Meet the Experts | Q&A with Pam Hamilton on Supercharged Learning

Posted by Learnovate

We speak to one of our keynote speakers from Learnovation 2021, Pam Hamilton, who is a learning expert with 20 years’ experience working in corporate and public sector teams across the world.

With a background in psychology and collective intelligence, Pam shared practical tools, case studies and examples to her talk about human centric learning in an ever-digital world. She discussed how to overcome the challenge of attention deficit and how to increase learner engagement to help make learning programmes more memorable and impactful.

Pam began her career in consumer insights at Kraft Foods and Unilever and was previously Head of Creative Development at ITV Imagine. Pam is now the MD and founder of Paraffin, an award-winning capabilities agency who supercharge learning experiences to help people and businesses get optimised results.

With Paraffin, she designs and leads bespoke learning journeys and behaviour change programmes for GSK, Unilever, Diageo, Essity, Tesco and Pernod Ricard. Her team has won a silver TJ Award and the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2021 for their anti-gender-stereotyping framework used by The United Nations and Cannes Lions judges to stop gender stereotyping in advertising.

Pam has written two books, both of which focus on learning, teamwork and workshops. They are: Supercharged Teams; 30 tools of great teamwork; The Workshop Book; How to design and lead successful workshops.

What are the biggest lessons you learned in your career?

Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned with my team and also with myself is to only take on work we are passionate about and know we can do well. With Paraffin, we come at learning from the perspective of a journey and believe the way that people learn needs to be extremely motivating. It needs to appeal to a greater purpose in themselves and this is how we think when deciding what work to take on. It’s a form of prioritisation focused on passion because, as we grow, we get more and more requests, but taking on work that doesn’t suit us takes away from our passion and stretches us too thinly. To ensure we always do excellent and rich work, we only take on work within our strength and passion area. The power of saying no, in a respectful way, to things that aren’t right releases us for better work.

What was the best advice you ever received?

When I wrote my book, “Supercharged Teams: 30 tools of great teamwork,” I was trying to be very academic, very serious, very fact based. And, so, my book was really solid and full of evidence, but my mentor, American business author Michael Schrage asked, “Where are the stories, where’s the richness, where’s the juice, where’s the pain?” He said: “Even if it’s for work, you have to uncover what it means for you and how you got there. You need to tell people about the journey that you took to get there.”

What are your favourite tools and resources in work?

Our whole business exists on the Google Workspace. It’s so incredibly easy for us to use and it means we don’t need an IT department. I’m also a big fan of Zoom; we always worked remotely so even before Covid we were using Zoom all the time. Basecamp and MURAL are also essential to how we work.

Why is R&D important in the learning technology industry?

R&D is important because the world of work is changing so fast, we cannot rely on doing things the way we have always done things. There is a risk that when we find something that works we just stick with it and stop looking for the next best solution. While I believe we shouldn’t fix something that’s not broken, adapting to new technology is an intrinsic aspect of any job now, in every industry and type of work. R&D in learning presents us with the opportunity to evolve the way we learn for the better.

For us at Paraffin, we focus on experimentation and constant optimisation. We’re always looking for the next best solution, not for the sake of finding something new, but for the sake of optimising how we work together. So, for us, everything’s about true collaboration and teamwork. If there’s an easier, or better, way to work we’ll always have a look and experiment around that.

From your experience, what are the current trends in learning?

A concept called “in the flow of work” is a big trend with all our clients at the moment. I call it live action and essentially it means instead of creating learning that takes people away from their desk, it’s about having what you need to know accessible in your job in the moment that you need it. To do this, you need to create simple pathways that help people get to what they need in a short, bite size way.

It can also involve training around a live business problem that people are currently working on so that when they go back to their desk, they’ve got more answers than when they left it and they can get straight back into that work. Often the biggest barrier to the success of a course is the individual’s motivation. When creating learning journeys, or any kind of training, it’s important for people to feel a sense of connection and understand what they will gain from the training. This new concept works well with keeping people motivated as the learning involves real problems.

How should we prepare for the future of work?

We need to get comfortable with change. Increasingly successful individuals, teams and organisations will be those who are able to adapt and optimise in the environment that is rapidly changing around them. What works for one team, topic or project may not work for the next, due to different team members, disrupted industries or recent innovations. By looking forward optimistically to the future, we will have a measure of control over it, rather than the future becoming an unpleasant surprise we would prefer not to face.

What book would you recommend on learning, technology, business or understanding people?

‘The Hidden Edge’ by Jodie Rogers about the importance of mental fitness is a great book about learning how to use mental fitness as an advantage in business. Also, John Monk’s new book ‘Closer Apart’, which is just about to launch, is a great resource all about designing and facilitating online workshops and meetings.

What impact has Covid-19 had on you and what have you learned from your experience?

Covid has shown us that online workshops and learning experiences can be better than in person courses. Covid forced more companies to do online workshops so instead of an eight-hour day in London, we moved to a journey that was much more diverse.

When the companies we work with moved their training fully online, we were able to get people from all different locations and different roles and put them on a journey which, instead of eight hours in one day, became eight hours over a week or two. We managed to create far better outputs from our workshops because we attracted and engaged with much more diverse people who were able to prepare and reflect overnight.

We discovered that people were able to join that journey far better with time and space to reflect and so the ultimate result is our workshops have been more successful online. We were always doing online workshops so we had always said that online workshops were as good as offline, but now we think online is better than in-person training.