Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Art of Imperfection

Rachel Burnham writes: When I was 11 or 12 we were set homework by our art teacher each week.  We were to draw, in pencil, an object that she specified – a tea cup, a pair of scissors, a chair.   She marked each drawing out of 10.  If we received less than 5, we had to do the drawing again the next week – alongside the drawing homework for that week.  By the end of the first term, I was having to do 8 drawings a week.   I remember the chair particularly well.  I drew it over and over and over.   After I finished that year, I didn’t attempt a drawing again for 40 years.

Actually that isn’t entirely true, I doodled.  Incessantly.  When on the phone.   In lectures.   When thinking.  And constantly in meetings.   Faces, shapes, houses, patterns and lots and lots of flowers and leaves.  But I never counted that as ‘drawing’.

Years later, I joined Twitter and I saw pictures shared, particularly by Doug Shaw and Simon Heath (You can find them on Twitter @dougshaw1 and @SimonHeath1).  One day in the summer of 2014, whilst doing Harold Jarche’s PKM programme, we were set the task of putting his Seek, Sense, Share model into our own words.   I had had a particularly wordy work week and at the thought of trying to write something over the weekend, my heart sank.   But as I pondered over the model and dawdled in the garden that summer’s day, it occurred to me to draw what it meant to me instead.  And this is what I drew.

And I shared what I drew not only with my fellow course participants, but on Twitter.

Later that year, I was contributing to an event and co-facilitating a session alongside two colleagues, so I decided to draw little pictures of each of us to illustrate the welcome slide.  A year on at the CIPD NAP conference, I took along some coloured pencils and a notepad and started putting my doodling to good use by drawing points from the various sessions at the event.  I then took photos of the pictures and shared these on Twitter.   I was overwhelmed by the positive response they got. 

Over the summer and autumn I practiced at every event I went to.  Gradually switching from A5 notepad to A4.  Working out how to get all the points onto a single sheet.  Thinking about layout.  Experimenting with how best to use colour and combine graphics and simple pictures.  Realising that you can’t capture every point and that careful listening is key.   Letting go of an expectation of perfection.  I had started Sketchnoting.

Last week there was a very interesting thread shared on Twitter about ‘imposter syndrome’ by Gem Dale – here is the link to the storify. ‘Imposter syndrome’ - that fear that so many of us have of being caught out, of not really having the expertise that is required of us, that somehow we have got where we are by luck, rather than as a result of our skills and hard work.

Alongside that, there is also the self-talk, that stops us from even starting something.  That holds us back and tells us that we can’t do that – that we aren’t artistic, or athletic or wouldn’t have anything to contribute to an online Twitter chat or whatever the limit that we have about ourselves.  If we never have a go, it we never experiment, we will never know whether we just might have those talents?

And in most things it isn’t a question of absolutes – it isn’t that   you are either exceptionally talented or nothing.  I think we can all draw.  Not everyone will be Georgia O’Keeffe and that is OK.  Sometimes it is fun doing something even when you aren’t fabulous at it, just for the pleasure of doing.  And by doing it, you can get better at it and develop those skills.   We know that great artists, musicians, writers, athletes all have to work hard for their talent to blossom.

This is one of my very favourite pictures – I am very proud of it – not because it is my best picture, but because I tried something out.  I drew it two years ago on holiday in Greece with my son.  I very often draw from life – sometimes I get a bit stuck doing that and I love this picture, because I drew what I felt, rather than just what I saw.  It captures the feel of the narrow streets and their vibrancy.  I am really happy that I tried something different and did it whole-heartedly.  

Actually, when I look at it I can also see that the perspective is all off.   It is OK to try something and for it not to be perfect.

There are parallels with  Working Out Loud (WOL), the idea of sharing what you are working on at an early stage, partly so that you can benefit from other people’s input and partly so that other people can learn from and be inspired by what you are doing.  Sometimes our self-talk holds us back from Working Out Loud – ‘ I don’t have anything special to share’, ‘I’m not an expert’, ‘What if look foolish?’  It was WOL by Doug and Simon that inspired me to start drawing and it was the positive feedback and support of my contacts on Twitter, my Personal Learning Network, that encouraged me to continue.  If I hadn’t shared publicly what I was doing, I wouldn’t have benefited from that encouragement.

This picture began as being about seeing the world through rose-coloured lenses, but ended up as the much more exuberant rose-covered glasses - probably in need of some garden maintenance!

I have found that I love to draw.  I am so glad that I took the risk and shared that first drawing publicly.   I have learnt so much as a result about how to draw.  But I know my learning is much broader than just about drawing. 

I have discovered that if I want to get better at doing something then:
  • ·       I need to make a start
  • ·       It is OK not to be perfect – forgive yourself for mistakes and spend time enjoying what you are doing well
  • ·       Iterate and improve
  • ·       Work with a generous spirit – share  with others
  • ·       Nurture the people around you and you will be nurtured in return

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I do this through: writing & design commissions; facilitating learning to update knowhow, 1:1 and bespoke ‘train the trainer’ programmes; and the use of Sketchnoting to facilitate learning.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Examples of favourite Sketchnotes

Rachel Burnham writes: Here is a collection of some of my favourite Sketchnotes from recent years.  

Personal reflections on how my ideas about networking have changed

Live Sketchnote from CIPD L&D Show 2017

Summary of key points from session at NAP conference June 2017

Sketchnote of Chapter of Book - used to pick out & summarise key points
Live Sketchnote from GoodPractice Research Launch event November 2017

Reflections on research into the application of VR to L&D Spring 2017

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I do this through: writing & design commissions; facilitating learning to update knowhow, 1:1 and bespoke ‘train the trainer’ programmes; and the use of Sketchnoting to facilitate learning. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

10 Resources from 2017 to help you modernise L&D Practice

Rachel Burnham writes: At the start of 2017 I picked out 10 pieces to share to help L&D professionals modernise their L&D practice, so I thought I would do something similar at the start of this year.  

This time I thought I would make the focus very firmly on practical tips and guidance to help us to develop the skills, insights and know-how needed to modernise L&D. In making my selections, I have picked out some of the concerns that have been part of my focus for the past year.  I also have been mindful of the themes which emerged from this year’s benchmarking report by Towards Maturity ‘L&D: Where are we now?’ published in November 2017.  This identifies the top barriers to having a learning culture as including:

·       Cost of set-up, development and maintenance (66%)
·       Lack of skills amongst employees to manage their own learning (65%)
·       Reluctance by line managers to encourage new ways of learning (58%)
·       Lack of skills amongst L&D staff to implement and manage technology enabled learning (53%)
·       Unreliable ICT infrastructure (52%)

As before, I hasten to add that this selection is by no means a best of 2017.  There was lots of great material produced throughout the year – this is my pick of helpful resources. I have included short videos, podcasts, infographics and of course Sketchnotes, alongside written materials.

1  1. ‘How to run successful Webinars to add value to your organisation’ Session: Andy Lancaster & Michelle Parry-Slater May 2017 Sketchnote: Rachel Burnham  

This is a Sketchnote I created whilst participating in Andy and Michelle’s excellent session at CIPD’s L&D Show.  The L&D Show conference this year involved a number of very practical workshops which had a ‘how-to’ focus.  This one was a practical introduction to running effective webinars and was packed full of tips and the sharing of experiences.  

    2. ‘How to produce Impactful Videos and Learning Content’ Session: Dr Mark Davies, See Learning May 2017 Sketchnote; Rachel Burnham

My second selection is also one of the Sketchnotes I created from this year’s CIPD L&D Show.  If you are interested in learning to make good quality videos using your smartphone, then Dr Mark Davies of See Learning is ‘the-person’ to get advice from.   He can be found on Twitter under @SeeLearning.  I picked up so many great tips from this session and keep referring back to this Sketchnote. 

    3.‘Apprenticeships: Loving the Levy’ CIPD Podcast 127 July 2017 (about 20 mins on apprenticeships)

In April 2017 the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced.  A lot has been written up about the Levy, what it involves, what the challenges are and more recently about the seemingly paradoxical drop in numbers registered for apprenticeships.  Out of all this material, I have picked this podcast because it shares some great stories about the value of apprenticeships both to individuals and to organisations and challenges some of the misconceptions that apprenticeships are only for young people or only for less skilled roles or only for occupations such as engineering.  It is great story-telling – the best kind – real stories of real people.

    4. ‘Bite-Sized Research on Spaced Retrieval’ Episode 5 October 2017 The Learning Scientists (11.5 mins)

This is another podcast – a new podcast to me – so thank you to Jonathan Marshall @LearningFCO for the recommendation.   This particular episode explores a piece of research into the impact of spaced retrieval on learning effectiveness – if you aren’t familiar with the terms ‘spaced learning’ and ‘retrieval practice’ and are in L&D do take the time to listen to this podcast as it explains them clearly and simply, plus why we need to know about them and be making use of them.
Plus, if you haven’t come across Jonathan before do follow him on Twitter and watch out for his very informative and thoughtful blog posts, in which he shares his learning from his work as the Head of Learning for the Diplomatic Academy.

    5. ‘The Elephant in the Room’ Paul Matthews Training Journal September 2017

I met Paul Matthews for the first time this year at the CIPD NAP conference in York, where we were both delivering sessions.  We started talking then about learning transfer – the elephant in the room, as Paul refers to it and haven’t stopped talking about this since.  Learning Transfer is about how we get learning to really impact on performance in the workplace and links to the other topics Paul has written about previously – performance consulting and informal learning.  Paul wrote this article for Training Journal in the summer, but having started writing has been about how to address learning transfer he has found unable to stop and is in the process of completing a new book on this subject.  Paul can be found on Twitter @PeopleAlchemy.

6.  ‘Digital Curation’ – 3 short videos by Mike Shaw ( 2 mins each) Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

With the increased availability of information and resources via the internet, managing this avalanche of information is an increasing challenge for professionals in all fields.  The term ‘curation’ has been borrowed from the museums and art gallery sector to describe the processes involved in finding, selecting, making sense and using these resources.  Mike Shaw (@MikeShawLD) created these three short videos, now available on YouTube, with Snapchat to introduce people to the idea of digital curation and to explore some of the ways that it can be used in L&D.   Mike and I have been working together over the last year on developing our curation practices and on using curation in the design of L&D programmes.  Here is a blog I wrote on the subject.
   7. ‘Niall and Rachel’s VR Odyssey’ blogs and recordings

In the Spring of 2017, Niall Gavin (@NiallGavinUK) and I began exploring how L&D could make use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology and we shared our learning in a series of blog posts and recorded conversations on Zoom and available on YouTube.   The improving technology in this field, its increasing popularity in the consumer market and its increased accessibility, is getting more organisations thinking about how they can make use of these technologies to support learning. The resources we produced provide a basic introduction to some of the uses of this technology in L&D.

    8. ‘LearningTechnologies: What managers really think’ GoodPractice in association with ComRes November 2017

GoodPractice has for the last few years produced a series of research reports exploring what managers real practice is around learning and how they perceive & make use of technology to meet the challenges they face in their day to day work.   This year’s research report explores their attitudes towards some of the key technologies available in workplaces to support learning and uncovers some perhaps surprising positive results in relation to managers’ views of elearning and other technologies.   The free report not only reports on the results of the research, but includes some very helpful practical and detailed takeaways for L&D professionals about how to maximise the potential of technology in organisations.   The suggestions directly address some of the barriers identified by Towards Maturity at the start of this blog.

    9.   ‘Future of technology and learning’ Report & Infographic CIPD & Towards Maturity November 2017

At about the same time that GoodPractice was producing its report into technology and learning, CIPD and Towards Maturity were also launching theirs!  This report makes use of the Towards Maturity benchmarking data, and digs in deeper to how L&D is using different technologies for different aspects of learning eg games, collaboration.  It makes a series of recommendations to help us, in L&D, become a bit more sophisticated in our thinking and practice in the use of technology to support learning eg by getting us to really think through how different learning technologies support approaches to learning such as collaboration and gamification.   

    10. #accessibilitytipoftheday Mike Osborne series of posts on Twitter

My final selection is a recommendation to check out this hashtag (ie search criteria) on Twitter for a whole array of suggestions, tips and recommendations to support improved accessibility for learning resources and digital learning.   This is a great initiative by Mike Osborne to improve awareness and action from all of us in L&D to ensure that learning opportunities are open to all and don’t exclude people.   You can find Mike on Twitter @MikeOzzy.

I have enjoyed putting this collection or curation together.  There are so many other great resources out there to tap into.  I would be keen to hear of your recommendations.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I do this through: writing & design commissions; facilitating learning to update knowhow, 1:1 and bespoke ‘train the trainer’ programmes; and the use of Sketchnoting to facilitate learning. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

What I learnt in 2017 #alwayslearning

Rachel Burnham writes:  I started out 2017 with an emphasis on curiosity and experimentation. My ‘strategy’ was simply to try out new things, to do different things and make sure I scheduled time to be around positive people.  

Illustration for Ignite presentation CIPD ACE 2017

Along the way, I got involved in and initiated some really interesting projects, events and learning opportunities from co-organising an Unconference in Manchester in February for L&D Connect, to co-hosting regular #LnDCoWorking Manchester days throughout the year, presenting a session at the CIPD NAP event in June, presenting a segment on Learning Now TV and doing my first Ignite session at CIPD ACE in November – I was gut-wrenchingly nervous, but it went well.  I also organised a series of events and social media ‘stuff’ that made up the public policy hackathon for CIPD Manchester ‘The Big Conversation about Families, Parents and the Workplace’.  And of course I learnt lots.

Here are some of my key learning points:

Collaborative learning
I worked with two particular collaborative learning partners during this year – with Niall Gavin (you can find him at @niallgavinuk on Twitter) on exploring the uses of VR and AR for L&D – you can read and watch our blogs & broadcasts here and with Mike Shaw (he can be found at @MikeShawLD on Twitter) on learning to use Snapchat, creating videos, learning transfer, curation and a host of things. 

I find it really helps my learning to work with a partner when learning new stuff: somethings are just a little tricky to learn on your own eg being interviewed on video; most things benefit from the different perspectives and opportunities to discuss that working in partnership brings; and working with a partner gives you access to support, advice and encouragement when you get stuck and someone to celebrate gains with.   I think the most valuable aspect for me, is the sense of accountability that working with a partner brings – it keeps me focused and helps me to make time for learning.  I am reading Gretchen Rubin’s book on habits ‘Better than Before’ and she identifies that being held accountable can help with building positive habits. 

Plus, it is fun learning with other people – well, it is with Niall and Mike anyway! I recommend it.

Collaborative Working
As well as the collaborative learning, I have this year worked more closely with more other people, on more different types of projects, than for a long while.  These included working with shifting configurations of people, working as part of teams of volunteers and paid staff, working with virtual teams and loose collaborations with individuals.  I know ‘work is learning and learning is work’ as Harold Jarche says, but I feel that the experiences were quite different to those focused specifically on learning and so I am separating out my learning from these.

Some of these collaborations have worked better than others, some spectacularly well, some more so-so – when they work well I have been reminded what a joy it is to work with other collaboratively with others and how much more and better you can achieve.  When it has not gone so well, I have been reminded how easy I find it to make unhelpful assumptions and confuse these with what is actually the case.  I have also been reflecting a lot on the value of being able to move fast and freely on the one hand and the time needed to build and nurture relationships of trust that making working with others possible and effective.   And when to work in which way.

And I have learnt how good it is to be able to ask for help.  I can’t quite believe that I am only learning this now at this stage in my life.  Maybe I am really learning it over again.  Anyway, this has been important learning this last year.

Varied formats
This year I found myself playing more with varied formats for events, whether learning or consultative.  This included open space for unconferences, online and in person hackathons and using activity stations or provocations, both as side activity and as the main focus. 

 For example, I put together a series of mini-activities to support CIPD Manchester’s AGM and Unconference in May.  The activities were short provocations to get people thinking and talking around the themes of the event prior to the start and during breaks and lunch time.  These included being invited to decide which aspect of HR was most in need of over-hauling and placing a bead in a tray for your favoured option and writing a gift card to tie to a display identifying ‘What gifts does HR/L&D bring to the organisation?’ 

I have learnt that personal calmness for me comes from careful organisation when organising these types of events
– particularly careful deployment of plastic wallets and effective labelling!

I have also started to do more work one to one with individuals tailoring short learning programmes to meet individual needs, whether that is developing a particular digital skill or supporting an individual to develop their broader L&D skills. I have really enjoyed this – it is great being able to really tailor to meet individual needs and I hope to do more of this in 2018.

Camera Confidence
I wanted to become more confident in being on camera and in making short videos.  Use of video is of growing importance in L&D and I wanted to build my skills in this area.

Learning to use Snapchat has been very valuable – it provides an easy way to create short videos and effectively edit them in the moment.   From playing with Snapchat, I have become more confident in speaking to camera and in getting others to share their views on camera.  I have produced a number of short videos reporting on L&D/HR events and I also use video for reflection and Working Out Loud.   I think Snapchat is a great tool for L&D people – why not give it a go?

I also have taken part in several recordings using Zoom with Niall Gavin discussing VR in Learning and have used video on a smart phone – though I have lots more to learn about this.

In July, I had the opportunity to present a short segment for Learning Now TV and interview participants in an eLearning Network event held in Manchester – my confidence in front of the camera had definitely grown, as I jumped at the chance.

Sketchnoting and more
I have been creating sketchnotes for a couple of years now.  I often live Sketchnote and this year was part of the social media reporting team for both the CIPD L&D Show and the LPI’s Learning Live event.   I find them incredibly valuable for myself for note-taking – I refer back to them much more frequently than I ever did with traditional notes, plus I can share them with other people.  I have used them to capture key points from podcasts, reading and conversations.

Live Sketchnote from CIPD L&D Show 2017

This year I have realised how useful they are as a reflective tool and to present ideas visually.    This is a Sketchnote I created as part of my collaborative work with Niall Gavin to represent some of our learning about the range of VR possible.

Over the last year, I have started to make much more use of my drawing skills, creating larger scale Sketchnotes for events, doing graphic facilitation for an MBA programme and creating illustrations for blogs and slides. 

I am planning to do more with my drawing and will be offering workshops in Sketchnoting later in the year. Get in touch if you are interested in this or would like me to create a Sketchnote for a meeting or event.

I have been curating materials both for my personal use and for use in learning for some years, but started in 2017 a process of reflecting on my practice and active experimentation with some different tools – aided and abetted by Mike Shaw.

I have made changes in the tools I use, reviewed my habits and mindset and worked on my skills to make my curation practice more effective.   As part of this, I have realised that I design differently when using curation, to when I am creating all the resources.   I am in the midst of writing a series of blogs about curation, so won’t go into further depth here, but encourage you to read the first of these blogs if you are interested in finding out more. 

My key learning point here, is in the value of actively experimenting with different approaches.  I need to try stuff out to really learn about it and this is the basis of what I share with other people.

I begin 2018 full of excitement, ideas, plans and learning to share with others.  And a commitment to keep on being curious  #alwayslearning.

Rachel Burnham

2 January 2018

Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.