Communities of Inquiry in Pursuit of Change

I am currently in week two of a cMOOC called Exploring Innovations in Networked Work and Learning.  And so far there has been some great discussions around the various topics of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Communities of Inquiry (CoI).  Helen Blunden continued to inspire our thinking through her blog post, cMOOC, Social Learning Guided Design or Community of Inquiry – All The Same?  The big question seems to be around defining how a Community of Inquiry would fit in with our other social learning networks and then into the business environment.  What is interesting is that the more I read from the various articles, and then Helen’s blog, I am now convinced that not only can I relate to what a CoI is, but that I have been involved with one in the past and preparing to lead one now.

First I want to provide the context that led me to this realization.  Through our reading, I coi-presentation-diagram.jpgfound a definition of a CoI as broadly defined as “any group of individuals involved in a process of empirical or conceptual inquiry into problematic situations.”  This was originally defined within the scientific community and “represents a process of creating a deep and meaningful (collaborative-constructivist) learning experience through the development of three interdependent elements – social, cognitive and teaching presence.”

Then Helen posed some great questions in her blog:

  • “How can Communities of Inquiry help solve business performance problems?”
  • “Who can act as the “teacher” in a Community of Inquiry?”
  • “Does Learning & Development have a role as the “teacher” in a Community of Inquiry or should this be better served by someone who is an external consultant or someone within the business?”
  • How is a CoI different to a cMOOC or a Guided Social Learning Experience exactly? They all look like one and the same thing.

So with all of these questions and the model for CoI defined, I believe I can apply how this can, and has, been used in business.

My first experience was in the creation of a leadership model.  A “community” of people who represented various parts of the business came together virtually and physically to collaborate and define the leadership model and expectations for leaders in the organization.  The process through which all this occurred encompassed all three components of the CoI model.  There was a core team with a program leader (teacher), there was a great deal of thinking and discussion from high performing leaders in this community on what this model should look like (cognitive presence), and there was definitely relationships created and time to learn from, and about, each other (social presence).  This community of leaders had a very specific performance problem they were focused on – leadership behaviors and expectations.  And while Learning & Development (me) played a key role on the core team, the “teacher” was not L&D, but an Organizational Effectiveness consultant from within the business, supporting the business.  This was a great experience that lasted several months, with great relationships forged, and a model defined for 21st Century Leadership.

Now fast forward to the present.  I am preparing to launch a Change Champion Network in my current position as an Organizational Change Management Manager.

There will be a teaching presence (me) to help education change champions on some of the key principles of managing change in addition to other learning opportunities.  There will definitely be a cognitive presence in that we will all learn from each other how various cultures approach change and what we can learn and build together in support of managing and leading change within our organization.  And I will help ensure there is a social presence as this community engages with each other across organizational, geographical, and cultural borders.  While the experience I bring is primarily L&D, I am not currently L&D.  I am within the business, not external.  I may be the primary teacher at first, but I believe we will all be teachers at some point throughout the course of this community as we learn from, and about, each other.

And finally, as I look at a CoI through this lens, I see it as different from a PLN, cMOOC, or other learning network.  The CoI has a purpose – help the organization lead and navigate change more effectively.  A structure – the framework comprised of roles & responsibilities, expectations, and guiding principles.  An education component – leveraging virtual collaboration tools, change management concepts and tools.  And a “teacher” – me.  But the purpose of the CoI is not solely focused on learning.  It’s about applying that learning to help facilitate organizational change.

So in essence, when I look at the purpose of the various social learning networks, I can see the difference in purposes and how they are leveraged.  In pursuit of learning or education.  In pursuit of connections or networks.  And in pursuit of personal and organization change.  Give all of this, and your social presence, what is your pursuit?

5 Lessons from the Dragonfly for the New Year

Dragonfly and lavenderEarly last Spring, 2013, I remember shopping in a local department store and browsing through the home goods section.  As I was looking through the bath selections, I came across a bath set with a dragonfly design.  What caught my eye was the elegant simplicity of the pattern and the colors used – muted blues and greens.  As much as I liked the set, and knew it would work with the current colors in my bathroom, I did not purchase it.  Several times throughout the year I would return to the department store, sometimes for specific reasons, sometimes just to “shop”.  I would often find myself drawn to the same bath set with the elegant dragonfly pattern.   I continued to pass on making the purchase, until this past Fall.  I was finally ready to bring the dragonfly home and I did just that.

I share this story because the dragonfly has been something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately.  And as I began to reflect on my journey and experiences through 2013, the dragonfly made it’s presence known to my mind again.  I’ve known for a long time that they have a strong symbolic meaning in many cultures.  So I did some research to find out what the symbolism behind the dragonfly was.  As I was reading through various sites, it became obvious that the dragonfly symbolism was very relevant to my personal journey over the past year.  In many cultures, the dragonfly is a symbol for change.  This isn’t so much about doing as it is about being.  It’s about the change that comes from a deeper understanding of yourself, a greater sense of self-awareness.  It’s change as a result of a deeper mental and emotional maturity.  My journey through 2013 was a time of a lot of change: personally, professionally, mentally, and emotionally.  For much of the year, it seems the dragonfly was trying to make its presence felt.  So as we step into a new year, I wanted to share five lessons from the dragonfly as a way to acknowledge the year behind us and embrace the year ahead of us and the potential this New Year brings.

Lesson1: Take time to reflect and embrace what you see. 

A dragonfly, depending on the specific species, can live as little as 3 months or as long as 10 years.  During its lifetime a dragonfly lives most of its life as a nymph, living in the water Dragonfly on waterand not yet flying.  This can be the more common 1-2 years, but as long as 6 years.  Once the dragonfly emerges from the water as an adult, it can immediately fly.  The metamorphosis the dragonfly goes through, and it’s short time as an adult skimming lightly across the water, can be seen as looking beyond what is on the surface and at the deeper aspects of life.  As we start a new year, it’s a great time to take a deeper look inside and clearly identify a few key items that make up who we are.  This could be identifying our most important values, our strengths, our personal purpose.  Then, as we take a deeper look inside, we can begin to identify our priorities for the year.  This will help us to be better prepared mentally and emotionally to embrace a change when the time is right.

Lesson 2: Dance with strength and agility.

The dragonfly has the ability to move in all six directions: up/down, forward/backward, side to side.  It can also fly up to 45 miles an hour or just hover for a short time.  And all of this is done with a grace and strength that defies the simplicity of effort used.  While some insects move their wings up to 1000 times a minute, the dragonfly’s wings beat only 30 Red Dragonflytimes a minute.  Through the power exerted, and the agility of movement, the dragonfly is able to “dance” through life rather than fight.  So as we look to create life balance for ourselves, we can identify ways to renew and replenish our energies: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.  This renewal will help us build our own strength and agility so we can engage in the dance rather than the fight.

Lesson 3: Eliminate self-created illusions.

The iridescence of the dragonfly’s wings and body will appear as different colors depending of the angle and polarization of the light touching it.  This property of the Dragonfly Iridescencedragonfly is seen as an end of self-created illusions and a beginning of self-realization and a clear vision of the future.  The magic of the iridescence also symbolizes a discovery of one’s own strengths and abilities, helping to reveal the true self.  We all have our stories that we tell ourselves.  These stories can reinforce a negative cycle of doubt and worry, or even delusion.  Or these stories can support a positive move forward toward our goals, our purpose.  The key is to cast aside any stories that hold us back and strengthen those that reveal our true selves.  Knowing who we REALLY are, will help us to set appropriate and achievable goals for this year, and beyond.

Lesson 4: Focus on living IN the moment.

The dragonfly is the epitome of living IN the moment.  With only a short time as an adult and able to fly, the dragonfly lives a full life and leaves nothing to be desired.  Living in theDragonfly Emerges moment is something we humans find very difficult to do.  We are almost always worrying about the past and how we could have done something differently, or concerned about the future and if we are going to do something just right.  Living like this has a way of transforming human beings into human doings. By slowing down and living IN the moment, we are more aware of where we are, who we are with, what we are doing, and most importantly, WHO we are.  With this internal and external clarity of our present, we can make more informed decisions about our future.  This in turn allows us to live our lives without regret.

Lesson 5: Keep your eyes, and your mind, open.

One of the key traits of the dragonfly are the eyes.  Over 80% of a dragonfly’s brain is used for vision.  And with the compound, spherical vision, a dragonfly can see in all directions at Dragonfly Eyesthe same time.   What this symbolizes is the ability to see beyond what we may be currently experiencing, the limitations and the barriers, and to leverage enhanced vision to see a much bigger, more complete, picture.  Another aspect of living as a human doing is getting caught up in tunnel vision.  As we set goals for our personal and work lives, and as we diligently work to achieve those goals, we often lose sight of a bigger picture.  Take time to stop and look around, in all directions.  Reflect on the past, BE in the present, and look forward to the future.

As one of the oldest living species, maybe THE oldest, going back over 300 million years, there is much we could learn from the dragonfly.  So as I look out my window to the white of a mid-west winter, and as I look a my new bathroom set, I can’t help but look forward to warmer days, by the water, looking for a chance meeting with a colorful dragonfly.  And I can’t help but connect this to the many changes of 2013 and the future journey of 2014.  May your 2014 be full of elegance, strength, insight, and color!

Happy New Year!

All images courtesy of Flickr