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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Leading a Horse to a Fire Hose ...

From a post - Professional Cat Herder -
In my line of work, corporate training, I have seen this first hand several times. Management scratching their heads because people aren’t taking advantage of the resources that are available. We have all heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” We just haven’t done a good job of telling the horse that it is hot and drinking now will prevent thirst in the immediate future. Its not the horse’s fault for not knowing this, its ours for not sharing this information.
I think this is something that we've all seen and lived. But this is becoming more and more challenging of an issue. As Harold Jarche just pointed to in his blog - Learning 2.0 Value Chain -
Reward attention, because it’s everything on the Web
Attention is a big issue. There is a fire hose full of information available to everyone today and we all think our part of the fire hose is important. So we can lead the horse to the fire hose, but should we expect them to drink it all? And can we really say that the information we are providing is particularly important? And is it important right now? Or should it be available in the minimum about just when they need it as a reference? And how would they find it at that point? Oh, and keep in mind that they won't find it through the LMS?

It's a funny change that's going on ... quite a change of mind set - of course, it's hard to break habits. I find myself grappling with this all the time. In the messages in this blog and in my speaking about the importance of building new learning and work skills - growing personal work and learning environments - etc - should I expect to get some attention? Should I expect to get some change of behavior? Or is this a futile effort that's a small part of the fire hose that is a nice to have in a world of have-to-have only?


Tom Haskins said...

What a great metaphor to explore. Thanks for this Tony!
You're paying attention to particular issues and publishing your thoughts. That puts water in a trough that horses can find at their leisure.
Those of us who already value what you pay attention to are rewarded by paying attention to your writing/thinking. That begins an attention economy where our attention is a scarce commodity and used like coinage in transactions. When we pay attention to you, we pay less attention to someone else. Our attention is not scalable.

When you pay attention to us on our blogs, or comments following our comments here, we are getting paid attention. You are rewarding our paying you attention. We are going to keep this going because its mutually beneficial and the rewards exceed the costs of paying attention. This is also what occurs in "barcamp", "small is beautiful", "everyone presents" conferences. The rewards and payments are mutual and immediately beneficial.

When your content is published via RSS/Atom feeds, tagged by you or by readers, and detected by search engines, the water is in a fire hose. It's easily lost in the flood of great thinking, writing and publishing. It can be found by anyone who seeks it out from whatever context, need or question the individual horse is experiencing. There's no way to compete in a "one size fits all" way. The firehose is in the long tail of: "to each his/her own", "do your thing" or "have-to-have". It's flawed to expect to get paid large amounts of attention for no payment of rewarding attention.

Horses that drink from blogs are a different breed from those that drink from Twitter or from Facebook/MySpace. As Cammie has expressed: getting rewarded by paying attention to eLearning blogs takes a bias toward professional development. Perhaps that thirst and payoff comes after "married with children" or only comes "outside the machine". As you're saying, we cannot make horses be thirsty for professional development, deeper insights, broader perspectives or collaborative realizations. Perhaps is comes with maturity.

Most horses are running in races with no time to stop and sip from a trough or firehose. Watering them down while they are on the run or corralling them into "Flamingo A&B" for a keynote session is all they are going to get. The kind of rewards we are getting from reflecting on each other's writing is "learning at a slow trot".

Tony Karrer said...

Lee Kraus just posted about this and said -

"where so much information is coming so fast, educators, trainers, and instructional designers will have to facilitate effective learning content. I see this as a great thing. The competition for the right information, at the right time, the right size, and in the right context will drive training departments to continue to be relevant. The attention of the learner will be naturally limited, (isn't it always) and the irrelevant content will be ignored (as it is now)."

It's good the Lee sees this as a good thing. I'm not so sure that most training departments are enjoying this challenge - and it's very real today.

In the future, it gets even worse - and even if you create something really great for someone, the chance that they will find it at the time of need is likely small. After all, don't they start with a Google search?

Doesn't this mean that we HAVE TO get our stuff outside the LMS to be visible in their workstream?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing such nice posts. Your blog is always fascinating to read.

john castledine said...

To stretch the metaphor further - maybe:

(1) the original challenge remains even though we see the merits of a learner centered world (vs trainer centred) ... the learner has the choice whether or not to take advantage of the training, technology, networks etc to enhance their learning

(2) the horse may recognise the water trough (and that it contains water), but not that the fire hose contains water. A further challenge is how to operate the hose and get water out into a vehicle that can be used for drinking.

... having just started really exploring Web 2.0 tools - it takes time and energy to learn to operate the fire hose !

as you can see at :)

Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)