Posted tagged ‘tips’

7 tips for custodians of capability frameworks

18 September 2017

Wow, my previous blog post elicited some rich comments from my peers in the L&D profession.

Reframing the capability framework was my first foray into publishing my thoughts on the subject, in which I argued in favour of using the oft-ignored resource as a tool to be proactive and add value to the business.

To everyone who contributed a comment, not only via my blog but also on Twitter and LinkedIn… thank you. Your insights have helped me shape my subsequent thoughts about capability frameworks and their implementation in an organisation.

I will now articulate these thoughts in the tried and tested form of a listicle.

Metallic blue building blocks, two golden.

If you are building, launching or managing your organisation’s capabilities, I invite you to consider my 7 tips for custodians of capability frameworks…

1. Leverage like a banker.

At the organisational level, the capabilities that drive success are strikingly similar across companies, sectors and industries. Unless you have incredibly unique needs, you probably don’t need to build a bespoke capability framework from the ground up.

Instead, consider buying a box set of capabilities from the experts in this sort of thing, or draw inspiration *ahem* from someone else who has shared theirs. (Hint: Search for a “leadership” capability framework.)

2. Refine like a sculptor.

No framework will perfectly model your organisation’s needs from the get-go.

Tweak the capabilities to better match the nature of the business, its values and its goals.

3. Release the dove.

I’ve witnessed a capability framework go through literally years of wordsmithing prior to launch, in spite of rapidly diminishing returns.

Lexiconic squabbles are a poor substitute for action. So be agile: Launch the not-yet-finished-but-still-quite-useful framework (MVP) now.

Then continuously improve it.

4. Evolve or die.

Consider your capability framework an organic document. It is never finished.

As the needs of the business change, so too must your people’s capabilities to remain relevant.

5. Sing from the same song sheet.

Apply the same capabilities to everyone across the organisation.

While technical capabilities will necessarily be different for the myriad job roles throughout your business, the organisational capabilities should be representative of the whole organisation’s commitment to performance.

For example, while Customer Focus is obviously relevant to the contact centre operator, is it any less so for the CEO? Conversely, while Innovation is obviously relevant to the CEO, is it any less so for the contact centre operator?

Having said that, the nature of a capability will necessarily be different across levels or leadership stages. For example, while the Customer Focus I and Innovation I capabilities that apply to the contact centre operator will be thematically similar to Customer Focus V and Innovation V that apply to the CEO, their pitches will differ in relation to their respective contexts.

6. Focus like an eagle.

Frameworks that comprise dozens of capabilities are unwieldy, overwhelming, and ultimately useless.

Not only do I suggest your framework comprise fewer rather than extra capabilities, but also that one or two are earmarked for special attention. These should align to the strategic imperatives of the business.

7. Use it or lose it.

A capability framework that remains unused is merely a bunch of words.

In my next blog post I will examine ways in which it can be used to add value at each stage of the employee lifecycle.

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How to make the most out of a conference

15 May 2017

When I was invited to kick off last week’s AITD National Conference by hosting a breakfast session about Personal Knowledge Management, the last thing I wanted to do was deliver a traditional presentation.

Given the massive scope of PKM, I needed to narrow my focus. And given the contemporary thrust of this event, I needed to do something fresh.

After agonising over the problem for almost a full minute, it dawned on me that the immediate relevance of PKM to the conference attendees lay in how they were going to make the most out of said conference.

But who was I to teach my peers in the industry how to suck eggs? So I ditched the typical instructivist approach in favour of the andragogic. In other words, I crowdsourced the content.

From this fruitful exercise I’m pleased to share with you 8 co‑created tips for making the most out of a conference.

Ryan Tracey at AITD2017 with Michelle Ockers documenting the crowd's ideas.

1. Attend all the sessions.

This one seems too obvious to mention, but a 1 or 2 day conference can be mentally exhausting. You may be tempted to wag a session here or there to relax and recharge, but don’t do it out of sheer laziness.

I’ve lost count of the number of times an apparently unattractive session has turned out to be excellent, or it’s sparked a useful tangential idea.

Remember you’ve invested time and money into these days. They won’t be back until next year, so extract every drop of goodness while you can.

2. Read the blurbs.

Conference organisers are getting a lot better at ensuring the content of the blurb bears some resemblance to the content of the session.

Read the blurb to get your mindset in order, and to consider how the content will help you in your role. Also consider what questions you might want to have answered. Which leads me to…

3. Ask questions.

Some presenters welcome questions during the session, while others prefer you wait until the end. In either case, be brave and ask your questions because by doing so you are personalising your learning experience.

4. Take notes.

The fire hydrant of ideas is too much for the human brain to handle, so you need to distribute your cognition.

You might want to go old-school by jotting your notes down on paper, or type them into a mobile device. Alternatively you could take photos, draw pictures, produce mind maps, or record videos.

I like to tweet my notes because the character limit forces me to zero in on the essence of the message. After the conference, I’ll look up my profile on Twitter to review my list.

5. Use social media.

If you do use Twitter, include the official hashtag in your tweets. Not only does this feed the backchannel, but you too can follow the tweets of your fellow attendees. I find it fascinating to learn their thoughts about the session I’m watching.

If you don’t blog, I suggest you reconsider. Even if you don’t publish your work, blogging is an excellent vehicle for reflection. After the conference, expand on the notes you’ve taken by deep diving into aspects that take your fancy. And if you publish your blog, you’ll be sharing something useful with the wider community.

6. Extend your network.

In the AITD’s discussion forum on LinkedIn, I asked my fellow members whether conferences were obsolete in the digital age. Each of the 20-odd replies I received was a resounding “no”, citing the rich networking opportunities that in-person events offer.

I love catching up with old friends as well as meeting new people at conferences. I used to be too shy to introduce myself to strangers, until I realised I was doing my professional development a disservice.

I also consider it a professional courtesy to speak to the vendor reps at the expo. They financially support the running of the conference, so the least we can do is say hello. I know from first-hand experience how awful it feels to be ignored by attendees. So class up and have a chat. Besides, you might find something helpful.

7. Share your wisdom.

There’s no point hiding your notes in a drawer or keeping them locked inside your head. Share your new-found knowledge with your colleagues, adding your own insights for local context.

In fact, if your employer paid for your ticket, I’d argue you have an ethical obligation to do this.

8. Transform your business.

Don’t stop now!

Review your notes with the intent of converting each one into action. What can you do to make it happen? Even if it’s something tiny, do it to get the ball rolling.

Crowdsourced tips for how to make the most out of this conference.

The overarching theme of these tips is: BE ACTIVE!

When you attend your next conference, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.

Psst…! 10 more tips for sales reps

15 November 2016

When I wrote Psst…! 15 inside tips for sales reps five years ago, I braced for a backlash. But that didn’t happen.

Indeed, I had taken pains to explain that I appreciate the challenges of this line of work, and that I was sharing my insider’s view to engineer a win-win outcome for all of us.

Evidently this was graciously received, as several people contacted me offline to thank me for my frankness. One sales manager even distributed my article to each of his team members for mandatory reading.

But alas, since writing the article I have racked up a number of other bugbears to which sales reps wittingly or unwittingly subject me and, no doubt, other prospective clients.

So if you are a sales rep, please refer to my additional tips below and use them to your advantage. If you are a potential client, please share your own bugbears with me via a comment…

Thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn and then messaging me 5 minutes later with a sales pitch.

1. Social selling is a different animal.

In this age of social media, I’m flabbergasted by those who use the medium to find me, request a connection, then start pitching. There’s a concept called quid pro quo that’s sorely missing from their repertoire.

I’m active on Twitter and I write this blog, so why not engage with me on these platforms first? If you contribute something substantive, I’ll respect you for it.

I’m also curious as to why such a “big fan” has never ever liked a tweet or contributed a comment.

2. You’re not on the agenda.

I attend conferences to learn. If you want to meet me there, I’d be delighted, but please don’t request a meeting. I prefer to attend the presentations I paid for, and enjoy the breaks in-between.

Do feel free to introduce yourself to me at an opportune moment. That’s networking ;-)

3. No one likes a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If you ask me to give you feedback on your new widget, don’t repay my courtesy by pressuring me into buying it.

If I help you out by suggesting speakers or topics for your upcoming event, don’t ask me to sell it.

My time and expertise are valuable. I don’t need to spend either on you.

4. The belt-and-braces look is never in fashion.

You are welcome to call me or send me an email – but not both.

It’s really annoying when you leave me a voicemail telling me you’re sending me an email.

5. Your email is not a magic spell.

No, I don’t remember that email you sent last week. I read it, but I get emails from sales reps daily. If I didn’t reply to yours, it’s because I don’t need what you’re offering.

If I do reply saying thanks but no thanks, please don’t insult my intelligence by trying to argue otherwise.

And what’s with the threatening disclaimer? If I “inadvertently” share the content, then I’m a criminal?! That’s no way to treat a potential customer. If your legal department is so afraid of what I might do with your unsolicited message, please don’t send it.

6. Your VIP is my VUP.

Honestly I don’t care if a bigwig from your head office is flying into town. I have my own bigwigs to worry about!

7. We’re not on Dragons’ Den.

I have no interest in “partnering” with you, nor do I seek an opportunity to divulge our strategy to you.

8. If dad says no, don’t ask mum.

Please be aware that my colleagues forward all your emails to me.

9. A cartoon is not a “product tour”.

This one’s more for your marketing department, but it’s good for you to know.

An upbeat animation about your product is a glorified advertisement. I don’t trust advertisements.

In contrast, a product tour shows me your product in action, and provides me with enough information to make a judgement call as to its usefulness and usability.

I won’t sign up for a demo to get this basic info, nor will I contact your sales team. I fear doing so will condemn me to the hard sell.

10. Chickens always come home to roost.

In Australia we have the Goods & Services Tax. By hiding the GST from your quote, you may make your product or service appear cheaper, but I’ll find out the real cost sooner or later.

Then you’ll be as popular as the tax man.

Paper cuts

1 March 2016

I’m late to the party, but finally I’ve gotten my hands onto Google Cardboard.

I’ve been tinkering with it and, in the spirit of Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week, I’ve decided to share with you what I’ve learned so far.

I’ll also share my problems – and there are plenty of them – so if you can solve any for me I’d be grateful!

An assembled Google Cardboard VR mount

The device

The ROI for Google Cardboard is through the roof. For about $20, you gain access to a world of wonder.

While high-end virtual reality hardware is available – and more will become available this year – the folded paper option is the perfect gateway for exploring this emerging technology.

InMind VR screenshot

Apps

Some brilliant Cardboard apps are available at Google Play.

Vrse showcases the 360° nature of VR, while Inmind VR is a somewhat childish game that nonetheless demonstrates the order of magnitude that immersive 3D animation offers over 2D. I foresee biotech companies leading the way on this.

Evidently, though, VR apps are still very much in their infancy. While a sizeable number are currently available, they are accompanied by reams of poor reviews. Many are free, but an astronomy app I tried stopped part way and wanted me to buy the premium version to continue.

I also found it tricky to identify the apps that were compatible with Cardboard. Most that are have the little goggles icon integrated into their artwork, but it would be preferable if the Play Store simply let us filter the results.

MythBusters: Sharks Everywhere! screenshot

360° videos

These are great! A couple of my favourites are Red Bull F1 360° Experience and MythBusters: Sharks Everywhere!

On your PC, you can use the navigation arrows or your mouse to shift your point of view; on your smartphone, you can physically move your device; and if you watch it through Google Cardboard, you get the full immersive experience.

Strangely, 360° videos don’t work on my iPad. I either get the Cardboard-oriented double vision, or else the regular pov stuck in one direction.

I also find the videos a little blurry. This may have something to do with the age of my S4, but I recently read that Facebook is getting serious about resolution.

The good news is you can record your own 360° videos using special cameras that are reasonably priced IMHO. A virtual tour, perhaps?

Panoramic phot of an Italian piazza

360° photos

These are just like 360° videos, but they’re static. Don’t let that put you off – they’re surprisingly immersive.

Google calls them “photo spheres” and they remind me of Microsoft’s Photosynth. Whereas Photosynth stitched together discrete photos, you record your photo sphere in a continuous circular motion.

Here’s my effort from a friend’s rooftop. (Note: This link is not supported in the mobile web version of Google Maps. Oh the irony.)

All you need to record your own photo sphere is the Cardboard Camera app. Having said that, I found it highly temperamental. The app is not very forgiving of human shaking, so a tripod would be helpful. It also drops out frustratingly easily. Clearing the app’s cache and my phone’s RAM appears to help, as does keeping a super-tight turning circle and moving painfully slowly.

Any kind of movement in the scene is a no-no; I tried it at Circular Quay and had no chance. Again, this could be due to the age of my phone, but still I’m surprised there is no photo-stitching option as per Photosynth.

Yet I struck more problems. My photo sphere works perfectly within my Cardboard Camera app; I wear my papery goggles and it’s like I really am surveying Sydney Harbour. Alas, that’s where it stayed.

I tried to upload my photo sphere to SphereShare (not a Google site) but it doesn’t play nice with IE11. Even in Chrome I received the following error: Please provide valid Photo Sphere JPEG image. Umm…?

Then I found out Google had a site called Views, but not any more. It appears they now want photo spheres uploaded to Google Street View. There’s an app for that, but I couldn’t open it – and I’m not the only one. (It appears I need Android 5. My phone only goes up to 4.4.2.)

Google has a slick Street View website, complete with PUBLISH subsite, which inexplicably fails to explain how to publish photo spheres. Thankfully I stumbled on this article by Phil Nickinson and learned that instead of starting at the map and uploading your photo sphere, you start at the photo sphere in your phone’s image gallery and share it to Maps. Then nothing happens, which is disconcerting, but Phil warns that Google must approve your photo sphere which takes about a day or so. It would have been nice for Google to have explained that. A week later, I’m still waiting.

However a more pressing problem was that my photo sphere was rendering in Maps as a photo. This I could not understand, given the file was being transferred from one Google application to another Google application via Google’s operating system. I even tried uploading it via PC, but again it rendered as a regular photo. I posted this conundrum to Reddit’s Google Cardboard subreddit and to one of LinkedIn’s virtual reality discussion groups, both in vain.

Thankfully I stumbled upon this discussion thread in the Google Photos Forum about a different problem, for which Russ Buchmann refers to the Photosphere XMP Tagger app (not a Google app). Hurrah! After using this app to tag my file, it rendered in Maps as a photo sphere.

A final tip: Populate your tagged file’s property details (eg title) in Windows Explorer prior to uploading it to Maps.

Google Cardboard icon

Milestones and millstones

My VR learning journey thus far may be described as joy punctuated by disappointment.

I applaud Google for giving Average Joe the gift of virtual reality – not only to consume, but also to produce.

Yet I am astonished by the lack of interoperability between Google’s own platforms, our reliance on third party products to perform seemingly simple tasks, and the tech giant’s customer uncentricity.

No doubt the boffins at Mountain View know exactly what they’re doing… but how about the rest of us?

They’d probably tell us to Google it.

How to become an eLearning Professional

19 November 2013

That’s the title of a free e-book to which I was flattered to be invited to contribute a chapter.

The book is introduced by the editor, Christopher Pappas, as such:

This is not your average looking, cliché reproducing, metaphysical, theory-loving free eLearning eBook. Do not expect to read any speculations, rhetorical questions, and abstractions related to eLearning. This is merely a powerful weapon in the hands of those who are truly interested in becoming the field’s Top eLearning Professionals. Make no mistake however. It’s addressed only to those with a passion for eLearning, eagerness to evolve, desperate to reach their potential, hungry for uniqueness, and ambitious enough people that want to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Cover art for How to become an eLearning Professional

The free “How to Become an eLearning Professional” eBook is filled with the knowledge, wisdom, experience and inspiration of carefully selected eLearning professionals, with long-standing, successful eLearning careers, innovative projects up their sleeves, impressive eLearning portfolios and even more impressive CVs. All of them create a highly influential eLearning team of experts, but each one has his or her own distinctive path, skills and know-how, leading to the creation of a multidimensional, and highly helpful for those who want to advance their eLearning careers, professional mosaic.

This can only mean one thing. What you are about to read is not some generic eLearning advice you could easily find in any “eLearning for Dummies” manual. This free eLearning eBook contains hot eLearning tips, secret concepts, specific steps and insider information that will help you become a top-notch eLearning professional.

No pressure then!

But in all seriousness, I stand by the advice that I offer in the book, and I appreciate the insights shared by my eminent peers.

I recommend How to become an eLearning Professional for newbies and veterans alike.

Boiling the backchannel

1 October 2013

I enjoy attending conferences.

Unfortunately I don’t attend as many as I’d like because so many of them are prohibitively expensive, are beyond my travel budget, or demand too much time out of the office.

Whenever I do attend, however, I enjoy hearing and seeing what other people have to say and show, because they validate my own ideas, introduce new ideas, and spark tangential ideas. I also like meeting new people in the industry and re-connecting with those whom I already know.

Another aspect of conferences that I enjoy is the real-time chat on Twitter – aka the “backchannel”. When I’m not at the conference, the backchannel clues me in to the key learnings; when I am at the conference, I can peruse the observations of my fellow audience members and share my own. It’s also a great way of putting a face to a name to facilitate the aforementioned networking.

Of course, healthy backchannel activity is in the interests of the conference organiser too. While it may seem counterintuitive, loads of attendees sharing their observations with the Twittersphere for free won’t discourage other people from attending (as the backchannel is inevitably an inferior substitute for the real thing). On the contrary, the backchannel is a vehicle for precious WOM that can raise awareness of the event among the Twitterati and – if it sounds appealing enough – encourage them to attend next time.

So I see heating up the backchannel as a critical aspect of the conference organiser’s role. Here are my suggestions for getting it to boil…

Pan on a gas burner

1. Inform everyone of the official hashtag.

If you don’t, your audience will splinter and they will use various permutations of acronyms and digits which will then dilute the conversation.

So tell everyone up front what the official hashtag is. Even better, include it on your marketing material to get the conversation going before Day 1.

2. Explicitly invite the audience to tweet.

Not only does this give many in the audience the moral authority they seek, but it also reminds those who might otherwise have forgotten.

3. Provide free Wi-Fi.

I realise this might be pricey, but if you want your audience to use the Internet, this is a big juicy carrot.

And if you do offer free Wi-Fi, for crying out loud inform everyone of the access details.

4. Host a charging kiosk.

Even the most ardent of tweeters can’t do much with a dead device.

5. Inform the audience of the presenter’s handle.

Tweeters like quoting the presenter, but they’re less likely to do so if he or she isn’t on Twitter. Even if they are on Twitter, the search function is so awful that it can be difficult to find them.

Putting the presenter’s handle on the last slide is comically late. Put it on the first slide instead, and in the official program too.

6. Resist dressing mutton up as lamb.

I’m constantly amazed by the number of presenters who try to pass off a product flog as a pedagogical exposition. I’m not so much amazed by the fact that they try it on, but that they think we’re dumb enough to fall for it.

Conference organisers need to know that any self-respecting Tweeter will withhold social mention of this imposture in protest.

So change its title to reflect what it really is: a product demonstration. Plenty of people will want to see that, and they’ll tweet about it in kind.

7. Join in.

The conference organiser should actively participate in the backchannel too.

Favouriting and re-tweeting others is a nice way of acknowledging their contributions (and motivating them to continue), while tweeting your own observations keeps the activity humming during flat periods.

Adding extra hashtags (eg #edtech, #gamification, #mobile) will also extend your reach.

Kid saying to his mum - How do you think my first day of kindergarten went? They didn't even have Wi-Fi.

So if you’re a conference organiser, I hope my suggestions help you improve the experience for your attendees and promote your event to potential newcomers.

And if you have a free ticket to give away, I’ll tweet up a storm!

10 hot tips for moocers

1 April 2013

Now that I have participated in a mooc, I am naturally qualified to dispense expert advice about them. Lol!

Seriously though, one aspect of moocs that I think requires urgent attention is the sense that many participants feel of being overwhelmed. This was certainly the case for some in the EDCMOOC, and I fear I was too dismissive of the issue in my previous blog post.

Upon further reflection, I appreciate that what gave me an edge in this mooc was my experience in studying at postgraduate level. By that I don’t mean so much the knowledge acquired from the instructors, but (on the contrary) the skills developed in learning how to learn for myself.

You see, in postgrad you are left very much to your own devices. You are given a tonne of readings, and the most instruction you can hope to extract from the professors is “read this”. The theory is that the students will collaborate with one another, share their diverse experiences, and contribute to robust conversations. Too bad most of them are straight out of undergrad, inexperienced, and don’t have a collaborative bone in their body.

So if you actually want to learn something rather than skate through each subject, it’s up to you to do your prescribed readings, seek more from blogs and journals to enhance your understanding, reach out to your network to ask questions and gather feedback, and generally drive your own education.

The successful postgraduate student is highly motivated, autodidactic, connected, and participatory. I suggest the successful mooc participant shares these same qualities.

So what I’m really trying to say is: I’ve been there, done that. If you trust me, you may find the following tips useful as you embark on your own mooc voyage…

Tiny ship of order in a vast sea of chaos

  1. Before doing anything, ask yourself three fundamental questions.

    Firstly: “Why a mooc?” It may very well be the right mode of study for you, but of course there are many others to consider. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of this mode in light of your personal circumstances.

    Secondly: “Why this mooc?” There are plenty of them around, pitched at different levels and targeting different audiences. Analyse the pre-information of your chosen mooc to ensure it will give you what you need.

    Thirdly: “What do I want to get out of it?” Be very clear in your own mind about the WIIFM, then doggedly pursue that during the mooc.

    Having said that, remain open to new ideas that foster other lines of inquiry. Your goals may change. That’s fine; it’s called learning.

  2. Follow the sequence of the curriculum as arranged by the mooc coordinators. It may be tempting to jump ahead or even lag behind, but it’s wiser to pace yourself week by week.
     
  3. Read the mooc’s instructions! I’ve added the exclamation point in case you think words on screen are merely decorative. Sometimes they’re informative, so take notice.
     
  4. Prioritise the core videos and readings. At the very least, all these should be watched and read. The other stuff is a bonus if you get around to it.
     
  5. Participate actively in the discussion forum. This is your opportunity to share your understanding of the key concepts with your peers and receive valuable feedback from them.

    Don’t just talk at your peers, but rather engage with them. Reply to their posts, build upon their ideas and suggest alternative thoughts. Challenge them (politely) to clarify their position if they appear to be waffling.

  6. Blog. More specifically, use your blog to articulate your learnings from the mooc. Focus on the practical applications that you have drawn from the academic concepts.

    I found it helpful to use the discussion forum to post preliminary drafts of my ideas, refine them, then blog them.

  7. Concentrate your discussion activity on only one or two threads each week. You’ll go mad trying to keep up with all of them, so narrow your field of vision to what really matters to you.

    At the end of the week, abandon those threads. Again, this is about pacing yourself. While the conversation may be rich and rewarding, you can’t afford to go down any rabbit warrens.

    If you’re super keen, you can always continue the conversation with your new-found friends after the mooc has ended.

  8. Pick a social media platform to support your progress. I made the mistake of bouncing between Twitter, Google+ and Facebook in case I missed out on anything, but all that did was waste my time. Next time I’ll pick my favourite platform and stick with it.
     
  9. Do something daily. Whether it’s watching a video, reading an article, discussing an idea, writing a blog, liking something on Facebook, or mulling over a thought in your mind, it’s important to keep the momentum going.
     
  10. Think of moocing as informal learning. If you remember your WIIFM, it will ease the pressure that you put on yourself. You don’t have to finish the course. In fact, you don’t have to do anything. Assume control of your own actions, and become the master of your destiny.

In other words, be the tiny ship of order in the vast sea of chaos.