pascal on Twitter

This is what I replied (although I won’t quote all the previous comments here…)


I focus not on content or on “key messages” but on “desired learning outcomes”

That way, I can:

  • Avoid being the expert who comes with things to impart on the non-experts, but rather a facilitator of learning. Someone who helps the others discover things for themselves…
  • Keep myself concentrated on the end-goal, when we go off in different directions


My particular definition of learning : Acquisition and Implementation of Required Competences

  • Competence is defined as knowledge, skills and attitude
  • Since people acquire competences in different ways, we need to be open to facilitating learning in whichever way is suitable for the participants. Partly, this means being able to detect that style/need before training and partly during training. This will always require flexibility.
  • I think the need to improvise will be more necessary with regard to dealing with attitude and skill learning, than with knowledge. Knowledge sharing can be planned much more precisely (although we will of course need to leave open moments for verification and Q/A).


As we move into the creative GEN-Y 21st century, participants will accept less and less that we come with a script for training

See this short film of a recent young training participant David Smeets (“what is important is that it is not led by a table of contents, but by our needs ….. …and that the trainer is not just an expert”)


The trend now is toward “consumerisation” of learning, at least, according to @ASTD @fredericw @janlaurijssen @C4LPT and the Internet Time Alliance.

  • People will try to create their own “learnscape” where they can get what they need in the way that suits them.
  • If this is in training, then (according to @angler) we will need to modify our approach training to include “features that make hanging out on social sites compelling” (commenting, rating, profiles, tagging, rich media). You can see more on this on my Prezi “Social Media Social Trainer” here – note that the Epsilon session on 14th FEB 2012 (French) will be on this topic.


Then there is the question of leadership styles ….

If you believe in situational leadership, you know you need to adapt your style based on the development level of people. In training, this is applicable in the following way:

  • If participants are motivated, but non-able and non-knowledgeable, you will need to direct them (meaning more prepared content).
  • If they can be coached, you can simply come with a learning objective and get them to figure things out themselves, with your help asking the right questions and supplying a rich learning environment where they have resources and time available
  • Maybe you can even delegate learning 100% – just give them 8 hours and a mission!


And Motivation 3.0 has an impact on training as well…

Regarding DRIVE, if you buy into @DanielPinks ideas on Motivation in the 21st Century (see famous RSA animation on the subject ) then motivation = autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Apply this to training and you need to give participants:

  • A clear mission
  • The chance to figure things out for themselves
  • The possibility of improvement (meaning, time, tools and good feedback process)


Finally, don’t forget: Qui dit apprentissage, ne dit pas forcement formation (meme si c’était le question de depart ici).

…you may also see that I didn’t deal with “implementing” learning here, but that’s for another evening 🙂


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Is Social Media making me Anti-Social?

Proof number 1 … or am I just a lousy networker?

  • I was so busy trying to QR scan a conference member’s badge at VOV that I didn’t even look her in the eye when I said hello… this lasted a very long and afterwards-embarrassing 2 minutes or so.


Proof number 2 … or do I just spend too much time on Facebook?

  • I see less important people on Facebook more often than I see more important people in real life. Like?


Proof number 3 … or am I just a bad brother?

  • I get more status updates about my sister from a friend-of-a-friend on FB than I do from her herself.

Proof number 4 … or am just a sad iPhone freak?

  • I rarely experience real life without at some point pulling out my iPhone to watch it through a lens. See also Proof number 1 and this short film clip on why Louis C.K hates Twitter.


Proof number 5 … or am I heading for divorce?

  • My wife went to bed ages ago and I’m still playing on WordPress !


Don’t follow me on Twitter. Please, it won’t help!

Just leave a comment…


Where are all these Enterprise 2.0 companies?

In a recent conference with @_Synergo in Mouscron I spoke at about Innovation at work. I gave a talk on the New World of Work and Infinite Learning possibilities. You can see the Prezi here:


During the presentation, a lady in the audience asked “But where are these Enterprise 2.0 companies DAN?” I was extremely pleased that a neighbouring audience member said his company was a good example.


Check out this 1 minute film of that man, Luc Lammens, CEO from Centric Belgium talking about how Flat Collaboration and Constant Learning helps his company mutate into something resembling Enterprise 2.0


Thanks for reading

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Is Twitter really good for learning? (reply to @MiekWouters)

Reading @MiekWouters post about Twitter this morning on @KluwerOpleiding blogspot, I’m wondering: WHAT can be learnt on Twitter? Can it really increase competence? These are the questions I spend my time debating with non-Twitter lovers..

If we define competence as knowledge, skills and attitude, its clear to me that Twitter usage/benefits differ greatly per each one…


For knowledge, its really great. I have learnt so many new things via Twitter. The possibilities are endless …which leads to some of the issues with Twitter: How can you filter quality? Are you getting “the whole picture”? Who is right and who is wrong?

These problems are not new with Twitter and can be seen in all knowledge-sharing systems. Some organisations are tackling this issue by defining “knowledge coaches” who act as a hub or connector in the organisation to help people find their way through the masses of available information. Its clear that there is plenty out there, but how can we be sure to get the right stuff in?


Regarding skills, I already think Twitter is not as useful. I of course agree that new skills can be learnt outside of a formal training environment and some Web 2.0 tools are great for this. I recently learnt how to make Scoubidou’s for my 6 year-old using YouTube. If I didn’t have YouTube, I’d have had a crying daughter! …but Twitter already performs less well for me:

  • It is mostly only a hub to other places and therefore not the answer in itself (although its still a great hub)
  • With online skill-learning, it is very important to get feedback on your performance – Twitter can be a feedback channel, but that is not about the technology itself, rather the users using it ..and I think other forms of feedback will always be better
  • All I do on Twitter is share and discuss, not actually practice (unless its communication skills and the ability to make short messages)


I think Twitter can be useful for attitude. It’s a great base for conversation, discovery and sharing. As with almost everything in our creative era, Twitter can give you access to new cultures, new points of view, new information, discussion, border-crossing… This is brilliant news for open-minded people who want to reflect on their own approach, beliefs, processes. In the last few months I have followed some great TwitterChats with @C4LPT and @RealWpLearn on learning in the organisation and “met” some really interesting people with some really interesting views. This allowed me to learn new knowledge, but also to think about my attitude, my assumptions. Twitter is not the only tool for this attitude-based learning – any communication can help – but the sheer potential of the network of people is blinding.


In summary, Twitter is great! …but you can’t learn everything with it.

…fortunately, because I’m a trainer 🙂


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Who loves red monkeys? (survey)

In his work on organizational innovation, @JefStaes talks uses the analogy of red monkeys to describe a new idea. These 2 blog posts outline that idea and deliver results of my recent online survey of 71 people to see who loves red monkeys themselves, in their teams and in their organisations…

I suggest you read the supporting theory first – follow this link.

For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link.


In my survey, I asked people to choose between sets of phrases that describe either the Creator, Pioneer, Follower or Settler change personality. I asked them to choose what best suits themselves, their team/department/close colleagues and their company from the following:

  • I love change! I tend to create change and new ideas myself. When faced with new ideas, I brainstorm to create even more. I throw new ideas and change into the organisation with enthusiasm.
  • I am open to change and take it seriously. When people come to me with new ideas or initiatives, I will help them to test the idea to see how it can work. If it does work, we can introduce it into the organisation.
  • I don’t really like change and new ways of working. I don’t come up with ideas myself. But if its best for me, I’ll do it. Just show me good examples and proof and I’ll do what needs to be done.
  • I am against change. I don’t like changing things, or new ideas. Things would be best if they just continued the same way. Don’t come to me with new ideas!


When dealing with this model in training (in the wider context of introducing change management), we first learn about the red monkey model, then I ask: Which do you think you are most like, your team and your company? Almost every time in training, I get a distribution like this:

…and I would have bet money on the survey giving the same results (fortunately, no-one offered to bet!)

My explanation of these results is something as follows:

  • People like to think of themselves as more creative than they actually probably are
  • No-one wants to think of themselves as anti-change, as a settler
  • People imagine their company to be slow with change, overly bureaucratic and not open to new suggestions. Note that I tend to work for a lot of large corporations and I suspect this could be different if I worked with smaller less structured organisations.
  • There is a mentality of “us against them” in many companies – this leads to the idea that “they” stifle “us”


In my online survey of the 4th November 2011, the 71 results I got give the following impression when stuck on to the red monkey model:

What do I think of these results?

  • I didn’t see the major “my company is a settler” view I expected (good news in my opinion)
  • Maybe asking the question without training/learning doesn’t give people the same feeling of the model as in a training room
  • Individuals still rate themselves quite creative and open to change
  • ..and more so than other people in their organisation


According to @JefStaes the Creators and the Pioneers make up only about 10% of the population. If we imagine my survey respondents (“ME”) to be “the population” of an organisation then we have no followers! This could make for an extremely (read “overly”) dynamic organisational culture!

What are my thoughts on this?

  1. Maybe by chance the people who took the survey are actually part of the 10% in their own organisation
  2. Since I asked via Twitter, maybe I didn’t get so many “Followers” and “Settlers” answering – they are not on the Twitter train yet..
  3. Or, as I already noted: People tend to “mark themselves up” as more creative or pioneering


I’m glad people rate themselves as creative and open to change. I only add (rather cynically, I admit) the following paradox:

  • If you ask me if I’m honest, I’ll say “yes”
  • If you ask me if other people are honest, I’ll say “not always”
  • Everyone replies the same to these 2 questions
  • …but I don’t believe everyone is honest
  • ..but I still say I am! 🙂


Please leave me a comment if you read, took part or enjoyed this survey. Ienjoyed it a lot, but I don’t pretend to know everything here – I’m interested to keep on learning and would love your feedback. I’ve added to the comments myself with 2 email replies already received over the weekend…

For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link



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Who loves red monkeys? (theory)

In his work on organizational innovation, @JefStaes talks uses the analogy of red monkeys to describe a new idea. These 2 blog posts outline that idea and deliver results of my recent online survey of 71 people to see who loves red monkeys themselves, in their teams and in their organisations…

To read the survey results, follow this link.

For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link.


The Red Monkey Analogy

Imagine 2 different ecosystems: a forest and an ocean. In the forest, there are brown monkeys. In the ocean, red fish. Suppose a brown monkey were to meet a red fish. Out of their mating (discussion, creation) would come a red monkey. @JefStaes calls red monkeys new ideas and says that they are created where borders and ecosystems collide.


Creating Innovation

If you want to innovate, says @JefStaes, you need two elements: Creativity (the red monkey) and Entrepreneurship (implementation). If you don’t implement things, nothing happens with the new ideas. But what is more interesting is to find the right way to implement new ideas in the organisation. Otherwise, the red monkey will die.

Example: Drop it in the middle of the forest and the brown monkeys will kill it (they don’t like it, they don’t understand it, “it won’t work around here”); drop it in the ocean and it’ll drown (it’s not fit for the environment yet).


Who love red monkeys?

@JefStaes describes 4 change personalities, starting from the edge of the eco-system and moving inwards:

  • Creators: They create new ideas. They cross borders. They love change.
  • Pioneers: They are open to change. They will take a new idea and test it to see if and how it can work. They can help you to create examples, which you need for the…
  • Followers: They wouldn’t necessarily like to change, but if they can see that the red monkey (new idea, change) is in their favour, they’ll do it.
  • Settlers: Don’t want to change. You need settlers in an eco-system to keep it safe and secure. But they don’t like doing things differently. I compare this to organisational functions like “financial controller” and “compliance”.  Without them, you have no stability. But they don’t like change. They have to be forced to change. Or, like the dinosaurs, they will die when everything around them eventually changes.


With these personalities in mind, you can imagine what happens if a Creator brings his red monkey to one of the other people:

  • C –> Creator: They enthusiastically brainstorm, creating lots of wonderful new ideas that may or may not work. When they are done brainstorming that idea, they will move on to others. Not the best people to actually get things implemented…
  • C –> Pioneer: The Creator has found an ally. The Pioneer has willingness, time and resources to check out the new idea. He will test it, shape it and if the idea is feasible, find good strong working examples of how it can benefit the organisation.
  • C –> Follower: If the idea is not proven, the Follower will not follow.
  • C+P –> Follower: If the Creator tests his ideas with the Pioneer first, now the Follower will accept. He can see how it is useful, he understands the benefits. Its proven, so he accepts.
  • C + P + F –> Settler: Overwhelmed by the force of Creators, Pioneers and Followers, the Settler will give in. Or be forced to change. Or move out. Or die.

Don’t forget: Drop your red monkey into the Settlers and they will kill it. They don’t like it, they don’t understand it, “it won’t work around here” or it’ll drown (it’s not fit for the environment yet). In my experience, the Settlers even sometimes try to kill the idea before it can be taken any further. They will lobby against it, either openly or behind the back of the Creators. In this way, the Settler can be the enemy of red monkeys.


With my online survey, I asked people to choose from 4 sets of phrases describing either Creators, Pioneers, Follower and Settlers. Which ones did they think best described them, their teams and their companies? You can see the results by following this link.


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Leadership resources from a recent Kluwer training

Having just completed delivery of a 4-day Leadership Training with @KluwerOpleiding (thanks @MiekWouters for the chance to have a small group :-)) I thought I’d share the email stream that built up from me to participants over the 4-days. Loads of references here…


References DAY 1


Homework / Preparation DAY 2


References from DAY 2


Homework in preparation for DAY 3

  • Think of a problem you have (professional or personal). This will be used in day 3. You will be asked to state your problem and ask for help…
  • Think of a difficult communication situation or difficult person you have had to deal with (personal or professional)


Here are the references from training DAY 3


Homework in preparation for DAY 4

  • Prepare a 1 minute presentation of yourself – anything is fine, we just need some data to use for a feedback exercise, so no stress!
  • Please think about additional topics to cover in group coaching session in the afternoon of Day 4


References DAY 4


Hope this was interesting

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18 tips for managers to bring change into an organisation

If you are a manager trying to bring change into the organisation, here are 3 main things to think about:

1. How do people react to change?
2. What are the different personalities you can see when introducing change?
3. How can we as leaders do a good job of dealing with change?


This blog-spot lists my training participants’ answers to the 3rd question only…
(For more info on “2”, check out Jef Staes’ work on Red Monkeys here… or follow him on Twitter)


What can I do as a leader to ease change into the organisation?


Maintain good relationships with your people
• Involve people …if possible, let people have an influence on what is going on
• Make no assumptions (about them)
• Be patient
• Treat people as adults (don’t “parent them”)
• Be respectful


Communicate well
• Listen to people
• Take time to answer questions
• Explain vision/strategy/purpose/reasoning etc…
• Discuss things with people
• Underline the benefits for the other person
• Share stories and best practices


Walk the talk and take time for quality change processes
• Be convinced yourself, be honest and lead by example
• Make gradual change – not necessarily slow, but step-by-step
• Find champions and ambassadors
• Identify change-opponents
• Put a feedback process into place
• Give recognition and credit to “helpful change-agents”
• Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!


For other ideas on how to introduce change, check out Peter Senge’s book “The Dance of Change”


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Prezi: How to Build Effective Presentations

My 1st Prezi effort – love this tool!

10 things you can learn from David Brent about running performance evaluations

During leadership training today, we watched some of the BBC series « The Office » and evaluated the boss’ approach to dealing with Performance Evaluation Meetings.

To see David Brent in action, check out part of the episode in question (Series 2, Episode 2) here


There are many different performance evaluation processes and these are not discussed here. Assuming that you, like many corporate employees, are running “classical performance evaluation moments”, read on…


Based on our evaluation of David Brent (good and bad) work, we created a non-exhaustive list of 10 best practices for dealing well with performance evaluations:

  • Explain the purpose of the meeting and have a meeting structure
  • ….it is my opinion that one should deal first with the past, then the present, then the future
  • Focus on the employee being reviewed
  • It’s OK to have a 2-way conversation and to include bottom-up evaluation, but it’s not OK for the reviewer to be self-centred and egoistic
  • Listen well to your employees – give them a chance to express things about motivation, performance, future plans etc..
  • Give constructive feedback, not just encouragement
  • Use a blend of hard fact-driven measures and subjective observation based measures
  • Discuss results and relationships, motivation and performance, competence and behaviour
  • Don’t make career promises you can’t keep …and be careful when you discuss potential evolution to ensure its not understood as a promise
  • Take time to align vision, values and objectives
  • Be calm and patient


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