Workplace learning and innovation: final reflections on a group project

We have now completed our prototype learning resource and, contrary to what I expected in a previous post, it actually looks pretty nifty. This is largely thanks to the dedication shown by our team leader, who has documented in her lively blog (sadly private so I cannot link to it) the way she has used this project to crash-learn some new IT skills. We have some resources and outlines that could be used to enhance reflective practice. I will be interest to see how other teams evaluate it.

At this point, I have to keep reminding myself of the point emphasised at the outset of our task – the purpose of this exercise was to learn about Learning Design, not to produce a fabulous product. This is quite different to how we do things in the workplace – we have to achieve something useful that adds value to our organisation and don’t generally do much purely for learning’s sake. There is a big tendency to “revert to type” and apply the workplace logic to this exercise, which has caused me and others on the team some stress. So my mantra through has been something like “it’s the learning, stupid”.

And this mentality may even have something to teach us back in the workplace. There are jobs around where you do the same thing each day and don’t really learn much, or only slowly over time, but perhaps there are fewer of them than there used to be. I am fortunate enough to have never had a job like that – in every job I have had I have constantly been doing things I have never done before, or things which can be refined and improved. In other words, there has been a constant process of learning, alongside delivering on the job itself. This has reached a bit of a fever pitch over the last year, when I have worked on the development of a radical, exciting new degree programme, really on the cutting edge of innovation. The learning curve has been steep.

As I have previously blogged, I consider myself a fairly reflective person, and I do periodically reflect on what I have learned and how to consolidate it and take it forward. However, what strikes me now is how little of this I really do, compared to the sort of reflection we have been required to do on our design task. There are various reasons for this – commercial confidentiality would not allow me to blog in detail about many of my work experiences and of course we are all under huge time pressure. But this design task (ironically enough focused around reflective practice) has challenged me to bring more of that conscious reflection and learning into my working life. It also makes me wonder – why is reflection emphasised and supported so much in academic settings but so little in the workplace, even as organisations talk about the need to develop their human capital?

The other key point I find myself thinking about at this stage is innovation. At the outset of our current task, we were told that its focus was on a Learning Design approach to innovation. In other words, we learn about designing innovations by designing an innovation. Have we done this? At this point I return to the personal definition of innovation I previously formulated:

““Innovation is a change in the way things are done, born out of dissatisfaction with the way things are. It is driven by the innovator(s) in the belief that it will solve a problem or improve a situation. It is likely to be resisted by those who are content with the current situation.”

In that sense, have we actually produced an innovation? Only in a very small way, in truth. There are lots of resources out there on reflective practice, and we have slightly added to them. I’m not sure it would change the way things are done very much. But in the light of my definition, maybe that is not surprising. This exercise started with us being offered a menu of options we might find interesting. New projects could be created but logistically that would have been difficult. But in the spirit of innovation, maybe should have taken more time to think about and discuss what problems we are burning to solve, or what really makes us dissatisfied at present. Then I think our motivation would have been different and more powerful and we might have had more chance of truly innovating. As it is, we did define the issues and problems we are solving, but it felt a little abstract, with no real shared vision or passion. This is probably down to the limitations of the exercise itself, but one thing I will take away from the project is that the shared vision of a problem to be solved, which everyone buys into, can make all the difference. It is well worth taking the time and effort to build it.



Filed under H817 Openness and innovation in elearning

2 responses to “Workplace learning and innovation: final reflections on a group project

  1. nuala

    Daniel a really good post, do you think that your professional (non study) written reflective practice be changed as a result of your journey on this block? Is this counter cultural?

  2. Pingback: Workplace learning and innovation: final reflec...

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