Leadership

Trust in the Marketplace

Isn’t it interesting?

The American Society for Training and Development’s (ASTD) International Conference was packed with sessions on virtual learning, social media, 3D, best practices for webinars and so on. I attended the conference, and while there, I received a press release about Ken Blanchard’s acquisition of the Trustworks Group. Yes, I did receive it on my iphone, and I admit, I read it while listening to the speaker. Seems this is typical behavior for certain generations.

Well, that definitely peeked my interest given that I have been working with Stephen M.R. Covey for the past three years to bring engaging and dynamic learning programs to the market based on his best-selling book, The Speed of Trust.

Obviously, other thought leaders besides Stephen M.R. are catching on to the idea that trust is a key leadership competency, and that there is a great need to develop leaders who inspire trust.

This is certainly no surprise given that in the past decade, both business and government have violated stakeholder trust and demonstrated how its loss erodes reputation. As a result, trust has emerged as a new line of business.

The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer suggests that, to advance reputation, companies need to be everywhere, engaging everyone. That they must build a “mosaic of trust.” In fact, the barometer shows that trust and transparency are as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services.

High trust organizations out perform low-trust organizations. Total return to shareholders is almost three times higher than the return in low trust organizations. So we assert that trust is clearly a key competency. A competency or skill that can be learned, taught, and improved, and one talent to screen for.

Leaders need to be transparent and talk straight, instead of creating illusions, having hidden agendas, making things seem different from reality, or spinning the truth. These are two of the key behaviors in Stephen M.R. Covey’s book that came out of his work on trust.

We are glad to hear more buzz about trust in the marketplace. And we hope your trust work is based on trust as an economic driver, and about implementing the behaviors of trust at all levels in your organization – getting people to speak the language of trust and understand how to extend, restore and build it.

There are no trust falls or funny hats in our Speed of Trust simulation and Speed of Trust Meeting in a Box. These dynamic learning solutions are about trust as an economic driver; about making trust your operating system; about learning and applying the behaviors common to high trust. Now there is something to tweet about (or we’ll send a press release if you prefer)!

Learning Leaders are the Key to Reengaging a Disengaged Workforce

Your organization has much to contend with – uncertainty in the marketplace, changing customer behaviors, new technology, and employees that have disengaged.  That’s right – DISENGAGED.  The broad employee population may be thankful to have a job, but let’s face it, their focus has been challenged by the worst recession in three generations. In fact, research consistently shows that when employees are uncertain about the organization’s future, their productivity suffers. A lot of time and energy is lost as people discuss and worry about “what could happen.”

Active learning techniques such as simulations or learning visuals have been proven to engage more effectively than any other training medium. Now may be the time to refocus and reengage your workforce with one of these custom training solutions. Imagine the competitive advantage you could enjoy if all of your employees were focused on the critical success factors that your leadership has identified as the keys to achieving plan this year.

Many of our clients have enjoyed tremendous productivity boosts by utilizing our learning visuals (Blueline Blueprints) to facilitate their employee’s personal connection to the business imperative – why it matters, why it must happen now, the role that each of them must play, and the benefits to them collectively and individually.

In one of my favorite movie scenes of all time, Andrew Shephard (played by Michael Douglas), in The American President, chastises Bob Rumsfeld (played by Richard Dreyfuss), saying: “we have serious problems and we need serious people Bob, and your 15 minutes of fame is up.”  Given the current economic conditions, the role of the learning leader as business advocate is more critical than ever.  In the words of Andrew Shephard, “It’s time to stand up and support the business, the time for nice to haves is over.” If you are ready to lead, a custom simulation or learning visual may very well be the answer.

Enterprise Trends with Implications for Learning

Alex Williams over at readwriteweb.com has an interesting post on 5 Enterprise Trends to Watch in 2010. While he doesn’t specifically address training or corporate learning, I think the trends he is predicting will have a significant impact on our industry.

I particularly like his reframe of the term social media. “Social media has to be one of the most over-used phrases of the year but it should not reflect on the increasing need for community management practices within the enterprise. We expect community management to become an increasingly valued role.”

I think Williams has a valid point. It seems to me that what we need to focus on in the learning space is learning/knowledge community management rather than “social learning.” One benefit of this shift in language could be an easier sell to enterprise leadership. Investing in managing the organization’s “knowledge community” does not raise the same red flags as “social learning” often does.

One other trend that could begin to have direct implications is what he labels “The Big Sync.” Users are demanding that more and more information be automatically syncing between their mobile devices and other tools that they use such as computers. Not only do we want constant access to important up-to-date information like email and contacts, but more and more we want to be able to do some work on one device and then continue that work on our mobile devices.

As Mobile Learning becomes more ubiquitous, we will need to explore strategies and implementations that will allow for real-time syncing of up-to-date information. Shelf life for training content may soon be measured in days or even hours rather than months. We also need envision to designs that accommodate the users accessing the training on multiple devices. Just like me email, I may start a learning session in my office, but want to complete it while waiting for a table at lunch.

The other trends he spotlights could have implications as well, however, these two though struck me immediately. His short post is definitely worth a read.

Helping the Brain Make Meaning

I recently discovered a presentation from last year’s TED conference by Tom Wujec, an Information Designer and Fellow at AutoDesk, in which he explored the question, “How can we best engage our brains to help us better understand big ideas?” Certainly an important question for those of us engaged in developing training and communications programs.

Wujec’s investigation was stimulated by people’s reactions to an experiment conducted at the previous year’s TED conference. (For those not familiar with it, TED is a conference for bringing together leading thinkers and practioners in the fields of Technology, Education and Design. The purpose is to share “big ideas” that will “change attitudes, lives and ultimately the world.”) At the previous conference, artist from AutoDesk and The Grove were capturing the main ideas or concepts from each presentation in sketches. These were then assembled into an interactive display that attendees could explore. The overwhelming positive response led Wujec to begin to investigate just how does the brain “make meaning” or assemble mental models.

Not surprisingly, his investigation of cognitive science lead to the conclusion that the visualization of ideas and concepts plays an important role in how we make meaning of and retain ideas. He learned that meaning comes through a series of discovery or “ah-ha” moments, through various processes. His talk focused on three areas of the brain involved in converting visual input into mental models.

  1. The Ventral Stream – which determines “what” we are looking at
  2. The Dorsal Stream – which spatially locates or places items
  3. Limbic System – where the feeling or emotional reaction to what we’re seeing resides

Wujec’s examination of how these three (along with about 25 other processes) create meaning led to three conclusions that have significance for how we develop training and communications.

  1. Have People Interact with the Images to Create Engagement
  2. Augment the Memory with Persistent and Evolving Views

Of course as I watched the presentation, I immediately thought of our Blueline Blueprint learning visuals. For years we have known how effective they are at helping individuals grasp new ideas and concepts. One of my clients found that after three months people who attended a session using a learning visual I had designed had a 65% better grasp of the company’s new strategic objectives, and how those objectives should influence their work, than individuals attending the traditional CEO “road-show.” I was struck by how the training and communication sessions built around one of our Blueprints tap directly into Wujec’s three components of making meaning.

1. Use Images to Clarify Ideas — Now I can hardly draw a stick figure, but I’m lucky enough to work with talented artists who excel at developing visual metaphors and images to capture and clarify clients’ ideas. During at least half the Blueprint (links to projects I’ve worked on, someone on the client team will say, “we’ve struggled with this for months, but your visual has created alignment and clarity of message that we just couldn’t achieve.”

2.Have People Interact with the Images to Create Engagement — Using the Socratic Dialogue method, small teams of learners explore this powerful visual to find information, make connections and discuss application to their work. This creates a level of engagement and processing of ideas that is an order of magnitude greater than listening to a presentation of material.

3.Augment the Memory with Persistent and Evolving Views — Frequently, we will use elements from the Blueprint as a visual component in on-going communications that occur after the initial session. This provides a visual trigger that recalls the experience and the learning. We have also created place-mat size copies of the visual or even mouse-pads as take-aways, all to provide that persistent review of the concepts and application.

Of course, discovery learning, or creating those “ah-ha” moments, is fundamental to all of our designs and programs. We constantly strive to find ways to live up to a slightly altered version of Lao-Tse’s quote on great leadership, “But of a good design, – when its work is done, its aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did this ourselves.”

Welcome to the Future of Immersive Learning. Welcome to Blueline Simulations.

When I was at a session for learning professionals recently, Mike Barger, the CLO from Jet Blue, was asked by a young man in the audience about the best way to advance within his company. His response spoke volumes: “Too many of us are Learning Professionals working in the field of business. We need to rethink our roles and become Business Professionals in the field of learning.”

For the past 8 years, Blueline has been quietly earning the trust of many of the world’s most respected companies.  We have accomplished this by solving business problems for our clients: Sales & Marketing, Onboarding, Leadership, Change and Transformation, and Business Acumen.  It just so happens that we have done this using the most engaging and efficacious learning solutions in the marketplace.

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