Monday, November 14, 2011

Prezi about My Team's Work

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Tools

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Philadelphia and attend the Educause 2011 conference. Educause is perhaps the biggest conference for higher education and technology, both in terms of quantity of presentations and also quality. While there, I attended an excellent half-day session on Instructional Design presented by Ed Bowen. Here are some new tools that came up during that session:

Glogster This is a tool for making interactive posters. Think collage meets Web2.0. I think this could be very interesting for elementary school teachers to use with their students.– is a SAAS (software as a service) for educators, students, and developers to create, manage, distribute, and monitor interactive themes and content.  We are passionate about revolutionizing education through our platform and realize there’s lots of work to be done.  We’ve created the foundation and now we’re opening it up for the world to start working together to make it great.”

Splashtop –  “Travel light and have full access to the computing power of your main PC or Mac. Access your files and multimedia content on a remote computer with exceptional audio, video, and real-time interactivity all from a Mac.
• Connect from anywhere via local network or across the Internet
• Access important files or photos on another computer without worrying about syncing, converting, or compatibility issues
• Use MS Office, Silverlight, and other Windows software without having to install it on a Mac
• Play HD movies and music from your central media libraries without the hassle of transferring files
• Run graphic-intensive PC games on a powerful machine and play them from a portable Mac
• Save energy with Wake-on-LAN”

Wall wisher – “Wall Wisher is a web tool that allows you to have an interactive cork board. Imagine the ability to post notes with reminders about class trips, even the PDF file for the permission slip, as well as photos and other great items for your peers and students. Wallwisher is simple to use and can be shared or kept private. It is an easy way to share a workspace either with students or colleagues.”

Poll Everywhere –    “Poll Everywhere replaces expensive proprietary audience response hardware with standard web technology. It's the easiest way to gather live responses in any venue: conferences, presentations, classrooms, radio, tv, print — anywhere. It can help you to raise money by letting people pledge via text messaging. And because it works internationally with texting, web, or Twitter, its simplicity and flexibility are earning rave reviews.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lead with the Why

I've wondered why I do so well when I interview for a job. I'm not good looking, only average smart, have had only average experiences. I am hard working, and creative, but so are a ton of other people. But somehow, if I interview for a job, I get an offer about 80% of the time, and almost 100% of the time if I actually ask for the job. Why is that?

Today I found out why. I saw an 18 minute TED video by Simon Senek. Simon Senek presents a very simple idea that he calls The Golden Circle. It's a simple idea -- three concentric circles. The outside circle is "What".  The next circle in is "How". The inner circle is "Why". Simon Senek says the what are the features of your product, or perhaps the facts of your resume.  Everyone in the company knows What the company does. Most of the people know How the company does it. But maybe very few know the most important thing, the Why.

Simon Senek says that the conventional way to sell something is to start with the what and move in. So we describe the features of the product. But the exceptional people start with the Why and go from there. People are attracted to the why.

I know this is true from my own experience.

When I interview for a job, I have naturally focused on the Why I do what I do. At this point in my life, that seems to be the most important part, maybe the only important part.  I don't care so much about the money. I don't care so much about the fame or the power-- but I do care a whole lot about what the Buddhists call "ending suffering" -- my mission. And that's what I talk about. I figure at this point that if the company and I don't share the same mission, then there is no point in me working with them at all.
Think about your own Why and when you are interviewing or selling or leading. Start with the Why and see if you don't experience greater success. I know you will.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sharing the Dream

Watch this video, and think about how we can use this idea to develop better business skills content.  To see the video with subtitles in English, please go here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Don't You Wish You Had This?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Business Skills Training

I'm working on a fascinating project right now -- development of business skills training for Deaf professionals. Teaching judgment and decision making is a complex undertaking. I have even heard people in the training profession suggest that it can't be done. Of course, they are confusing something that is difficult with something that is impossible. Teaching judgment making is very hard, not impossible, though. Thank goodness for that, or we would have even fewer people in this world making good decisions!

This training will have three parts:
  • Self-paced tutorials;
  • Group instruction, through webinars or something similar;
  • One-on-one mentoring.
Self-paced tutorials I think can be effective for some kinds of content -- what has been described as "knowledge needed" or "What do I need to know before I can start to learn how-to do something." Defining terms, giving students facts, describing the structure or process of something are all types of content where a self-paced tutorial comes in handy. It will give the student the opportunity to learn something at the speed he finds most comfortable. I anticipate that learning English vocabulary and specialized terminology will be important to Deaf professionals, and self-pace tutorials are the best way to learn this kind of content.

My concept for this training is something like the way they doing over at e-Cornell. There, if you buy an online course,  you only have access to it for a period of time. That is because they have real live teachers at the other end of the wire. Contrast this to Element K's product, which is 100% online and without the intervention of humans. I think the e-Cornell approach is preferable, even though I worked at Element K and lead their early efforts at business skills development.

Much of what is currently available in the realm of self-paced tutorials is incredibly boring and ineffective. So whatever we develop has to be entirely new, interesting, engaging, and effective. We are experimenting with using the features of ASL to guide our graphical interface development. The hope is that signing individuals will find that the content "works" for them, and is more effective and engaging because of that.

Self-paced tutorials fall very flat when it comes to teaching how to make judgments, and making judgments is what business skills is all about. Why won't a self-paced tutorial do the job? Because when learning to make judgments, we need subtle corrections from experts. Self-paced tutorials just can't distinguish between almost, almost right and almost right. It can only say right or wrong. The kind of gross distinctions that self-paced tutorials make is not fine enough to really help people understand how to change, if they aren't dead on immediately. To do that we need feedback from a live person, and in my plan, we will do this in a group instruction setting, such as a webinar.

But new judgment makers need even more feedback than that -- they need the input from a coach or mentor that is focusing just on them, and on their unique situation. So I am proposing a time-bound engagement between learner and mentor, where the mentor will give focused feedback and encouragement to a Deaf professional. Of course, it would be optimal if these coaches were themselves Deaf, but that might be a challenge in the beginning. But ultimately that is what we will want -- people who themselves have been successful in advancing their careers serving as mentors and coaches.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Information Costs and Flat Organizational Structures

One of my most strongly held management principles is that decision making should be pushed as far down the chain of command as possible. This is counter-intuitive to many (most?) of my brother and sister managers who, because they are responsible for successful outcomes, naturally want to maintain control over critical processes. But in doing so, they are actually guaranteeing that results will be suboptimal. Here's why:

Take the case of your local instance of a national jeans store. It is probably staffed by 20-somethings or even teenagers, while far, far, away, a much older person makes decisions about the inventory in the store. Ms Store Clerk knows that the snap on those "boyfriend" style jeans has a little rough spot on the inside that is uncomfortable. She knows this she asks when the customer comes out of the dressing room, "How did those work out for you?" and the customer says, " What's the deal with the snap? It was totally scratching me!" And then Ms Store Clerk folds the jeans and puts them back on the shelf.

When Mr. Corporate sees the sales numbers for the store, he doesn't have access to that critical piece of information. But the human brain will fill in the blanks, if information is missing. Its the way we are hardwired. So Mr. Corporate will have a story for why the numbers are low on the "boyfriend" jeans. Perhaps he will think that the style is now out of fashion. So when he re-orders, he won't order more of those, but instread go with the capris. From the same manufacturer, who is still using the same snaps. And when the customers see that their favorites, the "boyfriend" style jeans are no longer stocked by that store, perhaps they will switch to the other national chain store in town. Just maybe.

In this case, the information costs are the costs of the lost sales, the lost future sales, and the purchases of the wrong stock. If the organization could somehow ask Ms Store Clerk about things, it would be able to make much better decisions.The take away for us is that decisions should be made as close to where the process is that they will affect as possible. It will be a negotiation  to find the best place -- but I bet you will be surprised when you figure it out!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Happy New Project Year!

My department's new project year actually begins October 1, but we like to get things rolling a little before that. So recently we have be soliciting new project ideas from the staff and faculty at NTID. Our projects can be requested by anyone, and if it either supports learning and teaching, or if it promotes NTID, we can accept it. Projects are assigned a budget up to $5000 and the use of my entire team's skills: video, programming, instructional design, graphic design, photography, web development.

This year looks exciting. Although we haven't completed the selection process (a collaborative process that the entire team participates in), here is a sneak peek at some of the technologies and concepts we will be working with:

  • QR codes, both for instruction and for administrative use
  • Iphone and Android development
  • Xbox development ("You are the controller!"
  • Using Drupal sites to encourage collaboration
  • "Fake" 3D
  • Use of emotion in instruction
  • Rapid curriculum planning strategies
  • Business skills for D/deaf professionals
  • More collaboration with student workers and co-ops
Looks like it is going to be an exciting year. I'll let you know how things progress!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Using Research in Design

I was having a conversation recently about designing effective eLearning, and I made a statement that my design is research-based. When pressed for details, I mentioned the name of my ID guru: Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark. Dr. Clark was instrumental in the development of the instructional design model I used at Element K, and her work continues to have a profound effect on me.

But of course, Dr. Clark hasn't been specifically working with D/deaf college students, so of course while I can use her work as a starting place, it doesn't answer all the questions that arise when developing instruction for a totally different culture and language, especially a language that is manual versus spoken.

So for the past three years, I have been working on an instructional design model that starts with my specific audience, D/deaf college students. Many in this group  use ASL as their primary language, and English as a second.However, some use English, and only begin to sign when the come to NTID. And others are scattered along the continuum between ASL and English.

(Side comment: learning a second language while trying to invent an instructional design model for native users of that language isn't so much like building a canoe while rowing it as it is like growing the forest, felling and milling the trees, building the canoe and rowing it! Everyday I learn another little piece that helps me to internalize and know more.)

As I have thought about each section of my design model, I've asked myself: "What does the research say about D/deaf adult learners and this?" I've read mountains of research of various topics, such as:

  • How do ASL signers expect/want/need content to be ordered and chunked? How is this different from the way I (as a native English speaker) expect/want/need it done? (Because, let's face it: Our default audience is always "me".)
  • What features of ASL can be incorporated in to my instructional design? What features are critical, and what don't matter? For my my non-ASL students in the crowd, this would include things such as presenting material from general to specific, mentioning time first, using a topic-comment pattern, and showing, not telling. There is a lot more to it, but that gives you the gist.
  • What kind of illustrations/graphics are most effective? 
  • What kind of text is most effective?
  • If we incorporate captions, or English, what is the best use of that?
  • At what point are what kind of practice activities most effective?
  • Are there actually such a thing as visual learners? If so, what does this mean in the development of my content?
  • What aspects of Deaf culture are import to incorporate?
  • How can non-manual sign components (such as mouth morphemes, gaze, facial expressions, and body shifts be effectively used?
What I have found is that researchers like to research tiny tiny tiny little pieces of things. And I need research on much bigger chunks. So while I continue to read and ask questions, I have also started to establish relationships with researchers so I can hopefully influence the future direction of their research. I firmly believe that it will be through those partnerships that I will finally be able to craft the most effective and engaging instruction. 

We are starting to build the first prototype -- business skills content for D/deaf professionals that desire to move into first-time manager roles. I am confident that this process, with it's millions of design decisions, will lead us to ask more and better questions. And asking the questions, well, that's the first step, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nobody Tells

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

– Ira Glass

True, eh?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Scatter/Gather: Where Have You Been All My Life?

It's so exciting to me to find a site/book/person who says what I have been thinking but so clearly and fluently. 
What if you could text a one-dollar donation for every story you heard on NPR that really fascinated, moved, or taught you something?  It would be extremely easy to do, and probably at least as likely to bring in $50 a year (the threshold for station membership) as the twice-yearly membership drives where NPR implores listeners to remember the importance of those same programs.  Added to the usual membership option, the text-a-dollar possibility would provide an instantaneous reward for them and, however surprisingly, for you.  That’s because the incentive isn’t a random prize; it’s an emotionally affirming action, tied to an experience you’ve already decided is important to you.

From my most favorite site I just discovered: Scatter/Gather. The entire article is here.  

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Five Critical Skills for New Employees

I am asked occasionally to act as an interviewer so our students can have some realistic experience to prepare for their job search. Our students are generally very well prepared when it comes to using particular technologies. They are ready to enter today's job market.

But are we doing an equally good job preparing them for tomorrow's? Here are my five top skills students need to possess to be successful in the future:

1.Ability to collaborate and communicate digitally.
2.Solve problems.
3.Both be able to tell a compelling story using multimedia tools, and maybe even more importantly, be able to deconstruct and interpret a compelling story using multimedia tools.
4.Validate a proposed solution.

Ability to collaborate and communicate digitally.

The "cloud" or whatever you want to call the digital realm, is no doubt, the meeting room of the very near future. Our students need to be comfortable both with the technology and the gestalt of these spaces. They also need to be able to collaborate be able to present their own ideas, build on the ideas of others, abandon their own ideas if better ones are presented. Our students will be called upon to create new knowledge and productize it. The most efficient way to do this is through collaboration, and in a global economy, collaboration is digital.

Solve problems.

More than once I have assigned a task with a team member, only to find later that s/he got stuck at some point, and was not able to move ahead. His/her response? To just wait, either for me to come back or for a miracle to occur that would unstick them. The current generation seems to be extremely unprepared to solve problems. I look for individuals who can correctly define the problem, who can break it down into parts. I also want to know how others have solved similar problems. And sometimes similar problems are in a totally different field. Once the problem is defined, solutions must be proposed. Note I said solutions, plural. And a solution must be planned and implemented.

Both be able to tell a compelling story using multimedia tools, and maybe even more importantly, be able to deconstruct and interpret a compelling story using multimedia tools

Multimedia tools are no longer the property of one group of individuals, namely graphic designers. Everyone must be facile with these tools. But telling the story is perhaps the easy part. Students must also be able to deconstruct and interpret the compelling stories others tell. If students are unable to do this, their perspective and understanding will be dictated wholly by the storytellers.

Validate a proposed solution.

This skill is closely related to both problem solving and interpreting stories. But I call it out because it is so critical. If students are unable to validate solutions, they will choose the easiest, least expensive solution. Or the one fronted by the most compelling storyteller. And frequently, the best solution is neither the cheapest, easiest, or compelling.


Finally, our students must be adept at finding a reasonable middle ground that preserves the most important attributes, features, or qualities of both sides. Today's world is woefully short on negotiating skills as anyone who reads the daily paper can see. My experience has been that my youngest employees are particularly poor at this. They frequently adopt an all or nothing position that frustrates and puzzles their co-workers.

It is our responsibility to prepare our students to improve the human condition, and giving students vital practice in these five critical skills would be an important first step.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Professional Development for Deaf Professionals

I'm really interested in developing some kind of materials for professional development for NTID grads. I saw some statistics that say our students enter the job market at the same pay rate as their hearing colleagues, but when they have been in the market for a while, they stop making the same sort of gains in position and salary. My thought is that our students aren't being promoted to management positions at the same rate as their hearing colleagues. I think that there may be five reasons for this:
  1. Weak written English skills
  2. Lack of opportunities to be mentored
  3. They don't "overhear", so soft skills information isn't being passed to them in that way
  4. Lack of appropriate professional development opportunities. (I don't believe simply providing an interpreter at a workshop is enough. And I am not sure that employers are actually making these programs available due to the additional cost of interpreters.)
  5. Unwillingness by Deaf professionals to move around, due to the difficulty of training hearing co-workers how to communicate. Once Deaf professionals get things worked out, they may be reluctant to repeat the process. 
Here are the topics I believe would be useful:
  • Personal goal setting
  • Time management
  • Conducting a meeting
  • Project management
  • Some kind of negotiation skills training 
  • Focused business writing: emails, meeting minutes, meeting agendas, status reports
  • Presentation skills
  • Self-branding and planning your career
I saw some e-learning that was developed at Cornell. The "class" has some material that the student does on his own, and then some webinar sessions where the students are "together". I want the self-pace material to be developed in a way that takes advantages of ASL features. I am planning to work on a prototype of one of these as a "Major Design Project." 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Translating Ideas to Practice in the Classroom

"Teachers will not take up ideas that sound attractive, no matter how extensive the research base, if the ideas are presented as general principles that leave the task of translating them into everyday practice entirely up to the teachers... What teachers need is a variety of living exapmples of implementation, as practiced by teachers with whom they can identify and from whom the can derive the confidence that they can do better. They need to see examples of what doing better means in practice." (Black and Williams, 2008)

Truer words were never written.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Divergent and Convergent Thinking and Why You Care

 I was trolling the Internet for interesting information and ideas and came across this old school site called Divergent Thinking.

"The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It involves breaking a topic down into its various component parts in order to gain insight about the various aspects of the topic. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that the ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion. Following divergent thinking, the ideas and information will be organized using convergent thinking; i.e., putting the various ideas back together in some organized, structured way."
 Divergent thinking is probably something we should be teaching our students. It is one of the fundamental building blocks of creativity. Being able to generate a number of ideas and then put them back together in some new and original way is essential. Creation of new knowledge is what our students will be required to do, if they want to be successful.

This divergent thinking - convergent thinking cycle is the part of my job that I enjoy the most. Things I do almost every day (every GOOD day!) are:
  • Taking time to think about something -- almost anything will do. But it is important to just stop and think.
  • Meditate. Meditation is to thinking as practicing scales is to playing the piano. It will help you to nudge your mind in the right direction.
  • Writing. I use my blogs (I write three now!) as the place where I put ideas back together in new and original (at least for me) ways. Sometimes an idea will will present itself and I will use my writing as a way to explore it. Sometimes I will take two subjects and then challenge myself to think of ways that they can go together. 
Putting things together in new and novel ways is not a "nice to have" any more -- it is an essential.  How will/do you practice divergent and convergent thinking?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Figuring out What's Next Big Trend and Why Maybe You Don't Want to Know

That title -- "Figuring Out What's Next Big Trend and Why Maybe You Don't Want to Know" sounds kinda ominous, doesn't it?  Well, I didn't mean it like that. I'm not afraid of the future. Not a bit.

I think the main trends that we are going to be dealing with are all about the crowd. Crowd everything: crowd financing, crowd sourcing are going to be very big. If you haven't already, check out Kickstarter gives creative people -- or at least people with an idea -- a place to make a pitch, and then let other people support them financially. I've supported:
  • TickTock, a wristband that transforms a Ipod Nano (the new, square ones) into the coolest watch ever.
  • Lumina, an eye mask that wakes you up by gradually getting brighter, like the sun rising.
  • The Stork, "... a game/social experiment which encourages people to perform brave acts of kindness."
  • The Manual, "a new limited-run print magazine that takes a fresh look at design on the web."
  • The Shape of Design, a book that combines one person's thinging about "design and thinking about the topics that orbit the practice: storytelling, concept, craft, and improvisation."
 These projects,  and others that haven't been succussful in their bid to be funded, are novel and interesting and cool. In the old, 3 years before now world, I would only be a part of these projects if I was actually a part of the project. I most likely wouldn't have had the opportunity to know these people in the first place. And my puny little $10 or $25 or $100 contribution wouldn't be very useful. When my tiny contribution combined with other people who also think these projects are cool, it has the power to make dreams come true.

Crowd financing and micro financing aren't  extremely new, although I think the way that idea has been blended with social networking at the Kickstarter site is novel. Another related idea, though, really is new. That's the idea of a Network of Strangers That Have Something in Common.

Right now we have some pretty robust networks on the net -- Facebook and LinkedIn are two that I participate in daily. But these networks are networks of people I know or have some direct connection with. LinkedIn, in fact, actually actively discourages me from linking to people I don't know. And I get why they feel that way. But what if I could search a network for people that share common interests or want to do something that I want to also do? If there was some sort of rating on my reputation, like rating systmes used on Yelp or Ebay, where people who had worked with me could rate the quality of my participation, then you wouldn't necessarily need to "know" me to want to team with me. So Network of Strangers -- you heard it here first!

Which leads me to my next trend -- Influencer Identification. Just like back in High School, there was that one kid who led the pack and set the styles, in groups there are individuals or groups of them, that are driving the bus. In the past we ordinary mortals didn't have enough data presented in such a way that we could see what what was happening. But we do now, and visual information analytics is becoming more sophisticated and more available, every day. This technology can also be used to determine where innovation is happening, and how that innovation is being funded. Quid is one of those tools. quoted Bob Goodson, one of Quid's founders as saying, "The idea is to pinpoint where innovation is happening, what trends are emerging and who is funding them." Bob Goodson uses Quid to mine YouNoodle, a site that introduces entrepreneurs to people who want to fund them.

So with all this wonderfulness going on, why did I say, "Why Maybe You Don't Want to Know" in my title? Because if your aim is to increase your ability to monetize yourself, perhaps you don't want people to know so much about you because with the decrease in uncertainty, comes a decrease in the volatility associated with you. The Harvard Business Review (March 2011) in it's article "Experts are More Persuasive When They're Less Certian," says, ""People value potential more than achievement. Given identical stats for a veteran pro athlete's first five years of performance and a rookie's predicted five-year performance, study subjects choose to pay the rookie nearly  $1 million more in year six."
In other words, because we don't know just how wonderful the rookie is, we are will to pay more money for him. Because he might be fantastic. And the veteran, even the best, most wonderful veteran, is a know quantity. You've probably noticed this effect at work, where the person who is hired off the street starts at a sometimes significantly higher salary than the person who is already employeed by the company. So if you are on the rookie side of that equation, perhaps you don't want the company to know TOO much about you! Only enough to be sure that you are indeed wonderful! It would be very interesting to to see how the fees paid to people who have community ratings relate to the people who don't have those ratings. Or how people's fees in networks where you "know" folks relate to those in networks of strangers.

I'm fascinated by the way the future is unfolding. Let's see if I'm right about these tends.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Far Transfer and Second Language Acquistion

This quarter I took a great class: "Structure of ASL" taught by Kim Kurz. Kim is a great teacher, and I found the class really fascinating. Kim used the book by Clayton Valli, Ceil Lucas, and Kristin J. Mulrooney as the basis for her instruction. One of the points she made in class was that there is a difference between a user's competence in a languague and a user's performance in a language. In other words, there is a difference between how a what a person knows about a language and how the person uses the language.

This is definitely true in my case.

Several of my ASL teachers have taught these four general rules of ASL:
1. Time goes first in the sentence.
2. General goes before specifics.
3. Concrete before abstract
4. Describe the location in space from the signer's perspective.

I KNOW all these rules. I UNDERSTAND these rules. But do I APPLY these rules? Not consistently. When I'm in the middle of a conversation, I flip back to English rules. This seems to be especially true if the person I am conversing with is using sim com, or is a hearing person who voices (even in whispers) when she signs. If the person is a native ASL signer, it is easier for me to maintain closer adherence with ASL rules. But I still make mistakes.

So I know what the problem is, but I don't have any idea on how to fix it. The advice I commonly get here at NTID is to spend more time with ASL signers. That would be nice, but my work here is more about me spending time at my desk, in front of a computer, than it is chatting up ASL signers. And I will admit to a reluctance to using my colleagues and work friends as unpaid tutors.

I've spent some time trying to find any research that discusses how to increase far transfer skills in seccond language acquision.  So far, I haven't found much of anything. So if you are aware of any research that might be useful for me, please point me in that direction!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What Do the Best Companies Have That You Don't Have?

I read an interesting page on the Hay Group's site. Here's what the Hay Group says about the "best" companies -- companies that can "surface, identify, and use great ideas."

90% of the Best Companies expect employees to lead, regardless if they have a formal position of authority.

All of the Best Companies manage a pool of successors for mission-critical roles.

90% of the Best collect leadership development best practices from subsidiaries and share them

Cultural diversity means 95% of the Best can respond to the challenges of competing in a global economy

95% of the Best Companies have a ‘family friendly’ corporate culture to support employees raising children.

100% of the Best have programs to develop leaders who can bring together resources across the organization

The Best give all employees the opportunity to develop and practice the capabilities needed to lead.

100% of the Best pay male and female employees the same rate.

95% of the Best Companies have programs to help expats deal with the local culture.

100% of the Best get local leaders to participate in decisions made at HQ to share ideas and best practices

For more information about the Hay Group, click here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Wisdom of Crowds and the Changing Nature of Leadership

The Center for Creative Leadership has published a research white paper on the changing nature of leadership. They interviewed 389 individuals about leadership and organizations, and I found the results to be very interesting.

According to the research, 84% of respondents believe that the definition of what is effective leadership has changed in the past five years. 60% believe that leaders face challenges that go beyond their individual capabilities, and 58% believe that interdependence work is the foundation of effective leadership. To me this means that the concept of a leader as the person out front, singularly leading the troops to some semi-distant goal is no longer accurate. Perhaps either because of the growing complexity of problems, or the flood of data, more and more of what identifies true leaders is their ability to effectively team with others.

A second area of study seems to reinforce this conclusion. CCL asked about the three core competencies that they use to define leadership: setting direction, gaining commitment, and creating alignment. According to the study, only 50% agreed that leadership in their organizations sets direction effectively. Only 46% said leadership gains commitment effectively. And perhaps most telling, only 40% felt that leadership exhibited the the competency that seems to be the most connected to working with others, creating alignment effectively.

The notion of the wisdom of crowds isn't a fad or the latest business buzz term with no substance behind it. It actually represents a fundamental change in the way people view reality. The challenge will be to lead people with this changed worldview, especially since the manager who strives to lead them attained his/her position by successfully manipulating the old paradigm!

The whit epaper also reports on activities that are rewarded by companies, comparing what is happening currently with what the crowd felt should be rewarded. While behaviors like "making the numbers" and individual performance are currently what is rewarded, the crowd thought that teamwork, collaboration, long-term objectives and working across boundaries should be rewarded. The paper didn't discuss how this fundamental disconnect between what the organization is doing and what the crowd feels is the more appropriate action tends to undermine leadership. Perhaps this is why leadership can't create alignment effectively.

The worker bees of the organization do understand the trade off between "making the numbers" -- an activity with monthly or quarterly horizons -- and long-term objectives, which ultimately will create a more stable environment, foster innovation, and invest in quality. Some time ago, I worked for a company that was purchased by another company. Immediately before the sale, we were pushed hard to "make the numbers", so our balance sheet wotul be as attractive as possible to potential suitors. This caused our management to attempt to make as much salable product as possible, with little thought to quality. After the new company made the purchase, we had a period of relative calm. But eventually, the new ownership began to exert that pressure again. There was no desire to listen to the wisdom of the crowd, and ultimately many excellent people left the organization. Until management is rewarded for having a longer view and encouraging collaboration and innovation, the organization is going to be in conflict with the current values of it's workers. Not only does it miss out on all that wisdom, and make suboptimal decisions, but it is going to loose the best workers, who simply will not stay where they can't participate in a meaningful way. And this is going to happen even in a sub par economy.

The Changing Nature of Leadership, by Andre Martin for the Center for Creative Leadership, can be found here.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Metacognition is the Golden Key

 I am a strong believer in open education, a trend that some people believe would put all of us working in Higher Education out of a job. What is open education? In my perfect world, it is groups of people who share the desire to know about something, coming together, finding a teacher, and learning it. There are no grades, there is no term. When they are finished they go away. Maybe it isn't even a group. Maybe it's just me, and I find my resources, the books, videos, articles, whatever, and then I think about things. And after I have thought about it, I make something. I add to the knowledge of the world.

The Internet is a wonderful partner to open education because literally everything is out there, just waiting for me to find it.

So what do we, those of us in formal education, what do we offer to our students? Why do they need us at all?

Well, I think we hold the golden key to all this learning and knowledge making. We are the ones who can help our students to understand the gap between where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow. We are the ones who can help them to understand how to actually perform that act of self examination. We are the ones who can teach students to evaluate themselves, and determine for themselves, what is needed to bridge that gap.

One of my work pals has told me that her students don't want to do this. They want HER to do this. Well, too bad. Because if we don't teach students this much, they will never go on to be the life-long learners that our society must have in order to survive. They will be come slaves to their own ignorance. Metacognition is the golden key, and if we don't give it to our students, we have failed to actually teach them anything of value.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Xoom - I Knew 2011 Was Going to Be Wonderful!

What runs Flash and has two cameras?

Xoom. Yes, I love my Ipad, but I just converted!