Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Reversed Psychology of Presenting

So now you know you have an ego, but ego-istic as you are, did you stop at the notion that everybody else has an ego too?

Thought so.

You see, keeping your own ego in check is a great step towards self-development, self-fulfilment, and overall goodness. But that doesn't mean you should refrain from using the ego of others for your goals (in moderation of course...). While you are now well on your way to circumvent your own egoistic pitfalls, others will more than readily still fall in them. Reverse the process and imagine the needy ego of your audience: "I need to know more, I need to be better, I need to succeed, I need to get the advantage."

What do you have that you can feed to their egos?

The ego is a very primal construct and basically cares about three things: attaining security (am I safe?), avoiding loss (what if I can't live without?) and constructing a stable identity (am I still me?). These three deep emotions provide ample opportunity to be exploited by you. What can you tell your audience to make them feel safe? Can you point out the things they are currently lacking and you can provide? Are you able to appeal to a sense of identity they associate themselves with? Need some examples of using these techniques of appealing to the ego? Look no further than your Inbox.

Do yourself a favour and only this once, open a few of those spam mails you receive by the bucket every day. They are all about insecurity, loss and identity. "Don't feel man enough? Try [drug]!", is the perfect example of a blow below the belt for any man's security and identity. "You will miss out on this amazing offer if you don't react today!" and "Get the most for your money here!" appeal to our fear of loss.

Of course spammers cross the line and often have a malicious intent, but that doesn't mean appealing to someone else's ego is altogether evil. Think of examples like these:

"Are you scared by the financial crisis? Come to us and we will tell you what you need to know to come out unscathed!"
"Feeling like your employees are taking advantage of you? Follow this training and you'll be the manager who's in control again."
"Ever wondered how you can get more out of your online marketing?"
"Why they are winning and you are falling behind."

If they concern you, it's hard to resist appeals like this. It makes people sit up and pay attention. The ego which is so concerned with keeping itself safe and secure can't ignore these threats to itself. It needs to know what it can do to feel at ease again - and you will be the one who is going to do just that. Coax the ego out of its comfort zone and when it is exposed and vulnerable, you will give it what it so desperately wants: security, gain and identity. If you play this out well, you will have anybody eating out of your hand.

Just don't let your own ego take the upper hand, because then the dividing line between harmless and harmful manipulation will start to blur.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Psychoanalysis of Presenting

Newsflash: You have an ego.

And this ego acts like my namesake from Othello: Jago. The one who appears to be your closest friend, but is in fact your biggest enemy. Your ego is fueling you with thoughts like these:
"I need to succeed!"
"I need to be better!"
"No let's rephrase: I need to be the best!"
"I need to beat the competition!"
"I need to be loved!"

In short, your ego is needy, relentlessly needy - it never stops. The positive disguise for the word "ego" is "ambition", but don't be fooled. The ego is only in it for the sake of the ego - it's completely narcistic. Because truly, who do you need to best? And why do you need to be loved? Turn those things around: you don't need to best the other and don't have to be needy of someone else to love you! Don't fret about what others are doing to you, but what you can do for them!

Open up.

It's the same with presenting. We always start from our ego: "Let me think.. What am I going to say?". Wrong! "What does my audience need to hear?" should be your starting point. You are merely presenting to facilitate your audience, not for soothing your ego. When it comes to presenting your ego will always want to take the spotlight, will want to show them how good you are at what you do, will want to rub under the nose of every member in the audience: "I know more than you!". Yes, you probably do know a lot. Yes, you probably are good at what you do and yes, that is why you were asked to stand on that stage - but that is all irrelevant. The only purpose for you standing there is to tell what your audience needs to hear.

So stop thinking with your ego and start focusing on your audience - you and them will benefit greatly from it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Axes of Visual Thinking

Ok, so we chose water as our metaphor for illustrating "What is Visual Thinking" but other groups did have some interesting insights as well of course.

One was of particular interest, and entailed two axes:
Text vs. Visual and Support vs. Guide. The gliding scale between text and visual got everybody nodding. We were all agreed that text itself wasn't the great Evil we needed to battle. In essence text is visual and abstract thinking to the max: arbitrarily chosen symbols which represent sounds and images! Some situations ask for text, visual thinking isn't the Holy Grail - it has its uses, but also its limits.

More interesting however was the juxtaposition of Support versus Guide. It resonated with the discussion we had in our group: when you give somebody an image, the image because 'real' in that person's mind. This can work for you and against you. Take for instance the water metaphor our group used. It was very powerful, so powerful indeed that it was very difficult to shake it off. Everything kept coming back to water! We saw water everywhere: oceans, drops, cubes, vases, pools, thirst, drowning, swimming, sailing, rain. The image of water and its mental schemas were completely guiding our thinking. Instead of being a spring board or a support to more associations and ideas, the image became the focal point. That can be the power of visuals. But you need to ask yourself the question: do I need the visual to be a support or a guide?

Or: do I want to tantalize and trigger or focus and steer? You need to think carefully on this every time you start to use visuals and metaphors.

So, go ahead and place your mark on the spot where you need to be for your next visual thinking bout:

VizThink NL and lots of water

"Cool!"

Is what first comes to mind when I think back on last night, the first gathering of VizThink Netherlands. Some 30+ professionals from all fields in media came together at JAM visueel denken to muse on visual thinking, get to know each other and rant on about our different passions and work.

Part of the deal for such a night is of course a break out session. Flip charts, markers and post-its were provided - now get down to it! "What is visual thinking" was the obvious central question. Thing is though, that for me, a question like this begs for an answer - but is that what we wanted? An answer? Because visual thinking "is" a lot: a practice, a state of mind, a business, a tool etc. This became very clear within our little group: everybody had a different background and came with different uses and views on visual thinking - diversity all around. Of course there were themes that resonated with everybody, but getting to the very fabric of visual thinking was, well.. bull shit to us :D

So we conjured up the metaphor of water.

There is a lot of water. It flows in rivers, in oceans, in creeks. You can find it frozen in glaciers, ice rinks and the cubes in your freezer. It steams from your tea and the Turkish bath. Water is everywhere. And so it is with our knowledge, ideas, thoughts, associations, concepts, basically: our content. It's all over the place, we are filled to the brim with it!
And that is why it is important to remember that like water, content faces you with the danger of drowning: if you can't swim, you drown. Oftentimes we have so much to tell, so much content to spill, that we make ourselves (but more often our audience/customers/clients/friends) drown. Like a waterfall your content flows on and on with no restrictions or boundaries.

With visual thinking you canalize your content, you provide containers for your content, you visualize where you want your audience to go to. It makes you stop and look at your own content. Visual thinking can provide the glass, the vase, the shore that contains your content and enables you to take a clear look at it.

And by doing so, visual thinking also asks of you to think about the audience you want to communicate to. "How much of my content do I need to pour in to this audience? How much can they contain or swim in? Are they even able to swim or do I need to teach them?"

Do they need:
Visual thinking helps you to swim through your content, to pour it out of you in containers which hold the thoughts, ideas, concepts you want to communicate. Do you need it in cube-size? Small, manageable chunks. Or in pool-size, so you can jump right in the middle of everything and traverse the lengths and widths of your content? It's up to you!

By making your content visual, you also invite others to join your swim, take them on the journey, test the water, try things out, offer them the pool and see who jumps in first. Or visual thinking can offer some hard needed solace from a quenching information thirst, or for that matter: relief from those hard to stomach, completely dried out text biscuits we are offered all day long!

So in short, I am not sure what visual thinking is exactly, but I do know it is quite a lot!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Eye-opener: Why we DO need management

The last two weeks we have been working long and hard on producing a big proposal for a European procurement. With 5 people on the team, 4 from our company and 1 from another, work had to be allocated, managed and then merged back together to form one consistent document.

Sounds simple enough - unfortunately it wasn't. It proved to be really hard to get everybody clear on what had to be done, get overview on who was doing what, when and how, come up with clear outlines on when things would be done and people kept over-communicating with each other. Needless to say, we all had very late nights as a result.

During the whole process I asked myself: "How is this possible? How can we keep finding ourselves confused and disorganized? We have 5 capable and knowledgeable people on this team, everybody is working their butts off, but still chaos ensues!" Two days ago I found my answer.

And I read it in the first chapter of Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky.

The eye-opener however was that it made me realize that my question was a micro-version of: why is there a need for management?

Take a look at this graphic:
It's easy to imagine the two figures here are two people working on the same project which needs to get done. They do their things and occasionally come together to check with each other: "Are we ok? Are we still on the right track?" Only one agreement needs to be made between two people in this case. You will get excellent results this way: two people are putting in their effort and with the occasional checks, "two see more than one" holds true.

Now let's take a look at this graphic:

What worked well for two people working together, is becoming detrimental when more people enter the stage. Where two people only had to come to one agreement, 3 people need 3, 4 people need 6 and 5 people need to come to 10 agreements before there is complete consensus, a complete: "Are we still ok?". And it is for this reason that management is needed. Management is there to eliminate many of these agreements, or better put: the costly transactions (in time/money/resources) of coming to complete consensus, by making the process hierarchical:
With management installed, the structure inverts itself. Instead of having everybody asking "Are we ok?" to everybody, a manager instead asks: "Are you ok?" to everybody. Agreements are made through management, eliminating the need of the exponential transaction costs of coming to a complete agreement within a group.

With our proposal we clearly stayed in the ever going cycle of coming to agreements without management. I am coming to believe that having 5 really good people on the team, probably made it worse, because there was something valuable in everything that everybody had to say about everything!

With this in mind, you can also avoid the trap of thinking that more people on a project will get it done faster. Every member in a team demands an extra agreement, even with management ("Are you ok?") With no solid management in place, every new member in a team adds exponential transaction costs, making the process in most cases even slower and more cumbersome than it already was.

Group-dynamics: what a wonderful world.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Veni, SQVIDi, vici

SQVIDing is fun, but man, it grinds your brain (which is good)!

Yesterday and today I have been SQVIDing (I dig the verb) about two projects. I can't show the results of the case I initially wanted to use here, due to confidential information, so I'll revert to the other one.

The case is about a new way of educating called "natuurlijk leren" (natural learning). It's for both primary and secondary schools. It promotes self-guidance and exploration by the students. Students set their own targets and learning objectives and through a variety of media and coaching by teachers they try to attain these targets. To facilitate this, a platform is needed. According to our client it needs a lot of bells and whistles: uploading and editing multiple media, student profiles, online collaborating on projects, wikis, blogs, chatting, forums and more.

Now I need to make an outline wherein I illustrate what our company can do for this client in terms of facilitating this platform. So I started SQVIDing.


Simple vs. Elaborate. Natural Learning should be accessible, easy to use and relate to the ways today's students want to work. It made me think of growth and plants, a logo sort of start I guess. Elaborately thinking, the platform should stream all sorts of data to its platform and enable students to repurpose, mix 'n match and collate this material into new work which they can add to their portfolio. A portfolio which can be shown to others within the community (parents, teachers) and of course graded.


Quality vs. Quantity. Quality brought up associations of making sense of all the materials that are available all over the internet and turning it into new material. Are there ways in which the platform can help make sense of the data? Maybe offering metadata options, a good search engine, delicious like bookmarking tools. If there is no system to the data, the platform could get clogged with clutter. In terms of Quantity I immediately went to the train of thought: "With no users on the platform, it dies". How do you get the students on the platform and give them value? Do you need to force them, do you need to entice them? Hmm.. not sure yet.

Vision vs. Execution. The vision is that a well designed platform for Natural Learning combined with intrinsic motivation of the student and access, should result in great progress and understanding for the student. Sounds great, but how do we execute the realisation of the platform? (I think I should maybe SQVID again, but specifically about this execution part, it is the biggest issue that I need to address, the rest is fairly clear. We are getting to the core of the problem here!)

Individual vs. Comparison. Big issue (but probably not for us to address as 'builders of the technology'): you can't isolate the platform. It is destined to fail that way. So many platforms already exist, so many demand attention. Like in my previous post: communities need to grow and need constant care, providing the tools isn't enough. It asks a lot of teachers and students alike to adopt this new way of learning. (btw: I know, the bottom figure looks ghastly. He's just overwhelmed by all the input that is coming to him from all directions ;)

Change vs. As is. Relates a lot to the vision. Moving from a traditional way of learning, or better to say: moving from teaching to learning.

I'm real happy with the result, especially that I have been able to define the core of the problem: execution. It probably helps that I'm a 'black pen' kind of person, even though I wouldn't consider myself someone with great drawing skills. That said, after two sessions of SQVID I can already feel a shift inside my head. My drawings become more loose and less detailed, but with more power.
The whole process is demanding though! By willing yourself to explain with pictures, but not always being able to immediately 'get' the right picture to do this, you are forced to conjure up different ways of showing what you want to get across.

Ok, so now that I have my core: the execution of the platform, I'm ready to fire the 6 W's at it: who/what, how many, where, when, how and why.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Dream of Community

No, I haven't started SQVID'ing yet, but yes this post has everything to do with the 'business case' (and is definitely important for the whole process). What I keep going over is the whole online community thing.

Online communities: are they good or are they bad? Do they work or don't they? Is there a 'golden rule' for a community population to 'keep it going'? I am in the dark. Recent study in the Wall Street Journal is not that positive: most online communities become failures. Main reasons? Too much technology, too little 'humanity' and there is no community management in place. It's the same problem as it always is: we think that by providing the tools, the rest will work itself out - but it never does. Photoshop doesn't make you a graphic designer and a drilling machine doesn't make you a carpenter (ok, maybe a sledgehammer might make you a destruction worker...). Besides that: most online communities are fenced off: another login, another password and a new set of people you have to connect to.

Online communities need to meet some sort of need for communication: sharing best practices, exchanging experiences, collaborating on projects, rating products, voicing your opinions, keep in touch with people - there are lots of reasons for online communities to be. You could build a community around any of these needs (which happens all the time) but the thing is:

We have (most of) our needs already covered.

We don't want more seperate communities, we want to integrate them! I want my status updates on Twitter to show up on Facebook, I want my blog posts to instantly be visible on all my community pages and I want all my friends under the same roof and not spaced out over different communities. With the ever increasing pervesasiveness of online communities, who is waiting for more closed communities? What we want is more services and applications to integrate with what we already have, like the apps in Facebook or the App Store for the iPhone (hell, the App Store has already cost me around 25 euros and I still go out and buy more! I'm addicted - a fantastic business model).

The success of an online community lies in the fact that they open up communication and integrate with what is already there instead of only providing a loose bunch of tools and isolating its members.

Let's see if SQVID'ing about it, will make things clearer for coming up with a great idea for my 'business case'.

Visual Thinking Week

After dragging Dan Roam's The Back of the Napkin in my bag for the last couple of weeks and reading and re-reading parts of it, I am finally seeing a chance to actually bring it into practice.

Roam's frameworks for visual thinking sound wonderful on paper and the case studies show their potential, but now I need to put to them to test of my everyday work. So that is why I'm going to push one of our new projects through the whole visual thinking routine described by Roam.

During this week I will describe my experiences using the SQVID (the 5 dichotomies you can use to imagine ways of seeing your situation/problem/object/business case/whatever) and the <6><6> Rule (the 6 ways to pictorally represent the 6 "W" Questions") which are combined in the Visual Thinking Codex.

Oh and the business case I will be visually thinking about: a community for sales reps of an international company.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Inside

The only thing that burns in hell,
is the part of you that won't let go of your life.
Your memories, your attachments,
they burn them all away.
"But we're not punishing you" they say
"we are freeing your soul - relax"

Inside - UNKLE

change is abound, accepting it is all one can do.

Bring it on!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Horror Called Feedback

Q:
Why do clients only seem to be interested in the text that needs to be written for their elearning courses?
A:
Because it's the only thing they know how to shoot on.

For two courses I have been developing in the past few months, almost all of the production time has been spent on getting the textual content done and in the elearning module. So much so, it left me almost no time to think and develop the visuals, an interface and interactions. Where did this go wrong, what made the balance tip so much towards the text instead of what actually makes e-learning a powerful tool: the visuals, interface and interactions? Because we are so used to text.

When it comes to text, we all seem to have this urge to leave our imprint on it: to review and alter it. We all have something to say about it and if you don't make clear rules about how to review text and provide feedback, it becomes quite a dreadful affair. Unfortunately, two of these dreadful affairs already took place before I realised the full extent of this problem.

For most clients e-learning is very new, they don't really grasp the possibilities and new ways to work with interaction and multimedia. So they fall back on what they do know: text. Almost never do I get extensive criticism on the interfaces, visuals and interactions we make, they are all welcomed with approval. But the text basically gets rewritten when I send it off for reviewing.
Problem for me was that I made the mistake of placing the text ín the course and sending the whole thing up for reviewing, thinking I was doing us all a great service. I couldn't be more wrong. I got piles of feedback in return, had to look it all up in the course, change it by hand and hope I got it all and didn't fix the wrong things (because what do you make of feedback like this: "Screen 3: fix the double spaces". *sigh* "Where's Wally" is easier!). Then of course they wanted to check if I had done all the feedback. But instead of getting back some small things that I missed, I got another pile of new feedback, with completely new content and screenshots.

And this went on for quite a while. The main reason being that I hadn't provided a solid reviewing framework at the beginning of the project. This gave the client the freedom to drag me into this loop of endless review sessions.

So now I know: take care of the text first, instead of writing it along the way in your course, because it drags everything down.

And for the horror called feedback: does anybody have a good approach to deal with it efficiently?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Giving Technology a Face

Last week I came back to the office after visiting a client, when one of our account managers came up to me and said:

"Jago I need your help, I need to give a presentation on Monday for a prospect about the benefits of eLearning for his company."
"Well, you do have a presentation, don't you?"
"Yes, yes I do, but it just sucks!"
*laughs* "Well at least you are honest!"

And that was the start of a real good and fast brainstorm which resulted in a cool new approach for him to use in his presentation. We need to show what the benefits are for the company to use eLearning, so we thought up 6 characters, all from different parts within the company, who could all benefit in different ways. The Subject Matter Expert can use our tools to easily make online courses, the IT specialist has an LMS which is easy to implement and manage, the Manager can view the results and progress with just a few clicks, etc.

To bring it to live, I grabbed some people shots from iStockphoto and dumped it in a clean and lean Powerpoint. Now every role has a Face people can relate to, instead of sterile facts about our systems. I'm sure it'll go great tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How Did I Get Here?

Karyn Romeis asks the 'elearning blogosphere' on her (excellent) blog how we all started with social media, what our journey into this field has brought us and what professional difference it has made.

Even though I only recently started in the field of elearning, social media have always been a big part of my professional career. Having done a masters in New Media & Digital Culture, it would be sacrilege if it hadn't! But over the years I have seen a change in my use of social media.

Social media for me really did start as something 'social': keeping in touch with friends, a profile here and there, sending some messages, posting party pics on Flickr, those sorts of things. Then I became a student and social media became part of my field of study. During my studies social media became not so much something I used, as well as something I observed. I was watching social media take shape, taking notes and writing some papers about it along the way.

It was during my internships at Mediamatic and Flinders University that social media got a new dimension to me professionally. I started using an RSS reader (Google's) making it way easier for me to tap into new streams of information. A world of blogs opened up to me, a world in which people were struggling with the same challenges I was facing, or were having great ideas, insightful theories and other interesting stuff.

But that's all still observing. It's only recently that I'm starting to interact again, to become 'social' once more. But I have to say that it's coming and going. My interaction with social media hasn't been consistent. This blog of mine is the true testament of that: off and on. But then again, it's a journey. It's a learning experience. I'm only 23, and all around me I see so much to do, so much to see, so much to learn. Social media and its uses are only part of that journey, it adds something to it, but at times requires a bit too much time or effort to actively participate.

It makes me think that Time is key here (even though the fast-forward information-push from media-apps such as Twitter, suggests otherwise). It takes time for social media to root - be it in your social, college, study, personal or professional life.
You need to make connections, you need to nurture those connections, you have to expand on those connections, and most importantly you have to give and take to make it work. Social media are all about connections and growing these connections into relationships. But relationships don't happen overnight. They come with doubt, with listing pros and cons, with joy and the occasional hiccup - they come with time.

Me, I am just starting to make connections through social media. I am sowing the seeds and I am confident that social media will definitely take off more and more for me. All it needs is some time and in the mean time I'll enjoy the wonder of experiencing its growth.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Awakening The Inner Artist

Today I became God.

Well, not really, but I feel a bit like him anyway. Together with my cousin I am making a painting on my kitchen wall and it's AWESOME! We kick so much ass! To start off with I have to confess that I am not the most practical and technical guy on this planet. I am not incapable of doing technical things like wiring electricity, painting window frames, fixing broken equipment or be an amateur plumber if my sink has digestive problems a.k.a flooding. It's just: I don't really enjoy it.

But today I have found enormous joy in being practical, technical and 'creative' in the godly sense of the word. Under our fingers the enormous The Big Wave by Hokusai is taking shape. After drawing the outline on the wall, it is now a really big Paint By Numbers affair. With every stroke of my brush it 'becomes'! I am the Creator and it makes me completely happy.

Take a look at the work in progress, the result of Day 1 - "and God saw it was good":


Hopefully tomorrow we'll get it all done and I'll upload the result.

--UPDATE--


Ok it's not finished, but jeeezzz all those bubble streams!! It's hard and meticulous work. But still: it's becoming great. The dynamics, the motion, the amount of perspective with only one colour, good stuff!

-UPDATE 2 -

Ok! We're almost there now! Most of you probably can't even tell that's unfinished, but I assure you that there are still a few parts missing (the big boat in the front wave needs more detail and some more bubble streams) And I've decided to paint the bottom part of the wall the same blue as well, but nevertheless: it's really looking like something doesn't it! I just couldn't bring myself to do any more today, my shoulders ache like hell!! But it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pushing an ex-Australia-backpacker's buttons

Scarlett Johansson singing Tom Waits - it's bizarre and weird, but great
check it out! | watch the single! | (or find the torrent...)

And "Town With No Cheer" holds a special place for me - I know all about Australian buckwater towns :)

Well it's hotter 'n blazes and all the long faces
there'll be no oasis for a dry local grazier
there'll be no refreshment for a thirsty jackaroo
from Melbourne to Adelaide on the overlander
with newfangled buffet cars and faster locomotives
the train stopped in Serviceton less and less often
There's nothing sadder than a town with no cheer
VicRail decided the canteen was no longer necessary
there no spirits, no bilgewater and 80 dry locals
and the high noon sun beats a hundred and four
there's a hummingbird trapped in a closed down shoe store

This tiny Victorian rhubarb
kept the watering hole open for sixty five years
now it's boilin' in a miserable March 21 st
wrapped the hills in a blanket of Patterson's curse
the train smokes down the xylophone
there'll be no stopping here
all ya can be is thirsty in a town with no cheer
no Bourbon, no Branchwater
though the townspeople here
fought the Vic Rail decree tooth and nail
now it's boilin' in a miserable March 21 st
wrapped the hills in a blanket of Patterson's curse
the train smokes down the xylophone
there'll be no stopping here
all ya can be is thirsty in a town with no cheer

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Instructing the Instructor

Just some meeting about a course:
"We need a solid Instructional Design."
*me nodding in agreement*
"So which one should we use as a basis?"
*people looking anxiously in my direction*
"ehhh.. that is a really good question!"

Am I a n00b for not being a classically educated instructional designer in a job as course developer? I don't think so, but still, at times, I feel at a loss. I have a clear idea on the power of stories, on using cases/scenarios to enrich the experience, to try and work from generic to specific (recently found out that Four Component Instructional Design suits this approach), to streamline information into manageable chunks and frameworks, the power of graphics over text, that being concise is what makes everybody happier in the long run (a.k.a. coaxing SME's into killing their darlings) and a whole heap of other stuff I am coming to understand.

But can someone show me the way into 'proper' instructional design? Some books or theories which work for you, which enable you to make better courses/material?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Are We Becoming Nomads?

Via the excellent Six Pixels of Seperation, I came across a couple of articles on digital nomadism in The Economist. The idea isn't really that new in philosophy with thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari and Rosi Braidotti, but sometimes you need to see the practical applications of such theories to realize their potential again.

The series of articles is all about how we are becoming mobile in our work and learning. With the ubiquitous availability of Wi-Fi, ever more portable technology and 24/7 access to our data, we can virtually work anywhere:

"Urban nomads have started appearing only in the past few years. Like their antecedents in the desert, they are defined not by what they carry but by what they leave behind, knowing that the environment will provide it. Thus, Bedouins do not carry their own water, because they know where the oases are. Modern nomads carry almost no paper because they access their documents on their laptop computers, mobile phones or online. Increasingly, they don't even bring laptops."

We are moving from oasis to oasis, not in search of water, but in search of inspiration, of connectivity. But where as the Bedouin's oasis was a social place, where one would relax, enjoy the bounty found at the oasis and share it with each other, we are absorbed in our own little mini oasis: our own IP address. At modern day oases like coffee shops, restaurants, libraries or flex-work spots, we do not share, but we work in solitude.

Which makes me think that maybe we are not like Bedouins, relishing in the wonder of the oasis, but more like wanderers who are dying of thirst in the desert: hoping for water and once there, only interested in quenching their own thirst. It's probably because dynamics such as team work, work-ethics and work-processes haven't yet adopted a nomadic attitude. Work is work, we are still afraid of management's Eye of Big Brother/Sauron, we still need to be face-to-face in meetings and we just sometimes need the work-vibe we get from being in an office. We are not completely comfortable in this new oasis environment yet.

Nevertheless, we see that the world around us is shaping itself more and more towards a nomadic way of working: public spaces become multifunctional, bigger spaces become fragmented into smaller spaces to provide more (work) spots and architects are even increasing wallspace, to cater to all the laptop workers who apparently work most comfortable with their back to the wall.

Slowly, but steadily we will become more nomadic, and I don't know about you, but I am saddling up my camel to join the ride!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Big Question

"What would you like to do better as a Learning Professional?"

Was the Learning Circuits question of the month for April. I'm late, but that's still better than never. My answer is: "A lot!" But that's what you get when you are only 6 months into becoming a "Learning Professional". But the most important thing I would like to do better is finding a middle ground in my work: balance.

We have a small development team, but we have big clients and more importantly: big projects. For a big Dutch retailer we are developing a game-based introduction course for their commercial department about the meaning of their brand, marketing, work processes and more. There is a lot to do: content needs to be defined with the client (what is essential, optional, irrelevant), the content needs to be written, a design (graphic, interaction, interface, navigation, storyline) needs to be created, it all has to be developed, it needs to be tested, reviewed and deployed.

Like I said: it's big. And now I need to find a way to balance it. To break the big parts into small parts, to make it manageable, to define roles, to define tasks which I and the rest of the team can clearly see and work towards. But how do I do that? I have to switch constantly from project to project, from being the copy writer to the graphic designer, from content analysis to project management - it's difficult to step away from it and have a clear overview.

Does this sound familiar to any of you? Any strategies or ideas?

Chronically Disorganized or merely Perfectionistic?

In my quest to better understand what I need to tackle to become a bit more relaxed again, I came across lots of interesting propositions as to what I could be 'suffering' from:

1. Chronically Disorganized.
Yes, clutter and chaos have a name now (never forget: giving names to things makes them manageable and tangible)! Everybody who feels buried by clutter, keeps missing appointments, and seems to never be able to find things ("I am certain it has to be here somewhere...") could apparently be suffering from Chronic Disorganization.
But after scanning the "Are-You-Chronically-Disorganized-test" my conclusion is: "No, I'm not suffering from Chronic Disorganization, but I definitely know people who do!"

So for all of those people:

Tips for Overcoming Procrastination for the Chronically Disorganized Individual or Household
Time Management for the Chronically Disorganized

and maybe illuminating for perfectly organised people:

Tips for Communicating with the Chronically Disorganized

There was one of these tips though that resonated with me and hinted at a slightly different diagnosis for me:

"Perfection is the worst enemy of good enough"

2. Perfectionism
That quote hits something. I always associated perfectionism with being meticulous and focussing on details, but I am coming to see that perfectionism has many disguises. For me it properly has to do with being "effective and efficient". You don't have to be a HR professional or manager to grasp the need of working efficiently and effectively (crash course for who really doesn't: Efficient: doing things in the right or best way / Effective: doing the right things)

But how do you know if you are efficient and effective (E&E)? Is there a limit or quota on it? What is the amount of output which makes me E&E? What is my work limit, how much can I take and still be E&E? I simply don't know.
I want to be E&E, but in turn it worries and nags me. "Should I be doing this, or should I be doing that? And now or later? Does this make me E&E?" or to be more specific:

"Can I, from an E&E point of view, justify that I am currently writing this blogpost at home or should I hurry off to work and stare at my screen in the hope a solution pops up for the project I am kind of stuck on?"
I don't know!

3. Procrastination
But there is one final diagnosis left. Perfectionistic, yes, that is probably the case, but how about being a procrastinator? Let's find out! Another test! The verdict? Apparently I am an Overdoer, followed by being a Dreamer and ADD. Adds up indeed: wanting too much, distracted and excited by new impulses, rush of energy at the start of things, but resentful, restless and procrastinating when it comes to seeing it all through and details.

One final good thing about my results: it apparently doesn't really show when I am actually procrastinating - because I am so frickin' busy all the time. Well, that justifies writing this post then!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Yikes

I am nearing a new landmark: 15 May I will be working for 6 months in my first real job. And it's great, it has brought me so much: knowledge, experience, inspiring contacts, success, even some friends and a house!

But now, now it's giving me stress. HUGE amounts of it to be honest. It started building up somewhere at the start of this year. As some of you know, at that time we landed a pretty big contract with our elearning team. We had poured our hearts and souls in this concept. We had long brainstorming sessions, discarded loads of ideas and in the end created a cool, workable, flexible and engaging concept. Needless to say: it swept the competition off the table and we went home victorious - but that is where the bragging ends.

The battle with the enemy was won, but now a new battleground has emerged: within me. We have to deliver. The concept needs to be become reality. It needs to work. The great ideas, the interactions, the games - it all needs to be build. By me and the rest of the team. But I have never done that, never of this magnitude at least. And so have most of the people within the team. We have a drive, we have spirit, we have ideas and talent, but little experience. On top of that the lines aren't really clear, I'm switching between being copy writer, graphic designer, art director, project manager and I'm starting to mix them up.

But you know what? We have a team and we are in it together and that is good to know! We'll make it. Thumbs up for everybody!