Archive for January, 2007

ASTD Conference Notes and Resources

The ASTD TechKnowledge 2007 is in session this week. Unfortunately due to previously scheduled engagements I will not be able to go.  But for now, I’m posting a link to some of the conference handouts.

Check out the excellent presentation on “Personal and Collaborative Learning Using Blogs and Social Bookmarking” by Tony Karrer.

http://tk07.astd.org/Handouts%20for%20Web/W101.pdf

Ah, I wish I was there…

My Notes: Web 2.0 – Innovation and the New Rules

Image from http://www.OReilly.net

I was doing a scan over the O’Reilly Radar site when I found yet another good visualization of some of the important concepts around envisioning the web as a platform. The ideas from this image map which stood out most to me were:

  • Trust your users
  • Perpetual beta
  • Rich User Experience
  • Software that gets better the more people use it
  • An Attitude, not a technology

I’m a little slow, but I’m slowly getting the idea that in this new world the experience of the end user is key. Companies that truly understand this and employ enlightened design practices will be the dogs that rise to the top of the hierarchy. More, companies which employ these practices internally and develop a more collaborative model for creating products will continue to bring to market wonderful products that blow the competition out of the water.

I look at some of the tan-colored ovals in the image above, and I realize that these are concepts that may not take hold in ‘traditional’ corporations. More, these concepts don’t read well in the ideal corporation formed from a Welchian model. There is a pretty good article from last year from Money Magazine that lists Jack Welch’s rules of the game for companies, and provides a contrasting set of new rules. I believe that the movement around 2.0 the 2.0 tech or business model embodies the newer set of rules.

New rule # 2 echoes the need for agility described in New rule #1. How can you truly “create something new” (new products, new services) and get them out into the market (sometimes in new ways or via non-traditional vehicles), if you are not agile enough to change how your company generates products or does business? Should you continue to rest your bets (with a whole lot of faith) that being the “big dog” or dominating the market will allow you to maintain your market share? Also, how can you truly be agile if you continue to look internally for solutions, rather than make connections with what is going on in the outside world? How can you develop visionary products with people who’s view of success is merely to rise through the ranks or with leaders who do not have vision and or remain incapable of communicating it to their employees?

I started to create a mind map of a fictional company that might have some of the traits described in the “New Rules.” I’m fully aware that this is of course an “Ideal State.” However, you can’t really aspire to Be the One unless you’ve at least sketched out a summary of what that means.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of talk in the corporate ether about being ‘innovative.’ Having units with innovative teams is a good start to achieving this ideal state. In the child node of the mind-map branch “Have innovative teams” I referenced Phil McKinney’s list of innovative team players. I also divided the Parent into two roles/qualities (the people person/bridge and the process oriented person/task master). Also, I would like to note that the “Leader’s” primary job, with the help of the parent figure who acts as a bridge, is to hold this heterogeneous team together. The personalities on such a team are so diverse that conflicts are bound to arise. The book The Ten Faces of Innovation also provides a great profile of the players in an innovative group. I am planning to buy this book, and am very excited to read it.

Another way to improve your organization’s ability to be more innovative, or develop innovative products is to Foster collaboration or collaborative behavior within your org. Having a Knowledge Management system that taps into your collaboration enabled “Network IT” can boost your organization’s collaborative activities. Collaboration is a big part of what the Web 2.0 movement is all about.

Click the image to view the expanded mind-map.

Resources or Nuggets:

Money article on Old vs. New Rules of Business: http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/10/magazines/fortune/rule5.fortune/index.htm

Innovative Teams – Audio MP3 (Phil McKinney’s Podcast in which he describes the typical players in innovative teams): http://libsyn.com/media/philmckinney/KI_20061001.mp3

O’Reilly Radar article on “Web 2.0: Real Time Platforms” – http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/08/real_time_platforms.html

10 Faces of Innnovation (Website for the Book) – http://www.tenfacesofinnovation.com/ The 10 faces of innovation listed and briefly described: http://www.tenfacesofinnovation.com/tenfaces/index.htm#anthro

The world’s most innovative companies: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_17/b3981401.htm

Music to soothe the ravaged cubehead

I cannot live without headsets.

Living in cube-farm city and being exposed to other’s conversations and sometimes arguments, I find it necessary to retreat into my own space when I have work I need to concentrate on.

Youtube sometimes offers a diversion, music-wise. Today I found a recording/video of Jascha Heifetz and Eric Friedman of the Bach Double Concerto, Second Movement.   I suddenly felt as if I’d rediscovered an old friend or at least some piece of knowledge or article of faith that once served as grounding point for me. Years ago, I actually wrote the entrance essay to my undergrad about this piece of music and how it influenced me. 

Today after listening to it, I felt that  it still helps me create a safe place of solitude for my inner voice.  We forget these things when we live and struggle in structures where we feel that we have little or no control over what we do.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXRlnO3K3hk

Transparency of Design and Development of Reusable Learning Objects (RLO)

Analysis/Intervention Tip: If you’re developing training that has project or content areas chunked out in discrete (independent) chunks. You can easily develop your elearning content around those chunks as Reusable Learning Objects or RLO’s.

If you think of the process of planning, designing, developing and implementing an Enterprise IT tool as a 60 sec/1000 yd relay race, training (at least training for IT products in a large company) usually gets the baton at the 800yd marker 5 seconds before time is up. Often in projects (in this environment), training is given the finished design/tool at the 11th hour and expected to deliver a complete package right before the tool is deployed. I’m trying to apply a modular development strategy to this project (given the short time frame). 

Currently the team I’m leading is developing training for a re-design in one of our enterprise business tools and its process. I call this project Operation Q, Q for “Quilt.”  I think of this project as a constant piecing of pieces as if I was working with others to make a quilt.  Even a quilt needs a good solid design plan, and for me it’s the development of the business process around the project.

As I have a good map of the high level areas of design/business process, I’m working with design and testing team to develop a staggered schedule for developing, reviewing, and testing the training modules. I tried to make sure with this project that we could get some degree of transparency from the design and testing teams to begin achieving our tasks and design sooner than later.  It took some explaining and negotiating, but it paid off. In the past,  I’ve worked on projects in the past where I actually had to build the map (of the business process) for them, and then have them validate it. 

Fortunately we have a design leader who is willing to work with us and who believes in the importance of capturing information that is helpful to the end users during the design process. We have a standard document for capturing information on both business process and the tasks associated with the process. Our design lead was able to incorporate the more important fields from our document into his teams design process.

Some Instructional Designers may think that this is wrong, I should be able to have access to the designers in order to do an adequate task analysis. Unfortunately, they’re on a crunched time schedule, and influencing the project to push their launch date out for training’s sake is easier said than done. The only difficulty we have right now, is getting a good view of the entire design and how the project requirements (namely, the employee performance requirements)  map to the design.   I feel that without this mapping, it’s difficult for me to develop a comprehensive list of learning objectives. I’m discovering that I can get some of this information by following along with the design process or listening in in the design team meetings.

Reflective Exercise – Library Tagging

Here’s an interesting exercise to do a spot check to see what topics have been fueling your interest, and it’s an interesting way to connect or find others who were interested in the same books and topics. 

  1. List at least 10 books you have referenced or read in the past year
  2. Add these books to a personal library list on the LibraryThing
  3. Add tags to each of the books (these tags should include why the book was relevant to you or the topics the book covered which you found helpful). From the “Your Library” view you can add the tags to each book by clicking the pencil icon in the shared area
     

    Pencil icon allows you to edit or add tags

  4. Click on the “Tags” tab and run a tag cloud to see a visual representation of all of your topics.  This should give you a snapshot of all of the items you looked at last year. The subjects that you referenced the most will appear in the largest/bolder font.

Tonight I set up my Library. You can view my library list here:  http://www.librarything.com/catalog.php?view=Najinka

I actually clicked on the people icon in the “Shared” info column, and could find others who read the book or had it in their library. I could also see if they posted a review of the book as well.  Great stuff.   If you do try to use this, beware. It is a beta version so there are times when the site undergoes maintenance from time to time.

I think tag clouds are an interesting visual representation, but I struggle to see how they can be used as structured navigation to topics.  Perhaps there’s value,  if you have a closed community contributing to a tag cloud or tagging repository you can track which items or topics are more relevant to that group. After running a search on Google, I happened upon Joe Lamantia’s blog again (it’s been a while – see the link below), and it looks like he has been exploring the phenomenon of Tag Clouds in more detail.  He claims that the clouds are a valuable way for people to expand their learning through what others are documenting and listing in their clouds. This certainly does work for a learner like myself (part active experimenter/part reflective)  who enjoys exploring and seeking out connections.   For me the internet can be just one bread-crumb trail after another, which is dangerous because it takes some focus for me to come back and return to the original subject which was researching to begin with. But if learning via the net is great for my learning style; what about people who don’t enjoy learning this way? People who crave a little more structure to their educational menu?

Nuggets:

 

Update on Ikiru

Looks like they’re planning to remake the movie, or at least the story is being pitched. Hollywood being what it is, I actually doubt this will happen.

See imdb: http://imdb.com/title/tt0425599/ 

Though I can see how re-writing this film for a more contemporary audience might be a wonderful thing.  I’m just afraid the story-line and message would get polluted by Hollywood as it usually does. Though it doesn’t seem like it would be a large budget feature, maybe an independent film company can do it.

What are you?

Oooo, oh, oh…

Check out this great post on “One Breath at a Time” on defining oneself… to find out what programming language, OS or website you are.

Looks like I’m PHP too.

SCORE… I’m Linux…. must have been due to the I hate Star Wars input.  Actually, I personally believe George Lucas should have stopped at the first three.

I am Wikipedia… but perhaps this is part of my problem that I don’t charge for my services. But when I was  a child I did relate to Indiana Jones insisting… “That belongs in a Museum!”  My favorite question from this quiz was.

Favorite Holiday?
Christmas
Halloween
Take a Monkey to Work Day
Any day I get off from work
I don’t celebrate holidays

You are wikipedia.org You are a know-it-all.  You are trustworthy, most of the time.  You are  versatile and useful.  You like volunteering.  You are free.
Which Website are You?

Ikiru – what it means to be alive

You know how it’s like when you Net Flicks a film and it takes about two months to get to you because other films keep popping into your queue ahead of it? Well, by the time Ikiru (To Live) came to us by way of the post, I’d forgotten why I rented it, who directed it, and what it was about.   My husband ripped the red mailing wrapper off of the disc, “Oh, it’s a Kurosawa film. That’s why you rented it.”

I am a big, BIG, no ENORMOUS, fan of Akira Kurosawa’s work. Some of my favorite films of his include: Yojimbo, Kagemusha, Ran, Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.  Somehow he was able to do things which were unparalleled by so many other directors:

  • Play old and cherished story themes in a different light (Seven Samurai, Ran)
  • Create visual displays of color, choreography and substance that please and stimulate anyone’s aesthetic (Ran, the battle scenes; Dreams, the peach tree orchard scene)
  • Appeal to the viewer’s intellect while still capturing or charming the human heart of the audience (Ikiru, Dreams). Yes, some of the emotional play, especially in some of the Samurai films such as Ran or Kagemusha, are maudlin; however, those are tragedies and many tragedies have at least a pint-full of maudlin.

Ikiru’s story treats the dilemma and struggles of a mid-level bureaucrat or section chief, played by Takashi Shimura (also re-known for his role in The Seven Samurai and Kagemusha) who discovers that he has about a half a year to succumb to stomach cancer.  Watanabe, having lived his life for thirty years as a proper bureaucrat who has sacrificed much of his life to the well-being of his son, finds himself ‘mummified’ in his hum-drum existence, and unable to truly live. The film tracks his journey or quest to discover what being alive means. He tries briefly living a life of debauchery, but discovers that it leaves him wanting. Eventually, he discovers that living might come from the act of ‘making’ things that have meaning for oneself and others.

For Watanabe the act of ‘making something’ translates into busting through the bureaucracy and politics, to clean up a run-down neighborhood and establish a park and playground for the community and children. Nothing can stop him from accomplishing this goal. At his wake his peers and his underlings wonder at how he was able to accomplish the feat, some of them still believing that their proper turf was invaded improperly to get the job done, a behavior and belief typical in places where work politics can impede accomplishment of tasks.  His more faithful employees come to the conclusion that he knew of his cancer and knowing that he had very little time to get things done, drove on with more fervor than ever. In a fit of drunken empathy, the bureaucrats all vow to take action to ‘make things happen’ in view of Watanabe’s example. However, the next sobered scene displays an office mechanized and untouched by the previous day’s emotion.

Those who believe that there should be concrete and happy endings to all stories, might think that it is wrong to end a moral tale like Ikiru by showing how the message or moral may not stick with the audience. The bureacrats returned to their old ways (because change takes more than just an emotional realization that it’s needed).  It’s a realistic reminder that change is not instantaneous. Yes, it takes a hell (excuse me) of a lot more than just a message, appeal and realization that we must or need to change.  It takes commitment, leadership, vision and a strategy and well-worked out tactical plan. Watanabe was able to get his goal of cleaning up the neighborhood and buliding the park because he was committed (he also was able to inspire this commitment in his employees via his actions and resolve).  He had a clear vision of what he wanted to have accomplished and drove a tactical plan. Though the audience doesn’t know the details of this plan, we can assume that he had one and drove it.

Takashi Shimura as the driven bureaucrat, Kanji Watanabe

If you’ve read my blog up to this point you’ll probably understand why I really got into this movie. Strangely, it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.  For the past year or so, I’ve been hearing from others that I should just acquiesce and realize that change isn’t really possible in a large bureaucracy.  More, I’d been hearing hints of the message: find something outside of your work the brings meaning to your life.  My intuition told me that there was something wrong with this assumption or approach to working life. More, if the structure of work could only harness the will and power of employees who found meaning in their jobs, more than just parks and playgrounds can be accomplished.

I honestly have been having a Crisis of Faith at my work because I don’t see a fit plan of action for us from the high-higher ups above my own organization. I don’t see a change in leadership or their approach, and I don’t see a clear picture of where we need to go and even a pencil sketch of how we’re supposed to get there.  Some may feel that it’s wrong, absolutely wrong, to express my Crisis of Faith because one must be faithful and true to the cause without showing any doubt, because expressing doubt is like apologizing: it shows how just how weak you are to others. Also, in some leadership circles it is not kosher for employees to  express doubt because it makes you all too visible to management as a thorn or ‘trouble-maker.’ I’m starting to believe that having such a crisis can only make you stronger if you’re able to figure out how to get out of it.  I feel that I can see or sense a direction or strategy; however, after assessing my skills and capabilities, I realize that I don’t exactly have what it takes to start this vision on my own. Among other skills I’m lacking are the following:

  • ability to read and take advantage of the political situation
  • ability to positively influence others and communicate in a firm but friendly way
  • ability to translate my intentions and meaning to others in a way they can understand or relate to

I’m not sure where this realization is going to lead me.  I can of course take the items above and set a learning plan via reading or getting coaching from people who can or are qualified to provide it.  I can also set goals for behaviors attached to each of the three items above.   I can also seek answer to my questions about our over-all vision and plan. I may have to look for some of these answers from observations of our direction and behavior rather than rely on the words and explicit explanations of our leaders.  But perhaps I can show or explain to them how important it is to people like myself to have these things and how empowering it can be.  It’s a start.

Reflecting on Ikiru has given me a little fuel for hope. Now I just have to remember to apply the hope and vision to a tactical plan where I can have some influence.  If I find that I don’t then I need to truly need to look elsewhere. As was noted recently on “Slow Leadership:”

Then try living from the inside out. Start with your deepest values. Focus on what feels most important to you and ignore what others say. It’s your life, isn’t it? If you’re called to be a manager, that’s a great calling. But so is the calling to be a musician, or a baker, or a candlestick maker. Whatever your values point you towards, that’s what you should do. You’ll do it better, enjoy life more and have more satisfaction.

Notes and Points of Interest:

Hey, baby, what’s your MBTI?

In the spirit of understanding my surroundings better in order to effectively influence change, I found another great resource in William Bridges’ The Character of Organizations. The book effectively reviews how Meyers Briggs Personality types applies to companies and organizations. I know some are leery about Meyer Briggs Type Indicators and over-application of the MBTI profiles to people and groups, but I believe that MBTI is a start in being able to understand group dynamics and how to get different personalities to work in concert with each other. But it’s good to take any personality type scale with a grain of salt, and not over-analyze people and organizations based on these scales.
How can one change unless one really has a good understanding of themselves, their motivations, and what makes it possible for them to change. This same inward approach to change can apply to larger bodies even companies as well. I mentioned earlier that It seems that the organization I work in is highly ISTJ.  I answered the assessment in Bridges book (Chapter 2: Identifying Organizational Character) from my perspective (listing the qualities per MBTI type which I’ve and other’s I know have observed), and I’m sure that there are people higher up than myself who would disagree with my assessment. But lately, I’ve be reassessing my ability to challenge authority on their viewpoint, but doing so ever so gingerly, constructively and diplomatically. I feel that there are some very good and positive things about the attributes listed here.  For example, sometimes there definitely are benefits to being introverted and sensing. You’re focused on the solid, tangible and achievable things. However, my gut tells me that there are intangibles, motivators, and methods of influencing people that are also needed to successfully meet goals.  When you think about the dichotomy between each of the MBTI categories (Introverted vs. Extroverted, Sensing vs. Intuition, etc.), being on either end of the spectrum is not the ideal.  What would be ideal is that if you a community or company learned how to best leverage their organizational character and minimize some of it’s drawbacks by practicing the opposite. For example companies that inherently are decision-focused and drive their people groups to set aggressive deadlines should also effectively ascertain if that the deadlines are truly feasible. They should also have managers/leader who are not just results-oriented, but capable of reading, leading and motivating people.

Introverted:

  • Decision making may not be transparent
  • Respond only after study (act slowly)
  • Trust written communication (need documentation)
  • Experience interdepartmental mistrust
  • Insist that guidance must come from (leadership) within
  • Circle the waggons when in trouble vs. ask for help externally when in trouble
  • Have as a motto, “The answer is within- we just have to figure it out” vs. “The answer is out there – we just have to figure it out”

Sensing:


  • Can handle masses of data vs. being able to spotting emerging trends
  • Prefer solid routines
  • Prefer incremental change
  • Make improvements (focus on incremental innovation)
  • See intuitive organizations as lost in the clouds (skeptical of intuition and gut)
  • See the future as an extension of the present vs. believe the future can be created
  • Emphasize targets and plans vs. Emphasize purposes and vision
  • Trust experience and authority
  • Tend to organize functionally vs. cross functionally
  • Have as a motto, “Change the structure” vs. “Change the belief systems”

Thinking:

  • Make decisions based on facts, past experience, and data
  • Value what is logical
  • Emphasize the objective vs. people (and how to effectively get the people there)
  • Believe that criticisim leader to efficiency ( vs. Believe support leads to effectiveness)
  • Encourage employees to live up to expectations vs. encourage employees to do their best
  • Are a social machine vs. a social community
  • “Do the right (or intelligent) thing” vs. “Work well together”

Judging

  • Drive toward decisions vs. Keep options open and seek more information
  • May be weak in information gathering
  • Set clear, specific standards
  • Define lots of things in detail
  • Are often moralistic
  • “Fish or cut bait” vs. “Don’t miss an opportunity”

Favorite Podcasts

I’m really pleased with my iPod purchase from earlier last year.  I confess, I actually don’t use it so much to keep my music. I use it more as a learning and entertainment tool.  I’m rather protective of my podspace.  Also, I don’t have all day to wait for the darn thing to update. This morning I spent some serious time cleaning out my podcast aggregator feeds.

I’ve actually created two categories for my podcasts

  1. Watch or listen to them now- Stuff for entertainment, better to listen to them right away and then remove them from the podcatcher rather than load them into the ipod.  Also, I’d rather scan through the video podcasts from my desktop or laptop first than just upload them to the ipod. They take up too much space. Also, obviously, you can’t multitask when you’re watching video on the ipod.  I could see the video feature being somewhat attractive if I had a daily commute that was about 1 hour long.  Though, honestly, I still see potential in the video pod format for learning and communication by sending animated presentations via video podcast. 
  2. Save for later – Generally I listen to these while I’m doing household tasks or walking the dog, etc.  Almost as great as books on tape.

Save for later podcasts

  • Nova –  Science Now  (Podcast Link) – Science nuggets for all to enjoy
  • Killer Innovations- Phil McKinney’s podcast with good coaching and methods on building innovative teams and work environments.  He’s entertaining and refreshing to listen to on top of that
  • Smart City with Carol Colletta  (Podcast Link) – Interesting stories and features on urban development. On of the more noteble ones was on “The Potential of Creative Industries” (8/31/2006)
  • The Works with John Moe - This is one of my favorites, started listening to it when I first got my iPod and found that it has the staying power to stay in my pod queue. Features on business, tech, and entrepeneurs from the Seattle area, but it was the first place I actually learned and heard about “The Long Tail” and it’s implications for marketing and selling from the web.
  • HBR -Ideacast – Reviews some of the featured articles from Harvard Business Review.  Nice, if you can’t afford the subscription.
  • KCRW’s Martinishot (with Rob Long) – I don’t work in Hollywood, thank, God!, but Rob long humorously reminds me why

Watch or listen to right away


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