Saturday, 15 August 2009

How to be Happy

There's so much gloom and doom about in the papers this year; credit crunch, loss of trust in our public figures, erosion of civil liberties, environmental concerns. It's enough to drive us to drink.

Good on the Guardian then for producing a series of articles on what makes us happy.

How to be Happy by The Guardian

For me the return of the football season is always a time for optimism, although being an Aston Villa fan it doesn't always last as long as I'd like.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

On misrepresenting the facts

I'm a keen follower of comedy and try to see as many live stand-up gigs as possible, with Cardiff as my nearest large city I probably manage to see around 8-10 shows a year. I also download loads of comedy podcasts which help to pass the time when I'm travelling between training venues, so I was interested to read the series of articles that The Guardian have been producing in advance of this years Edinburgh Fringe Festival on comedy and comedians.

One in particular seems to have proved to be particularly controversial. This article by Brian Logan presents a picture of the modern comedy scene in a way that many comedians have challenged, in particular many feel that the comedian Richard Herring has been grossly misrepresented and that his words have been taken out of context to present a misleading vision of his show and of his personal views. The responses to the article from Richard Herring himself and Dave Gorman explain why they disagree with the perspective of the article.

This set me thinking about the nature of misrepresentation and then how easy it can be in a training environment to introduce groups to theories or ideas that are out of context for the group and therefore potentially misleading or (when viewed from a distorted context) just plain wrong.

For instance, in my early years as a trainer I must have explained the Mehrabian communication ratios (Body Language 55%: Tone of Voice 38%: Words 7%) to hundreds of groups as a hard fact about communication. This was what I had been taught and I saw the same data presented and reproduced in many other training sessions and publications. It was only five or six years ago that I was presented with more information about Dr Mehrabian's study which gave me the proper context of it. I've written previously about this here.

However I still come across training sessions, publications and websites that continue to produce the data without the proper context. This is a rather good video from Creativityworks that goes some way towards explaining the issue.

As training professionals we have a responsibility to ensure that we are not only delivering information that is factual but that we ensure that the groups that are attending our programmes have sufficient context to make proper use of the training.

The saying "A little learning is a dangerous thing" become particularly apt when the people leaving our courses have been given tools to use but not the safe and proper instructions on how to use them.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Training Evaluation

If there's one element of training that causes me more stress than any other it has to be training evaluation. I have a deep abiding hatred of "happy sheets" and tend to spend far too much time agonising over the right type of evaluation to put in place for training programmes. Add in the mind-bending financial gymnastics that make up ROI calculations and I become a potential candidate for the funny farm.

Fortunately there are some great resources out there to help when I hit the inevitable wall.

I suppose you can't really talk about evaluation with mentioning the work done by Donald Kirkpatrick, and this Slideshow is a good starting point; as is this more detailed explanation.

However, it's also worth pointing out that his approach, whilst providing the foundations for most modern evaluation, is not without it's critics.

For a broader perspective on evaluation you could do worse than look at the relevant section on Dr. Roger Greenaway's "Reviewing"website, or by looking at the guidelines provided by the Joint Commitee on Standards for Educational Evaluation

And there's also some excellent resources available at the always useful Businessballs website.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Behavioural interviewing

Having recently introduced a behavioural competency framework in to my organisation I am now coming to grips with some of the follow-on requests and activities that need to be addressed in order to make sure that the framework beds in properly and integrates itself in to all of our people-focused activities.

One of the most significant of these is the recruitment process, we now need to revisit all of our job descriptions and thread in the relevant behavioural competences so that the interview and selection activities reflect the broad requirements of the roles.

I was really pleased to come across a site that provides a list of behavioural interviewing questions because, in my experience, this is one area the recruiting managers struggle to get to grips with.

If you have a similar problem then this is a good starting point.

Behavioural interview questions

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono first coined the phrase "lateral thinking" and has spent many years arguing that our traditional approaches to problem solving are flawed. He has wriiten many books on the subject and is the creator of the Six Thinking Hats approach to problem solving.

If this is a subject that interests you, he writes regular articles on the subject of lateral thinking

Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Why employee development matters

Here's a link to an interesting report on the subject of employee development from Mind Leaders.

Why Employee Development Matters

There are some worthwhile conclusions drawn from the document, which come out broadly in favour of adopting a blended learning approach. There's also a useful list of elements to look for in your company which will help if you are looking to set up an employee devlelopment programme.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Language, culture and how we think

There's a fascinating article from Lira Boraditsky titled "How does our language shape the way we think?" which looks at the ways in which the structure of different languages influences the speakers understanding of the world. Her description of how grammatical gender in language can effect our thinking is truly eye opening.

Whilst the articles main conclusions are around the way in which language effects how we think, I can't help reflecting that it also reinforces the importance of being clear in how we communicate with others, particularly if we are interacting with people from different cultures. As a trainer, how I communicate is core to everything I do, so how does the knowledge that a phrase as simple as "building bridges" potentially has a different positional context for a German speaker and a Spanish speaker. And does it have a same or similar impact on a second or third generation participant who may use both languages regularly?

To a German the word "bridge" is feminine and can be ascribed feminine terms to describe it (slender, elegant, pretty), whereas to a Spaniard it is masculine and can be ascribed masculine terms (hard, sturdy, strong). Is there a possible implication that gender bias means that they ascribe the activity ("building bridges") with a masculine (power, conflict) or feminine (consultative, caring) action bias? My instinct, if I am developing the wider implications of the article correctly, is to presume that it can.

In which case, WOW! I'm both excited and intimidated by this knowledge. Excited by the possibilities for developing ways to approach subjects using language that is more appropriate and helpful for those I'm seeing to engage, and intimidated by the implications that even a casual, unintended misuse of a word or phrase could bring to the way in which a topic is interpreted.

Also, does it have implications if you examine the cultural language of your organisation?

I've recently had experience of delivering training in my own organisation where some of the ideas I was seeking to explore with a training group were received with some hostility, now these ideas weren't controversial... in fact they were pretty mainstream from a training perspective, but the group were certainly uncomfortable with them and (my interpretation) felt that they threatened their map of the world. I'm hoping to revisit the ideas in future sessions and think this information about language will help me reflect on how I presented them and if there is a conflict between the ideas, my presentation of them and the cultural language of the organisation.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

When Brainstorming Goes Wrong

As a trainer I must have run thousands of brain storming session over the years, some of them more successful than others. In my early days I struggled to understand why some of them worked out well and some of them crashed and burned.

This was pre-web, but it would have been handy if I could have had something to refer to, to help me go through that process of elimination at the very least.

This is a thoughtful post that might help if you're in a similar position

26 Reasons Why Most Brainstorming Sessions Fail (And What To Do About It)

Monday, 22 June 2009

Penguin Business Thought Leaders

To promote their authors Penguin regularly produce interviews/ podcasts covering a wide variety of subjects. At the moment they have a series of interviews posted on their website under the heading of "Business Thought Leaders", in which writers they describe as having "contrarian views" talk about how we should manage our careers.

The authors are:

Pamela Slim ("Escape from Cubicle Nation")
Seth Godin ("The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit and When to Stick")
Hugh McLeod ("Ignore Everybody")

Penguin Business Thought Leaders

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Ten Commandments of e-learning

A good blog post from Cath Ellis outlining the ten commandments of e-learning.

The first one sums up a lot of my thoughts in the debate about e-learning; it's not the solution to all our problems, it's not a flash-in-the-pan, it's not going to revolutionise training and development in the short to medium term. It is however an incredibly useful option to have available to you.

1 Put the pedagogy (not the technology) first
Think about what students need to learn then think about how it is best for them to learn it. Only then think about which technology is best used to accomplish this.
Don’t be too ambitious. Start out small (eg. just a discussion board or a group blog) and build on this in subsequent years.

cathellis13: Ten Commandments of e-learning