Three Dangerous Employee Mindsets I have Conquered (mostly)

May 16, 2012

My company announced today that several hundred positions will be cut tomorrow. I work for a great company and completely understand the business needs, especially in this economy. Of course this sort of situation creates a bit of anxiety – I can’t help wondering if I will be one of those “let go.”

Given that nerve-wrecking space, Kevin Jones’ latest post, 10 Dangerous Employee Mindsets, came at just the right time.  It served as a reminder and acknowledgement that I have developed a strong, healthy, independent mindset in my career development – and that this mindset will continue serving me well, regardless of layoffs or no layoffs.

Here are three of ‘vin Jones’ 10 dangerous mindsets and his counter to them, plus my own 2 cents. Be sure to read his post. It’s good stuff.

Dangerous mindset # 5: Your Career Advancement Ends When You Leave the Office.

Jones says:  If you love what you do your work will be a part of your life, not just a workday activity.You will read books and posts about it at other times… Then you will realize the career advancement is not just confined to your current position.

I say:  Despite busy projects with stupid crazy time lines, I ensure I give myself time to roam the web for creative inspiration and new ideas,  or to learn new development tools. I do this on my own free time, too. Because it is my passion, somehow it helps me to not be threatened by loss of job. I don’ t depend on it to validate my passion.

6. The path to success is clear: work your way into management.

Jones says: Management isn’t the only path to success.  In fact, sometimes, it is a step backwards.  

I say: Amen, Brother! I once moved into a full-time project management job because I was told I was good at politics, organizing, and process. Truth was, I was good at those, but mostly because I loved design and development, and so ensured I was following good practices. But I figured project management was a great step into higher-level management. I never wondered whether I’d enjoy management. I just knew, or thought, it was the thing to do. I pushed design and development aside, and was miserable. Now I am back in design and dev, turning out creative, effective work that stakeholders and learners give strong kudos for. I am happy. 

Mindset #7. Don’t rock the boat.  Keep’er steady.

Jones says: If you don’t rock the boat, someone else will rock your boat and throw you off.  Time to start rock’n.  Be bold (but not toxic).

 I say: I totally embrace this. Many are the  days when I assert some difference of opinion, call a spade a spade, question stupid processes, or point out waste that impedes creativity or quality.  Perhaps sometimes I come across as argumentative or difficult. I’m also pretty sure that people don’t have to second-guess my sincerity. Generally, my experience is that people at all levels appreciate courage and respectful forthrightness. I try hard not to be toxic or offensive, and am also plenty generous with sincere expression of support and enthusiasm. But it’s also important to take risks and speak my truth. Life’s too short to short to be a politically correct “Yes” man.

Those are just three out of 10 great points made in the post. Be sure to check it out. And don’t let fear hold you back. Be bold, be true, be passionate.

Learning Inspirations from MLK, Jr.

January 16, 2012

Today is a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birth. While visiting my family in Georgia for the holidays recently, some of us visited the MLK Jr Center. visiting my family in Georgia.

There’s a plaque in the exhibition hall that has a fantastic paraphrase of some of MLK’s words. It uses Rip Van Winkle as an example of sleeping through a revolution. Obviously it is referring to the far more signifiant issue of political and human rights revolution, but I thought in a small way, it is relevant to the technical “revolution” impacting the learning world, especially around social media and user generated content.

One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. 

In our domain of organizational training, learning, knowledge management, etc….I am thinking of the points made by many in the blogosphere that there are a lot of managers, execs, learning professionals, etc, who are clinging to the need to control knowledge, prescribe and define training needs, push out what they think workers/learners need, and so on. I am thinking of the  instructional designers and trainers who remain wary of learners posting their own content, even within enterprise social media platform.

Again, nothing comparable to what MLK was referring to, but are we not in a paradigm shift in our field? Just pick up books like Here Comes Everybody, the Power of Pull, and the Wisdom of Crowds. Things are rapidly changing.  And do we not have our own protectors of the status quo?

My question for us then is, are we sleeping through it? 

The eternal flame burns before the crypt at the King Center on the the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. JOHN SPINK, JSPINK@AJC.COM

Be better at work using social tools inside (or outside) the org

September 28, 2011

Blogger Stephen Hale makes an informed, experience-based argument that social tools can help people to be less busy and more productive. He gives an example of getting frustrated at work, and then receiving feedback after expressing himself via social tools outside his org.

To me, that is the essence of social media. It is an incredibly powerful vehicle for connecting with others, and in ways unimaginable just a decade ago.

Whether you’re blogging, participating in online forums, connecting through tools like Yammer, or Tweeting your way to 2.0 bliss, social media has changed how we connect…and the possibilities that arise through those connections.

Stephen received some time-saving, efficiency increasing ideas about dealing with with email. I have gotten great ideas and feedback on my (not so great!) design ideas by reaching beyond through social media.

Based on such personal experience, and reams of external evidence, Stephen, I, and probably you, too, inevitably ask:  Why isn’t my team/org/group using these tools?

I preach the social gospel at least once a week in some water-cooler way: “you should share that on X (our internal platform)”, or, “why don’t you post it on X, and let people edit it, add to it, etc there?”

I always get push-back. Don’t have time, don’t trust, not ready to share the idea, blah blah blah.

I don’t know how to confront that, at least not effectively. But I will continue my crusade internally, and connecting externally in any way I can.

You see, social media doesn’t care about whether they are used inside or outside the company firewall. They exist only as vehicles for connecting. Where, and when, and with whom, is our choice. I’m all about keeping that choice as wide open as possible.

My tools for managing MOOC information abundance in #change11

September 21, 2011

Last week there were some great articles posted that focused on the “how to” of the course…how to participate in a MOOC, how to set up the social components, etc. So, I decided to follow the advice and get set up properly with a few tools to help with information tracking and participation. Here’s what I’ve set up so far:

Google Docs: Created a document to list the key articles or other resources I’ve read,along with any quick notes, sorted by week and topic. Also creating a sort of “dumping ground” document for random thoughts, copy and pasting stuff, etc. I’ll make these public once I have them a bit more focused and organized the way I like them.

Delicious: I started bookmarking course and related URLs on Delicious. I love the ability to use tags and bundles, and I’m especially looking forward to experimenting with the public and networking part of Delicious, both within #change11 and beyond. You can view my bookmarks here.

Twitter: Still a bit cynical about it’s usefulness, but I figured this will be a good chance to give it a fair try. Hopefully best practices will emerge! Twitter fan? Ping me and say hello – @kevinshadix.

Google Reader:  I’ve been using this for my RSS reader for a few years. It does a lot of things well, but one thing I find REALLY annoying about Google  Reader is that I can’t save posts that I’ve read. I’ve heard there are better RSS aggregators out there, like News Gator and others. Any recommendations?

This Blog: This is an on-again, off-again blog I started a few years ago. This MOOC may be the  kick-in-the-pants I need to get going with regular postings. Though I will also be posting on non-course topics, I will definitely post reflections, ideas, lessons-learned, and so on from my course experiences.

That”s all I have so far. I’m also interested in exploring and experimenting with other useful social media/networking tools, such as Flickr, SlideShare, and others.

What about you? If you’re in this MOOC, or have experience with any others, what tools did you find especially helpful? Any tips, best practices for the tools I listed (or any others)?

Bedtime here in Seattle, WA. Long day ahead – good night, good luck, and happy MOOCing.

Goals for my first MOOC: #change11

September 18, 2011

I’ve been interested in MOOCs (massive online open courses) since I first read about the first Connectivist MOOC a couple years back.

As someone with a long-time interest in various forms of distributed and “social” learning, I am fascinated with the concept of MOOCs. But after looking into a few since then, I hesitated joining in for two reasons: 1) Huge time commitment and 2) A academic-learning orientation in both content and community.

Being an instructional designer in a fast-paced technology corporation, I’m short on time. And I tend to look for the practical and applicable more than philosophical and theoretical. At least that is/was my perception. Now, reading more into the intent of MOOCs in general, and especially the Change MOOC that starts this week, I’m learning that it is really up to each person to participate how they want, especially focusing on setting their own goals and building their own network.

Sooo……I decided to dive in and see what I can learn, create, discover, build. Short on time? I’ll do what I can. I don’t have to write essays. My posts might be messy, but hey – life is messy. It’s a conversation, not a competition. Not in the academic world? Who says we have to be? It will be interesting to find others who are seeking non-academic applications.

At any rate, here are my goals for #change11:

  • Figure out what connectivism and MOOCs are about
  • Explore how each can be applied in a training environment (as opposed to academic)
  • Build a network of other corporate training professionals to share and learn with
  • Do all three of these as deeply, passionately, openly and…..SUCCINCTLY as possible!
Looking forward to the journey!
Learn all about MOOCs here.

Work-Life Balance in a 2.0 world, part 2

August 4, 2011

Finally! Some of my favorite bloggers have recently described a bit of social-media overload.  Seems that brouhaha over the new Google+ platform may be triggering a tipping point in the form of “enough already!”

Another day, another social media platform, more fabulous stuff – better, faster, cooler, more now. Whatever.

George Siemens recently posted on “Losing Interest in Social Media…”  Speaking critically about social media’s societal impact and value, he wrote:

We are left then, with a small group elitist new media users, trying to build consultancy around the tools, and telling others how wonderful they are. What has social media actually done? Very, very little. The reason? Social media is about flow, not substance.

That social media is about flow, not substance, speaks to my personal concerns about social-media overload and its impact on my own work-life balance.

Awhile back,  I posted on my personal need to find “real life/virtual life” balance.   At that time, I started sensing that virtual life was negatively impacting real life, particularly around non-work stuff like spending time with family and friends, exercising and getting outdoors for hikes, etc, and just “being.”

So, to combat that, I decided to limit my time online. As Cammy Bean suggests in a recent post, I needed to Take a TechFast. I try to do a one-day mini-fast from technology every week. No PC, netbook, tablet, etc. And use my smart phone ONLY for phone calls with real, live voices. I fill the time with reading non-tech books, hang out with friends, talk to distant family, or meditate, cook, take a walk, or fuss over getting the tamping right on my new Italian espresso machine.

My next step is to work on limiting the amount of time I spend online on a daily basis. Easy to get hyper-absorbed once I log on. Time slips away, and I’m at the end of a day with fatigued eyes and a sense of bewilderment about how time flies.  Any suggestions on combating that?

3 Reasons Training Departments Should Use their Social Network Tools

June 13, 2011

In a recent cafe chat with a few training/design peers, someone mentioned how their organization’s learning unit purchased a social network suite, but that it largely went unused a year after implementation.  While this puzzled her and me, others in the group protested that no one has time  to blog or other social network “stuff.” Really? I think that’s a crock. Intuitively and experimentally, I know how powerful social networking can be for learning (both personal and team/organizational). But how do I argue that to others who aren’t convinced?

Here are my top three thoughts on why we should be using social networking within our learning organizations. What others are there?

Reason 1: We need to enhance our ability to connect and network within the Learning function.

Our Jive-empowered network brings a variety of social media and networking technologies to the enterprise level, giving us an opportunity to harness the power of blogging, threaded discussions, virtual groups and more—all within the safe confinements of the firewall. With these tools, we can connect, collaborate, and share with one another in ways not possible with meetings and coffee chats.

The discussion tools give us an excellent way to share a thought or question, and get responses from people not just in your office, but in offices around the country/world.

“Groups” and other features provide an easily accessible, relatively easy way to create online communities of practice.   Members can post questions around fuzzy concepts, share links and documents, collaborate on a project, or share best practices.

Reason 2: We need a better way to distribute and access our wealth of knowledge.

In Company X we have a lot of smart people with a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. There is tribal knowledge around how we get things done, as well as role-specific know-how and a wide array of special interests. Typically, we share this kind of information in day-to-day conversations, emails, or via documents stored on Sharepoint or some server located who-knows-where. This knowledge is difficult or impossible to access.

The Learning Network offers a number of significant benefits for knowledge sharing over those traditional methods. Here’s a few:

  • Knowledge sharing on the network is not constrained by time and place. Someone in Japan can just as easily participate in a conversation as someone here at the SSC.
  • Knowledge housed on the network is searchable. Categorized topics and the thoughtful use of tags in blogs and articles makes content searchable and retrievable for future reference. You can’t exactly search last year’s water cooler conversations, can you?
  • Full participation is enabled. Anyone can create and share their own content just as easily as they can respond to others’ contributions. You don’t have to wait for a scheduled meeting  or a facilitator, leader, or domain expert to start a conversation. Have something to say or a question to ask? Want to share a great idea from an external Web site or favorite blog? Just log on and start writing!

Reason 3: We need to leverage and enhance our opportunities for informal learning.

Social media and networking tools also allows us to leverage and enhance informal learning. Most workplace learning doesn’t happen through formally prescribed courses, coaching, or learning paths. Rather, most learning happens through informal conversations that occur on the job, in the break room, between meetings, and so on.  This can be sharing a quick “how to,” or a vetting out of new concepts, ideas, and challenges. With the Learning Network, we can bring some of these conversations online, giving us more avenues to learn and share.

So, that’s what I think. What say you? Are there other good reasons for training and development departments to use their own social tools more? Or why not to?