Sunday, November 30, 2008

Recession tips for new CEOs

I was reading this TechCrunch article this morning, and wanted to pass it along. Interesting perspectives, and nice justification for my opinion that people who are more aggressive in a slow market win.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Last laugh

I was watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade with my kids (who for the first time ever seemed interested) when I was rick rolled (click here to get rick rolled yourself). Yep, there he was, Rick Astley, telling me he was "Never Gonna Give You Up." And I thought to myself, whoever planned that for the Macy's parade had a fantastic sense of humor.

Later, I was thinking about Rick Astley. Here's a guy who probably thought his career, at least major market career, was over. And then, he became an Internet joke sensation. He had two choices: fight it or rick roll with it.

Rick Astley's career probably didn't turn out the way he thought it would. But he's making the best of it, and taking advantage of his opportunities.

I'd like to think I'd rick roll with it, too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Thanksgiving is a great holiday. There are the obvious things: turkey and all the fixin's, pie (of course!), Lions football, and generally doing nothing all day but eating. When I started hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house, I started a tradition. During dinner, each person must say something that they are thankful for. It doesn't sound like it should be that hard, and its not if you don't give it much thought. Over the years, though, its become a serious endeavor during our Thanksgiving meal. Last year, we spent Thanksgiving at my sister's in Michigan, having traveled there for my grandmother's funeral. We were all so emotional that week, we forgot the tradition, until my then 5 year old said on the way back to our hotel that night, "Hey! We forgot to say what we were thankful for!" And so, I suppose, I've created a tradition that hopefully I'll pass down to my children.

This year, we're in Michigan again. This has been an exceptional year for me, for lots of reasons. There have been lots of fantastic accomplishments, excrutiating heartache, and unbelievable stress.

Because I have this blog now, and I've got a little time to think before my official announcement at dinner tomorrow, here's what I'm most thankful for: peoples' belief in me.

I'm a fairly confident person. Some might even say too confident. But this year has tested my faith, my optimism, and sometimes my sanity. If not for the support of my amazing family, my beloved Tandemites, my friends who never fail me and my new friends with fresh perspectives, I'd not be so confident in the bright future ahead.

I have some amazing people in my life. They all support me in different ways, big and small. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm grateful, humbled, and truly thankful for the gifts of love and friendship I've received this year.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


One of the hardest things for me over the last year has been venturing out into new markets, new clients, new technologies, new conferences, new, new, new. My natural instinct is to stick to what I know, what's comfortable, and what I know that I'm good at. Its difficult to know every day that you're probably doing something you haven't done before. For someone as competitive as I am, its almost crippling to not know if I'm going to be successful in the new things I do that day.

I hope in another year's time, everything won't be so new. And I hope that there are still lots of new things to challenge me. New is not intrinsically good, nor is it necessarily bad. Its just new, and has to be sorted out. Its the unknown of the new that makes it so nerve-wracking. New things open you up to make mistakes. But they also make you think, re-evaluate, and sometimes improve.

Although all of the new things at once has been a huge challenge this year, its been much better than the same ol', same ol'.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


We had a looking-inward day; reviewing progress, processes, and plans for moving forward. We haven't done that in a while, with all of the activity over the past couple months. We realized that some things we have been letting slide that we shouldn't. We saw things that we need to do that we haven't.

Most importantly, we just took a moment to reflect. To talk as a group about some ongoing issues. We reconnected.

Sometimes there's nothing more valuable that you can do as a company than pause to look at where you've been, figure out where you are, and make a plan for where you're going.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Death of a Virtual World

Google announced today that they're killing Lively as of December 31st. For anyone in the virtual world space, I think this is a double-edged sword. Sure, its nice in some respects that Google didn't come in and sweep everyone else out of the market with the killer app that would take virtual worlds mainstream. At the same time, it sucks that Google didn't come in and sweep everyone else out of the market with the killer app that would take virtual worlds mainstream.

Most people agree that the internet will be transformed within 5 years to include virtual environments, avatars, and 3D interactions as a matter of course. Most people agree that virtual worlds are likely to be a primary means of interaction and communication in the future.

But until the technology comes along that has sophistication for skilled users and intuitiveness for everyone else, virtual worlds will continue to die.

RIP Lively.

Monday, November 17, 2008

DevLearn 08 debrief

Today was our first day back from DevLearn 08 and like good learning professionals, we conducted a debrief. Although we've been attending several conferences this year, this was our first conference where we were exhibiting. We made a lot of assumptions and we took a few leaps of faith.

Here's an overview of some of our major decisions:
-We were late in registering, so ended up with a lounge in one of the hallways instead of a booth in the Expo Hall.
-We spent a lot of time creating marketing materials to represent what we're doing.
-We planned a wine tasting event one evening to bring additional people over to talk to us in a more social environment.
-We did a Master Class where we were able to talk specifically about our Virtual Immersion methodology, and the Virtual Territory specifically.

At the show, it was clear that some of our decisions were good ones. Although we didn't intend to get a lounge, our location by the bathrooms, in a corner of the hallway by the Serious Games Zone and on the way to the lunch and keynote area, was ideal. And we had the opportunity to set up tables so that we could actually sit down with people and give demos. There were several other vendors that complained that we were given preferential treatment in our location--ha! I have to say, it was really much better not being clumped in the Expo Hall. We were complained about to the conference management. We were complimented on our display. We met some really interesting people throughout the show and at our wine tasting. Overall a fantastic coming out party, and sure to be the standard by which all future conferences where we exhibit are measured.

Here were the notes from our debrief today:
What went well:
• Having seating area to conduct demos and have more private, detailed conversations
• Crib notes for our talking points
• Having a large monitor to display our work
• Wine event
• Made noise and got people's attention
• Showed our expertise in the application of virtual worlds to learning
• Good coming out party
• Showed the ability to tailor our messages to different audiences

What we should do differently next time:
• New demo reel
• Maybe audio on the demo reel?
• Attend more sessions
• Always go to lunch with the attendees
• Practice the short and detailed pitches
• Prep more data


There are lots of people who are smart, people who can figure things out, people who really "get it" when you talk to them about something. Sometimes these smart people are wrong. Worse, right or wrong, smart people are not always the people able to make the big decisions. And sometimes smart people, right or wrong, aren't able to convince decision-makers (who may also be smart, but not always) to listen to them.

Data is a powerful sword for smart people. I could write about how data can be twisted, manipulated, etc...but let's keep this short and focused and assume that data is valid and smart people have good intentions.

Data can help a smart person who is wrong recognize it. Data can help smart people who are right prove it.

And data can sometimes make a person smart.

Be on the lookout for data, both that supports your viewpoint and that conflicts with it. Once you have an opinion that the data supports, use that data to convince others.

There's nothing more convincing than a smart person who's got great data to back her (or him) up.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Tandem Learning Launches Virtual Territory™

Excited to officially announce our press release on the Virtual Territory™:

Tandem Learning Launches Virtual Territory™
Practice Makes Performance in the Virtual World

EXTON, Pennsylvania -November 13th, 2008– As part of an initiative to create a new standard for enterprise-wide training, Tandem Learning announced the launch of Virtual Territory™, the first product in their Virtual Immersion™ Series. An immersive learning environment, Virtual Territory™ combines virtual world technology with simulation, competitive features and comprehensive data collection and tracking.

While traditional training materials such as print, e-learning, and live workshops can establish a common knowledge base, they fall short of effectively preparing learners to apply that knowledge in a real world setting. Virtual Territory™ was created to accelerate the learning process from knowledge acquisition to application by providing an engaging and realistic setting in which to practice using new skills.

Koreen Olbrish, CEO of Tandem Learning, said: “In today’s economy, ensuring your sales force hits their goals is more important than ever. The Virtual Territory is a breakthrough training solution for organizations trying to cost-effectively improve the performance of their sales team. We work with our clients to create experiences that address their specific training needs and properly represent their industry.”

Comprehensive data tracking allows enterprises to monitor trends and analyze learner performance. This data is invaluable in determining performance gaps that can be addressed through additional experiences in the virtual world, coaching, or other future learning initiatives.

Also in development as part of Tandem’s Virtual Immersion™ Series are virtual training environments targeting communication skills, customer service and process training.

About Tandem Learning:
Tandem Learning provides strategic consulting on effective learning solutions, including the use of immersive environments and virtual worlds. Tandem’s expertise in the areas of learning theory and instructional design results in the creation of practical, effective learning solutions. These solutions not only build a knowledge base within an organization, but also change behavior to improve organizational performance. There is nothing more effective than working in Tandem.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How much does it cost?

We're deep in proposal writing mode on multiple projects and about to talk to countless people at DevLearn 08 this week about the work that we do. No matter how fantastically appropriate, effective, and downright awesome your solutions are to your clients problems, eventually, you need to tell them how much its going to cost to implement your brilliant ideas.

I propose a challenge to all of us out there on the "vendor side"--don't just tell them how much it will cost. Tell them how much money they'll make.

Not a completely radical idea, but how many of us include this in our conversations and proposals? I'm not simply talking about saying "cost saving" or "improved processes"--everyone says that. I mean, give them some numbers or percentages. "Your sales are likely to increase between 5 and 20%." "You'll save an average of $300 per year per employee on travel expenses by making one meeting virtual."

Great idea, I'm sure you're thinking, but how do I get that data? Ha! Yes, well, here's my other challenge to you--don't end your projects with the delivery of your "final" product. All of us should be sticking around a bit longer and collecting data on the effectiveness of our projects, products and services. You remember those learning objectives? Performance objectives? Sales objectives? Time to start establishing baselines and then actually measuring results. And Voila! Data for you to share.

We all talk about developing effective learning solutions. Do you have the data to back up your claims? If not, you better start thinking about how you'll be gathering that data. I'm much more interested in saying "It'll cost you X but save you/make you Y" than just "it'll cost you X." Aren't you?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Defying categorization

I've been working on my presentation for DevLearn 08 in San Jose. The title is: Virtual Territory: The Future of Learning in Virtual Worlds. I'm really excited to present, first because I have more than 5 minutes, and second because I'm a ham that misses teaching. But the presentation slides, which I typically have no problem pulling together, are going SLOWLY. I finally figured out why. We're not just talking about the future of learning in virtual worlds. I'm really talking about the future of enterprise learning, and our Virtual Territory doesn't fit into a nice, neat category like virtual world or simulation or serious game, or even learning management system. Its all those things, and more.

How do you explain a new concept? By trying to compare it, or contrast it, to other things that people understand or identify with. It's difficult to do that with what we are doing. I'm not a real sales-y girl. I don't want to sound too cocky, or full of myself, or oblivious to what work others are doing.

At the same time, I haven't seen anyone else doing what we're doing. It makes what we're doing that much harder to explain and describe.

But I'm holding out hope that in a few years, people will be comparing what they do to our stuff.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What conferences are good for

I've been to a lot of conferences. If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you've seen my commentary on various conferences I've attended this year and my thoughts on what makes a good conference workshop, etc.

But what I really think conferences are good for is meeting new people and hearing new ideas. It doesn't do much good to attend a conference and only talk to the people you came with. Its nice to catch up with people who you know but rarely see, but honestly, you could contact most of these people outside of the conference structure. And workshops--well sometimes they are great and sometimes not so much. I recommend you check out vendors and see what they're up to. Do they have new products, new services? Could any of the ideas that people are talking about help you? Or find other people who you might otherwise think of as competitors and talk to them about your shared challenges. You never know how valuable these conversations can be, and it never hurts to have more friends who know your pain.

Next week, we'll be in San Jose at DevLearn '08. I'm excited to meet new people and talk about what the learning needs are in their organizations. I always find that these conversations spark new ideas, or revisions to my existing ideas. Sharing knowledge is powerful and I think conferences CAN facilitate those types of interactions.

Next time you attend a conference, make a list of things you want to learn more about, or people you want to talk to, and seek them out.

If you'll be in San Jose next week, come find me at the Tandem Lounge. I'd love to meet you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I woke up this morning knowing who would be the next President of the United States. He's got a lot of work to do. I also woke up this morning knowing that we, Tandem, have a lot of work to do. Sometimes it seems like an insurmountable challenge. Sometimes it seems things have taken a positive turn, or you hear good news, only to hear bad news or have something bad happen. Plans don't always work out. Things don't always go your way, and you're not always lucky.

What you can always decide on is to believe that things will get better. You can always decide to have hope.

I woke up this morning feeling like I'm surrounded by hope. And I believe good things will happen.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How to apologize

Last week, Seth Godin posted this in his blog...I thought it was interesting. It was even more interesting when, after receiving my weekly email of Verne's Insights and seeing that Verne had taken it upon himself to tell his readers who he was voting for and why, he sent a follow up email that day, with the title and text seen below.


You are right. I messed up. I'm sorry.‏

From: on behalf of Verne's Insights (
Sent: Fri 10/31/08 12:50 PM

OK, my deepest apologies - I tried something, giving people an option to read my thoughts on the election, which I shouldn't have and I simply ask for your forgiveness.

Obviously, I'm hearing positive comments from those that support my decision. However, I've heard from enough of you that it was a bad idea that I have to concur. This wasn't the right forum. What I care most about is helping growth firms and they seem to survive no matter what the situation so long as they keep their heads about themselves and remain disciplined - I'll stick to my message and find other forums for expressing my political thoughts (it's actually a hobby for me - I served in Washington and learned a great deal from the experience).

Keep on learning and growing,

The "Growth Guy"
Just goes to show that, really, sometimes you just need to say you're sorry.

Celebrating, Part 2

My great aunt passed away Friday night. She had cancer that had spread throughout her body and the 3 month window they had given her to live turned out to be 2. I loved her dearly, closer to her than maybe my grandmothers. She always treated me and my sister like adults, even when we were small. She always made me feel important.

Some funny things about my aunt:
  • She was a huge political activist, a very liberal democrat, and a lobbyist for women's rights. But she never had a drivers license and relied on others to allow her that particular freedom.
  • She was very image conscious, but never went to the dentist. Her teeth, one by one, rotted and fell out. 
  • I have no idea how much money she and my uncle had, but I always thought they were millionaires. They would always buy us "prizes" and these could be anything from a prize in a gumball machine to a $200 toy. She rarely said no.
  • She was the classiest woman in our family, always dressed to the nines, fabulous jewelry, makeup on, hair perfect--somewhat of a matriarch. But she could drink, smoke and curse with the dirtiest sailor you could find. One Mother's Day I remember (not too long ago), all she asked for is booze and she and my grandmother drank all day long.
  • She and my uncle ran the second largest cemetery in Michigan but she will not be having a funeral--her instructions (which no one will argue with, even now).
Since I won't have the chance to say goodbye to her in the traditional manner, I'm celebrating the life of my aunt by:
  • Eating ice cream
  • Buying a toy for each of my kids, and a big stuffed lion for me
  • Listening to jazz
  • Drinking martinis
I have lots of memories of my great aunt, memories of summers growing up, her sharing stories from before I was born. I always looked up to her. She was a presence in any room, a force to be reckoned with, opinionated, and got stuff done. She was my role model. I miss her deeply and figure she's already improving heaven.