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Brainstorming

June 12, 2013 in Our work

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So, there is Margot, the rubber duck, who normally lives in a whirlpool in the sky, but now in Rome. There is Frity, her “flatmate” who, after an argument with Margot, finds himself on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, borrowing the fur coat from Gertrud, a Namibian tourist. Not to mention, his meeting with King Louis, the Lion. There is the black cloud, transformed into a whale, now safely housed in the Colosseum. And somewhere, there are undefined Aliens floating an an UFO.

Just another normal day at the office?

The “Never Ending Story” has progressed. The group of people who are developing our little ….fantasy….. come from two different parts of the same organisation. That is the only thing they have in common.

The rules of brainstorming are that no idea should at first be rejected. Whatever comes to mind gets aired. Another one of those business speak words. Some ideas are better than others. But I was heartened to see another analogy in an article where the qualities of a Miami basket ball team are compared with the team spirit of a company.

The analogy is important – it combines two worlds, two environments and which complement each other. Out of the box thinking. Our story is a little more extreme perhaps and it pursues a few other goals. The 8 authors currently involved in this group exercise are naturally separated – what combines them is our environment in which they can write story. Already, there was an element of competitiveness – we want to use bigger words! The story is beginning to gain traction, some dynamics are slowly appearing on the horizon.

People listen in amazement when the story is read out to them, they laugh, they are relaxed, their minds open up. The pressure falls away and eventually the ideas flow. Eventually, some bonding will take place, some identification might happen. And maybe, somewhere, someone other than me, will be proud of what was achieved.

This, against a backdrop of efficiency programs, project milestones and the fact that nobody had bothered to clear the empty coffee cups, empty bottles etc from the meeting room next door led to a more unpleasant discussion.

 

 

Creativity

May 30, 2013 in Our work

sharp pencils, sharp minds, creative results

Where do products come from? Where do processes, systems, company cultures come from? It would appear that they simply appear out of thin air and land on the shelves of stores or in the order books of suppliers. 

Magic!

What is fascinating, at least for me, is that someone, somewhere had an idea at some point. This idea could have come from any other source but it sets a train of activity in motion, which, if it survives, will lead to an enrichment for the creator, the company and the customer or user.

It is the very foundation of business.

The danger is that the idea gets bogged down in the framework which organisations create to function. Often, this framework also impacts the creative process of employees. Any number of continuous improvement incentives with a money bag attached, if implemented, are only really stop-gap measures. If you need to use money in order to motivate people to be creative in the workplace, then….well I personally think there is something amiss.

Enter our “Never Ending Story” environment in our Biz-Speak  Community. It’s one story with many authors. It was launched yesterday and already we have a small, fat man with a big nose, sitting in a whirlpool in the sky with his rubber duck. A slight tiff between these two characters (the duck is called Margot, our friend is called Frity) leads to the duck falling down to earth and landing in Rome. Frity, showing some concern but not much foresight, jumps after Margot but somehow manages to land on Mount Kilimanjaro. Surrounded by snow and only wearing his bathing costume, he enlists the help of a Namibian tourist wearing a fur coat. That is where the story is at now.

To make it more challenging, the story is being written in English. There are only 3 rules, the rest is up to the individuals or teams writing.

I won’t pretend that getting this story off the ground was easy for the first participants, but with perseverance and a few questions we managed to set something in motion. It will be fascinating to see where Margot and Frity take not just the reader but also the authors and what adventures they will encounter on their travels.

The biggest reward? Smiles and laughter as the creative process got underway.

Challenge

May 29, 2013 in Our work

 

 

To challenge or to be challenged. That is the question.

To challenge or to be challenged? That is the question.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of working with a manager whose entire management philosophy was to challenge and be challenged. And in the course of our cooperation, as we got to know each other better, the challenging provocations became more rounded, more fulfilling and more effective.

Any idea was worth discussing, any concept worth debating – thinking  outside the box was standard procedure. He has since moved on to other companies, out of sight but not wholly out of contact. And the legacy of this challenging spirit lingers on. It is, for me, learning at its utmost purest.

Therefore, it is always welcoming when there are some assignments which enable the challenge and be challenged mindset to start living again.

Everybody knows that a software roll out, the introduction of new computer systems, processes and the like does not go unhindered. Resistance is great, working along the lines of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. to “it means more work”.  Preparing such a task from a communication point of view is such a challenge. Usually people need to be convinced to use new programs and just how do you convince them?

One such current assignment is matching this problem with our “enjoyable communication” criteria. The latter is a list of words which make business communication an “enjoyable” experience. We work towards fulfilling the communication goal by aligning the necessary content with the communication criteria. My role is to be the recipient of the intended message and the others have to formulate the messages. The discussions are a challenging game of ping-pong and they lead to a concrete, visible result. In a positive and good atmosphere, it’s a healthy workout.

It should make controllers happy too. Bad communication can be expensive. Believe it or not, you can calculate how expensive it can be. The cost of any communication should provide an added value  Critical analysis up front can determine whether the expected result meets or exceeds the cost of the communication.

Challenges – all the way. As I once heard by the producers of a school play a few weeks ago: “We love a challenge”.

 

 

 

 

Added value

May 28, 2013 in Our work

 

Light bulb moments are important.

Light bulb moments are important

Another one of those “business speak” terms which float around the system. And eventually land in our own training room.

Today was one of those “the future is tangible” days. Where you know that the concept we are unrolling actually does work.  A long term client made his way to us. The agenda doesn’t actually become clear until the first cigarette has been smoked, a coffee drunk and the transition from a corporate environment to peaceful rural setting kicked-off. I have learnt to deal with the unexpected and our association goes back a long way. A little fine tuning and we’re off.

At the heart of the discussion today was the concept of added value and how people need to deal with it. Both as someone as in the driver’s seat and someone who tends to be driven.

It’s a question I tend to ask myself quite often and others around me. What added value does our work bring you? And today, what added value does our social learning environment bring to some of our clients?  In the particular case of today’s client, the added value is significant. Today’s discussions have set off a process which we both need to keep an eye on. Sending emails might not be secure enough. Creating a “virtual office” here is a better solution. It allows us to stay in touch by adding comments, documents, links, files which might be necessary for us to think about, comment and discuss. It doesn’t replace the face to face meetings which take place about 3-4 times a year. In fact, it enhances them – because both are better prepared and know what the priorities are on the agenda.

With this added value, we can enjoy the effectiveness of our work in the tranquility of our training room.

 

 

Challenge

May 17, 2013 in Our work

Communication in the office  is not necessarily office communication.

Communication in the office is not necessarily office communication.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. It’s a quote which can strike fear into any trainer. I push on, relentlessly.

A few weeks ago, I started asking people if they “enjoyed the communication process” with their office colleagues, their suppliers, their customers. I then added the friends and family bits as well. Most were irritated by the word “enjoy” in this context.

It must be a crime to enjoy such communication.

So, I let them deviate a little and explore other options why certain conversations, emails and the like had a more positive impact than others. The list grew quite extensive then.

The next step is to start a process by consciously applying the criteria to future communication – in meetings, in emails, in presentations. One such project is focusing on emails whilst another is to convince people that a cumbersome computer application is actually quite sexy.

Will it work?

One interesting aspect is to listen to what people say. Do you like this? How was it? I’ll think about it. Let me call you back. In our instant response culture, the illusion is also instant. All you have to do is add water.

 

 

Reality

May 15, 2013 in Our work

 

Learning reality - laptop, coffee. And a smile.

Learning reality – laptop, coffee. And a smile.

 

Pink Floyd were ahead of their time when they released their “The Wall ” album back in 1979. We all know that song “Brick in the Wall” and in particular those lines “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control, no dark sarcasm in the classroom”  Quite an ear worm isn’t it?

Who or what do you think is the greatest competitor we face? No, not the other training organisations. We seem to be a fairly friendly bunch of people. No, it’s the what. It is the perceived lack of time. That’s the first challenge.

It’s closely followed by the challenge of the internet and the changes that has brought about. How do you train someone, convey knowledge when everything is available online and at zero cost? This is enhanced by changing expectations generated by companies – more quality for far less money.

This is the reality and I love it because it challenges one. Innovation is based on facing such challenges. E-learning is not new and I have been playing around with various platforms now for quite some time. But what we have now is by far the best solution. How?

Our tag line is “be the experience” and here we manage to blend the real world with the learning environment. It has become seamless very quickly. Our Exercise Room makes people fit in the technical aspects of language. In the Play Room we play with ideas and information, both online and face to face. In other areas, perhaps we can call them “Libraries” – it is peaceful, just the right environment to work on our programs.

It also deals with the reality of working with adults. They’re a critical bunch – time factors aside, they’re always busy. How does one capture their attention – by engaging them, provoking them, enticing them to share, discuss, evaluate, communicate. And, at the same time, learn.

This is why we have designed the architecture the way it is now. It is all about engaging people in various activities and motivating them to progress.

This is the reality and I love it.

 

Infancy

May 14, 2013 in Our work

Much time has been spent building this little eco-system as I call it now. Most of my ideas tend to come to me with the drops in the shower, pelting my head, bombarding my brain. Eventually they make their way into the virtual world here. But the perspective has to be the “what is in it for me?” one – the view from people who can benefit from being part of this community.

It’s about creating a learning community under the umbrella of “Business Communication Skills”. It’s aim is to provide an environment in which people who wish to improve these business communication skills can do so.

But how?

The first stage after registering, is to join a group. We currently have several groups set-up. Some are pure business discussion areas. Other groups aim to broaden the view a little more. Food lovers, globe trotters and the newly created “United Nations” group. This particular group is about sharing information about different habits and customs in other countries. It is my goal to make this available on a much more personal level. Sharing experiences.

plant

True friendship is a plant of slow growth.

All of this can be done in an environment of trust and mutual respect. The one common denominator in this community is that most members will not have English as their first language but use it as a language to communicate in. There, our “Exercise Room” focuses on the actual language components – there is, thankfully, a renaissance in communicating in good language. It’s about words, structures, grammar. A new buzz word in the E-learning industry is “gaming”. Learning by playing games.

Everything here is still at a stage of infancy – but as a Japanese saying goes: “True friendship is a plant of slow growth”.