Let Me See If I Can Simplify This For You

SoMe Sports Drink

I read a lot about “Social Media” and all the rules that people have come up with, the tips and tricks that have been enumerated, and my friend Chris Brogan has even created an entire book on the subject that he signs in airport bookstores so they can’t possibly return them to the publisher.

But I’m not sure (sorry, Chris!) that it really has to be all that complex.  I’m a simple man, and have trouble remembering lots of rules.  It’s the reason I don’t play card games, join secret societies, or work for the Transportation Safety Administration.  Rules make my head hurt.

SoMe Sports Drink

But Social Media (have you heard, now we’re supposed to call it “SoMe”?  Sounds like a sports drink.) really doesn’t have to be that hard.  Let old Uncle Dick simplify it for you.

Just focus on “Social”.

Long before you met the Twitters or logged on to the Interwebs, you knew how to be social.  Dress nice, look them in the eye, and have a firm handshake.  Don’t go where you’re not wanted, speak when spoken to, and respect your elders.  Introduce yourself, be interesting, and don’t hog the conversation. Find out what the other person is interested in, don’t yell and knock things over, help someone if you can.

People generally get into trouble with Social Media when they do something that would get them thrown out of a cocktail party or put in detention in the 3rd grade.  And they’re successful with Social Media when they do stuff that would get them invited back.

So don’t spill, don’t hog all the pizza rolls, and don’t try to pick up your host’s teenage daughter.  And you’ll do fine.

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.

What’s my home office secret? Organization — I don’t haz it.


My home office is a chaotic mess, but it’s MY mess. It’s a comfortable place to work, allows the cat lots of places to throw up, and causes lots of creativity to happen as a pile of filing cascades over a pile of client proposals. (This gives me a no-cost brainstorming session, something that I charge my clients big bucks to facilitate in their neat offices.)

Need to find a receipt from several months ago? That’s about two inches down. A proposal for a client from last year? Just search the “C:” drive for “*.doc” and it’s sure to show up. One of the pugs barking angrily and can’t find him? Poke those back corners with a stick and wait for the squeal.

max_in_laundry2The computer equipment is even more entertaining. As a former Microsoft employee, I’m sure my clients envision some kind of “clean room” environment, with gleaming server racks and cables with wy-ties on every bundle. Nope. Few of the boxes even have the covers on, dust bunnies are everywhere, and cables loop and swoop.

There’s a nice color printer I don’t use anymore, because the ink ran out. Now I rely on an old HP Laserjet I got for $50, because there’s still some toner in the cartridge. My speakers are a little tinny, because the puppy chewed on the bass unit under the deck and it’s never really worked right since then. And it’s hard to see the keyboard, because the bulbs burned out in the overhead light a few weeks ago.

Wireless? Not too reliable. The router is balanced precariously on a windowsill, and when kitty suns herself we get unexpectedly disconnected. Not to mention that it’s plugged in to a bus bar with about 20 other power plugs, all on a 15-amp circuit in a very old house. Spikes? Nah — I doubt the power here ever gets above about 90 volts on a good day.

But I don’t have to worry about any of my customers EVER seeing the truth. For all they know, it looks like a NASA Shuttle Assembly Bay here.

Ah, Working At Home. Not bad — not bad at all.

Is NPR Denser Than Chengdeite?


They say the densest material on earth is something called “Chengdeite“. But this morning I was listening to a reporter on NPR, and I’m thinking we’ve got a new competitor in the race.

teacherThe story was about how a Boston school district was wondering if they could improve teacher skills by modeling a “resident” program after medical school — where a new teacher taught side-by-side with an experienced teacher rather than just jumping in to a tough school with little or no experience.

Wow! Stop the (virtual) presses, Jeremy! Better get this one on the air!

They went on to interview people in the program, a guy at the Harvard School of Education, and several “actual students” — all of whom, surprisingly, agreed that getting some practical experience would be a good thing.

Uh, huh.  Incredible.  Better get that news to Plumbers, Electricians, Surveyors, Air Traffic Controllers, Cake Bakers, Serial Killers and DMV Employees nationwide.

Sometimes it’s enough to make an education wonk weep.

Kirkpatrick’s Levels For Millennials


If you create any kind of learning, I’m sure you measure whether or not people actually really learn from what you do.  (I also believe in the Easter Bunny, Deficit Reduction, and that Futurama will be renewed this fall.)

don-kirkpatrick-11As part of your measurement of success, you very probably use Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels Of Learning Evaluation — the gold standard in my discipline as to whether your little skulls full of mush managed to latch on to whatever you were pouring in.

(For the one or two of you who don’t do this, or haven’t familiarized yourself with Kirkpatrick, here’s a quick review:)

Level 1: Reaction of student – what they thought and felt about the training

Level 2:  Learning – the resulting increase in knowledge or capability

Level 3:  Behavior – extent of behavior and capability improvement and implementation/application

Level 4:  Results – the effects on the business or environment resulting from the trainee’s performance

Many trainers are quite happy with achieving “Level 1” results — the students were happy at the end, and nobody threw rocks at them.  A little more challenging is “Level 2” results, where you can demonstrate that they actually remembered something.  “Level 3” takes us to an actual improvement in performance, and “Level 4” is the Holy Grail — actual change in the business resulting in money in the owner’s pockets.

But now that we’re dealing with a whole new crop of learners (called the “Millennials“, because their attention span can be measured in millionths of a second).  I’d like to propose some additional levels just below “Level 1″.  So I’ve done some thinking and have these to propose:

Kirkpatrick’s Levels For Millennials

Level .9 Had at least one browser window open to your content during training

Level .8 Logged in to your webcast and did not close the window for 60 minutes

Level .7 Downloaded your podcast audio to a folder somewhere on their desktop

Level .6 Printed out the PPT file you sent them to follow along with

Level .5 Clicked “ACCEPT” on the terms of use checkbox

Level .4 Complained that their audio was too loud or too soft

Level .3 Sent a chat message accidentally to all 105 participants about how hot you look

Level .2 Talked loudly to their dog/child/spouse in the background without muting their phone

Level .1 Could be heard to continue breathing for the entire lesson


So what do you think?  Are these goals too lofty for today’s learners?  Should Dr. Kirkpatrick allow us to slack off, a little — and not be such a snooty pants about people actually learning stuff when we teach?

I’d tell you to post a comment but I doubt I’d take time to read it.  Srsly.


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.

So — Did You Get A Kiss Goodnight?


It’s been a while since I’ve been out on a date.  I’m awfully busy, I can’t find the right person — but mostly because my wife takes a really dim view of me dating.

sailor-kissBack in the days when I was a young pup, I remember that the big question next morning at the water cooler was “Did you get a kiss goodnight?”  Now, depending on how precocious you were, that might have varied a bit — but this midwestern boy evaluated a first date as quite successful if it ended in a peck on the lips.

It told me that what I’d been doing had been met with approval, and that the object of my affection was satisfied with my performance as a suitor.  Eventually, I found a woman so satisfied with those little pecks that she actually married me — but it took quite a while, and that’s another story entirely.

Special Assessments

If you’re providing information for clients, you probably have some concerns whether you’re going to meet their needs and go on another date.  In the Business Of Learning, we call that “assessment” and spend huge amounts of money on it.  We do surveys, tests, evaluations, focus groups, interviews and consult psychics to try to find out if we’ve achieved our goals. Well, most of us do.

I recently spent some time talking to a Large Federal Agency about doing some work for them — involving Instructional Design of online learning material that would help people understand how we were going to get out from under this huge mortgage mess that Sumdood has gotten us into.  I looked at what they had on their site — it was little PowerPoint slides with voice-overs, lots of bullets, and they’d ported it into Eluminate so they could call it “e-learning”.

We talked a bit about how that wasn’t really a very effective way to communicate complex technical content.  We talked about the fact that they “were just getting started” and wanted to do better.  I asked if they were doing assessments to see how well the content was working, and was told that wasn’t happening.

(Quick review.  You did it cheap and dirty.  You know it won’t work.  And you aren’t bothering to actually measure how bad things are.)

So Are There Other Options?

Since I was trying to sell them on my amazing services, I talked about several other models that they might consider.  What I heard was that they had little budget, things changed often, and they didn’t want to employ any technology that every single person in the unit didn’t know how to use.

OK.  I thanked them for the call.  The next day, I talked to another person in the group.  His major concern was that I’d be willing to spend my days constantly updating the PPT decks with new regulations, specifications, and details.  (Those decks that they know aren’t working, and are afraid to actually measure.)

I later sent him a nice thank-you mail, suggesting that they could do some of this work inside a simple WordPress template (for projection in the classroom) and allow students and instructors to provide feedback within the “comments” mechanism.  It would allow for real-time improvement, collection of best practice teaching tips, and be updatable by any Luddite in the group who owned a keyboard. (Yeah, I was poking at them.  I’ll admit it.)

Today I got a polite message in response saying that although my qualifications were amazing, they’d decided to go a different direction. I’m guessing that the guy they kissed was perfectly ok with not bothering to measure if what they were doing had any effect at all.

And This Means To Me…?

If you’re providing conference calls to potential buyers, what’s your measurement of success?  If they sign up?  If they buy the book / session / coaching / macrame that you’re offering?  Or are you measuring if they’ve actually learned anything of value that will stay with them?

I can show you how to do that, if you’ve got the balls.

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

Solving E-Mail Overload, The Easy Way


Many of my little Internet friends keep whining writing eloquent blog posts about how much email they get, how difficult it is to respond to it all, and how their time could be better used spending time with their families or collecting thimbles of the world.  While I don’t want to sound unsympathetic (I am unsympathetic, I just don’t want to sound that way) I’ve often volunteered to take over their inboxes for a few days to help out.

While I haven’t gotten any takers yet, I’m ready and willing to work my magic on your email flood and can guarantee to have it slowed to a trickle in less than one week.  This will give you lots of time to talk to your accountant about the sudden drop-off in business, your therapist about why your wife no longer speaks to you, and your lawyer about the sudden increase in papers being served.

Here are a few samples of the mail I can provide.


Dear Customer…

I’m pleased that you’ve received our Book, DVD, Phone Recordings and Polaroid Photos as described in our snazzy sales letter filled with testimonials.  While I’m disappointed that you customerhaven’t yet lost weight, found a girlfriend or cured that nasty infection — it’s important that you remember the three-point type that warned results are not typical.

You may have interpreted this to mean that the guy who lost 150 pounds was not typical, and you might only lose 100 pounds.  Actually, as we admitted, any kind of results are not typical.  So your annoying complaints and lawsuits are baseless and unfounded.  And a big fat girlfriend-less infected tub-of-lard like yourself isn’t someone a jury is going to be very sympathetic to — which is why we chose you as our key demographic.

So man up, kiss your $575 good bye, and consider joining our on-line support group:  People Who Fell For Worthless Scams.  It’s only $24/month, constantly re-billing, with no way on earth to stop it.


Dear Mom…

Yeah, I understand that you’d like to see the grand-kids.  So would I.  But putting them into a daycare was really expensive, so we sent them off to “Camp Lettuce” in Arizona.  They get lots grannyof fresh air, sunshine, and are even learning to speak Spanish enough to get their little green cards.  Once the growing season is over, they’ll be on the bus to Idaho — digging out spuds for twelve hours a day will teach them the value of hard work, and build socialization skills they’ll need when they reach Kindergarten.

Molly and I have converted the guest room to a home office, so unfortunately there’s no place here for you to stay if you come for Christmas.  I’ve taken the liberty of making a reservation at the Howard Johnson’s just south of downtown.  They have special rates for anyone who wants to stay for an entire day, rather than just an hour or two — and you’ll really enjoy the Continental Breakfast.  It’s only pancakes, but Bruno from the front desk actually makes them in the shape of different continents.  You get a free night if you can eat Australia!

Our best to you and Dad.  We’re still disappointed that he didn’t like the snake tattoo he got on the last visit, but if you’re going to be passing out in a diabetic coma around here we can’t be responsible for what might happen.


Dear Affiliate Partner,

I’m sure you’re wondering why I haven’t been answering emails lately.  I’d like to tell you that I’ve been sick, the kids have kept us busy, and our new product introduction is taking up all our sleazytime.  I’d really like to tell you that. But it just wouldn’t be true.

Fact is, the whole thing was a scam.  There really was no 100MPG Carburetor, I never did Beat Cancer By Rumba Dancing, and it just isn’t possible to Make Google Your Bitch By Starting All Your Posts With The Letter “A”.  The whole thing was a Justice Department scam, sponsored by Eric Holder so that we’d have some use for the cells at Guantanamo Bay once the terrorists are moved out.

Your name and contact information has been forwarded to the local Sheriff’s department, and within a matter of days they’ll be on your doorstep to pick you up with a free ticket to the tropics that I offered to my most successful affiliate marketer.  On the plus side, it turns out you’re all winners.  On the minus side, they don’t have the funds to drain and refill the water-boarding tank so it’s really pretty gross.  Bring antibiotics if you’ve got them.


So there you have it — just click here to sign up — I’ll need your account login, password, bank account number and blood type.  And soon email overload will be a thing of the past.

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.)