Monday, August 31, 2009

We're hiring!

I've heard there's a recession going on, but wow, are we suddenly busy. Its time for us to start thinking about how we can grow Tandem in a way that builds long-term value. Its true, there is a balance between hiring freelancers to support our projects and figuring out the right time to hire. We have been very conservative over the past 8 months in an effort to weather through the unpredictable economy and keep our finances and overhead costs in check. We've developed great partnerships with other small companies and we have an extremely talented pool of people that we contract with on an as-needed basis.

But at some point, we have to start thinking about adding value to our company through strategic hires.

If you read my blog, you probably get that we're not a "normal" company. We like to think that we're a little unusual in that we like to stay out ahead of the crowd. I also think we have exceptionally high quality standards, as our reputation is only is good as our body of work, but specifically our last project. We're fiercely independent, protective of our brand and reward creativity and initiative. We're highly opinionated and not afraid to speak our minds, nor are we afraid of a little calculated risk. We're competitive and loyal and treat each other like family.

And now we're hiring. We'll be posting specific job descriptions on our website, but we're always looking to work with people who can add value to our company so don't let the job descriptions prevent you from dropping me a line if you're interested.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

iFest 09...what I might have forgotten to mention

Sometimes I get passionate about opportunities for change. So much so that I forget to notice (or in this case, mention) all the good things already going on. Here's the other side of the Joint ADL Co-Lab Implementation Fest 2009 that I didn't highlight in my last post:

*Its awesome that there's even such a thing as iFest. Its great to see ADL bringing people together, talking about new technologies and what people are utilizing them for. ImplementationFest was an opportunity to hear from people who are testing the waters and pushing new boundaries. It signals a willingness to look to the future and a desire to figure out the best path forward. I might get frustrated by lack of focus on design, but I'm encouraged by having an opportunity and a venue to even raise the issue.

*Wow, look at all the women in leadership positions. I was beyond thrilled that two of the most powerful and interesting keynotes at iFest were delivered by women. It says a lot that in the military and government culture, which I traditionally think of as male dominated, that these women were invited share their experiences and perspectives.

*Focus on the future. It seems that there's a lot of change coming to ADL. New leadership, new organizational structure, new plans for the future. There was much discussion about the future of SCORM, about how ADL can support the Dept. of Defense in new ways. There was even a session that focused on collecting success stories from the participants (I mean, wow! Data collection at a conference?). My last post focused a lot on the changes I'd like to see in government and military training/learning initiatives, based on my observations. What's encouraging is that ADL seems like its stepping up to the plate to lead some of these changes.

*Everyone's talking about change. I spent a lot of my time talking to other iFest attendees. What seems to be universal is the acknowledgment that change is coming. Sure, people disagree on where we should end up, and people certainly disagree on the path to get there. But everyone is talking about change. And that's exciting.

ADL did a great job with iFest 09, bringing people together to talk about current challenges and thinking about how to address them while highlighting success stories. All signs point to it being a year of transition. It will be really interesting to see how far things have progressed at iFest 10.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rethinking curriculum

I used to teach secondary English and the term "curriculum" usually signifies K12 or post-secondary education to me. It represents what kids should know after each grade level, and cumulatively what they should know at the completion of their education. Its not really different for instructional designers...we just wrap different terms around things for corporate education.

What is also consistent is that "someone" has to decide what should be known, or what is important to be known. This is always where the problems start. Who decides? How is the decision made? And the bigger question, what are we really trying to teach?

In his blog post, First, We Kill the Curriculum, Harold Jarche discusses how the exponentially growing amount of information available to "know" calls into question whether we need traditional curriculum or not. I agree with Harold in his assertion that no, we need to think differently about curriculum.

Here's my suggestion:
* Change K12 curriculum to focus on literacy, math, and critical thinking skills. Frame that in the context of science, history, art, etc. Worry less about the content and much more about teaching students how to analyze, synthesize, critique, and question. Foster curiosity and complex decision-making.
* Change post-secondary ed to focus on problem-solving in particular subject areas. Skill practice, practical application of skills, continued focus on complex interpretations and investigations.

Now you've got a critically-thinking generation entering the workforce...what are you going to do with them? Make them sit in a classroom and go through PowerPoint training? Keep clicking the Next button on an e-learning module? Ha. Good luck.

You see, these things can't happen in isolation. You can't change K12 education and not think about the effects on post-secondary or corporate learning. You CAN change corporate learning, but there's going to be more resistance if the way wasn't paved by K12 and post-secondary ed.

Let's think about this holistically. We need to rethink all education because technology and innovation aren't isolated, they are pervasive. Its time that K12 teachers, post-secondary educators, and instructional designers stop looking at their differences and start recognizing their similar challenges. We need each other for our efforts to be successful. We need to change the cultural mindset of what learning looks like. We need to change how people think about education.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What if everyone thought like a leader?

The last few weeks have been full of discussions of leadership training. Virtual worlds can provide some excellent opportunities for leadership development and I love talking about the possibilities.

What bothers me about leadership development training is that it shouldn't be for just a select few--its how EVERY employee should be trained. Don't we want everyone to think more critically about how to do their jobs? Don't we want to have organizations full of insight, team building, mentoring, and feedback-sharing?

I remember my frustration with gifted education when I was teaching. Not that there was anything wrong with the gifted education programs--on the contrary. Every student deserves to be treated like they are gifted. All of the research showed that if you taught to the highest common denominator instead of the lowest, ALL students improved. Why shouldn't we be creating individual education plans for all students? Why wouldn't we set high expectations for everyone? Why shouldn't we be pushing everyone to reach their highest potential?

I understand that leaders need people to lead. But the truth is, good leaders DO have high expectations, DO push us to be better, DO encourage us to think critically and take on responsibility.

How different would your organization be if you trained everyone to think like a leader?

IQPC's Corporate Learning Exchange recap

Back from vacation, I had some time to reflect on my experience at IQPC's Corporate Learning Exchange. If you have never been to an event like this, and my guess is most people haven't, it is structured a bit like a timeshare sales pitch crossed with speed-dating. Attendees were by and large executive learning professionals, and most of the day was spent in presentations by their peers. But in between, there were 25 minute one-on-one meetings with learning vendors.

I was a learning vendor.

I won't bore you with logistics, but I had 14 meetings in 3 days. The first couple, I had no idea what I was doing. The interesting part of the experience was that in the process of holding those meetings, I had to get really good at explaining what we do, succinctly. The good and bad news is that we do something that very few other companies do. Its tough to talk about social media with people who haven't used a wiki, never blogged, and have never been on Twitter. Its hard to talk about virtual worlds with someone who doesn't know what an avatar is. Of course, its also an opportunity...and by the end, I was excited that I could talk about what we do much more clearly and in a way that seemed to make sense to the executives I met with.

The other interesting observation at the conference was the lack of technology. No one else was on Twitter. Hell, no one else had their laptop or mobile device on to take notes. It was pens and paper as far as the eye could see. Not only the participants, but the presenters focused an inordinate amount of attention on face to face learning. I think f2f is great...but it has so many limitations. I spent most of the time in the presentations thinking about ways to supplement or replace the f2f experiences being described with some form of distance learning technology.

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked the format. I met some fascinating people and am already neck-deep in follow up meetings. But more than anything, this conference opened my eyes to just how far web 2.0 has to go for enterprise learning.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are you going to 3D TLC?

A quick commercial while you can still register for a steal...I'll be speaking at 3D TLC this September and would love to see you there!

3D Training, Learning and Collaboration (3D TLC) - - taking place September 23-24, 2009 in San Jose CA, is the leading event for businesses seeking to understand and maximize business strategies using virtual worlds. 3D virtual worlds have broad implications for business not the least of which is cost savings and energy conservation. Companies are using 3D environments can also strengthen their communication internally with employees and externally with customers and business partners. Come join us to learn how to take advantage of these technologies.

Early registration ends August 14th (price goes from $595 to $795). Use this Special Discount Code: SPEAKERVIP and register by August 14th to save an additional $200 off. With the earlybird price + your discount = your cost to attend is only $495! (full price is $1,295 so you save a bundle). To register go here:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Return on expectations

Very often, learning professionals are challenged to come up with justification for training investments by providing ROI figures. Let's be honest, its almost impossible to accurately calculate the ROI for learning. So many factors impact a learner's performance, it is difficult to credit or blame a training initiative for a change in performance, particularly as it relates to monetary measures.

A viable alternative to ROI is measuring ROE, or return on expectations. What do you expect people to DO differently after training? Can you measure that change in behavior? This, in most instances, is a much easier way to measure the success of a training initiative. Have you reduced the number of help desk calls? Have you increased the amount of time a sales representative spends in the field? Have you shortened the average call length for call center reps, or increased call center satisfaction ratings? All of these measurements in some way eventually turn into money...why not advocate the measurement of direct training outcomes as a true measure of a training initiative's "worth" instead of the trickle-down ROI that can't as easily be controlled or claimed as a direct correlation?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The book versus the blog

So I've been working on a book, for well over a year now, and its finally almost done. Recently, getting this book done has consumed most of my free time (ha!) and energy, and while I'm not making excuses, it IS a reason why this blog has been riding along in the backseat while the book was constantly calling "shotgun!" But the book is getting closer and closer to done, and I'm missing my heavy blogging days. I'm missing reflecting on conferences and projects and decision-making and instructional design and virtual worlds and gender issues and games and how scary having started this company is sometimes.

Me & my co-author/partner in crime will be wrapping this book up in the next few weeks if it kills us. I'm excited and proud and scared about putting this book out there too. But it'll be a book! A big long reflection! The mother of all blog posts! More details to come...and more blog posts too.