A consultant’s anguish

Yet again I have a client – of 5 years – who has made the technology a centre-piece of their strategy.

I cry.

It’s a technology that I suggested and helped to create. But I seem powerless to convince them that the proportion of resources they are investing in technology as opposed to building the learning network are a waste of everyone’s time.

Technology and community building are not the same thing. I get it. Funding can be easier for tech. Tech is sexy or mysterious – depending on your relationship with it. Organizations understand $$ for tech.

But it won’t build you a network. Building a network requires social artistry, persistence, understanding the community, knowledge of the domain, attention to practices, conversations, more conversations, and concern for creating value.

If your only qualifications are being a tech whizz, you are not cut out for the job.

If training people on how to use a simple technology takes up a hundred per cent of your attention, you are on the wrong track. If it takes up less than five percent of your time – in response to requests by network members – you are probably getting close.

It’s community building 101. And I have to watch as my.own.client repeats the same.old.mistake.

I cry.


11 thoughts on “A consultant’s anguish”

  1. Banging my head against the same wall, Bev! HMH is a LEARNING company, and yet, when we anticipate building a community of practice (really what I’m hearing we want to facilitate is a landscape of learning), we are looking to the likes of Google or fecking Microsoft for expertise.

  2. A collaboration platform is familiar to managers. It’s a toy with a price. And it’s a way to establish a territory. They love it.
    Community building is tedious. It takes time and effort, and, at the end of the day when people collaborate too well, the manager feels in danger.
    I really think that we are missing the fundamental question of the business model of a community, which is about managing shared knowledge as a common good. We really have to address that question.

    1. Hi Martin – great to see you over here!

      Yes, there is a price to getting collaboration to happen. Be careful for what you wish for is what we sometimes tell our clients!

      We have tried to address the business model of a community with our value-creation framework, where we focus on the value that it creates on different dimensions, including the business.

      Do you find that it resonates with you at all?

  3. Interestingly enough, our company (Japanese small Learning and Development training and consulting company) is behind (very much) in technology. Old applications used, no “wireless” environment in the office area, using very old “Toshiba” or “Fujitsu” PCs. Obviously, no good looking from Techie people and companies. However, or because of that, we have to discuss face to face with each other, exchange good proposal templates, and share unique cases other people can use as well, with more conversations and Q&A opportunities. This process may help our people with learning each other resulting in knowledge share…yes, tedious process. But we need Technologies… Who knows the balance best possible?

    1. Hi Kay…. yes, you’re right.

      Myself, I’m a nerd. I have always been ahead of the curve with technology and use it in all my projects. It’s just that a single focus on technology – or technology training – without the rest simply will not work.

      Let’s just hope that in your organization you don’t start revering technology or looking for a technology solution at the price of all the knowledge you have about quality conversations and content.

      1. Barb McDonald

        I have done several technology implementations (design and training) in my career. In all cases, I have to remind C-level stakeholders that the workers don’t NEED the technology. They are able to do their jobs just fine without it. YOU need them to use the technology, because it improves YOUR bottom line. Therefore, the technology must become part of the working processes and there needs to be carrots and sticks in place to get workers to use the technology.

  4. Bev – I stumbled across this today looking for Jackie’s contact info. This is so well said. I shared it with my fellow network researchers. It certainly reflects my experience. I wonder how this might apply to adaptive course-ware and Learning Management Systems. Universities are keen to invest, but they may be leaving behind the social artistry of facilitating student success!

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