Monthly Archives: June 2014

Transforming From The Ground Up

NHS Change DayA short while ago, I asked readers to send in examples of how their organisation had gone open. Of the many that came in, one stood out, and clearly warranted a post of its own. Helen Bevan is Chief of Service Transformation at England’s National Health Service. As the fifth largest employer in the world, with over 1.5 million employees, that’s quite a task.

Helen came to my attention because she tweeted some nice comments about ‘OPEN‘. I’m slightly in awe of her achievements with the NHS Change Day: at the time of writing, health employees have made over 800,000 pledges to make the NHS better. That is quite a phenomenal engagement rate.

More importantly, however, Helen realised that, to capitalise on crowdsourced innovation, you need to create a vibrant learning environment, hence the School for Health and Care Radicals. I asked her to describe the impact of opening out ideas for service transformation:

“Over the past couple of years, we have built an incredible social movement for change in the English National Health Service. It is called NHS Change Day. On one day each year, people who work for, with or use the NHS pledge to take an action that makes a difference to the experience and outcomes of care. 99% of the action comes from volunteers. It is like an amazing surge of energy, goodwill and collective action for change.  

It was started by a group of trainee doctors and some NHS Improvement leaders. In 2013, there were 189,000 pledges and Change Day won the global “Leaders Everywhere” challenge from Harvard Business Review and McKinsey. In 2014, there were more than 800,000 pledges, making it the biggest day of collective action for health and care in the history of the NHS. We are currently evaluating the outcomes for 2014 but Change Day is rewriting the nature of large scale action. Change Day is now happening in a number of other countries including Australia, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark.

School for health and Care radicals stats

When we evaluated Change Day 2013, we found that the biggest issue stopping front line NHS staff, trainees and students from taking action was a sense that they needed permission to make change. So we decided to set up a virtual “school” to build the capability of frontline staff to lead change. We called it “The School for Health and Care Radicals“.  We ran it as a five week virtual programme with weekly web seminars, backed up by learning materials, volunteer mentors, tweetchats and online discussions. The main channel of promotion was social media. We ran it free of charge on a completely open basis; anyone could join from anywhere in the world. Our view was that as soon as we started to put restriction on it, we would exclude people that we wanted to encourage. We only set the school up three weeks before we launched it but the response was overwhelming:

•       More than 1,500 people enrolled from 40 countries

•       Five weekly learning modules were held live between January and March and available 24/7 from ‘change starting with me’ to ‘making change happen’

•       A weekly tweet chat using #SCHRchat to discuss and collaborate upon the learnings from each module and share personal stories and impact

•       An average weekly twitter reach of 2.6 million on a national and international scale

•       The opportunity to become a mentor or mentee, with over 90 volunteer mentors signing up connecting people and building relationships

•       Over 25,000 shares of the slides and materials on SlideShare, with great feedback about the content •       More than 5,000 tweets using #SCHRchat

•       A weekly Storify capturing the week’s content was created with more than 1,000 viewings

•       The use of Pinterest has helped to establish the school’s brand, increase our audience and drive traffic to our website

•       At the time of writing this, more than 150 people have followed the learning process through to become “certificated change agents” with a virtual badge. We learnt a great deal from this process:

1. There is a massive untapped reservoir of energy and talent out there and the potential is outstanding

2. The most important need from the learners was for connection and community

3. We can build a different, more powerful relationship between tacit and explicit knowledge by engaging our community collectively and learning from each other

We are currently evaluating the impact and outcomes of the school but here are some quotes from participants:

“When I came on this course I had no idea it would change my whole way of thinking that change starts with me, totally amazing!”

“It has been so informative and holds value for many different areas of life, not just change within the NHS.”  “Thank you for the opportunity to benefit from such an inspirational programme and to engage with so many peers who are clearly motivated to make change and improve care.”

“I feel energised and enthused for taking my new knowledge forward. Thank you for establishing the School.”

The School for Health and Care Radicals has demonstrated a new way to create learning opportunities for a huge number of people in a low cost, high leverage way. We want to build on this.”

This is a powerful, hugely impressive story, and my conclusion is this: if you can mobilise the fifth biggest workforce in the world, as Helen and her colleagues have done done, it not only speaks volumes about their leadership skills, it also graphically demonstrates the power of organisations going open. When people realise the power of learning from each other, anything is possible.

How OPEN Is Your Organisation?

NOTE: This is just the first draft of a crowd-sourced post. I need your input to flesh out the ideas!Open Cover

One of the unexpected delights in the reaction to my new book, Open, has been the number of schools and organisations who have contacted me to ask if I’ll work with them in making their learning environments more open. It’s both affirming, in that I have perhaps identified values and principles that people can believe in, and encouraging, in that it goes beyond the ‘comfort of aspiration’ (“we’d love to, but…”).

These are organisations in very differing circumstances and contexts, and on five continents, so it suggests that the desire to go open is universal.

But how do we put it into practice? What are the blockages we have to overcome – are they ‘hearts and minds’ issues or structure and culture constraints?

In the final two chapters of the book, I suggest some ways in which we can  start to making learning more open, more engaging, more innovative. I also share some case studies of schools and companies that are exemplars of the open philosophy. But I don’t face the day to day pressures that often enclose learning – many of you do. Almost by definition, the organisations that I usually work with, are already committed to change and innovation. However, if the book does point towards universal values there must be small things we all do which make our organisations more porous and more meaningful to work and learn in. Sharing is one of those values, so please help others by sharing what’s working for you.

open infographic-02

Let me know of your own examples of open learning. They may take place in your school or organisation, or perhaps another working/learning environment that you admire. But please keep them practical; changes you made, experiments you trialled, attitudes that shifted. Be honest – we probably learn more from things that didn’t quite work than we do from the unqualified successes. Leave your comments below and I’ll incorporate as many as I can into the body of this post

Don’t worry if you haven’t actually read the book. The video below summarises the main arguments.


Tales from The Front Line:

Richard Martin,  Head of Knowledge Management, RSSB, UK
“I’m  determined to promote the notion of a porous and dispersed organisation; one that is centred less on a physical space or a finite workforce. Rather the modern company needs to accommodate flexible and remote working, look more to collaboration and cooperation with business partners, customers and suppliers, and accept that not everyone on a project team will be on the company’s payroll. I see Open as a social concept. One that supports the sharing of knowledge and experience, encourages creative connections between people from diverse backgrounds and industries, highlights networks and relationships, and enables greater agility and flexibility in dealing with complexity and change.
One of the ways I have attempted to put all of this into practice is through my recommended approach to a recent CRM project. Rather than doing the expected – procuring an off-the-shelf software package – we have looked at customer relationship management as a working practice and an organising principle for a company. We have emphasised people over either technology or process, exploring how we need to organise ourselves to meet our customers needs. It just feels a more Open way of doing things.”

Jon Andrews, Director of Teaching and Learning, St Paul’s School, Brisbane, Queensland:

“St Paul’s believes that learning is authentically lifelong and forged through experience and the relationships we create. We also believe that we don’t have all the answers, resources and expertise to bring about the kind of learning all students need, sometimes they are right under our nose in the community.This desire to be open to new and engaging learning experiences that are relevant and centre on service are at the heart of our latest initiative. The basic idea is to create temporary accommodation/shelter for the homeless in our local area by recycling and converting decommissioned shipping containers.”

 By crowd-sourcing interest, we were able to identify a local contact who secured containers on our behalf. Once delivery has occurred, students are involved in every aspect of the project. They drive it from the bottom-up. They determine the project timelines, establish success criteria, conduct site/environmental surveys with the local council, source local industry mentors and resources to carry out the modifications, arrange the handover, liaise with media, co-organise opening and volunteer their services as stewards. This is a classic Heutagogy – student driven rather than pedagogy, teacher driven project. By undertaking this project, students gain skills and knowledge in the areas of collaboration, decision-making, problem-finding, design thinking etc. In addition, they will be able to authentically live out SOFT – Sharing, Open, Freedom and Trust in a relevant, rigorous and applied fashion. Going OPEN has really assisted us in how we are reimagining learning and creating an education worth having.

This one is quite lengthy, but it’s so do-able that I’ve not edited it. It’s a brilliant innovation from  Mark Moorhouse, Principal at Matthew Moss High School, UK:

“We have a recent example of disintermediation and peer-to-peer networking to share, achieved quite quickly within Matthew Moss High School, an English state secondary school.  The “D6” initiative is quite “Open” in fact.  “D6” stands for “Day 6”: it struck us that highly effective Yr12 learners from the local Sixth Form College were earning minimum wage for washing up in cafes every Saturday when they had significant skills and knowledge to pass on to 14 – 16 year old learners preparing for GCSEs.  So we approached the principal of the college and discussed the idea of employing his most successful learners as D6 coaches to help our KS4 students learn for four hours of supported study on a Saturday morning, from 9.00am until 13.00pm, in school.  Not only would it look good on the Sixth Formers’ CVs, but the work would help them consolidate their own subject knowledge, skills and learning habits when coaching the younger learners.  We recruited and trained 13 coaches and opened the invitation to Yr11 learners at school.  If they came, for four hours every Saturday, then we would help fund their travel expenses to college for the first term of their post-16 study.  About 50 came. After a week or two we opened the scheme to Yr 10 and 11 leaners, with no incentives at all, just the invitations.  120 extra learners turned up, so we recruited and trained a further 26 Yr12 coaches.  The numbers continue to climb and we are looking at 25% at least of the whole school cohort electing to spend four hours every Saturday coming to school to pursue self-managed learning, supported by the coaches who in turn are supported by two teachers and six teaching assistants.  

It is non-uniform, there is free food and drink available at any time and learners have to come equipped with four hours’ worth of independent learning.  It is proving remarkably effective, a huge hit with learners and demonstrable impact on progress.  We think the popularity and success of D6 are down to the following:

1.  It is not compulsory but totally elective.  Moreover, the initial incentivising appears to have had little significance as a driver.  The learners are coming for the learning on offer.
2.  It is free-form, released from the strictures of traditional school timetabling, so learners drive what happens from their demand and group up for learning which is “just in time” and not “just in case”.  The flexibility of the system and the high contact ratio of coach to learner means that learners can draw in the support they need, exactly when they need it.   Study-groups and mini-lessons spring up, sustain for the life of their usefulness and then break up again, almost organically.
3.  The fact that it is peer coaching is of massive value: 14 -16 year olds are being coached by 17 year olds who are fresh from successfully navigating the examinations which the younger learners are on the point of entering.  They are as well-placed to be experts as anyone and are highly valued.  Furthermore, he discourse is between learners and coaches is not hindered by barriers of institution or age.  There is remarkable flow achieved.
4.  It is not called “Saturday School”, which could easily signal “More of The Same” and is non-unifrom.  It presented as an adult to adult, “disintermediated”space.
5.  It is not another day for the whole school cohort and so the density of occupation is reduced.  There is space and quiet and a different atmosphere.

Without a doubt, D6 has exploited the traditional school space in an entirely different way and “opened” the institution to allow learning to flow far more efficiently.  And the initiative is cost-effective and sustainable.

Happy to host visitors if anyone would like to test the actuality.”

Lou Mycroft, Northern College, UK writes:

“Thank you for the phrase ‘comfort of aspiration’!  You have helped me articulate a concept I’d been unable to elegantly express – one of the many joys of open learning are the many opportunities it provides to refine thinking and learn from the words of others.

Our Community of Praxis uses freely available social media to develop the thinking, expression and practice of social purpose education.  The egalitarianism of open learning enables teacher education students to find their own words and be present in public discussion as themselves, without buying into (too much) hero-worship of the most prominent voices.  Thus the field benefits from a diversity of perspectives.

From an organisational perspective, The Northern College is a small, perfectly formed and rather unusual adult education college, which brings us both strength and vulnerability in challenging times.  Being open to ‘Open’ allows us to punch above our weight in terms of shaping agendas.  Along with our teacher education students, we have a focus on empowerment which is just not seen or heard in media and political discourses around education.

Your explication of open learning gives us a base from which to draw the courage to #teachdifferent.  Thank you.”

Jamie Staff from South Staffs College, UK has written:

“A few years ago I was involved in a project called classroom in the cloud that had a vision to create a transformational learning experience for the digital age working in partnership with a global technology pioneer and tens of thousands of students. Although the project had some early successes for the most part it was a difficult and troubled journey. The reason as my friend and technology thought leader Sandy Carter would say, is that culture eats strategy for breakfast. She’s right.

Early adopters were not enough in the above example to achieve the scale of change required because the dominant culture was risk and therefore change averse. For that organisation this was ‘safer’ than evolution, yet as Tolkien once said you can fence yourself in but you can’t fence the world out.Education leaders need to take a new approach to meet the demands of the open agenda, and one lesson for me from my classroom in the cloud project was that to enable transformational change a development has to both make life better for the enablers of the vision and it has to be rigorously simple, in the same way that Google is largely a logo with an empty box under it to the user. More emphasis could have been placed on the cultural benefits of the change to enable wider adoption.”

Why Going Open Is Inevitable

Sorry we're openThe central argument of my new book, OPEN: How We’ll Work, Live And Learn In The Future, is that the same forces that have seen a revolution in how we interact with each other socially, will force us to change every aspect of how we do business. It’s not a question of if we go open, but when, and how quickly we can adapt to it.

Organisations are seeing record levels of disengagement – fewer than 11% of us say we are engaged in our work. This waste of human potential has dramatic financial consequences too: disengagement comes at an annual cost of $300bn, in the US alone.

A key reason for employee disengagement is that the openness and autonomy we experience when we’re not at work is absent in all but the most successful companies. It’s no coincidence that Google is considered to be the most innovative company and the best company to work for: engagement is a pre-requisite for creativity.

I describe the sea-change in the past 10 years as the world becoming SOFT. Technology has enabled four behaviours, values and actions in the social space – Sharing, Open, Free, Trust – most organisations continue to struggle to bring these values to the working environment.

Sharing: Social media has transformed how we share knowledge and ideas – yet many organisations discourage, or even ban, its use in the workplace. The vice-president of Google Enterprise, Sebastien Marotte says “Over the next decade, the process of sharing and developing ideas will be dramatically accelerated by the advance of relatively young technologies having a major impact on the way products and services are brought to market….For most people, communicating and collaborating in an online world have become the norm .. For many of us though, cooperating this smoothly in our professional lives is more of an ideal than a reality.”

Open: Not all organisations can practice the radical transparency that helped build $2bn worth of customer loyalty in ten years, but organisations that continue to practice ‘command and control’ are facing imminent extinction because we, as consumers and employees, won’t stand for it any more.

Free: 3M has created 50,000 product lines through practising two crucial freedoms: the freedom to fail (over half of 3M’s inventions don’t get to production) and the freedom to ‘tinker’. Although now much-copied, 3M pioneered the introduction of 15% ‘free time’ for all staff in 1948. If you’re not sure how to build a culture of autonomy in your organisation, try following WD40’s CEO, Garry Ridge, in replacing the reporting of failure with that of a ‘learning moment’.

Trust: Best Buy’s introduction of a ‘Results Only Work Environment’, where employees could decide where, when, and  for how long they worked (so long as personal targets were met) could have been seen as asking for trouble. Surely workers would abuse this trust in them? In fact, the reverse happened: productivity went up by 21% in a single year, and employee engagement also rose by 19%. Similarly the video games maker, Valve, doesn’t assign work to employees. Instead, their ‘pick your own project’ approach to management has made them one of the most productive companies in the world: 300 employees, working without a boss, in a company valued at $3 billion.

These highly innovative organisations have become leaders in their field because they’ve learned a number of key lessons:

  • People are at their most productive when they see their employment as less like ‘work’ and more like learning – why else would Google call their HQ ‘the campus’?
  • it’s not enough to become a social business – you have to understand how your customers learn socially, and then adopt those values, behaviours and actions
  • Opening up your business pays dividends. Knowledge as intellectual property has little value – knowledge, as the key to opening up collaboration, is priceless

Governments, businesses and social institutions alike are finding that going open is inevitable. As Google recently said:”Our goal is to make open the default. People will gravitate towards it, then they will expect and demand it and be furious when they don’t get it. When open is intuitive, then we have succeeded…..Open will win.”


OPEN #1 in Amazon Kindle Charts

Amazon Kindle Bus & Money Best Sellers June 2014
Amazon Kindle Business & Money Best Sellers June 2014

The Amazon Kindle Best Seller lists today showed OPEN at #1 in Business & Money and Organisations and Institutions categories, and #70 overall in Amazon’s Top 100 Kindle Best Sellers  (just behind Game of Thrones!). Great to see that so many people are interested in the message behind OPEN, and thanks to everyone who bought it!