Monday, January 26, 2009

Team Journaling & Action Learning

(This is a follow up to a previous post titled "On the Use of a Learning Journal")

Team journaling extend the journaling concept from the individual to the team. This brings me to action learning. How can we make sure to create appropriate linkages between individual reflection tools and team reflection activities?

Of course, my didactic novel project isn't a team activity so this question applies more to my real job than this project. However, as is often the case, the two are closely intertwined. Here's an example of how things happen:
1) a co-worker is taking a course on project management, reads something about "extreme project management" and somehow associates it with me and my areas of interest;
2) this co-worker and I end up a couple of minutes early in a meeting and he mentions what he was reading to me;
3) I don't know anything about "extreme project management" but based on his explanation it sounds similar to another concept I'm more familiar with, "rapid prototyping". Perhaps they're not that similar but what they have in common is that they reverse a certain number of assumptions about traditional project management or product development approaches;
4) as I later recall this serendipitous bit of conversation with this co-worker, I decide to go check out exactly what "extreme project management" is about -- Wikipedia gives me a start. It has something to do with human interaction management or managing project stakeholders in complex projects. Sounds like this has some potential for what I'm working on. Just enough to spark some new ideas, new connections between ideas.

If I were working in a team, especially a team engaged in an action learning project, I might be sharing some of my thoughts about extreme project management with some team members. I might ask if anyone on the team has heard of it, seen it in action, or sees any relevancy or application to our work.

How much learning is going on in a team may depend on the extent to which individual members have this "x might be interested in this" type of reflex, followed up by "let's send him/her a note about it" or "I'll mention it to him/her when we cross path at the meeting today." Two things need to happen: 1) co-workers need to have a good sense of each others' areas of interest and areas of work; and 2) co-workers need to see the benefits of follow through, the second step.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On the use of a Learning Journal

This blog is essentially a learning journal. Typically, a learning journal is a private journal. This blog is therefore the public/sharable version of a learning journal and my recent focus on a particular didactic novel writing project makes it currently focused on that.

As I've probably mentioned in a previous blog post, I am highly challenged with regards to organizing my notes. I use a dozen different methods of keeping track of thoughts, references, reflections, books to read, articles of interest, etc... The result is complete chaos.

Instead of viewing this "chaos" as a problem, I've decided to temporarily assume that there's nothing wrong with what I am doing. Let's call it a decentralized approach to note taking.

As a side note, I was introduced to the concept of "indirect proof" this week -- yes, your child's geometry homework is a potential source of learning and inspiration. An "indirect proof is a type of proof in which a statement to be proved is assumed false and if the assumption leads to an impossibility, then the statement assumed false has been proved to be true." (Mathematics Dictionary)

So, if I start with the assumption that what I refer to as chaos is a good thing, where can I logically go with that. How good is it? Do I need more chaos? Do I need to refrain completely from trying to keep notes in any organized fashion? Do I need to stop worrying about it? None of these appear to be silly questions to me, so what if I pursued this line of reasoning a little further.

Why would I want my notes to be organized? Do I ever re-read them? Not really. I benefit from them primarily because of the thought processes that went into actually writing down something. If I ever end up re-reading them, I won't be looking for something specific, I will more likely be looking for a source of inspiration. It won't matter if my thoughts are captured on 10 different tools and in 20 different files as long as I know what these things are and where to find them. Right?

I will now commit to not obsessing so much about the chaotic nature of my personal reflections and notetaking habits. :) I will not try to stick to a single "learning journal". I will, however, revisit the personal learning environment map I had created a while ago to keep track of the many notebooks and tools I use.

Some resources on professional journaling:

* Journaling for Learning
* Writing a reflective learning journal
* Keeping a professional journal
* Journaling Portal

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Fiction of Development

If I were to trace my interest in didactic fiction to a specific thing it might be a paper I read a few years back " The fiction of development : knowledge, authority and representation". It influenced a lot of the fiction I read, it introduced me to the idea of using fiction as a teaching tool, and it turned me on to seeing my interest in fiction writing as something I might be able to use in my professional life rather than simply as a personal hobby. I consider it a professional hobby -- if there is such a thing.

The books listed below are not what I would classify as didactic fiction, yet they definitely teach you something.
  • Brick Lane, by Monica Ali
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  • The Inheritance of Loss, by Kirin Desai

Friday, January 02, 2009

Didactic Fiction

What's didactic fiction?
Didactic fiction is fiction with a message. It is fiction that tries to do more than entertain the reader. It is meant to share a message. The primary objective is to teach something and storytelling is the method chosen to convey that message.

Didactic fiction I have read (so far)
  • Jack's Notebook: A Business Novel about Creative Problem Solving, by Gregg Fraley

  • Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield

  • The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox

  • The Deadline: A Novel about Project Management, by Tom DeMarco

  • Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, by Spencer Johnson

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick Lencioni
This turned out to be an interesting mix of didactic topics and writing approaches. I now need to read Steve Denning's Squirrel Inc: A Fable of Leadership Through Storytelling.