Sunday, November 22, 2015

Concept Mapping and 508 Compliance

In the process of preparing a short presentation on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for my Toastmasters club (Space Speakers), I was reminded that concept maps and mind maps are not 508 compliant when they are presented in the form of an image, such as the example below.  Obviously, alt text isn't going to be adequate to convey all the information presented on the map.

Concept map with key words associated with learning, covering the alphabet.
Click to enlarge the image.

Here is my attempt at translating the map back into machine readable text.

Learning is about...sharing, which is about learning with others and exchanging knowledge.... and knowledge, because data and information are never enough and wisdom is just a mirage.. and it's related to teaching, because there is no better way to learn than to teach. ...sharing through the Internet, because there is no end to learning on the Internet and no end to the number of people we can learn from in our network... and network, because we learn from people in our network, people we interact with.

Learning is about... habit, because learning is enhanced with a habit of daily reflection, and reflection because without reflection there is only rote learning, which doesn't have much value... reflection enhanced with mapping, my personal learning hammer:  there is nothing a map can't help with but mapping isn't the answer to everything... and questions, because asking the right questions leads to more/better learning.

Learning is about.. games because learning should be fun, like juggling.  How would you learn to juggle?  That's a question I ask to get people talking about how people learn.  Can you learn by watching someone juggle?  V is for vicarious learning because I just learned that concept today and if I write it down I'm more likely to remember it tomorrow.. and writing towards wisdom, because writing forces clarity of thought and therefore strengthens learning.... writing which can end up in books, found in the old-fashioned local library, because walking through the stacks reminds me of how much I still have to learn.  X, Y and Z stumped me.  Did you know that the only word that has all three letters is hydroxyzine.  It's a antihistamine.  Here you go, I learned something new.

Learning is about .... oxytocin, because between dopamine and oxytocin, there is still a lot we don't know about how the brain works and how learning is linked to emotions.  D is for dopamine.  I may be a learning junkie.  I crave learning and Nutella... which is related to cognitive cycology (not a typo); see also cycology therapy, which recommends getting on a bicycle and going on a ride to clear one's head and let the mind do its job so that ideas can percolate, because it's my favorite word and it makes me think of coffee, which is my favorite drink.

And finally, learning is about... experiments, because that's my approach to learning in the kitchen and in the garden, where it's safe to have failures, because failures are best seen as an opportunity for learning, and unlearning, because not everything we learn is good for us.

Sounds like a non-sensical poem that doesn't even rhyme, doesn't it?

As a side note, this was an exercise prepared for Jane Hart's excellent "How to Become a Personal Learning Advisor" workshop.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Working Smarter to Address Wicked Problems

 When we face wicked problems and it feels as if we've tried everything to fix them and nothing seems to work, it's easy to walk away. I admire the courage of those who stick with it and keep fighting. I wish I could help them.  There has to be something I can do.

We need to find ways to work smarter.  We need double-loop learning, we need to reassess our assumptions, our entire models.  Terrorism is a wicked problem. The solution isn't more of the same response. We need a smarter response.  And we need to accelerate our ability to learn and adapt, whether it is to keep ahead of the competition or to defeat a constantly morphing enemy.

Unfortunately, it can be a matter of life and death.

Quick Definitions

Wicked problems: A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.  The term was coined by Horst Rittel.

Double-loop learning: "Single-loop learning" is the repeated attempt at the same problem, with no variation of method and without ever questioning the goal.  Double-loop learning requires changing underlying values and assumptions to redefine the goal. The term was coined by Chris Argyris.
What to Read

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Learning from Others

I was attending a post-KM World conference event on Friday where one of brainstorming activities involved helping an organization (in this case the International Olympic Committee) think through which other organizations it might be able to learn from.  We had an interesting, if somewhat unfocused, small group conversation.  Upon further reflection, I decided to clarify my own thoughts about how organizations can identify others to learn from, even when they think of themselves as rather unique.  Here's the map of my reflections on the subject.

Click on the image to enlarge/open in other tab.

Very similar questions can be asked from different perspectives:

  • Are we unique as a project?  What other projects, internally and externally, can we learn from?
  • Am I unique as a consultant?  What can I learn from other consultants in my field or beyond my field?
I think of these questions as slightly different from traditional benchmarking.  In particular, I would not want to limit the scope to a particular field of industry for learning.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Mapping Your Reading Reflections

Mapping can be used for many different things.  One of them is to take notes on readings.   The map below was done very quickly based on an article from the Harvard Business Review.  

What can I say about this map:

1) I used the article's headings and made it very simple to synthesize the content;  You could say that I didn't do a good job of synthesizing the content if the intent was to share the key messages of the article.  Headings don't always make a full story; 

2) I focused only on a few key thoughts that popped up while I was reading, mainly where the text either resonated with my own experience or failed to resonate.  The use of color is minimal and meant to put the emphasis on my own insights/reflections.  

Click on the image to enlarge/open in other tab or window.

3) I suspect that if I had read the article one more time and spent 20 more minutes with the map, I would have come up with a couple of additional, perhaps deeper insights.

Friday, October 30, 2015

KM and Design Thinking

Some thoughts generated by a meeting of the Knowledge Management Association (KMA) - DC Chapter on October 30th with a presentation/discussion with Arno Boersma and Barbara Bitondo:

  • The session was titled "Why Design Thinking Will Save KM".  I was reading “design thinking” and my brain was registering “systems thinking” until the day of the event. Essentially, we’re talking about a different way of thinking about KM.  KM could benefit from both design thinking and systems thinking if they were integrated in some way.  That will require more percolations. For now I see design thinking as an interesting way of applying a new way of thinking to get us possibly unstuck from the general “KM is dead” malaise. KM has been supposedly dead or dying for as long as I've been in this field (close to 20 years) so I'm not too concerned. Sometimes as a cadre of professionals, we may need to unlearn, get rid of our assumptions and what we believe we’ve learned.
  • What’s special about design thinking? The focus on the people, the end-users.  The term end-user suggests that there is a KM “system” to be used.  User experience also suggests a system or tool to be “used.”  If we want to focus on people, I think we need to focus on how people think, how they use their brains, not how they use any specific tool or system.
  • If design thinking can help KM folks understand how people behave around information and how they create and share information to generate knowledge, that’s great.  I’m a little skeptical about simply observing what people do because there is a lot going on in someone’s head that doesn’t necessarily show up in observable actions.  There would be added benefit, however, in asking people to think about how they handle information and how they share their knowledge.  Can we apply cognitive task analysis (CTA) without making it all about how they navigate a website? In the end, the task may not involve “using” anything other than their brain and their voice in a valuable conversation over coffee (See Chris Collison’s article “Is this Knowledge Management’s most effective tool?”).
  • In the spirit of learning from other disciplines and cross-pollination, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look again at theories of adult learning/andragogy.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel there either by starting from scratch with design thinking.
  • Agile this, agile that, and finally, agile KM.  Is that not the same as applying the rapid results methodology to KM?
Here is the corresponding map for this post.  Unfortunately, I can only publish the maps as images at this time and therefore the links embedded in the map will not work.
Click to open in a separate window and enlarge.