Monthly Archives: May 2014

ASTD2014 summary: Remember the brain, revamp training and sharpen the saw

2 weeks ago, I was once again on full-DAN-speed at the ASTD International Conference and Exhibition. This time, the stomping-ground was Washington DC with over 9000 attendees coming to hear 250 speakers from 57 countries.

Having attended now 3 years in-a-row, I decided not to spend too much time on learning agility, why mobile is awesome, or why L+D needs to change its approach and pretty-much ignored the fact that its all about going social and that we musn’t forget the 70:20:10 model if we want to unleash learning…ย  I agree with those messages and I think they are valuable. But there’s only so much you can hear about it in a conference.

(If you want to read about those topics, check out the tabs on ASTD2013 and TK14)



What I did get out of ASTD2014 was all about bringing more brain-power and general awesomeness to my own training and work/life balance…


I’ve been training for over 12 years. My clients say I do a great job and I’m sure I am doing something right. But at ASTD2014, I got some really valuable information about how to improve. Having been back at training work for a few weeks now, I’ve already been putting things (slowly) into place. I find that this has made me feel a lot better about what I am doing and brought a lot more energy to my training process. I have my fingers crossed that it is actually having more impact ๐Ÿ™‚



Don’t forget how the brain works if you want to create better learning.

In previous conference years, I found the stuff on neuro-ccience to be filled with too much data. I can see that there is a lot to learn about how the brain works, but have always left wondering what is the concrete take-away from all that data.

This year, A(S)TD had created a new learning track on “The Science of Learning” – so I figured its not just a trend and I must be the only one not yet seeing the point. I found that the sessions were more accessible and outlined more the bottom-line and key points:

  • Josh Davis told us that if you want to make learning stick, you have to work with the hippocampus. I have been trying to reduce session time on specific topics or activity types to smaller chunks of 20 minutes and have been experimenting with associative-thinking to reinforce memory.
  • Between those sessions, I have tried to create some energy microbursts to refresh people. I used to be a little suspicious of doing random things in a training room (example: Brain-Gym). I thought they had no added-value to the content/topic. But I have seen that a deliberately timed mini-joke moment between activities and a little bit of movement can re-boost participants. Also, instead of simply asking participants to summarise what they learnt in a session, I have tried getting them to close their eyes and imagine saying it to a loved-one. Apparently, this positive emotion will reinforce the new ideas in the brain.
  • I have worked harder to formalise meta-cognition moments in training, sometimes using simple tools like ChatterPix (that I have advertised in my own session on social-media for formal learning) to ask participants to think about how they are learning. I am also experimenting with other memory-techniques related to use of multiple senses.
  • I have worked more on repetition and spacing across several training days to help reinforce the links between learning points. This has been done with formal (but fun) quizzing on content and intro/wrap of sessions that remind general purpose and structure of the training.
  • David Rock mentioned in his session on coaching that having a little more personal reflection time in the learning process helped to reinforce the learning in question. I went back to an old strategy of asking training participants to write a “personal promise” at the end of day 1. They like it (I didn’t think they would).
  • My own experiments with Mind Palaces has proven to be lots of fun over the last week and I realise that I AM able to remember huge amounts of precise and well-ordered ideas and information. I will be blogging on the application of this to training in the near future..



Over the summer, I will be working on turning formal learning (training) into story-based sessions. And revamping my materials.

As you know, I’ve experimented a lot with social media for training – this year I again presented this topic at ASTD. I told the participants I was an “experimentor” and that even when I didn’t know what results I would get, I was willing to try. * After ASTD2014, I have plenty of new ideas and I’m looking forward to taking the time this summer to get started on revamping my training activities and materials…

  • I found both Katie Stroud’s session on “Converting Learning in Story” and Anders Gronstedt’s session on “Transmedia Storytelling” to be really inspiring. I already tend to use little chunks of personal story in training to get my point across. In the future, I will try to fully integrate a thin-red-line of story into the learning process (see Katie Stroud post) and then think of different ways to bring this across via diverse training activities. I think using a blend of media before, during and after training, as well as actual story-telling, participant discussion around stories/characters (and maybe even sock-puppets!) might bring added-value by working on emotion, creativity and memory.
  • I have already used video to introduce training or to share a key learning point (example: Awesome Communication tip number 1) and I am satisfied with the results. I plan to further revamp my training materials in 2 ways using video + the Aurasma augmented reality app : The first thing is to take the time to create short videos that summarise main learning points and make these augmented-reality-scannable in my materials (as I showed in session ASTD2014 M115); my second idea is to ask participants to make these short videos themselves during training and then integrate THOSE videos into their own materials using Aurasma. Personalised video-enhanced training materials??!! Awesome! I will blog on this later.
  • I have always made an effort to focus my key training messages on the 3 most important questions. Following Sally Hogshead’s fun session on personal branding and personality, I think I am going to look for ways to get participants to be more mindful this themselves and to look at how they can communicate and position these key messages for themselves and others during and after training. I want to find some way to integrate that into their own personal materials and learning/memory process. Instead of them focussing on the facts of what has been learnt, I will encourage them at all times to rebrand their learning points. Blog to follow…


* As a side-note, it turns out I am more than an “experimentor”. Read this post on creating your own personal anthem to find out what Sally Hogshead taught me at ASTD.



Finally, I am thinking more about work-life balance and trying to “sharpen the saw”.

One of the things I like most about the A(S)TD conferences is the key-note speeches. Many people find them less informative than the concurrent sessions, but I like them. Even if this year we had the special surprise of an American military general talking to an international audience about “killing the bad guys” (!!), the main points of Huffington and Caroll’s keynotes were excellent. I am trying to keep them in mind back home in Sombreffe:

  • As a hyper-connected super-speedy worksaholic guy, I sometimes get swept away in the digital movement of information and constant actions. Arianna Huffington told us her burn-out story and encouraged us to shut-down and tune-out if we want to thrive. Having plenty to say myself about burn-out causes, symptoms and positive action, and being already tired from the travel and conference action, I found it very important to listen well to her speech. Despite fiercely blogging the A(S)TD sessions for Kluwer during the conference, since returning I have made an effort to slow-down and do one thing at a time. I’m even getting a little more sleep and garden time.
  • Kevin Caroll was impossible to blog, so no link here! Talking at a million miles an hour, he told us his personal story of opportunity, growth and play. Again, I was inspired. Caroll suggested that if we try to follow our own path, we can only go to good places. As someone who tends to try a lot to please everyone else, I’ve been trying to relax a little more both at work and home. I already see that I (and training participants) are having more fun at work. At home, I make a huge effort to bring play-breaks into my days. More time throwing a frisbee with the girls, more games in the house and trying to turn everything into a little bit more fun. Feels good! And surprisingly, I seem to be getting random opportunities for conference work thrown at me left, right and centre. It seems if you relax a little, the Universe gives you what you want..


So voila, my summary of ASTD2014. I’m already impatient for Florida next year ๐Ÿ™‚


ps – I did also follow an awesome session from Jane Bozarth on the value of showing your work and how to do it but couldn’t see how to fit it in this summary. Love you Jane!





Video tools, apps and tips

It’s the final concurrent session of ASTD2014, we are going to make a video. It should be easy, (almost) free, relevant and successful. Bring it on Stacy Bodenner!


So, your CEO comes to you and says “Make me a film for our 30th anniversary”. You have a USB microphone, a webcam and $300… *

* I’m secretly hoping to beat this budget, but frankly, it’s not much of a cost to off-set if you will make more than one film


Tools you might want


What apps or software can I make video with?

  • ScreenR allows you to capture whatever is on your PC screen + add audio. Easy and intuitive.
  • MS PowerPoint if you just want to convert your PPT slides into simple video – make it less text-driven and feel free to use some animation. Click on “send to”..
  • Vine app if 6 seconds is enough for you
  • Animoto app if you want to use videos (Vine included) and photos already on a smartphone or tablet
  • MS Movie Maker (free on MS) allows you to trim video, add photos, sound and transitions
  • Garage Band if you want to make your own music. It’s easy, even if you are not a musician and don’t have instruments. Honestly! Cost about $6. Or just get on Creative Commons for a list of free legal music sources
  • If you want a a full editing suite at about $12 on ipad, try Pinnacle (formally known as Avid Studio)


Little tips

  • Make a storyboard in advance to think about what you want to show and say
  • Use the rule of thirds for set-up of your picture frames
  • Avoid having light coming through windows onto your subject’s face
  • You can use MS PPT slides to make logo images or backgrounds or transition slides
  • Render your video in the highest possible quality
  • Keep your videos short … 30 to 90 seconds
  • Take the time to add some title or closing text


See also my tips from Matt Pierce at ASTD2013

Thanks for reading!


Techniques to engage people when you facilitate change

Dutch actor, coach, trainer and speaker Juanita Coble kicks off session #W110 on change and the importance of engaging people in the process. Welcome to ASTD2014 day 4…


According to Coble, Neuroscience tells us that when people are uncertain, they move into an “away state”. This accounts for many of the negative reactions to whatever change is going on.



Starting with a role-play, Coble took the stage as an actress, playing the role of interim director, Mrs Smith. “She” wouldn’t answer my questions, “she” was very direct, seemed to think she knew it all and was overly positive, but in a strange fake way. Telling us a story about making lemonade, “she” just talked, talked, talked…

Following Coble’s stage moment, session participants were invited to play a role and discuss their reactions to the change with “colleagues”. My character (who I will call “John”) saw it coming. He had already been looking around and had an interview planned for a new job. Other participants played other roles (although I still don’t know what instructions they received).


Thinking about one of our own changes, Coble asked us to make notes in answer to 3 different questions: “What has to go?”, “What should stay” and “What is needed?”

As the session moved on, participants were really encouraged to express their feelings about those things. For the “go” things, we wrote them on a piece of paper, crunched them up and threw them at the speaker (I was thinking of Mrs Smith ๐Ÿ™‚ screaming “good riddance”. For the “should stays”, we simply discussed with our neighbours.

For the “what is needed?” question, we were invited to think of a “happy ending” to the change story. This could be more or less creative, either a literal ending to the story or a more figurative, romantic, novel ending. For my own “home-selling” change story, I thought about some kind of fairy-godmother coming to me in the night to reassure about how things we’re go. When our speaker asked me what my story-ending was, I told her. She asked me how I could get that. I answered. She asked me what I was going to do about it. The “coaching approach” got me thinking for myself and really helped me to identify the real problem going on.


How do you convince leadership that this kind of dialogue is necessary?

Coble says that the proof is already there from NeuroScience. Davis and Rock from the NeuroLeadership Institute told us that people need “certainty” and “relatedness” (as well as other things) to be able to really integrate new change and new learning. If they don’t feel sure about things, or feel misunderstood, they will probably not get onboard. If they don’t do some “metacognition” (thinking about thinking) it won’t be anchored as it should be.

I have heard many people say that “coaching is a luxury we can’t afford”, yet the benefits of getting people to think for themselves have been widely documented and include better retention, satisfaction, creativity, responsibility…


What other things can we do to get people involved in the change process, or to facilitate sessions when change is happening?

A distinction must be made between involving people in initiating and defining the change, and helping them to face a change that is going to happen in a certain way. During the session, I was mostly focussing on the second type: How can you get people onboard for a predefined change, getting them engaged and responsible?

Coble gave a list of several options and we brainstormed more:

  • Use of social-media platforms to create discussion and sharing
  • On the job training
  • Classical discussions, one-or-one or in group meetings, really taking the time necessary
  • Rehearsal sessions with managers, helping them play-out the communication with people role-playing different reactions
  • Role-play
  • Multi-platform communications
  • Sound fragment dilemmas – essentially this involves recording the change-agents involved if defining the change as they explain what’s going on as they think about the change and drive the process forward. Those who are “following” the change are then invited to listen to those recordings as podcasts to get more insight on the feelings and motivation of others. I see no reason why this could not be done for recordings of anyone in the organisation, as this would help everyone to get a better sense of what is going on with others.
  • Fast-forward theatre – the idea of having actors come in to play scenes showing what things look like in the future, when the change is properly completed
  • Corporate “family constellations” which I do not feel I can do justice to in text on this blog. Please follow the link.


We then focused on one other specific technique that got my attention

A friend and colleague of mine, Oisin Varian, has occasionally talked to me about the value of visualisation techniques. In today’s session, I experienced the power of this first hand. Juanita Coble asked us to close our eyes and think about a future 10 years from now, when our own personal “change example” is properly completed.

With a few guiding words from the speaker, I imagine myself coming home one day from work (new home), opening the door and seeing my eldest daughter (now 18) on the sofa, talking to a friendly looking boy. My other 2 daughters were in the kitchen with their mother, doing homework, chatting and making food. I walked in relaxed and smiling and greeted everyone at the start of the evening. As I did this visualisation exercise, I started to yawn and relaxed the tension that had been in my shoulders all morning. Now, admittedly, I have been very tired at the end of 4 days of conferencing, but as I saw this new environment and my family, I had a tear of happiness in my eye.

Coble then asked “future Dan” to imagine he was looking back at himself today and think about what he would say to him about the change. My answer? “Relax. Don’t worry about all the details. Stop running around trying to make it all perfect. What you are going to get is nothing like you can possibly imagine today, and it’s going to be great.” I yawned some more.

I found this exercise very powerful and listening to other participants saying what they would say to themselves from the future, I could see that this technique wasn’t only working for me. Many people were feeling more (self) understood and self-assured. They also named quite clearly what it was they needed to focus on in the current moment of (difficult) change.


Put all these techniques together in a good way and you can create engagement

I believe that. We all know as managers and trainers that we have to take time to listen to people when facilitating change. Coble gave us the tools. First class session.


See also:



How to convert your learning into story, step-by-step

Following a sweet true-story-based and lovely introduction from Aaron Stroud, his wife Katie takes the stage to tell us about story for learning during session W202 of ASTD2014. She said that when she researched the topic herself, she found a lot of information about the importance of story and it’s benefits, but not much about how to actually go about developing a story for learning purposes. I’m glad to hear this, because I had the same experience. Of course, I have lots of little story-examples that I occasionally use to illustrate a point in training. They work well, people remember them and they can create some thought, humour and emotion. But what I want from this session is to find out HOW to turn a process of learning activities into a thin-red line that can enhance the learning experience across the training…


Katie started by telling her own rags to riches story * When listening, I was drawn to hear more and I started to like her more. (My neighbour said it didn’t really do anything for her). Stroud said that story activates the brain. It touches the senses and emotions. Because more of the brain is activated, it is more likely to be remembers and integrated.

* There are many other types of story (boy meets girls, Hero’s Journey …) which we are not necessarily going to see here.


To start making your story, you need first to define the problem in story-terms

  • Background – my story is about an IT consultancy company. People have strong technical skills, but they aren’t capturing new opportunities that arise for time-to-time.
  • Setting – in my world, the employees of this company are distant from their own company colleagues. They work on client-sites. The client’s building is very quiet, badly lit and “dry”. The workers on the client site don’t really talk to each other much.
  • Conflict (the problem that stops us from success) – there is no time to talk, our hero is nervous and introverted. He doesn’t feel connected to or supported by his company while he is at his client-site. He doesn’t really feel like he can “win” or grow. He is unsure about how to proceed.
  • Climax (the reward moment, when it all works out)
  • Resolution


Then add detail about the suffering that is going on in the story

  • Place it – where does the problem happen? My hero is at his desk, “hiding behind his computer”.
  • Define it – what exactly is the problem. My guy gets a question from someone (his client) that he wasn’t expecting. It’s not part of his job and he feels uncomfortable dealing with it. Given his slightly introverted nature, it feels like unwelcome noise in his ears. “Please leave me alone to work”, he thinks.
  • Scope it – what is the extent of this problem? For my guy, it’s not the first time he has felt like this. In fact, it happens in other social scenarios too. When he is with his few own good friends, everything is fine (albeit a bit geeky!). But when he has to talk to strangers (or a girl!) he doesn’t really know what to say.
  • Solve it – define how it would be if everything was fine. My hero would breathe gently, relax, smile and look up (come out) from his computer to give his full attention to the client get to know what’s going on and then be able to confidently send an email to his business development manager detailing the situation, values and needs of the client.


Now define the characters

  • Hero – the person in the story that is going through the problem and will come out differently at the end. He may also save a victim. My guy is Paul. He is an IT developer. He is usually quite quiet and tends to feel most comfortable with people he knows, talking about things he understands well. He has been working for 5 years since school and doesn’t feel like a “high-potential”.
  • Victim – the one who is really “dying” in the situation. He needs help. He may even be attacked by a villain. I thought about a “rubbish guy who has no friends”. He always eats alone. He will never grow in his function. Our hero doesn’t want to end up like him in 5 more years.
  • Supporting characters – the other people in the environment that have some kind of impact in the story (or competence problem/solution). I have the onsite client who is a normal business man who just wants good solutions. Friendly, to the normal extent. We have the client receptionist who is a nice young lady who has all the kinds of skills that our her ones, but doesn’t need them in her work. And we have an extrovert sales-guy from our hero’s firm, who is pushing (in a nice way) for more leads.
  • Villain – the person (or “thing”) who has the behaviours that are going no to hinder the hero in his quest for success. In my story, this is the IT developer from a competing company. He’s not a bad guy at all, but if our hero doesn’t achieve his goal, this guy will.


Katie proposes that you don’t use real people from your business in the story, but focus on character types, personalities, (in)competence etc.. There are some classic personality types you can bear in mind: Dominating people, passive people, manipulators… She also noted that you don’t need to literally translate the story. In my case, I could have taken the story entirely out of the IT world and just used a “boy meets girl, but can’t get to know her” story as an analogy. Given the wish to integrate this story into a training with an existing client in the IT sector, I preferred to “keep it real”.


Choose the story model you need to make your point

With the background in mind, each story has to have 4 phases: Setting, conflict, climax and resolution. But they don’t have to be presented in that order, or in the same way. There are 4 models ways to proceed.

  • The first model under consideration is used for introducing something new in your training, like a skill or attitude. Here you need to focus on the climax phase at the beginning of the story. You talk about the moment when the problem is being solved. This will help to introduce the behaviours and attitude required to achieve success. Of course, in this story model, we may go back in time to the status-quo as the story/training evolves.
  • For technical skills training, you need to put a lot of time into characters early. This will create more empathy from the learners. How you proceed through the story phases noted above is flexible from there on.
  • If you are trying to get better adoption of something new (process, solution, tools) where there is resistance, you need to focus on the resolution phase first. This will help to build the feeling of potential benefits (of the new thing) for the learner and build an image of a better world when the change is completed. Yo ur can compare this to the visualisation exercise seen in Juanita Coble’s session.
  • If your issue is creating memory, you need to focus first more on the territory of the story (background and setting), using good memory-enhancing skills. If you can do this in a visual way like Hans Rosling does, you’ll definitely achieve this!


Can everyone create a good story?

Having gone through the exercises in the session, I have the feeling that there may be one major barrier for instructional designers and trainers to actually get started with this. Personally, I am loving it and finding it very easy. I like new ideas, I find it easy to think of analogies, be a little out of the box and go through the steps. But not everyone can do this, or like it. * During the session, many participants were asking closed (yes/no) questions to the speaker. For example: “Could the villain be “time” rather than a person?” The fact that they didn’t just say “I think the villain could be time, rather than a person” seemed implied to me that people were feeling uncertain about their ideas, needing reassurance.

* Interestingly, whilst taking us throughout the steps, Katie used story to introduce us to a friend of hers (Eric) who hates to learn new things and finds it difficult to do what she asks. He suffers, he pulls his hair out and doesn’t know what to do. Very clever meta-approach to her session!


OK, so where exactly is THEย story?

If you read this blog and think I still don’t have a story, you may have missed the point. We are not writing a novel here. No-one in a learning environment today would read it if we did that anyway! We are also not talking about making a full “Who moved my cheese?” type training workshop, bade exclusively on the story. The story IS the characters, the setting, the conflict, climax and resolution. How and when you present during training it is up to you:

  • Occasionally, you might actually tell a part of the story as an introduction to a training moment
  • You might have a PowerPoint slide with one of the characters + a speech-bubble mentioning a problem he or she has, which you use this to generate discussion about the required approach to the situation
  • You might do a role-play at one moment where the trainer or a participant plays one of the characters so that another participant can show us how the hero should act
  • You could implement some of the ideas from Anders Gronstedt’s session on TransMedia Storytelling


…and if you do the things and do them well, you will have a thin-red-story-based-line which learning participants can relate to, may feel emotional about, are more likely to remember and more likely to learn from.


Good luck!



What’s in a name? How name change works

ASTD has announced that it is changing its name to ATD: “The Association for Talent Development”. Having started my working career in the international branding agency Nomen, I was particularly interested in the news and reactions by members. To be immediately clear on my opinion, I think it is a good change and hope it will be as best executed as possible over the coming period.


The process for a name change is lengthy, costly and massively important to any business organisation. The name must reflect the brand and achieve whatever business goals necessary.


It all starts with a good naming brief

The first step is to create a well structured briefing that outlines the brand (image) that the name must communicate. In the case of A(S)TD, I assume there were two major requirements in order to enlarge the scope of the association: Remove the “American” and reduce the immediate and exclusive focus on “Training”. In the case of A(S)TD, these 2 requirements seem very sensible to me. As our industry has evolved, we all understand that learning is more than training. Given the international scope of the organisation (as proven by the 9000+ international attendees at this year’s conference) it also seems natural to want to reflect that in the brand. The other semantic requirements are unknown to me, but may include things like “performance driven”, “giving a sense of prestige”, “connected and collaborative”, “focussing on human potential”, “focused on results” etc etc..

Today I have heard from various conference attendees the new name does not say what it ought to. More on this later.


There are other considerations that must be included in the briefing that are common to all name creation including who must understand the brand, specific language or length requirements, where and how it will be used, fit with other names in the brand portfolio, differentiation from competitors etc… It is important the right people are involved in creating the naming brief, in order that the name does what it must across the business. Involvement can also help with adoption of the new name and smoothing the change process.

Today I have heard complaints that the focus on “talent” does not fit with other A(S)TD brands related to “workforce development” and “training design and delivery”. I also heard disappointment that other people were not consulted, to illicit their opinion. As I understood it, the board, communications and marketing departments worked in close collaboration with the branding agency.


Name creation is an art in itself

The creative phase for name creation begins with a team of people who look for different possible ways to evoke the brand in words. Normally, this phase is not initially restricted by specific conditions like type or length of name. A creative team is charged with looking for descriptions and associations that can communicate what was laid out in the brief, then turning them into names. At this point, various creation strategies can be considered, including use of patronymics (“Johnson and Johnson”) and 4 other specific types of name structure:


A(S)TD has chosen to use descriptive dictionary terms for the name. The biggest value of (staying with) this choice is in search-engine optimisation and comprehension across international languages. In principle, given the choice to stay with a simple English name, most languages will at least understand the name and it will yield search results. People in our profession do not search for random associative made-up terms. They search for terms that mean something to them, eg “association”, “learning”, “talent”, “training”, “development”.


In a more creative brainstorming activity, the focus is first on associations and analogy, looking for other ways to say what must be communicated. A variety of creative techniques are used. Out of this creative phase, many names are created that will be immediately filtered out in the selection phase, as they obviously do not fit to the briefing requirements.

Suggestions made in the conference backchannel today range from “The Intergalactic Association of Doing Everything” to “Global Performance Insititute”.


Not every name you create actually works

In the first selection phase, some clients immediately fall in love with a name; others see a direction that they like that must be further elaborated by the creative team.

When arriving at a shortlist of names, the second selection phase begins. Here, names are subjected to consideration by a panel of native-speaking people from the target languages to ensure they are understood as required, can be sufficiently pronounced, do not give the wrong “feeling” and do not say something bad for other language speakers.

Some years ago, Toyota famously created the brand name “MR2”. When pronounced in French, this can be heard as either “merde” (shit) or emmerdeur (someone who makes things difficult or “stirs shit”). When I heard the name for our organisation, I could imagine that all 3 words were reasonably international, translating well in terms of core meaning.


Although the order of filtering activities may differ, a cost-conscious branding agency will now conduct a domain-name availability search to see if the name (or acceptable iterations) are available for use with required root domains (.com .org etc). Until the release of “creative root domains” this exercise restricted choices enormously. Almost anything you can think of in the descriptive dictionary category of names is almost always gone or else it is far too long. It is amazing to me that A(S)TD was able to secure as the chances of even getting a 2,3,4 letter word are almost impossible. Its a shame that was not available.

At this point, having ruled out names that cannot work, it is time for final elaboration of what is left, if anything. Here, the actual target audience is shown the name and market research is conducted to see if the name really works or not.

When I heard the name, I was extremely pleased that the scope of our activities had been enlarged to the level of “talent”. In continental Europe, many HR Directors were some years ago rebranded as “Talent Directors”; HR itself became “Talent Management”. Speaking with many American colleagues, I was surprised by their reaction. They told me that “talent” evokes for them the idea of fickle Hollywood movie stars. I also heard many people saying the focus should not have been on the people, but on the business results (“performance”). And finally, people complained that their opinion was not solicited.


Even when it works, you may not be able to use it

When the final shortlist of names has been chosen, legal and trademarking issues need to be considered. The aim of trademark registration is to protect the brand name from unfair use by other organisations.

A first search is done to see if any other organisations in relevant sectors or geographic regions are using the name itself or any close resemblance. “Resemblance” includes partially comparable words and even synonyms. This search is difficult, lengthy and costly, and must be done by legal professionals to ensure that no subsequent legal action will be taken against the company using the new name. The basic argument is: You cannot use a name that is the same as or too close to another that has been sufficiently used (or registered) by another similar company in the region you want to register your name in. If you did, you would unfairly profit from the brand-loyalty and goodwill built-up for that name by the other company. Business names can be registered in multiple domains and regions and the cost is relative to the level of protection requested.

In the case of A(S)TD, it must have been costly and difficult to find, research and protect the new name. The chances of your name NOT being used in a similar way is much lower when you are using descriptive dictionary words. These chances are further reduced when the name must be registered across multiple geographical regions.




..and when you have a name, you have a change process to do

All change is likely to causes problems, and take time and expertise. The same is true for a name, particularly so because names carry a strong sense of identity and precedence. Imagine if you had to change your own name..

Without considering logo and design issues (by the way, I love the logo… ask me why!) the name change process requires a massive amount of communication and administration. Marketing collateral like websites, print and merchandising will need to be changed and a choice must be made between replacing all iterations of the old name, removing all old-name content, or doing nothing. People need to be informed and the transition needs to be managed, from email signatures to letterheads and PPT templates.


But the hardest part of the change is getting people to adopt the new name and love it.

I have heard concerns about the financial implications of the rebrand for the chapters, as well as uncertainty about timings and process. Although people have been told that that information will arrive very quickly, I also heard complaints that it was not provided in advance to more people; people most directly affected.


In any change, some people will love it quickly and some will hate it forever. Some people will try it out immediately and others will need more time. The longer the history with “what was the case”, the less likely people will love what is new. Much has been written and taught about change management with regard to this phenomenon. And the ASTD name has a rich history! There are always complaints when a strong brand changes identity and any complaints today are therefore credit to the strength of the A(S)TD brand.

Complaints here include those who say that many opportunities were missed to announce the change to a limited group of early-adopters or influential people outside of the A(S)TD central offices. This could have helped to ease the pain of transition and could have created a bigger pool of supporters to promote the new name to others, following the full-on official announcement.


But whatever happens next, the new name is here to stay

Like a new-born arriving in a family, everything can go a little crazy. People can get moody or excited, and everyone needs support to adapt. Complaints like those noted above happen every time. But as the transition takes place over time, if the staff at A(S)TD help those affected to see the value, administrate the change and use the name well, in some time everyone will forget there was ever another name.

And whatever you think, it is there and we all have a choice to be positive or negative.

Welcome to ATD!


Thanks for reading,

ps Is someone going to refund the ASTD t-shirt I bought on Sunday?



The case for showing your work (Jane Bozarth at ASTD2014)

Fresh out of the ASTD2014 ICE Expo hall lunch and a fine moment of ukulele rock with a little help from her friends, Jane Bozarth is here for session #TU208 to talk about the value of showing your work. She feels that L+D is missing a lot of opportunities. Busy developing courses and running training, we are not really releasing the potential within the organisation…


Learners know that if they need to learn something, they don’t need to wait for a course. They’ll find a colleague to help them learn a little spreadsheet thing; they’ll jump on youTube when they want to see how to change a lightbulb. The knowledge and skills and experience is out there in the organisation. We need to help bring it out.

Jane told us about a friend Gloria Mercer, who started to narrate her bakery efforts. Starting from the principle that someone out there might profit from the sharing, Mercer started sharing photographs of learning about baking.

In another example (formal learning this time), Jane mentioned what Mark Britz set up as part of the onboarding process in his company. He asked new joiners to share something they had learnt and what it meant to them.

In a third example, Jane showed us a teacher who did an RSA-style project with his students and documented all the steps. As a result, we get a better sense of what was actually done and the steps required to achieve the project. Other teachers would be able to adopt the idea and implement it in their schools.


What are the benefits for the organisation of showing work?

  • It’s cheap
  • It helps break down silos
  • It documents knowledge without having a formal knowledge-documentation project
  • People learn from each other
  • It creates self-esteem and satisfaction for those who are sharing
  • It can reinforce sense of purpose for specific things people have done, for example during a change process
  • As we saw in Josh Davis’ NeuroScience session on Monday, metacognition (thinking about how you are thinking) creates new neural connections and leads to better memory and learning
  • You can save time and not it reinvent the wheel
  • It creates more sociability in the organisation




Tips for showing work

Getting started with this kind of work + learning narration is not difficult, but people may need a little push, or some tips. Have a look…

  • Photos – pictures speak louder than words. If you are doing something, take a snapshot.
  • Text – encourage people to write about what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be a book, or even a blog. Just a paragraph on a tool like Yammer will do the trick.
  • Film yourself doing something you have learnt and post it (on Youtube or elsewhere)
  • Ask people to keep it simple and familiar in style
  • Don’t worry about the “quality” or “form” of what you are sharing – if you’re making a film to show something you figured out, just think about it a little and then pull out your smartphone
  • Ask a question to your network. This helps people understand what’s going on with you… …and you get answers!
  • Answer questions! Showing your expertise to people who ask for it is not arrogant. They need help, you have it. Share it!
  • Narrate your work as you go. You don’t need to wait until it’s all over and then publish the result. For example, create a discussion feed on a Yammer network group and add comments as you go.
  • Ask for feedback on something you have done. Tell people you want to improve and see what they can tell you.
  • Make an sport folio of your work
  • Share your internet favourites with a tool like
  • Make a YouTube playlist of things that you found useful and share them. Example: See my blues-guitar playlist on my youtube channel
  • Don’t worry about “showing off”. It’s OK to share.
  • But it’s not OK to share everything. Be aware of keeping private what should be kept private. (One of my clients, a large complex multinational company in the food industry, has a strategic intention to share whatever can be shared)


It’s a simple concept and personally, I would like to see it happening everywhere. In my own Belgian experience, I find that many people don’t “dig it”. Whereas I like to share everything, put it out there and talk about what is going on for me, many of my Belgian colleagues find this too “in your face”. It seems that the culture of private/public space and introvert/extrovert is very different. Jane says it is important show a good example of how to do it in a any that suits them. Don’t ask them to talk about themselves, ask them to talk about the problems they haveq encountered and solutions they have found. Also, don’t forget that things don’t need to be all shared on a large open-to-all platform. Start small and a bit more “private”…


Go forth and share!


See also:



Mindreader Sally Hogshead shows me my value so I can define my personal anthem

Sally Hogshead says she can help up to fascinate people with the perfect words in 9 seconds. As I have traditionally steered away from vendor presentations at the conference, I rather arrogantly (although privately) put the Award-winning American advertising copywriter to the test immediately by offering her 9 seconds to keep me in the room. I’m still here ๐Ÿ™‚ Let’s go for session TU118 of the ASTD2014 International Conference and Exposition


Sally Hogshead says that many people underestimate their ability to fascinate people, but that in today’s environment we need to grab people’s attention and show value immediately. She promises me that by the time I leave the room she will give me the perfect words to describe myself. I will walk out of the room more valuable. Sounds nice!

To kick things off, we heard the story of a ride at the Disney Epcot Center where visitors are offered a choice between a green or orange ticket for the ride. If you take the green ticket, you sign up for a safe, easy ride (think kids and grannies). If you take the orange ticket, you are warned about the possibility of injury, adventure and sickness. The people who go for the orange ticket ride were seen taking pictures of themselves about to go on the ride, tweeting and sharing the experience and coming back for more, telling their friends how awesome it was. The green-ticket people just went in and came out. No fuss, no fan-fair, no brand loyalty and championship. But in fact, both had the same ride!


The greatest value you can add is to show more of who you really are

Hogshead says that people will pay more for someone they like and trust. The product and the service comes second – what counts is the person you are doing business with, the brand and the perceived added-value. In my role as a presentation skills trainer and with ideas from my life as a marketeer and brand-namer, I think talk about being FAB and showing the real WIIFM. So I’m sold on the importance of (personal) branding already. Our speaker today says that the best high performing people provide a specific benefit, they are worth more than they are being paid and they over-deliver on expectations. And if we know who we are and what value we can add, we can communicate that.

According to our speaker, many of the personality and preference tests on the market focus on who you are and how you perceive yourself. But her company offers a test to show how others see you. With that knowledge, you can choose the right words to show your value. When everyone knows what their highest value is and how to show it, they feel more empowered and work better.


At this point, I started to get cynical: On one hand, we need to show our unique value. We need to create a personal anthem (tagline) that shows the benefit of our strengths to the world. But on the other hand, Sally Hogshead says she can help me find me archetype from a pre-set matrix and give me the words to use. Surely if everyone does this, we are going to have every LinkedIn profile looking the same and full of the same anthems?!?? Where’s the uniqueness in that? So I (again arrogantly) challenged Sally on this and this is what happened:

1. She invited me up to the stage. More on this later…
2. She described me to the rest of the participants. Almost perfectly and very complete. We had only met 30 minutes before (my first challenge…. I feel so bad!) but her description was spot on: What turns me on, what turns me off. How I like to interact with people and how I like to add value…
3. She gave me words to use to describe myself: “I’m an innovator who likes to inspire people to find new ways to do things.”


49 personality archetypes

How did she do this? Sally’s answer: I gave off very distinct cues (that she picked up on) that fit into her matrix of 49 personality archetypes. 49! Not 4. It was like a magic trick, or mind-reading. She got me in an instant.



But what about this idea of fascinating in 9 seconds??

To show value to others in 9 seconds, you need to be able to tell how you are the perfect solution to their problem. To get this right, the participants were first offered the chance to take the test on to see which of the 49 archetypes they had. Here’s mine:



For each of the 49 archetypes, Sally Hogshead’s matrix offers a set of adjectives that best describe you. Her book also offers a set of nouns. Add one of the specific adjectives for your archetype (whichever you prefer) to the right nouns (see the book, page 365) and you have your anthem. Here’s mine:


(Coming back to what I said earlier, I guess Sally invited me up because when I first met her (coming in the room) she picked up on my prestige quality – I haven’t read the book yet, but I when I hear “prestige” I also hear a need to be in the centre of things….)

So I’m a progressive ideas man. That sounds OK to me. What I plan to do now is to build this descriptor into something a little more sexy, a little more FAB and a little more me.

Watch this space!

Thanks for reading

Dr Jack Groppel: Micro-bursts to create fully-integrated energy

Dr. Jack Groppel says that where we all find ourselves today is where sports was 50 years ago. 50 years ago, if you were in sport and wanted to rest, people looked at you like you were weak. If you drank water to rehydrate, you were weird. The sports world has come a long way, but the business world has not. Welcome to ASTD2014 session M314

Groppel says that human beings and organisations are multi-dimensional, fully integrated energy systems. Without energy, nothing happens. So the question is: How do you bring you best energy to work to get the best results?

I’m the sports world, athletes spend almost all their time training and practicing, and very little time performing. An NFL football player doesn’t play any games between February and August. But he is training, conditioning and practising! Think about yourself at work: You are probably spending ALL your time performing!

The key to being extraordinary, says Groppel, is to manage your energy, not just time. Much of what we think about in personal effectiveness is about getting there on time and meeting deadlines.. But it should be about energy management.

There are 4 types of energy

There are 4 types of energy we need to consider: Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. And it’s like a pyramid, or hierarchy, starting from the bottom up. If you don’t have a good quantity of physical energy, you can’t have good emotional energy. No emotional energy, no mental energy. No mental, no spiritual…


Groppel says that it is a skill to develop these energy types and that in the business world, we need to help people to develop these skills.

  • Physical energy is about food, movement fitness, hydration, rest and sleep
  • Emotional energy is about optimism and positivity
  • Mental energy is about having laser focus, rather than being scattered and multi-tasking
  • Spiritual energy is purpose driven, connected to something that really matters to us. Whatever it may be.
  • So what can we do to get more energy?

    The basic pitch today = micro-energy bursts. Groppel talked about what happens in tennis. For a professional tennis player, apparently only 35% of the game time is spent playing the point. The other 65% is between active tennis-playing (moving to the other side or end of the court. Pausing between plays, games, sets, matches…). What are tennis players doing during that 65%? According to Groppel, the are micro-resting, dealing with emotions, focussing and aligning to purpose. Literally? They put their racket into their non-playing hand, they breathe in deeply 2 times, they make a point of facing and processing their emotions…. If you can implement such micro-bursts in your working day, Groppel says you will improve the 4 types of energy.

    Here are some easy to implement micro-energy bursts that Groppel has been testing in various organisations and that his studies have proven lead to better productivity, engagement and results….

    Physical micro-bursts to improve mood, creativity and problem solving, and increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain:

  • It’s not about just taking a break. Groppel suggests that from time-to-time, we should just stand up and walk on the spot for 30 seconds. You can even keep working if you want.
  • Have a walking meeting
  • Use the stairs
  • Emotional micro-bursts to disengage from the working moment and improve mood + positive emotion:

  • Conversations with a loved one
  • Talking with children. Think about it: Did you complain or did you ask “Hey. How are you doing?”
  • Telling a joke or reading or watching something funny
  • Looking at a picture of your kids
  • I asked Dr Groppel what we could do to micro-burst at a mental or spiritual level. He said that calling loved ones (for example) will have a spiritual impact if you are strongly attached to family-values. Reading inspirational materials might also ouch on the spiritual level. He added that changing tasks might help to bring more mental focus and I imagine that meditation or some form of mindfulness might have the same impact.

    So, the challenge is there: If you believe these 4 energy types are worth investing in, do it! Find ways to micro-burst and just do it!

    See also

    Why your coaching is failing and what you can do about it (David Rock at ASTD2014)

    David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute is here to tell us about the 2 most complicated things in the world: The Brain and Change. ASTD2014 session M202 is underway…


    Understanding the brain makes better coaches

    If a part of your job is to “make people better”, you are a “coach” says Rock. And although we’ve all been doing it for years and have some expertise, Rock says that unfortunately even if the coach thinks things went well, many coachees say that the coaching was not successful (only about 1 in 20 are, says Rock).

    Rock starts with a story of his own experience with being coached, some 16 years ago. He noticed that when his coaches were asking questions, they were often doing it as some kind of “ego-full double-guessing” of the coachee. He had the feeling that although the coach was supposed to avoid giving input and solutions themselves (directive leadership), very often they would still somehow be leading people towards their own (coach) ideas and over-directing the conversation. Rock thinks it would be far more effective to really make the coachee think for themselves and help them to generate insight themselves. That’s what coaching is is for Rock: Facilitating positive change by improving thinking. The role of the coach is to help people to create new unconscious habits to achieve the things they want. And he adds that if you understand the brain, you can do that better.

    Rock says that coaches who understand how the brain functions get better results. He says that objective measurements show this. If you look at the change in behaviour and it’s impact on results following the coaching initiative, you can see things are better with a brain-understanding coach, than one who does not have these insights.

    OK David, I’m sold. Now tell me what I need to know!


    4 steps to get people to a new (unconscious) habit

    For people to create new habits, they need to take repetitive action over time. And to actually want to take that action, coachees need to have an insight moment or “ah-ha” moments. This creates better connections in the brain and motivates them for action. And to get that insight, they need to be in a “toward” state.


    In general, says Rock, much of what happens in the brain at a neural level is about the brain’s perception of whether or not what is going on is good or bad. If it’s good, we want to move toward it and do more (create more neural connections). If it’s bad, we want to move away from it (the brain stops getting involved in things). Rock says quite simply that you cannot create “insight” if the person is in an “away” state.


    To create the “toward state” we have to create positive SCARF.



    Rock says that there are some simple things we can do to create a more positive SCARF:

    • Tell people how long you are going to talk to increase certainty
    • Ask a question before you say what you want to say creates more status, relatedness and a sense of fairness
    • Avoid anything that might seem like an attack
    • Focus first on creating more relatedness by spending time listening to the goals of the coachee
    • Understand that different people might have different SCARF profiles (ie CEOs might be more interested in autonomy; project managers might focus more on certainty)
    • Don’t use sentences like “tell me about the problem” – this puts people in an away state, because they are focussing on things they don’t like, or want to avoid
    • Use thoughtful, inward-directed and neutral questions
    • Pay attention to people around you. If you understand SCARF (see book link below), Rock says you will quickly spot who has a preference for what.
    • Try to let coachees come to their own insights themselves. This will increase status, which will be more motivating.


    What can we do to create more insights?

    • Create some quiet time. Give time to the coachee. As a coach: Shut up!
    • Allow the coachee to look inward. If your brain is being bombarded by light and sound and other stimuli, there are less chances of having insights.
    • A slightly happy state is better than a slightly unhappy or anxious state.
    • Not working directly on the problem creates more insights than directly trying to solve it.

    Regarding the last point: When I hear David Rock saying this, I am thinking about my own coaching sessions and how I use the GROW model. Typically, we might discuss goals and reality before moving toward looking for opportunities to improve things. But Rock says that generally, real insights don’t come when we are trying to have them. They come later, when we are quiet or when we are feeling good (which is generally not when I’m being interrogated by a coach!).


    Don’t focus on the problem, focus on how the coachee is thinking

    The final lesson I took away from Rock’s session today is that coaches need to change the way they look at what is going on in their coaching sessions. Too often, even if we are not offering solutions (directive style) , we are still there with the coachee trying to solve the problem. We need to stop this. Let the coachee look at the problem we should be looking at the coachee and how he or she is thinking, “going toward” and discovering insights.




    See also:




    Huffington says it’s time to shut down, tune out and live better

    Day 2 of the ASTD 2014 International Conference and Exposition is about to kick off with the first of our keynotes. After being literally herded into Hall C, an approximative 6-to-9000 people are hear to find out exactly what Arianna Huffington‘s now famous 19 accents sound like. Huffington is a media guru, founder of the world-famous Huffington Post and has recently written a new book: “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder”. Today, she is going to tell us to turn off…


    Taking the immediate opportunity to get back at Joel McHale’s poke earlier this week, Huffington cuts quickly to the chase to tell us that she is here to help us understand how to deal with life better. Following-on from Tony Bingham‘s kick-off speech, she insists that everyone has their own story about when things go wrong and we need to think about this if we want to learn and grow.

    Huffington says that some years ago, she suffered a burn-out due to overworking and sleep deprivation. Falling to her desk and splitting her eye, she realised that things had to change. The traditional dual-values of money and power are not enough. We need more. We need four things…


    Sleep and rest

    Sleep deprivation lowers our immunity and reduces concentration and performance. Athletes are now starting to monitor sleep and make changes that can improve performance. But Huffington wonders why businesses haven’t latched on. We need a sleep revolution if we want to live better. She tells us that her book has some simple steps we can implement to deal with our sleep-deprived “run, run, run” behaviour.


    Quiet time

    In today’s fast moving world, there is little opportunity to take time out to quieten our minds. We are bombarded with email and media, meetings and work. And we worry. We judge ourselves. Huffington tells us that we are constantly haunted by the little voices in our head. If we want to realise that those voices are not who we really are, we need to meditate, or at the very least take time to concentrate on our breathing. If we do this, we will more quickly see who we really are, what we need to change and how to make it happen.


    Stop multi-tasking

    Huffington mentioned a colleague who arrived one day at the office to realise she had forgotten to put on her skirt. She added that her own mother scolded her for reading emails whilst talking to her kids. Everyone has their own story.

    Multi-tasking is in fact “task-switching”, says Huffington, which is one of the most stressful things you can do. This has finally been validated by modern (read: Eastern) science and we need to take action (or not!) now. One thing at a time please!


    …and, actually just stop, completely!

    We cannot always be “on”. Life is not work. Congratulating people for constantly working is like congratulating them for turning up to work drunk, says Huffington.

    So: Turn off the lights, shut down the computer and go home for dinner with your kids.


    Thanks Arianna. I think I’ll stop blogging now ๐Ÿ™‚


    See also: