Archive for the 'Cubicle Culture' Category

Week 2 Reflections: No One is Born “A Creative”

3Monkeys

It’s the 2nd week of Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations and the focus this week has been on individual constraints to innovation. According to Owen’s there are three main individual constraints to innovation: perception, intellection, and expression.

I’ve taken a cue from the last course I took (#edcmooc) and I’m making an attempt to define what I’ve learned this week visually (see the image above). But what I’ve really taken away from this week’s content are the following three bits:

Lesson 1: “There is no such thing as a creative personality.”

In other words, creative people aren’t born, they’re made or developed by their learning and experience. Numerous studies have shown that children are naturally open to experience and creative. But arguably our education system and life experience shapes or constrains this ability to be creative. We are taught the proper way to solve problems or how to keep our ideas and thoughts in check.

What Owens does argue is that there are personality traits conducive to creativity, and these are:

  • Agreeableness
  • Extroversion
  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness
Personality traits conducive to creativity

If neurosis is so bad for creativity – how does this explain Woody Allen?

Logically, if you are open-minded to multiple ways of seeing a problem you’ll come up with a number of different ways to solve it. If you’re agreeable and able to connect effectively with others, you’re better able to explain your solutions to them.   Neurotic behaviors and thinking on the other hand can negatively affect one’s ability to be creative here’s an example of how neurotic thinking can prevent creativity and innovative problem solving.

“I can’t share that solution or express that that in front of others, they’ll think I’m a.)wrong, b.)stupid and I’ll just embarrass myself.” 

In order to be a truly effective at innovation, you need to be able to share your ideas freely without fear of being judged.  Perhaps that’s ultimately what makes Woody Allen one of the most creative storytellers of our time. He’s portrayed himself as the lovable neurotic, but he has never flinched at attempting to portray this neurosis in stories that examine the human condition from different perspectives.

Lesson 2: It’s important to always approach the problem from multiple perspectives.

In reading through Chapter 2 of “Creative People Must be Stopped, I ran across the story of a playwright who purchased different “odd magazines” for hobbies or topics foreign to her. Her purpose was to “see” things from that particular magazine audience’s views and therefore reinterpret what might be seen in her own vision portrayed in her plays.  Of course, your savvy marketing professional would simply call this focusing on your target markets, but there’s something so simply empowering about this approach to seeing other’s views of the same situation or problem you’re attempting to solve.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re analyzing a problem:

  • How would someone who is completely polar opposite to me see this problem? How would they describe it?
  • Why might they not see it as a problem?
  • What solutions may they came up with?

Lesson 3: It’s not how cool your idea is, it’s how you sell it to your audience.

Inarticulate but might be right

Sometimes, and I admit I’m guilty of this as well, when you come up with what you think is a ‘great idea’ its logic seems to inherently obvious to you and therefore everyone else should see it that way. However, other’s way of viewing things may NOT be aligned with your own.  I feel that this is one of my greatest Individual Constraints to innovation. I’m not always adept and explaining or selling my solutions to others.  In actuality, I am really the Asian guy in the image above from Kathy Sierra’s blog post from years back. I often have hunches or feelings about when things are right or wrong, but I’m not always able to explain them to other people around me. This is where exercises and questions from my previous lesson would come in handy. Or…

Developing a ‘common language’ might be helpful.

Reminds me of that meeting game "B.S. Bingo."

Reminds me of that meeting game “B.S. Bingo.”

I had to laugh when Owens made a dig at using ‘buzzwords.’ As he noted, they may make you feel important, but they’re not a great way of gaining common understanding of both the problem and your proposed solution.  At one of my former jobs, a former colleague of mine and I played a game called B.S. Bingo in meetings that seemed like more verbal exposition than development or planning (or action).  Though arguably, these same buzzwords are the common language used by people in the corporate world to talk with each other. I do agree with Owens that when they’re bandied about to elevate your business klout or savvy they’re simply about posturing. However, I should consider that if this is the ‘speak’ that’s being used by people who are using this language, I should develop translations of my ideas in this language.

I’ve decided to create a template for writing out my ideas to better articulate them. It’s pretty simple. I would take the idea as I see it and then translate it into at least three or four different perspectives including the intended audience or end user, my peers, my boss, and my boss’s boss. This may take a little more discipline than I’m used to.

MyIdeaTranslationTool

Image of worksheet

Click the link above to view/download the worksheet

Digital Artefact: The Future of Learning #edcmooc

I think I’ll have more time to reflect and comment on my artefact and the experience of making it in a few days, but for now here it is.

http://prezi.com/eaixra1t5vnf/future-of-learning/

Frontpage of digital artefact for #edcmooc

Digital Artefact for my “Elearning & Digital Cultures” class

 

Can your Workplace Adopt/Embrace the Informal Learning Concept?

Many, many moons ago I wrote a post on Knowledge Management Systems that illustrated Marc Rosenberg’s KM model. This model depicts an organization that has a truly integrated system of sharing knowledge that includes formal training and an ongoing mentoring system for it’s employees. This model includes use of social media to connect employees.  Since I wrote this post, the use of social media online for both connecting and learning has exploded. Many more company executives (though not as many as there could be) are now schooled on the finer points of using social media as promotional vehicles as well as within the organization to enhance employee learning and knowledge.

Recently, On his blog, Jay Cross presented an adapted version of Jane Hart’s 5-Stage Model of the Evolution of Workplace Learning.

http://www.informl.com/2010/05/07/workscape-evolution/

Here’s the visual that illustrates this.

From informl.com (Jay Cross)

As Cross points out in his post, the more familiar your workers are with online networking tools and media,  the more they can readily use social networking support to improve their learning and skills.   You need to be able to assess where your audience of learners skill lies in the following areas: Web/Tech Expertise and Social Networking Familiarity.

From informl.com (Jay Cross)

Going back to the “5 Stages” illustration shown above, the newbies or novices to the workplace, culture, organization, or system would be FIRST guided to the LMS where formal learning can take place (your essentials such as terms of service, legal information, safety, organization mission, organizational structure, job skills, compliance training, etc.). If you need to track learning in a blended model (both face to face and online), you can use the LMS to keep track of who’s completed what training as they come into your workplace or program.

In the grand old days when most training was done in face to face sessions complete with massive binders and glossy handouts, training really only took place at the beginning and employees or trainees were expected to absorb what they could from the training. If they couldn’t remember everything that was okay because they had their gigantic binders as a print reference.  This system works when the nature of the work can be completely documented in print and is static. In other words, nothing changes about the nature of the job and there are NO variables.

Some workplaces assign ‘buddies’ or coaches to new employees. It’s often part of the work coach’s job to model or teach these learning behaviors to their employees. At one entry-level job I had many years ago, I remember my work coach or mentor telling me something as basic and obvious, as “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” In sharing this with me she was essentially letting me know, “It’s safe to ask questions here. We’d rather you do things right or learn by asking, and we won’t punish you for what you don’t know.”

Can you imagine what would happen if this guy afraid to ask questions about his job?

A truly rich “Informal Learning” environment can provide learners with the support they need to deal with variables NOT covered in formal training. And here’s the big “But,” you have to teach effective mentoring behaviors to all staff and reinforce these behaviors as much as possible. The informal learning model explicitly sets the expectation that learning and workplace improvement inherently part of the work culture. Employees must see it as part of their job responsibility to take  the new guy under their wing. The sooner you get the newbie up and flying the sooner everyone can be productive and creative. Managers and employees can build checklists of knowledge, skills and ‘tribal knowledge’ that new employees need to know. These lists and even ad hoc information can be shared during social or work activity.

But Informal Learning isn’t just what you’d learn about your fellow employees from washroom or smoking break talk. Informal Learning can happen via chat and discussion forums. The other day a work colleague and myself noted that we both got ourselves unstuck from work-related ‘problems’ by looking up similar situations or issues in professional forums online. It’s just as easy to set up an internal online work chat or forum.

I’ve seen some older employees cringe at the words “Informal Learning.” Many of the more ‘traditional’ workplaces place a lot of value on formal learning (lectures, lessons, face to face training, etc.)  because that’s the people, are used to.  I think  the key to building a truly learning rich environment and workplace is to highlight where social learning is really happening naturally and successfully and then introduce less familiar methods of leveraging informal learning. But again, if your company or organization doesn’t have a clear definition of what it means to learn effectively (outside of formal training) the concept of Informal Learning will be a hard sell. Maybe it’s just a matter of re-branding it or camouflaging it.  As for the acceptance of learning via social media… Maybe we just have to wait until the technologies that propel Informal and Social Learning (forums, chat, wikis, etc.) become more commonplace and accepted by the majority.  It will happen, eventually :)

Schools, Please Don’t Kill Our Creativity

At a workshop I attended yesterday, Barry Dahl mentioned this unforgettable lecture by Ken Robinson at the TED conference. In his incredibly adroit and humorous talk, Robinson maintains that schools today thrash the creativity out of kids. I would argue that the final death knell takes place once they enter today’s corporate work world.

In another inspiring lecture, Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO champions the importance of play in productivity of design and innovation.

Tim Brown Teaches Adults How to Play at a Lecture

Tim Brown Teaches Adults How to Play at a Lecture

How can we, as educators promote creativity and play in our classrooms, while teaching important knowledge and skills? I feel that developing curriculum driven by “student created content” is key to developing the creative minds that will build our future. I don’t know about you, but as an old doddering woman, I would rather live in a world built by the next designer of earth shaking technologies and innovative policies that help promote progress and not in a world populated by people who are fettered by rules that squelch creativity and productivity.

“It’s in the making of things that kids actually do their learning”

(Exerpt below is from an article I wrote for our company blog.)

Creating content in schools extends past the traditional class-report or diorama making. I found this wonderful example of the King Middle School in Portland, Maine. I believe that this school is really putting the approaches to 21st Literacy Education in a Action. The video provides examples of how the school integrates subjects like science, English, math with technology education.


Click the photo to view the video. Note the video will open and play automatically in another browser window.

The kids participate in truly constructivist activities, by developing videos, artwork, and collaborating on the development of music and music scores. All of these activities and projects require formal knowledge in writing, math, science, research and history that used to be taught to students via textbooks in an isolated context. Here are a few quotes from the short film that really captured my attention:

“We don’t use textbooks, per se… we do a lot of research in class.”

“The approach is to bring out the best in every student.”

“It’s in the making of things, that kids do their learning.”

The school also partners with businesses like a local printing press to develop products. The students work together as teams to develop items such as books for the press. These students also have the opportunity to work with professionals like the professional documentary maker who help them improve the quality of their videos. They get real-life experience and are encouraged to stretch and deliver quality projects. They are not coddled or isolated from doing ‘real work’ because they are not ready to do it on a ‘professional level.’

As I finished watching the video, I realized that many teachers might have issues with the fact that some students contributed 7 pages of work to a final project while some contributed only three paragraphs. I like the attitude that these teachers at King have that “Everyone does what they can.” Plus everyone should contribute to the project using the skills and talents that they have. Perhaps a student who needs help with math but has kinesthetic talents can choreograph a dance, and teach the other students how to perform the dance to be included in a final project. A student who lags in writing but has design skills might lead the team that develops the costumes or set. Both students are exercising their communication and leadership skills in helping other get their tasks done. Students who are better at writing can help coach these students when they have to do the written component for the project.

I think the comment that sums up the value and power of this approach to education was made by the kids of King Middle School themselves, “No one feels stupid here anymore.”

Why wasn’t I born twenty years later? I would have loved to go to school in a place like this. Seeing examples like this really makes me excited about the work we do here at PLS because I believe that in what we do we strive to make learning experiences effective and powerful.

Stand out, nail, Stand out!

The carpenter may notice you and alter the look and feel of design.

I check out the Slow Leadership blog every now and then. Carmine Coyote had a great post on going against the grain. It’s a well known fact that excellent leaders surround themselves with astute people who do not agree with them all the time. Abraham Lincoln did it. The purpose of doing this, of course, is to make sure that you are going in the right direction and to get multiple perspectives. Again, that challenge that both leaders and diverse teams have is actually working with each other.

I found some great documentary clips on the creation of Disney’s Haunted Mansion. The crew that designed and develop the original ride seemed to have an excellent team relationship. They were good at what they did, and perhaps their imaginations and creative visions clashed, but under the leadership of Walt Disney they were able to achieve the memorable experience of the ride (too bad they changed it).

Though let’s not delude ourselves to think that disagreeing all the time is the right thing. If you have to disagree all the time there must be something wrong with the working dynamic of the group you belong to.

[Youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=vzEFQ4idTRM]

[Youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=XHdvZpDwBrM]

This is so cool! Virtual Interpersonal Interaction

I am robot…? I am telecommuter.

I bought a copy of the Economist for reading on the plane. I read about HP’s attempts to develop Virtual Telepresence so workers wouldn’t have to commute thousands of miles. The technology can be applied as a virtual interactive environment/room or as a personal mobile unit. Looks like Cisco is actually using some of this technology today in the form of a Telepresence room. It’s not cheap at $350,000 a room and $18,000 a month for maintenance, but still they claim that it’s cut down costs for transatlantic and long-distance flights.

If you visit HP’s site you can get a glimpse of one of their personal mobile units. When you use this unit, your image and voice travel around via a little robot on wheels. You can see everything via the semi-panoramic cameras on top of your virtual head. Now, I think this is pretty cool looking because it looks like it rolled off of Terry Gilliam’s movie Brazil, but I can see that some people might find it aesthetically unappealing and impersonal or just plain weird. Okay, I’m a geek and I’m the first to admit it, and while the technology posted here is a bit clunky looking still I really appreciate the work and effort that went into pushing this concept forward.

http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/mmsl/demonstrations/etravel.html

telecommuterfuturesm.jpg

Bridging the Tech Gap with Nice People

Via a search today, I just read this brief post on HBR from Tom Davenport from March: Why Enterprise 2.0 Won’t Transform Organizations.

He brings up a good point about:

Such a utopian vision can hardly be achieved through new technology alone. The absence of participative technologies in the past is not the only reason that organizations and expertise are hierarchical. Enterprise 2.0 software and the Internet won’t make organizational hierarchy and politics go away. They won’t make the ideas of the front-line worker in corporations as influential as those of the CEO. Most of the barriers that prevent knowledge from flowing freely in organizations – power differentials, lack of trust, missing incentives, unsupportive cultures, and the general busyness of employees today – won’t be addressed or substantially changed by technology alone.

Recently in a conversation I had at the PDX blogger dinner. I spoke with the Director of Product Marketing of Jive Software (sadly, I was not able to stay and see the demo of their alternative to Sharepoint. Any alternative to Sharepoint gets my attention). I noted that one of the biggest mistakes we make in project management is assuming that the tools (software, spreadsheets, web aps, etc.) will take the place of hiring good people, setting reachable goals, and building good relationships between team members.

Davenport is right. Technology won’t change things alone. But people can help, and especially ‘nice people’ who are passionate about what they do. When I think of really nice people like this, I think of Josh Bancroft. I used to work with Josh in IT at my former company. Josh has a real ‘can do’ (can’t believe I used that term) attitude about sharing what he’s excited about. He actually introduced a friend of mine and me into the worlds of podcasting and wikis. He was always excited about sharing his ‘geek’ knowledge, as he called it, with others and helping them learn and discover how to use Web 2.0 technologies. He inspired a few communities within the company that spawned new movements in applying collaborative technologies, some with some pretty impressive and cool results.

Davenport openly admits that he’s being a curmudgeon in regards to the potential of Enterprise 2.0, but Curmudgeons are important too. They force us to really take things into perspective. Though we should never let any resistance, negativism, criticism or cynicism shape our view or hinder where we want to take our imagination and creativity.

Though I disagree with Davenport on the matter of structuring of knowledge in the workplace. Structured information environments don’t necessarily need to limit or hinder the sharing of information. I can learn just as much about how to process a purchasing document in SAP or what the best transaction could be by networking with my co-workers and learning how they do things. That’s the problem with creating prescriptive or linear materials and documentation for tools like SAP instead of training people to ‘think for themselves’ or even learn from each other, you get people locked into automaton mode and you don’t build a workforce that can think on their feet, innovate or adapt quickly to change.

I have hope for Enterprise 2.0 despite everyone thinking that it is or was a big. Though still we have to let the curmudgeon in us rise up every now and then and question where we’re going. Sometimes questioning when done constructively can only open up new avenues or possibilities.

Somewhat to mildly related stuff:

Friday Funny – IT Crowd and the Mighty Boosh

These shows came out a bit ago, but I’ve been in the mood for office humor because I work at home. If you haven’t seen this yet… I got this show as an X-mas present last year (we have an all region DVD). It was one of my most treasured scores that year :). Rumor has it that Richard Ayoade (Moss) is actually slated to be in the US version of the show. I used to work in IT (sort of)… so it’s kinda funny.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_u5uiw1IhI]

An IT Crowd site: http://www.theitcrowd.co.uk/

If you’ve already seen the “IT Crowd”…. here’s the Mighty Boosh, my favorite UK comedy troupe, in one of my favorite episodes “Nanageddon.”

Links posted on my other blog:

http://natknits.wordpress.com/2007/07/20/nanatoo-the-knitting-demon/

Confession: about swearing at work

Funny I can swear all I want in my office since I work at home. But reading something on Bob Sutton’s blog today triggered a memory about my old workplace. On the first day of my last job I came into my new office. Naturally, being located in overly-PC corporate suburbia usually the safest bet in behaving appropriately is to remain low-key and just observe. It seemed that acting any differently might get you noticed in a bad way. At least this is how I felt about working in a leviathan of suburban-based corporate environment.

But on that first day… I walked pass my neighbor’s cubicle and suddenly heard a flurry of expletives come from his mouth while he was on the phone (with some one he was familiar with, I assume). Suddenly I felt a good deal of tension melt away from my shoulders… I let my gut relax. Why did I suddenly feel like I was okay with this and immediately felt okay with working there?

Maybe because here was someone actually just being himself. If he felt comfortable, more then likely I could too. That and it gave me the first laugh I’d had in a few months while working there.

I’m not saying that all people would be familiar with hearing bleep-bleep-bleep, but I have to say sometimes it’s the only way to express how you’re feeling at the time.

As Bob Sutton notes:

We teach our Ph.D. students at Stanford in the Center for Work, Technology and Organization who do ethnographies of the workplace that using foul language is sometimes necessary for providing accurate and realistic descriptions of what people say and how they feel.

No it’s not appropriate to swear all the time. And one person’s observation that it’s kind of funny or cool doesn’t mean that it’s okay for everyone to start using foul-language. But then again I think that’s what we have problems with in general as humans who are always looking for rules and guidance systems. Some of us (maybe most of us) think we always need to stay strict to them no matter what. Loosen up, try to set the expectation that people should behave appropriately to each other. If someone’s uncomfortable with language or behavior the environment should be set up where they feel comfortable enough to state this without being abrasive.

Give your employees time and tools to grow

I think I may have written about this in the past, but the forward-moving companies usually give their employees actual time to think, learn and innovate. And this time isn’t just some imaginary time-allowance that gets built into the employees’ unpaid overtime, it’s actually built into their schedule. Don’t get me wrong – this time cannot impede upon their productivity, but SMART leaders and managers know that in order to be truly solutions oriented and innovative their workers need time and tools to develop and learn. Now for those learners who are not as self-directed… curriculum and more directed development plans may be necessary.

Some tools I’ve found really helpful in the past and present are:

Skillsoft Books 24×7

One of the best resources of online books ever. For the self-directed learner this is a virtual treasure trove. The have series for business, IT (Tech) professionals and more. You can learn just about everything from Ajax to Senger. Unfortunately you’re company or organization has to pay for the subscriptions. But even if you paid the $459.00 out of your own pocket it’s virtually being able to take almost any book out of Powells, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon when ever you want and you don’t have to waste any trees in the process. More… other people in your organization in all parts of the world or country and view and learn from the same book as well. Imagine the learning power. True, for those people who like to print out things and read them they are S.O.L, but to learn and grow more you sometimes need to make adjustments to your learning style.

Lynda.com

At $25.00 a month for a subscription to a huge library of online tutorials complete with demonstration/simulations. You have to pay a larger premium subscription rate to have access to the development files for say a Flash course. But being cheap I usually create the development files myself, plus it gives me a great opportunity to reinforce what I learn by practicing. More, I tend to take an active approach to practicing what I learn after each tutorial segment by creating my own version of the lesson output using my own images and text. If I dont’ have time to create text I look for things that are in the public domain like (Project Gutenberg). Right now I’m using the Action Scripting 2.0 tutorials.

bloomsm.jpg

Photo from dieraecherin : http://www.morguefile.com/archive/?display=166079&


Why?

My place outside of work to explore and make connections with the ideas and things (sometimes work-related) that I'm passionate about.

My Tweets

Blog Stats

  • 243,626 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 78 other followers