Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reflections on 150 posts, 2.5+ years of blogging...

It is a wow feeling!!! In retrospect it is surprising as i never meant to take blogging seriously. :)

It is time for some history. My first post was born out of anger and self-doubt. I felt I need to check if i what i was saying is uncommon, un-remembrable or if my language was difficult. Candidly, I wanted to check on my prophecies. Thus the thought that sharing what you believe and getting to know if it is being accepted or ripped apart by your readers was the first motivation.

No comments slowly became a good motivator than perceived otherwise. I felt no shame in writing what came to me at a given moment. Felt that I get it out there, and no one responds means I have a "safe zone of expression". Alternately, got prepared to accept the fact that if some one said the post is not great or right,  I would just be pleased to have a first client whom I connected with emotionally (tone not withstanding). 

Few things happenned during the journey. Funny that I didn't visualize that current state and their importance then.

Starting point:
No, not the time my post was born. But starting point goes 2 years back from my first post. It is the time I was following bloggers and reading them.  I was a passive consumer. Neither commented or did anything on their blogs. Just read it, reflected it and at times, copied it for my discussions. From sidelines, I saw many of my friends attempting to blog and admired their courage to present their views in front of the world without fear. At this time, one of my close colleague jumped into the bloggers world. He could be noted as my trigger to establish contact with blogging world as a contributor. Alas, he is no longer active in this circuit and is now full time facebookian.

Jumping Procrastination:
#1 Where is the time?: Traditionally, working professionals often have to surmount the challenge of time and goals. The procrastination group often talks about "what is the use"?, "how much money will i make"?, "why should i share my ideas for free"?, "What if some one else uses my ideas and voice and gets ahead?" and more such noises run in head. Particularly, these noises find support when your co-team is not exposed to bloggers world.

I didn't escape this either. The way I circumvented this procrastination is to always say "Need to do it". Making it a mandatory routine is the main lesson that my colleague mentioned to me in our conversation on the subject. In hindi he said it as "Karna padta hai. Kaam bhi karni hai."

#2: Naming Ceremony: I did this too. Felt I need a great name and a "google" type name that can become an instant hit. I went for months together on this one. Felt I had hit a great name which is meaningful for my writing. Only to later realize that is not a good one. See, the benefit of blogging beneath a radar is that you can learn from your mistakes and later not even remember you committed one. Before "Learningpractice", my blog title was "projectstand". So much for all the research i did on the naming of my blog.

#3: Branding, Traffic and other Worries: Such worries constitutes the longest procrastinating thought that prevent you from blogging. Investing time in branding your site, researching on SEO optimization and trying to drive traffic artificially by registering across many promotional sites are all dissipators. If you have great content you can be sure that someone somewhere is liking you silently. Leave the worries. You can get in pros to do that job for you. But you cant pay for creating your own content. It has to be in your words, your thoughts, your opinions. In short, an authentic "you" goes a long way in getting your circle of friends who are thought minded as you.

#4 Fear:  All the above reasons arise primarily out of fear. Fear to start something new, fear that it too might fail, fear of peers comments, fear of time being frittered on a flirtatious effort, fear to write, fear to think, in short resistance to all things blogging. So doing the 3 points above which is available in drones in net, pushes your actual effort a little away.

There is no magic to overcoming fear. As I realized, to remove noise, always say "Need to do it".

Moving On
#1 Few initial posts: Overcoming fear, if you have to write, you cant think through. They need to have inspired you and you just passed on. I wrote them as they occurred to me. Over a time, blogging gave me a way to practice my speech. In essence, it was allowing me to write my stage script and subtly prepared me for my next day act.

#2 When there was a pause: It is scary. Reason is if you lose touch, you will lose the habit. You need to keep up to ensure you are always in touch. We miss our friends when we part ways in college or school and need reunion party to look them up. But the moments, the continuity, the sharing of long list of endless musings all get time-bound and never is the same. At times, I didn't feel like blogging. It was like, there is too much pressure from all sides that this is an overhead (or so it seemed.) But the fear factor that I will let out the habit and will never get to blog as my usual self again kept me going.

It wasn't easy. You know it is actually not a good position to be in. You know you have to blog, but you cant think of what to write. Writers block hits you. This is the time I started looking at my immediate surroundings. Each person, each situation you encounter, every little nuggets of statement in arguments, discussion get to eventually become a valid entry to be in a blog.

If you stay inspired and you are conscious about your look out, there is a long tail of topics that you can blog with.

#3 The spikes and Rewards: I got my first known reader may be after 70-80 postings. My posts were liked and recommended as good weekly posts 4-5 times in a given period by another blogger, I admire. In this time, I started expecting myself to see responses and site meter to show readers every day when my post is out. When it didn't happen you feel that you have lost your readers. But no, the gratifications come in other forms.

You get to reach out at personal level and from the realm of public relationship, you move to a closer bonding of matching thought wavelengths. With every new post, you get to treat spikes and rewards with more pragmatism. You know you can get responses, you have seen little publicity, you get to attract unknown people just with your topic selections and you can "write" the way your readers expect it.

But what counts, is keep the long tail list coming on without any affectations to "all outer gratifications".  It is "you" who got readers choose and close in on you. So leaving the "you" or an "affected you" might have a reverse placebo.

Road Ahead:
Promotions: You need to do this. This shows your interest and your passions. Self-interest is accepted in this world. The best news is people respond and almost all times, positively. But postpone them till you are clear to start, sustain and succeed in the initiative. It is a bad repute to market heavily and lose the touch after some time.

Gaining readers and losing theme in a battle of million blogs is not a great sign of leadership.

Lessons Learned:One lesson in social media is that long tail is essential. Long tail is analogous in time, frequency, velocity of topics and passion that scales past time and everlasting in the heartful journey.

It is not that I have achieved anything impossible. Nor there are pinnacles that are scaled. But innate bondings don't rely on external gratifications. Blogging to me has given myself a voice, a subject that I can phrase in my words, the expressions that is now refined compared to years ago.

What does it give you: Blogging is akin to your daily duties. Missing to do them doesn't bother you much. But it signals a failing health. It is just not a good feeling. Missing a heart beat means a lot to our existence. In simple terms, blogging allows you to maintain mental health better. It can turn the ante against you to a pro-positive effect in a discussion. 

It is important to reveal your self and publish posts with authentic mistakes. Such trademarks are not copyrighted or patented but by default gets associated with the person with recognition of patterns.

Refinements and Growth: I now have 3 blogs running. Hope and wish I get the other blogs off the ground to celebrate 150 posts there too.

Wish and trust I will have each one of you in my continued journey on this site and together create a strong .co-learning network

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10 Tips for Results from Corporate Training programs

1. Engage with people, not just give content to them. Role plays, Scenarios, Dynamic Groupings, Group Activities, Drawings, enactments based on similar thoughts all contribute in every training setting to bond and get most out of training.
2. Ask for feedback often.
3. Discuss action plan based on feedback (often feedback is at end and there is no closed loop to know if it is of use).
4. Tailor processes to show evolution of best practices.
5. Candid history is always entertaining. Say one with Elan and as a story. Create a Protogonist. ("We did these mistakes and hence, now do it this way"; "This was the most funny part in the whole episode";"We will never ever commit that mistake again"; "It was dream run at that time, didn't expect to make it so smooth"; In hindsight, I think it was luck";"It was possible after a hard practice and every bit was planned", etc.)
6. Make it easier to access, read and ALLOW TO SHARE. That is the best reward.
7. Direct people to training zone often to help themselves. Don't feed the horse. Take it to water and leave them there.
8. Create a long tail of archived knowledge. Selective titles is of no use and waste of money to build a small library.
9. Have a second course schedule ready. Get self nominations for next course. That is your success story. It is akin to getting repeat business with no extra sales and marketing cost.
10. Don't be a trainer, don't train your people. Facilitate, Mediate, Compere, Coordinate, Resolve, Collect and Share, Goad, Coach and Repeat a reward system (Impose fines for instilling discipline too). You aid better retention of training materials in a training program if you are not perceived as a preacher.

Above are my experiences and key take aways from the training programs I attended. I remember the training sessions where one or many of these qualities were present, irrespective of the length of time in past.

Am sure you will agree too. There must be more. Please help in the list expansion with your thoughts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Vijayadashmi and Dusshera

Every night in Navratri celebrates the divine
that brings us year long sunshine.

Each celebrated day makes us remember
That there is a supreme power

With the halo of the gods
becoming our guards

On this dusshera
I wish all - The gift of knowledge and triumph over ignorance
That gets to be successful and yet be and do good

With the knowledge from ages
Passed on to us by sages
Who found it all
To bring us up from our fall

Happy Vijayadashami and Happy Dusshera - Dear Readers!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Informal Learning Platforms: The richness is Exchange

In my economics subject in MBA, I was fascinated to learn how exchanges work. As a trader, trading floors teach you many things. To be responsible, alert, gauge, and among other things, the exchanges need transactions to be a worthwhile business. And one of the way exchanges generate lot of transactions is speculation. While stock market strategists will advice against speculation and be an intelligent investor, the investors too make money due to speculatory nature of the trading in exchange.

This brings to the point that for a good personal learning, exchange is important. There needs to be a lot of talk around lot of subjects. This is not possible in any training program nor in a corporate environment (but it can change, though!!). Any official program is led with objective in mind. While informal learning platforms act as "learning medium exchange" with the only objective to leave the learning on individual capacities.

There is lot of content to source inspiration from. One reason why Social Media picks up is because we get to follow lot of blogs, follow lot of people's exchanges. Often it is quoted that the value from Twitter is a meagre percentage. But what is created is an exchange medium that you keep watching for your interested stocks (topics) and then benefit from it. While buying more and more, you let go (sell) of your previous beliefs, tutored cultures, and adapt to ways of the group which exchanges information.

Thus selling any learning platform or courses is easy. The difficult part is to enrich it with exchange of information and content that drives consumption at various levels. The Richness in Exchange is what a True Community bonds and held together in a platform.

Informal Learning Platforms: Outings, Parties and Offsites

Shadowing mentors is a greater form of learning. The acceleration and momentum is amplified, if you can get to associate with mentors in informal situations too. May be a movie, a coffee bar,the next seat in flight, or invite over lunch/dinner. These one-one are constrained by time and requires lot of build up to create the opportunities.

If you wish to grow, create more informal situations that by default promotes discussion and learning as a by-product. Making it an ROI or a main criteria misses the whole point of informality.  My boss does this with elan. He never misses an opportunity to mix his office colleagues in his home parties. Every participant reveals a nugget on the subject they know. And the discussion often spans to wee hours of morning. It is a great learning platform. I try it through outings and make it to dance floor parties with my teams.

A familial relationship is critical to stick around together to surmount challenges. Smaller teams are happier with multiple forms of learning outside the office and home environment. Off-sites are great enabler. In my first organization, the amount of accomplishments in an off-site is amazingly more than what can get done in 2 days of conference room and without its stress ,strains and disturbances.

What a better mixer than to institutionalize a platform that gains through exchanges. And what better than people who share their experiences in fun-filled eco-system.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Discomfort to point of Trust

In an interesting discussion piece today with my team, we were finding that giving comfort to an individual and teams will result in more noise. Interestingly, as if a theme is recurring, my boss gave me his piece of mind  to let me know that giving more comfort and more hand holding has beaten me back with a not so good feedback from the same individual.

This has been repeated many times over. In a project that keeps you on border of delivery and challenges, the output, enthusiasm, crowd-sharing of responsibilities, are apparent and visible. Trust is high till the time the challenge is manifest. Once the challenges are passed by, the first member to create noise is the one who doesn't have a contribution.

In a project, which we know have done multiple times over and is one another repeat delivery, it is apparent that something is bound to go wrong. May be it is Murphy's  law at work, that is not recognized. When I was project manager, I get discomfort from the fact that everything goes smoothly. Hence, either it is always on new processes, new ways of doing things, incremental innovations have been my key to lock in trust.

My mentor taught me to bring in artificial chaos to ensure that every one is alert and on toes to deliver the job. In fact he used to demonstrate how to take a future possibility as a current risk and make sure that we understand that we need to do more and make sure other parties are equally successful.

Trusting others and to be trusted is the pinnacle point in teams who are fighting together to surmount the impossible.

The hidden face of it is to not push discomfort too far to lose on the members. Accepting and accolading job well done will always calibrate the discomfort to point of trust.

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