Sweet Dreams, Jack!


The other day my friend Naomi Dunford posted an absolutely lovely audio version of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” that she read for her son Jack.  Many people commented that it brought tears to their eyes, and great joy to their hearts.places

So — always willing to jump on the bandwagon — I’ve recorded my own little bedtime reading for Jack, based on one of my favorite childhood memories.

Kid should be off to dreamland in minutes.


In The End, All You’ve Got Is Your Good Name


I’ve just completed a very strange experience with a client.  Well, she wasn’t actually a client — that would suppose that there had been an exchange of funds for services.  In this case, there were santamany promises of funds, but none ever showed up.  It’s not the first time that’s happened to me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  And it’s not even the biggest lie I’ve ever been told — there was Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Federal Reserve.

No, in this case, there was just a string of phone calls and emails about the bright future I would have if I just “trusted” her.  If I bought a plane ticket to her client site with my own money, if I started work without a deposit, if I kept revising my proposal over and over and over without ever getting a dime from her.  I wouldn’t pony up the money for the plane ticket (not my first time at the rodeo) but I did buy her book, read up on her theories, prepped for a phone conference, participated in more calls and email, and generally wasted hours I’ll never get back.

(My wife, who’s the financial brains in the family, thought I was a fool.  From the start she pegged this one for somebody who’d never pay up.  But I’m a Minnesotan — our word is our bond, and if you say you’re gonna do something, you do it.  And if you sign a freakin’ contract? Done deal, Bubba.)

This went on for three weeks.  Finally, I called a halt and said unless she paid the deposit in the contract that she had signed — nothing more would happen.

She said she’d pay if I signed an NDA.  Well, that’s pretty common, so I said sure.  The agreement was if I signed the NDA she’d send the deposit via return mail.  What’s the first clause in her NDA?  That I never, ever disclose to anyone outside her team that I participated in the development and facilitation of a public event for 50 learning professionals.  Huh?  Was I going to wear a hood? I signed, but asked in the return email if she wanted to discuss exactly how this would work.

Suddenly, I was being unreasonable.  We needed to talk.  She had a partner who had to be consulted — we might even have to “start over from zero.”  Ruh roh, Scooby. The next morning, I had an angry email in the inbox telling me the contract was “canceled” — and “since you haven’t done any work, I don’t owe you anything.”

I pointed her to the cancellation clause on my website, common to most freelancers.  It says that if I can re-sell the time, I’ll refund your deposit.  But my time is all I have to sell, and I’ve already told others I’m unavailable.

Is This A Teachable Moment?

Well, on the one hand, I suppose it should be.  I saw right away that this person was pretty emotionally unstable.  I’d known her for years — she’d actually been my employer for a bit quite a while back.  And I don’t remember any of this kind of stuff. But now she kept changing her mind, spent hours trying to decide on spending $400 on an airfare, continually promised to send a check that never materialized, ignored emails — not at all the kind of behavior that gives you confidence in a professional relationship.

Maybe this is just a difficult time in her life.  Maybe there are personal, physical or professional pressures on her right now that are causing this kind of erratic behavior.  (I went through menopause with my wife of 14 years, and, at times, she was nuttier than I am normally.)  Maybe the stress of starting a new company and striking out in a new direction have overwhelmed her — and somewhere down the road things would even out.

Twenty years ago, I’d be shouting “lawsuit” and bringing in the lawyers and enforcing every recourse that my contract entitles me to.  Now, a little older and wiser, I just feel sad that people don’t realize that the learning world is a pretty small pond and that the ripples reach from edge to edge.

My Heart Will Go On: Social Media In The Enterprise


I just read a wonderful post by Jane Hart entitled “The Future Of Social Media In The Enterprise“.  In it, she deftly describes an issue that I’ve been encountering often lately with potential clients who want to talk about using this game-changing paradigm-shifting bar-raising (insert your own favorite stupid marketing metaphor here) thing we call Social Media.

titanic1Her argument is quite elegant.  If I may distill it, she feels that using Social Media tools only behind your firewall (not allowing employees to connect outside the company) is short-sighted.  And that their real value is the cross-pollination and connection that comes from engaging across a discipline, around the world, and to people who see things in vastly different ways.

(I bet British Petroleum has a great internal forum to discuss how much time and money to spend when drilling really deep wells, and what to do when you get 700+ safety violations.  But maybe, if they’d been more connected to reality, they wouldn’t have lost $17 BILLON DOLLARS and become the poster boy for dumb.)

I have to say, though, that I’m getting a little bit tired having this discussion with people who are extremely focused on keeping the fence up between their employees and the rest of the world.  Stopping the dangers of Farmville, YouTube, and people randomly getting information they might use to improve their skills.  It’s exhausting to keep having the same chat with the same network administrators.  The same vendors who want to sell their custom “behind the firewall” solutions.  The same tiny minds who think they have all sorts of special secrets about how they put their canned hams in the boxes and ship them out.

Would it make more sense for me to have a “pre-work” session, where there’s an assessment of some kind?  And if the client is mostly focused on how to lock all the doors and bar all the windows — just smile and move along?

On Jane’s blog, I said it this way:

We try to run from or eradicate that which we do not understand. If we can’t kill it, we try to control it and limit the access of others.

Probably true with the first cave-person who found fire. Still true in corporate America today. I have to admit that I, personally, am actually getting a little tired of having this discussion with potential clients and people who ask for advice.

I want to just say “Whatever” and move on to someone who’s open to new ideas and things that might help them. (Kind of a lifeboat drill — if I’ve only got so many years left, do I spend them arguing with people about the VALUE of parachutes or just HAND OUT parachutes to as many people as possible before the crash?)

It’s actually kind of exhausting. Like trying to convince my mom that “unlimited long-distance” actually meant she could talk to me as long and as often as she liked.

Never won that one, either.

So what do you think?  Do you want a parachute, or should we keep talking about the nuts and the in-flight movie?


The Seven Habits Of Highly Annoying Clients — And How To Profit From Them


Like it or not, it seems that my market niche lately seems to be “highly annoying clients” — those folks that just seem to come with more baggage than the Gabor sisters and more issues than National Geographic.

dandelionYou all know who I’m talking about.  In the first five minutes, they’re telling me why their last guy was such an idiot.  Or how their niece could do this for them for free, but she doesn’t get to the halfway house until next week.  Little tiny warning flares from God that the road ahead will not be six lanes wide and newly paved.

Once upon a time, I tried to just blow these folks off.  But in this time of recession and depression (the recession is making me depressed) you want to grab every nickle that is dangled in front of you.  So I thought it might help to come up with some suggestions on how to handle some of the more common varieties of Clientus Problmaticus that might come stomping into your garden.

The Nickle Pincher

This guy is working on a limited budget (aren’t all budgets, by definition, “limited”?) and he thinks you should cut your price to get the work.  He talks a lot about all the work you’ll get later, all the big companies he’ll send your way, and all the “exposure” you’re going to get by working for him.

I tell him that sounds great — and give him a first price about 50% above what I might normally offer, then gradually allow him to shave it down lower and lower.  He gets the thrill of negotiation, I get enough that my hamsters eat two square meals a day.  Win/Win.

Ms. Deadline Adverse

You’ll know this little villain by the fact that she’s late for your first meeting.  Late for conference calls, late to return email, and late to pay.  You’ll also be getting your drafts signed late, your content and graphics late, and (very probably) complaints about your awful work late in the process — right about when she’s supposed to be paying you.

I’ve found that setting milestones as “final layout delivered 48 hours after client signs off on draft” is a much better deadline than “draft delivered Wednesday, final layout delivered Friday.”  It helps focus their attention and protect your soft, pink rear.

The Frustrated Artiste

I’d love to sing like Streisand, paint like Rembrandt, and blog like Chris Brogan.  But a man’s gotta know his limitations. (Thanks, Clint Eastwood.)  Some clients want to believe they’re actually copy editors, designers, or creative savants.  So each iteration of your project comes back with lots of little suggestions, additions, deletions and comments.

My quotes indicate that you get one draft to review and that’s it.  Additional drafts are charged at an embarrassingly high fee and take additional time.  Unless I screwed it up.  Which, of course, has never yet happened.  Ahem.

A Ghost Client

If you remember Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore in “Ghost” you’re probably aware of the Ghost Client.  They show up when the person who signed the contract seems to have to show all of your work to some other person before they can express an opinion, sign off, or even agree that you’ve completed that stage.  And if your Ghost Client is off visiting another Realm when you’re up against deadline, that can be problematic.

I find it quite helpful to specify (either in the contract or the project plan) just WHO it is that signs off at each step of the project, HOW they will be contacted, and the fact that if they don’t respond with XXX hours I will assume they have no issues and will move forward.  I then copy this info in the handoff mail that goes out to the team as each step happens.

So far, the only client I’ve never heard back from Patrick Swayze.

Miss Ida Know

When I was little, mom would take the four kids to the ice cream store with 33 Flavors.  In a flash, I picked what I wanted and got my cone.  My sister, on the other hand, would be there for ages — trying to decide exactly which flavor she was going to try this time.  (This may explain why I’m basically “ball-shaped” while she’s still running marathons.)

Never, EVER give your clients too many choices.  (See The Tyranny Of Choice if you’d like some background.)  I usually offer up three:

  • An OK one, that I’d be willing to do
  • The most awful, godforsaken ugly thing on the planet
  • My favorite

This allows the client to feel as though they’re participating in the process, and whichever one they choose I’m happy.  (If they pick the awful one I’ve got fodder for emails to all my friends for the next six months.)

YhaBut ChaKnow

Much like Boba Fett in the Star Wars movies, YhaBut is a strange creature that we humans will probably never understand.  He confuses us constantly by saying he completely agrees, and then utters his unmistakable call of  “YhaBut ChaKnow” and goes off on a huge list of things we should change, revise, or somehow make different.  When he finally runs down, he usually ends with a faint squeak of “I’m just sayin’” to protect his ruby-red tail feathers.

I’ve found that you can often satisfy this bird with “Those suggestions will be great for our next version” or “We’ll make sure to bring those back at the post-mortem” and he’s fine — like the Cuckoo Bird, he’s mainly trying to be noticed by the other birds and doesn’t care if his calls have any real impact. Once he knows you’ve heard and appreciated his unique song he’s off to sing from another tree.

Al MostPerfect

Al is a very, very quiet guy.  During the vision, design and draft portions of the project you’ll probably never hear a peep out of this client.  Everything looks great, seems fine, and there’s not a care in the world.  But come near him with anything stamped “FINAL” and you’ll be deafened by the noise.  Suddenly extra copy appears from nowhere — and it’s the most important concepts that have ever been heard.

Photos and artwork will spring from Al’s briefcase like a river in the spring.  New colors, patterns, concepts and design ideas leap to the fore.  Because, you know, now that it’s FINAL he’s FINALLY going to pay some attention. I love clients like Al.  They get charged 100% and 200% rush charges for changes (it’s in the contract) and the deadline slips accordingly (it’s in the contract).

One single “Al” bought me a really nice waterski boat a couple of years ago.


Now, before y’all go off on me in comments — take a deep breath and realize that this blog sometimes uses humor and exaggeration in the interest of entertainment.  So while I’m accurately identifying some of these clients, the names (and tactics) may have been changed to protect the guilty — as well as my income.

But my point here, if you’re still reading, is that in times of economic downturn you’re going to have to rein in all these critters if you want to keep making money.  So identify them fast, stop them from causing problems, and make sure that they don’t cause you a heap ‘o pain.

Is Learning Going Down The Toilet?

Update: If you do not have children in a large, urban school district this post may not make a lot of sense. You are among the lucky.

As someone who has used toilets for many, many years — with little formal training — I feel quite qualified to redesign our nation’s plumbing system to improve the performance issues that I’ve identified.

toilet(I’m basing this on the recent action of the State Board Of Education in Texas, in their amazing redesign of a curriculum created by professional teachers and learning designers. This is an attitude that I frequently encounter, in which someone who has experienced education feels that that qualifies them to design education for others.)

Now you might think that it would make more sense for me to ask a master plumber who has years of training and experience how to handle the waste that flows out of my home. But since I’ve spent so much time on the input side of the equation, I feel perfectly capable of making decisions without consulting one of these so called “plumbing gurus” and just going with my gut.  (First of many puns intended.)

My Ten-Point C.R.A.P. Program

With much thought, I’ve developed a Comprehensive Revised Aesthetics Processing (CRAP) program that will deliver a system flush with success and we’ll all come up smelling like roses.

  1. Your toilet will be assigned a particular plumber based on where you live, regardless of the quality of the plumber.  You can petition the local Plumbing Board to allow you to drive your toilet across town to a better plumber every morning, but we won’t pay to put it on a bus.
  2. If your plumber fails to unclog your toilet over and over, we’ll just move him to another geographic location.  Much like the Catholic Church, no matter how deep of a pile of shit he’s in we won’t admit it or take steps to remove him.
  3. We believe every single toilet is unique — so Plumbing Boards in each community must spend months deciding where to put the “flush” handle, how to connect the water, and whether or not the float is hollow. It would be impossible to have national standards of any kind for toilets. Local communities know better what they need.
  4. If, over several years, the toilet doesn’t perform well, we’ll just keep asking for more money for purchase of toilets.  And complaining that people don’t respect the work that toilets do.
  5. No toilet can be removed, even if it doesn’t perform at the most basic level.  Once installed, it’s there for life.  Best we can offer is a “substitute-potty” program where we have specialists come in for huge fees to try to fix the toilet and fail.
  6. Well over 50% of the budget for Toilet Repair will have to go to “Toilet Administration” — a group of people in nice suits who have never actually installed or used a toilet.  They’ll make charts, graphs, and evaluate the plumber as he is on his knees getting his hands dirty.
  7. If you have several toilets in your house, we will require that you balance the use of each amongst all family members.  Just because one is closer, performs better or has less gunfire will not be considered a factor.
  8. If you complain that your toilet doesn’t perform well, we will fight to the death any attempt to actually measure how well waste passes through.  Even though nearly every other profession in the world (from jet pilot to fry cook) is measured on results, we’re special. Plus, it might make the toilet feel bad if we labeled it as “failing” in some way.
  9. After 25 years, we’ll remove your toilet.  But you’ll still have to pay for it every month, along with a generous service allowance and perks.  And it’s free to go be a toilet for someone else and get paid twice for taking one load.
  10. Despite all this, you do have the option of installing your toilet in a “Charter RestRoom” that is sponsored locally for those who demand better performance.  You’ll still have to pay all the fees for that traditional toilet you’re not using, and at any time we retain the right to tell you we’re pulling the plug and your successful toilet no longer meets our standards.

Legislation is already in front of Congress (“No Behind Left Behind”) to implement this simple plan, and I encourage you to call your representative to urge them until it passes.  If they have trouble passing something of this size, there are aids available.

You Can Out-Teach The Competition

If you’re a small business, you can’t out-spend the competition on marketing.  But you can out-teach them.  Here’s a great video with David Heinemeier Hansson (a partner in 37signals and the creator of Ruby on Rails).

He’s talking about how they’ve built a great audience through blogs, lectures, seminars and other teachable moments.  Great stuff!

Source:  Venture Beat via Remarkablogger

Top 10 Reasons Twitter Doesn’t Work For You


So — you’ve finally decided to try out The Twitter and gotten your own little account.  You’ve posted your photo, added a nice little bio, and even followed some interesting folks.  But your initial tweets have gone out into the Interwebs with absolutely no indication that anyone heard them.  And you continue to tweet, as the silence begins to remind you of Junior High when the cool kids pretended you didn’t exist.  (I don’t know about this first hand, of course — but I’ve read stories.)

I can help.  Here are my best ideas on what you may be doing wrong — from a guy who just passed 10,000 tweets.


Number 10: You Actually Answer The Question “What’s Happening?”

We don’t care about you.  We care about us.  Tell me something I can use, something I’m interested in, or something that amuses me.  Your mom is the only one who wants to know what’s happening.

Number 9:  You’re The Mayor Of 7-11

The vast majority of the Twitter population doesn’t care what Mafia items you have or want, what part of Farmville you hail from, or your successful unseating of your brother-in-law and mayor of your patio.  See also #10.

Number 8:  Uve Abv8ted 2 Mch

Surprisingly, many of us on Twitter are not 14-year-old texting fanatics, and still use English as our first language.  If we can’t parse your message easily, we slide right past.

Number 7:  It’s A Conversation, Not A Lecture

While I’m really glad that you’ve just realized that Dolphins are gods from another universe, it would be really great if you got down off the soapbox once in a while.  Maybe we could find some common ground and actually provide value for each other.

Number 6:  I Don’t Care Which Starbucks You’re At

Unless I’m a burglar, I really don’t care that you’re currently located at the Starbucks on 185th and Glendenning.  And if I am a burglar, you’d better head home right now.

Number 5:  You’re Not Providing Value

If you’re a hairstylist, give me tips on how to keep my new cut looking great.  If you’re a mechanic, tell me what to watch for to keep my buggy running smooth.  If you’re a burglar, tell me how to keep bad guys out of my house.

Number 4:  You’re Thinking Short Term

Only Oprah and Bill Gates get lots of followers in days.  Your experience here in Twitville will be (most likely) a slow climb, and plan it that way.  Anyone who tells you you’re going to get 5,000 followers in a week is providing you meaningless names on a list, not people who really are interested in what you have.

Number 3:  You’re Being A Jerk

Make sure that if you “re-tweet” content you say so, and if you share ideas that started somewhere else you mention that.  Nothing gets you in hot water faster than being a TwitterPhoney.

Number 2:  You’re Trying To Be Somebody Else

The idea of “transparency” gets bantered around a lot, nowadays.  That doesn’t mean you have to tell us all about who you’re sleeping with or those Pop Tarts you shoplifted in the third grade — but you do need to be a real person in your online exploits.

…and the NUMBER ONE reason Twitter doesn’t work for you?

Number 1:  That Avatar Of You In The 4th Grade Just Isn’t That Cute

Yeah, somebody had to tell you.  You were a goofy looking little kid, and that’s why nobody wanted to share lunches with you.

Beyond The Lecture — Fighting The Learning Wars


If you’re involved in the process of trying to move information from your head into other heads (aka “learning” or “teaching” or “training” or “edumacating”) you probably began with the simplest form –

lecture1972the lecture. Open mouth, spew words, hope recipient can hear and understand and process and retain information. You used this model because for twelve years (or more) that’s the way you were taught in formal education.

And learners like lectures. They’re passive, and don’t require much. It’s easy to zone out, thinking about the weekend and having some fun. There’s little risk of looking stupid, or giving a wrong answer. Somebody else is driving, and you’re just along for the ride. All you have to do is keep your eyes open, avoid drooling, and ask a few easy softball questions at the end.

“So tell me, Professor Canhardly, since you wrote the text we’re using does that mean that you’d heartily endorse all the concepts and theories therein?”

Speaking as a presenter, we like lectures too! You all have to look at us up here in the front of the room, and pretend that what we’re saying is important. We get to decide what’s important, and what’s not. We get to make the lame jokes, and you have to pretend to laugh. And if you ask a difficult question, we get to deflect it or claim that it’s outside the bounds of our subject for today.

So — What’s The Problem?

The problem is (you just KNEW there was going to be a problem here, didn’t you?) that lectures aren’t very effective at long-term transfer of information from one humanoid to another. They’re pretty good if all you want to do is just jam some random facts in a head, take a test, and then forget it forever. Or if you’re just trying to get an evaluation that says “Dr. Neverdidt was really funny and told good stories”.

Here’s a simple example — if you’re headed out to the airport today, would you choose the pilot who’s heard a LECTURE on how to fly, or the pilot who’s actually FLOWN before?

Of course you’d want the guy who’d had some time actually doing the task, in addition to hearing someone talk about it.  And, in a nutshell, that’s why lectures really can’t do much more than give you a really nice overview of a topic.  In the learning world, we’ve got a way to measure what level of actual “doing” you’re going to have after we’ve taught you something — it’s called “Bloom’s Taxonomy“.  (A “taxonomy” is just a fancy word for a classification system — like the Dewey Decimal System at the library or the way butchers grade meat at the grocery store.)

Dr. Bloom ranked the learner’s ability to do something on six levels, and gave them names — and then provided examples and descriptive words to go along with — like so:


Example and Key Words

Knowledge: Recall data or information. Examples: Recite a policy. Quote prices from memory to a customer. Knows the safety rules.Key Words: defines, describes, identifies, knows, labels, lists, matches, names, outlines, recalls, recognizes, reproduces, selects, states.
Comprehension: Understand the meaning, translation, interpolation, and interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one’s own words. Examples: Rewrites the principles of test writing. Explain in one’s own words the steps for performing a complex task. Translates an equation into a computer spreadsheet.Key Words: comprehends, converts, defends, distinguishes, estimates, explains, extends, generalizes, gives Examples, infers, interprets, paraphrases, predicts, rewrites, summarizes, translates.
Application: Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an abstraction. Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel situations in the work place. Examples: Use a manual to calculate an employee’s vacation time. Apply laws of statistics to evaluate the reliability of a written test.Key Words: applies, changes, computes, constructs, demonstrates, discovers, manipulates, modifies, operates, predicts, prepares, produces, relates, shows, solves, uses.
Analysis: Separates material or concepts into component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between facts and inferences. Examples: Troubleshoot a piece of equipment by using logical deduction. Recognize logical fallacies in reasoning. Gathers information from a department and selects the required tasks for training.Key Words: analyzes, breaks down, compares, contrasts, diagrams, deconstructs, differentiates, discriminates, distinguishes, identifies, illustrates, infers, outlines, relates, selects, separates.
Synthesis: Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure. Examples: Write a company operations or process manual. Design a machine to perform a specific task. Integrates training from several sources to solve a problem. Revises and process to improve the outcome.Key Words: categorizes, combines, compiles, composes, creates, devises, designs, explains, generates, modifies, organizes, plans, rearranges, reconstructs, relates, reorganizes, revises, rewrites, summarizes, tells, writes.
Evaluation: Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials. Examples: Select the most effective solution. Hire the most qualified candidate. Explain and justify a new budget.Key Words: appraises, compares, concludes, contrasts, criticizes, critiques, defends, describes, discriminates, evaluates, explains, interprets, justifies, relates, summarizes, supports.
Source: http://www.skagitwatershed.org/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html

So, any time you want to teach somebody something, you can think about measuring what they can do based on these six levels.  They range from very low “knowledge” to very high “evaluation”.  To make that a little easier to understand, let’s try a couple of examples.

Suppose your job was to teach people to tie their tennis shoes.  Here’s what that might look like in the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Knowledge: Recall data or information.

Can identify tennis shoes from loafers.

Comprehension: Understand the meaning, translation, interpolation, and interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one’s own words.

Can explain why it’s important to tie shoes correctly (“fall down – go boom!”)

Application: Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an abstraction. Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel situations in the work place.

Can demonstrate how to tie shoes.

Analysis: Separates material or concepts into component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between facts and inferences.

Can compare how to tie tennis shoes and boots with hooks and loops.

Synthesis: Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure.

Can devise how long laces must be by counting number of holes, calf size and knotting/lacing model.

Evaluation: Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials.

Can compare and contrast use of rawhide laces, nylon laces, catgut and cotton to recommend the best choice for each situation.

One more example? How about that jet pilot, learning to deal with losing an engine…

Knowledge: Recall data or information.
Can list the basic steps in engine restart.
Comprehension: Understand the meaning, translation, interpolation, and interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one’s own words.
Can give examples of why an engine may have failed, and probable causes.
Application: Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an abstraction. Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel situations in the work place.
Can demonstrate the “Hot Engine Restart” procedure in the flight simulator.
Analysis: Separates material or concepts into component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between facts and inferences.
Can analyze cockpit instrumentation to determine most likely cause of failure and choose best restart mode.
Synthesis: Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure.
Can combine engine-out experiences to generate emergency plan for unforeseen circumstances.
Evaluation: Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials.
Can land plane in the Hudson River and have every single person walk away alive.


So, this is why it’s sometimes important to think a little bit further than just lecturing to people about what it is that you want them to know. And that means things like getting their little fingers dirty, testing out concepts, discussing and experimenting, role-playing, tearing it apart, putting it back together, breaking it, fixing it, building a completly new model — all the stuff that takes more time and costs more money.

And aren’t you glad that US-Air did that stuff?
(Updated 5/17/2010 to reflect, as mentioned by a commenter, that Captain Sullenberger actually flew for US-Air.)

Learning To Use That New Hammer


I’m facilitating a workshop this week for a bunch of Learning 2.0 folks in Las Vegas. (No, I have no plans to be “teaching” or “training” — thanks for asking.)  The title I came up with is “Relax!  Everything You Know About Content Is Wrong…”

hammerYeah, part of getting sessions accepted is a catchy title — but I really believe that most everything we’ve taught our students about content in their formal educational history is wrong.  How we design it, how we deploy it, how they interact with it and how we judge if they’ve taken it in successfully.

So I spend a great deal of time nowadays talking to fellow learning designers about that, in the guise of showing them “new media tools” like Twitter and Facebook and NING and Wicker and Spooty and Fitzzle…  (Points will be given for those of you who realize which of those are made up gibberish.)

In reality, these things are just tools.  What we’re really doing is responding to the fact that there are better ways of dealing with today’s learners and their needs, and the existence of some of these new technologies is giving us a long overdue kick in the Kirkpatrick to encourage some change.

Here’s my list of what “old” content looks like:

  • I’m up HERE, you learners are out THERE
  • I know the answers.  You’re supposed to take them in from me.
  • My answers are the right ones.  Yours are not.
  • My content (the text book) is correct.  Your experience or theories are not valid.
  • We measure success on how well you can parrot back to me what I said.
  • Old, gray heads make the best choices about what to learn, when, and how.
  • You start here.  Then you do this, then this, then that.  Then you stop.
  • If I want your input, I’ll ask for it.  And then evaluate it.
  • You in the back — quit whispering. You’ll disturb others.
  • Here’s a list of work to do outside of class. I chose it.
  • These are the accepted resources and authorities. I chose them.
  • At the end, we’ll grade on a curve.  There will be winners and losers.
  • If you’re louder, you get noticed.  If you’re quiet, you don’t.
  • If you agree with my theories, you’ll get praised.  If you don’t, you won’t.
  • You should highlight the stuff that I say is important — it will be on the test.
  • Name in the upper left-hand corner.  Points given for neatness.

So — what did your classroom look like when you were in school?  My workshop at TechKnowledge 2010 (TK10) in Las Vegas this week will break every single one of these rules, I hope.

It should be total chaos.

Using Content To Find New Four-Legged Clients


Yesterday I spent some time talking to a new client (whee!) about what seems to be a very common problem for small businesses.  And it looks like I’ll be doing some work with them, and actually using them as a case study of sorts.

It’s the Wateree Animal Hospital in Camden, SC.  I found them because one of our little pugs had a sore leg, and I just wasn’t happy with the big “shopping center vet” that we’d been going to — so I asked my Twitter peeps for a recommendation.  They sent me to a town about a half hour from my house, that’s even smaller than Columbia.  Tiny.


Why did I go there?  Well, because my pets are very important to me, and I wanted someone who’d really care about them.  And take good care OF them. (And it didn’t hurt that their web site had a HUGE picture of a pug on the home page.)

I ended up spending time talking with the owner, with the Practice Manager, and several other members of the staff after Max got his leg taken care of.  They had a pretty decent web site, and had just set up a Facebook page.  But were a little confused about what happens next.

(If you tell people you’re a nerd, you probably have this conversation as often as I do.  And find it just about impossible to explain how to use social media effectively in ten minutes.  Unless you’re Chris Brogan.)

So I offered to come back and spend an hour or so showing them around the Interweb and give them a few pointers, in thanks for getting my doggie back to top condition.  That led to lots of talking, and now we’re going to spend some time adding good content to their site, doing some SEO, sharing out what they know on Twitter and Facebook, etc.  All the basics.

Will I get rich off this?  No.  But it will be lots of fun, I’ll be able to write a heck of a case study, and who knows — someday I may need to get a pug taken care of at 2AM on a Sunday.

Just feeding the Karma machine.