Monday, October 31, 2011

There Is Probably An App For That, But Do You Really Need It?

I have to admit that I was one of the first geeks in 2007 who stood in line for the first iPhone. I also remember only spending about 30 minutes previewing all the available apps. Yes, that's all it took, because the original iPhone only came with a handful of default apps.

By the end of 2007, there were still only 500 apps. Then things started changing dramatically. As of June, 2011 there were over 500,000 apps (with about 100,000 apps being added every 6 months). Along with the rapid rate of app development, Apple also started their very successful campaign and central iPhone message: "There is an app for that." Yes, you have seen the commercials. There is an app to help you plan your trips, to check the weather, to do your banking, to be socially active, to track where you have been, how many calories in a meal, and to pretty much do anything you can think of...well, almost.

If you have been like me, you have taken advantage of this message and loaded your phone with hundreds of apps. Many you never use again (apps like the iFart app, that seemed funny at the time). What you once thought may be a useful app, just contributed to your already busy and unproductive life.
So, our suggestion is to simplify. There are 4 actions you can take to make your phone work for you instead of against you.

1. If you haven't used an app for a month, DELETE it.
2. If you feel guilty every time you open it, DELETE it.
3. If you use it regularly, place it front and center (like your home screen or main app banner), or organize it into a folder.
4. If you download a new app remember to follow steps 1, 2, and 3.

And remember, just because there is an app for "that," doesn't mean you need to have it.

What did you (not) learn last Halloween?

Apparently when it comes to Halloween in the United States, all knowledge gained 365 days ago is forgotten. Because today, yes today alone, the average person will eat 1.2 pounds of candy (see more in this great infographic.)

Do you know how much candy that is? No? Let us educate you. That's the equivilent of:
     > 33 Fun-Size Snickers
     > 56 Fun-Size Twix
     > 127 Starbursts
     > 280 M&Ms

Don't you remember the stomach ache you had last year? How about the hyperactive children followed by the biggest sugar crash of the century? Nope, me either. When will we ever learn?

Now pass the candy corn.

Friday, October 28, 2011

5 Critical Steps to Create Learning Circuitry in Your Organization

Over the past few years we've uncovered five key steps to creating learning circuits within your organization. Use them to successfully launch and administer your virtual classrooms.

What is learning circuitry? It's the way in which each group within your company or organization works together to help your training initiative succeed--through connective operations, financials models, sales and marketing, and quality training and delivery.

Find the right people, who share your vision, and put 'em to work. These might be people like an instructional designer, marketing coordinator, operations manager, instructor or business leader. Have each of these people responsible on a single purpose. For example, your instructional designer's goal may be to figure out how to take existing training products and turn them into a virtual classroom format. Remember that small teams can move fast, so don't make it too big too fast.

Create a vision of where you want your learning circuitry to go and then break down your vision into small, manageable pieces. Don't feel like to have to do everything at once. Stick to a phased approach and be patient. Take some time to learn and develop your skills and abilities, and before you know it, your vision will be reality.

Finding executive sponsors for your project is most often a key indicator of success in building the right circuitry. They can help clear the path when needed and should be willing to act as your champion.

Do the hard work up from. Make sure you've done your research, looked at the competition, and identified holes in your approach, then build your program according to your vision. You'll be able to make modifications along the way, but do your best to lay the right circuitry up front.  We learned this the hard way when we started to build our own virtual classroom system from the ground up. We finally relented and found existing software that provided us with 60% of what we needed and then customized it from there.  We won't make that mistake again.

Make sure to track your forward momentum so that when the time comes to report on your status, you have data. Benchmark your results against the industry to show how far you've come! Finally, be sure to watch your key indicators such as the number of people you have trained, costs saved, and attendee feedback scores on course content and facilitator skills. When you have great results to share, shout your successes!

Building your learning circuitry is not going to be quick or easy. But the time you take to create learning circuitry within your organization will not only help you move your corporate learning online, but also help you gain more credibility and prominence in your organization.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Think Negative: A new way to solve your problems.

I once had an art teacher who spent half of a semester having me focus on negative space and drawing the area around an object rather than the object itself.  For instance, instead of drawing a chair, I would be forced to see the area around the chair--the space that it didn't occupy--and then figure out how to draw those random shapes so that the end result looked like a chair.

At the time I thought, "What a mundane task!" But I now realize what a powerful principle this was -- that negative space holds new, previously unseen, solutions. In fact, I reflect on this lesson a lot in my professional life to help find answers to problems. As should you.

Rather than looking at the obvious solution to a question, look around it, under it, behind it. Concentrate on the empty space that nobody occupies and occupy it. In many cases it will cause you to have to deviate from your comfort zone. If it does, good. It means you're starting to think differently. You're starting to mutate.

It may take time to truly learn how to focus on negative space, but once you do it will open your eyes to new ways of learning and thinking. Just don't let your boss see you doodling in your next staff meeting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Learning Explosion: The next best thing to a know-it-all-kid next door

Yesterday my son William was asked by one of his friends to teach him how to tie a tie. Luckily he knew how. But how did he know the technique?  Where did he learn this?

Well, he learned it from me. I learned it from my father. He learned it from his father. And so on...

This simple knowledge has been passed down for decades, and the results have always been the same -- around the tree, through the branches and down the hole. Perfect knot. Every time.

By the way, nobody is getting paid to provide this information, it's just out there, it's become part of our lives.

But what if you don't have a dad, or a grandfather, or a kid across the street to help teach you how to tie a knot. Or how to start your lawnmower. Or how to solve a Rubik's Cube. You easily find all of the answers in the Learning Explosion.

The knowledge is out there on any topic waiting for you to find it. And the amazing thing is that most of this knowledge is free. So get out there and learn something new today!

Sorry... you no longer have any more excuses not to mow the lawn.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The world is changing. Are you?

The Learning Explosion at 30 Rockefeller Plaza
On a recent trip to New York, we had the chance to listen to some incredible speakers at the World Business Forum. One of these was Seth Godin. (Side note: If you don't follow Seth's blog, start today!)

Seth's message was that everything is going to change. When it does, what will you do? His secret is to become the person that nobody else can be. Become an artist and create something unique that people want and can use. Not necessarily an artist with brush and paint, but an artist in your industry. What you don't want to be is interchangeable.

In other words, you need to mutate! But don't think of this as growing ugly horns or thick scales. Think of this as a positive mutation in an effort to adapt to your ever changing environment. And don't think of this as an evolution. This is a dramatic change that needs to occur inside of you. You need to discover the undiscovered and create something new--become something different.

We believe there are mutants among us (like Seth Godin who is changing the publishing industry with the Domino Project) and those who have passed on (like Steve Jobs who changed the music and communication industry with the iPod and iPhone).

The questions then remain, will you change? And if so, into what will you mutate?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fat-free Learning

 We’re finding that more and more people are asking for shorter training without all of the high-calorie fluff with which it’s usually accompanied.  Learners are becoming more and more accustomed to going to YouTube or a social media site to get a quick bite of knowledge rather than a week-long training course full of extra carbs that they just don’t need. Remarkably, they are getting the information they need faster and cheaper than they ever could in a live classroom.

Remember, most people are starving for time—not knowledge—and if you constantly try to take that away from them to fill them full of sweets rather than the protein they need, you’ll find your training cafĂ© will soon be empty.

So, if you find that your training programs are a bit bloated, here are five simple weight loss tips that you can incorporate.
  1. Blend it up. Rather than expecting your learners to sit through a series of full-day live programs, hold one live program and then add in effective online components that they can experience at their own pace.
  2. Spread out the meal. Don’t try and force-feed your learners in one, two or three full consecutive days.  If you have a lot of information you need to cover, spread it out over two or three weeks (or longer).
  3. Count your learning calories. Do you really need a multi-day workshop?  Can you get the same content done in one day? In one hour? People are smart and can learn faster that many of us believe.
  4. Put the dressing on the side. Try teaching your core content in a 2-hour webinar and then dismiss the learners to practice applying the concepts out of the classroom as a side project. Hold the learners accountable by regrouping a week later to hear what happened and to offer additional coaching.
  5. Reduce portion size. Simply put, cut out all of the garbage. If you don’t know what it is, ask your participants for their honest feedback so that you “can improve the training for future learners.” Undoubtedly there is unneeded material that you don’t need and can be removed.

So the next time you create a training program ask yourself, do you really need all of that super-rich, high-calorie content?  If someone’s asking for soup and salad, make sure you’re not delivering a buffet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are you a consumer or producer of knowledge?

The Learning Explosion has created the ability for all of us to not only be consumers of information, but producers and contributors as well. In a previous post, we declared that "the community is the new expert." You are part of that community, so by contributing relevant and credible insight to the discussion you are, by default, part of that expert group...that dynamic, living, rapidly evolving community.

It is with this new "community is the expert" paradigm in mind that we have started looking at how information is being shared and contributed to in various social and professional networks and communities.

For example, Ed Lines, a Marketing Executive at LINE Communications in the UK asked a timely question to the eLearning Guild group on LinkedIn a few months ago. He simply asked, "Have you ever used YouTube to teach yourself something?" Well, since then the community (or group) has contributed 168 comments. Ed now has a robust list of "things" people have learned to do on YouTube. (If you are curious about his findings, he shared them on his blog.)

Like Ed, blogs have become a way for experts in their field to share insights and knowledge with the community. But you should not stop at just reading the post itself, because if you subscribe to the belief that the community if the expert" you should also read some of the comments. In many instances these are as instructive and valuable as the post itself. Obviously, some posts are not worth the read and should be ignored. But for the most part the community comes through for you. If not, turn to one of the many other communities that will produce the knowledge you seek.

But do not be content to just consume knowledge. Seek opportunities to contribute to the knowledge base in a community. No matter what your field of study or career track, you have relevant experience that will benefit someone else who has not had those experiences yet. Be a producer of knowledge, a member of the expert community. Continue to feed the growing Learning Explosion.