Rethinking Workplace Learning and Development

Learning-based complex work: how to reframe learning and development

Reda SadkiAbout me, Global health, Interviews, Published articles, The Geneva Learning Foundation

The following is excerpted from Watkins, K.E. and Marsick, V.J., 2023. Chapter 4. Learning informally at work: Reframing learning and development. In Rethinking Workplace Learning and Development. Edward Elgar Publishing. This chapter’s final example illustrates the way in which organically arising IIL (informal and incidental learning) is paired with opportunities to build knowledge through a combination of structured education and informal learning by peers working in frequently complex circumstances. Reda Sadki, president of The Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF), rethought L&D for immunization workers in many roles in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Adapting to technology available to participants from the countries that joined this effort, Sadki designed a mix of experiences that broke out of the limits of “training” as it was often designed. He addressed, the inability to scale up to reach large audiences; difficulty to transfer what is learned; inability to accommodate different learners’ starting places; the need …

Health performance management in complex adaptive systems

How do we reframe health performance management within complex adaptive systems?

Reda SadkiGlobal health, Learning, Research

We need a conceptual framework that situates health performance management within complex adaptive systems. This is a summary of an important paper by Tom Newton-Lewis et al. It describes such a conceptual framework that identifies the factors that determine the appropriate balance between directive and enabling approaches to performance management in a given context. Existing performance management approaches in many low- and middle-income country health systems are largely directive, aiming to control behaviour using targets, performance monitoring, incentives, and answerability to hierarchies. Health systems are complex and adaptive: performance outcomes arise from interactions between many interconnected system actors and their ability to adapt to pressures for change. In my view, this important paper mends an important broken link in theories of change that try to consider learning beyond training. The complex, dynamic, multilevel nature of health systems makes outcomes difficult to control, so directive approaches to performance management need to …

Jazz ensemble or classical orchestra

Metaphors of global health: jazz improvisation ensemble or classical orchestra?

Reda SadkiCulture, Global health, Thinking aloud

In the realm of classical music, the orchestra stands as a formidable emblem of aesthetic grandeur and refinement. However, beneath the veneer of sophistication lies a deeply entrenched system that stymies the potential for creative exploration and spontaneity. As in a straitjacket, the rigidity of this system threatens to reduce the rich tapestry of human experience into a sterile hierarchy, devoid of the serendipity that breathes life into artistic expression. The classical orchestra is governed by a hierarchy that places the conductor at the apex, wielding an almost tyrannical authority over the musicians. It is a system that perpetuates a culture of conformity, where musicians are coerced into subsuming their individuality in the service of an imposed order. This stifling environment leaves little room for the musicians to contribute their own interpretations or creative impulses, and instead demands that they adhere strictly to the conductor’s vision, which is often based …

Wicked signs (Aukje Dekker/Flickr)

What is a wicked problem?

Reda SadkiInnovation, Quotes

In 1973, Horst W.J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber, two Berkeley professors, published an article in Policy Sciences introducing the notion of “wicked” social problems. The article, “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,” named 10 properties that distinguished wicked problems from hard but ordinary problems. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem. It’s not possible to write a well-defined statement of the problem, as can be done with an ordinary problem. Wicked problems have no stopping rule. You can tell when you’ve reached a solution with an ordinary problem. With a wicked problem, the search for solutions never stops. Solutions to wicked problems are not true or false, but good or bad. Ordinary problems have solutions that can be objectively evaluated as right or wrong. Choosing a solution to a wicked problem is largely a matter of judgment. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of …

MAVEN Atlas V Launch

A question of such immense and worldwide importance

Reda SadkiThinking aloud

Scale: Predictions over the impact of climate change and globalization suggest that we will see more frequent disasters in a greater number of countries, along with more civil unrest in those states less able to cope with this rapidly changing environment, all generating a greater demand for humanitarian and development assistance (cf. Walker, P., Russ, C., 2012. Fit for purpose: the role of modern professionalism in evolving the humanitarian endeavour. International Review of the Red Cross 93, 1193–1210.) Complexity: The world’s problems are characterized by volatility, uncertainty, and complexity in a knowledge society. The industry to tackle these growing challenges has expanded rapidly to become increasingly professionalized, with a concentrated number of global players increasingly focused on the professionalization of more than 600,000 paid aid workers and over 17 million volunteers active worldwide in UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the main international non governmental organizations (INGOs). …

What is a system: Donella H. Meadows

What is a system?

Reda SadkiTheory

Donella H. Meadows wrote the following simple, eloquent description of a system: “A system isn’t just any old collection of things. A system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose. A system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made. A system is more than the sum of its parts. It may exhibit adaptive, dynamic, goal-seeking, self-preserving, and sometimes evolutionary behavior. It is easier to learn about a system’s elements than about its interconnections. If information-based relationships are hard to see, functions or purposes are even harder. A system’s function or purpose is not necessarily spoken, written, or expressed explicitly, except through the operation of the system. Purposes are deduced from behavior, not from rhetoric or …