Thursday, October 9, 2014

Treat people as adults: Be more playful

Rachel Burnham writes: I don’t know about you, but I love a contradiction – something that stretches me in two seemingly opposing directions.  
Managing with both my head & heart
Holding both the big picture & obsessing about the fine detail
The value of analysis and beautiful pictures

I like the creative tension of doing both.  I like the ‘and’ thinking rather than ‘or’ thinking.  I like the cracks in the pavement created.

This last week or so, the contradiction that has been echoing through the conversations I’ve been participating in and the reading I’ve been absorbing, is between treating people (learners in particular) as adults and wanting/needing to be more playful.

 'Home-grown lettuce sandwiches' - in playful mood one lunchtime.

A little while ago I was asked if I ‘only taught classroom-based training on the Certificate in Learning & Development Practice?’ – to which the answer is a resounding ‘No & no!’  For those who don’t know me, one of the things I do is work as an Associate Tutor for MOL Training on the CIPD’s CLDP Level 3 programme. I am passionate about CLDP as a starting point in L&D & I will enthusiastically drop this into conversation at any opportunity.  What I don’t do is ‘teach’ – I describe what I do as ‘facilitating learning’ and this is much broader than just face to face learning.  I also see myself as a ‘fellow learner’.  I am astounded at just how often I am challenging people who ask ‘what am I teaching today?’
I think we in L&D do ourselves no favours when we 'infantilise' the people we work with by using the language of education and particularly schooling to describe what we are about.  This whole area was recently discussed by Andrew Jacobs in a recent post, so I won’t go over this ground.  Though I think this is one of the things 50 big ideas that actually is quite straightforward and we could do right here and now!

But treating people as adults is more than just the language that we use – it, of course, impacts on the relationships between L&D and the people we work with, what approaches to learning are used and ideas such as peer assessment.

Playfulness was something that very much came to mind, as I participated in last week’s LDConnect Unconference in Glasgow.   If you haven’t participated in an unconference or something similar based on an Open Space environment – this style of event very much works on the basis that we are all adults and take responsibility for our own learning, contribution and the direction & form of the learning. 

One of the discussions I participated in during the day, was about what other professionals & fields we could learn from.  We shared ideas about learning from medicine, software development, sports, curating in museums & galleries, nature and children.  Leaving aside the question of whether children are more or less creative than adults, which is discussed in a recent post by Alf Rehn, children certainly now how to play.  We talked about how children can play & what we can learn from this.

Part of my experience this year, as a self-employed consultant, is of having a quiet summer work-wise.  I had a super busy spring and the autumn is shaping up to be full of interesting work, but the summer was quiet.  And what a joy this was!  I had time not only for family & friends, to garden, to fully participate in the Manchester Jazz Festival, but also time to pursue my own work interests.  These included some studying, lots of reading and an amazing amount of play – experimenting with different social media, trying out ideas, drawing pictures, talking to people.  It made me appreciate just how important playtime is for us as adults and how core it is to learning new stuff.  Vera Woodhead recently shared an interesting article on the value of play from the Guardian.

 Sweet peas - combining summer play of gardening & drawing

Last Friday’s Unconference was for me a fabulous example of both being treated as an adult and being playful.  Maybe some contradictions are more apparent than real.  Perhaps it is only when we treat people as adults & are treated as adults ourselves, that we can be free to play?

Be more playful: Treat people as adults

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.

Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD

With thanks to @acockroft for playfully responding to a tweet on this topic, whilst being in the midst of introducing Twitter & PLNs to colleagues!

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