Sunday, February 28, 2010

Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Figuring out the head fake

Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood find today via Sumeet Moghe

I think it is one of those finds that coincide with an important day in a person's life (this being my birthday) and leaves an impact that leaves you feeling grateful for all those brick walls life puts in place for us so that we can prove how badly we want some things...

This one is for my daughter...go out there and do what you have to do with earnestness, dedication and passion...

I am putting the Lecture here. I will not try to write anything about it...Just go ahead and listen!

Switch: When change is hard...

The subject matter is a book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard! I finished reading it this afternoon.

When one completes a book that tells you how to change or bring about change and it coincides with what is topmost on your mind, it does cause you to reflect a little more than usual. My reflection usually circles back to how people learn. And the same happened with Switch.

In their inimitable manner, Dan and Chip Heath have once again excelled in pinning down the abstract, in tackling that bugbear called Change that every manager and leader conceptualizes and envisions, but can seldom bring to pass. This is a book that should be on the shelf of every manager, leader, change management gurus, teachers, learners and anyone else who believes that change is the TRUTH, is inevitable for survival but often perceives the barriers as insurmountable.

I am a teacher. At least that is how I started my career; I am still a teacher marketing myself under fancier terms like “instructional designer” and “learning solutionist” and “performance consultant”.

Once I put down the book, I tried to map Switch to teaching strategies or, to use the terms more relevant to today’s corporate setting, Performance-Focused Training. Since the goal of any training program is to bring about a change in the behavior of learners, all the 3 parameters of change advocated by the two brothers can be applied in toto to a training program, and it would be a resounding success.

Using the metaphor of the Rider (mahout), the Elephant and the Path, Switch advocates 3 criteria for bringing about change. I have tried to map each of these 3 criteria to the designing of a performance-focused training program. The Rider stands for the anlytical mind, the Elephant is representative of our emotions and the Path is the environment one operates in.

1. Direct the Rider:  what looks like resistance is often lack of clarity. So provide crystal clear direction.
Make training laser focused; trim the flab. Identify the key areas/workflows a learner needs to know to be able to perform on the field. Tell the learner precisely what they will be able to “DO” after the training, and then go about showing them how.

2. Motivate the Elephant: what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can’t get his way by force for very long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative.
Don’t make the training resemble a Switch (noun): a slender flexible whip, rod, or twig. Force never got anyone anywhere, at least not for a long time, and never when seeking to bring about change. Avoid cognitive overload, which means, don’t overplay on the learner’s analytical abilities. The “how” or delivery of a good training program should also appeal to a learner’s emotions—perhaps through the use of simulations, stories, games, case studies, videos, movie clips, podcasts, anything that can engage the heart as well as the mind. A complex table of data maybe what they need to understand, but converting that into meaningful and impactful knowledge is the training designer’s job.

3. Shape the Path: we call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the “Path”. When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and the Elephant.

Training designed and delivered right may motivate learners to change. However, without a supportive environment that encourages implementation and application of the new behavior, no amount of training can successfully bring about and sustain the desired change.

Realms can be written about designing engaging training and creating a performance-focused environment, but these are topics for other posts.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Science of Social Media Marketing: What do people share?

I don't usually upload videos directly, but this one from O'reillyMedia on the The Science of Social Media Marketing is a must watch for all interested in using Social Media to reach out, influence, spread ideas, create memes. The webcast draws parallels with natural biological development and the growth and spread of an idea using concepts like longevity, fecundity, and reproduction to drive home the points.

I have listed some of the key points the video covers that are of special interest to me (interspersed with some of my takes as well in italics and blue font):

  1. How ideas become viral/contagious, become a meme (a term coined by Richard Dawkins in his The Selfish Gene--a must read by the way; good ideas don't necessarily become memes and sometimes silly ideas stick--anyone who has read Made to Stick knows that, e.g., Urban Legends...)
  2. How will you test which marketing efforts are working--through iteration 
  3. What is "selection pressure"--how will you create something that can withstand today's selection pressures
  4. Proverbs stick; to make Tweets stand out from the stream, is this a good standard to follow
  5. Spread of ideas by imitation; what kind of ideas are people likely to imitate (read retweet here in the world of Twitter; imitation can raise the "perceived value of an idea" and this leads to it eventually becoming a meme if passed along enough)
  6. Don't let a void develop around your brand; lack of information can lead to rumours (Tiger Woods is probably a case in point from recent times)
  7. An idea changes a little bit as it moves along (remember the game of Chinese Whispers)--generate ideas that will become better and better as it moves along virally... 
  8. The marketing funnel beginning with exposure to the idea, awareness about it and motivation to spread it can be tapped using SoMe platforms
  9. Key steps: seeding, identifying influencers, cutting through the clutter (take advantage of human's selective attention by being more relevant and personalized)
  10. Avoid link fatigue--don't post too many links at a time
  11. Identify time of week when a social media platform like Twitter is likely to be less active (like a Friday evening) to post links and Tweets; likely to get the most attention
  12. What sort of psychological or linguistic traits are people likely to RT and thus move along--use of words like I, us, and so on
  13. People will pass along links and ideas when it is of personal relevance to them (know the audience well; just as when designing a learning course)
  14. Re-tweets tend to be more NOUN HEAVY, novel, where the original tweet had words like Pls RT
  15. Be RT worthy by creating RT worthy content
  16. Self references work the least...!!! 
A related article you may like to read: Rethinking Online Course Marketing: Build a Tribe in Six Steps

Do see the webcast below...The Science of Social Media Marketing...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In Response to Collaboration Provides Autonomy

Last week I started a new Making Strategies Stick project with a large IT company. The guys I'm working with are the technical sales folk and as we were working out their strategic story they mentioned that the passion that was once there for their products seemed to be waning among some of their technical specialists.
From: Anecdote: Collaboration provides autonomy

A very short post from Anecdote, the para jumps out at you, not only because it is the first para in a post that is 3 paragraphs long, but because of the underlying message it conveys.

As soon as I read it, I told myself, "Those guys are losing motivation, they are not feeling involved."

The post gives a classic example of where instruction was replacing involvement. I mentioned in an earlier post--Collaboration: A mantra that makes work play!--how typical knowledge workers do not appreciate being instructed; involvement is the key to motivation.

In today's networked world of the Concept Age where ideas connect and bring together people, where knowledge workers thrive on collaboration, leaders have to change their style.

As mentioned in another post from Anecdote: Book review: Switch—How to Change Things When Change is Hard, "A leader cannot afford to stay aloof. For change to occur they need to get into the detail as well as stay strategic."

Both the posts referenced here from Anecdote are a must read for anyone who wishes to grow a motivated and enthusiastic team where knowledge is freely shared, learning and collaboration go hand in hand, and these get reflected in the work the team puts forth.

For the truly keen, there is also a white paper from Anecdote, Building a collaborative workplace.

My Learning Tools

I just finished reading Harold Jarche’s post: Seek, Sense, Share
In the post, he talks about how seeking information, then applying our personal sense-making filters to it, and finally sharing it helps us to see the interconnections, patterns and the larger whole. This is why the process of “seek, sense, share” becomes so important in one’s personal learning and knowledge management.
This set me thinking about how I manage my personal knowledge and from there it led to the tools I use to do in this networked world.
Lately, I have started using a number of Web tools actively. The post made me pause and reflect on the position/use of each in my PKM. And this is what I found after some random scribbling, reflection, dialogue with self, and head scratching…
I have listed the tools in their order of frequency of usage (at least now and this is liable to change)…
What do I receive (tangible and intangible)/how do I use each of the tools…
1.       Resource links, suggestions, insights that have taught me more in a year than I learned in the previous five
2.       Responses to queries
3.       Opportunities to participate in global conversations like #lrnchat (my favorite activity)
4.       Access to collective wisdom helping me to make sense of all the information flowing endlessly
5.       A real-time editing of the web that filters the most useful bits with comments, suggestions, additional thoughts that add to my sense-making
6.       Send out 140 ch thought chunks where I force myself to summarize what I have read (my ability to see the essence/core of a piece is improving with this)
7.       Opportunities to lurk on interesting conversations that erupt in an atmosphere where most are seeking to learn
8.       Ability to participate or just “be”, depending on my mood and still benefit
9.       A feel of the “pulse” of what is happening, how the world and worldviews are shifting, and how these can impact learning/training/organizations/interactions—in short everything

1.       I have been using Amplify to not only share what I read and like but also to share (to some extent) my take on the topic.
2.       Amplify bridges the gap that micro-blogging seems to have created in the blogosphere with people sharing links to great posts and maybe a few words on Twitter.
3.       Using Amplify is forcing me to go beyond superficial skimming and read more deeply before I post the link. While my sharing on Twitter may have reduced, I feel that I am doing so more thoughtfully now.
4.       It’s a step beyond Twitter and I feel will help us to make greater sense of the information coming our way—at least from an “analyzing to internalize” perspective.
5.       This may also take care of some of the fears many have expressed about Twitter encouraging superficial/no reading. The way Amplify works, one has to dig a bit deeper…probably a move toward sharing more thoughtfully…

As Harold Jarche has said, my blog is where I hammer out my ideas. For the most part, my posts are an outcome of some theoretical understanding (a beginner here) combined with experiential learning. They are more often than not reflective in nature. Blogging has helped me to:
1.       Pin down sometimes elusive thoughts
2.       Rationalize my reactions and even hunches
3.       Analyze any new theories/concepts I come across (those that fall within my areas of interest)
4.       Concretize my understanding and make new concepts my own (I can beat these around till I see how they all fit into my overall understanding)
5.       Connect old ideas to new learning and information—thus adding layers and depth to my knowledge
6.       Come into contact with wonderful bloggers and be a part of the blogosphere
7.       Trace the emerging pattern of my writing to see what is driving me (though I started my blog as an instructional design blog, most of my posts pertain to informal learning, interaction and collaboration. This was an unconscious move and only now apparent in hindsight)

A place for my half formed ideas—those that are too big for Twitter and too scrappy to be a post. I kind of jot them down here (need to use this more frequently) and then go over a collection of them to see the pattern in my thought process. Some of these evolve into posts after reflection, more reading and referencing. Sometimes, I also quickly publish a find that has added to my learning significantly. The best part is that it pushes out what I publish here to Twitter and also saves it as a Delicious link (these options are configurable).

A very recent addition to my list of tools (thanks a lot to @mrch0mp3rs Aaron Silvers), I can see that this is going to soon become very important. Once you create an account here, you can:
1.       Add the book that you have read, plan to read or buy
2.       Add notes, comments, thoughts, and reviews of the books and keep adding to these
3.       Post comment to other people’s notes, books…
4.       Follow others whose reading list interest you
5.    Recommend books building a "user generated" popularity chart 
I have to get down to using this more actively, one of my goals this weekend.

This is another tool I use very frequently and actively. It allows me to:
1.       Save posts, articles, notes I want to go back to and read again, reflect upon
2.       Add my comments and thoughts as I read them (these comments later become my posts in some cases)
3.       Edit, print out, e-mail directly and also share (the way I have done with these notes)
In short, Evernote allows me to filter the web, take what I want and create my own notebook. I can also synch it so that I can access my notes when I am offline. I have found this feature immensely useful when traveling long distances and it has helped me to catch up on my reading.

Xmind and Freemind:
These are FREE! Free is good to use Cammy Bean’s words.
These are free mind mapping tools that helps to me to structure my thoughts and lay them out visually. I use mind maps to:
1.       Take minutes of meetings
2.       Kick start a discussion
3.       Capture a brainstorming session (sometimes these are done by sketching a mind map on a whiteboard, but the result is the same)
4.       Capture the key points I wish to cover in a document with all the hierarchies and sub-sets visually laid out
5.       To lay out a PowerPoint presentation before actually creating one
6.       During the content chunking phase when I can group the content easily (a typical pre-storyboard phase of an ID’s job)
7.       To storyboard and do design thinking
8.       To sometimes capture the key points of a post I am planning to write
9.       And anything else in between
Usually where I save my links with my tags. However, this is a bit on the decline with Evernote proving more useful for me.
I have not gone into LinkedIn here as I don’t really (as yet) use it to “learn”. I use it as a platform to connect to people I learn from via their blogs, Twitter sharing, and such. LinkedIn has some great discussions but participation there is as yet negligible.  

There are also Ning and Wikis but I have not started using these very actively. The activities here are still sporadic, and I think will not pick up speed for the next 6 months. By then, it will be time to revisit this post and note the changes.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

eLearning Learning Featured!

I subscribe to eLearning Learning feeds because of the quality of the posts that it brings together.

A few days back, when I received the feeds in my mailbox and scrolled down to read, I saw my post there. Taken aback, I told myself, “Naa, some mistake!” And went right back to work.

When my next post appeared in the next day’s feed, I decided to explore a bit. I dropped a mail to Tony Karrer.  He must have been amused, and I am probably the first person who doesn’t know when she is being featured.

I was overjoyed and also humbled and definitely feel motivated to write more often and more thoughtfully.

eLearning learning, to me, has always meant insightful, thought-provoking writing on not only elearning but learning in general—learning in today’s networked world, learning through collaboration, learning about learning.

I hope to do justice to my passion for learning and to the readers of my blog…

Monday, February 15, 2010

Collaboration: A mantra that makes work play!

 “Collaboration is a process through which people who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible.”  from:
The last one month or so has been a “learningful” one for me—experiential as well as conceptual. Incidents and events have forced me to reflect.  I have (more correctly, still trying to) unlearned and relearned and have gleaned an insight of myself, my expectations, and perceptions that I hope will serve me well.
This learning is closely related to Collaboration (my favorite word as people who know me will recognize).  
I think most knowledge workers approach work from two perspectives.
One where we see what we have to do daily as our commitment and call of duty towards projects, clients, team, and the business. These are the fixed/assigned tasks that are more often than not part of our KRAs, are top driven, and we have little choice over them,  especially if we are working for corporate organizations. These require discipline in execution and delivery, sincerity, dedication and also a passion for excellence. An ability to innovate in the implementation adds to one's self satisfaction. However, most often, these are short term tasks with short-term goals that we want to get done with so that we can focus on what really inspires us, what signifies long-term goals in self growth and learning, and where we feel our contribution can actually make a difference.
This second aspect makes work meaningful and much more than the work we are paid to do. Work becomes play! Work becomes exciting, invigorating, stimulating! And one of the key sources of our personal learning. When this happens, we forget those late nights, the backbreaking hours in front of our laptops, the late, and sometimes missed lunches! We look forward to the brainstorming sessions, to connecting and collaborating, to that feeling of involvement and of doing something together that matters—to each individual and to the team.
The second aspect of work also gives rise to innovations and is the seat of collaboration. This is the place where complex ideas take shape and patterns emerge laying down the road map for the future.
I have always been a sucker for this kind of work opportunity. Who isn’t? When such opportunities arise, I don’t much care whether I will get a promotion or an increase in my salary, whether I have been in office for 8 hours or 12. It is immensely fulfilling just to know that I can contribute to my work in ways and areas that matter to me most.
However, one of the endeavors that should have been the flagship of collaborative effort failed—not from that perspective of the outcome—but from my personal standpoint. The venture failed to involve all team members and thus demonstrate the true spirit of collaboration.
Here’s an excerpt from the post Anecdotes: Putting stories to work that comes close to the kind of endeavor this team was trying to put forth.
“Team collaboration often suggests that, while there is explicit leadership, the participants cooperate on an equal footing and will receive equal recognition. An example is a six-member team working together to develop a new marketing strategy in a month, with a defined set of resources.”
Because the venture was so close to my heart, the lack of involvement left an impact that remained with me and called for an analysis.
Today, I was going through posts and articles to research for a paper on Collaboration, Networking and Social Media—some of my passions—when I chanced upon this article. Pure serendipity!
I have quoted liberally from the article to substantiate my points. I would recommend to all that you read the original one. I have taken those points that discuss Team Collaboration. The paper also examines Community Collaboration and Network Collaboration.
The highlights are mine and indicate what ultimately, for me, became the points of disconnect in the overall effort.
  • Common purpose or goal
  • An outcome that is valued
  • Pressure to deliver (a due date)
  • Complex problems that a single person could not resolve on their own
  • An explicit process for getting things done (no ESP required)
  • Clearly defined roles
  • Knowledge of each other’s work, communication and learning styles
  • An admiration of the skills and abilities of fellow team-mates
  • Enough resources to do the job but not so many that the team loses its resourcefulness
  • Regular social activities to build trust among team members
Leadership is a keystone for establishing supportive collaboration cultures, especially in teams and communities. This is based on how leaders mainly embed their beliefs, values and assumptions in the fabric of their organisation. There are six main behaviours that leaders display that mould the organisation’s culture.[3]

  • What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control on a regular basis—are they paying attention to collaborative strategies and behaviours from team, community and network perspectives?

  • How leaders react to critical incidents and organisational crises—are they sacrificing long-term goals for short-term fixes which sabotage collaboration? Does fear of connecting to the larger network keep them from tapping into it?

  • How leaders allocate resources—are they investing in the collaboration capability? Is it attentive to all three types of collaboration?

  • How leaders express their identity through deliberate role modelling, teaching, and coaching—as our leaders collaborate, so do we!

  • How leaders allocate rewards and status—are your leaders rewarding individual or collaborative behaviours? Or both?

  • How leaders recruit, select, promote, and excommunicate—are collaborative talents sought and nurtured?
The excerpt above shows that it is not enough to expect collaboration without setting in place a mechanism that enables it.
However, the incident has taught me a few things about myself that I am grateful for.
At the cost of sounding egoistic I have realized that like most experienced knowledge workers, I don’t appreciate being informed, I have to be involved. Most managers and management make the mistake of conflating information with involvement. They wrongly assume that if somehow information has been conveyed to a team member, s/he should rightfully feel involved.
Just turning the famous quote by Albert Camus a little to reflect what I, as a knowledge worker, feel about work:
Inform me, I may not listen…
Instruct me, I may not comply…
Involve me, I will be there right by your side…

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Organizational Network Analysis: Impact of Proximity on Collaboration

Where I work, the e-learning team occupies 4 large rows with instructional designers, graphic designers, programmers, technicians, project managers spread out and rubbing shoulders in happy abandon. The team's manager sits within 3 feet of the team and can not only observe every member but can also walk up to offer quick assistance/advice whenever needed.

A few weeks back, there was talk of moving a part of the e-learning team working on a specific project to a different building altogether. This information disturbed me deeply, and I raised this concern with the manager and a few other members as well. Somehow, to me, this seemed to be the opening up of a severe fault line in the project. However, I could neither quantify it nor rationalize it. But the hunch was so intense that I could not ignore it either.

Ironically, it was not going to affect me at all as I was already scheduled to travel. But I could almost sense the negative impact such a shift would have on this critical project.

Today, as I sat reading (once again) Informal Learning by Jay Cross in a distant hotel room in Westbrook, Connecticut, the point on Organizational Network Analysis hit me. I wish I had recalled it in time to support my hunch with facts.

I have paraphrased a few points from the book (pages 69-71):
Rob Cross is the founder and research director of the Network Roundtable, a consortium of 40 learning organizations working with UVA faculty to apply network techniques to critical business issues.

Using Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to pinpoint the vulnerability of the informal organization, one of the key findings was that:

"...the ONA demonstrated the extent to which the production division had become separated from the overall network. Several months prior to the analysis, these people had been physically moved to a different floor in the building. On reviewing the network diagram, many of the executives realized that this physical separation had resulted in loss of a lot of the serendipitous meetings that occurred..."

These informal meetings are part of the shadow organization that runs behind (under the radar of) every formal organization. While the formal organization facilitates systematic, process driven work, the informal enables innovation, learning, just-in-time information, productivity and quality improvement, improved job satisfaction....

And analysis also shows that most knowledge workers are likely to turn to their neighbor to discuss a problem than consult a database. By facilitating such "turning to one's neighbor" possibilities and ensuring that the right contacts are closely located in the workplace, an organization can immensely improve quality, productivity and morale.

Many forward looking companies have redesigned their work space to enable interaction and collaboration, to connect people who need to be connected. 

For a deeper understanding, read: What is ONA?
and pf course, Informal Learning.

Organizations as Communities — Part 2

Yesterday, in a Twitter conversation with Rachel Happe regarding the need for organizations to function as communities, I wrote the follow...