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My 2010 Challenges, Plans, and Predictions January 30, 2010

Posted by cjescribano in experiments, social networking, training industry.


In response to the Learning Circuits Big Question for January, here are my challenges, plans, and predictions for 2010:

My Biggest Challenges:

Same old challenges as always:

  • Finding enough time to do everything I want to do
  • Scheduling too much stuff so that even the fun feels stressful

But I just went to a Productivity workshop, and if I really am able to save 11 hours a week, I just may get some stuff done this year. Stay tuned.

My Major Plans:

For the past two years, just coincidentally, the projects I’ve worked on have all been in leadership development. Somehow, magically, my path has led me in that direction. So, this year, I’m going with it. I will continue to work on the Defense Senior Leader Development Program. In addition, I’m going to read, research, and compile knowledge on leadership development. Hopefully, this will give me a solid foundation from which to write articles and give presentations.

Also, I want to read more this year. As a starting point, I’m going to try to speed read Newsweek every week and Fast Company every month. And for fun, read the novels that my friends recommend.


Based on what I’ve seen in various blogs and publications, I predict that we will see greater integration of social media into blended learning and e-learning products. Also, this adoption of technology will continue the move away from event-based learning toward more just-in-time learning. Learning professionals need to broaden their skill set to include an understanding of all the new technologies and how they can be used to help people perform more effectively.


You Never Know Until You Try! November 30, 2009

Posted by cjescribano in experiments, social networking, Web 2.0.
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(Photo: Daniel St.Pierre / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Imagine trying to “communicate the value” of sushi to someone.

You could make a case for it as a health food. After all, it is high protein and low fat. But ultimately, you’re going to have to address the fact that sushi is basically raw fish, cold rice, and seaweed. It’s a tough sell, and yet there are lots of people who LOVE sushi. The only way to know about sushi is to try it.

The same is true for social media.


And so, in response to this month’s Learning Circuits Big Question on how to communicate the value of social learning to people in your organization, there is one simple message:

You never know until you try!

Fortunately, social media software is easily accessible and typically free, so it isn’t hard to try it.

Rather than arguing with doubters and naysayers, tell them that perhaps they are right. Perhaps social media is just a waste of time—despite examples and evidence to the contrary. But they could also be wrong. And they’ll never know until they try. Then, get them to agree to do a 30-day Experiment.

The 30-Day Experiment
The 30-Day Experiment has been my personal learning tool for figuring out social media, how I can use it, and how it might help my clients. Basically, for 30 days, I commit to daily immersion in a specific social media tool or site, and I capture my observations about the experience and what I learned.

Here’s how you could use the 30-Day Experiment with clients, colleagues, and management to help them see the value of social media for themselves:

  1. Determine a critical business need that social media could address.
  2. Use social media to create a solution to meet that need.
  3. Assemble your test group and tell them:
    -How important their input is for determining how social media might help their organization
    -That you need daily participation and honest feedback
    -The value of an open mind
    -How to use the site
    -How to capture their experiences and insights so that they can send them to you (You can give them a feedback form for this, or better yet, use the social media tool to collect their feedback)
  4. Begin the experiment. Send regular reminders and suggestions for things the test group can try on the social media site. Stay as curious and scientific as possible. Demonstrate the value of an open mind.
  5. Collect the feedback, analyze the data, and put together a report of your findings.
  6. Assemble the group and share your findings and discuss people’s experiences during the experiment. Find out:
    -What surprised members of the test group
    -What they liked about the social site
    -What other ideas they have for using social media in the organization
    -What they found difficult or unpleasant and how to avoid those negatives in the future

There’s no guarantee that your 30-Day Experiment will sell the people in your organization on social media. But it will give you valuable information for overcoming objections. And my experience has been that getting people to try something and to think objectively about their experience can save a lot of time and energy that would otherwise be spent arguing, persuading, and “communicating the value.”

P.S. The 30-Day Experiment is also useful for groups who have already bought into social media. It’s a great way to get a group to focus on learning more about a specific tool or method.

A Twitter Experiment June 21, 2009

Posted by cjescribano in change management, experiments, Learning, Twitter, Uncategorized.

I have recently started using Twitter as a way of staying on track with my goals.

I’ve never been very disciplined with goals. This blog is the perfect example. You can see when my enthusiasm spikes and I write some posts. And then when my enthusiasm wanes, there are long gaps. I have the best of intentions, but mostly those intentions are overcome by events. Too much going on, so I say, “I’ll write that post tomorrow.” And tomorrow turns into the next day and the next, then the next week and the next. Then the next month. And all those good intentions evaporate into nothingness.

Lately, I’ve come to believe that the way to make a change, to learn something new and make it part of your life is to commit to it daily, to do something toward that goal everyday.

I suppose I could do that here, but Twitter seemed a better approach, more suited to the small steps forward that I think will help me achieve my goals.

So, a week ago, I started off, and for my first goal, I chose communicating more effectively. I am fortunate to work with many effective communicators. And I watch as the people in a meeting hang on every word they say, but turn deaf ears to what I say—even when we’re basically saying the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pitched an idea in a meeting that met with lukewarm reception, and then someone else pitched the same idea a half hour later that was received enthusiastically. So, I decided to focus on this skill of effective communication for a while and see where it takes me.

As guides, I have two books: 1) The Power to Connect by Teresa and Chuck Easler and Words that Change Minds by Shelle Rose Charvet.

Each day, I read from these books and make my notes in Twitter: LLLearningLab. Follow along with me as I work day-by-day to become a better communicator.

Woo Hoo! I’m Starting Again! February 5, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, experiments.

After a few days away from the blogging scene, today marks the beginning of a new blogging journey.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on Michele Martin’s Bamboo Project blog and found her 31 Days to Building a Better Blog experiment. So, I dove into that. I got stuck on Day 2 though because I needed someone to conduct a Reader Audit on my blog. My husband will do it, but coordinating our schedules is often tough. So, long story short, it hasn’t happened yet.

Today, I joined the Better Blog group on ning that Michele created. Lo and behold, several others are working on a reader audit. So, I offered to audit their blogs and asked them to audit mine. Look for changes to occur as the feedback comes pouring in.

The thing I like about this particular experiment is how it focuses a number of my areas of interest and helps me achieve at least two goals at once: 1) get better at blogging and 2) understand better how social networks facilitate learning.

Remember, browsing the Web and reading are good starting points, but the doing is where the learning occurs. That’s why experiments are so important.

Woo Hoo! I Made It! February 1, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, experiments.
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Today marks the end of my 30-day experiment of blogging every day. I have to admit I’m kind of glad that it’s over. Don’t get me wrong, it was well worth the effort–even on nights like tonight when I start writing about 15 minutes before bedtime. I learned a lot about blogging in general, and I think I am more up on the learning industry because I’ve been paying more attention.

So, while the experiment ends tonight, a new one will begin tomorrow. Now that I’m on a roll, I want to slow down just a bit but maintain some consistency, so I am going to aim for 3 articles a week. I already have ideas for four.

Also, as I slow down on the posting, I want to take a more critical look at this blog in general and improve it to make a better experience for users. I want to think through the overall design and focus it a bit better, and work on adding more visuals.

A Way to Solve All Problems? January 30, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in experiments, problem-solving.
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A Problem
Today, some coworkers called me in to help them with a sticky problem. They’d been working for weeks trying to figure out how to design a rather complicated simulation. They had finally finished one part of it, but they knew they couldn’t continue at the same pace. “Help us figure out how to speed up this process!” they said.

A Way to Solve Problems
For about 4 years now, I’ve used a very simple process to figure out learning designs. We call it Rapid Design. But basically, it involves jotting ideas on pieces of paper and then taping them up on the wall and moving them around like jigsaw puzzle pieces until the relationships and structure are clear. The power behind this approach is that it’s visual. You don’t have to try to remember all the relationships. You can see them. With this process, we’ve been able to compress into a day or two what could take weeks with a less visual process.

“I’m Beginning to Think There’s No Problem That Can’t Be Solved if You Make It Visual”
The progress today was phenomenal. The team started by telling me what had happened. I didn’t really need to know, but I knew they needed to tell me. Then I asked them to describe their current process, and as they talked I drew it on the whiteboard. As soon as they saw it, they suggested two fairly easy changes that will cut weeks off their development time. Within about 4 hours, we had defined a process that everyone thought would work both effectively and quickly. As we walked to our cars, I said to my colleague, “You know, I’m beginning to think that there’s no problem that can’t be solved if you make it visual.”

Potential Problems to Solve
It’s a hypothesis worth testing. I can think of a number of applications:

  • If my daughter comes home from school with a problem, I could ask her questions and put her answers up on the wall to consider
  • My husband and I could draw our finances out so we can see better where we can cut
  • If I have a problem with a relationship, I can draw it out to see why we’re in conflict.  If nothing else, I think the visual would give me the objectivity to stop defending myself and to start trying to understand the other person’s perspective.

A New Experiment
So, I now have another experiment to add to the list: Use the “Rapid Design” approach to solve any problem. I’ll keep you posted on what problems can be solved this way and which ones can’t.

Being Prepared to be Wrong January 10, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in experiments.
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I saw this wonderful video today on schools and creativity:


One of the points that Sir Ken Robinson makes is:
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.”

That’s just another thought that points me in the direction of experiments. With experiments, you’re automatically prepared to be wrong because there is no right or wrong–there’s just a result. You may have a hypothesis that’s wrong. But that “wrong” becomes new knowledge, so you feel good.

Experiments free you from the fear of being wrong and the fear of failing.

For a week now, I’ve been keeping up with my experiment to blog everyday. Already, it’s been more than worth it. I didn’t set out to look into the power of experiments, but that’s what’s bubbled up.

An Experimental State of Mind January 6, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in change management, experiments.
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What would happen if…
Someone once told me, “If you start making your bed everyday, it will change your life.” An interesting claim. I decided to test it out.

…you made your bed everyday
For years, I viewed making my bed as a waste of precious time. I told my mom, “Why should I make it? I’m just going to mess it back up tonight.” My husband felt the same way, so for years, we never made our bed. Until I started my experiment.

It could change your life
After several years of making the bed religiously, I’d have to say that that someone was right. Nothing earth-shattering. Not a new life, just some improvement. For one thing, I can no longer stand an unmade bed. I HAVE to make my bed now, even if I don’t get to it til 5 minutes before bed-time. And that tiny step toward organization and discipline affected other areas as well. I started looking for ways to make my home a cleaner, more organized, more comfortable place to live. I still have a long way to go, but had I not tried my experiment, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have.

An experiment is more fun than a resolution
I find the experimental state of mind a useful one. If I frame something as an experiment, it sounds a bit more exciting to me–a voyage of discovery. My curiosity gets engaged, so there’s a better chance I’ll actually stick with it. Instead of saying to myself, “That’s it. Tomorrow, I’m going on a diet. No more sweets for me,” I tell myself, “I’m going to do an experiment to see how I feel if I just eat fruits and vegetables for a month.” Since it’s an experiment, it doesn’t feel so permanent. And it doesn’t seem so punitive or harsh. It makes me feel in control. I’m doing this to find something out. What I’ll probably find out is that if I cut out the sweets, I actually feel better (I know this from other experiments I’ve done in the past). So, in the end, I will probably stick with this diet forever. But it becomes more a part of me, something I want to do, instead of a life sentence punishment for indulgence.

What if companies tried “experiments” instead of “change management”?
I wonder if companies could use experiments to help with change management. Instead of issuing a decree from on high saying, “From now on, everyone will close out their projects by filing all materials in the library and submitting a project summary,” they could say, “For the next 3 months, we are conducting an experiment. We want you to close out all your projects by filing all materials in the library and submitting a project summary. Then we’ll reconvene and discuss how that worked for everyone.” My hypothesis is that people will be more willing to try the experiment. Then on their own, they’ll see the benefits of the change they’re being asked to make. So, no one will have to “sell” them on it. And they’ll come up with some interesting results to pass back to leadership to make the change more effective, which will make them feel more a part of the change. It’s something they’re doing; it’s not being done to them.

I’m going to look for a chance to test out this experiment. Look for the results here. And let me know if you’ve done any life-changing experiments recently.