Conversations.1 Stills from a music video for The Hole Punch Generation (Gwen Vanhee/

Dialogue and inquiry

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

We learn from each other through dialogue and inquiry. We are excited that we can participate in a rich, diverse world of different perspectives and opinions. Conversation, as George Siemens says, is the “ultimate personalization experience. We ask questions and offer views based on our own conceptions. We personalize our knowledge when we socialize” (Siemens 2006:42). Newcomers may find dialogue and inquiry to be lacking, but this may be in part that they have yet to learn the unwritten rules of our learning culture. These unwritten (tacit) yet sometimes rigid rules of engagement frame how we may respond to each other’s knowledge needs, especially in group contexts. Confusion or even anger may result when breaking this culture of consensus. In formal settings, our organizational culture of consensus prevails. Disagreements are seldom expressed overtly. Decisions may be made in informal settings, and meetings then serve to make public what has already …

Express (Darien Law/

E-mail is formal learning

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Technology has enabled new conversations across time and space. Yet e-mail, for example, has become a formal medium, subjected to some of the same rules of consensus that prevail in other formal spaces for dialogue. It can be argued that reading and responding to e-mail requires stopping our (other) work. We also have to figure out how to apply what we learn from e-mail to your work – the applicability problem. (The fact that it is equivalent to a postcard in terms of security is a different issue). Etiquette for a new medium must be negotiated over time, and confusion persists as different people apply differing assumptions about what can be said and how to say it. Photo: Express (Darien Law/  

S.S. Eureka, paddle steamer "Eureka" seen at the San Francisco Maritime Museum (Dave Wilson/


Reda Sadki Learning strategy

If informal learning constitutes an important way in which we learn, adapt and grow, it is important to be able to describe when, where, and how such learning occurs. Only then can we determine how the organization might provide or improve an enabling environment. We can begin such a process by recalling “aha” moments of significant learning or problem-solving that occurred outside of formal training contexts – and then asking questions about how we identified the problem, what strategies we used to tackle it, what surprised us, and, of course, what were the outcomes. The “aha moment” is a point in time, event, or experience when one has a sudden insight or realization. It has also been referred to as the eureka (“I found it”) effect. The “aha” moment is a kind of coming together of learning, made compelling because the solution identified may allow for perfect alignment with work. …

Salvador Dali, Chess Set, 1971 (Andrew Russeth/

Accidents happen

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Question: Why were you looking at their data? Answer: Just out of interest to see. We recognize that some of our most significant learning may occur by accident, as a byproduct of some other activity such as task accomplishment, interpersonal interactions, or trial-and-error experimentation. Where informal learning may be sometimes intentional and more possibly planned, incidental learning is semi-conscious. Call it learning by accident. Call it serendipity. Surprise comes with a new realization, when we are not looking explicitly for answers: The element of surprise may actually be conducive to making the learning “stick”. Outside of “aha” moments which remain exceptional, incidental learning grows slowly through a process of accretion. New insights come when you do not expect them, whether in formal or informal spaces. Incidental learning is embedded into work. Incidental learning depends on context and purpose for its significance. Discovering a new way to do something new has immediate meaning  only if the …

10 habits (Audrey Low/

Learning habits

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

What are the learning habits that we perform on a regular basis to stay current? As professionals, we organize our personal learning habits in different ways that reflect our interests, personalities, and career paths. We rely on a variety of information sources, engage in reading, attend seminars and conferences, or take MOOCs or other online courses. And, of course, we connect with others. The content we seek may be directly related to our work – or conversely we may seek to acquire knowledge outside our immediate realm and field of vision. Some or if not most of our reading of work-related content takes place outside of work, even though some of us may choose to cordon off our private lives and succeed in doing so at least some of the time. We use these information sources in different ways, striving to question what we learn, sorting and organizing what we gather.  We recognize the deeply …

Casse-tête (Frédérique Voisin-Demery/

How do we solve problems in work?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

What do we do when we are confronted with a problem?  Problem solving begins when we encounter a new experience. We do this out of necessity, but also because we enjoy it. We also need to be able to solve problems fast. We develop our ability and willingness (including on a political level) to identify, analyze, and solve problems. We accept that tackling problems is painful. It involves risk-taking that may not be supported by the organization. Yet so much of how we learn and grow stems from such experiences. We know that our organization does not necessarily recognize – much less reward – uncovering problems. We need our line management and leadership to support this willingness to tackle problems. Even with supportive management and great colleagues, in many cases we are alone in confronting a problem, if only due to resource and time constraints. Yet we know that our ability to solve problems depends on …

VIA VB7009 Embedded Board - Rear I/O (VIA Gallery/

The value of learning embedded in work

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Learning that is embedded into work resolves the dilemmas of (formal) learning that requires stopping work. What we learn as we work, we learn in order to apply, and such a learning process does not usually require dedicated resources. For those of us who see ourselves as “doers” and oppose our way of doing to that of “thinkers”, we may only reluctantly acknowledge that what we do involves continual learning. It is context, we insist, that provokes a more explicit search for new knowledge, validation, or solution. And that is, in fact, the point: doing is a form of knowing. We rely on experience to address what is familiar. However, even when taking on a task that is similar to one we have done in the past, we may need to adjust, adapt, and change. When we become mindful about learning, we can use any assignment – even mundane tasks – to more …

Smoke (Paul Bence/

Should we trust our intuition and instinct when we learn?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

How much of what we learn is through informal and incidental learning? When asked to reflect on where we learned (and continue to learn) what we need to do our work, we collectively come to an even split between our formal qualifications, our peers, and experience. As interaction with peers is gained in the workplace, roughly two-thirds of our capabilities can be attributed to learning in work. We share the conviction that experience is the best teacher. However, we seldom have the opportunity to reflect on this experience of how we solve problems or develop new knowledge and ideas. How do we acquire and apply skills and knowledge? How do we move along the continuum from inexperience to confidence? How can we transfer experience? Does it “just happen”, or are there ways for the organization to support, foster, and accelerate learning outside of formal contexts (or happening incidentally inside them)? …

Factory whistles (pwbaker/

Wishful thinking

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Stopping work to learn remains the ideal. After all, many of us carry the memory of residential higher education as a powerful moment of personal growth, at the end of our teenage years and prior to entry into the workforce. Formal learning in the present includes both in-service workshops and trainings as well as various forms of continued professional development (CPD) offered by training providers and higher education institutions. These were traditionally face-to-face and are increasingly delivered at distance (online). Why do we wish so earnestly for more formal learning? Our expressed wish reflects our willingness to stay current and improve. However, wishing for more time to stop work and engage in formal learning is likely to remain wishful thinking because of at least four factors: Time – time is the scarcest resource and formal training requires stopping work to learn, in a learning culture that values task completion. Applicability – learning formally then …

Sunrise Over Cape Yamu Phuket Thailand Panorama (Kim Seng Suivre/

3 critical questions for the new Humanitarian Leadership Academy

Reda Sadki Events, Learning strategy

This morning, I’m looking forward to the London launch event for Save The Children’s Humanitarian Leadership Academy, touted by the Guardian as the “world’s first academy for humanitarian relief” that “may revolutionize” the sector. I ask the following three questions as a sympathetic observer: the Academy’s focus on the learning need for improved and scaled capacity in the face of growing humanitarian challenges is spot on. Now comes the execution. Is the Academy a platform or a hub? There are two possible roles for the Academy: as a connector, hub or platform for others and as a platform of its own (developing and delivering its own content). They certainly can overlap, but then how will the Academy both collaborate and compete for limited resources with already-established specialized training organizations? Is it a knowledge broker, catalyst, and connector – or an implementer? How will Save The Children – which has invested so much in the launch – …