Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Neglected aspects in design for development of people

There is a deluge of ‘canned’ programs in learning and development today. Online tools and techniques will hang out for the ‘convenience’ of the keyboard buffs and corporate clients. Civilisation today is less of heart and more of intellect, they say. In my experience, there are a few aspects I would look at to enable ‘contact’ with reality, or at least those aspects of reality that our senses get numbed to over time. Usually these touch ‘mind-set’ issues. A requisite range of experiences normally helps.
1.       Structure ‘uncertainty’ confrontation through the requirement of ‘choice-making’. i.e. The learner chooses what he or she would do away from the online screen. At least one personal change that the learner would like to make. At more complex designs that require concentration bereft of cognitive biases, one change the learner would like to make in the norms of the group he or she belongs to is a challenge. The consequence of choice is owned by the learner. That is a choice in design of learning too.  

2.       Get to root or core issues.  Although it presents itself as a behavioural issue, seeped in emotionality, it actually may surface from ‘thinking’ skills or the cognitive domain. Do learners ‘frame’ their issues right? Do they argue without fallacies in reasoning? Do they curiously frame questions that get them the information they need? Are they smug in the certainty of the organisational hierarchy? Likewise, do cognitive pursuits get curtailed for lack of emotive expression?
3.       Get to ‘expression’ of self in our times. The outcome is a grounding in an alternate awareness that gives introspective nudge “In what frame of reference am I speaking for myself?” If the learner is a specialist in accounting, can he or she speak on custodianship of ethics from the standpoint of a salesperson? If the speaker is a CEO, can he or she speak as a ‘mentor’ of new talent? If the learner is a high-potential leader, can he or she speak of what it means to belong or identify with a national culture other than his or her own?
4.       Get people to ‘thought’ leadership with sufficient preparation. Avoid the ‘ppt’ or ‘deck’ as aid to present remote ‘information’. Instead, the audience gets a position paper of specified lengths based on primary and secondary research which are cited for others to learn from. Get the learner to immerse in the domain of thought he or she will present. Intimate engagement gets the learner to develop ‘justified beliefs’ – the cornerstone of knowledge.

5.       Involve stakeholders of sustainability, not merely ‘shareholders’ of profit. Agility, self-awareness, interpersonal competence and organisational citizenship based on discretionary behaviors, is born of choice. Only if, learning is done from meeting or exceeding legitimate expectations of the local government and community where the firm is engaged, as also those of customers’ customers and supplier’s employees.  Most significantly, your fellow learner is also a stakeholder, evolving continually into the future.

Action learning is one rich methodology that will aid in this respect. Obviously, this experience goes not only away from the classroom, but a considerable time is devoted away from the online devices that take away from sensing the reality in which competence is required to be built. Am referring here a compelling video from MIT, where Ed Schein also mentions the potency of feedback – it is culturally offensive!
What do you feel? What do you think?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Musing on Risk as action

The accomplished 
Dr. Verghese Kurien passed away yesterday. Some say he orphaned the little girl who appears in Amul advertisements. Social innovation was a huge risk in Dr. Kurien's times. He influenced millions of farmers to cooperate in milk distribution so that animal husbandry became a well supported activity. On my first visit to Gujarat in the 1990s, I desired to meet him, but am glad that I at least got the opportunity to visit the city of Anand to know from up close what the impact has been.Was shown around by my mother's cousin a resident doctor in the area then. He was traveling when I visited in the context of a conference organised by EDI - the Entrepreneurship Development Institute. That was my first brush with entrepreneurship theory and a first-hand exploration too. That was my first paper presentation outside of my alma mater (TISS).

In the same week as of this legend passing away, Kochuouseph Chittilapally of V-Gurad and Veegaland or Wonder-La fame was being honoured by the National Institute of Personnel Management in Kochi on the occasion of its National Conference. 

Mr. Sreedharan of the Konkan railways and Delhi Metro fame was being consulted for his prowess in the same space of time. The contrasts between the 3 profiles, an illustration of risk and innovation ingredients in accomplishments. It is also fascinating that cousins Ravi J Mathai and Verghese Kurien traveled to Gujarat to make their mark on the nation. That some who take risk also innovate may also be true. 

Last week, we went on a social visit to my dad's cousin. Innovative he still is. But risk is not a feature he would take to the marketplace. He has designed and crafted his own furniture, laid marble on the floor himself, developed a functional coconut scraper with his own hands on the welding machine; but he won't sell his ideas nor take it to an entrepreneur. That robs the joy out of doing it he says.
His late elder brother on the other hand was a maintenance engineer in paper factories. He learnt economic aspects of the production process and in his retired life had husk of grain and related material to make for water proof paper, which in bundles, he exported to other countries, from his own backyard.
Perhaps, he cultivated a business orientation during his career, that inspired the output side of his endeavours. 
The younger brother lacked the desire to engage the people in the commercial world. Am not saying the elder one was more adept at risk, but am sure, the brothers defined meanings in opportunities differently.

A friend recently wrote thus : “It has been my experience when moving deeply out of my comfort zone and watching others that it depends what part of a life is being put at risk and how important that part is in those moments.  There is the magic of the pull of the  moment--the taste of the challenge--the internal terror-the adrenalin"...My few bits of learning on this for now as below.
1.     Risk can easily be confused with impulsivity.

2.     Risk is a personally invested experience in the unknowns.

3.     Anxiety can impel risk, it can also grip in ways that control others. 

4.     Intuition and risk being related can make for innovation at times. Reducing risk to a logical procedure of finite steps is mocking at its essence.

5.     Mindfulness may help the self to engage in acts considered risky. Rationality may have little explanation for such choices, as presence in authentic form could augur higher outcomes than one plans for. 

What actions will make for your PRESENCE in our world? Will it be 'risky' to act so?