Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's important to fail.. and LEARN from it!

@RomoloTassone recently shared an article on why we need to fail. The article talks about how failing and learning and growing from these failures is an opportunity. I would like to share my recent experience that supports this.

Couple of weeks ago, we decided to run a session on social bookmarking. For each session, as the organiser, I develop a lesson plan. The plan covers the main objectives of the sessions, key messages that we want to relay as well as the timeline on how we will run the session. I have learnt that this is extremely important to make sure all the involved people (myself, session facilitators, invited guests, etc.) are on the same page.

The social bookmarking session was facilitated by my colleague, Kristin Kolshus, and myself (@gaurisalokhe). The main objectives of the 2 hour session are to make participants:
  • understand what is social bookmarking and its elements.
  • aware of various scenarios in which social bookmarking can be used.
The key messages we wanted to get across were:
  • Social bookmarking provides opportunities to store, share, and discover web bookmarks.
  • There are various ways that social bookmarking can be used for sharing information (within distributed team environments, documents related to topics, events, knowledge discovery, etc.).
  • Social bookmarking is being used by partner organizations to disseminate and share information.
The first session involved hands-on combined with theory. The overall feedback from the session was extremely positive but we had realized that the session had not completely gone the way we had planned/thought it out. After the session, my colleague and I sat down to do an after action review.

Some of key lessons learned from the session were:
  • Ensure that you have adequate IT support to set up the projectors and computers.
  • Don't allow participants to start interacting with the tool immediately; they need to have basic understanding of the tool before.
  • Each participant has different level of IT knowledge. The questions ranged from how do I open a new browser to how do I create "network bundles".
What did work during this session were the two accounts we had "pre-created" for use during the session. Participants were not immediately asked to create new accounts. Those who did wish to eventually did but not everyone had to create accounts which eventually they would not use. One important aside here: If you are using same account on multiple computers, make sure that when logging in, you keep the "Keep me signed in." ticked otherwise, every time someone wants to tag resource, they are automatically logged out!

Based on the above experience we came to the conclusion that we needed to change a few things for the repeat session scheduled for the following week. Some of the changes we came up with and implemented were:
  • Contacted the IT people to help with the set-up of the projector/screen.
  • Set up the computers and turn off the screen. This way, the participants don't immediately start to interact with the site or check their emails!
  • We had turned on only half the number of computers as participants. We paired people up and got them to work together rather than individually. This way, they could support and learn from one another.
We also divided the session into theory and practice. The first hour was spent giving the basics of special bookmarking. The agenda was as follows:

1. Introduce the concept of social bookmarking using the Common Craft video

2. Explain the anatomy of the page.

3. Show how to tag publicly and privately.

4.. Show how to add buttons to the browser.

5. Explain how to add people to the network and bundle them together

6. Show how links can be sent to other users.

7. Show how can be used for knowledge discovery.

8. Show examples of how social bookmarking is used by other divisions/organizations

9. Explain briefly how using RSS the same information can be embedded in other websites.

Once this was done, and having answered all the questions that arose, the participants were asked to pair up and start experimenting by tagging a link and sending it to someone else. Some participants immediately created a new account while others just worked with the test account.

Result, you ask?
This session went superbly well, I thought! The fact that theory was separated from the practical, the screens being kept turned off for the first part, and the pairing of participants for the practical part worked wonders.

So, it was important that we failed the first time around. And, it was even more important that we followed up the session with a discussion on what worked and what didn't (as well as why) so that we could learn and improve the following session.

What we learned from the AAR for the second session was that we should have set aside time for some "final" discussion on how the tool could be used within the organization, in our day-to-day work. Next time, we will surely do that!

This process was a great learning experience for me as we work on doing more such trainings on other social media tools. There are some key lessons here that I will take into consideration as I work on the upcoming Wiki session.

Are there any other tips you would like to share? What has been your experience?

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