rotana ty learning circle facilitation workshop dancing cube school paris

On Developing 21st Century Skills at your Workplace

Last week, my friend and learning partner, Anne Marie Rattray @smartco, asked me to have a look at her upcoming blog post ‘Turning ideas into action‘. This is what I did. I got back to her with some feed forward input based on my experience, observation and vision.

“Many thanks to Kirsten Holder, Helen Blunden, Rotana Ty, and Eleonoor Van Gerven for comments and suggestion on drafts of this post. Your ‘feed forward’ input has helped enormously.”

What I appreciate very much in the approach of Anne Marie is the focus on: “developing 21st century skills through small work projects and peer power.”

 This is also what I intended to do as I reflected and shared over this blog post on ceaseless curiosity.
Going back to Anne Marie’s latest blog post, I also believe that her vision and belief are spot on:

In the Do it! phase, the aim is to create and implement a simple action plan. Resources and content (videos, podcasts, infographics etc) are used as aids to thinking and acting. They are knitted into activities in individual action plans that people create for themselves. A suite of simple resources like checklists and guides are suggested to get things going. The intention is that people will eventually develop their own tools and resources.

Putting peers at the centre of the learning experience is pivotal to Tiny Triumph learning experiences. While content and resources are valuable sources of information, it is people themselves who are likely to be the most important source of knowledge and inspiration for each other on a Tiny Triumph learning experience.

 As I noticed via the read of the ebook ‘Modern Workplace Learning‘ of Jane Hart, this modern workplace learning approach is relevant for developing modern professional learners and supporting continuous independent learning.

On (Not) Facilitating Working / Learning Circles

Another observation from Anne Marie’s latest write-up, that got my attention:

“For me, the success of what John Stepper is achieving with the Working Out Loud phenomenon is inspiring and reassuring. It tells me that there are many people out there who have the energy and enthusiasm for self-managing their personal development. They are doing it at scale and doing it together through this grassroots movement.”

When I read that, I thought: well, it is time for me to reflect on experiences I had and have lately.

Wait! What the heck is a learning circle?

“Learning Circles are lightly-facilitated study groups for learners who want to take freely available online courses together, in-person. We believe that anybody can become a facilitator, and whether you want to run a single Learning Circle in your home or organize 100 across an urban library system…” — P2PU, Facilitator Handbook

Over years and recently, I have been curious about learning circles and how they work. Let me share my experiences and takeaways from participating and contributing to learning / working circles without facilitation and ones with facilitation.

On Circles without Facilitation

I went in Paris to a collective presentation of a professional association with people from diverse industries, background and generations. It was about developing communication and English skills through face-to-face learning circles. I was convinced to give them a try.

During two weeks, I have participated to two weekly face-to-face learning circles with a group of 4 to 8 professionals from 35 to 70 years old in Parisian cafés.

The first circle is about improving my communication skills. I pitched yourself, got feedbacks from peers from diverse industries and backgrounds, improved myself and tried again. We discussed further about our stories, postures and body language. The second circle is about improving your English by practising it on professional and personal topics.

For both circles, there are only a coordination phase before and during the gatherings to make it work. There is not really a facilitation / guidance as each group self-directs through Q&As, comments and suggestions to self-improve and improve collectively. No digital tools and visual tools are used for enabling the exchanges between the participants.

They were fun, interesting and insightful ways to improve myself and learn in a self-organized way and without a facilitator. For instance, I learned a lot from the hospitality industry with a general manager of 4 stars Parisians hotels, from the transportation and mobility fields with a marketing director, from social services with an experienced professional, from IT and telecoms from professionals from those industries. They also learned from and with me about modern workplace learning.

Bottom line: I can see that circles without facilitation can work if the group is self-organized, self-determined and self-managed.

On Circles with Facilitation

It is fine for me. I participate monthly to an online Knowledge Café ‘Co-Lab du savoir‘. We are doing so in French with Canadians and other professionals from abroad.

We act more like a think tank to brainstorm together and create an online resource through a collaborative and mindmap tool on topics such as organizational design, machines and humanity, and other few topics. All of that is done with a Canadian professional facilitator, Joel Muzard.

The group is full of professionals in the knowledge management, organizational design and innovation spaces, who come from Canada and elsewhere in our world. In June 2018, we will also do those knowledge cafés in Paris, Montréal and online over 3 weeks and 3 sessions to create inputs and explore the possibilities related to collective intelligence and collaboration, the impacts of artificial intelligence on work, life and ethics, connectedness and governance.

rotana ty collective intelligence collab du savoir knowledge management digital transformation trendspotting workshop canada
Screenshot I took during the yearly collective intelligence event ‘Co-Lab du Savoir 2018′. This event is done F2F (in coworking spaces in Paris, France, and Montréal, Canada) + via the videoconference tool ‘Zoom’ + a mindmap tool.

To me, this another fun and great way to think, learn and do together with knowledge brokers and people who are savvy with digital and aware of trends that impact our world. It is not new to me. I used to participate and contribute to other similar learning circles with facilitation.

For instance, I contributed to the Future For Youth project where we brainstormed, discussed and prototyped on the Future of Education for Youth by Youth with a pluridisciplinary and global team.

rotana ty future of education youth project remote work collective intelligence workshop design thinking

I also designed and experimented online learning circles with professional facilitators of online private workshops when I was involved in a project called Ripples. Our intent was to help individuals to regain their natural curiosity, love for learning, develop their personal growth and resilience via small caring learning communities. For doing so, Ripples offered three ways to join in gatherings of no more than 8 people where people learned with other people in 1 hour private circle via Skype / Google Hangouts or on site workshops. Those intense and inclusive circles were facilitated by one, two or three members of our team.

Bottom line: Working out loud and learning out loud circles can work if:

  • People build on each other ideas.
  • People know who to hear and jump in with valuable insights, experience, thoughts and resources while knowing how to work and learning remotely together.
  • People know how to use third places for doing so and are digital proficient.

Thoughts on Working / Learning Circles with (No) Facilitation

Participating and contributing to learning circles – with or without facilitation – are meaningful ways to actively forge my own insights and knowledge of different industries, cultures, work and learning practices. In this way, I can use what I have learned to advance a project, nurture a new artefact and keep alive my ceaseless curiosity.

Like Anne Marie, I believe that people are very capable of learning together and from each other, without facilitation. Sometimes people need guidance or a little push to participate in circles instead of hearing and observing peers only. I see how different ways are done for facilitating or not circles cost-effectively.

For the circles without facilitation, just pick Parisian cafés to hang out every week and run the circles. The only thing to do is to sit, talk and buy a drink. What is also valuable is exchanges outside / after the circles.

For the circles with facilitation, bring onboard like-minded and self-directed learners / doers, and let the professional facilitator does what he does well. Of course, it involves a personalized toolkit to enable F2F and online circles. It also implies to make sure that people are comfortable with collaborative and communication tools through a personalized and online doing session.

Until a next blog post, I leave you with that question:

How do you engage yourself in professional networks and communities to develop yourself and collectively?

“Engagement skills are a core skill family for all community roles — without engagement fundamentals, it is impossible to understand or influence communities.” — @TheCR

Resources to go further and engage, that may interest you:

Learning Circles https://www.p2pu.org/en

“Learning circles are free study groups for people who want to take online classes together and in-person.”

Working Out Loud Circles http://workingoutloud.com/circle-guides/

“A Working Out Loud circle is a peer support group of 4-5 people in which you ask yourself 3 questions:

What am I trying to do?

Who is related to my goal?

How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationships?”

Knowledge Café http://knowledge.cafe/knowledge-cafe-concept

“In our increasingly complex, fast paced, rapidly changing, ambiguous world, no single leader or individual can know everything or be smart enough alone to address the challenges that face us.

One of best ways to make sense of an issue or challenge and ultimately make better decisions is to bring a diversity of people together for a conversation in a Knowledge Café.”

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