Archive for the 'Trust' Category

You’ve got diamonds in the rough, you just have to look for them

Sorry for the long hiatus from my blog life.

Wow, that’s an understatement, at almost 10 months with no writing or sharing.  I hope to be more attentive to this blog in the near future. It’s been too long.

Since I have been fascinated with the idea of the odd man out in corporate culture since I started working there over 15 years ago, I started crafting a story/presentation on the value of “Outliers & Misfits” within a corporate setting.

If you’re to summarize the message in three lines it would be this:

  • If you’re a CEO, manager, or leader, learn how to appreciate the value that these outliers can bring to your company or organization. Learn how to engage or entertain alternative perspectives.
  • Understand that their misfit energy & ideas should be channeled according to your business goals, and learn how to do so.
  • If you’re an outlier or misfit, then learn how to communicate clearly so that your ideas align with organization goals. And don’t forget to find a champion.

 

 

Fighting Management Preconceptions about Social Learning

I just found this wonderful preso on Social Learning. I kept on slapping thigh laughing as I read… “Oh yeah, that’s a good one!” For me the highlights were:

Yes, Play is OK – you need it to grow innovative, collaborative and fast-adapting employees.

“Control is an illusion” – Okay… this is where I slip into incredulous teenager mode: Duh! You can control what people are learning and sharing about as easily as you can keep water in a sieve.  The presenters note that “80% of learning happens outside” of formal learning systems in their control. This is “Informal Learning” in action. The faster leadership realizes that building a company culture where learning is valued, the quicker they will start fostering a truly effective organization. Also, it’s very important to build the expectation that employees are really responsible for learning (their job and how to enhance their work).

People already share bad information – no kidding. Everyone has experienced the grapevine effect in a workplace. Human beings honestly seek knowledge about the goings on, some need it to function and work effectively without fear. They will even speculate on management’s behavior when they have no information, which is why transparency is less dangerous than keeping your lipped buttoned.

I also really liked the fact that they provided some solutions for measuring ROI (Return on Investment).(CRUD: I actually wrote this section but it got lost in the blog ether when I was trying to save my post)  I think it’s possible to tie a company’s increased success to social learning initiatives through anecdotal stories.  Also, connecting increased levels of innovation could also be possible. Think James Burke’s Connections (the show from the early eighties). Much of the show argued that the worlds most famous and influential innovations such as the combustion engine would not have happened if people did not make connections with each other.  I think if you analyzed the history or development of a particular innovation at your company you can actually trace the connections that were needed to make the innovation happen. You may be able to identify whether or not these connections would have happened with the social networking  efforts in place.

Some excellent points were made, but I suspect that no amount of brilliant arguments will convince the hardcore curmudgeons that insist that Social Learning/Networking is bad and evil. My only question… Can I work for the folks who made this presentation?

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]

Link Obsession: Overcoming Teachers’ Fears of Tech

Tech Learning Blog Rant: He makes a good point… Digital Native/Immigrant distinction may just give some teachers an excuse not the cross the bridge. If you read to the comments on this post a responder notes that some teachers fear pushing newer technologies because they fear loosing their jobs. Is this the case? Why so? Isn’t fear a kicker?

Training Teachers Who are Terrorized by Technology: This is a really helpful article about dealing with common questions or protests about using technology in the classroom. One of the questions was “how can I manage computers in the classroom?” The tech teacher notes that they actually train teachers to use applications along with the students. This way the teacher can feel comfortable about using the technology as their students use it.

Fear of Technology in Schools: Dave Chakrabarti chocks up parents (and teachers) fears of technology to the fact that parents fear the lack of control as children are more facile at using technology than they are. I don’t know about other families, but in our family, my father put our lack of fear of technology to his advantage and allowed us to set up any of the new tech gadgets we got like the VCR, the Remote Controls, etc. That way he didn’t have to read the manual and he could just have us explain how the gadgets worked. Maybe this is what parents should do with their children and new technologies… but then again that requires a great deal of trust. In Dave’s posting, dave notes that a teacher who set up a blog was blocked by the school because they though the blog’s presence on the web compromised the students’ safety. The teacher’s response was to shift her focus on to teaching safety on the internet. Smart Teacher; talk about making lemons into lemonade. That’s cool!

Technology: To Use or Infuse: This article discussed some to the common trends in tech integration into the schools and how these may have led us down wrong paths to true integration of technology for educational purposes. It’s true that computers provide us with greater opportunities to learn how to solve “open-ended” problems. Students can be presented a problem, brainstorm solutions then use the internet to gain knowledge and perhaps even contact experts to help them solve the problem.

As I read these articles I became acutely aware of my own tendencies to over-explain things when it comes to technology. Also, I think I’ve developed this automatic response to any audience – I assume that they’re going to resist the technology I propose. I feel like I’ve allowed this assumption to cloud my decision making and choices. I always opt for first teaching those who are fearful and afraid rather than also address the needs and desires of those who are already willing to learn.

Future-teach

Why we still need teachers despite the internet

As I was sitting and listening to lectures at the SALT conference I heard a comment that most of the younger generations don’t have the patience to sit through lectures when they can look up answers and information so quickly on the internet. First, let’s note that not all lectures or lecturers are as painful to sit through as listening to someone conjugate Latin verbs in all tenses. You can still get valuable information from a lecture; however, it’s nice to be able to learn via different media or methods. Second, I’m a little wary of the idea of just expecting students of any age or discipline be able to search for information via the net without little or no guidance. If you read any of the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories or comics from the Tarzan series, you’ll remember that there was this assumption that Tarzan learned how to read on his own by reading through the books without the help or guidance from a teacher. Can we assume that students can learn everything they need to know by just having the almost all the information placed in front of them via the internet? Of course, after many trial and error attempts they might be able to function or apply the information they absorbed correctly. Even with all the information and resources in front of you, you still need a teacher or instructor as a guide to help you determine what’s good information and what is not.

Even within the university setting, this type of learning and validation from an expert must occur. Pre-Net we had libraries. Students would often use the libraries to compile information in the form of papers or studies thus augmenting what they learned in class. Now this will probably date me, but I used the index card method of gathering information from my sources. The professor, instructor or teacher would verify if we got things ‘right’ by giving us a grade on the paper. Though, that’s not always the case if you have a professor who is incompetent or even one who dislikes you and gives you a bad grade as a result.

I still believe that teachers are absolutely necessary to perform this function of validator and guide. However, the traditional model of teacher lecturing and students verifying that they got the information via a paper needs to be augmented. Note, I did not say get rid of writing papers. We all need to learn to form our thoughts and apply critical thinking in writing. It helps integrate what we’ve learned as well as learn to articulate our thoughts in a structured format. I do think that the written paper assignment tends to be overused in learning situations because it’s easy for the instructor to assign, and not so bad to grade as long as you have a teacher’s assistant.

socrates.jpgIf educators of the future are to follow a model I’d say let’s follow tradition way back and return to Socratic Methods of teaching your role must evolve from the guy or lady who likes to talk a lot at the front of the classroom to the mentor who watches the students progress, prompts them with though-provoking questions that would help them learn to apply the information that they’re learning successfully. But this is hard work isn’t it? And in a normal classroom environment of any age level it’s logistically impossible to get to all students and personally monitor their activity and ask them these questions.

I believe the answer to this lies in harnessing collaborative learning with student peers. At SALT I attended an excellent talk where the professor/instructor actually had students work together to post their learnings (and subsequently discussions) on topics via a wiki. The result was that students were able to quickly share what they learned and provide examples via links (if the information was available via the net) to each other. Using this method of collaborative/peer learning is powerful, especially if you couple it with assignments of well though-out questions that get students to think about applying what they’ve learn as well as looking at it with a critical eye.

computer_group.jpg

Social and collaborative learning is the key, but the instructor need to trust the students and let them drive their learning for a change.

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:

About blogging and thinking and acting like a blogger

Here’s a good point from the Portals and KM blog (commentary on articles featured in the post):

blogs are popular because they provide useful content, often not found elsewhere and written in an accessible style. Blogs cannot sound like PR.

This is a good observation, and it makes sense. No one thought it was cool when their parents tried to speak to them in their slang. It seemed stilted and poorly executed. I think that that’s the biggest failure of some corporate blogging endeavors when they start blogging they ‘try too hard.’ They allow the tones of their blogs to degenerate into a sort of weatherman speak. I just recently had a conversation with a former co-worker about being too forward in one’s corporate blog or even in one’s personal blog. I’ll be the first to admit that there really is a personal value to ‘not sharing every thing about oneself.’ It’s just healthy for most people to maintain at least a modicum of privacy. However, the charm and beauty of blogging lies in the fact that there is some level of transparency into the author’s personality.

Yes, it’s true that if you’re blogging within a corporate environment there should be some rules that you must abide by which may sound something like this. I have this sort of aversion to ‘letter of the law’ approach to enforcing rules:

Be nice, dude:

  • Never slander the company
  • Never directly attack an individual or a group

Use constructive confrontation (uh, what ever happened to that?)

If you are going to question something or express doubt* about company policy address the people who are responsible for that policy outside of the blog text. But this of course assumes that a true “Open Door” policy exists. Sorry, that’s the execs and management’s responsibility to waterfall this down via actions and attitude towards their staff. Note: if it’s clear that your company doesn’t have an open door policy and you want to keep your job, then it’s probably better that you don’t blog about work (or you find another job). Blog about crochet, gardening, building muscle cars, collecting ceramic dogs, poetry, or your love of Westerns.

Remember that blogging is about sharing what you love or are curious about

This should be self-explanatory. If it’s not then you just don’t get the point about blogging. Strangely enough, I love and enjoy various aspects of my job and am very curious and eager to learn and share about the cool things I find when learning about my work.

My hunch is that like anything else, art, life, general existence, if you’re really trying too hard, blogging or fostering a culture of transparency and openness that promotes connections and innovations in your company will probably fail. I have to stop and think, perhaps this type of environment and attitude (and therefore blogging) is not appropriate for all places. It’s really up to management to reflect on whether or they want to foster a corporate culture that values blogging and communicate effectively their policy on blogging.

Addendum:

I forgot to add one more guideline…

Ignore the Jerks and Trolls

The best thing to do with a bully is ignore him/her or work around them. Who wants to hang out with a bunch of looser-jerks anyway? No fun.

Some other interesting readings:

*I remembered that I did post something on expressing doubt in reaction to watching the film Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa. I guess one should perhaps ‘use this card’ sparingly or really when it counts. A good leader will probably be sensitive to the ‘good folks’ he or she hires when they are experiencing doubt.


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