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Well the captains of industry wrote an open letter and took a full page out in The Times to tell everyone to work on their skills and to get behind some serious training. And we agree.

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The old man from Stella Artois

The old man from Stella Artois

What are you currently training – formally or informally? What are you saying? What topics should you cover? What should the learning do for the delegate? Why should you be a training at all?

This post explores these questions that we are all asked and we all ask ourselves. And is a challenge…

Remember the Stella Artois advert above where the old man had a final wish – for a nice pint of Stella? Well do the same for yourself. It is the end of your days. Everyone is gathered around you. And you have one thing to share, one thing to say. What is it? Now, why the hell aren’t you training about that – right now!

Of course if you just want to trot out a set course, the same one you did last year, you could do that too!

Last night I was forced into a quandary.  I’d had to confine myself to one room of the house as the rest of my house was being ventilated in order to get rid of the smell of petrol fumes (long story, don’t ask). Luckily the room I was allowed to spend my evening in just happened to be my study which houses my all-round entertainment/work station, my iMac.

So I was left with a choice, a choice which I didn’t figure out until 4 hours into my evening;  I could either try and recreate a lounging around in front of the TV scenario or I could use my time productively.

Initially I chose the former and spent a couple of hours being frustrated at broadcasters on demand/streaming services.  After that I spent a little more time just browsing the web, again very unproductively and again frustrating.  More importantly by this time boredom was setting in but it was at this point the thought struck me, what could I be learning right now?

The answer to this question was a new piece of software that I’d been meaning to get to grips with, which I then sat down with for an hour and thoroughly enjoyed my time.

So the moral of the story is this, sometimes the environment we find ourselves in doesn’t lend itself to what we want it to be.  If this is the case, don’t just sit around getting bored and frustrated, do something about it and try to use that time for the greater good.

As for me, the fumes will probably still exist in my house tonight so I will probably spend another evening (or maybe even two), in my new learning zone.

This post follows on from the post about Tribes by Shaune. What Seth is saying is that these days the greatest gains are to be achieved by being seen as a leader – to have a tribe as he says it.

Great! What has this to do with training and learning? All too often, if you are in training and learning you follow. You deliver what the client wants, what the company wants. You may even be a leader of a training department / company / devision / organisation. But so what if you are? You are still a follower in the big picture.

Well how about we stop doing that? Just stop working like that. Instead we start delivering what people need. There is a difference between want and need. Identifying the need and fixing the need is what is required during these difficult times.

We are the trainers, the experts, the people who see things from the outside. This is our (new) role. Not to only fulfill briefs, but to do more.

So trainers, now is the time to dig deep, to be seen as a leader. A person with solutions, ideas, new ways of thinking and exciting developments. No one knows who to turn to. So make it you!

Just recently Seth Godin released his latest marketing book called Tribes. This time though marketing is actually a byproduct of what the book is truly about – leadership.

This fact remains however; How do you lead without followers? Even more vitally how do you create interest in something in the first place?

There’s a great quote in the free Triibes e-book, which came from a group which Seth began in order to prove a point really. The quote comes from Dr. Saleh AlShebil, speaking about an iPhone hackers group.

“Get a group of people from anywhere, driven by a passion for something, target a single goal, challenge them and let them do “magic.” “

Is it really that simple?  

Can you actually make yourself the single hub of a common interest for the many?

Does it have to be a non-product related spin?  

Absolutely not, just look at Apple and its loyal bunch of followers, they make nice simple shiny things and the followers spread the word and create more followers.

Does it have to be computer related?

Nope.  Just look at the success of the Mini over the years.  Originally a small, quirky car which created a large number of followers by being different and more importantly friendly.  Now with the new Mini it has a new owner, BMW but they have taken everything great about the ethos of the Mini and used it as a central part of the campaigns.  When you buy a Mini you even get a handbook on how to interact with and attract other Mini drivers.

Can a faked tribe become a real tribe?

Yes.  Kellogg’s have been running an advertising campaign for Crunchy Nut Cornflakes for years around a mythical group called the “Crunchy Nutters”.  Now there is a Facebook group dedicated to people who love Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

If you want to see more evidence of this kind of thing in action check out the Triibes e-book.  It makes a fascinating insight into not only leadership and the following of leaders but also why groups or tribes suddenly appear.

Get it here.

 

 

Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Maasai_tribe.jpg

Ringo Starr has educated me today, sadly though not in a positive way as yesterday he posted a video on his website informing his fans in quite a rude and sometimes amusing way of his intent not to sign anything sent to him ever again.  The cut-off date for this being 20th October 2008.  You can see this video at the bottom of this post.

The big question is does Ringo Starr not need his fans and supporters anymore?

Now the skeptical among us may say that we hadn’t heard anything from Ringo for quite some time and this is some kind of adverse publicity stunt to drive traffic to his website/store.  This could be true and certainly his site has probably had more hits today than it has ever had, however a week on and the stats could be back to normal.

Maybe he’s just sick of it all but the mixed message he gives in the video seems to suggest otherwise; in one breath he’s refusing to sign anything and the next he’s offering peace and love.

So if it is indeed adverse publicity what will be the effects long term?  Lets think of this in business terms.

A business should have lots of loyal customers, that way it has a regular sustained income that carries on regardless of any peaks and troughs.  If one customer to take offense at something the impact on business can be dramatic as customers talk to each other.  If a whole load of customers take offense the impact can be catastrophic.  Gravity is increased momentarily as people are drawn towards you through morbid curiosity but your reputation is irreparably shattered.

Going back to Ringo what this means is that if he ever wants his fans to return he will need to do something to reinvigorate their interest.  As 25% of a 50% deceased band that’s a pretty tall order.

The future of learning

A futuristic report was recently launched by professor Lord Robert Winston that gazes into what learning technologies might look like by 2020.  And the world of gaming is leading the way according to some sources. You can see the full report at: http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=184830. 

There seems to be many views out there on the future of learning so we thought we’d join in too. Here’s what our E-Learning Director Julian Stodd has to say on the subject.

The future of learning will lie, as ever, in a balance between learning technology and learning design. On the one hand, technology will make it easier and quicker to create web based materials, but on the other hand we run the risk of diluting the input from the learning designer. Lowering the barriers to entry to the creation of learning materials does not necessarily lead to an improvement in the quality of the learning.

This problem for the future is a problem from the past; in the early days of computer based training, the educators had the ideas, but the technologists had the power. Very few people crossed both disciplines. A result was that the technologists had an adversely large input into the shape of the learning solution, leading to many technologically driven innovations that were driven by what could be done, rather than by what should be done.

The whole raft of drag and drop, multi choice, VR environments flew out of this with very little evidence base for their effectiveness. Coupled with a misplaced belief that interactivity of any sort was intrinsically beneficial, early e-learning often failed to be effective.

As time passed, the increasing availability of templated software that allowed a relative amateur to create standardised pages led to it’s own issues. Certainly it lowered the barriers to entry and the creation of e-learning, but it failed to account for overall quality of learning design. It was a move towards volume rather than quality.

Today the widespread adoption of Flash and the ease of finding developers has led to much more high quality materials. There still remain significant weaknesses around evaluation and the use of interactivity. Blended Learning is the byword of the decade, with organisations recognising that a mix of trainer led and pure e-learning is often a good, solid, cost effective middle ground.

As for the future? Technology is moving on. Even if we ignore the industry driven frenzy and ignorant promises of web.2, there are a range of new tools available that will have an impact. Blogs and wikis are finding their way into the requirements of tender processes already, with few in the corporate world ready for the likely impact of these frontier environments. There is little understanding of how people use and interact within these environments, what learning benefits they can bring, or what social and legal rules apply. We know for sure that people employ different communication rules in texts, email and blogs than they would in face to face conversation, but it seems likely that companies will have to start using moderated environments if they wish to drive out quality of input and avoid difficulties.

A view for five years time would be that we will see far greater use of forums and blogs in training, but probably in a structured way. Perhaps using a moderator to help structure discussions around topics, much as is done on some of the best pioneering postgraduate distance learning programmes today. There will be an increasing recognition that people are not always equipped to ferret out information themselves from online sources – most people will just use Google or another search engine and go with the top result. The fact that most internet writing is not peer reviewed will inevitably lead to increasing amounts of cross linked nonsense that will pass from urban myth into the realms of accepted truth, with no quantifiable proof behind it.

On the plus side, many users are likely to find the increased use of moderated forums both liberating and beneficial. Even if they don’t actively participate, even spectating from the sidelines can glean insights and benefits.

The future is, as ever, elusive, and for every learner who is enfranchised by the technology, we must be aware that some will be excluded. The sheer wealth of materials available makes it increasingly hard to find something relevant. This will likely lead to the emergence of more portal sites which, in effect, offer moderated content whilst shielding you from the wild west of the techno-nerds. It will be interesting to see in the UK if the BBC Trust allows the organisation to develop what is already the most trusted internet source even further, or if anti competitive funding concerns dismantle an excellent resource.

Whichever way we go, one thing is certain; these are exciting times with change happening at an ever increased pace. Best hang on and enjoy the ride.

If you are looking for some design inspiration, maybe for a rebranding exercise or if you are just trying to raise your visibility a peg or two then help is at hand.  Smashing Magazine have a post today about the 7 Ingredients of Good Corporate Design which should give you some good pointers and get you started.

I’ll add one thing to it though, which should apply to each of the 7 ingredients – keep it simple.

 

 

Image courtesy of Today’s Inspiration

A conversation with someone you don’t know very well can be extremely difficult.  From the beginning it’s a brief slippery slide down the slope of small talk before the conversation runs dry.

There is a simple trick though that everybody can pull off and it doesn’t take a genius to execute it either. It involves 3 little words – “Tell me more”.

The simple fact is this, you can’t just talk at somebody for a conversation to work, in fact if you really want to engage a person you need to dig deeper to find out some common ground.

For example I went to a christening at the weekend and even though I knew a few people there it certainly wasn’t enough to pass for 4 hours of entertaining conversation, so an extra effort had to be made.  I got chatting to a guy and during the usual small talk about the weather he let drop that he got caught in a shower out on his bicycle.  A-ha, some common ground there as I like cycling too.  “Tell me more.”  He cycles to work everyday and then goes off for an extra bit of exercise after that.  “Tell me more.”  He finds that cycling is really good for keeping the legs in shape but doesn’t help with the belly at all.  “Wow, I wondered why I wasn’t getting rid of my gut. Tell me more”… and so on.  Before you know it you’re gassing like old friends.

This technique also works extremely well in business too.  Building a relationship with somebody before you hand out your business cards is really important.  Dig deep, find out what your potential customers might be looking for before offering them a solution.  

Let them express themselves, discover common ground, share a vision.  

Repeat until successful.

 

Image courtesy of http://www.lhsdrama.com

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