The power of reflective thinking…

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Reflection, Imitation, Experience

Reflection, Imitation, Experience By Rickydavid on Flickr

I’ve not blogged as much as I used to, partly because I’ve been really busy (or lazy) and my draft posts and rough reflections don’t get finished like they used to (again lazy), but also because sometimes it is worth just taking stock and reflecting on what has happened, what is happening and what needs to happen.

Last year I started a personal journey of reflection which has developed into more of a regular and critical part of my personal learning and development. Going through two restructure processes last year helps you think about what you believe your key strengths are and what you actually want to do and more importantly who you want to be…Part of this story of reflection has already been told, so won’t dwell on it further here, other than to say, focusing on your strengths and understanding them, I mean really understanding what they are is a very powerful and enlightening experience – a process which was supported in a blog post by Kate Hughes on strengths 2.0, where she managed to conduct some kind of online questionnaire to explore some of her strengths. She states…

This approach immediately resonated with me. A weakness I’ve carried through my career is my lack of attention to detail (something necessary in my field). I’ve developed techniques to manage it; re-reading with a fresh pair of eyes, using spell check and asking colleagues to proof read documents I’ve produced. But it always feels uncomfortable for me and no matter how much I kick myself when I make mistakes, I don’t seem to be able to overcome my weakness.
Once I’d identified my strengths (through an online questionnaire that you access through a code in the book) I could see that detail was never going to be my thing and it would make more sense to focus on what I’m good at. According to the questionnaire, my strengths were: Futuristic, Ideation, Strategic, Activator and Significance. I think it summed me up to a tee.

Back in January at #UKGC12 on the second day, I suggested and then spent pretty much most of the day attending a session on “reflective practice”. Initially it was suggested because there was a spare room and I had a bit of a hangover if I’m honest, so the quiet space seemed an ideal opportunity to simply “recover” – the silence, the space, the time was truly valuable.

I remember reading a blog post after UKGC12 by IceRunner which summarised the session held by Lloyd Davis on new kinds of conversations and the value of silence… I really like this quote…

One of the themes that kept recurring was that of ‘nothing’. How the natural pauses became less awkward as time went on, how we strip pauses and filler noises such as ‘um’ and ‘err’ out of a conversation when transcribing it. How ‘efficient’ communication makes no place for gaps, and how much information is contained in the gaps between words; how silence in a song can add an undefinable quality; to what extent our self-image is defined by others’ opinions of us, creating a space within which our self-image exists.

BUT I ended up learning a lot from the silence, the time, the space, the company (although conversation was sporadic and random) it all helped reflect on learning and also a range of other things.

So continuing the theme of reflection – readers of this blog will be aware that I also work part-time with Public-i – This has provided me with a lot of learning and also further reflection and has also helped me understand and prove to myself the strengths that I thought I had are actually real and can be of benefit to other people and organisations…that is a reassuring process which I’m lucky to be able to get.

The double-edged sword of working with Public-i is that on one side I get to be involved in some really fascinating projects which are generally in and around the Brighton area and also meet some very inspiring people in the process…what isn’t to love about this opportunity…on the other hand however for me this has simply inspired me to think about my own local community and how I can and should be doing more to improve it, connect people together and take forward and extending other people’s ideas into my local area. One example project which i believe has huge potential in my community as well as linking with my local school is Casserole (a futuregov project).

I’m hoping we can incorporate this thinking with the school and children’s centre, as we have starting talking about a community kitchen and garden project…I’ve no idea exactly how this will turn out, but we have some ideas, some assets, some resources and importantly some passion to at least see what can happen with it…It is this type of thing that I feel I want to do more of…These kinds of projects which make a real difference on local people. Now I know i can do that with Public-i but not in my local area and that is something which is important to me…It may take longer, it may be more frustrating but if successful my family will benefit directly from it which is why it is worth taking forward.

At this point in time I’m reminded of a great quote from Martin Howitt’s blog on being awesome

I don’t want to be chasing my own dreams on my own. I don’t want to stand out and be awesome.

If I have to sit in meetings all day nudging things forward inch by painful inch rather than being the swashbuckling, disruptive Lone Ranger to make that happen? Ok then.

What I love about Martin’s quote is that he simply wants to make things better, he isn’t after personal glory, he is more interested in being part of a team, chipping away at a wider challenge and pushing things forward, one day at a time…I really admire this viewpoint.

I’ve come to realise, more so in the last year than at any other time in my 16 years working for local government that I really love working for local government – I really do – you’d think that I would have already had that view, I mean 16 years is a long time working for one organisation, but I don’t think i really appreciated what opportunities you actually have to make a difference to other people’s lives.

It couldn’t be a more challenging time to work in local government, it couldn’t be a more financially challenging time, but yet within this context, I am meeting and seeing more and more great people – passionate about doing things differently, thinking differently and full of energy – It is very reassuring and something I thought wouldn’t happen as you see and read about lots of really amazing people leaving the sector and moving on to new challenges.

I’ve also learnt that (and i think this has become more pronounced since becoming a parent) getting involved in voluntary work in my community – I have developed a stronger and deeper passion for my local area and how it can be improved. I feel like I’ve become more of an active citizen and experiencing the projects with Public-i have brought these things into perspective more as I’ve seen and heard from people who are doing exactly that in their community.

The next few years will not be about doing more for less, the same for less or even less for less, it has to and must be about doing things differently. I for one want to be part of the journey and am grateful that I have that opportunity in Devon and in my local community.

The Amazing Technicolour Self Directed Learning Tool

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Yesterday I published a post asking for help from you all to help me develop a Personal and Self Directed Learning Tool. Thank you to those of you who have contributed stuff so far. Today i was making it look a bit better than a simple black and white hand out.

Whilst I was searching for inspiration on the look and feel, I found the Conversation Prism developed by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas, a picture of which is below and the picture will take you to their website which they have developed. I remembered seeing an early version of this back in 2008, it has evolved quite a bit and looks amazing if you ask me.

Now I’m not trying to re-create this directly  – As i’m really after creating more of a subset or alternative viewpoint aimed in particular at Public Sector employees to support their personal and self directed learning. However I have to give credit to Brian and Jesse for the idea and inspiration as I obviously can’t claim what I have done is original, but more of an adaptation. (I’d love to know what software package was used to create the prism as I used Photoshop and i’m not particular good at using it but it does a job)

I haven’t yet gone as far as including the actual tools within my version yet, as i’m still thinking how best to display them, what I like about the conversation prism is the use of the logos, but i’m wondering if that will work for some quite informal public sector forums or discussion groups? Maybe a combination of both will work? What do you think?

Anyway the “hopefully” more colourful version of my tool is below and I have made a decision to have 3 layers representing “professional”, “semi-professional” and “social”. The centre still at this stage represents the “intranet”, however I would hope that in the very near future that this could actually represent the Knowledge Hub, as it very much delivers the same outcomes and facilitates the same journey.

Self Directed Learning Tool - Colour

If you saw the previous version yesterday then you might notice that I have added an additional two headings which are Research and Reflection, this was due to feedback from the workforce development team and looking back at my first scribble, I had actually made a note of these two but forgot to include them – Doh!.

Any comments or thoughts on how you might use this to help colleagues in your council navigate the web for professional or social sites aimed at supporting one or more of the activities around the edges, I’d very much welcome your views.

Can you help? – Personal and Self Directed Learning tool

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I’m working with and supporting the Workforce Development Team here in Devon on creating a framework to help staff support their learning using a Self Directed Learning Style.

WHAT IS SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING?

An estimated 70 percent of adult learning is self-directed learning (Cross 1981). Self-directed learning has been described as “a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others,” to diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, identify resources for learning, select and implement learning strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes (Knowles 1975).

Self-directed training includes the learner initiating the learning, making the decisions about what training and development experiences will occur, and how. The learner selects and carries out their own learning goals, objectives, methods and means to verifying that the goals were met.

Probably the most important skill for today’s rapidly changing workforce is skills in self-reflection. The highly motivated, self-directed learner with skills in self-reflection can approach the workplace as a continual classroom from which to learn.

Supervisors and employees who work together to accomplish formal, self-directed learning in the workplace also accomplish continuous learning for continued productivity and learning.

As part of this framework, I suggested how we might look at Social Media and other social tools to help compliment and support this. The idea I came up with was to display it as a circle, then around the edges have headings relating to a particular activity.   – then starting from the centre – (the very centre currently being our intranet which is the gateway to our online training and elearning) you move outwards to professional based sites/sources – then on to semi professional and finally to the more socially based sites/sources.

Some examples of what I mean are listed below:

  • Professional = CIPD, Socitm, BCS, CIPR
  • Semi Professional = Communities of Practice,  Linked-In Groups, Podcasts
  • Social = Google Groups,  Twitter, Facebook Groups, You Tube

Some will naturally cross over into more than one category but I think that is ok, after all it is a visual tool to help someone see the big picture when it comes to their learning.

I’ve included a blank template version below as i’m after some help and comments about how to make it better and more inclusive, without over complicating it at the same time.

I’ve created a google form to capture what can be included in this tool and would very much welcome your help in identifying the types of sites and networks you currently use to support personal and self directed learning.

Thank you in advance for any help you can offer.