Connie Malamed on how to really make your point with visuals

Humans have selective attention. And they have a bad capacity for processing information. But: If you can get their attention and help them process what you show, humans have excellent long-term memory. Professional Explainer Connie Malamed is here to give tips on how to use visuals to really pass across your message.. Welcome to ATD TK15 session W400.

According to our speaker, there are 3 basic (good) ways to pass across information: Story, graphs or data representations, and diagrams.

Stories are good for creating emotion. If it really IS a story. A real story has a situation, complication and resolution, with a character/protagonist that achieves a goal. That IS the story: How the protagonist deals with the complication. During the session, Connie showed us some beautiful examples of comic book style stories.

Graphs are an excellent way to show data. If you get it right. According to Cleveland and McGill, our understanding of data changes dramatically depending on the type of graphic used. Humans can deal with position and length easily, but not so well with volume.

Malamed says that, although very fashionable, info-graphics are actually pretty bad for recall. They look nice, but they don’t serve the basic purpose of a data-driven graph. If a graph is to get and keep attention and create recall, it needs to SHOW the viewer the shape of the numbers. Personally, I found Zelazny’s book on charts quite handy.

Diagrams are also really good, if you use the right one.

Our speaker noted 5 different types of diagram and gave some basic rules to follow.

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As I write this blog-post, I realise that as a reader it might be tough for you to get some real learning from it. Connie Malamed’s session was quite simply brilliant. But it’s difficult for me to summarise all the guidelines here (live). Look below and you will find a lot of references to help inspire and instruct you.

The basic message is this: How you visualise things DOES make a difference. As a trainer, I pay a lot of attention to my flipcharts, even if they are mostly text based. Connie has got me inspired to go further…

Further references you might like:

Thanks for reading

@dan_steer

Free Content You Can Use from Creative Commons – Michelle Lentz at ATD TK15

One of my clients is very serious about intellectual property and copyright. As a research-driven company creating innovative products, this is their whole business. When I have to make some training materials for this client, they almost always get sent back (you would think I would learn!) for an update. Why? Because I shamelessly steal and use everything I find on the internet. Sometimes not even intentionally.

So Michelle Lentz‘s ATD TK15 session on “Finding Free Stuff For Your Training With Creative Commons” seemed interesting to me. This blog post outlines some simple tips for trainers…

note: having trouble with my WordPress app putting in links right now … all reference links at end of this post

 

Tip 1
If you want to make it clear what people can and can’t do with your own work, materials, images, blogs etc.. add the right Creative Commons license information. This affirmation can be as simple as adding the corresponding image to your content.

 

Tip 2
If you want to help other people find your shareable Creative Commons licensed work via the Internet (blog, images, sound etc) you need add the right license code. This is because the Creative Commons search engine looks for code, not pictures.

 

Tip 3
If you want to find content you can use, use the Creative Commons search engines to search by license type.

 

Tip 4
If you want images, Michelle recommends http://www.flickr.com – you don’t have to be a Flickr user to search, find and copy images and… … wait for it… you can search by license type. We saw some of the available images for a simple search (“guitars”) and they were great!

 

Tip 5
If you are using things CC licensed by others in your work, you need to attribute the work to them. But you don’t have to literally put that attribution under everything you use. Consider putting a “credits” page at the end of your document.

 

Reference links:
-> Video introduction to copyright and “Creative Commons” : http://youtu.be/io3BrAQl3so
-> Overview of Creative Commons license types and what they mean : http://creativecommons.org/licenses
-> Get your Creative Commons license image and web-code here : http://creativecommons.org/choose
-> Creative Commons Search Engine : http://search.creativecommons.org
-> Michelle’s ATD TK15 Presentation : http://bit.ly/CCTK15
-> Get free sounds here : http://www.freesound.org

 

Thanks for reading!
@dan_steer

 

 

Solving the learning-context conundrum at LinkedIn

Robert Todd is Director of Learning Technologies at LinkedIn. His colleague Laura McBride is their Editor in Chief, responsible for content strategy and delivery. Both are here today to talk about a new model for digital learning content…

 

Robert opened the session by asking who is building digital content in their role. Many people said “yes”. But why is this?
Surely there is enough content out there? To prove his point, Robert’s team did some internet research on the topic of “giving and receiving feedback”, looking for exactly that search result. He found 65 LinkedIn posts with that exact title, 918 slideshare presentations, 3640 YouTube videos, 3606 books on Amazon, 41000 PDFs on Google … … … you get the point.

 

So, why are we building new content?
Maybe we want to own the content, or e think we know best, or that none of the existing content will be relevant to our organisational context.

Robert Todd agrees that getting the context right is important to creating effective eLearning, training or formal learning experiences. In fact it is key. And this is what leads to the need for a new digital learning strategy.

His own experience suggests that investment in contextually relevant, well-designed courses is far more likely to please the learner; they are far more likely to “dig it”. But context-specific learning has its problems..

  • Courses are expensive to make, requiring a lot of thought, design and content-building time
  • They are difficult to update
  • Functions and processes change, making courses irrelevant
  • If you are not close enough to the user, it’s difficult to make something really authentic
  • They push made-up high-high-context detailed situations, rather than helping people deal with their own questions and situations
  • They are not “ready” in-the-moment people actually need to learn something

 

So we have a conundrum based on the following dichotomy: Either its low-context, model-based job-aids, FAQs or courses that don’t engage or fit our any reality; or its overly high-context case-based simulations and courses that can’t work in practice because they are too specific to one person. There needs to be another answer… An effective blend.

 

 

Enter ?WhatIf!, the international innovation company, Todd’s first port-of-call to solve this conundrum.

They created a blend of low-context “formal” content and high-context experience-based learning consisting of fundamentals, “seeing it in the wild” and “doing it in the wild”. As the learner progresses through the experience, context was added step-by-step:

  • Walkthroughs (5 minute videos to teach basic principles) and skill-checks (online exercises to check understanding) to deliver fundamental ideas, concepts and knowledge
  • Best-practice sharing and real-world stories from the field (video format) and highly curated discussion (online) to help people see how other people applied those things in real-life
  • Field-guides (PDFs with checklists, tips and pitfalls) and mobile-based missions that learners could undertake in the field; both designed to transfer the learning to personal high-context workplace.

 

If you buy into this strategic approach to the conundrum of low vs. high context, McBride says you will have to think a little differently about your role as a learning person and the competencies you need to be successful.

To summarise her part of the speech:

  • You will need to become and expert on content. Not “things to be learnt” content, but what types of content work for which types of learning. You need to be a media expert to make good choices on how content is presented.
  • You will have to have a lot of dialogue with experts in-the-field and learners with specific questions. Successful learning comes from making relevant connections between those small fundamental concepts and real-life experiences.
  • If your people are going to share their stories, you have to make it easy for them. Whatever platform you use should be simple to navigate and add-to.
  • Invest time and effort in curating content, story and sharing from within the organisation.
  • Be consistent in the look and feel (or brand) or different platforms and media-types. And make it beautiful! (See also my blog post on how “form sells function”)
  • Make any formally delivered content mobile-friendly. This will certainly help in the “mission” phase.

 

Once again, it seems so obvious. But when I think about the training I deliver or how the majority of Belgian learning management people approach their formal learning initiatives, I think it’s worth some more consideration and effort.

 

Thanks for reading

@dan_steer

 

JD Dillon on Breaking Down Silos to Release Organisational Potential

First things first: JD just saved my conference. My first iteration of “Practical Use of Social Media for Formal Learning” was at 10.30 this morning. At exactly 10.10 my computer battery announced it was going to run out. And yes, I had left my US adaptor in my hotel… across the road… …again. Just before it actually did die, I got everything onto JDs computer and all went well. So thanks!

 

So we know JD is useful, but what does he have to say about breaking down silos in an organisation to create better sharing, more sociability and more learning? When an organisation changes and grows, how do you keep people up-to-date, talking, asking questions and passing on their expertise?

His first reflection was to make an internal Wiki. His mission was to get away from individual department owned silos of protected information and centralise things. His tool of choice was “Confluence” because in addition to the classic Wiki style, people could create forums (fora?), comment and like things. If it’s good enough for Facebook…

Confluence brought some changes that JD is proud of by creating a better flow of meaningful information. And gradually, it started to change the way people thought about “social learning”. This is what JD says about making it actually happen…

 

First of all, you need to get some content online, so that when other come online they can see the value. If there is nothing there, people won’t see the value. In Kaplan, this consisted of 2 main approaches: 1) JD himself did some regular writing and 2) specific early-adopter-types were also (slyly, on the side) asked to get on there and add something.

 

Secondly, don’t assume that because people can add stuff that they can add stuff. The platform might be there, but people may need help getting skilled in sharing. For Kaplan, JD took the “BT Dare-to-Share” approach of setting up a webcam, inviting in subject matter experts and asking them questions. That created initial content for the platform and also helped people to see how it was done.

 

Thirdly (linked to point 2): Use video. YouTube is the success it is because video works. If experts have messages to share about how things work, this can be shared first with video. Of course, it can be supported by workflow processes, technical documents or SOPs (standard operating procedures). But the entry point of video is more user-pleasing.

 

Point four: Try, try, try. Don’t assume that whatever you planned to do to set up the social community will work. Just get on their and try something. But then measure the results. See what people read and what they don’t. Measure the number of hits a video gets. See what they like. See what they commented on. If it works, do it again. If it doesn’t, try something else.

 

Next: Build on formal learning experiences you already have to get the informal social learning ball rolling. If you have a training happening, use a platform like “Confluence” to create some discussion after the classroom moment. Make that part of the training process and you just created some content, as well as getting people active on the tool.

 

Useful links:
-> BT Dare to Share (video): http://youtu.be/gtVYkEdGtfo
-> Enhance Training and Other Formal Learning with Social Media: https://dansteer.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/enhance-training-and-other-formal-learning-with-social-media
-> Online Community Management Best Practices and Tips: https://dansteer.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/online-community-management-tips-and-best-practices

 

Thanks for reading
And thanks to Kluwer for sponsoring my trip
@dan_steer

 

Aaron Dignan on creating a responsive organisation

Stephen Earnest of ATD kicks-off the 2015 ATD TechKnowledge Conference. Next up is Aaron Dignan, author of the book “Game Frame”. He’s a disruptor, working with some of the world’s leading companies on digital strategy and he’s here to tell us about the responsive organisation and what it means to us…

 

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Opening his speech, Dignan tells us about the creation of “MakerBot”, one of the world’s first financially viable 3D-printers. The maker of this printer wanted something awesome for printing real-life objects. But the 300000 dollar price-tag was simply was not viable. So he went out to make it himself. A few years later, that printer sells for 2000 dollars and the company making it has been sold for millions.

 

Dignan says that these sorts of innovations are so much easier in 2014 bring than they were 10 years ago. Finding the people you need to bring an idea to life and scaling up into to something viable is.. well, it’s not easy, but it’s possible. Much more than every before.

 

How is this possible? According to Dignan, 3 things…

 

Moore’s law tells us that the power of computing doubles every two years. Today, almost every smartphone user has a personal computer in their pocket that is more powerful than the one that sent a rocket to the moon.

Secondly, the platforms available today are so much better than ever before. Everyone is a potential creator, developer and entrepreneur.. their products can get to markets with ease thanks to the multitude of platforms available.

And finally, the 21st century is networked. The six degrees of separation are apparently now 2.4. If you need people or expertise, you can get them via Twitter or any number of open-source communities. In a click.

 

Dignan says that if we can’t harness these 3 things, a kid in a garage with an idea will put us out of business. The fundamental challenge of the next decade is to rise up to this challenge before someone else does. But we can’t just train people to be innovators and change. So what can we do?

According to Melanie Mitchell, what you need is a large network with no control, with simple values and rules. If you can nourish this environment, you will get effective “complex behaviour, sophisticated information processing and adaptation via learning or evolution”. Three examples…

 

Example 1: Take a lesson from ants. Really!

Drop a thousand ants in a new environment and they will organise themselves for experimentation. It starts as chaos: The ants will spread out, check it out and see what they see. No rules, just experimentation. And when they find something good, they will naturally organise themselves around that.

So get yourself a queen-ant that can recruit (make!) new ants, give them a simple set of rules to follow and leave them to it.

 

Example 2: Share like an immune system.

Your immune system keeps you competitive by adding investment to experimentation. Things-whose-names-I-forget go out into your body and look for new clients, things that need their help. When they find one, they latch on and get to work quickly. And then they work some real magic: They send out a quick and strong signal to their immune system buddies saying “I’ve got something”. And what does the immune system do? It sends help quickly. Communication + responsiveness + investment. Now.

 

Example 3: The internet

Need I say more?

 

OK, got it. What next? Dignan is working to help companies transform themselves into responsive organisations. He says we need 6 things….

 

  • 1.Focus on purpose, not profit. This point really got my attention, thinking about my own work. Focussing on profit only leads to fear and static behaviour. You might get more of what you have today, but you won’t get anything new. When new ideas come up, you won’t have the proof required to know you will get profit, so you won’t do it. Focus on purpose and its a whole different game.

 

  • 2.Focus on networks, not hierarchies. 3. Focus on empowering, not controlling. These are the 2 key rules of the new world of work that we have been hearing about for several years. Team managers become network coaches, not micro-managers. And with trust in our people, we recruit and leave them to it.

 

  • Drop planning and work on “emergence”. Plans don’t work. As Dignan puts it: “Plans are lies committed to paper.” To allow us to deal with inevitable future change, we need is a spirit of “we don’t know”. An example of this is “cleaning the room”. We could make a awesome plan to get it all in order. But if something changes, we will fail. On the other hand, if we have one simple rule like our ant friends, we can just get to work, naturally dealing with whatever comes up. The key? The ant-queen needs to trust the cleaners.

 

  • Efficiency vs. Adaptivity. You need to get people comfortable with change.

 

  • Privacy vs Transparency. If you want to profit from networks and get that immune-system-responsiveness you need sharing. Jane Bozarth, author of the book “Show Your Work” talks regularly about the benefits of letting others know what you are doing. Later on today, I will hear JD Dillon talk about how Kaplan is working on breaking down silos and releasing organisational potential.

 

So, if you want a responsive organisation, you know what to do. Get to work!

 

Thanks for reading!

@dan_steer

 

ATD TK15 wishlist

After a couple of days training in Holland and 2 very long flights, I have arrived in Las Vegas and it’s time for last-minute ATD TK15 planning. As I make my way through the massive amount of session choices for each day, I have compiled my wish-list for the week. If you can help a boy make his dreams come true, let me know…

 

Wish number 1: Bring some real value to the 6 people who are coming to my pre-conf workshop on “Getting Started with Social Media for Training”

6 people have trusted me with 4-hours of their time on Tuesday afternoon before TK15 goes into full-swing. In my pre-conference workshop, we will discover the value of YouTube, Padlet, Pearltrees and Socrative for training. I want them to walk out ready for action…

 

Wish number 2: Turn 15 dollars into 30 on the blackjack table.. .. and walk away

Last year, I took 200 dollars to the casino. I wanted to experience the casino (for the first time) but not get too sucked in. It lasted 43 minutes. I am the worst black-jack player ever.

This year, I’m taking 1 $15 chip and going all-in 🙂

 

Wish number 3: Get a Muppet interview for the Vegas Videos

Every time I go to a conference, I interview speakers and give mini-updates via my YouTube channel. Last year in Las Vegas I spoke with Chad Udell on the amazing possibilities of mobile and Jane Bozarth on building a community culture. At the ICE conference in Washington Anders Gronstedt talked to me about transmedia storytelling and … wait for it … I even managed to get an interview on learning with Sprokit the robot at the Smithsonian 🙂

 

This year, I will follow a session with Michele Lentz from Oracle on bringing the magic of Jim Henson to instructional design. And apparently a real Muppet will be present. That’s got to be worth an interview, right?

 

Wish number 4: Make people make more noise than ever before

It’s sad, but true: I get-off on positive auditive feedback. My wife will tell you that even if she sarcastically says “I love you” during an argument, I still take it positively.

During my previous conference sessions I have convinced participants to make enough noise that JD_Dillon thought there was a train coming through . Can this be beaten?

 

Wish number 5: Follow these sessions and learn something new

Having been to 4 ATD conferences over the last 3 years, it seems harder each time to find new ideas. There are some great sessions planned on wider organisational learning topics which I will follow, like:

 

To get the best from such a conference, it really depends on what focus you have during the week. I’m also hoping to get some new ideas as a trainer and to that end I will also follow:

 

Wish number 6: Make it through the week without being approached with help for any of my “party needs”

You may not know that I am apparently a US-drug-dealer magnet. I don’t know how it happens, but Denver, Dallas, Washington, Vegas, wherever… someone always tries to sell me something horrible. Credit to the last guy, who rather than outright asking “Do you need any crack, brother?” actually chatted me up for a while first with talk about the album he needed money to produce… I made it to my hotel… so far so good.

 

..and speaking of the hotel, I definitely owe fellow-speak Bianca Woods a beer. I was booked at Caesar’s Palace for over $200 a night, but she told me about the Flamingo just across the street. I have already saved $150 a night on the room. Which, by the way, is still awesome! Thanks Bianca!

 

Tune in for updates throughout the week.

Go Learning Geeks!

 

 

Forms sells function

“Form follows function.” Designers have said this for years. And in the learning world, it is equally true: The learning initiative or environment (form) must be shaped to achieve its goals (function).

 

But the most successful product developers know another truth: “Form sells function”. The product can be designed to be perfectly functional, but if it doesn’t look beautiful, no-one will buy it. Case in point: Smart watches. For a few years now, it has been possible to buy a watch that allows you to surf the internet, play media and control your smartphone. But they aren’t beautiful, so only the geeks buy them. As Apple brings out its own smart-watch, you can expect a change in this market. Because it will be beautiful.

 

What does this mean for the learning world? If we follow the watch analogy through we see that, yes, effective learning professionals create functional initiatives. But when it comes to something new, do they forget that form sells function? Or are they making beautiful products like Apple?

 

If you are working on a new approach to learning in your organisation, don’t forget that your buyer is not the learning geek who will immediately see the functionality of your new product. The buyer is someone who is used to his “perfectly functional watch” and “can’t see why I’d need a new one”. So you have to make it beautiful too.

 

To make things beautiful, we can learn from both the designer and the marketer. Design creates beautiful objects; marketing creates a beautiful brand or experience. Design makes sure that what is in the box is awesome; marketing gets you to the box. Design ensures that what you take out of the box is durable and effective; marketing creates the unboxing experience.

 

If you are starting the New Year full of functional learning resolutions, please don’t forget to put some beauty in the form.

 

Thanks for reading

@dan_steer

 

The no-mind of creativity

The mind being a collection of experience, education and value judgements, it keeps us safe, structured and sure of the world. But it doesn’t help us to be creative, open-minded and fresh.

It’s Christmas Day and my brother-in-law is playing the piano. In contrast to my mother-in-law or myself, he has no classical training or musicianship and, in short, no idea what he is doing. His music is without scales, without harmony and without structure. But it is beautiful. Since his fingers have not been conditioned by his mind to follow the rules, his music is fresh and different. There is soul and there is innovation.

This “no mind” spirit has created something new. Gone are the 3 or 4 chords of almost every other tune in the Western world. Unaware of how things “should be done”, he is just doing. He is truly creating.

If you want something new, you need first to be free of the old.

The question is how to get this “no-mind” after years of experience, education and value-judgement?

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The burnout monkey trap

Burnout is getting a lot of press in Belgium these days, given the new legislation stating that employers must do something about it. But what can they do? Isn’t burnout just another monkey trap that needs what Charlie Sheen would call a “blink to cure the brain”?

Having just subscribed for the Epsilon ForumPlus 2014 conference, my interest in burnout is rekindled (pun intended). I will be following 4 sessions on well-being at work, burnout and flow. I’m intrigued to see what speakers have to say about decreasing the risk of burnout in the workplace.

Recently, I was invited to complete a survey about burnout by a well-known actor in the Belgian HR sector. Questions like “Do you think there is more stress in the workplace today?” and “Do you think remote and mobile working increase stress in the workplace?” seemed odd to me. Maybe I missed the point, but isn’t stress something that is in people rather than the workplace? Or, as the American Institute of Stress says: “we create our own stress because of faulty perceptions you can learn to correct”.

 

Isn’t burnout just another monkey trap?

If you want to catch a monkey, but some food in a hole or a jar rooted to the floor. The monkey comes along to get the food and reaches in. When grabbing the food, the monkey forms a fist. And due to the size of its fist, the monkey cannot get its hand out of the jar again. The monkey will not let go of the food in the jar. He has trapped himself. The hunter waits for the monkey to die, or captures it.

Other blog posts have already talked about the analogy between the monkey trap and addiction. And if you think the monkey trap is just a myth, watch this video.

I’m just wondering: If burnout is like the monkey trap should we be blaming the forest, the jar or the food? Or should we be helping the monkey? Should we be trying to change the organisation or conditions of work, putting a stop to flexi-time and homeworking and banning email after 6pm on a Friday? Of course, if the work conditions and employers are unlawful or simply unacceptable, that does need to be changed. But isn’t it more necessary to help our employees better understand why they seek to hold onto their “monkey food” through their burnout disposed behaviour and how to let go of it?

I’m not saying that this will be easy and I’m certainly not belittling burnout. I just don’t think that the organisational solution to stress and burnout reduction should be to simply take away anything that might cause harm to the people susceptible to burnout. It is easy to rehab when you are in rehab. But people will fall off the wagon when they are back in the real new world of work. Should employers change everything in the environment to suit “dysfunctional” employees (yes, I did just say that! Whoops!) ? Or should they help people to better deal with their own private monkey traps?

And while we are not on the subject: Is burnout a bad thing anyway? It costs companies money and productivity, and it’s no fun for the burnout “victim”, but it may also be a fantastic opportunity to replace an unhealthy flame with something more sustainable, satisfying and healthy for the employee. (More on that later)

So, what can the employer do?

My own expertise being limited to one person in a non-corporate environment and without a complete vision on the law, this short list of actions is no more than a first brainstorm for employers to consider:

  • Be willing to help
  • Look out for people who show unsustainable behaviour and attitudes towards work
  • Create better dialogue between employer/employee; make the “person of confidence” worth confiding in
  • Educate those at risk on the impact of their behaviour and attitudes
  • Help employees to find structure and limits in their approach to work
  • If necessary, help employees to reorient towards more satisfying and fulfilling work

…hopefully, I will hear more ideas at the ForumPlus conference on the 6th November.

See you there?