Saturday, July 29

Do You Trust Me?

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a transglobal teleconference on the Future of Media here in San Francisco along with a link to a concurrent session in Sydney, Australia. Despite some audio/visual problems with the link between the two sites, the content of the sessions was thought provoking and painstakingly honest. To hear leaders in the field admit to not really knowing what's going to happen is both refreshing and a bit scary. But that's the reality of where things are at today.

Because of the richness of the evening's content, I'm going to split my reactions up between a couple of posts here on LCB and a couple over on e e learning.

One of the topics that came out in nearly every discussion was that of trust, the role it plays in media today and how it will be even more a factor in the future. Mike Linksvayer (CTO of Creative Commons) and Andy Halliday (CEO of Ourstory) got the evening rolling by positing individual authenticity as vital to success in the flattened internet empowered global marketplace. Sensemaking becomes the real challenge according to Halliday in a world in which, as Linksvayer put it, "90% of everything is crap." We come to trust individuals, and to a lesser extent brands, who we know because we've connected with "their story." Communication has always been about viewing and understanding other peoples’ stories and finding shared experiences according to Halliday.

Chris Anderson (Editor of Wired Magazine and author of the new book The Long Tail) and John Hagel(author of The Only Sustainable Edge) were lively and provocative. In an exchange that Moira Gunn later characterized as "Chris getting about $8000 worth of free consulting out of John" they discussed the intersection of their two books and what it means for media. As to the matter of authenticity and trust Anderson shared that in the new world where "Hollywood is being challenged by YouTube, the recording industry by MySpace, and the media by the blogosphere" all people will have to make decisions on are reputation, quality of expression and expertise. Hagel felt that in a world of more and more content, filtering services and infomediaries would be in greater demand. These filters will be judged on their ability to deliver what a customer is looking for. "I like what you do. Send me more" is one way he characterized it.

The third panel included Dr. Moira Gunn (TechNation on NPR), Ray Kotcher (Global CEO Ketchum PR), and Craig Newmark (Customer Service Representative and Founder Craigslist) continued the trust theme in response to a question regarding old media versus new media from Mark Jones (IT Editor, Australian Financial Review) who was chairing the panel from Sydney.  They also all felt that much of the characteristics of success in the past will remain true for the future although they may be amplified. Newmark pointed to the runaway success of Craig’s List as evidence that building a trusting community is more important to commerce in the 21st Century than the technology upon which they are delivered.

Kotcher added that while in the past public relations firms could help clients avoid talking about negatives, today “there is no were to run. Your story is going to come out. Your good stories and your bad stories. ”Transparency is a reality in today’s world and the only answer is authentic and honest communication.

Gunn told the story of how Compaq computers came to have such a strange name. When Compaq was about to go to Wall Street for it’s IPO, the tradition of the day called for having the appropriate number of notices in the Wall Street Journal before you’re IPO would be considered legit. This usually took companies a minimum of 12-16 weeks. Compaq did an analysis of words that would catch a reader’s eye no matter the context. Compaq was one of two such highly visible words (the other happened to be Iraq!). Thus they affixed the “q” to their name andexecuted their IPO in 3 weeks.

Gunn then suggested that the game is still the same in building trust both with the market and the general public. But now it’s not a matter of notices in the WSJ, but having enough presence in at least 3-4 diverse media before you will be taken seriously. She held Martha Stewart up as the model. With multiple TV shows, books, videos, an online recipe database, Podcasts, videocasts, magazines, retail products for the home, a line of house paints, DVD’s, greeting cards, furniture, wedding planning services, an online florist shop, and a home architectural design group, Martha is everywhere. Even in the face of her conviction on obstruction of justice charge, Martha is still one of the most trusted names out there.

So there’s one synopsis of the Future of Media conference. In the next day or so, I’ll summarize the discussion what the impact on media business practice and what changes in the media will mean for society.

Friday, July 28

brain-mind learning principles

in exploring the new horizons for learning site, i came across an interesting set of articles by renate nummela caine and geoffrey caine.  in their research on the human brain and learning, they established twelve principles regarding how we learn and what prevents us from learning.  their twelve principles are:
  1. All learning is physiological.
  2. The Brain-Mind is social.
  3. The search for meaning is innate.
  4. The search for meaning occurs through patterning.
  5. Emotions are critical to patterning.
  6. The Brain-Mind processes parts and wholes simultaneously.
  7. Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.
  8. Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes.
  9. There are at least two approaches to memory: archiving individual facts or skills or making sense of experience.
  10. Learning is developmental.
  11. Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat associated with helplessness.
  12. Each brain is uniquely organized
quoted from 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action – One Author’s Personal Journey.

i particularly found it interesting that they included #3 (search for meaning in innate) and #5 (the role of emotions).  in my mind, these are two critical aspects of learning that have too often been left out of the mix in workplace learning. 

it's been my experience that there's a believe that employees are lazy and avoid training at all costs because they don't want to learn.  this is an arrogant dismissal of negative feedback.  we've blamed the learners rather than face the fact that we've offered up irrelevant, boring learning experiences.  employees learn every day.  they have to, it's in our nature as human beings.  it's just a matter of what they choose to learn and whether that jives with what the company needs them to learn.

the workplace is generally considred a place where emotions are supposed to be held in check.  even the expression of happiness is often expected to be muted and controlled.  let alone emotions like anger and sadness.  that learning has traditionally ignored the emotions is not surprising.

there are some breakthrough programs which have begun to explore using emotions as a way to stimulate learning.  one such program was regarding for sexual harassment training which began with the learner receiving an email asking them to gather up their files on one of their employees and reporting to their managers' office immediately because of a personnel issue.  imagine how your heart would be racing and your mind would be sorting through all of your interactions with that employee.  your attention would be laser beam as you sat down with your manager.  now granted, poorly conducted, such an approach would be dangerous, so training of the manager in this case would be paramount.  but if done well, the learner would never forget the lesson taught.

all 12 of these principles are thought provoking and have much to say about how the facilitation of learning can and should be approached.  i curious about what the LCB community has to say about them.

technorati tags:, , ,

Blogged with Flock

Saturday, July 8

We're #3! We're #3!

Recently I spent a little time pondering a statement that I've ascribed to for sometime now:

In a ranking of all of the groups in a typical organization who have the responsibility for helping direct the learning of employees or customers,  corporate training would finish 3rd - at best.

What?  3rd!?!?  No Way!


It's my belief that an honest appraisal of any good size organization will likely show that two departments would prove to be more efficient and effective in helping their target audience meet their learning needs.  They would be the IT Help Desk and the Customer Service Center.  This doesn't consider the Sales group who through various techniques prepare their field staffs for battle against the competition.  Often without help from the corporate training group.   Throw in a quality OD group or a Finance team who prepare their folks well and it's easy to find L&D dropping to 5th or lower.

So what is it that makes the Help Desk and Customer Service groups better at helping their constituents learn better.  This is the question I found myself pondering the other day.  What do they do and what are the results that would lead people to think they're better at facilitating learning that we are?

First the list of what they do:

  • generally don't teach courses
  • answer the questions their "learners" have at the time they are in greatest need
  • assess each situation and determine the best course of action to answer the learner's need
  • provide the learner with only the answers they need to overcome the current problems
  • have a database of answers to questions that have been asked before and will likely be asked again
  • have a mechanism for escalating the response when the learner's need is of greater breath than can be resolved immediately.
  • track very specific metrics regarding performance and learner response.
  • often have a follow-up mechanism to determine whether their solution to the learner's need is still working several weeks later and to gain feedback from the learner regarding their experience with the group
  • feed overall questions and needs back to the stakeholder groups who can take action regarding the issue to mitigate the same problem in the future.
  • Gather feedback from their stakeholders regarding their effectiveness.
  • Push as much of the process and answers pro-actively to their learners in the form of knowledge bases and FAQ as well as anticipatory actions like alerts and job aides.

Now I'm by no means saying that there are training departments that do some or many of these same things.  But I doubt that very few do all of these things.  Which is a bit scary.  The help desk and customer service conduct individualized needs assessments on the fly as if they were an emergency room triage unit.  Who needs attention immediately and what exactly does each person need?  It's individualized attention from first contact to resolution (change in knowledge or behavior for the learner). 

Unfortunately much of what the training department has done regarding needs assessment is more akin to a hospital that has just renovated their surgery suite so now every patient who presents themselves with a broken bone, a pain in the chest, pregnant, or needing a wound stitched up gets routed to be treated in the new surgery suite!

What does the above list of activities gain our colleagues? 

  1. They have a very high, documentable success rate.
  2. If they do these things well, they get repeat business.
  3. They are never blasted for try to teach anyone anything.
  4. They understand the real, underlying issues causing learner need much better than we do.
So maybe, as we are looking at ways to improve what we do and provide better value to the companies we work for, perhaps we should do some internal best practices research.  There may very well be a model that already works within our culture just waiting for us to understand and use it.

technorati tags:, , , ,

Blogged with Flock