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Archive for March, 2008

Having read a lot about knowledge management and knowledge wealth, I have a  favorite quote regarding the topic:

A burden shared is a burden halved; an intellectual asset shared is one doubled.

I love that! Talk about a return on investment. Who doesn’t want that kind of action?

Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how companies allow their knowledge assets to slip away. That is like throwing money out the window.

How many times have you heard (or experienced) this story:

An employee, called “Alice”, works for an organization for 3 years, 5 years, 10 years or more. Finally, it is time for Alice to move on. Maybe it is her choice, maybe it is not. After Alice is gone it takes 2-3 people to do her job. Not only that, but it takes the 2-3 people 3-6 months to come up to speed.

Why?
Sometimes this is done in the name of a reorganization. Sometimes it is due to a cut in the budget, personality conflict, or change of management. In today’s market of the “Knowledge Worker”, it may be due to the lack of challenge or responsibility for the employee. However, it almost always boils down to these two reasons:

1) Lack of foresight

2) Poor knowledge management

Knowledge is leaking from companies left and right. Some of it an organization may never be able to recover from.

Is the leader willing to put his or her finger in the dam?

Kudos
I recently learned of a major government organization that peered into the future and realized that they would be losing a large part of their intellectual capital in the next three years.

Kudos to the group for having the foresight to see the potential disaster coming and for having the guts to be willing to do something about it.

Over the next three years they are going to put together a knowledge repository so that none of the current intellectual assets are lost. New employees can quickly learn what was known by their previous peers and build upon it for the continued success of the organization. They are going to double, and in some cases triple, their knowledge wealth.

What about you in your company? Is your knowledge pool leaking or overflowing? What are you doing to stem the tide? How are you teaching, training, and equipping next generation workers to build on the capital of those who came before?

Here’s your chance to double your investment and secure success for the future.

Don’t waste it.

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Bring Back The Word “Sticky”

I was telling a friend about the various projects and solutions I work on. When I brought up online learning and performance management, I used the word “sticky”.

“Wow, now that is a word I haven’t heard since the early days of the Web,” my friend exclaimed.

I knew what he was referring to. Sticky was a word used to describe a Web site’s combination of architecture, UI, and content. If a site was sticky it kept the attention of visitors and kept them on the site and coming back often. In essence a site retained it’s audience.

Today, I use the word sticky in regard to learning. Learning is sticky when:

  1. It is fun and enjoyable.
  2. It captures imagination and stirs creativity.
  3. It engages the learner through interaction and team work.
  4. It excites and drives the learner to know more.
  5. It encourages the learner to apply “fun approaches” to work and more.
  6. It creates a positive and practical experience.
  7. It increases mental flexibility and agility.
  8. It is a fresh and new approach to common learning methods.

Ultimately, when a person retains and applies what they learn, then the learning content is sticky. If you are in the business of teaching, training, and development don’t be satisfied with only spreading information. Look for creative, out of the box, and fun ways to make learning…well, sticky.

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World of Warcraft® – Nexus of NextGen eLearningeLearning, Community development, Technology, and Fun — all these impact and work together in changing the exciting landscape of online learning for the next generation. Often, I talk with organizational leaders who look puzzled when I start discussing the unification of these practices. Most take each of the areas above and put them in separate silos. At best, they merge one or two with another, but rarely will they see all four areas working together. In an article I recently read, it was evident that Rob Pardo and the team at Blizzard Entertainment understand this unifying idea.

Community
With more than 6 million subscribers, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (WoW) has hit on something more than just geeks and gaming. Pardo, himself is part of a subgroup (in WoW terms, a Guild) that communicates regularly outside the game.

“Outside the game we stay in touch using online forums, a wiki, blogs, and a mailing list – plus a group voice chat, which I have connected to my home stereo so I hear the guilds banter while I’m cooking dinner. I have never been this addicted to anything before,” says Pardo.

Keeping It Fun
According to Pardo, there are four basic draws to this online environment: the ability to socialize, an achievement system that gives users an incentive to improve, complex and satisfying strategy that makes playing fun, and an underlying narrative that users want to learn more about. Add to this the ability for the user to customize his/her experience and interface and you have a winning formula for retention and success.

According to Joi Ito, some call online gaming the new golf, but it is more than that…

“…it is millions of people with diverse backgrounds collaborating, socializing, and learning while having fun. It represents the future of real time collaborative teams and leadership in an always-on, diversity-intensive, real-time environment. World of Warcraft is a glimpse into our future.”

As evidenced in this environment, here is a case-study/incubator for NextGen learning paradigms. The disciplines of eLearning, Community development, and Technology under the umbrella of Fun are not separate functional areas. The fact is they all work together in tandem.

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Why eLearning Can Be Bigger

Progressively over the years online learning has become more attractive and more strategic. Big and small businesses alike have seen the value in training via the Web. Below is an excerpt from the eLearning Blog:

Learning is big business…

First of all because of the ever existing gap between knowledge and skills you gather at school and that what you need in business. To close this gap companies offer in-house or external trainings and courses to further develop employee knowledge and skills.

Another reason why learning is important is the fact that continuously new methods, tools, technology, and other changes affect our work environment. Learning is therefore also a means to keep pace with all these changes. Read more…

What do you think are the pros and cons of online learning?

Why do some organizations embrace eLearning while others flee from it?

How does generational leadership factor into the adoption equation?

– Comment below –

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Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood. – Walt Disney

Why is there even a debate about the effects of entertainment on culture? I have heard some big businesses say, “TV and movies have no effect on people,” and in the next breath they “OK” spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a Super Bowl commercial spot? Why spend that amount of money if media and entertainment has “no effect on people”?

Issues Around Edutainment
The answer is obvious. Walt Disney certainly understood the significance of entertainment and fun as it related to educating and learning. However, there still exists a tension between entertainment and edutainment. Many educators feel that edutainment is not educating. Some say it promotes:

  • Short attention span
  • Lack of focus
  • Apathy
  • Impatience
  • Boredom
  • And, in extreme cases, harmful tendencies

Regarding boredom, there certainly is some credibility. Author, Richard Winter probed this issue in his book, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment

Though we have hundreds of entertainment options today–video games, the Internet, CD and MP3 players, home entertainment centers, sporting events, megamalls, movie theaters, and even robotic toys–Western culture is battling an insidious disease. It’s an epidemic of boredom. Intrigued by this “deadness of soul,” Richard Winter uses the latest historical, physiological, and psychological research to probe the nature, causes and effects of boredom. He explores:

  • why some people are more likely to get bored than others
  • the indifference and the loss of meaning among youth
  • the attraction of extreme sports
  • how advertising promotes apathy

Not satisfied with mere description and analysis, Winter also offers practical ways to counteract boredom by learning to live with passion and wonder.

However, the question of edutainment is still debated. The fact is, entertainment does have a level of influence on people, society, and culture. Another fact is, too much entertainment can lead to apathy and boredom — history has shown this numerous times in previous civilizations (i.e. Roman Empire).

Edutainment is also a growing paradigm within the science museum community in the United States. This approach emphasizes fun and enjoyment, often at the expense of educational content. The idea is that Americans are so used to flashy, polished entertainment venues like movie theaters and theme parks that they demand similar experiences at science centers and museums. Thus, a museum is seen as just another business competing for entertainment dollars from the public, rather than as an institution that serves the public welfare through education or historical preservation. (Wikipedia)

Walking The Line
Part of the challenge and part of the fun is creating training and educational material that is attention grabbing, interactive, and does what it is supposed to do — educate. This is not easy. Many companies have started down this path only to get sucked over to the glitz and glitter of entertainment and not balancing out the educational side of the business.

So, the old argument about entertainment having no effect on people is bogus. Walt Disney recognized it years ago and built his early theme parks and movies around it. What we put into our lives as youth can and does shape our personal paradigm and moral compass as adults.

Therefore…

  • Always be a learner.
  • Always challenge yourself.
  • Never stop growing and applying.
  • Keep it fun.

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The Brunel University School of Sport and Education finished a three year study of the effects and benefits of online games on youth. Their findings? That youth between the ages of 11-18 benefited from online gaming by developing key learning skills. Using the over nine million member RuneScape as their lab, Brunel noted the following:

The study, which took the form of qualitative research into a community of players of the online game RuneScape shows that gaming is far from being a frivolous diversion from homework. The research shows how the online worlds created by the gamers mirror many aspects of material society helping teenage gamers to make the transition from school to work.

Nic Crowe from the Centre for Youth Work Studies in the School of Sport and Education at West London’s Brunel University, goes on to say:

For example, gamers are invited to join ‘Klans’ – highly disciplined co-operatives in which they share a common set of goals, they adopt identities such as merchant or warrior and they divide their time online between work and leisure. Most importantly, skills are learned which are highly valued, with experienced players tailoring their ‘training’ to acquire the ‘desirable’ skills – a clear example of ‘work related learning’.

2 Questions
This is all very intriguing and I have written on the use of MMOG’s as a tool/vehicle for learning (See World of Warcraft – Nexus of NextGen Learning). Yet, I cannot help but wonder two things:

  1. Do youth effectively “bridge the gap” between the virtual and real worlds?
  2. What is the long-term effect on real-time relationships?

Regarding the first question, Mr. Crowe makes an interesting comment above about “Klan life” compared to “work life”. We as humans, tend to compartmentalize areas and aspects of our physical, emotional, and thought lives. Does the same thing happen in gaming? I wonder. I wonder how many teenagers are actually thinking, “Wow, I can use the same mentality and ‘learning skills’ I use in RuneScape here in my new job.” Does the transition operate on a subliminal level, within the higher brain functions, or is it compartmentalized–never to become a reality?

In regard to the second question, the Brunel Press Release states: “As the average gamer spends as much time on gaming as on homework , study reveals how online gaming is a training ground for work.” Two factors come to mind here: time and anonymity.

Time
It is already a “given” that many teens and twenty-somethings can, and do, spend a lot of time playing games online. While they are building their online relationships and skills, how does that affect their familial and friend relationships? While there is certainly some value in virtual relationships, there is also a longing within us all for ‘physical’ (IRL) relationships. Why then is it that so many desire to extend their online interactions into the real-world? Balance is needed in our online and real life dealings. We must be careful not to neglect our true family and friends for the sake of anonymous fantasy.

Anonymity
Which brings up the issue of faux personalities in the VR world. Once again, this is a “given” for anyone who has spent anytime in online games, forums, etc. Being anonymous gives the perceived feeling of being a person other than who we truly are. Some people I know have several online personas and each one behaves a little bit different. So, which is the real person—the innocent 13 year old little girl, the Amazon Priestess, the cubicle trapped Wall-flower, or the highly successful VP of Marketing? In the real world, all these may be one person. The person cannot (or may not want to) express certain sides of themselves. They feel that, online, they can exude certain behaviors and not suffer the consequences. For some, multiple VR personas can be an emotional outlet, for others it can be something more insidious.

It seems to me there is much more happening in relation to learning and gaming within the VR world as there is within the real world. The Brunel study is only one of many more to come from other schools and institutions. It may be 20/20 hindsight that we all look back on and truly see the benefits and losses of online gaming as it relates to learning and life application. Time will tell — or will it?

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8 Mythbusters For Translating Your Content For A Global Audience“Going Global” can be the Midas touch or death touch of any organization. Understanding the unique aspects of language and culture is time consuming to say the least. In an effort to “get to market” quickly, many companies and non-profits overlook (and sometimes hop over) the requirements for a successful launch into other countries.For those leveraging the Web, content is King and a primary source for positioning in the global market. Translating the content is a must and good translation is tantamount to establishing a successful worldwide brand.The following is adapted from an article by Kim Vitray, VP of Operations for McElroy Translation. Eight “Translation Myths” are exposed for all who are about to undertake a project for translation. 
Myth #1 – Anyone can translate who has two years of a high school language, who has lived in another country for three years during childhood, or who can type in a foreign language.
Truth – Writing in another language and translating into another language contain the same kinds of subtle nuances and grammatical education as writing in the original language. For instance, because you speak English, it does not make you a writer. In the same fashion, because you may write in another language does not mean you are a culturally sensitive linguist.
Myth #2 – Translators can translate both ways easily.
Truth – Translators typically translate only into their native tongue AND most translators only have one language. This would be like reading Spanish and understanding or comprehending the information read but not being able to convey back in Spanish meaning, emotion, and cultural feeling.

Myth #3 – A good translator does not need any reference literature.
Truth – Reference literature is enormously beneficial in understanding meaning and making proper word choices.

Myth #4 – Good translators get it right the first time, without the need for editing or proofreading.
Truth – Do you get any of your writing done without the need for proofing or editing? The answer is obvious but, it is amazing how often this process is skipped in the “need for speed”.

Myth #5 – Translators will soon be replaced by computer technology.
Truth – Maybe in the future but, technologies such as AI and Babelfish have a long way to go before they become trusted sources without need of human intervention. For instance, “¿Que pasa?” translated in BabelFish becomes “That it happens?” rather than the more acceptable, “What’s happening?” or “What’s going on?”

Myth #6 – A technical manual that took four months and three writers to produce can be translated by one translator in two days.
Truth – Assuming a manual has 250 words per page and a full-time translator can work at 3000 words per day, a 100-page document would take about 8 days to to translate. This does not include editing, proofreading, or formatting. Outside forces can come into play as well such as subject matter complexity, target languages, translator’s schedule and more. The fact remains, good translation takes time.

Myth #7 – Translating is just replacing the words in the source language with the same words in the target language.
Truth – Many languages have multiple words for any one word. For instance, Alaskan Indians have numerous words for snow in their language while English only has one.

Myth #8 – Spanish is Spanish all around the world.
Truth – The Spanish spoken and written in Mexico is different than the Spanish in Spain, just as the Portuguese in Portugal and Brazil is different — same with Canadian French and France French.

Going Global is an exciting venture for any organization. Translating content into targeted languages is a major part of the endeavor. One last item to consider is cultural adaptation. Learn how to appeal to users in other countries and study how they’re educated. Learning and training in Europe is different than in Asia or the West. Be sure to do your “homework” and remember not to skimp on translation. Your worldwide reputation is at stake.

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