Thursday, 12 April 2012

Walking Before You Run

Now nature has a pretty standard way of working these things out.. by design we don't just drop out and run from day 1.. but why is it we never seem to carry that same and simple principle into other aspects of our life and then wonder why we don't succeed? First we watch others [check], then we try a few tentative steps ourselves [check], blah blah blah [don't bother], run full pace as an expert! [check.. err.. epic fail]. There's an evolution to e-learning, m-learning and learning technologies just the same as everything else and we kind of have to earn our stripes before we can launch into the stratosphere of all things e and learning.

Okay, so the most common of these 'I want to run' issues I hear is the desperate need to have everything e-learning working on an iPad or iPhone before even having any e-learning content, let alone a strategy for implementing e-learning. I agree that m-learning is a big deal and that you will definitely want this to be a future avenue if you're serious about learning, but let's get your training wheels fitted before we worry about what the Olympic cyclists are doing.

I remember as a lowly yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do in my youth getting to spar against the Hong Kong champion at the time (yes, a while back). It was an awesome experience and I enjoyed the opportunity to get a glimpse at what could be rather than thinking if I can just land a decent shot here...! Truth is no-one wants to be a beginner but there's a reason why we have to go through the stages. You need to learn about defending yourself long before you learn the killer attack. Same is true in a learning scenario; you need to have some grasp around the potential of e-learning (and its pitfalls) long before you can write a killer HTML5 learning piece.

The best way to get in to something is to with some planning for sure, but remember that whatever level of planning you are putting in place, you need to accept the universal truth that you simply do not know what you do not know. This means that you can plan an e-learning pilot, but be prepared to find out something that you weren't expecting along the way. Some of the best scientific discoveries of our time have come when we've got an unexpected result, same is true for e-learning and certainly you have to walk that walk before you'll know. The morale here is to put as much time into evaluating what you've found out as you did in to trying to plan. If you didn't plan and just jumped in with both feet (been there, done that) then that's fine too - just expect even more learning opportunities!

The other running example from e-learning babies is when they tell you exactly what an LMS should and shouldn't be able to do based upon the experiences of someone else. How can you possibly know the best way that an LMS can do things if you've never had one before or you've seen one working in a totally separate organisation? The truth is you can't; that's one of the reasons I like to set up pilots and sand-pits for people looking at Totara LMS. Sure, have a play and let me know how you get on.. If you're asking for customisation on day one you should stop and ask yourself why are you so set in stone on your processes; particularly if all this stuff is new to you. Of course you may just have a bad LMS and are in desperate need of upgrading to Totara!!

My advice here is that although we always want to run from the get-go, we have to walk a little first and take small steps along the way. If you come from an organisation that was running and enter a new organisation that hasn't done that yet; they may have brought you in because of that, but remember this is a race you can't run alone.. and you can't make a bunch of babies run with you if you want to succeed. Maybe you've done this many times before (I have!) but the others around you need to feel save to toddle, waddle and walk before they run or they may form opinions about the way ahead that could be damaging for themselves and the whole organisation in the long 'run' :)

Here's the moral for today; it's okay to not be great at something when you first start out, it's okay to develop and learn and pick-up pace, it's definitely okay to make a few mistakes along the way and you should be able to do this in a place you feel safe enough to fall down. If not, something's wrong with your environment, your 'advisor' or the people you run with.

If you need advice on how to crawl, walk or run ahead, I'm always happy to help: @NigelKineo on Twitter or Nigel Young on Linked-in or.. ahh.. you'll find me..

no babies were hurt during the writing of this blog and any reference to fighting is purely anecdotal ;)