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Thriving in the Virtual Workplace

One of my most popular learning programs is a series of four webinars entitled, “Thriving in the Virtual Workplace.” It actually started out as a three day training program for OPM and, over the past few years, has since gone many iterations and updates resulting in four 90-minutes webinars:

  • Creating a Remote Work Culture sets the foundation for the program by helping individuals and teams establish “Rules of Engagement” to work better remotely.
  • Making Remote Work looks specifically at what research says about working remotely and gives you insights into your work habits and how you can be more productive in a remote environment.
  • Building the Virtual Team focuses on how to use technology to maintain collaboration, camaraderie, and productivity as more teammates work remotely more often.
  • Virtual Team Management closes the circle on “Rules of Engagement” and introduces Results Based Management.

As the program evolved over the years, I’ve incorporated lots of research and other great resources, but was much too lax on building a single resources page for it. So this post is to rectify that. What follows is an assuredly incomplete and rather scattershot list of some of the resources that went into the design of the program, organized by which webinar they most closely track to:
Creating a Remote Work Culture

Making Remote Work

Building the Virtual Team

Virtual Team Management

Well, there is the (spotty) list thus far. I will update this post as I discover (or remember) other resources. If you have any suggestions for things that should be added to the list, please leave me a comment!

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Internet

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HowMyDoin? – The Future of Feedback

Do you really know how you are doing?
How to you gather honest feedback on a regular basis to be sure you are getting better that the things that matter to you?
Those are the answers that we are trying to answer, with the new web application we are developing, HowMyDoin:

I have the great pleasure of be one of the co-founders of HowMyDoin. All three of the founders work in organizational development and performance improvement. We all wanted to find something better than standard 360-degree reviews to help people get feedback. We cam together to create a better, simpler, and continuous solution.
HowMyDoin solves the most challenging aspects of giving and receiving feedback. It’s free, flexible, and it allows for continuous, real-time feedback. You can customize HowMyDoin to get the specific feedback that is most valuable to you. And you own all your results—you can take your feedback with you throughout your life. Every free HowMyDoin account includes a standard “good person” survey and any one of the topical surveys (such as “Manager” or “Writer”) from our catalog. And for the people giving feedback, HowMyDoin makes it quick and convenient to give constructive feedback from any PC or mobile device.
HowMyDoin is currently under development. And to help raise funds to get version 1.0 built, we have a KickStarter campaign underway. Please click the logo below to go to our Kickstarter page and support us any way you can:
We greatly appreciate any support you can throw our way! As we continue to develop the application and prepare to launch the beta version, I be sure to post all the latest info.

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Internet

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An Inmagic Chat About Knowledge Ecosystems

Inmagic PrestoA week or so ago, I was invited to chat with the folks at Inmagic about the current and future state of knowledge management and its relationship to social media.  They recorded the conversation for a podcast. I will leave it to their fine prose to explain the call (only adding that I was a biologist once – B.S in Biology from Purdue University – and I still don’t like the sound of my own voice ;o).
After you listen to the podcast, I would love to hear your thoughts on the conversation and whether you have encountered any resistance to social media from knowledge management practitioners.

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Internet, Learning

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Perry Belcher’s Seven Secrets of Social Media

(Thanks to Mike Fruchter‘s post on Louis Gray’s blog for pointing out this video)
Perry Belcher provides a very entertaining video on the etiquette of social media.  Though he styles it toward individuals, the ideas are just as applicable to organizations and brands.  Watch the whole video, but here is his list of seven secrets:

  1. Be remarkable
  2. Be fun
  3. Be helpful
  4. Be supportive
  5. Be controversial
  6. Be resourceful
  7. Don’t be an asshole (i.e, don’t be a flogger)

If you like that one, you might also want to watch his How to Make Money with Social Media.  It does not go into any monetization details, but it expands the etiquette nicely into a pattern of good marketing behavior on the social Web.

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Internet, Society

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Web 2.0: Show Us The Money!

I wanted to post this video for two reasons: 1) They used the nearly the same headline as I did (and who knows how many others have ;o); and 2) while my post is a dry review of the ways to generate revenue on the Web, Charlene Li and Sarah Lacy have a brief but interesting discussion about why monetizing social networks is different from search and other general Web advertising (the favored monetization model on the Web).  I especially liked Charlene’s comment that Twitter may be amassing a more valuable data set than Facebook because they capture what “people are paying attention to” right now.  Take five minutes to check it out:

Posted in: Business, Internet

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Web 2.0 Executive Bootcamp in London

As I mentioned in the last post, I seem to be a glutton for punishment.  So, three days after I return from Sydney, I will be jetting off to London to deliver a special version of the Web 2.0 Executive Bootcamp.  I have had the great fortune to work with Scott Gavin of Applied Trends and I think we have put together a great day of learning.  If you will be in London on September 30, come join us!

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Is Guttenberg Making Us Stoopid? – What Books are Doing to Our Minds & Spirit

(England, July 2, 1508) – In the latest edition of the Ye Atlantic Monthly, Nicholas of Carr despairs over the toll that books and reading are taking upon the minds and spirit of man.  A noted jongleur and philosopher, Nicholas attests that he and many members of the jongleur guild are losing their ability to sing epic poems from memory.  He plainly believes books are the cause.  “It is as if these instruments are agents of Lucifer trying to steal away God’s gift of memory”, he laments in the article.  And the danger may be more than the loss of the jongleur gift.  While it seems ludicrous, Nicholas foresees a future in which even peasants have learned to read books.  People from every class would lose the ability to remember even the simplest parable or psalm as they rely on the insidious books to remember it for them.  While admitting that relying on books would provide him more epics and ideas to share with his audience, Nicholas worries that doing so will weaken his mind and spirit.  “To rely on the crutch of a book when I sing a poem cheats my audience and demoralizes me,” declares Nicholas of Carr.
OK, unless you are an Atlantic Monthly reader, you are probably thinking that this is a very strange way to start a post.  If you would like to better understand my lame attempt at parody, please read this:


Is Google Making us Stupid?

Nicholas Carr’s love/hate relationship with technology have given us very interesting food for thought such as Does IT Matter?, The Amorality of Web 2.0, and his recent, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google.  All his works are thought provoking and often challenge ideological extremism and divisiveness that tends to echo rampantly in the blogosphere.

I will leave the critical diatribe to others (see Jay Cross’s petulance).  This is a blog on learning and performance improvement.  So, in that regard, let me share the ideas that struck me as I read the article:
Acquired ADD – Carr laments how he and colleagues can’t read lengthy articles any longer.  They have been conditioned by the Web (so he contends) to do drive-by reading (my term d’art), only gathering the information they need and then moving on.  Yea, so?  Let’s face it, we are moving into an attention economy.  My time is valuable, I need to get what I need to perform and move on quickly if I want to remain competitive.  And when I do compete well enough to win some leisure time, I will still “scuba dive in the sea of words” (Carr’s reference to deeply reading a whole book).  But that book better be engaging (which is rare in non-fiction) or I’ll quickly find another book that is.  Does this mean we are worse readers, or just demanding better quality reading?
It’s the Economy Stupid – Like it or not, we all have to compete in this dynamic economy.  That means using the best tools available to innovate, solve problems, and out produce your competitors.  Carr shares that pathologist Bruce Friedman’s feels his thinking has taken on a “staccato” quality – “scanning short passages of text from many sources online.”  So?  If the only downside is you can’t plod through War and Peace any longer and the upside is you perform more efficiently, I’m OK with that.
The Brain : Mind Barrier – Carr’s most dark and insidious concern throughout the article is that we are flirting with a future where machines have surpassed the human brain.  He even claims that the Google gang stated that “we’d be better off” if are brains were replaced by an artificial intelligence (I’m guessing they stated “supplemented” instead of “replaced”).  Indeed, Carr closes with his fears of a 2001: A Space Odyssey world where “people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine.”  Well, that makes for a nice, spooky movie, but it is fiction.  To make that leap, we would have to agree that the brain and the mind are one.  We would have to have concluded that self-awareness, reasoning, cognizance, and intelligence are all just a by-product of an efficiently wired brain.  I don’t believe that conclusion is already settled and universal.  The Web may become an ancillary brain for us, but it can never replace the human mind.
Maslow's Needs PyramidMaslow on Google – If we drop the economic argument (after all the market may not always know what is best for us) of performance improvement, how does Carr’s claim impact us as individuals?  Will our collective inability to finish lengthy tomes upset our personal success?  If it does turn out that a “staccato intellect” results in me better meeting my needs, it is well worth it.  To contemplate this, let’s revisit Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as influenced by the Web:

  • Physiological Needs (Breathing, Drinking, Eating, Excretion) – Other than the fact that the eventual demise of newspapers and magazines will alter my excretion behaviors, I do not believe the Web impacts us at this level.
  • Safety Needs (Personal Security, Financial Security, Health and Well-Being) – Even if the Web has given me ADD, it has provided me with a host of tools and information to find a better home, clothing, invest more wisely, and learn how to take better care of my health.
  • Social Needs (Friendship, Family, Sex) – Others could argue finer points, but overall I would say the Web has proven to be a wonderful platform to help meet these needs.  It helps us find and stay in touch with friends, find spouses and communicate with the families we create with them, and find opportunities to have sex (with others or alone ;).
  • Esteem Needs (Self-Esteem, Confidence, Achievement, Respect for/of Others) – Now on this need, the Web’s influence becomes arguable.  The Web, like any tool or communication platform, can be used for good and bad.  Via the Web I can build great esteem, or have my esteem destroyed by others.  I’m going to call this one a draw now, but as we grow into the new mores of radical transparency and attention trust, the good will soon outweigh the bad.
  • Self-Actualization Needs (Morality, Creativity, Spontaneity, Problem Solving) – And finally, we reach the level most directly addressed by Carr’s concerns.  This is our need to become the best we are capable of becoming.  Learning, creating, reading, curiosity are all the traits that Carr worries the Web might be undermining.  Again, I will argue that the good outweighs the bad.  Through “drive-by learning” I can still gather more ideas that feed my morality, creativity, and problem solving abilities.  Inevitably, I will still be forced to more deeply contemplate those ideas as I weave them into my world view.  And often the Web (or people on the Web) will be what challenges me to contemplate them more deeply.

Learning 2.0 – And finally onto what this blog is supposed to be considering: How do people learn differently in this new, Web-driven era?  Carr’s article included many examples of how new technologies (such as the mechanical clock) have literally changed the way we think and behave.  Carr’s basic concern is the Web has ruined our ability to read deeply which (he references to the work of Maryanne Wolf) will ruin are ability to think deeply.  (Which begs the question: Can illiterate people think deeply?)  There is certainly no research to support that assertion, yet.  But there is no doubt that the Web is changing the way we work and learn.  So, the important question for us in learning is: How does our pedagogy have to change to support this new way of working and learning?  Even if this new era of acquired ADD does not alter our brain function or our ability for higher-level thought, it is a death knell for lengthy (boring) learning – whether it be in a classroom or online.  We need to move from structured learning programs to flexible, nimble chunks of instruction along the lines of what used to be called “electronic performance support systems” (and is now just called “Google”).  This does not mean the extinction of complex learning programs, but those programs’ design and delivery need to radically change.  They must rely on more self-directed, mentor-monitored learning that is tightly integrated with daily job performance to meet the learning and development objectives.
So ends my Nicholas Carr inspired prattle.  If you made it this far, I congratulate you!  Your Web-induced ADD is not as advanced as Bruce Friedman’s, who is quoted in Carr’s article:

“I can’t read War and Peace anymore.  I’ve lost the ability to do that.  Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb.  I skim it.”

Posted in: Adapting, Internet, Learning

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Steve Ballmer Made Me Wear a Tie

Steve Ballmer at MIX08 in MilanToday I had the great pleasure of presenting a session on Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 at MIX08 Italy in Milan. I was there as a guest of our strategic partner in Italy and Germany, Reply. The day was kicked off with a keynote by Microsofy CEO, Steve Ballmer (see videos here). There are other posts about his comments on Yahoo! So I thought I would just share some of my thoughts on the other parts of his talk (and the follow-up Q&A).
Content + Community + Commerce was the mantra for the talk. This seems to be there way of recognizing that software is not the main driver in IT any longer. Now it is all about getting people what they want (content) in a social experience of their choosing (community) and, of course figuring out how to monetize that (commerce) so you can stay in business. The one thing that struck me from the talk was that the only monetization model he talked about was advertising. While I’m sure they are considering service subscription models as well, he didn’t mention it. During Q&A the theme came up again when he said the reason they were after Yahoo! was that they were a advertising and marketing platform that was already at “critical mass.”
Software + Services is the solutions theme for Microsoft. This is there take on how they will help us serve the C+C+C from above. Despite Ray Ozzie’s release of Live Mesh and some observations that MS finally sees that software is dead, Steve stressed the continued importance of software. He described how software will evolve in an environment that wisely balances desktop, Web, enterprise, and devices. Seems to me the “software vs. services” debate is semantic posturing. In either case we will still need engineers writing code that moves bits.
“Consumer, consumers, consumers.” That quote and his discussion of consumers was the only part Steve’s talk that made me cringe and think they still don’t get it. In this day and age, no business should look at their users/customers as consumers. I agree with Matt Jones’s definition of consumers. The people who use our products are our partners, not mindless consumers. Empowering people to partner with us to make our products better is at the heart of Web 2.0. If Microsoft does not get this, they are going to have a tough row to hoe.
Looking foward five years. Finally, perhaps the most animated and interesting part of his talk were his visions of the future of computing. They really were about services (supported by software) that reflected the pending convergence in media and technology. To paraphrase badly, he told a brief story envisioning a future when he is golf watching “TV” and shouts “Hey Bill, did you see Tiger sink that putt”. His intelligent “TV” would recognize that Steve wanted to say that to Bill Gates and would instantly find if Bill Gates was available for Steve. Bill’s “cell phone” would let Bill (sitting on a beach somewhere) know that there was a message from Steve and play the audio of Steve’s comment as well as the video of Tiger’s putt. Steve would respond, “that was nice – what kind of ball is he using?” Steve would rewind the video, zoom in on the ball, click it and get instant information about it and a link to buy it. He would tell Bill the brand and order two boxes for them. This was just one example of his crystal ball gazing – he also discussed ePaper and projectable surfaces.
Overall, his talk was interesting but didn’t break any new earth. But it did make me wear a tie. I try to avoid wearing a tie like I try to avoid root canal surgery. When I asked my Reply hosts if a tie was required for my presentation, the response was something along the lines of, “we know Americans don’t really wear ties – let’s wait and see what Steve does…” So, I was counting on Steve to go tieless. Wisely, he chose to show respect for the host culture and he wore a tie. So, I followed suite.  The most difficult part of the whole day was remembering how to tie my tie…

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