Mentoring

Mentoring is an extremely valuable way to speed up learning. Getting the opportunity to get feedback and glean knowledge from more experienced people who have been through what you’re going through is an incredible opportunity.

I think that sometimes we over-formalize it, though. I’ve experienced many of what I call “mentoring moments”– short, casual interactions where someone helped me learn something new or gain perspective.  Likewise, I’ve been on the mentor side of these experiences as well, sharing knowledge and perspective with others who could immediately benefit.

I don’t think we pay enough attention to these great opportunities. I remember about 15 years ago, when I first learned about all the different selection tools in Photoshop.  I wanted to make someone a new userpic for their LiveJournal (shut up, it was 2002) and I was painstakingly erasing a background, zoomed in, pixel by pixel. A designer I knew jumped in and said “Oh geeeez, you can do that so much faster, let me help you.” and he showed me how to easily select and delete just what I wanted.

Definitely a mentoring moment!  Coming away from that, I knew to always check for an easier way if I found myself hip-deep in something detailed and tedious in Photoshop. And I watch for those opportunities now, much more closely.

I’ve also participated in formalized mentoring programs. While I get huge benefits from these (shoutout to my mentor Heather from 4 years ago!) I think they’re just part of how people can really strap their advancement to a jetpack.

Over the next couple weeks, keep an eye out for these mentoring moments. Can you show someone how to set the speed on the treadmill faster? Did someone help you get your WebEx session set up properly on the first try?  All these go into making you and others smarter, more capable, and more awesome.

Learning new things

Learning something new can be incredibly frustrating. There’s a period at the beginning of learning a new skill where you just suck and it can be really hard to get past that. Indeed, it’s a really easy place to decide you don’t want to learn that new thing after all.

But if you can structure your learning in such a way that you’re picking up enough useful bits to progress early on, suddenly you can make it over that initial hump and start to really become proficient, even highly skilled.

While it feels like it can take forever to get past that initial barrier, it’s not really that much time that you have to invest to get there.  In fact, some research suggests it takes only about 20 hours.

Reassuring!  Here’s a TED talk video to get you thinking about this:

Developing digital learning

I often say I came into the learning and development field backwards. Many instructional designers were trainers or facilitators or subject matter experts first, then started creating training. I was a web developer first then started specializing in learning content/assets.

I think this background has been a huge benefit to me in terms of keeping on top of technology, and it’s something I frequently see others struggle with- they want to develop more customized digital assets, but they find themselves artificially limited by authoring tools and LMSs.

This is part of why I think eveyone who creates anything for web use (particularly learning materials!) should learn to code. It doesn’t have to be overly complex to start with, but some basic skills in front-end web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are a huge boon when you’re trying to build online learning experiences.

If you’re inspired, there’s an awesome free weekend coming up on CodeSchool. There’s a ton of great courses on HTML/CSS and JavaScript, great for getting started with building up your coding skills! Check it out.

Curiosity

I‘m relentlessly, hopelessly curious. I can’t help myself. When presented with interesting questions or situations, I can’t help but dig in and figure out more. Why can’t we do it that way? What is the barrier here? What might cause a rash like that? How frequently does it actually rain in Portland? Why does the staple box say 2000 on it when there’s definitely more staples than that in there (I checked)?  What cool things will this software do for me? How could I make this process less painful? I’m always faced with interesting paths to take and things to learn.

The internet is a limitless playground (and time-sink) for people like me. I’ve often wound up down the wiki-hole, realizing at 2am I’ve been reading about maritime disasters for an hour because I looked up Shirley Temple 5 hours ago.

This leads to me picking up and remembering all kinds of information and skill that I might not otherwise.  It turns out the staples often fall off the ends during the packing process and 2000 leaves a bit of a margin to allow for that. Sometimes the answer to “we can’t do it that way” is “decades-old politics” and not a physical or economical reason. Solar activity made once made tv satellites fail such that people had to have their dishes pointed differently. This is the kind of ridiculous stuff that I will always have in my head.

All this random information often helps when presented with really weird problems, though. Knowing how things work makes it easier to figure out how to fix broken things. Reading about weird happenings makes it easier to jump in and try something crazy when it just might work.

There’s some research that shows that curiosity can predict problem-solving ability as well. It’s becoming a key skill in the workplace. I’ve learned to embrace it rather than limit it- if finding out Wilford Brimley is still alive means that I discover (through a series of about 7 hops) that there’s a cool Entrepreneur’s Guild in the UK, and one of their members is Jenny Garrett who has great things to share, then that’s awesome and probably a resource for me in the future!

Where has your curiosity led you?

Fun with Photofeeler.com!

I got some new headshots taken recently and one of the really fun things I like to do when I have new profile photos or headshots is to run them through Photofeeler.com.

I get the opportunity to see if others’ impressions of my photos are what I’m hoping they’ll be- and I can compare results on photos to see which might be the best choice for me to use in various applications.

It’s fascinating how similar photos, with only some slight changes in background, wardrobe, and lighting, can get quite different results.

The service is really cool for getting an impression of how your photos come across.  I didn’t expect the second photo here to be such a clear leader but once I saw the results, I swapped it in to my LinkedIn profile (and added it to the front page of my site here!).  You can test out business photos (as I did- think LinkedIn), social photos (think Facebook) or dating profile photos (Tinder etc).

If you’re planning on changing up your profile photos soon, give it a whirl! You can also vote on others’ photos (and this how you get votes on your own without paying a fee for the votes).  I enjoy doing that because it helps me to see various examples and start to understand what makes a great first impression in a profile photo. It’s amazing how much difference angle, lighting, wardrobe and background can make!

The Instant Credibility Statement

One of the great new things I took away from day 2 of the Institute for Performance and Learning Conference was the concept of an Instant Credibility Statement. This statement is a way of introducing yourself to the public, a group, or colleagues that establishes your credibility and immediately makes them interested in and invested in what you have to say.

I found a few other resources on the topic as well (including the short video above) but nothing quite so well crafted as the framework Christine shared with us. This came out of an excellent session, the last one of the conference for me, called Owning Your Professional Development Today, for Tomorrow. Christine Dagenais from Creative Coaching was the speaker and she was fantastic!  I was really inspired by all she had to share.

The basics behind her framework for the instant credibility statement are that you should share four things:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • Why you love it
  • So, what?

We each got the chance to start on one for ourselves, and I think I’ll make a video sample of one in the coming days.  Great idea for getting networking, speaking, and facilitating off on the right foot.

Institute for Performance and Learning conference, day 2!


Good day wrapping up the conference! The keynote this morning was Dr. Mary Donohue, who the attendees enjoyed. I didn’t agree with some of her statements and conclusions, but they seemed to resonate with others.

Four sessions again today, covering microlearning sprints, executive-ready presentations, virtual reality, and taking charge of professional development.

Some great conversations with new and old friends about authoring tools, design, and workplace cultures. I look forward to more in the future!

For now, headed home on the train. More to share tomorrow!

Institute for Performance and Learning Conference, Day 1!

Great day at the Institute for Performance and Learning conference today!

First up this morning was a brilliant talk from Ajay Agrawal: How Machine Learning can Transform the Economy. Some fascinating examples and ways of thinking to help us understand how AI is going to change the way things are done, and how the value of different skills and tasks will change.

Read more on Twitter.

After that, I attended 4 sessions today: The ABCs of xAPI, Scenes from L&D, Confidence Based Assessments, and Grand Theft Marketing.  Check out this Storify from the day!

Taking charge of your professional development

87% of millennials (as much as I hate the term) rate professional development as important to them on the job. I would hazard a guess that most employees would agree with this. Despite this, many organizations are less and less willing to invest in professional development for their staff.

As a insatiably curious person, this can be challenging for me. I constantly want to learn, to network, to share knowledge. Professional development is extremely important to me and has been throughout my career, though I’ve frequently been in the position where development budgets are cut and support is restricted.

Rather than let this discourage me, I’ve taken charge of my own development. If I’m not willing to invest, why would my employer be? Knowing I like to attend events and conferences, I’ve started to seek out low-cost ways to do this. I’m involved with industry organizations and frequently volunteer time in exchange for passes to events. Some industry conferences provide free registration for speakers, so I propose sessions to conferences I’d like to attend. I program PD events in my area and am able to attend these at no monetary cost. I’ve found my companies more willing to give me a PD day here and there than they are to approve budget for tuition or registration feeds. I make use of free resources at the library, read LinkedIn voraciously, join open slack channels, buy books on sale, and constantly seek out new low-cost opportunities to learn.

Even with all this, sometimes I do still want to attend an event or course where I can’t get a discount. To cover these things, I have a personal PD budget. I set up a separate savings account, and auto-deposit 3% of my pay for professional development. I’m able to draw from this fund to cover costs that I can’t cover other ways. It’s a big priority for me, and so I invest in this area. I have found that since I started doing this, I’ve been able to advance significantly in my career. If you’re struggling with getting the development you need and want, give this approach a try!

Jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords- oh my!

Communication challenges are the basis of so many business problems. At the same time, businesses and the people who work in them are incredibly attached to their jargon, acronyms and buzzwords.

The idea behind these things is making communication among those “in the know” more efficient- why would I say “Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation” when I could say “ADDIE”?  But for whatever small efficiency gains among a small group- it causes much bigger challenges for those outside the group.  I do my best to limit my jargon and buzzword usage, but I still struggle with this!

In order to help facilitate better communication, here’s a list of 15 buzzwords, jargon, and acronyms that come up frequently in my day-to-day:

ADDIE: Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation, a widely used instructional design framework

Agile: Methodologies for (software) development that involve requirements and solutions evolving through collaborative effort and adaptive change

Asynchronous: Learning that combines self-study and asynchronous interactions (discussion boards, etc) to achieve objectives

Buy-in: Approval and support of an idea or action

BYOD: Bring your own device- meaning content may be accessed using any number of different devices or methods

Cloud: a tech term referring to external configurable resources that can be used for software, storage, or other computing needs

Design Studio: A method for early designs that speeds up initial design processes

Gamification: The application of game principles in non-game contexts

Kirkpatrick model: A commonly used “4-level” model for learning evaluation.

Microlearning: Comparatively smaller learning units and activities

RACI: Responsible-Accountable(Approver)-Consulted-Informed, a common method for illustrating responsibility assignment

ROI: Return on investment

SAM: Successive approximation model- a framework for instructional design project management that draws from agile methodologies

SWOT: Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats, A structured planning method that evaluates these four elements of a particular team or venture

Universal Design: designs intended to be accessible to the largest possible population of users

Training Industry has a more instructional/learning related glossary to check out. If there are any plaguing your daily life, add them in the comments!