It’s great to learn, socially

Funny Monkeys - courtesy of Afranko.com

Funny Monkeys – courtesy of Afranko.com

I mentioned in my previous post how my new role has seen me move into a new team and help with the build of our brand new learning platform. Being part of the colleague development team we need to have our fingers firmly on the pulse and actively seek new ways to engage our colleagues and pull together the next great piece of content.

In this new team I have the pleasure of working alongside a wonderful colleague by the name of Jo Mason (please do me a favour and say hello to her next time your online). Jo is something of a learning and development guru here at Bromford (she’ll be pretty embarrassed when she finds out I wrote that). That said Jo is so humble and honest in her ways that she’d quickly tell you that she is always learning and striving to hear more of what others have to say.

So, a few weekends back we put that to the test. Jo and I hitched a little plan and decided to reach out to our twitter audience in the hope that the people we know could help shape some of our learning content for us.

We’d hoped that posting a few tweets would be enough to get a few responses and help shape how we pull this together, what happened next was phenomenal.

More than 30 people got involved with over 70 responses in just 1 day! We had people sharing personal thoughts, ideas, suggestions, web links and pictures. We’d really struck a chord. What’s great is that people gave up their personal time to help us out. Some replied early morning, some during lunchtime and others into the evening – oh and did I mention this was on a Sunday too?!

The point is that people are willing to share and learn from one another at whatever time suits them, at whatever pace and in a style that they feel most comfortable in using – whether that’s through type, file sharing or imagery. This is social learning working at its best – for you!

Thanks again to everyone who got involved in #stresslesstips – click on the link below to see what we produced with all of your wonderful creations.

Andy and Jo

http://www.haikudeck.com/-stress-less-top-tips-how-to-presentation-YBYSgrHBKF

If you’ve any #stresslesstips of your own, or have an idea for a piece of learning we could work on in the future, please let me know in the spaces below.

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Are you ready to adopt social learning?

Are you and your organisation ready to take up the educational ‘phenomenon’ that is sweeping around the globe? Social learning is one of those buzz phrases that so many of us seem keen to adopt for fear that missing out would see us finger-pointed into a corner of humiliation.

OK, I’ll be honest with you, social learning is nothing new. In the workplace colleagues have been learning from one another at the drinks machine, break areas, hallways and in meeting rooms from day dot.

However, digital platforms are the thing that are propelling social forward. Twitter is a perfect example of this:

Connections need not be a million miles away.

Connections need not be a million miles away.

Vicky makes a very good point here; social media gives us an opportunity to connect with people who we may have never met before but may have a raft of knowledge to pass on – yet some of these people could only be a stones throw away from us.

I’m sure many of you know of my admiration for social media and the desire to learn something new. I enjoy learning, yet very little of my schooling is done in what some would see as a working bubble of a 9-5. In fact hardly any of my learning these days is done within a traditional classroom environment and I think this is becoming the general shift for many of us.

“The more talented people we have, the more we can accomplish, so we should make a habit of helping one another all of the time.”

It seems that our approach to learning is gradually changing – although some of us may not recognise it just yet. It’s far too easy to highlight to your manager, or your manager to you, that you’ve some personal development that’s required and to put your name forward for a new course. But why? Surely there’s someone across your office, in the next building or working out on site that has the answers to the questions you ask? And why is it we make a habit of going to a recognised trainer or senior colleague? Thom Bartley makes a great point in this post that the knowledge and experience we seek could just as easily be from a new colleague as someone who epitomises a part of the office furniture. So why not go to them – after all most of us use digital networks for referrals in our everyday lives.

Not convinced?

Think about your next holiday; do you go straight to the travel agent and go with the first break the advisor suggests? If you’ve not been to the destination before it’s highly unlikely. Chances are you’ll head over to websites such as Trip Advisor to check out the thoughts of like-minded travellers and see what they have to say.

Now, think about your next online purchase from a site such as Amazon. You think you know the product you want but then notice the average rating is less than 3 stars – the likelihood is you’ll not be buying that after all. So instead you look for something rated as 4 or 5 stars, you want products with reviews that match your needs and answer those questions that the product’s details seem to have over-looked.

If you’ve experienced either of these two scenarios then you’ve got the basic concept of how digital social learning can work for you.

Learning can be delivered in a variety of ways.

Learning can be delivered in a variety of ways.

Through online communities we can pick and choose what we want to learn and where we go to for that information. We can rate and comment on resources and contribute in determining what’s the most important and effective learning for us. We can add and share the best learning content, we can learn where we want, when we want and at a pace that suits us best.

So, here at Bromford we’re taking the next steps to provide our colleagues with a platform which we believe will help colleagues in their learning. We’re offering a blended approach to their personal development; videos, e-learning, podcasts, how-to-guides – a wide range of styles. And to bring all of this learning together, and for colleagues to share in their experiences, we’ve integrated a social learning community within the site.

“One size fits all is great when you’re buying a pair of gloves, but that just doesn’t work for learning.”

The great benefit of a social learning platform is that it organises the learning process by collecting information and making it accessible to all through communities. Once collected and shared the information can be used to determine behavior, establish rankings, popularity, value, usefulness and help shape future learning content.

We all respond to different styles of learning – so what we’re doing with the communities is providing an alternative path to colleagues’ personal development, a platform for sharing and discussing learning and best practice from the people who know our business best; our colleagues.

Business lessons from a toddler!

Last Thursday I had the absolute pleasure of being part of Bromford’s final Future Fifty event with guest speaker, CEO and founder of Ella’s Kitchen; Paul Lindley.

The day was the finale in a series of events that we hosted and it marked the anniversary of Bromford’s first ever Board Meeting in November 1963. In reflection of this we brought together old friends, colleagues and board members to hear from Paul, our CEO Mick Kent, see the launch of our YouCan Foundation and listen to some inspirational stories from a couple of Bromford’s customers.

Paul seized his opportunity to reflect on the significant milestones of the past 50 years and talked us through what he felt had changed, and hadn’t, during this time. You can watch the live-stream of the event again through our YouTube channel. But one of the highlights for me came in the second part of Paul’s presentation where he talked about the future of entrepreneurship and leadership. This was it for me, this is the thing that hooked my smile and I think caught everyone’s imagination around the room.

Is it the childlike behaviour or the Superman baby-grow that does it?

Is it the childlike behaviour or the Superman baby-grow that does it?

So here are Paul’s 6 business lessons from a toddler (with a few descriptions from me):

Never give up
How many times have you said to your children, or heard others say to theirs, to stop doing something – yet the little ones continue in their quest to do as they originally intended. Nothing will get in their way! For me, the determination of these little humans is unparalleled.

Be creative
Just this weekend I took delivery of a few Christmas presents that I’d purchased from an online book store. When my daughter copped her eyes on the said box her immediate reaction was; “Daddy a robot”. No, she hadn’t gone mad. She’d seen the cardboard surround as much more than just a box, she wanted me to turn it into a robot suit that she could wear. Don’t you just love that creative spirit?!

“Be childlike not childish in your work; have fun and be creative” ~ @Paul_Lindley

Get noticed
Kids are the life and soul of pretty much every family gathering. They stand out in every supermarket, are the main reason we make so much of Christmas and you’re likely to hear them before you’ve even seen them! Kids quite simply like to get noticed – no different from all aspiring colleagues and businesses I guess.

Be honest
Sometimes we don’t like to hear the truth, but if we’re not prepared to listen how can we possibly learn and move forward? Similarly we need to be honest with others, if they ask for feedback, are looking for advice or want your opinion – tell them what you really think. Toddlers have to be some of the most honest people you’ll ever know – they’ll tell you how it really is.

Show your feelings
Much like the honesty point above, it’s not often we will say to others how we really feel – but we should. We should open up more to other people, let them know if we’re feeling low and when we’re not ‘in the room’. A child is much the same, they will tell you when they’re hungry, when they are hurt and when they’re feeling poorly and could do with a hug – now, how good is a hug!

Use different strategies
Why do we continue to do the same things in the same ways time and time again? We tend to know what our objectives are and yet, despite our commitment to get the best result possible, continue to go about it in the same way we always have. Now, how often do we see children climb over things, go under things and around things that we say they shouldn’t? Is it really so wrong or should we just allow them to take on a new challenge just as we would want for ourselves and our customers?

“Some advice to new business: always, always be a toddler” ~ @Paul_Lindley

Being a parent to a 3 year old I totally get these points from Paul. So let’s cut through the waffle and the jargon and align our approach to business through the eyes of a toddler.

I’ve come up with a few extra of my own which I’ve turned into a Haiku Deck. What do you think? Are there any that you can think of that you’d like to add? Go on be honest, be creative, show your feelings and get yourself noticed!

Just to remind you that the recording of the live-stream from the event is available on our YouTube channel where you can see all of Paul’s presentation. You can also see the launch of our YouCan Foundation, hear from two of our customers whose lives have been touched by the work that we’ve done, and see an ‘interview in hashtags’ with our flamboyant leader; Mick Kent. You can also follow the tweets from the day in the two Storify’s we’ve put together here and here.

 

If you’re interested in reading more from Paul Lindley, his new book “Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler” is available to order now from Amazon.

Are you ready to Mo?

Today is the 1st of a new month, but not just any month – it marks the beginning of a month formerly known as November. Once again I’ll be sporting the fur across my upper lip in the name of Movember, here’s why I do what I do:

On average, men die at a significantly younger age than women – the average life expectancy for man in the UK at birth and at age 65 is lower for men than women however there is no biological reason for this. The reasons for the poor state of men’s health in the UK and around the world are numerous and complex.

From Movember’s perspective the reasons for the poor state of men’s health include:
• Lack of awareness and understanding of the health issues men face
• Men not openly discussing their health and how they’re feeling
• Reluctance to take action when men don’t feel physically or mentally well
• Men engaging in risky activities that threaten their health
• Stigmas surrounding mental health

Movember aims to change the face of men’s health and reverse this way of thinking by putting a fun twist on this serious issue. Using the moustache as a catalyst, we want to bring about change and give men the opportunity and confidence to learn and talk about their health more openly and take action.

Using scary stats to motivate people is not how we roll at Movember, but the facts below are too startling to ignore…
• Men have a 14% higher risk of developing cancer than women and a 37% higher risk of dying from it
• Around 2,300 men in the UK were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010
• More than 100 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every day in the UK
• 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
• Suicide is the single most common cause of death in men under 35
• 25% of men in the UK were categorised as obese in 2011 compared to 13% of men in 1993
• Since 1996 the number of people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes has increased from 1.4 million to 2.9 million
• In England more men than women have been diagnosed with diabetes. 6.3% of men reported that they had diabetes and 5.3 % of women
• Smoking causes around 87% of lung cancer deaths in men in the UK compared to 83% in women
• A study published in December 2011 estimated that smoking causes nearly a fifth of all cancer cases in the UK
• Men are twice as likely as women to abuse or become dependent on alcohol
• A quarter of deaths of men under 34 can be attributed to alcohol
• 6% of men in the UK are “at risk” drinkers – someone who drinks more than 51 units a week

The above information is taken directly from the Movember UK website. You can read more here.

So, please help me and my team to make a difference to men’s health – and do your part in helping us to spread the word.

Andy x

The Mo' crew of 2012

The Mo’ crew of 2012

The Bromford DNA, Let It Be

This is my latest post that first appeared as a guest article over at All Things IC courtesy of Rachel Miller (thanks again Rachel). I hope you enjoy it.

*The Fab Four - can you name them?

*The Fab Four – can you name them?

I wonder how many of us could name The Beatles? My guess is that most would name the Fab 4 without breaking a sweat, right? Now, how many of us could reel off our company’s mission statement, vision and values without hesitation? Not so easy is it.

Anybody that follows me on twitter, reads my blog or knows me personally would have almost certainly heard me bang on about the company that I work with and how much I love it! Like The Beatles we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary here at Bromford and it’s been during this milestone that we’ve opted for a cleaner and more leaner approach of inspiring people to be their best.

We’ve ditched the tradition of a mission statement, a blurred vision and an exhaustive list of values. Instead we look for colleagues to work with us who share our newly launched DNA; Be Good, Be Brave, Be Different and Be Commercial, our very own awesome foursome!

Our very own 'Fab Four'

Our very own ‘Fab Four’

Just this week, 6 months since their launch, a number of leaders from across Bromford (including me) were presented with a challenge; to go and investigate our DNA and then feedback to a wider audience what we found. We were asked to visit other teams, see how colleagues are embracing ‘the Be’s’, look at how they are bringing them to life and to, well, Be Nosey!

The day arrived and we had our usual army of tweeters and yammerers (is that the right word, do we even have one yet? If not let’s invent one!), who were on hand to pledge their support and give real-time updates to those who couldn’t be in the room. We were treated to a great variety of presentations ranging from videos to Haiku Decks, a specially built website to a live recording of a podcast! The session was absolutely brilliant; not only did it showcase the wealth of talent we have across Bromford, it also gave us insight into our teams that may have only surfaced previously during lunch breaks and through team meetings.

So for me, someone who relishes a challenge and wanting to #BeBrave and #BeDifferent, I prepared my findings in a unique and inexpensive way. I presented back through our first ever Bromford comic book.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

The comic’s content is taken from video screenshots of our HR team’s away day. What really stood out for me is the fun and engaging way in which colleagues were able to represent and demonstrate the respective Be’s from their team’s viewpoint. Inspirational lyrics, poems, amateur dramatics, avatars and future gazing – this team had it all, and don’t forget they were talking about something that had just replaced all that corporate jargon we used to have!

Now, how many of you reading this can honestly say that your mission statement, vision or values truly enable your colleagues to bring them alive in this way? Will they still be circulating like the Beatles are now; 50 years since they formed? We certainly hope that our new approach will stand the test of time and who knows, we could still be talking about our DNA come our 1st century!

If you’re interested in hearing more about our DNA and the #BeNosey challenge, visit our website and keep checking back for updates as they are released.

*Credit for The Beatles image goes to artist Meredith Kresge. Prints are available to buy here.

Stories in Music

The last few posts I’ve written have concentrated a lot on my leadership experiences but this time I wanted to take a different direction, so I’ve taken inspiration from the creative mind and wonderful stories of a fantastic colleague of mine; Steve Nestor (if you don’t follow Steve on social media I strongly recommend that you do).

If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that in the last month or two I’ve started to creep more of my personal interests into my tweets, it’s a decision that I made on the basis that I used to have two twitter accounts – one for personal and one for professional – but then I thought;

“Hey, there’s only one me!”

Followers of mine, who don’t know me well enough already, are soon starting to realise that I love my music. I buy lots of it, I download it, stream it, listen to it at concerts, festivals and clubs, I follow many DJ’s, bands, record labels and online publications, and thanks to my love of music I have many, many happy and fond memories associated with it.

So, because of this passion I wanted to create something different and here it is; my first Haiku Deck. This has been made on the principal of the ‘less is more’ approach and I’ve kept the text to a minimum (just 80 words, I think I counted). I’ve taken my love of music and curated a short story for you. It’s somewhat fictional but does echo sentiments of where I’ve been personally and where I see things in my life at Bromford right now.

I hope you enjoy.

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/t1DKvvnRT6

(sorry but I can’t embed my Haiku Deck at the moment so this link will have to do, if anybody has any ideas how to get around this please let me know)

A Chic approach to success

Chic at Glastonbury 2013

Chic at Glastonbury 2013

Glastonbury, arguably the world’s largest festival, came to a close last weekend with veteran rockers The Rolling Stones drawing the curtains on an estimated 135,000 fans. I’ve not yet seen all of the coverage but did catch a couple of performances from the Friday night and one band stood out for me by a country mile.

Chic played on the West Holts Stage to a packed crowd, belting through a series of hits such as Everybody Dance, Good Times and Le Freak. But what surprised me most was the back-catalogue of hits and interludes that followed. These included (amongst others):

Let’s Dance – David Bowie
The Sugarhill Gang – Rappers Delight
Like a Virgin – Madonna
We Are Family – Sister Sledge
I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
Get Lucky – Daft Punk

Not only was I taken aback by the songs they performed but even more so that I came to learn that all of these hits were either personally written or co-written by Chic frontman; Nile Rodgers.

After I’d finished dancing and prancing around my living room I took a seat (and a breath) on the sofa next to my daughter and reflected on what I’d just witnessed. Yes the music, dancing and costumes were brilliant. The sound and lighting looked great too, and a special mention goes to the larger than life Welshman in the crowd, pint of beer in hand, who happily sang along to Chic’s version of Madonna’s Like a Virgin. But I’d now started to think about what I could learn from Nile Rodgers’ genius.

Although I’ve dabbled in DJ’ing and attended plenty of concerts and nightclubs in my time I am by no means a musical expert but, having watched that performance and learnt a little more about Chic, I realised I could apply something from them to my career. Chic have demonstrated brilliantly that you don’t need to be constantly blinded by the media limelight to be at the top of your game; leadership and influence come in a range of guises.

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, some 30+ years ago

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, some 30+ years ago

For Nile Rodgers and Chic it was about being part of a collective; a production team that has this inspired ability to work with a whole host of individuals to deliver a series of successful hits, the world over.

These guys have built a résumé for themselves that is not only glittered with some astonishing personal achievements but one that is adorned by some of music’s greats; some of the best in business who simply have to work with them – not just them with they.

You see, to be successful in business it’s not always about being the Rolling Stones of Glastonbury who (deservedly so) took all of the pre-festival headlines, it’s as very much about; the consistent performer; the team-player; the flexible approach; the diverse talent; the innovative architect; the relentless trainee.

So for this valuable lesson; Nile Rodgers and Chic, I thank you.