Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Tired of quick-fix business books?

T+D Books editor Josie Rossi pointed me to this blistering review of the business parable Who Moved My Cheese?

It's good reading if you need a laugh. The review includes such glowing comments as, "Your time would be better spent just taking a nap" and "Any manager who would try to force these ideas on their employees would be better off just spiking the coffee with anti-depressants."

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Free Web seminar on usability

Usability is an important concept in Web design and should be something you take into account as you're developing e-learning.

A free Webinar on "Online Usability: How Companies 'Use' Usability in 2004" will take place July 20th at 2 p.m. EDT. Put on by the Usability Sciences Corporation and Jupiter Research, the Webinar will discuss
"--How companies implement usability testing into their regular site development process
--What emerging technologies are able to help you measure the overall customer experience online
--'Best practices' for bringing usability testing into your own environment."
The ROI of idea management

Imaginatik, a software and services company that specializes in innovation and idea management, put out the whitepaper "Idea Management ROI: Quantifying the Returns from Advanced Idea Management" last summer. (I ran across a mention of it today on the Fast Company Weblog.)

What is idea management? Well, it isn't a new name for knowledge management as was my first guess. Idea management, a fairly new discipline according to the whitepaper, is "...the practice of systematically collecting focused business ideas with the goal of selecting high impact concepts that generate tangible and intangible benefits for the organization." In short, idea management increases a "company's capacity for innovation."

The paper continues the definition: "Idea Management is implemented as a process, supported by computer software, and involves a core group of process experts, together with the support of management and the participation of employees." Before you groan, "Oh no, not new software," let me provide this statistic from the whitepaper: "91% of executives across all industries believe that increasing their company's capacity for innovation is critical to creating future competitive advantage and earning profits."

Idea management, says the whitepaper, offers the infrastructure to make that happen. But since many companies are undergoing this process for the first time, they may need help justifying the investment of time, people, and money that will help them increase their ability to innovate.

Thus, the goal of the whitepaper is to "demonstrate that the idea management process...[can] deliver significant and measurable results." The authors recommend that people use the paper to build a business case supporting the need for resources and process support in their idea management efforts.

According to the paper, idea management systems and processes can work with various business activities, including identifying opportunities, developing products, and improving processes. Possible returns fall into three categories: returns from the individual ideas, returns from improving innovation processes, and returns from achieving other business objectives. The paper discusses each of these and gives tips for using the ROI calculation.

Additional whitepapers on aspects of idea management are available at

Friday, June 25, 2004

Best of the week

Happy Friday, everyone. Here are the articles and resources I found most interesting this week.

1) "When First Impressions Flop: The Power of Getting a Second Chance." Jerker Denrell, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Standford Graduate School of Business, talks about first and second impressions and the importance for organizations of providing ways to get a second impression to employees who wouldn't normally interact. That will help companies promote diversity and equal opportunity, says the release.

2) "Everything I Know About Community I Learnt Tending Bar." Blogger and Microsoft employee Jeff Sandquist offers a unique perspective on building online communities. Jeff is one of the guys working on Microsoft's Channel 9, a portal that brings Microsoft developers together with users through a variety of social software tools. (I wrote about Channel 9 earlier this month.)

2.5) If you can stand to read long stretches of mostly unformatted text, you might find the award jury statement from Ars Electronica's new Digital Community award enlightening. You'll find out what online communities are doing ground-breaking work and maybe get some tips for building or maintaining your own.

3) Hidden Tech. The Future of Work Weblog pointed me to this organization that provides resources for virtual company owners. (No, the owners aren't virtual; the companies are! :) ) Even though the Website says the member companies are based in Massachusetts, anyone can join online. The organization offers news, reports, events, discussions, and more.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Futuring education forum

After writing yesterday about futuring, I received the e-newsletter of the World Future Society, saying that they're forming a new education forum and are seeking "essays presenting new ideas, scenarios, innovations, prescriptions, and analyses of trends in
education and learning around the world."

To submit, email your essay to with a brief bio and an abstract of 50 words or fewer.

Check out the society's other forums (such as social innovation, future generations, uptopias, and more) at

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


A fun part of my job is looking at trends and predicting where training, e-learning, business, and technology will be going in the near and far future. But futuring is also a distinct profession, with publications, conferences, organizations, and so forth. Here are some recent good finds in the futuring arena.

I. Two experts in futuring, Charlie Grantham and Jim Ware, were interviewed for a must-read article on "Divining the Future of Work." They had some fascinating things to say about the coming talent shortage, the free agent/freelance/consultant transformation (it's way beyond a trend), offshoring, business sustainability, and more. Grantham and Ware say, "How we work, where we work, with whom we work and who's in charge--it's all changing," fast. They predict a "major social and political earthquake within the next three years."
Points important to workplace learning professionals:
--demographics of workers are changing to include more women and minorities, lower-skilled workers, and older workers
--the hottest job growth will be in the creative class--teachers, healthcare professionals, designers, financial analysts
--there will be a critical shortage of knowledge worker jobs--perhaps 10 million by 2010
--the shortage will lead to a change in the rules. Talent will set the terms.
--the age of the large organization may be over. Small groups, teams, and micro-businesses will lead in the future.
(I wrote about a conference put on by Grantham and Ware's Future of Work organization back in March. Their Weblog is featuring some interesting stuff these days.)

II. Thomas Malone, professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management and co-director of a five-year study there on "Inventing the Organization of the 21st Century" has written a book on The Future of Work published by Harvard Business School Press. (It isn't related to Grantham and Ware's organization as far as I can tell.) Subtitled "How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style, and Your Life," the book doesn't just offer predictions--it provides case studies of organizations; discusses how business leaders, managers, and students can learn new management skills for the new world of work; defines critical leadership capabilities; and more.

III. The World Future Society is holding a conference I'll be attending in Washington, D.C. July 31st through August 2nd. There's a whole track on Learning and Education, plus ones on Business and Careers and Technology and Science, so I think I'll bring back some useful information. Sessions I'm interested in attending include "Transition into Tomorrow's Workplace," "The Future of Online Communities," "Human Capital and the Future," "The Emerging Paradigm of Knowledge-Based Enterprise," "Future-Focused Leadership and Communication," and "Incorporating Games and Simulations into Educational Contexts" (this one is led by Clark Aldrich, frequent contributor to T+D and Learning Circuits).

Have some favorite futuring resources? Post them in the comments section to share with your fellow readers and me.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Best of the week

I read probably a couple hundred articles, press releases, newsletters, and so forth each week. Here are the articles and resources I found the most noteworthy this week. I hope they are helpful for you.

1. "How Org Charts Lie." From Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge magazine, this article discusses how social network analysis can pinpoint and help you resolve problems in your organizational structure. A helpful example compares one company's org chart to its social network and discusses how to fix the issues that became apparent. This excellent article is an excerpt from Harvard Business School Press's book Hidden Power of Social Networks.

2. "Fee for Certificate." I wrote about diploma mills and how the U.S. government is investigating federal employees who received degrees from them using government money. Now corporations are getting wise to this type of scam, thanks in part to this article in the New York Post, which found 15 chairmen and CEOs, 29 corporate board members, and 40 other executives at public companies who have degrees from known diploma mills on their resumes.

3. The Telework Times. This Weblog covers the "business, technical, political, and social aspects of telework, remote collaboration, distributed development, and the virtual workplace of the 21st century." It's sponsored by the Telework Consortium. The consortium's tools guide to collaborative products and services is extensive.

4. "Defining and Measuring Quality in Online Discussions." This article in the Journal of Online Interactive Learning poses and tries to answer the question, What makes good online (asynchronous) discussion? After a fairly extensive literature review, the authors generate four categories with which to evaluate discussion: levels of disagreement, argument structure analysis, interaction-based analysis, and content analysis. Each is discussed in the article.

5. "Education Arcade." More on augmented reality and game-based learning. This article takes a closer look at the augmented reality scavenger hunt/whodunit at the Boston Museum of Science and then continues on to talk about the sponsoring organization, Education Arcade. EA is creating "a consortium of educators, game designers, publishers, and policymakers to develop sophisticated games that range from quick demonstrations that illustrate points made in lectures to semester-long projects that support the content of courses." Important statistic in the article: MIT physics students who played a game about electromagnetism called Supercharged did 20 percent better on tests than students who didn't play the game.

6. "Website Analysis Isn't a Game." Wired talks about Website analysis software that provides a graphic model of a virtual city to convey its statistics. People are represented by avatars who arrive and leave on virtual busses with their company logos on them. Each Webpage a company monitors is a building--the more traffic, the higher the building and the brighter its lights. There are lots of other interesting features and the software is fairly inexpensive. A cool tool to measure e-learning traffic and behavior? It might not help your CEO take your initiatives seriously, but it could be a lot of fun for you.

PS--Permalinks are now up and running, as is Trackback (albeit manually). Thanks for your patience and onward and upward!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Please send me your stories

I'm writing a short, humorous feature for T+D magazine on Training Nightmares and am soliciting your stories. Did the projector screen fall on your foot in the middle of class and break your toe? Did your virtual classroom boot out the CEO of your company when you were demonstrating it? Did absolutely no one show up to your class? You get the idea.

If you prefer to remain anonymous, I can do that. Please email your story to me at ekaplan at Thanks!

Monday, June 14, 2004


P.S. If your organization has a free online seminar coming up, send me the info at ekaplan at If the event is relevant to this blog's readers, I'll be happy to post the listing.
More free Web seminars in June and July

As always, I'm not guaranteeing the quality of these; I'm just passing along the information.

Integrated Employee Performance Management.” will put on this free Web seminar TOMORROW (June 15th) at 1 to 2 p.m. EDT. The session will cover major trends in performance management, ways to increase employee performance, and how to effectively integrate performance management into your organization.

( is offering Web seminars almost daily—there are too many events to list them all here. Go to to view information about all the seminars, including ones on recognition and rewards, employee engagement, competencies, work-life balance, and more.)

“A Preview of HorizonLive's New Product Release: HorizonLive Open Campus 4.0.” Learn about the upcoming (July) release of this new product on June 16th at 2 p.m. EDT or June 22nd at 11 a.m. EDT. You’ll hear about the features and functionality of this software in the beta stage of development.

Experience Macromedia Breeze.” This free seminar on June 22nd at 1 p.m. EDT introduces users to Macromedia’s Web-conferencing and collaboration software. The seminar will demonstrate the features of the technology that requires no special plug-ins or media players.

“Virtual Tutoring and Student Support Systems.” On June 23rd at 2 p.m. EDT, Jennifer Geary, winner of the Alberta Distance Education and Training Research Award, and Colm Brannigan of will talk about virtual tutoring developments and student support systems.

“The What, How, and When of Blended Learning.” GeoLearning hosts this free online seminar on July 14th at 2 p.m. EDT. The session will cover how to use blended learning most effectively as well as best practices for “aligning learning management systems, learning content management systems, e-learning courseware, classroom instruction, self-study and live Webcasting tools with training and business needs.”

“Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education.” Michael Simonson, Sharon E. Smaldino, Michael Albright, and Susan Zvacek,
co-authors of the book with the same name, will give a free Web presentation on July 20th at 1 p.m. EDT.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Week-end wrap-up

NOTE: This entry has been revised to add permalinks.

Today's the end of the week for us--we're off tomorrow because we follow the federal government's schedule. So here's a Friday-like wrap-up of some items that caught my eye this week and that relate to ideas I've written about on this blog in the last couple of months.

On games and learning and augmented reality: I received a press release from a company that creates murder-mysteries and scavenger hunts to be used as learning activities. The offerings are marketed as boosting morale, teaching communication and listening skills, and creating a fun learning event. I can see more complex technology-based (but not computer-based) versions of these types of offerings being developed by a company in the future. In fact, I predicted mystery learning experiences in my April entry about an augmented-reality scavenger hunt that took place with some children at the Boston Museum of Science. Also see PacManhattan and Net Attack for where this could all be going. (Here's what I wrote about NetAttack in April and PacManhattan in May.)

On blogs as learning tools: I wrote about blogs and knowledge management in March. This short but very informative article by Maish Nichani of elearningpost, published on the Website of the Australian Flexible Learning Community, explains "How to Use Weblogs to Create Engaging Learning Experiences."

On computers and humans' emotional reactions to them: In May I wrote about how calming computer messages can ease people's frustrations with technology (like I'm having these days) and boost people's performance on problem-solving exercises. This article from the Washington Post discusses how and why psychologists, computer scientists, and marketers are examining the way humans and their emotions respond to technology. The Post article is very interesting--make sure you read to the page 2 discussion of teaching software that may be able to detect when a student loses interest.

And a fun fact from the Washington Post article to leave you with: Three-quarters of people in a British poll admitted to having hit their computers in frustration.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Free Web seminars in June

"Creativity and Innovation: Keys to Corporate Growth". On June 16th at 1 p.m. EDT, entrepreneur, psychologist, and attorney Dr. Jerry Cahn will discuss how to "understand the relationship between creativity and innovation, stimulate employee creativity, develop a business case for innovation, [and] build an innovative culture." His talk is sponsored by Presentation Excellence.

"Online Retail Metrics: Benchmarking and Best Practices Guide." On June 22nd at 2 p.m. EDT, Patti Freeman Evans, analyst with Jupiter Research, will discuss "why setting clear, measurable goals and defining key performance indicators are vital to making the most out of your Web metrics," as well as best practices for tracking and sharing data.

"Needs Assessment: Finding the Right Focus." Learn how to assess learning needs and increase the effectiveness of your programs in this Webinar on June 23rd at 2 p.m. EDT, sponsored by Thomson/NETg and CLO magazine. Panelists include Jim L'Allier, chief learning officer and VP for research and development at NETg, and Steve Mosley, director of training and employee development for Alltel.

"The High-Performance Learning Organization: Research Results from 285 Organizations Worldwide." On June 24th at 2 p.m. EDT, Jeanne Meister, VP of market development for Accenture Learning; Brenda Sugrue, ASTD's own senior director of research; and Ray Vigil, CLO of Humana, Inc. will join together to discuss Accenture's research aimed at disovering "the specific practices, tools and technologies that drive high performance learning organizations."

"Winning Sales Presentations". Communispond is offering this free Webinar on June 24th at 11 a.m. EDT. It will cover active listening skills that can enable your sales staff "to deliver credible and concise presentations that are tailored to the customer’s own key objectives" and increase sales. Webinar registrants will also receive a free copy of the whitepaper "The Top Ten Reasons Why Sales Presentations Fail."

Manual Trackback and Trackback's learning potential

Ah, technology is great when it works, eh?

Trackback isn't working for some reason. (Trackback is the tool that allows readers of this blog to see what other blogs or Websites have linked to an item on here and what the authors have written about it.) I'm working on figuring out why TB isn't working, but in the meantime here's a manual Trackback link:

Why do people care about Trackback and seeing where info from various blog entries have been picked up? Because of the learning that can occur through the collective musings of various people on the same topic. Different information gets added as each person comments on the item.

See, this entry was about learning after all!

Go here and scroll down to the What's Next heading to learn about how some people are using Trackback with learning objects.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Two very cool ideas

1. SmallPiecesLooselyJoined at New Media Consortium (NMC 2004) conference

How can new social software tools be used in learning; how can educators "deploy, connect, de-connect them in useful and interesting ways"?

The SmallPiecesLooselyJoined presentation by Brian Lamb, Alan Levine, and D'Arcy Norman on June 17th at the University of British Columbia will include an activity done not only by the people at the NMC conference, but also by online contributors around the world.

Before, during, and after the conference, there will be three groups of people taking three different stances on educational technologies for the sake of discussion and learning. The groups are decentralist, centralist, and fence-sitter. Each group will have its own Weblog with RSS feed as well as a wiki.

Read this article to understand the how and why of the experiment--they can explain it a lot better than I can. It sounds fascinating; these three guys always seem to be on the cutting edge. I referenced their presentation on RSS, learning objects, and Trackback in my Learning Circuits RSS article.

2. Learning from your customers: Microsoft's Channel 9

Thanks to Bev Ferrell who pointed out on the trdev listserv a new offering by Microsoft, Channel 9. It's not a new software suite; rather it's a portal that combines online and new social software tools to open up conversation and learning between a group of Microsoft employees and customers.

Using tools like a blog, a discussion forum, a wiki, RSS feeds, video clips, and more, the site is a way for software developers to listen in to the creative process of five Microsoft workers. Their "Who We Are" page says:

"Welcome to Channel 9. We are five guys at Microsoft who want a new level of communication between Microsoft and developers. We believe that we will all benefit from a little dialogue these days. This is our first attempt to move beyond the newsgroup, the blog, and the press release to talk with each other, human to human."

The response has been very positive, judging from the comments on the site.

This is a daring move for any company. Making its processes transparent and its employees constantly accessible? Many organizations, especially large corporations, would run away from that idea. But I think a free exchange of information and learning, going both ways between employees and customers, can only be good.

What is it that the Cluetrain Manifesto says? "Markets are nothing more than conversations...We are key to the subject, but we're missing in action after working in secret for years. Our only hope is to talk. Starting now."

and, "...listen to these conversations coming from inside, outside, over, and above even the hardest-shelled companies that still think marketing means lobbing messages into crowds. Here is the sound our ancestors heard in those ancient marketplaces, where people spoke for themselves about what mattered to them."

The five Microsoft employees are putting those words into practice--using new online tools to make a huge company relate one a one-to-one level. Would your company or department benefit from doing something similar? What could your employees learn from your customers? What improvements could be made in your products or sales strategies or workers' productivity with an open conversation like this?

(NOTE: Apparently Channel 9 is run with the blessings of Bill Gates. He just endorsed blogs as business tools in his CEO Summit, says the BBC News. More than 700 Microsoft employees use blogs to update people on their projects, although it's not clear whether the readers are co-workers or customers or a combination of the two.)
Trackback added

There's a new addition to this blog's template: Trackback. It will, theoretically, let you see if other blogs or Websites have linked to my posts.

Since I'm not a programmer and am just cutting and pasting code from the kind folks who offer it for free (in this case, Haloscan), I'll be holding my breath to see if it works properly.

I know this is long overdue, but Blogger (who makes the software this blog is run off of) just started offering a comments feature and doesn't yet offer Trackback. So I had to find a way to jimmy it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Simulations and homeland security training

A recent article in BusinessWeek talks about simulation software and its use in homeland security training. The article notes that in the past, drama students have been used in counterterrorism exercises but that the costs were prohibitive and the exercises took a lot of time.

But new simulation and modeling software will help in homeland security training without the huge investments of time and money. This is what I was talking about in my April 30th blog entry on augmented reality. Although the BusinessWeek article talks mainly about simulations in which the person must be in front of a computer, I predict the next wave will be augmented reality-type simulations, which will expand the benefits of simulations even further.

The article does touch on some virtual reality uses. VR and augmented reality will really make simulations take off, I think. When people aren't tied down to a computer to access a simulation, simulations will have their day in the sun. Maybe homeland security training will provide the push for development of some really cool solutions.

In the meantime, if I were an e-learning supplier, I'd jump on this simulations and homeland security thing. This is going to be big.