Archive for February, 2007

Colin Powell’s 12 Lessons in Leadership

Colin Powell is one of my heroes.

Smart Lemming posted a summary of his lessons in leadership, and some of these really hit a chord with me.

I learned that #1 (Never be afraid to make people mad) is crucial. Most of my life I’ve been what’s know as an individual contributor or a “Worker Bee.” I’ve never led people before. I’ve seen evidence of Powell’s caution about “Trying to be nice to everybody will only invite mediocrity and compromise your goals as a leader.” But on the other hand I’ve seen the consequence of the opposite extreme of consistently being ‘not-so-nice.’ These consequences include:

  • Lack of willingness in others to partner with you or even ‘trust’ you
  • Borgia-like internal relations amongst your team members or within your entire organization if leaders with this tendency become the norm

I believe that perhaps leaders should temper #1 and develop the intuition and skill of knowing when to use that “Not-so-nice” card. Though I would agree that it may be necessary to be “not-so-nice” regularly on a temporary basis, as long as your people know why and there’s a really good reason for doing so.

# 2 – The [day] soldiers stop bring their problems to you is the day when you have stopped leading them. In some groups that this might be the case. It’s often seen as a weakness to bring up problems. Or bearers of bad news, usually are chastised for not bringing up-beat news. In some dysfunctional groups there is also the unspoken law that if you bring up a problem, then you own it. It’s easier to do this than have the leader guiding his team to prioritize the problems and then work together to solve them as a team.

# 7 – Keep looking below surface appearances: “Don’t assume that today’s realities will continue tomorrow in a tidy, linear, and predictable fashion.” In order to achieve order in business we often assume that we need to develop crisply organized schedules and procedures and goose-step to them as precisely as possible. I’ve been a part of too many projects that always assumed the best-case scenario and not planned for likely contingencies. What’s up with that? Maybe it ties into that whole idea of always having to paint a rosy picture for management. I do notice in the corporate world, that sometimes the guys who talk like weathermen forecasting great weather usually get the ear of management and upper management. Refer to image of the guy in suspenders from Creating Passionate User’s post (When only the glib win, we all loose). He looks like he talks like a weatherman.

Are you ‘weatherman’ or ‘reflective Asian guy?’

It’s easy to read this top 10 lists and think… okay now I know what it takes to be a ‘great’ leader, but it takes courage and ‘chops’ to really live this way. I have to ask myself sometimes… am I just happier being a worker bee? Do I have what it takes to be a decent leader let alone a great one. In some societies (maybe Lion prides) I’d be instant prey for saying (writing) this aloud, but I do think that it’s a question any leader should ask themselves every now and then to take account of what they’re good at and what they need to work on.

Just a thought from the peanut gallery.

Captivate 2.0

We were slow to get this new version of the tool, which is too bad because I could have used it three months ago.

Check out this rough draft of a modularized simulation I created this weekend. The user can choose to view the entire simulation or just parts. Note: I created this rather quickly using the freeware CMAP tools as my subject matter. There are a few kinks I need to work out in the sim, but still I’m very pleased with some of the time-saving features in Captivate 2.0’s arsenal.

Click on the image to view the simulation (Adobe Flashplayer v. 8.0 is required)


I am really digging some of the new features

  • The branching feature – you can create decision paths in tasks and scenario based simulations far more easily
  • Resizing feature – you can shoot in one resolution and then compress the shot simulation as needed. No more having to shrink your desktop resolution to get window size needed. CAUTIONS: Resizing does not resize the fonts in your captions. You have to apply new font sizes in the caption properties or reposition your captions so they point to the right area. Also the compression of the images may render them slightly fuzzy.
  • Property application – you can apply property changes to all objects in the simulation of the same type. Personally, I love having this freedom because when I create simulations I use two types of captions: 1.) Info captions which inform what’s happening or provide background information and knowledge needed to complete the simulation task 2.) Action captions which tell the user how to act during the simulation. In the past it’s been difficult to do a universal formatting change to captions because it would apply my changes to all and wipe out formatting at times.

Medieval Help Desk

Nice parody of a help desk for medieval monks.

Great example of company blogging in action

Excellent rationale for using blogs within your company:

One company is using blogging to expose its mindset to its customers.  People can read how employees are working out solutions. It could be great PR and a customer relationship building tool. Though I do think you have to set up at least a rough set of explanations to employee bloggers.

Also, a group or company has to understand that this may not be the method of choice of working out ideas for some employees. I’m Verbal Vera… so I happily blog away. Someone else who is more visually oriented might prefer to work things out in a flow or a diagram. Another person who like to interact with others might throw their ideas off of a person or group of people who act as a springboard.

Just as employees have different learning/working/creating styles, customers have differing styles for pulling in information as well. Consider, what kind of customer are you attracting by using a blog? Not all would be interested, but some might be so interested that you have a loyal customer for quite some time.  I’m sure someone out there is hurriedly developing a market audience analysis for this.

Dovetail Software Main Blog:

Employee Blogs:

Shameless Plug


Click to view a larger image

For my husband’s blog and work.

Plus I’m uber proud :)

Cup of Coffee and the Morning Wii


I’ve developed this habit lately of drinking my coffee and surfing the news on the Wii.  I do wonder how the news is getting sorted into my player, but it’s nice – just like reading the morning paper (Yes, I’m old enough to remember what a real newspaper is like and how people actually read it at breakfast time in the morning)

Yesterday I brought the Wii in for lunch-time fun.  Those legendary stories of people becoming instant Wii fans aren’t really legends. People really like the Wii, and it has those ‘charmingly’ user-friendly qualities that just make it even more attractive. Plus it makes you exercise and brings joy and stress-relief.

One co-worker immediately went to purchase a Wii after we finished playing at lunch.

Imagine that …. now that’s truly a “Kick-Ass” product.

Wii Nuggets:

Excellent summary of Learning 2.0 offerings

Haza has provided a terrific summary of what Web 2.0. offerings (blogs, wikis, podcasting, rss feeds, etc.) can bring to an informal and more democratic learning solutions.

It occurs to me often that within a learning environment that cherishes and values the ‘formal’ training experience, it’s very difficult to get people to understand or embrace these concepts and how they apply to learning:  democratic and informal.

I believe that the difficulty comes from a number of assumptions and values that have been built around the way “learning should happen.” Some of these assumptions aren’t just corporate learning environment related, their origins link back into the world of academia.  Part of my training in college was to determine what the causes of argument against a position were and then attempt to correct or reverse them. For now I only have the time to list a few here so I will start with two. Also, I’d like to save my counter argument against these for another post.

  • Democracy in learning –  assumption that counters- The teacher/instructor or expert is the center of the learning environment – not the Student or end user.
    • The teacher is the boss and must run the show
    • The learner/student must be passive and just soak information in rather than learn it actively
    • Only experts can provide this information not peers
  • Informal learning- assumption that counters- You cannot measure or track informal learning. In corporate training much of our focus has been on evaluation, we must be able to measure that we’re doing our job and that learning is happening. 
    • This is why we do Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, etc. evaluations
    • This is why we count butts in seats or how many courses/learning interventions we do*
    • Informal learning maybe be harder to evaluate for performance success (except if you are attributing all performance behaviors to the informal learning environment that you’ve set  up – i.e. performance behaviors are happening…. period)

I also have a hunch that the very nature of corporate life implies ‘the formal.’  Naturally, saying things are informal or even organic may go counter to the corporate grain.  Jay Cross notes that his message about “informal learning” found either a hot or cold reception from the audience at the ASTD TechKnowledge conference.

I believe that its worth exploring the application of the “informal” and “democratic” to learning environments. However, I think we need to understand why these same concepts may not be adopted by members “the Body.”   Jay Cross draws the analogy of application of “informal learning” as being similar to landscaping a garden.   I’m going to draw out this analogy a little further and suggest that some of the counter-assumptions against the informal/democratic development of learning environments are rocks or items in the garden.  As a gardener you can do one of two things:

  1. Pull the rocks out
  2. If the rocks are too big, build your landscape around them (or overcome the rocks)


* Which by the way can be part of the problem if we are creating training just to create training.  This is often not an intentional move, but sometimes an unintended consequence if your system rewards you for accomplishing things by the number rather than by the actual effect or effect on quality

SCORM basics

SCORM – Shareable Content Object Reference Model

What is it? (Wikipedia definition)A collection of standards and specification for web-based e-learning. Defines communications between client side content and a host system called the run-time environment (from Learning Management System or LMS)

Why do I care?- Right now we’re developing course content for a project/program based on a business process mapped around departmental task goals.  My team and I are looking into developing our content in distict modules that can be packaged as RLO’s or Reusable Learning Objectives.  Right now we don’t have a working LMS that can handle packaged RLO’s. Eventually, this system will be up and running. To be proactive, I would like to make sure my contents is packaged and labeled according to SCORM compliance standards.

What am I (are we) doing next? Reviewing the SCORM/Dublin Core presentations that were sent to me months ago as well as materials and links on the ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) site. Working with my team to determine if we can truly package and label our content with SCORM in consideration.  For each of our modules we’re keeping what we call a TR (Training Requirement) document or a training content document, which includes training content information, step-action tables for any transactions which we will be developing learning simulations around.  I’m thinking that we can also apply metadatainformation about each of these TR Modules as well.  A strategic group within our organization has started to build a standard list for metadata tags.  It might be some additional work up front, however, it may save us a good deal of work when we eventually have to shift our content to the RLO model in the new Learning Management System (LMS).

10 Innovation Rules and what they mean for learning

Smart Lemming just put a post up on the book Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators: From Idea to Execution.

  1. In all great innovation ideas, the great idea is only Chapter 1.
  2. Sources of organizational memory are powerful.
  3. Large established companies can beat start-ups if they can succeed in leveraging their enormous assets and capabilities.
  4. Strategic experiments face critical unknowns.
  5. The NewCo organization must be built from scratch.
  6. Managing tensions is job one for senior management.
  7. NewCo needs its own planning process.
  8. Interest, influence, internal competition, and politics disrupt learning.
  9. Hold NewCo accountable for learning and not results.
  10. Companies can build a capacity for breakthrough growth through strategic innovations

I would like to read the background around these 10 strategic items in more detail. It’s a good thing I’m headed over to Powell’s today, maybe I can find the book. However, I marked the ones which I feel are directly tied to learning and Knowledge Management assumptions about a company.

  • # 2 – Sources of organizational memory are powerful. If we’re collecting this information (on initiatives, product development, etc.) as part of a searchable Knowledge Management System, then employees can tap into this memory and benefit from it.
  • # 3 – Large established companies can beat start-ups if they can succeed in leveraging their enormous assets and capabilities. This is where connections (cross-disciplinary) and discussions are key. The biggest problem that ‘gigantor’ companies face is that it’s quite difficult to find out who’s doing what, or what they did.
  • # 6 – Managing tensions is job one for senior management. Amen! So part of management training should include how to recognize and address these tensions positively and practically. Part of the hiring process for senior management should include screening questions that insure that these candidates possess the ability/talent/knowledge necessary to manage tensions rather than perpetuating “YES MEN” environments.
  • #7 – NewCo needs its own planning process. The old one may need to reevaluate their business process for planning to insure that it’s working to make innovative products happen.
  • # 8 – Interest, influence, internal competition, and politics disrupt learning. Similar note to #6. CEO’s and all Management need coaching/training on how to lessen the effect of these things.
  • #9 – Hold NewCo accountable for learning and not results. I’m assuming that this means that we not punish teams for innovation/efforts that fail. Again, as part of a Knowledge Management initiative, it’s important to keep full not of the failures and why (and also who was involved – so that any team who might pick up the ball where the last one left of can benefit from the lessons learned).

The Magic Corporate Passion-o-meter

You gotta love Kathy Sierra’s post: Don’t ask employees to be passionate about the company!

Yeah…. yeah, that’s right! Don’t ask us to be passionate about the company (though if you’ve got a pretty terrific* product that works and is ‘charming’ in it’s simplicity and usability, you can count on me to be your maven and spread the word about it).

I do like the questions that she poses as a test of whether or not someone is passionate about what they do.  These questions tie directly with my previous post on 12 steps to being curious (again, asserting that what you find from your curiousity can lead you to being passionate about elements of your work and job).

How to measure your passion for your work

  • When was the last time you read a trade/professional journal or book related to your work? (can substitute “attended an industry conference or took a course”)
  • Name at least two of the key people in your field
  • If you had to, would you spend your own money to buy tools or other materials that would improve the quality of your work? 
  • If you did not do this for work, would you still do it (or something related to it) as a hobby?



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