Monday, March 22, 2010

Score of Knowledge: e-Learning as a great Leveller

Levellers are events that have the maximum reach and the maximum impact. Looking back without them is a museum view for the gen-next. Imagine telling the kids about black and white TV, antennas that picked up only one channel, the planning to be at place at a given time without real time mobile conversation and coordination,...

The first great leveller was the wheel which set up big indutries of retail and automobiles and still runs the fortune in number of small, large appliances/applications. In recent times, they are mobile telephony and internet. Games have always been a great community leveller. In India, all it takes is a bat and ball and a small un-obstrusive place to get a couple form a group, break up into teams, move to a ground, conduct tournament, attract crowd and have a festival time for sports.

Within internet users, social applications have created die-hard fan following that people have started living with. People prefer chatting, tweeting, connecting to a distant world instead of kicking a conversation with neighbours.

e-Learning as a product within internet has the same potential. A self introspection case led me to the following discovery.

I come from a small town and recently visited my native after 3.5 years.During our school days, I realize that in competitions city based schools were given the aura of success. While in most cases, my school teams would have beat some tough opponents, credit then would be "individualized and rare form of luck", while for schools of "brand" were always "generalized and passed on as a normal routine feather in cap".

Often, as child, teenager, we always felt that the score of knowledge is greater in these places, due to the accessibility and availability of "geeky likes". Talk about a quiz club, sports teachers, stadiums, clubs, college grounds, auditoriums, number of occasions to showcase talent, amount of cross-pollination that improves the class act, exposure to mediums and influences are abundant in city places.

With penetration of computers, internet, CD forms of learning being made available, I could now a visible yet slow shift that is beginning to settle the score of knowledge at same level. What games would then be played is an eventual guess.

Your guesses please.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tense Moments: Reflection is a pleasure

The 12th exam... The life changer. The climax of a thriller. The pulsating beats of a close match.

I visited my father's colleague home and found his son preparing for his 12th exam. Couldn't resist recollecting the days which we lived pleasurably even when it was a single stroke decision that was considered our "fate". It is written and there is no second chance (or so it seemed).

The tension was so much that we forgot our crushes, the movie releases, the sleep, the future and just lived the present.

May be a case of remembering the Child again and what mattered to us the most when every step is at stake.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


A handful of people decide the turn a team has to take and shape the culture legacy of a company.They play:
  1.  A Pied Piper in bringing people out of their desks to take a pleasure trip.
  2.  A bee who can hum a theme and froths the sweetness in people.
  3.  An artist who sweet talks to parting money for a self-aggrandizement with a greater good.
  4. A musician who hears warring sides and plays the mellow tunes.
  5. The crank to perk up a dull set up.
While the above are few of the side kicks that "funabbes" team indulges in, the real kick-in comes when they think customers and think service ease.

True yet simple! - "Ease of services delivered is the best service commandment to learn." Think about providing a "one-touch" button, a clean version for reviews, a neat formatted document, a picture that self explains. These and others may have been proved to come from intrinsic behavior, which I beg to differ. "Motivation" as a word rests on "motives" that by game theory terms requires an overarching self-interest. Rather Funabbes are the small subset who do work for the sake of being so and driven by the social cause to live comfortably in a space of their own creation.

They are the creatives. Another "Perfect Behaviour" that you might require your team members to live with.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Strong voice: A project Need: Need to stay focused and avoid drift

A great project needs a  strong voice. A great actor needs a powerful voice to become a star and create the impact. A strong voice to take care of solution, a constant motivator and a strong time keeper is a must need in projects.

Drift is bad. It loosens the elasticity. Non-elastic materials cant bind or group articles together. Maintaining right tension delivers the right solution.  To create tension, you need a strong voice.
  1. A voice that supersedes whims and fancies.
  2. A voice that can listen to users, customers, experts, your own common sense and state that again.
  3. A voice that stands tall among noise.
  4. In a project, escalations are noise. Suddenly you see mail trails from people not involved in project trying to gauge an analogy perspective. At times though required, but it deviates focus.
  5. A voice that rephrases every other person's voice into a single voice.
  6. A voice that calms and is quite when there are too many voices shriller.
  7. A voice that provides and sticks to a direction.
A great project needs a  strong voice. A great actor needs a powerful voice to become a star and create the impact. A weak dubbing artist for a great action starrer is a no-show. Similarly a strong personality with an equally impeccable voice gives the strength, confidence, comfort to all stakeholders involved.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Keep records straight. Question Everything

My wonderful colleague has a nice start to her blogging venture. I wished I could match a similar post. Alas, I give up. Can't patiently recollect the learning. Will challenge her with an equal post hopefully in future.

It took me 11 years, numerous projects in different capacities to arrive at the following thumb rules.

  1. Records are the way of business. Records are the primate model for communication, knowledge sharing and passing along to generations. Keeping records of talks, meetings, deliveries, issues, risks, numbers, reports is the way to do a business. Period.

What is remembered, referenced, linked, analyzed are the records, not the files and deliveries made in projects. So make sure to have:

    1. Emails as primary document repository. I know, it is not a good practice. But given the fact that there is lot of exchange through emails, it is better to preserve them and use them as "record reference repository". With Xobni, it gives more power to easy search the records.
    2. Put down all conversations in writing. It is still the best to track a conversation and find the missing links or the tangent views that are persisting and needs immediate traction to have a unified strength.
    3. Record of numbers is mandatory. Absence is a project crime. Make sure inflows-outflows, efforts scoped-consumed, schedule planned-committed, Cashflows-Profit Margins are all recorded and reported on time. Any attention flaws results in a bad project, however good the service/output and satisfaction levels are with customer.

2. Assume nothing. Question Everything. Ask hard for value.
IQ-lore says that asking "Why" 5 times, leads to clarity on a topic. I have found it hard to practice, since at times I fear looking stupid. Rather, I find it easier to ask these 5 questions and wait for responses to resolve a problem/escalation/hot issue that requires attention.

  1. "That is an assumption. Is there a record to prove the point? Are we having the same context in this instance as well?"
  2. "Is it a fact? Can I see the actual data? I take it as a perception and it could be perception error, in the absence of data."
  3. Why have we gone down the path? Is it still relevant ? Why do still need to persist with the same?
  4. Is there a different lens we can look at the whole problem?
  5. What you do is fine, but what would be the value you want customer to "take away"?How do you think you are adding value ? How do you intend to communicate that what you are providing is of value to customer ?

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Content Creation, Metadata and Distribution - A Knowledge Capture Framework: Part II

Continued from part I
A knowledge capture (content creation) framework outlined below aids in organic growth of quality content that is continuous, sustainable and rewarding in good measure to organization assets.

1. Record: The oldest, dearest and the best way to get content is to track conversations. All it takes is a dictaphone, video camera that performs dual functions of shooting pictures and taking videos. The conversation types for generating content for good e-Learning are:
  1. Interviews
  2. Group Discussions
  3. Informal conversations
  4. Live Talks/Lectures/Narrations
  5. Feedback Sessions
  6. Articles/Blogs
  7. Documents/Presentations
2. Rehash: To enable wider reach of content, it needs an
  1. Identity name,
  2. Context(s) of use,
  3. Definition for existence,
  4. Place(s) for easy look up and
  5. A path to reach them
A content is not a single consumable item. It can aid in multiplying ideas at different instances. Accessing it in different environments leads to better understanding. Think of it as seeing a news in TV and reading it in paper and browsing it as a blog. Another analogy could be viewing a game in multiple camera views to understand the strategies and weaknesses better. We gain perspectives and it is important function of any e-Learning program.

The various ways to rehash the content in multiple scenarios would be to work on the content and provide it with:
  1. Tags (phrases that define the content better)
  2. Contextual sets mapping (What aims and areas the content sets to provide value)
  3. Roles Definition (What roles would benefit from content and what is the defining goal of content)
  4. Keywords (Individual words that can be remembered and searched to reach content)
  5. Metadata information(Place, Location, Author, Relevance, Validity)
3. Repeat: Same content in multiple delivery mediums. Called as "Publish Once, Deploy Anywhere" concept, "One-push publishing" or any other marketing terms. Repetition is an important learning concept. It is said that in Hindu religion, ages ago, knowledge of vedas was passed down generations only through memory. The important way that is taught even today is to rehearse the verses by repeating. This is how academic excellence is also measured. The more times you read, the more times you speak out loud, the better retention of the subject.

In age of multiple access mediums of laptops, desktops, mini DV, consoles, kiosks, mobiles, it is important for e-Learning to harness the mediums to provide the repeatable views of the same information.

The framework is an attempt to enable,
1. creating content faster, cheaper and a continuous process,
2. providing access methods with multiple outlets for users to be comfortable and reachable to content
3. Creating user friendly pages, with seperate tools at seperate times to enforce recollection, application and promote more content creation.

What I have seen in practice is that when done on a continous basis with complete awareness of its importance, a sustainable knowledge capture leads to an effective knowledge base that assists users in solving problems faster, easier and better.

Thoughts please in comments section!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Content Creation, Metadata and Distribution - A Knowledge Capture Framework: Part I

In so many years of professional life, I have seen trends evolve from bandwidth constrained, IT constrained web world to a world where advances in technology, business and experience is driven primarily by creativity limits of individuals and motivated groups bringing in new paradigms of work culture in rapid waveform.

One area, that is "bottleneck" is "quality and expert advised content". This basic context for web world is still constrained across organizations. Most companies going for e-Learning enablement, start gathering content after award of project assuming content is in place. In companies where the website is revamped, the pains to get content from various business heads is untold pathos lore in any company.

Which brings the point. Shouldn't web now evolve better mechanisms to collect content and provide ease of access to content? That then takes higher forms of learning value that e-Learning practitioners can create meaningful learning units for business benefits.

The way to collect content, still is a
  • high cost,
  • time intensive,
  • Specific and limited to company resources and
  • manual dependent task.
While scope for automation is less, you still need a model for fast tracked, cost effective and time wrapped content creation and gathering. So what is the respite.

The only way, I can look forward is to have an understanding of the knowledge capture framework and factor in the time, resources, efforts with execution attributes.

Continued in next post...

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