Squirrels have a bad rap.

I often compare myself to a squirrel: I see something new, or “shiny”, and I zoom on it. I say it in a positive way, as for me, it illustrates my constant search and interest for new things, other things that may be useful at some point in the future. Collecting “dots” that I will connect later on.

I say it knowing that the most common association of being a squirrel is lack of focus. A dear friend of mine uses it sometimes as a reminder to others in a team setting to “get back on track”: when someone is getting off topic, or too much into details, they shout “SQUIRREL” as a comical and friendly cue to refocus on the task at hand. They sometimes put a picture or an illustration of a cute squirrel on a wall as a visual reminder.

I just saw an the TV commercial (2013 I think) that prompted me to right this post. It highlights the very positive aspects of squirrels which are great attributes to have in business today: squirrels are small, quick, persistent, efficient and AGILE!

I am a Squirrel, and PROUD OF IT!   🙂

What do you think about being a Squirrel?

Are you a Squirrel?

Is your company a Squirrel Company?

PS – Here’s the post where I saw the ad, which show other clever, and very funny TV commercials.

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Don’t let anyone fall through the cracks… including you!

How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s all about who you know.” Or who knows you. Or who remembers you.

In business, large and small, you have to be in the top layers of the minds of the people you do business with, whether it’s B2B or B2C.

It’s about your network. But more importantly, it’s about how you take care of your network. You need to nurture it. Like plants… you need to water them, give them the right amount of light, enrich the soil, and even talk to them according to some.   🙂

People are the same. Look at the illustrations above. Imagine the names you see there are the names of people in your network. The bigger the name, the more you interact with them: meet in person, talk on the phone, exchange emails, follow each other’s social media, etc.

But what about those little names? Those you do not keep in touch with? Those who do not know about what you’re doing? Who knows what they are doing right now? Who knows what they are planning?

And that also means THEY do not know what YOU ARE DOING!!!!!

Imagine your cloud of names with no bid difference in size. Some will always be bigger, of course. These people you deal with regularly because things are good between you and them. But you have to wonder what you, or them, are missing by not being in touch.

Just a thought…

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OLE! …or the Organic Learning [Experience]

How did I get to Organic Learning Experience?

A few days ago I had a very interesting conversation with two colleagues in the context of social learning. And I’m writing about it because I’d like to share the thoughts that we shared. More questions than answers of course. 🙂

It started when one asked “What is your educational philosophy”?

As this is not a day-to-day type of question, answering that question slowed the pace a bit, and it took a few moments to get the momentum back. What followed was an very interesting exchange of ideas.

“We need to use what works…”

“All learning should be blended…”

“Learners should be exposed to reality and work together to learn….”

We went on to talk about the various strategies and formats we can use, how we come about to select them. Lots of talk lately about storytelling and engagement.  We need maximum flexibility to adjust with context that changes.

“How do you manage uncertainty?”

We never know exactly what will happen. How things will change. What “curve ball” will be thrown at you, as a designer or as a learner, when you least expect it.

“The uncertainty of our environment must be met with a proportionally varied selection of tools and approaches, to compensate for that uncertainty.”

Agility then comes to mind.

Cybernetics, Conversation Theory, Informal learning followed… Intentional learning…

“What is your preferred online social tool?” 

Do you fit your design with the tool(s) your learners like?

Do you fit your learners to the tool(s) you think would work best?

Do you gently introduce your learners to a new thing that they should like and engage in?

This conversation popped these words in my mind: Organic Learning Experience. Or OLE!

o·lé
ōˈlā/
exclamation
 …a cry of approval, joy, etc.
Bravo!
Yes!

You know that feeling?

Organic Learning Experience…

The brain works in mysterious ways. Each person is unique, like everyone else. Each person has their own reality, and people with similar realities tend to stick together, understand each other, collaborate better.  Like soap bubbles…   😉

We constantly learn, from all kinds of inputs, delivered to us in all kinds of ways. It adapts to us and we adapt to them, depending on our extrinsic needs and intrinsic interests.

Try to force someone into a fixed mold, and you will get either rejection or frustration: two things completely antagonistic to learning, as it deflects energy from it.

It’s all about providing varied opportunities for learning, in terms of content and channels. We must provide access to informal learning opportunities alongside fixed, formal and planned learning interventions dictated by business requirements.

We cannot keep being like the majestic oak who expands tremendous energy to stay up and hold its ground, because the ground is moving. We need to be as varied as the reeds and other flexible and adaptive plants surrounding us.

Just some thoughts…

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What does it mean to be “Agile”

We all hear the word “agile” repeatedly. In all sorts of context. Project management, business, design, etc… Agility is a mindset. A mindset about two things: speed and change.

Speed to get things one quickly to validate pertinence and value. Best example is Agility in product development, and project management. Most of all because we dont want to waste resources, and we want to get it out as fast as possible because it is in demand or you want to be first on the market.

Change because it is constant. Everything is changing constantly: society and business. So the old days of over-planning are gone. Yes, you need to plan, you need a vision, a road map… but you need to test your ideas and assumptions as many times as possible, to make sure you’re on the right track.

We know what has been, but we cannot be sure of what will be, at least not definitely. The target is always moving.

To follow the target, we need to be agile.

But what does it mean to be agile? 

This morning I saw the following diagram posted on LinkedIn by a few people (Marie PineauRomy Schnaiberg and Myriam Plamondon – see references below) which I believe is a good tool to answer that question.

being agile

I like this diagram. It makes complete sense to me. If you think you’re agile, look at each aspects and reflect on it. It might even help you identify things you need to work on if you want to be more agile. Do the same with your company if it wants to be agile. Propose it as a team exercise. Do it separately, anonymously event, and then compare answers. And I mean everyone, management included. 🙂

Come to think of it, this could be used to create an AGILITY Index, for individuals as well as companies. Each of the five aspects could be rated, even double-rated: self-rated and rated by others.

Does it exist? Maybe I should build one. Would you use it?

References* provided by Myriam Plamondon:

  • De Meuse, K. P., Dai, G., & Hallenbeck, G. S. (2010). Learning agility: A construct whose time has come. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 62(2), 119.
  • DeRue, D. S., Ashford, S. J., & Myers, C. G. (2012). Learning agility: In search of conceptual clarity and theoretical grounding. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 5(3), 258-279.

* You’ll find them on the web…

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If you like the post, please “like” it.  🙂

Reputation and trust are key.

I started KATALYST5 with the goal of connecting people.

Connecting those in need of services with the right people to do the best job that can be done.

How does KATALYST5 know who is the best person to do something?

We start simple, by identifying what needs to be done for a specific job and then we selecting who – if there were no restrictions – would be the absolute best person (or people) to complete it.

We base our selection on their knowledge, experience and skills, but also, more importantly, because on knowing these people love doing exactly that work that needs to get done.

Once we have a list of candidates, we look at their availability and their cost.  We may negotiate certain aspects of the job like calendar or budget to make it work, and if it’s a match, then great!  And if it doesn’t, well, we move down the list until we do find the right match for you.

This is how we work.

But here’s a question to you: Why do you hire a specific person? Do you just look at a sheet of paper, examine their resume, consider their pedigree?   Of course not.  You will eventually want to meet with and talk to that person to discuss your needs because, at the end of the day, you don’t hire a company, you hire the people in that company.

And yet, even then, can you ever be sure what kind of service you will get from that person?  As we know all too well, ineffective people can still be very effective at selling themselves.  We’ve all heard horror stories of business relationships gone bad, even though they started with great expectations based on a few chats and meetings.

So while you should consider hiring the person and not the resume, how can you really be sure if you do not know that person?

The answer is reputation.  We all need to look at reputation.

What do others think of the person you are considering?  Sure, you need to do your homework, and not just make a quick phone call to that person’s friend.  And, in asking around, if you hear things that you don’t like, due diligence sometimes requires that you take other people’s words with a grain of salt.

See, reputation is based on the input of others.  Trust, on the other hand, is based on your personal experience.

So here’s another word: trust.

But without personal experience, if you’re hiring someone you don’t know, how can you trust them?  Someone’s reputation only becomes trustworthy when you hear about it from someone you yourself trust.   I call it inferred-trust.

And another word: change.

Change is constant, but the pace of change has accelerated in the last decade.  Technological innovations, climate change, political turmoil, and… people of course.  We change a lot because of what we learn, what we adapt to, and what we get overwhelmed by.

And back to my point again: reputation.

Reputations change, because people change.  For the better and, sometimes, for the worst.  So we each have to take care of our reputation.  Protect it and nurture it.  In a world of constant change, filled with people who don’t know who we are, it is all we have to make these people trust us.

And the best way to do it: be humble and empathize with others.

What do you think?

Get people to talk about creativity

Last week I was invited to organize an activity to take people out of their comfort zone, during lunch time at the 3rd annual Bootcamp on Training Strategies here in Montreal. That’s me up there presenting the upcoming lunch activity.

The topic I picked? Creativity.

Though people usually associate creativity with artsy or design tasks, the truth is creativity is applied, and required, in any and all tasks in the learning industry. In any industry for that matter: whether you are asked to design a piece, or manage a project, or manage people, or run a business, you are always required to be more or less creative.

The funny, and sad part about creativity, is that we were all extremely creative at some point. In our early life, from the time we opened our eyes for the first time and started to figure things out, to our first years in grade school. But then, most got creativity beaten out of them, to fit the mold our education models dictated. the rest, well, hung in there an did what they felt was right, and kept creativity as part of their being, as part of their soul.

Anyway, enough with that and on to the activity in question. So with the help of a very good friend of mine, who specializes in face-to-face learning, we devised an activity to reflect and discuss the meaning of creativity, its requirements and its implications. To do that we gathered about 60 quotes from various people and authors out of 9 books on creativity and innovation (see list below). Each quote was printed on a card, and cards were randomly grouped on the tables setup for people to eat their lunch. The idea was for each person to read the quote, reflect on it, decide if they agreed or not with it, and discuss it with their lunch buddies. Then, go around and discuss other quotes with other people. I even prepared an explainer video to present a line of questioning to help get the ball rolling.

The result? Mixed. As with any activity, you never know how it will work out. Especially when it’s a free-form activity, in an uncontrolled environment. As I observed and chatted with a few people around the room, I realized people were more inclined to either take a mental break from the sessions or discuss those sessions with other participants.

My takeaway for this type of activity?  A few points:

  • This format is probably better for a crowd specifically geared towards discussing creativity;
  • With this crowd it would have been more engaging to do it as a workshop, in a controlled environment, in which case I would add the concepts of innovation and innovation;
  • ensure to have two types of people in each discussion groups: people that are tasked with producing creative results and people who are tasked with managing them.

All in all this was a very exciting exercise, and full of promises. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Thank you.

Note: Here’s the bibliography we used:

  • CREATIVE CONFIDENCE
    par Tom Kelly & David Kelly, aux éditions Crown Business
  • CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE
    par Bruce Nussbaum, aux éditions HarperCollins Publishers
  • DRIVE
    par Daniel Pink, aux éditions RIVERBED BOOKS (New York)
  • GRAPHIC DESIGN THINKING: BEYOND BRAINSTORMING
    par Ellen Lupton, aux éditions Princeton Architectural Press (New York)
  • ORBITING THE GIANT HAIRBALL
    par Gordon Mackenzie, aux éditions Viking Penguin
  • STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST
    par Austin Kleon, aux éditions WORKMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY (New York)
  • SHOW YOUR WORK!
    par Austin Kleon, aux éditions WORKMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY (New York)
  • THE CREATIVE HABIT
    par Twyla Tharp, aux éditions SIMON & SCHUSTER (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney)
  • THE INNOVATION SECRETS OF STEVE JOBS
    par Carmine Gallo, aux éditions McGRAW HILL (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Lisbon, Londo, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, New Delhi, San Juan, Seoul Singapore, Sydney, Toronto)

Montreal’s Creative Startups

Last Thursday, I went to District 3’s DemoDay, to take a look at a bunch of startups mentored by District 3 Innovation Center, at Concordia University in Montreal.

I went there partly out of curiosity, and partly as I am a designer of all sorts, as well as an entrepreneur. The event was very impressive, not only because the venue was great (Sid Lee’s Multifunctional Space setup for Montreal’s Creative Community), but the food was excellent (another startup, Gourmet chez toi), and the 13 startups who took the stage did a very good job at presenting themselves – some were more descriptive in their approach and offering, some were short and sweet and to the point: all were of course asking for money.  🙂

You’ll find information about the event and the startups on the event’s page, but here’s the list:

  • M-Dreams Stage: Entertainment. Realtime motion capture of a dancer, digitized and used to generate visuals overlayed in realtime on the dancer. http://mdreams-stage.com/
  • Hyasynth: Medicine – pharma. Developing drug-medication of select genes found in medical marijuana, to treat various illnesses without the effects of weed, such as smoking it and feeling the “other” effects. hyasynthbio.com
  • Easy CPR: Fix the problem of too many CPR procedures done wrong by… doctors and nurses. Mechanical apparatus connected to software giving realtime feedback on correctness of doing CPR, allowing CPR giver to correct while performing it. Link to their page on District3.
  • Revols: Custom earphones to fit YOUR ears. Gel-like substance formed to your ears on first fitting and solidified in under 60 secs (if I remember correctly). Procedure is guided by an app on your smartphone. Promise of serious reduction in consumer pricing compared to currently available similar customized product. revolsound.com
  • Paradox Interfaces – tryb: Building online teams to compete in SERIOUS online gaming events. paradoxinterfaces.com
  • Imaginary Spaces: Software that allows you to create virtual spaces “easily” – and 3D print them if you are such-equipped. Very interesting – had a Sketchup feel to it, but looked easier to use. imaginary-spaces.com
  • Memo App: App that allows you to create or find micro-events of you liking. The type of event that doesn’t really take much to organize, last minute type, which you may not be aware they are happening. memoapp.com
  • e-panneur: Online grocery shopping AND delivery from… MULTIPLE STORES!  Really cool.   e-panneur.ca
  • Stay22: Online event platform that takes care of “all” the logistics of attending the event of your choice: just give it the event, and it will find it, give you the date(s) and location, and propose lodging choices. Don’t remember if it also proposes transportation choices too…
  • TeekTak: online platform to help freelancers with ALL the paperwork of being a freelancer, in a “simplified” manner. teektak.com
  • JOTUN: Online game inspired by North Mythology, bringing back a lost art with this hand drawn game. jotungame.com
  • HEDDOKO: Smart motion-capture suits. Designed for advanced, professional athletes who do not have the $$$ for MOCAP, and want to get data from the field (not in a controlled environment such as MOCAP). Will also offer consumer level garments, with less sensors. heddoko.com
  • MuCity: These guys will record events from multiple points of view, package them in such as way that will allow you to “relive” the event. At this time they released the full audio of the pitches. Just need to get their app. mucity.co

Kudos to to District 3 for their work and for organizing this great event!

Talking about rates amongst peers…

Rates… How much to charge? Who’s charging how much?  What for? etc. Very subjective topic, and not that straightforward to discuss.

I blogged about this topic last year, What’s in a rate? and Was the rate worth it? to discuss some intrinsic considerations that go into determining rates.

This is a brief summary of 90+ minutes of discussions…

Last Wednesday I facilitated an ISPI Montreal event, entitled “Everything you always wanted to know about rates, but were afraid to ask…“. It was a pretty good event, lots of questions and interaction between participants. We were particularly happy that we had a fair number of student from Concordia University’s Educational Technology program: gave them the opportunity to hear their future peers talk about this hot, business topic.

Part of the event was to present the results of a survey we ran to our local ISPI Montreal members, and compare the results to the same survey dating back to 2004: the conclusion?  Rates have not changed that much over a decade (see for yourself).  Most likely due to the fluctuation of the economy, which affects the job market and the expenditures for training. And we all know that tougher times brings down the axe on training which is always front and center for the chopping block.   😦

We basically asked the participants two questions, to trigger some discussion and reflection…

First: What factors influence the rate you charge when working directly with a client?

Participants broke off in small groups and went off to come up with their prioritized list of factors. We tried to mingle the students evenly so they benefit as mush as possible from their future peers.

The result? See for yourself… (sorry, I’m missing one)

Of course skills set, experience and knowledge came out, but not education per se, or more precisely, the need to have an education such as the one offered in Educational Technology.

What came out more was about the type of work and the context in which that work needs to be done: type of work, the market, the economy, the profile of the work, its length, specific technical skills, the budget available, the industry, etc.

Second: How do you explain/justify your rate?

This question we addressed as one group.

Right off the bat there was a reaction to the word “justify”. Didn’t expect it but wasn’t surprised. What was argued is the rate you present is the rate that should be. I guess it’s fine when either you offer a pretty clear value of what that rate buys, or there isn’t much competition, or you’re in demand – one would assume that if you are in demand then you are worth what you are charging.

But when you don’t have any of those conditions, it’s a different ballgame. Especially if you’re dealing with a client that is bottom-line driven. But you can always pass.

The discussion moved towards the concepts of value, uniqueness and expectations. In essence, it’s about being a business: being a consultant requires that you look at yourself as the “product” your business offers. As such, you need to need to consider these concepts and package a service offer that supports the rate you want.  Or, as one of the students said, the rate you “offer”.

But all in all, rates are just a unit for calculations, right? The bigger question is “how much one takes to do a job?” If one person charges $100/hr and takes 100 hrs to do a job, while another charges $75/hr and takes the same amount of time, with the same outcome in quality and alignment with expectations, why is the cost different? We often say that in theory, the higher the rate, the faster the job and the higher the quality, right? Or is it not so clear cut?

As I say in my previous posts, there are a lot of intrinsic aspects that add value to a person offering their services. The key, as it was discussed in the latter part of the evening, is the value offered and the value required. This leads to clearly stating and understanding expectations from both sides of the fence.

One point was brought up about using salary as a gauge to determine an equivalent rate. A friend of mine who’s working in a para-public organization explained to me the way they do it: you take the salary, for this example let’s say… $50k for a junior position, add 30% to cover benefits, and then account for how much time off you want, how much time you think you’ll need to run your business and LOOK FOR WORK, that gives you a daily rate of about $325 or an hourly rate of $41. These numbers came up with this little Excel sheet I made for you.  🙂

More live discussions should be had, on topics such as base Ratios for Design and Development, scoping & estimating, constraints & risks…

Makes sense?

PS: you can always take a look at my previous posts on these topics:

How to Deal with STRESSED OUT Customers

Thanks Tim!   Another great perspective on understanding and dealing with people. Especially the importance of having a clear enough picture of your own needs and objectives so you know when to… get away.     🙂

Tim Ohai

Next week, I am stoked to be joining my friends Jim Keenan (@keenan) and Anthony Iannarino (@iannarino) for a “jolt of Sales 411.” Our topic is going to be people who drive us nutshow to deal with a pain in the a$$ prospect/customer. Knowing these guys the way that I do, it’s going to be a GREAT conversation. One that you definitely won’t want to miss.

Since I typically obsess think about things way too deeply before doing these kinds of events, and I have been focused on the concept of stress this past year, I wanted to cover stress as ONE of the ways that a client can become an absolute terror.

High thermometerIn case you missed my last post on dealing with stress (and since it was months ago that I posted it!), let me give you a brief summary. I find that stress is generally…

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Thoughts that crossed my mind, would like to share… and discuss. :-)

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