Quick summary of the day:
- Its hot and humid in Florida
- JD has a beard. Kind of.
- My best friend was “Red Bull” but now I’m split between the 2 Smiths: David (for the muffins) or Jim (for inspiring people to let it go)
- Engagement can happen and Dan Pink was right, according to Rick
- I have a new job title
- Dick Ruhe is funny as hell and knows a thing or seven about happiness
- Exhibitors have started “card-spamming” people as they walk in 😦
- ATD has nice grey t-shirts on sale in the bookstore
- Everyone from SD Worx seems to be in Orlando
- Although the crowd might make a better test, I am not alone in wondering if its actually useful
Looking forward to tomorrow!
My session at 1pm
ATD2015. Session SU304 is underway. Jim Smith says it’s not good enough to think out of the box. We need to get out of the box and act out of the box.
To do that, you need to keep your personal power. You need to be able to be vulnerable enough to be yourself and not cater to the opinion of others.
But it’s not easy: There are many ways that we lose our personal power, from having fear of failure, to wanting to be liked, being overly-critical of ourselves or being perfectionists…
If you (like me) recognise any of these things, what can you do about it?
In short: Let it go. (I knew that was the theme song for ATD2015)
Really, that’s the whole message: Dare to live in the moment, stop worrying and believe in your personal power.
Want to see it in action (that sounds arrogant!) ? Here is my improvised mini-presentation from Jim’s session…
As I said to Jim later on, I think the key message here is far important than this post gives credit. Probably, I am not the only person with “self-esteem issues”. Lucky is the man who can say he is really in the moment, not caught up in what is “good” or “bad”, what has always worked in the past, or what “should” be done into future. Many of us worry (Are we doing OK? Will it work? Will people approve?). And caught up in the worry (box) we try desperately to keep doing the same things we always did in the hopes of getting the same satisfactory result.
But is “satisfaction” what we want out of life? Or do we want more? Do we want joy and awesomeness? If the answer if “yes” then it can’t be about staying in our boxes and conforming (to our own self-image or that of other side). “Awesomeness” is not a thing you can put in a box, measure, write and run a process for. It’s a “way” and a “being” that has to be felt. You have to trust in it. And that requires a little faith.
Let it go.
For the final session of ATD2015 day 1, SU401 address the topic of “crowdsourcing”. According our speaker Larry Israelite, the learning world has a problem: Often, we are not in the right place, nor fast enough to respond to business needs. Crowdsourcing can help. “But”, he hears us say, “we already do that. We have subject matter experts who help us.” Good start, but an SME is not a crowd. So how is the concept of crowdsourcing applicable to what we do in learning? Read on…
Who is it good for?
The man sitting next to me works for the U.S. Federal Government’s procurement department. He needs to be sure that people around the world and across departments comply to rule and regulations, follow processes and do a good job. He gets a request for some formal learning programme. He makes it. He facilitates it. Now he wants to know if people learnt something. It’s time to test them.
According to speaker Larry Israelite, our learning designer will have to book a meeting with a (busy) subject-matter-expert in order to create a test. And after his first design effort, he will no doubt go back to that busy person to correct and refine the test. If he instead asked the crowd to make the test for him, he would get much faster to a perfectly acceptable test.
How does it work?
In 1906, a British statistician Francis Galton observed during a country fair that the average answer of a crowd of about 800 people guessing the weight of an ox was correct to within 1% of the actual answer. He proposed that provided the size of the crowd hit a critical-mass, this would always be the case: The crowd is smarter than the sum of its parts. And its right.
To see the principle in action, our speaker asked us to make a test together using an online tool from Smarterer. The 200-odd attendees created quiz questions on “the 80s” related to different categories (trends, movies, hair-bands). Then we corrected the test questions that other people had written: Are the answer options correct? Is the question clear? Are there issues with the answers cited as correct? etc.. Within about 5 minutes, we had a test of 300 questions, signed-off by over 100 people.
My first reaction was: This is awesome! Crowdsourcing is brilliant. Where is the app for this? I want it!
Then I thought a little more…
Firstly, what about skills?
My neighbour made a knowledge-based training programme. For him, it might be interesting to test that knowledge. But how much do I really care about knowledge testing? How can I get the crowd involved in skills-assessment?
Actually, do I even care about testing at all?
If I slow down a bit and think about the final result I want from my learning initiative, it is hardly ever (never?) really about people passing a test. What I want is for people to do what they are supposed to do, to get the business results I need. Provided they are consistently doing that, do I really care what they learnt or how? Wouldn’t it be better to put the crowd’s wisdom and resources into we be putting more effort into supporting actual performance in the real workplace?
And finally: Am I really sold on the wisdom of the crowd?
In Francis Galton’s original crowdsourcing experiment, the participants were “country-folk” living in an era of agriculture and farming. They might have known a thing or two about oxen. And they could see the ox, a physical thing, “weighed-up of” real facts.
But today, we were talking about people-culture, movies and random 80s opinion. There was no ox in the room and the questions did not concern physical factual attributes. Yes, we made a test together and yes we agreed on the questions and answers. But were we right? And if we are not yet sure and this has to be checked, then didn’t we just lose the whole (speed) mission of crowdsourcing the test creation in the first place (instead of just asking an “80s SME”) ?
I suppose therefore that this question of crowdsourcing expertise and testing is not about speed and test answers at all, but about trust and control. Can our U.S Federal Government learning designer put his faith in the crowd of government employees to make his test? Or will he feel the continued need to control and verify everything with someone who knows best?
To be or not to be, THAT is the question.
Should I ask the crowd?
Following on the accidental theme of happiness in Orlando today, I wonder if The Universe is trying to tell me something.. Time to get happy? As a fan of Tal Ben-Shahar’s “Happier” and the unpronounceable Hungarian-American’s “Flow” I am intrigued to see what session SU31XD has to offer.
Dick Ruhe has taken the stage to tell us what the latest research on positive psychology can do for the workplace. (Tip number one: If anyone is looking unhappy, just slap ’em!)
Ruhe starts by noting that most organisations seems to have the happiness formula backwards. We tend to think: Work hard -> Get success -> Get happy. But actually, it’s the happiness we need first. When we can find ways to get happy, we will work better and get better results. And when we keep this in mind people produce better business results. According to Ruhe, there are 7 principles we need to bear in mind if we want intrinsic motivation and increased engagement…
The happiness advantage
Organisations need to know this: Happy people get better results and attrition goes down. Ruhe cites how the brain creates endorphins and people feel better. But he adds that studies of successful organisations show that happy people are more satisfied and tend to stick around.
Do you believe this?
The fulcrum and the lever
The lens through which we see the world (the fulcrum) doesn’t shape us. It’s the way we see things that shape us. Two people can see the same situation completely differently. And if we can do something with that (the lever) we can influence our happiness and our results. Ruhe says that will require effort from leaders. We need to look for and embed positive (happy) experiences and work towards getting more of that.
Are you doing this?
The Tetris Effect
These are the patterns we have for doing things in the organisations. After time, those patterns become habits and traditions and we continue to get more of the same things, over and over again. We need to see how the pieces are falling and what we can do about it to line things up better for happiness.
Are you doing this?
When people fail, falling-up is about how they focus and take action to move in a new direction to bounce back. The “on the other hand…” vibe. Ruhe mentioned a study where people were told to imagine they had walked into a bank which was being robbed and got shot in the arm. They were asked: We’re you lucky or unlucky? 70% said “unlucky”.
What would you say?
The brain perceives big movements and big changes as overwhelming, which limits forward progress. But if we can start off small and see results, the brain can record the “win” and maintain the belief that their efforts can have an impact.
Are you helping your people see their results?
The 20 second rule
This is all about doing something that easily will move us forward. The next concrete (easy) action. For example, if you are thinking “I need to run more”, you might start making a big plan with a SMART objective and some challenges in there. But when it comes to actually running, if it’s easier to turn on the television than go running, no change is going to happen. We need to make it possible in 20 seconds to take some easy action towards are goal. Whatever it is.
How can you move forward now?
Connecting with the people around us makes everyone more happy. Ruhe suggests that we take more time to do this, everyday.
Reading back my notes, some of the points seem so obvious, I wonder what I get from it. But if I’m honest, I know I can do better.
Thanks for reading
ATD2015 kicks off with my first concurrent session (SU100), with Rick Lozano. I met Rick in Dallas at the 2013 ICE for his session on bringing rock ‘n roll to training. What an energiser! This year, he is here to talk about how to get people rocking their jobs, excited to be there, lost in their work, unleashing creativity and potential…
Several years ago, Rick was asked by his boss “What are you passionate about?” Rick’s first answer rejected (“Eh, training”) the boss asked again “No, your real passion.” Rick’s answer was “music” and his boss told him to bring that into his work. And although Rick does play guitar in his free time, that’s not how he brought music to his training work. Read my 2013 ICE session notes to see what he does.
The story is relevant in 2015, because we are talking about someone who brings real engagement to the workplace, somone can tune into what really turns him on and get that working for him. As a freelance worker, I always feel like no one workplace will ever be able to give me that opportunity. I would have to create it myself. But according to Rick, there are 3 things the average company can focus on to help their people feel the same vibe:
Get every individual involved in engagement
According to Rick, the statistics are not good for employee engagement: Only 13% of workers surveyed in the USA say that they are engaged. And engagement is not about “satisfaction”. If you want satisfaction, you can put in a bunch of video games, slides, a gym and plenty of other fun stuff. But just having a cool place where you do your work isn’t enough to get people engaged.
What individuals want is to be trusted. To be proactive. To be able to bring their own individual secret sauce to work. Engagement is when people are emotionally connected and psychologically committed. And it is worth investing in as an organisation. You don’t want to lose the talent and you want the people who stay to bring bottom-line value.
One of the major engagement problems Rick sees is that we outsource the “engagement issue” to HR, running surveys and creating “engagement initiatives”. But engagement is everybody’s job:
- We need to let individuals make decisions and have a real impact on the company mission
- We need to give people feedback on the work they do and how it matters
- Engagement must be a part of every conversation with our managers, who must help us to find out what turns us on and how we are doing
Give permission to be creative
Lozano says that as a kids we were all creative. Given 2 rocks * and a little time we made games and stories. This beginners mind (or “no-mind of creativity“) holds a key to engagement: We try things, learn, grow and smile.
Give people time and permission to try new things and make mistakes, put them in new places and they might just get creative. Maybe even let them choose their own job titles (Please henceforth call me “The firestarter”).
* another mention of the word “rock” at ATD2015
Help people grow in the way they love
People want to grow, to master things. The buzz we get from getting better is massively engaging. We get lost in trying. Times flies.
As an organisation, we need to help people to grow like that. We need to let people focus on their strengths and passions. Repeat: To LET them. Whatever that means. Like Rick’s boss did. If we know what people love, we need to have the daring to say “bring that to work”.
It’s that time of the year again where weary trainers and learning managers shuffle out of their caves to meet up with their geeky friends and ATD it ’til the sun goes down. In my own cave, I fired-up my iPad app for the ATD 2015 International Conference and Exposition to see what’s on the agenda and how I will spend my long-awaited 5 days in the sunshine state of Florida. A few questions came to mind…
1 What will I learn, if anything?
This is my 4th consecutive year at the conference and although the question may seem a little arrogant, I am wondering exactly what I will learn this year and what new topics could possibly still be left. This is the first year I don’t have “some learning-thing” on my mind before leaving. And although I always come away with a thin-red-learning-line, I can’t imagine what it will be this time.
2 What’s in a name?
Since this is the 1st year ASTD is not ATD, will anything be different? Will we truly be innudated with Hollywood Talent producers, as the new-name-naysayers suggested in 2014? Or is “talent” just another way of saying L+D ?
3 Will JD Dillon still have a beard?
Seriously.. I saw him in Vegas for TK15 and literally didn’t realise it was him for about the first 30 seconds. Only by a process of association with Justin Brusino and Bianca Woods did I manage to extend my hand to the strange bearded fellow and say “hello”.
4 What is the obsession with “rock” in the learning world?
When choosing sessions to (maybe) follow, I keep seeing this word in titles. If I follow them all, I’ll come home standing out as a rock-star at work and training like a rock-star … whilst turning my boss into a rock-star , as well as my company’s learning content and having had my brain rocked. And all of that before I even squeeze through tht back-door to get into what will surely be a sell-out neuroscience session with David ( …. wait-for-it … ) Rock.
5 (In the same vein) Is there really NeuroScience in everything?
If you search the ATD conference site for sessions with the word “neuroscience” in the title, you will get even more results than you would for “rock”. It’s in our training effectiveness, our behavioural change, Captain Kirk and Mr Spock’s decision making, happiness, performance advancement and performance management, person biases, leadership , employee engagement and learning design. So, if everyone and everything has something to do with neurosciences, question 5 is actually 3 more questions:
- Did someone hypnotise the advisory board before they chose all these sessions?
- Will the rooms for the NeuroLeadership Institute sessions be sold-out as I predicted above (as they rightly should be, because David and Josh are awesome) or will the neuroscience-lovers spread themselves out elsewhere?
- Should I have entitled my own session “The NeuroScience of Social Media for Formal Learning” ?
9 (see above, it works, honestly) Did Rick Lozano pack an extra guitar to jam with me and is he going to dress as Elvis for his sessions?
If there IS one rock session you should follow, its Rick’s. Seriously – if you don’t go and see at least ONE of Rick’s TWO sessions (really – they gave him two!) you will miss the opportunity to move like Jagger. I followed him before and it was awesome. HE was awesome? He IS awesome. Got it? Just go!
10 Will the bookstore have a nice new ATD-branded polo-top for me to buy?
I promise, if they don’t, I’m just going to wear my grey ASTD one anyway. So there!
Don’t forget to check out David Kelly’s ATD2015 backchannel page here.
And catch me throughout the week via my YouTube channel for speaker interviews and DisneyDiaries, Twitter for cynical discussions and attempted humour with JD and absent-Bianca and this blog for a much more serious live-account of the sessions I follow.
What I would have written if I’d been a bit more honest…
I don’t want to do any work for 2 weeks. But because I’m a self-employed workaholic I have trouble not looking at my email.
For the first few days I will pretend to relax and have non-work-related-fun, whilst deep-down being regularly pulled back into wondering if anyone has asked me something I can answer, or commented on the tweets I programmed 3 weeks ago.
After those painfully long but proud days of not turning on my WIFI connection (except to tweet that I’m on holiday with no WIFI) I will eventually allow my finger to slip to the Gmail app and see all your emails come in, before selectively reading and maybe even replying to the ones I care most about.
Those to whom I reply will be confused as to if I am really on holiday or not. They may even get the idea that I am constantly available even when I say I’m not, thus sending more requests during my “time off”. This will in turn serve to reinforce my own workaholic perception that I must be available 24/7 for people more important than me or else they won’t love me.
The people whose emails I don’t read will be ignorantly none-the-wiser, imagining I’m actually not reading email (like I said I wasn’t) rather than knowing I just didn’t care about them as much as the other people.
Eventually, when these dreadful 2 weeks of on/off connected-dissonance is over, I can finally go back to work and everything will be normal again. I will breath out and all that stress of being on holiday will be over.
If grown men have shed a tear in the cinema these last few weeks, it is not for nothing. Even those who manage to maintain their proper place in the audience without playing “Is it him or his brother?” during the first two hours of (Fast and) Furious 7 will have a hard time not being sucked through the fourth wall to join Vin Diesel and friends in their sad tribute to a lost friend during the final scenes.
And it is indeed the actor Vin Diesel they will join. Not his character Dominic Toretto. But the wall-breaking in question is unprecedented: A strange mélange of perceptual positions, a reflection of the human need to idolise and the sad story of every young man who wants to go just a little too fast.
Breaking the fourth wall is a storytelling tool we have seen many times before in the movies.
When Ferris Bueller and Jordan Belfort look the audience in the eye, they are giving us permission to sympathise and join them in their comedic or tragic story. They are looking out, talking to the audience, as if they too were a spectator of the story, sitting right there next to us. But of course, they are not even in the room. Only the audience is. The rest is just moving pictures.
At the theatre, things are different. Actors are actually there. But their physical proximity on the stage is no burden to the suspension of audience disbelief. Although we could stand up and touch the actor at any time, it is not the actor we are looking at, but the character in the play. The wall remains intact. It is only when the final curtain falls and the cast steps out from behind to take a bow that the distance is broken and we can make contact with the actor.
In today’s era of “view-with-commentary” Blu-Ray and social-media friending of the stars, we may feel closer to our favourite film stars than ever before. But we know it is not really true. They are not talking to us at all, but to another studio microphone or iPhone keyboard on the other side of the Atlantic. We remain the audience.
But Furious 7 is different. The men sitting in the cinema are as much a part of the tragedy as the men on the screen. What makes the fans cry during those final scenes is not a cheeky wall-breaking wink from Ferris Bueller mid-scene, a handshake with the leading actor backstage, or a revealing DVD-commentary from a sad co-star. It is a true fusion between cast, character and audience that we are not accustomed to in modern cinema, proper to our human need to idolise and fundamentally linked therefore to the tragic story of Paul Walker and our relationship with him.
Idolising others is normal human behaviour.
As children, the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is inevitably the result of our relationship with some hero-figure we would like to emanate. I still want to surf because Johnny Utah did; and every one of my guitar-faces has been subconsciously replayed and rehearsed whilst watching concert footage of Steve Vai.
As adults, we may be less outright in our expression of idolisation, but we still hold the image of successful others on a pedestal and we still strive with more-or-less effort (and success) to be something we are not.
This has probably been the case forever. As Alain de Botton explains so well in his book “The News: A User’s Manual” we have always idolised. Romans did it. The church does it. The role of an idol in any society is to give us someone to identify with, look up to and learn from.
The success of our favourite movies depends on such identification. If you can’t empathise with Cooper‘s promise to his daughter in “Interstellar”, there is no investment or reason to stay with him on the 80-year journey home.
In the Fast and Furious franchise, we are given double reason to idolise.
The first is Paul Walker himself. A handsome, successful strong man, women want him and men want to be him. Poster-boy for Davidoff’s “Cool Water”, humanitarian and father, any near-middle-aged movie fan could be forgiven for having a man-crush on Walker. Most do not have the triceps to be Vin Diesel, nor the Humvee to be The Rock, and Bodhi died already in 2009. And Walker gets to drive really fast cars, which is probably what we all wanted to do when we grew up. The man was a walking success story.
The second reason is Walker’s Fast and Furious character Brian O’Connor, who through his own idolisation of Dominic Toretto gives us permission to idolise in the first place. In the original episode, we are introduced to young man who just wants to be cool. Submerged in the world of fast cars and booty, we see the action through the eyes of a child who cannot believe he is really there. And in fact, he is not. O’Connor is undercover as Spilner, pretending to be something he is not, just as we all do. When O’Connor/Spilner nearly beats Toretto in his first quarter-mile race, his “I almost had you” is akin to the feeling of placing a beautiful triple-word score in Scrabble against your father. “I fooled you”. You thought I was just a child, but the boy has become a man. Almost.
This strive to identify and subsequent idolisation is the foundation for what is happening today in the cinema.
And it happens in a very special way. The wall is not broken, but transcended by our double identification with Walker/O’Connor and our own confusing place in his story.
And so, in the final scenes of Furious 7, the tearful man on the screen is neither character nor actor. He is both and we can no longer tell if we are looking at Dominic Toretto or Vin Diesel.
And neither is he talking to character Brian O’Connor, nor to the lost actor Paul Walker, but again, to both.
As the soundtrack reminds us that our hero and star is gone, we being to wonder: Who are we exactly? Are we still the audience of these fictional characters? Or the mourning fan? And are we mourning this unknown film-star or have we by now become the man himself? As we consciously realise the extent of our own childish idolisation, we mourn for the person we have never known and for the man we will never ourselves become. And just as this confusing process of self-identification is nearly complete, the camera pans full out to leave us planted back in our seats unsure of exactly what is happening, who we are and who we want to be.
Fast. Furious. And emotional.
Tolerance is supposed to be a good thing. The British stiff upper lip demands that we take a deep breath and don’t aggress those who don’t fit our standards. But this is not the same as true respect.
Today in training, we have discussed the different things that annoy us and how we deal with them. Participants have shared several examples of how people do unacceptable things, but they tolerate them. As if that’s a good thing.
But I only need to tolerate something I can’t tolerate! When someone is disrespectful, I can “teach him a lesson” or I can tolerate it. When someone exceeds the limits of what is acceptable, I can “put him in his place” or I can show tolerance.
But respect is different. Respect is true acceptance of the idea that I have my vision of things and you have yours. I have my beliefs and you have yours. I have my way of doing things and you have yours. None of them are “correct”, “better” or more “valuable”.
When I have respect for the vision, beliefs and behaviour of others, I have nothing to tolerate. I accept that everyone has the right to his own vision, beliefs and behaviour. Everything is “OK” and we can all agree to disagree.
Tolerance is SO last year.,,
We all feel obliged from time to to me. But obligation is not a “thing”. Not like a tree is a thing. Or an arm. So, what is it? If we can answer this question, we may find the key to some kind of personal liberation. And maybe even real happiness.
When I first met my wife 13 years ago, I started to learn French. Following the first childish phase of her pointing at objects and giving me their names, we moved on to basic grammar and sentence structure. Pretty soon, I heard the phrase “Il fait beau” (It’s nice weather today). I was expecting that French speakers would say “C’est beau” (It is nice) but was instead confused by this “il”, which had thus-far been restricted to meaning “he”. I wondered: “Who makes it nice today?” (And suspected the answer might be “God” or “the sun.”)
As my learning went on, I heard more and more of these strange third-person phrases, but didn’t give them much thought until I noticed that my wife would regularly say “Il faut…”
- Il faut qu’on parte
- Il faut manger maintenant
- Il ne faut pas dire ca
In all of these expressions, the meaning is the same: “It must be the case that…” But grammatically, this strange “he” appeared again, as if someone else was obliging her.
Having at first wondered if French speakers were controlled by some invisible third-person, I decided it must be a cultural thing. Maybe they do feel more obliged by something external. But then I realised that although the grammar is not the same, my own language is full of these same obligations:
- I must go now
- I have to eat
- You shouldn’t say that
Whatever the language spoken, my reaction to such phrases varies based on my mood: Sometimes I ask “Says who?” Feeling friendly, I might say : “If you like.” And to expose what I sometimes see as indirect manipulation in these phrases, I might ask “But what do YOU think?”
But whatever I feel about such phrases it is important to restate that obligations don’t exist. Not like trees and arms. The answer to “Says who?” is always “me”. Even when I first think it is someone else. I accept that for my wife (and everyone else) her education, belief system and habits lead her quite naturally to feel that some things simply “are the case”, or that there are some rules to which we must abide. But we always choose to subscribe to these rules (or not), consciously or not.
If I want to be a law-abiding citizen, then I have to follow the rules of the country in which I find myself. If I want to understand people, then I have to listen to them. And so on and so forth… But if I don’t want to, I don’t have to.
So the first question is always therefore: What do I want? And to answer this, I have to know who I am. If I know who I am, where I come from, what works for me, what I like and don’t like etc.. I start to get a better picture of why I say things like “We have to…”, “I have to..” and all these other seeming obligations. I get a better understanding of why I announce these things as if they were true, rather than simply my own opinion.
The more I realise this, the more I can decide: Who do I want to be? Which obligations do I want to subject myself to? Who is responsible for my life and my behaviours? And every time, whatever I decide, I realise it’s just me who decided. And me who obliged myself.
Obligations are not a thing in the world, but a thing in me.