Tuesday, February 24, 2004

This gives new meaning to the term on-the-job training


An Oxford engineering student bluffed his way through a series of global economics lectures in Beijing after being mistaken for a New York University professor with the same name.

The 23-year-old student used a basic textbook as lecture notes to deliver two days of lectures. (He was supposed to lecture for three days but "legged it" after running out of textbook chapters.) He says, "I ad libbed a bit and really got into the subject. I was learning as much as my audience."

The NYU professor took this all in stride, saying "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and that there was no harm done.

I'd be interested in hearing some discussion on this article.

Have you ever bluffed your way through delivering a training session when you didn't feel you had adequate knowledge on the subject? Were you successful, or were you found out?

What would you have done in this student's situation? Would you have explained up front that you didn't know anything about the topic? Would you have said yes and then not shown up? Would you have done what he did and try to bluff your way through it?

Monday, February 23, 2004

A formula for making work fun

What is the key to fun at work? "Deep fun" maven Bernie DeKoven says it's maintaining the balance between a person's ability and the challenge. His article offers charts, graphics, and more explanations that are actually kind of, well, fun to read.

DeKoven offers a whole list of articles on fun in the workplace as well as a wide range of links. Thanks to elearningpost for pointing out this article.
Please excuse the double posting

Those of you checking in on this blog through a reader program may get a posting today that was a duplicate of one from the beginning of February. ("It's not over until...") I was having some technical difficulties today and needed to delete and repost that one. Just ignore it. (However, if you've tried to access the "Ten Technologies That Refuse to Die" MIT Technology Review article recently, you'll have discovered as I did that you now need to be a subscriber to read it. I found another place online where you can access the article and changed the link, so try it again and let me know if it doesn't work. Thanks!)

Friday, February 20, 2004

In search of one good man or woman in Antarctica (prize offered!)

Do you know someone working or stationed in Antarctica? Then you could be a big winner. I'm looking for one good man or woman who would find the E-Learning Glossary useful.

Why? The glossary is being used by trainers, researchers, consultants, students, and others on six out of seven continents. I want to make that seven.

I will give a lovely prize to anyone who can point me to someone.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Feel-good quote of the day

"In organizations, real power and energy is generated through
relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form
them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions."
-- Margaret Wheatley

Thanks to HeartMath's HeartQuotes for this one.
New! Work psychology discussion groups

WorkPsych Associates is offering two new email discussion groups (aka listservs), described below. Both are free; to register, go to http://www.workpsychcorp.com/listserv.tpl. Thanks to Jeff Kahn, CEO of WorkPsych, for letting me know about these.

Executive Emotion [EE]:
Topic Samples: Executive assessment, training, development, education, coaching, treatment, transitions and dysfunction: from the perspectives of management, leadership, performance, emotional intelligence, personal emotion, and organizational behavior.

Members: management, HR, executive development, organizational development, training, occupational health, occupational mental health, ombudsmen, employment law.

Mental Health and Productivity in the Workplace [MHPW]:
Topic Samples: quality mental health care, benefits, cost-effectiveness, workplace change & crises, violence, disability, management & HR approaches to anxiety, depression, personality, substance abuse.

Members: management, HR, executive development, organizational development, training, occupational health, occupational mental health, ombudsmen, mental health benefits, disability managers and consultants, employment & labor law.

Friday, February 13, 2004


I won't go into too much detail about TechKnowledge. Jay Cross has covered his three days there and what he came away with on his blog. Check that out if you're interested in more nitty-gritty. (And thanks for the mention, Jay. It was nice to put the face to the name with you and others.)

But I wanted to give you all a big-picture view from where I sit. This is how I would characterize what I learned: I think there's a big push to get back to basics and a big push forward into uncharted territory, both happening simultaneously.

Let me explain. I heard a lot about ROI, making the business case for e-learning, demonstrating the value of training to business execs. The speakers I heard were in agreement: We're past the point of technology for technology's sake. Each whiz-bang gadget must prove its worth in dollars and cents or other tangible impact on the business--just as training departments must these days.

In the expo, I didn't see any great innovation. I saw suppliers being cautious--making improvements on product ideas that have existed for a while. Nothing stood out to me and made me say "Wow!" The booth that drew the most traffic offered a live broadcast/recording of a Web seminar. The main innovation I saw there was the ability to change the backgrounds behind the instructor. You could look like you were in Egypt, or a forest, for example.

At the same time as this return to basics, there is a small but noticeable push to the future. It's a cautious push, one that's wiser than in the earlier heady days of technology. But mobile learning, simulations, collaborative learning, electronic performance support, and other technologies we've been hearing about for a while are slowly improving in quality and increasing in use. They're finally coming into their own.

In the meantime, we're looking ahead to see what's coming down the pike next. I propose to you that what's next will have a lot to do with social software and workflow tools. (See previous blog entry.)

Ellen Wagner from Macromedia summed up the dichotomy of standing on solid ground while looking ahead to the future in a panel discussion on The Future of Learning. We need to conduct a balancing act, she said. That means being ready for the "next big thing" without forgetting what needs to be done today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Quick hits

The TechKnowledge conference has been a whirlwind as I've attended sessions, chatted with presenters and attendees, listened and learned, and shared my knowledge.

I will offer more analysis in the next couple of days, but in the meantime here are some quick hits of hot topics at the conference this year.

1) social software and e-learning. ASTD COO/CIO Tony Bingham talked about social software tools in his opening address, as did keynote speaker and Newsweek.com editor Michael Rogers. These tools are currently very hot among the younger generations; look for their influence to begin spreading into workplace learning. I just wrote two articles on this topic in Learning Circuits. Go to We Learning Part I and Part II .

2) informal learning. This topic was mentioned in many of the sessions I attended. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of learning in a company takes place informally. Online learning communities, expert management software, workflow tools, and other innovations attempt to standardize and take advantage of the informal learning that's already happening in organizations.

3) context. You may have heard "content is king." Well, the cry at TechKnowledge this year is that context is critical. Without context, we're just throwing information at learners. With context, they're able to understand what that information means to them and to their jobs, and to effectively translate the information into knowledge and, we hope, action. Technology, said Harvey Singh of Nanowave, will link context with content.

I'll leave you for now with a quote from Singh. "The best way to predict the future," he said, "is to invent it."

Friday, February 06, 2004

Long-distance blogging

I'm in California now, en route to ASTD's TechKnowledge conference in Anaheim. I'll try to hop on here at least once over the three day conference to offer you a backstage view.

If you're coming to TechKnowledge, look for me. I'll be wearing an ASTD staff name badge and attending sessions. Feel free to come say hi. Hope to see you!

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

It's not over until... (old-school technologies and traditional training)

This article from MIT's Technology Review, "Ten Technologies That Refuse to Die," proves an important point. The article illustrates how new and old technologies can co-exist peacefully; they don't require an either-or choice.

Analog watches, broadcast radio, fax machines, and other technologies that have more modern equivalents still exist--not just in the homes or offices of Luddites, but as thriving alternatives for the very technologies that were supposed to replace them.

See a parallel in the world of learning?

Yes, the death of good old classroom training has been greatly exaggerated. When e-learning started to proliferate, many people believed it would completely replace face-to-face training. Well, just a few years later we look around and realize that classroom training is alive and well. Blended learning is the new buzzword--the key for successful learning projects is in finding the right mix of technology and tradition for learners' needs.

(We predict a similar process with the next wave--workflow tools. As more companies begin to explore those technologies, face-to-face training and e-learning will continue to be part of a trainer's toolbox.)

As the Ten Technologies article states, "All have survived, and some have thrived, in their supposed obsolescence, not as cult artifacts...but because they fill real needs that their more sophisticated successors don't."

Monday, February 02, 2004

Two scary things at work: psychopaths and Big Brother

1) How many people work in your company? If there are 100 employees, you can count on having one psychopath. For 200, two psychopaths, and so on. So says a study reported on by Washington Post columnist Richard Morin.

Morin explains that New Economy companies with lax rules attract more psychpaths than old-style, bureaucratic ones and points out some characteristics to be on the watch for.

(Thanks to T+D Extra for pointing out this item. To subscribe to the free e-newsletter, go to http://www.astd.org/ASTD/publications/td_magazine/tdextra.html.)

2) According to an article in Wired News, your computer may soon be doing more than letting you write presentations, check email, and play Solitaire. Technology is being developed that enables computers, hooked up to people's bodies, to provide real-time information on their emotional and physical states. And not just to the user--to anyone an organization deems the information relevant to.

One of the technology's developers says such systems would make us "more fully human." I'm not so sure: It sounds like Big Brother to me if it's used in the daily operations of corporations. But one main use for this type of information, the Wired article says, would be in the military where lives can depend on someone else's emotional and physical state. I can see the application there, perhaps.

Also, an efficiency coach interviewed by Wired envisioned such technology being used by individuals themselves to work as biofeedback. There's something like that already--I wrote about it in a February 2002 feature article ("Put Your HeartMath Into It"). HeartMath's Freeze-Framer software lets users monitor and modify their heart rhythms for better business performance.

What about you, dear readers? Can you see a (non-Big Brother use) use for this type of technology at your organization? What applications do you see for training?