Growth in A Sandbox

In our last post we introduced some details of what we are calling a social learning sandbox (SLS). It is just one application design driven by the underlying concept. It is intended to enhance employee attitudes, specifically their morale, desire for career advancement, and self-respect. We will continue to use this example (“Attitude”) to illustrate how to set up an SLS but first let’s consider some other applications.


The most obvious benefits of an SLS come from designs focused on skills assessment and development (“Ability”), action planning (“Action”), and strategic alignment (“Alignment”). You probably noticed that these are also some of the components of Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP). That is not a coincidence.


In most applications, an SLS delivers the same benefits of well-designed and implemented SWP. When correctly administered, SWP can be a powerful, transformative process. And certainly its objectives are unassailable. However, it is a “centralized government” sort of approach. That is, it lays down fixed, linear paths of action and response. It doesn’t adequately embrace the drivers of human learning and growth.


Let’s further explore how to set up an SLS using the Attitude design as an example. Previously we introduced a rough outline of a suggested progression, from corporate mission to each participating employee’s role. This approach is informed by constructivist learning principles. Participants start with the simplest concepts and each builds a more refined understanding through interaction and guidance.


The components are simple: agents (the participants) and an environment. The environment provides the direction and feedback that the agents need to progress. It consists of instructions, interactivity, visibility, and assessments. A key aspect of an SLS environment is the participants themselves.


In a typical Attitude design, participants will first see a simple instruction such as, “This exercise is for you to collaboratively write your own job description. Note that this training area is a social system. Anyone in the organization may view your efforts.” Wow, more than a little pressure here, right?


Next, the system will inform the participants that the description must conceptually derive from the corporate mission statement and must reflect the functional focus of their organization. The mission statement is then presented. And here a corporate branding video may also be assigned.


Participants are now asked to select from a list of key values they feel are integral to their performance of their role. They submit their answer and are presented with the answers given by all the people in their organization. (If your system can’t detect where they fit within the organization, another step may be added that enables them to self-identify.) They are then asked to select these values a second time. After they submit their answers, they see the answers given in this second round by all the people in their organization.


Next, participants are given a short description of their organization’s function. Optional textual and video descriptions created by peers are also presented. Participants are then asked to create their own description either in text or video format. They are told that their answers will also be presented to everyone.


In the simplest design, participants then see the instructions for how to describe their specific role. Ideas for assignment could include their job description. The “values” answers they gave the second time are shown to them. Participants are then asked to create their own job description in text format.


We’ve described a simplistic design. A final product would have more steps. We’ve also left out a crucial element that we will discuss next time: visibility of selection.