Monday, January 5, 2015

If it can be measured, it can be valued

Training is often viewed as a cost by companies and therefore is on the chopping block when costs need to be cut. Much like the arts in K12 education, training is seen as a "nice to have," but not a core function of the organization.

Why is training viewed as a cost and not a strategic investment? Because learning professionals don't measure the impact of training on the performance of the organization.

Think about the last time you delivered a training program in an organization. Or the last time you participated in training, if you aren't an L&D professional. How was the success of the training measured? 

How many completed the training?
A passing score on an assessment? 
A subjective "smile sheet" ranking where learners reported how valuable they thought the training was?

Do these training programs measure improvements in employee performance? Decreased time to market/increased productivity? Customer satisfaction ratings? Increased revenue? Reduction in costs? Increased employee retention?


If training is a strategic investment, then it is absolutely critical that we show the value of the investment. Attendance is not value; increased sales is. Assessment scores are meaningless if people don't perform their jobs better. 

If our role in an organization is to improve performance, then shouldn't we be measuring performance? 

Only when we start measuring the right things will training be valued. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The annual resolution post, 2015 edition

Every year I try to set some goals for myself, usually to pretty good success (except for picking yoga back up in failure on that one).

I've been struggling with resolutions for this year, and as I've been reflecting on the past year, I think I know why: my life and time right now is not wholly my own. Being a part of a large family, and one of only two people in that family who drive, means that much of what I spend my time doing is doing for others. I don't think people talk much about that side of being in a big family, but it is the truth. You can't be selfish. You can't put yourself first. You can't only think about what you want, or what you need. You are part of something bigger than yourself, and when a big family is at its best is when everyone is working together and looking out for each other.

This is not to say that you shouldn't make time for yourself. This isn't to say that there are times when some members of the family do more than others. As one of the parents in our big family, it means my attention is often focused on keeping the family machine running smoothly. Meal planning. Laundry. Cleaning. Cooking. If I'm not doing it myself, I'm usually coordinating who is.

So this year, as co-founder of our big crazy bunch with another full time job (that pays me!) to boot, I'm cutting myself a break on my 2015 resolutions. No pressure, no guilt. I'm putting things on my list that inspire me and that I'm passionate about. Here they are...let's see how I do.

  • Get that second book done. 
  • Get isanno off and running. I know you probably don't know what I'm talking about here. I'm hoping by the end of 2015 you do. 
  • Use my AMAZING new camera every day...I've already started a 365 day challenge for myself, maybe I'll share with you. 
  • Draw something every day. Use that dusty sketchbook.
  • Learn Illustrator and Photoshop and Lightroom. 
  • Learn a few songs on my ukelele. I really miss playing music.
  • Take care of myself. I'm not getting any younger. OK, this one is a necessity, not a passion...but I'm trying to make it a passion :)
  • Do some real work with those cool Nevermind folks. Maybe that's related to isanno. Figure that out. 
And that's it. Yep, it's a long list, but it's the kind of list that's a little art, a little science and a lot of learning. It's the kind of list that I'll make time for, or that I can pretty easily squeeze in time for. It's a list that inspires me right now, to do more of the things I love and am passionate about. 

What inspires you? Are they your resolutions?

2014 in review

Facebook tried to prompt me to share their version of my 2014, but after taking a look at it, they missed so much. As I've made a habit of doing every year, I wanted to take my own look back and forward. 2014 was a tumultuous year, lots of highs with some lows thrown in there for perspective. One thing I'm learning is that being a mom, especially with 6 kiddos, means that my highs and lows are often wrapped up in theirs. Yet one of the things I'm most proud of is that I have a whole life, a whole identity outside of "mom," and many people are surprised to find out what a big, crazy family we have. I'm fiercely protective of both of those sides of my life and 2014 was a test of balance and preservation. I suspect that until these kiddos start leaving the nest, this is what life will be like.

I thought taking care of them when they were little was hard. I clearly had no idea...

So here it is, my 2014 in review, skewed toward things I did/accomplished, not the kids :)

  • We spent New Year's Day at my first Rose Bowl Parade (my MSU Spartans were in the Rose Bowl!).
  • My first book, Immersive Learning, was published in January. I did my first book signing in Las Vegas.
  • Also in January, John and I took a belated honeymoon trip to Sonoma and drove along the Pacific Coast Highway on our way home. I highly recommend it.
  • In February, we all traveled back to NJ and got to all of the Paganos and lots of snow. 
  • In April, I turned 40. We took a trip to San Francisco to celebrate, including a trip to Tiffany's and Alcatraz.
  • In June, we made another trip to Pennsylvania and stopped by Philly ComicCon. 
  • July I got to spend with Zevon and my parents here. I miss them terribly. 
  • John and I celebrated our 1st anniversary in July. 
  • We went on a proper family vacation to Yosemite in August and stayed at the Bison Creek Ranch. I can't say enough about what that vacation did for my soul.
  • I also completed the 21 Day Drawing Challenge in August. I really loved it. 
  • AND we went to Scare LA in August. Also really loved it. (August was a great month!)
  • In September we spent a weekend camping at deBenneville Pines. 
  • Our honorary family member Keara was married in October and John officiated. 
  • I keynoted my first conference in October. 
  • We fostered Darwin in October, our big oafy pit bull. 
  • October ended with DevLearn and Halloween. Enough said. 
  • John turned 40 in November and we did Santa Barbara Startup Weekend as his birthday present. 
  • We officially adopted Darwin in December (which no one was surprised about...).
  • I celebrated my 1 year anniversary of becoming a vegetarian at the end of December.
It was a pretty awesome year, upon reflection. True, I didn't mention some of the big (BIG) challenges we had with the kids or I had with work, or how I spent the better part of November and December sick. I didn't mention my frustration with myself that I didn't learn to play my ukelele, or blog as much as I want to, or to really dig into this big idea that I've been struggling to get off the ground. I didn't mention my car accident and physical therapy. I also didn't mention just all of the "stuff" we celebrated with the kids...concerts, Math Super Bowl medals, plays, talent shows, birthdays. I didn't mention John's four improv shows.

2014 was just really, really busy.

Here's to 2015, to more adventures and more love and more learning. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Are video games the new spectator sport?

For those who are looking for it, the news is everywhere: video games are becoming the new spectator sport. The signs have been there for years, although they were subtle in many cases. I saw them in my own family room, with my kids sitting together and watching each other play. I always thought "how boring," and dismissed it, thinking my kids were probably the only weirdos who would sit and watch other people play a video game that they themselves weren't playing.

But when I think about it, how many times did I stand in an arcade, watching an expert player dominate Mortal Combat? (a lot.) If you ever saw the documentary King of Kong, you'll remember groups of people crowding around a Donkey Kong game, holding their breath as competitors beat level after level after level.

Just a couple years ago, I noticed another phenomenon. My kids were watching other people play video games on YouTube. Sometimes they watched to learn how to beat a level in a game they were struggling with. Sometimes, they just watched for fun. With the arcade gone and more players playing at home, YouTube became the place to observe and learn and go back to your Xbox and try again yourself.

But then, my kids weren't satisfied with just observing...they wanted to record themselves playing and share those videos too. New kinds of videos of game play emerged: color commentary! Some videos featured gamers recording their parents or grandparents playing, the ultimate noobs to laugh at. Other videos featured gamers whose funny quips and engaging personalities helped make them into celebrities in the gaming world. My kids started imagining themselves becoming YouTube stars, simply by recording the games they were playing.

I didn't have a name for this new genre of entertainment, but yesterday saw this article about arenas where you can observe video gamers competing. The term, I found out, is esports, and it's becoming huge. Want more evidence? Game developers and even colleges are now awarding scholarships to top gamers, recruited to play on the school's esports team.

"WHAT?!?! Shut the front door!" (This is an exact quote from me, as I forwarded the story link to my teenagers...)

But if you think about it, it makes sense...while kids used to spend hours and hours on the basketball court practicing to make it into the NBA (some still do, for sure), more and more kids are spending time in League of Legends or Minecraft. It logically follows that stars would emerge and systems to reward the best gamers would be created. And, as we do with professional basketball players, we want to watch the best gamers compete and flex their finely tuned hand/eye coordination against each other.

I'm not sure that we'll see our cities' football stadiums converted to gaming stadiums any time soon, but don't count out esports as our future national pastime.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Finding seashells

Life. I don't know why I'm constantly amazed at how it gets in the way of the important work of reflection. November was such a tough month, and also a fantastic month, but the end result was no blog posts. I logged in today because I wanted to write another post, but first I need to write this one.

When I started Tandem Learning in 2008, I used blogging to document my founder journey. Over the years, it has evolved to be less about selling and documenting my professional journey, and more about documenting MY journey. I now write about things that move me, interest me, challenge my thinking and this blog is my documented reflection time, my place and space to dump out the clutter in my brain and try to make sense of it with words and grammar and, sometimes, editing.

I still think of blogging as a release and synthesis, and am shocked that anyone at all reads what I write. Sometimes I write when I'm angry or frustrated or sad and I don't know how else to process my feelings. Sometimes I write when I have an epiphany and need to write it down. Sometimes I write because I'm preparing for a service at USSB and this is my "writing repository," so I post it as a blog post. Sometimes I still use this blog for professional observations, critique and sharing. The key theme for all of my blog posts is reflection and learning. Reflection is how you process and learn, thinking back on situations or emotions and giving them meaning. What am I learning? What does it all mean?

So when a month goes by and I haven't blogged at all, it makes me pause. Am I learning as much without that point of reflection? How am I synthesizing everything that is happening without taking the time to write about it and give it meaning?

More than a month has gone by. In that time, I've experienced major shifts in my professional life, witnessed great achievements from my kids. I've participated in another startup weekend. And in the
world...Measure P was voted down. Ferguson. The Rolling Stone article on campus rape and UVA. GamerGate. Eric Garner. Thanksgiving. My amazing husband turned 40. Maybe it's just been too much to process. Maybe it's too early to reflect. Maybe it's easier when there is so much going on to just be, to let it wash over me and recede like ocean waves, to wait and see what remains washed up on the shore, those bits of shell and beach glass that remain. It's time to pick up and examine those bits, the important things that move me and change me.

I don't know if the storm is over, but it does feel like it's time to reflect and discern meaning. It's time to do the work. It's time to blog again. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Uncanny Valley and #ReneeZellweger

Yesterday the news was filled with photos of Renee Zellweger. Lots of people have weighed in on her new look; my reaction is "live and let live." My only hope for her is that she is happy and ignoring the Internet right now. In my opinion, she is and was always beautiful.

Why are people reacting so strongly to her change in appearance? I was fascinated by the collective reaction and discussion. It reminded me of the Uncanny Valley, people's simultaneous attraction/revulsion reaction to things that are "almost" human, particularly virtual or robotic representations. Basically, people get creeped out. Check out this article for some examples.

I'm not suggesting that Renee Zellweger doesn't look human, but I am suggesting that she doesn't look like the Renee Zellweger we remember from Bridget Jones or Jerry McGuire. We have an expectation of the visual representation of "Renee Zellweger" and her new appearance looks "almost Renee Zellweger," just as many realistic human robots look "almost human."

It's that violation of our expectations that causes our reaction, that "close but not quite" feeling, causing us to make comparisons of what we're seeing to what we have seen and try to hone in on what is different. It's a tension that we struggle to resolve, and when we can't, we are revulsed, creeped out, angry or sad.

As an immersive learning designer, it's a good reminder that people have a deep, immediate emotional response when their expectations are violated, especially to discrepancy or changes in characters, often in a negative way. As a human being, it's a good reminder to be gentle with each other, and today, to be gentle with Renee Zellweger.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Open and honest questions

On Saturday I attended a retreat on how to ask open and honest questions as part of my ongoing learning and growth as a member of the Worship Committee at USSB. 

It sounds so easy! Open and honest seems like such a natural extension of being a good listener, no? 

Actually, no.

The goal of open and honest questions are to help the person you are listening to deepen their thinking and understanding of the situation they are sharing with you. They are questions in service of the speaker, a gift you can give to help someone better process their thoughts, think differently about a situation, or reach their own epiphany. 

Why are they so difficult? Because we typically ask questions in service of ourselves, the listener. We ask inquiring questions to satisfy our curiosity. We ask diagnostic questions to try to identify the problem and solution ourselves. We ask leading questions to "encourage" the speaker to see our perspective on a situation, or apply our opinions as a possible solution. In short, open and honest questions are difficult because as we listen we are really preparing for what to say next, how to engage in the conversation in a meaningful way but in a way that ultimately serves ourselves. 

Open and honest questions require you to listen deeply to what someone is saying, to hear the themes, and to identify questions in service to the person speaking. For example, after sharing a difficult situation about my children, one of my group members asked, "How would you define your role as a mom in this situation?" That question allowed me to think more deeply about what my responsibility is, and isn't, in relationship to the decisions my kiddo is making. It wasn't a question that gave an opinion or asked for more detail about the situation; it was a question that made me think. 

Open and honest questions are the ones that make you pause when they are asked, a total body response as the question "lands" on you, and the best ones are questions that hit at the core of the answers you yourself need to be able to find.  In that vein, one of the most interesting challenges of open and honest questions is that the questioner shouldn't necessarily expect an immediate response. When someone asks you the question you need to answer, it might actually take awhile. Even if the answer isn't immediate, the work is going on inside. 

How can we incorporate more open and honest questions into training and learning? Isn't this the core of motivation and behavior change? How can we marry open and honest questions with training content to get to not just the what, but also the how and why of change?