It’s the end of another year, and whether a leg cast, or just office closings give you some extra time to think, it is undeniably a great opportunity to go back over your year and see what worked in 2010, and what you would like to do more of, or differently, in 2011. When are you having that conversation with yourself?

The last 2 years have seen major changes for many knowledge workers in terms of work mode and even flow in some cases. Knock-on effects from financial contractions in most organizations have brought changes in staff composition, mandates, activity budgets, work modalities (from decentralisation of team members to outsourcing workstreams entirely), and more. With all of this movement and activity, now in its second year, how is it going? And what are we learning?

I can explore that question for myself, as I sit in my office with my coffee.  I have also been interested in a different, more collective, approach that some other professionals are taking to answer that question for themselves.

I recently received an email invitation from another working facilitator/trainer in my area asking me to have a coffee and discussion with her around some informal research she is doing to better understand organizational motivations in this new financial climate. She sent me a nice, short email giving me some information about her work, what she was learning about her offer (which has some similarities to mine) and her hypothesis about what is changing in organizations around learning and training (and what that means for her offer). She set up an interesting debate!

She asked if I would be happy to explore this with her, and then told me why she wanted to speak to me about that (she knew or renewed her understanding of my background and personalised her request.) Finally she said she would write up her findings from this series of interviews and share it with everyone who contributed.

This collaborative approach to reflection and learning appeals to me, and I also think it is very clever, for a number of reasons. First, just in her email she told me more about what she is doing and wants to do. I do know this fellow facilitator, but it has been quite a while since I have spoken to her substantively about her work, and I wouldn’t have known that she is shifting her focus, expanding her offer, and how she wants to engage with organizations. And now I do. She also gave me all of her new contact information in this message. As an independent worker, I frequently have requests that I cannot fill (for content or availability reasons); she is much more on my radar screen now, even if I don’t or am not able meet her (although I probably will because I enjoy her company and also for the next few reasons). After the meeting, this will be even more true, for both of us actually.

Second, her line of questioning and framing intrigued me. These are also questions that I have. I may or many not entirely agree with her hypothesis, and by giving me questions she wants to explore, rather than just topic headings to discuss, she is already getting me thinking, and more eager to engage in this discussion with her. By using this approach I see that we will be doing some peer learning here, not just a straight brain picking, as she shares her own ideas about what is happening in the kinds of organizations with which we are working. Again interesting for independent workers who don’t always have the opportunity to do this.

Finally, she intends to give something synthetic back, to report on her learning across these conversations, and to help me answer some of my shared questions through her informal research. I might even be able to blog about it, so multiple benefits (sharing it with all of you!) Of course, she will really have to do this final step of the process as promised, and I assume that she will and look forward to her results (especially if I have been able to contribute to them too). Overall it sounds like a useful learning project that I would like to do, but probably won’t, and I am happy that she will do it and share her findings.

I hear from a number of independent workers that their traditional stomping grounds are shifting with the changing times, with new financial parameters in institutions, with new technology sources of information and expertise (and marketing), with new types of constellations of internal and external workers. It is an interesting time to reflect on what you are doing, how you are doing it, and how it is working. And either you can do that yourself or you can find a way to do that with others. Either way, ……. (add in tag line from international sports shoe company here – sorry, couldn’t resist.)  Happy Learning!

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