Check this out (I can't say more):
Check this out (I can't say more):
Michael Lewis's new book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, sounds fascinating---and important.
Brad Pitt bought the movie rights, so it's clearly got an interesting story to tell.
Michael Lewis tells the story of the folks who first figured out that the financial disaster was coming (the one that caused our current Great Recession). Lewis shows how these oddball stock traders figured out how Wall Street was making huge mistakes---when no one else could see it coming.
The following two interviews are must reading if you want to know how we got into the economic mess we are in. They're also riveting storytelling for the most part.
Learning professionals should listen to the interviews---and read the book too---for two themes: (1) How do people's mental models make it hard for them to understand the changing landscape, (2) How attempts at persuasion often fail in the face of these mental models. You might also find it fun to consider how you would "train" the citizenry to have a better understanding of how its government and Wall Street tycoons failed, how financial markets work, etc. Finally, note how Michael Lewis (and the interviewers) set up the dialogue to make a very difficult topic understandable. Great stuff!!
Great article on How to Create Great Teachers. It's focused on K-12 education primarily, but there is wisdom in the discussion relevant to workplace learning.
Here's the major points I take away:
The following photographs I took with my cell phone (Samsung Omnia) looking outside my windshield while double-parked in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can click to enlarge the pictures.
Here is a question for you to answer:
Why do the snowflakes in the picture look like needles (or needle-like structures)? To make this more difficult, more than one answer is correct.
1. They broke apart while falling to the earth.
2. They were originally formed as needle-like structures.
3. They shattered into pieces when they hit objects.
4. The temperature of the air dictated the shape.
5. They combined into needle-like structures while falling.
See if you can guess one of the correct answers. DON'T FORGET TO HIT THE "VOTE" BUTTON !!
How This is Relevant to the Workplace Learning-and-Performance Field.
Most people will probably get the answer to the snowflake question wrong, even with a 40% chance of getting a correct answer. Most of us have only learned about the prototypical snowflakes, those with beautiful six-sided symmetry. But as it turns out, snowflakes actually can take many forms, including the needle-like snowflakes in the pictures above. Snowflakes formed at different temperatures form into different patterns.
Here are a few articles on snowflakes.
Why do we think of snowflakes as hexagonal even though we must have encountered other snowflake types throughout our lives?
Yes, we were trained wrong. Indoctrinated in the six-sided mental model of snowflakes, we haven't always been able to see what is right in front of us.
Does this sort of mental-model obfuscation happen in our field? You bet. It happens in every field.
Here are some candidate mental models that we ought to watch out for:
This is just a quick list. I'm sure I have my own blind spots.
The key is to recognize that we might be blinded by our preconceptions, we need to be open, and we need to have a way to get valid feedback on what we're doing.
Sometimes hiring an outside learning guru can help. Sometimes reviewing the research can help. Still, we need better feedback loops. We need to measure better.
I'm available to help.
Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, administered the oath of office for the Presidency of the United States to Barack Obama on Tuesday January 20th, but screwed it up big time while relying on memory, even though the oath is only 35 words long.
He's a very smart guy and thought he could easily recall the words to the oath.
Steven Pinker, linguist and cognitive scientist extraordinaire wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times trying to explain the cause of problem, but as is often the case with grand theorists, missed a much more practical and important point.
When in situations of high stress, people may be better off relying on external memory aids (performance support tools) than their fallible memories. Actually, this is true for periods of low-stress as well. Our memories are fallible.
Later in the evening of the 20th, Roberts and Obama got back together to perform the task again. Hmmm. Let's see, two of the most powerful people in the world wasting time due to a learning-and-performance failure. What's the ROI on that?
Politics yuck, politics tricks, politics risk, politics fix, politics rules, politics is. Truth is, politics is the hand-to-hand application of anecdotal and scientific wisdom on human learning and cognition.
Here in the United States, we are in the middle of an exciting and critical Presidential election campaign. I love observing politics because I find it intriguing from a learning-and-cognition standpoint. Here are some things we (as learning professionals) can learn from the political wizards.
Bottom line: Embrace politics; it's only human.
Dan Savage, noted syndicated sex-advice columnist (warning: graphic discussions), said recently on the radio show Infinite Mind that through the years he's seen a change in the questions people are asking him. No longer are they asking him simple questions about what a particular sex act is, how to do it, etc. He's says the internet has changed what people want to know about. They can quickly google the basic stuff online. Now they want to know more about the deeper stuff, the relationship stuff, etc.
Is there a parallel for employee-training situations?
Do we need to embrace deeper, more emotional, and/or more penetrating learning methods?
Does this relate to some content and not others?
Or, should we make sure we do a new round of needs assessment to explore how our learners are getting their information, what information they're getting already, what information they still need?
Or, should we just remember to ask ourselves, "What can we do to make training/learning sexy?"
The NY Times had a nice article in last Sunday's edition---on the front page above the fold---on the concept of Web 3.0, which may have implications for our field.
To give you a sense of what Web 3.0 is, here are some quotes from the article:
The goal then is to be able to analyze the information from the web and come up with quick and meaningful responses to queries people ask.
Hmmm. That's sort of a learning application in a way.
And, if we can create such systems, why couldn't we ask a query like, "I want to become a CLO at a socially responsible company, and I'm currently an instructional designer with an undergraduate degree in humanties and an MBA, plus 5 years experience as a leadership trainer. What do I have to do reach my goal and what do I have to learn?"
What would Web 3.0 mean for our field?
For decades, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been touting schemes to attempt---at least ostensibly---to help Americans eat more healthfully. From the 4-food-group concept to the current food pyramid, the idea has been to help us think more intelligently about what we eat. The development of these formulations have always been under influence by industry groups representing food companies and health advocates, and it has never been clear that the resulting compromises have been effective. Note the current obesity epidemic as evidence.
But now, the Hannaford Brothers supermarket chain is taking matters into their own hands. Hannaford's nutritionists have developed a simple coding system to let shoppers know the relative health value of foods. Three stars is most healthy. Zero stars is least healthy. And while the coding system is simple, the underlying algorithm---the algorithm that assigns the ratings---is complex.
Listen to this: 77% of all the items on Hannaford's shelves rated zero stars. Even most of the Hannaford Store brand items get zero stars. Our choices are not very nutritious!!
As you might imagine, some manufacturers are not happy.
Only time will tell whether shoppers will change their eating habits---or whether food manufacturers will change the formulas for their processed foods to get a better star rating, and Hannaford will be able to track this data very easily. It's hard to tell whether the food pyramid has had an effect. Hannaford's Guiding Star system will be much easier to assess. I hope they've got some control-group stores to make comparisons.
I love the simplicity of the system. It's like a job aid on steroids. It's simple. It's provided exactly when needed (as shoppers make their selections), and it's based on proven nutritional recommendations.
Those of us in the learning-and-performance field can learn a lot from this design.
To read the excellent NY Times article, click here.
Anna Belyaev and her team at Type A Learning Agency have inspired this question:
"What do professions outside the training/development/performance field have to teach us about learning design?"
They ask this of themselves all the time, and now they've got me thinking. I'm going to share my thoughts when they arise. Here's the first one.
I heard Bill Clinton's eulogy for Coretta Scott King and I was touched by it. It was a simple podcast from NPR. It was just audio. But I was emotionally engaged and I listened with great interest and intent.
Ms. King lead an especially meaningful life as a civil rights leader, advocate of non-violent struggle for racial equality, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Learning, first and foremost, requires learners to pay attention. This is often a conscious intentional process. It is often an unconscious and unintentional process as well. Either way, attention is one of the leverage points that we can use to spur learning and retention. Usually, if we increase attention we increase learning.
What if we could distill the factors that help keep learners engaged and attentive to our learning messages. Let's take Bill Clinton's eulogy for a minute. What does it do that grabs attention? Can we borrow these factors, or are they specific to eulogies and great public speakers?
Here are some of the factors that may be at work:
What else did you hear that worked to make this a compelling communication? What didn't work for you? Why did things work or not? Did your political beliefs and convictions affect how you received the message?
Obviously, there are some things on my list above that we may not be able to use in our training. Religious symbolism has its pitfalls. You can't always find celebrities as voice talent. You can't always find great public speakers. You can't kill someone every time you create a course on Microsoft Excel.
But we can at least move in these directions. We can sometimes appeal to people's sense of responsibility or justice. We can sometimes find appropriate ways to get highly-visible company personalities to get involved. We can sometimes find real-world stories that show the negative consequences of what happens when training recommendations aren't followed.
I'm a big advocate for research-based or evidence-based instructional design. As we move through our own worlds, we can keep track of what grabs our attention and what spurs our learning. We can also pay attention to fields whose very survival depends upon grabbing attention or creating learning. There wouldn't be television, theater, radio, newspapers, magazines, pornography, religious services, performance poetry, books, ballet, music, or Cirque du Soleil if people in these professions hadn't figured out time-tested ways to grab attention and keep interest. The factors they use are there for us all to see and hear (and experiment with and utilize in our instructional designs), if only we begin to look and listen!!