Faster technology adoption is the norm
As a leader in a technology organization, you will be keeping track of technology trends and will encourage & support your team to understand and adopt them to solve business problems. The rate of technology adoption is increasing across the consumer and other markets.
Within the IT organization, there is an even faster rate of change and a constant ask to keep up with new programming languages and frameworks.
One of your challenges will be to accelerate the exploration and adoption of new technology. I would like to share how you can adopt an inquiry-based learning approach to overcome this challenge. It can help your team learning to learn and transform them to become a “continuously learning” team.
What is inquiry-based learning?
In my career, I had opportunities to learn, unlearn and pivot across technologies and domains many times over. From engineering services to product testing, from test automation to service-oriented architecture, from building in-house frameworks and products to establishing tools for continuous integration & compliance. These transitions can bring a sense of anxiety and at the same time a sense of adventure – to explore new territories and break new grounds. Such opportunities enable us to be continuously relevant and support our customers with the latest and best technology.
Whenever I need to implement a new tool or technology, I learn about its key features through demos, videos, and documents. If I need to learn Azure, I try to start with a small pilot with a clear goal. Let’s say I want to build an online public gallery for an artist. I can list down few key features, like the ability to upload pictures, like a picture, share a picture, etc. If you consider this as a destination. Let us say your current state is point A, where you don’t have an Azure account. Your next logical setup will be to set up an Azure account (Point B). Once you have an Azure account, you will face the next set of questions and uncertainties. Which of the hundreds of services provides a web server? At this point, you will be relying on your understanding of building a web application. These prior pieces of knowledge and first principles become the “trunks and branches” (as called out by Elan) on which to link and integrate your new knowledge of Azure.
Once you create a webserver you will move on to the next logical question of how to deploy a web application in Azure? If you have deployed web applications in your local machine or on-premises server, the answer to this question is only the difference between on-premise vs. Azure. As you see this is a terrain exploration problem, of fixing a destination, scouting the next steps, learning about the new path, and integrating with your current understanding. familiar with your home to office commute, the rest of the places are just around the next turn or corner.
The inquiry-based learning (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inquiry-based_learning) approach relies on asking questions to understand a subject/topic or area. It is important to ask the right questions. A good filter is to see if the question will take you to the next step or help resolve a bottleneck in moving forward. It is essential to have an experiment, pilot or goal. This can serve as a motivation as well as a measure of success for your competency. This approach is also not a theoretical or learning to memorize exercise. It can really help organization which needs to adopt and apply new technology to produce an outcome, which may be a product or service. At a personal level, it can hone your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and is an intellectually rewarding exercise.
How can you adopt it?
If you want to adopt it you can follow the below steps:
1. Chose a topic
2. Identify an experiment or pilot.
3. Identify the immediate next step. If you have any questions on how to reach this step list them down.
4. Research and find answers to your questions, You could do this through public forums (Google, YouTube videos, Reddit, Stack overflow etc.) and by reaching out to SMEs and gurus.
5. Reflect on the answers: Integrate the knowledge gained with your current understanding. Relate it to your knowledge on adjacent or similar paradigms.
6. Experient with the answers: Apply the learning and reach the next steps. If you fail to reach it, you can take the learning and go back to Step 5 as you may have more questions.
7. As you make progress you will gain more confidence in the new technology and gain momentum.
As you and your team gain familiarity with this approach, you can quickly explore, learn, and integrate new technology in your organization. I assume you will have your own secret sauce to gain competency over new technology, would you like to share your experience and hacks?