Writing to Right Yourself

For those who blog you are probably familiar with what happens when you start writing about something you believe strongly in or a practice you’re undertaking and find that as you write, you no longer believe it. It’s disheartening and yet it’s magical.

I have 19 blog posts that have not and will not be published. But I don’t delete them. They serve as a reminder of a hidden benefit of blogging. It’s only as you write that you can begin to see flaws in your thinking; you see holes in your logic. It’s at this point that you realize you are writing a lie and if you click publish you are lying to others and worse, lying to yourself. So publishing never happens. But that’s OK because you are better for having begun.

A most commonly touted benefit of enterprise social technology is that if people share inaccurate info it can be seen and corrected – ¬†and this is a good thing. But writing and not releasing is equally powerful and only comes through the transparency that social tech enables. If we, the potential sharer, recognize our flaws before revealing them and because we were to reveal them, we improve. It’s an act of reflection and something completely unseen/immeasurable to the organization but it should be encouraged by the organization – Writing as an act to right yourself; it’s an exercise in self-development which is always good for business.

Social Inception

Have you seen the movie Inception? It’s a fantastic sci-fi film where people infiltrate other people’s subconscious while they sleep and remove information or, in the case of the title, plant an idea. When the person awakens, they think the idea is their own.

Now I do believe that the same idea can spring up independently from different people in different locations at the same time. Historically speaking, you can see that Pyramids of various sizes and constructs appeared all over the globe by different civilizations in or around the same time where the people had no contact with each other.  However time and space are no barriers anymore. As more and people find their voice online, begin sharing their stories, experiences, and ideas, an unintentional form of “Social Inception” can occur. When we engage in social networks we accumulate many ideas from many sources. Some can be fleeting, like those seen briefly in a Tweet. Others are deeper like those in articles, blog posts or videos and of course conversations. For me, I recently wrote about change happening one conversation at a time. The gist of my post was that we can just cut through all the fat about social media technology barriers, it’s really as simple as helping people ask their internal questions out loud to those who are “connected” – Things like “where do you find the time?” “how did you start?” “How has it helped you?”, etc. Good idea? Maybe. Was this my idea? I’m not so sure now. 
When I wrote it I was like, this is an interesting thought, I wonder what others would think? Flash forward to today. I’m scanning some favored Tweets looking for something in particular and I see:
It got me to thinking so I re-read the article. I was left with two thoughts. 1. This is brilliant and 2. Did I steal this concept?! 
Well, no, not consciously, not completely, and not with any intention to do so. I have always been very careful to sing the praises of the trailblazers (not sure that’s a good term but I’m not a fan of the word Thought Leader). I vigorously read and promote the works of Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Charles Jennings and many others in the learning/social learning space… including Euan Semple.  But here, over 115 days ago, he wrote an article of a very similar title to mine. Did I read this 115 days ago, process it internally, experience a triggering event and spew out my own interpretation as something really original? Did Euan plant more than a seed in my mind? Is this more common than I think?

Today information comes at us so fast, influencing our thoughts and practices in positive ways. We consume so quickly that even when we have trusted networks through which we have information curated the lines can blur between what is ours and what is others. Our thought, other’s thoughts, our practices, experiences and reflections all blending together and in the end attribution is practically impossible as you walk away thinking… “This is an interesting thought, I wonder what others would think?”  

Well, then this is all I can offer – my mea culpa moment. For starters go read Euan’s article here, as mine pales in comparison. If you can only read one, go to his.  Going forward, in addition to continuing to recognize the ideas of others in my posts and presentations, I’ll revisit my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) strategy and tools, and I’ll continue to add to my blog roll as it serves as a great list of those who’s work I find inspiring. These people continue to influence my thoughts and practices and I guess, as long as I keep them upfront and getting the attention they deserve, maybe my unintentional imitation is a sincere form of flattery. 
What ideas do you have to create a buffer against unintentional Social Inception?

…Of These, Isn’t The Greatest Modeling?

I found myself inspired by the #wolweek (work out loud) movement that took place across the Web a few weeks ago. The concept is relatively simple; share what you’re doing, make the tools of your work visible and open so others can see, comment, and contribute.  This means working in more public “spaces”.  So if you followed #wolweek on Twitter, many people blogged about their work, successes, struggles, thoughts, questions, etc.  Still others really opened the gates and let people see materials and prototypes. 

I shared the concept internally in our ESN. I said: 

…Organizations have the same opportunity to do this and reap the potential rewards within their own walls.  In a small way we do this already without thinking. We ask questions of others in and outside of our ESN such as Who has a certain certification? Where can I find a form? What’s the best way to…?  In each of these questions we really reveal a little about our efforts. Imagine then if the work that the answer to these questions fed was just as visible? Would we have to even ask as many questions anymore?

I didn’t get much of a response to the idea.

So….it’s been said that L&D is ideally positioned to lead organizations in Social Learning, Curation and Personal Knowledge Management (PKM); supporting people in learning how to learn independent of courses and classes.  Of course doing this means L&D must let go of formal approaches and instead serve as coaches, models and guides. Most important in my opinion is the modeling. It really is the least intrusive action where others can see, reflect on, and if done right, feel they can approach to have meaningful conversations. 

A little back story first.  L&D in my organization has been moving (slowly) on an initiative to help create a mentoring culture.  The idea is ultimately to 1st help new hires acclimate to life and work here by not only having material resources readily available but a real human resource to lean on.  We always knew this how how people really get up to speed in an organization and the idea of finding a “buddy” has always been haphazard… left to the individual to figure out.  What if this was just something we helped everyone with? What if each new person came aboard and in addition to their team and manager they had another they could just tap into. Having an expert available, get a question answered, and a few tips on “how it really works here” goes a long way.  Can’t this model scale we thought? And so through research inside and out, we began the slow process of developing a multi phase program to not only to help new hires but also look to weave a program like this into the career path as well. Imagine someone desiring to be a manager and having to show that they can first successfully mentor another? Isn’t that the main job of a manager, to develop his/her people? 

Behind the scenes, in our own silo, we talked, researched, developed, reviewed and shared all of this. And I thought it time we eat our own dog food (for lack of a better expression) regarding openness and transparency and WOL.  We needed to practice what we preach and take what has been a young internal L&D initiative and make it very public – wild hairs, half-baked prototypes and conversations included.  It was a perfect way to model open collaboration in the workplace and build proof of concept, help others see how it can scale, and ultimately open the door to conversations on how to get it going in their own areas. Our once hidden work and process is now available for all to see and comment on… and some have. In the end people outside our area can add much value by sharing their own experiences in mentoring with us, maybe post a few good documents and ideas we should consider in making this a reality.  Maybe they will do nothing at all but “lurk” but at least now they are in the know and invited to the conversation.

Surf’s Up!: An Analogy for PKM


For a recent presentation designed to help people better understand Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) I anticipated that beyond the word Personal things would get sticky, lofty, and filled with preconception. “Knowledge Management” is loaded to say the least. As such it can serve as a barrier to understanding the information.  I decided to bookend the presentation with an analogy that ultimately seemed to help the attendees and spark some good discussion. I thought I’d share it here.


The Personal Knowledge Management approach I take reminds me of my early teen years body surfing on the shores of Lake Erie. When one body surfs, different than surfing with a board, you are immersing yourself in the waves (no board). You must stand or tread water waiting for the right wave to take you on a great ride. These waves are constant and consistent. Each is unique but connected to an immense body of water, more than you can imagine. You can’t possibly surf every wave, so you must discriminate; selecting carefully to ensure the ride has value.  Of course if you try taking on too many waves you risk fatigue and if that happens you will likely leave the water altogether – and that’s no fun. Body surfing wasn’t done with alone. You did this with trusted people, your friends, which not only made it more enjoyable but served as models to identify best practices (and bad ones to avoid). You learned which emerging waves to track, and tips/techniques to position yourself within to get the most out of each. You spoke to each other. You watched and learned and likewise consciously shared your stories and more unconsciously your approaches as you were equally being watched. Unfortunately you can’t capture a wave… much like you can’t capture knowledge as its equally fluid.
Do you see the parallels to PKM? Each wave is symbolic for digital content. Much more than one could ever consume. We “tame” the voluminous information by discriminating; making decisions about what to seek, or risk being overwhelmed. When we ride a wave we influence it even slightly. Similarly too, the content is changed when we share it with others as we tell our story and our interpretation adding context and inviting others in. Most importantly in PKM is people. The network we craft is one of trusted advisers to help us in finding the right information and making sense of it all. They point, guide, share and support us.

Using an analogy like this helped connect a difficult and foreign practice to a more understandable one, maybe even one many have done before. However, I think you can risk over simplification using analogies but to counter that don’t see them as the end all be all; Invite questions and reaction when using them.  My analogy was also done in a story format, my story, where people could visualize the scene and the emotions (critical to learning) tied to fear, fatigue, and fun as those are harder to feel in what is essentially a virtual activity with PKM.

Do you use analogies?  Which ones and for what? Last night #lrnchat engaged in a discussion about using analogies. I encourage you to see the transcript (which may or may not be up yet) as some really good thoughts swirled around there!

Overcoming the Learning Professional’s Lizard Brain


Executive: We need a course on blah, blah, blah.
Learning Professional: …Right. OK, who is the audience? What is the objective?

Really? Back up. What the heck just happened? 

There’s a good chance their Lizard Brain kicked in, that’s what happened.  If you’re not familiar with the Lizard Brain, also known as Reptilian Brains, Primitive Brain, Old Brain and a slew of others, you can read up on the details here. However if I just remind you of these little words – “fight or flight“,  you probably know I’m talking about the Amygdala and this scenario makes some sense.

Simply put this inner area of our brain activates In stressful situations, when our survival instinct kicks in and we take on the stress or retreat to fight another day.


For millions of years we had fight or flight encoded in our brains. Our gut reaction to survive today is not that different than it was 150,000 years ago on the Savanna. However today, rather than flee a tiger to survive, we can take retreat from our knowledge about how most problems don’t require training to resolve. In the face of an authority’s demand, the corporate tiger, our encoded lizard brain can take over to better ensure we can pay the mortgage. 

Couple this with our years of schooling and systematic indoctrination and we have a deeply encoded brain telling us learning really happens in formal settings. I wrote similarly about this in the post: Cognitive Dissonance and the Denial of Social and Informal Learning and again as I compared our conflicts to the theory of Learned Helplessness. Both of these however focus on the issue from the point of view of leaders, executives and stakeholders; those outside of L&D. But the Lizard Brain is something we need to contend with as learning professionals. Just like the growth of the logical mind countered instinct and help advance humanity, this action must happen for learning professionals to truly help their organizations.

How can we detach then from the reptilian response system and succeed in using logic when faced with the requests?  Here are a few of my approaches.
Before the request arrives(as you know it inevitably will)
Most of the work happens here!

1. Support – The shift away from Lizard brain responses takes some augmentation. We can’t remember everything especially in the heat of the moment! Quick reference materials and prompts help you better articulate your message. I have tapped the grid in Is it a Training Problem? from Jane Bozarth’s and the Expertise by Learning Mode graphic by Clark Quinn of The Internet Time Alliance more times than I can count. These simple tools are great to reference or re-purpose on a napkin to help people really see the issue. They also aid in helping you be clear and not get caught up in jargon. 

I also find Evernote indispensable. When in the conversation I have my own tips and notes handy to reference and level set with. Plus, demonstrating your own ability to quickly find information at that very moment is a powerful statement in demonstrating management of your own knowledge and the power of performance support.

2. Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) – Now is the reason why you have been doing all this work! Your ability to tap into that of which you have collected, created and curated is a key ally to fend off the training first, training always request. Learn more about it through Harold Jarche and his work and writing on the topic

3. Networks – turn towards the others you (hopefully) have nurtured as your community. This is often called a Personal Learning Network (PLN). This trusted community is there to help you surface information or validate your thinking.
When the request arrives:

Pause – Most important, make a commitment not to immediately commit. A pause to invite reflection is your greatest opportunity to let the logical brain kick in and get warmed up. This is the time to engage your network, PKM, and tools

The Lizard is not your friend. What are you doing to keep it at bay?
Check out this solid read on the impact of the Lizard Brain from Seth Godin- Seth’s Blog: Quieting the Lizard Brain