What Turns You On?

Don’t ever let anybody tell you that the thing that you love is something that you’re not allowed to love. – Wil Wheaton

h/t to Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness

In this year’s quest to try new things, I took the plunge and accepted Mike Hruska’s invite to Overlap ’13.  The theme is “Makers.”

To say I am excited (and a wee bit intimidated) is an understatement.

LOTS of new people (thankfully, I know more people than I thought I would going in).

In preparation – I came up with 3 questions.

   – How did you learn to do your craft?

   -  Why did you choose to do what you do?  What turns you on about it?
   – How does the stuff you love to do influence and impact the stuff you do for a living (if that person earns their primary living through other means)?
I intend to ask these 3 questions of everyone I talk to during our time in Pennsylvania.


I’ve been hearing something very promising as I wander around the University and talk to people.

“Hey Wendy – it would be awesome if we could get together with other folks who are also doing training here!”

“Wendy, if you know of anyone doing (x) – I think I have some ways to help them.”

“You know, I’ve been meaning to talk to (other group) – but I didn’t really know anyone.  Who should I talk to?”

I didn’t hear these comments when I did my last “inventory” of our terrorist training network.

Could it be the termites of collaboration gnawing away at the silos?

Trying to get out of "Survival Mode"

I keep staring at my triangle of purpose.

At that big green Compliance section at the bottom.

So much of what is crossing my desk these days is driven by fear.

Tracking of “mandatory” activities to cover our tails.

Is any of this “mandatory” training reducing the number of legal cases we have?

Increasing our “win” rates if we have cases?

Making any impact whatsoever on our “business” (which is, ostensibly, education)?

Making any impact on our culture (other than to make the audience even MORE jaded and cynical about the value of compliance and compliance training and, by association, training in general)?

There has got to be a better way……
I’ve been reading Rodger Dean Duncan’s Change-Friendly Leadership.

In it, he quotes Stephen M.R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust:

“Compliance regulations have become a prosthesis for the lack of trust, and a slow-moving and costly prosthesis at that.”

In our environment, the proliferation of these compliance trainings is costing resources (development and delivery effort + technical resources like LMS space) and time (for the audience – who could be doing more business-friendly things, like research and teaching classes and supporting those who do so).

I am convinced that the increase in the number of “mandatory compliance trainings” leaves our staff and faculty with the message that:
a) we don’t trust you and
b) don’t screw up.

I am pretty certain this is NOT the intended effect.
Duncan puts forth the idea of natural consequences vs imposed consequences. 

- Imposed consequence: “Anyone caught blotting her lipstick on the bathroom mirror will be sent to detention!” Result – the undesired behavior increased because it didn’t dawn on many of the girls to do that.  Now the girls have a new game to play.

- Natural consequence: The janitor demonstrates to the 10 most popular girls in the school how he cleans the lipstick off the mirror – by swirling a brush in a toilet and scrubbing. Magically, the behavior stopped.

Change was the result of an honest appeal to natural consequences.
I wonder:
- How can we appeal to natural consequences to prevent unwanted behaviors?

- How can we leverage the higher levels (Professional Development  and Performance Support) to support a naturally “compliant” culture?

- How can we create an environment where “compliance” is a natural behavior and much easier to do than non-compliance?

How much of what we are trying to “train” in compliance is really a problem in our environment anyway?

This is where the issue of measurement comes in.

Compliance training wants to measure the number of people who “completed” whatever.
Prove to whoever that yes – people were exposed to the notion that x behavior is bad.

Shouldn’t we be measuring the behavior – then whether the training actually reduces instances of it?

There has got to be a better way….

And I’m tired of taking “We Don’t Know Any Better” as an option.

#skillsoft Perspectives 2013 – Higher Ed Track

This year I decided to hang out in the higher ed track. 
See what other institutions using SkillPort are doing.

- 2 of the 3 higher ed presentations I saw used either another LMS or a portal to access and curate SkillPort content. The 3rd that went to SkillPort directly had a very targeted audience (IT folks).

- The big theme at ALL of these sessions was curation and curriculum.  General finding – the free-for-all model just didn’t work when it came to driving adoption. People got too overwhelmed.

Our Organizational Development and Effectiveness group does their curation through a website and deep linking SkillPort content to point to specific content around themes.

We are also taking a long look at how people access the content in SkillPort.

My thinking – the closer we can get to the user where he/she is working, the better off everyone is going to be.

Since we are in the process of re-thinking our “intranet” and portals (otherwise known as “the SharePoint implementation”) – we will have to rethink how people access our content libraries.  Permissions, organization, the whole shebang.

This most likely means SkillPort becomes a (very big, very important) content library in our environment.  Not necessarily a bad thing….
When the Java issue came up at the Higher Ed networking session – everyone nodded their heads. 
It took a LONG time for us to get off the topic. 

One of the SkillSoft reps commented that they didn’t hear that as much from the corporate clients. 
A higher ed person shot back:

“Yeah – but they all have much more control over what people are using and how they are configured.  We have to support anything that shows up on campus! It’s a free-for-all!”

So true…so true…..
SkillPort seems to be used in 2.5 ways in the higher ed space
  + Staff development (often to a targeted audience OR to benefit-eligible employees)
  + Staff AND Faculty “enrichment” (the .5, often including adjuncts)
  + Academic use – students.

The schools I talked to that opened SkillPort up to academic use purchased it specifically for that purpose.

Our school is struggling with this particular issue.  We are starting to see demand for academic use, but we don’t have the licenses or the personnel to support it.  I know my upper management is thinking about what to do.  The current thinking is to get the staff development side working appropriately.  But since we already opened it up for students in the initial implementation (no structure) – it may be tough for us to stick that genie back in the bottle.
The eLearning adoption issue came up in a number of presentations.

More interestingly – most groups that started with a fully asynchronous eLearning strategic approach quickly shifted to a strategy that provided more “learning choices” (read – the re-introduction of ILTs). 

No one really discussed why this was beyond “some people prefer learning that way.” The education = classroom assumption.  But from what I was reading between the lines – most people missed the conversation and interaction element. 

The only example where folks seemed to prefer the asynchronous eLearning approach was some network engineers studying for the CompTIA+ Network certification. And they, apparently, heavily leveraged the live mentoring function SkillPort offers.

My takeaways from this observation:
- Increase emphasis on the live mentoring functions within the courses.  Especially for on-demand topics we no longer do instructor-led training on (such as Office and Google Apps).

- Make sure we offer some interactive opportunity / human support if we can’t do a synchronous class due to resource constraints.  We already do this to a certain extent – but it was a reminder of how important this feature is.
A little rest – then off to Universal’s Harry Potter area, to make ourselves sick riding roller coasters and the broom ride :)

#skillsoft Perspectives 2013 – other stuff

The other sessions I attended focused on talent development.

To be clear – my job centers around IT training.  I am not directly responsible for developing talent.

Some cool ideas though….

The University of Alberta created an interesting Pathways program leveraging various resources and focused on the 7 competencies they defined for being a successful employee at their organization.

I liked their first go at an interactive map.

They also give away patches and blankets.

Wonder if we could get away with “scout sashes” at our organization.
Be curious to see how that would go over.
Active Network did some real interesting work with their management training.

They came up with the structure of “bento boxes” – 5 minute snippets of formal, informal and social learning objects packaged as a box.

The presenters emphasized careful editing.
The users only see what they need to see.
In some of their programs – they only reveal content each month.

This design choice was a result of users getting so overwhelmed with choice that they didn’t start at all. Find that this curation is working much better.

The Active Network guys offered an iPhone app that provides a design example of what they did and gives links to their materials.

Of course – I managed to get a bit distracted by Active Network’s event management and registration technology.

Found myself half-hoping that SkillSoft would partner with these guys to improve the ILT registration experience.

I plan for my evening to be chill.
A trip to the hotel gym.
A quick meal from the in-resort market.
Some time to absorb the day….