Archive for February, 2011

So, I found some great creative inspiration yesterday…rather, inspiration for making great “creative.” I was pointed to a lecture given by John Cleese on his personal creative process. (You know, the guy from the great Monty Python movies.) He had some great insight on cultivating the fertile soil from which creativity can blossom.

First, let me clarify what I mean by “creative,” as the term is used (and in my opinion, misused) so often these days. Many use it as a noun, referring to “the product or products of a designer directly involved in a creative marketing process.” Even worse, others use it to describe the actual design department itself. For the purpose of this blog, I’m using what I’ve found to be the most accurate description I could find – “Creativity is a mental process involving the discovery of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the existing ideas or concepts, fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.” This definition allows for the understanding that creativity is not limited to those who know how to draw, but identifies it more with the process of innovative thinking…in which any problem-solver (which is pretty much all of us) is involved.

So, with that out of the way – back to Mr. Cleese. In his presentation, he emphasizes the importance of preparing a “creative oasis” for himself in the midst of a frenzied world. He boils his process down to two mandatories: create boundaries of space and time. Easier said than done when facing the daily realities of our individual workloads. However, as every time management book will point out, it’s about working smarter not harder. Securing these boundaries in your day help to avoid creative kryptonite (aka interruption, or as Kevin more eloquently refers to it – cognitive disruption). As we’re well aware, cognitive disruption is essential to learning as it breaks through the conscious and unconscious patterns we use to process information, and ultimately supports retention. However, it is poison to creativity.

Fortunately, we work for a company that understands this phenomenon, and affords us the ability to do things such as working from home upon occasion: an opportunity to be “heads down” on a project…to create our own “creative oasis.” But it doesn’t always have to be working from home. Whether at home or work, it’s important to remember the true measure of our cognitive resources. Tom DeMarko, author of Slack, reported that software developers only have about three good hours of programming time in them each day. Beyond this point, productivity drops and errors increase. The same is true of any creative venture. I’m not advocating 3 hour days (at least not in this forum), rather emphasizing the importance of avoiding mental exhaustion. Walking away from a problem is often the best way to solve it…often referred to as the “incubation effect.”

At first glance, this approach sounds like the slacker’s dream. It’s important to remember that this “luxury” comes with a crucial prerequisite. First, the problem you’re trying to solve must be understood explicitly, and firmly planted in your mind. It’s only at this time that the subconscious can remain at work while we consciously move on to other areas. I can’t tell you how many solutions to yesterday’s problems I’ve discovered in a morning shower. This leads to even more creative problem-solving…how to write it down before I forget it.

John Cleese Video:


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The Pittsburgh Ethic

During the interview process, interviewees sometimes ask me what it takes to be successful as an instructional designer in the Pittsburgh office. I usually tell them that like Pittsburghers of the past, they need to wear many hats.

They have to be good writers.

August Wilson, native Pittsburgh playwright and winner of two Pulitzer prizes

They have to be good listeners.
Fred Rogers, native Pittsburgher beloved by millions of children
They have to be committed to constant improvement and learning.
Rachel Carson, inventor of the environment
And they have to work efficiently.
Andrew Carnegie liked efficient workers

Above all, they have to understand the client’s needs. And while that is all true, if I were to synthesize those concepts into one word, I would say that success requires our people to be uncompromising.  Think about it:

  • Did August Wilson compromise when they told him he should write for a more commercial audience? No.
  • Did Fred Rogers compromise when they told him his show should be less neighborly? Huh-uh.
  • Did Rachel Carson compromise when they said she should take it easy on the DDT producers poisoning America? No way!
  • Did Andrew Carnegie compromise when they said he should pay his workers a living wage, give them one day a month off and avoid killing them when they went on strike? NO, NO and HECK NO!

Those great men and women of Pittsburgh’s past are who we take our cues from. Uncompromising in quality, uncompromising in efficiency, uncompromising in commitment to the client’s needs.

And that doesn’t just go for the instructional designers – everyone who touches the product has to be uncompromising in their commitment. Do we work hard? Sure, but not as hard as 19th-century steelworkers. The result is team members who can keep their commitment level high and clients who are happy because their expectations have been exceeded.

All the time people ask us, “How do you make money doing this?” The answer is simple: volume. And being uncompromising.

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TiER1 Talks!

We think we have some pretty smart folks here at TiER1, and apparently we aren’t the only ones who think that. Our own TiER1 experts have been selected to present at three national conferences in 2011. Not only are we excited to share our knowledge and experience with our peers, but we are proud of the hard work we’ve done to have information to present(and we are jealous of the presenters that get to travel to fun places).

New Learning Technologies 2011 SALT Conference, February 23-25, Orlando, FL

Integrating Learning Acceleration, Rich Assessment of Errors, & Scenario-Based Simulation Training for Improved Performance

Currently, TiER1 is developing an approach and associated technology to accelerate learning and reduce the time required to train individuals in critical domains such as cyber security. Sounds smart, right? In this presentation for the Society for Applied Learning Technology (SALT), TiER1’s Dr. Terence Andre and Tiffany Ripley will summarize the technology approach and present TiER1’s own research into learner engagement, adaptive learning pathways, and scenario-based simulation training.

You can learn more about this conference here!

ASTD 2011 International Conference and Exposition,
May 22-25, Orlando, FL

Way beyond WIIFM: Transforming Culture to Change Behavior

We all want to know, “What’s in it for me?” Well, we will tell you just that, and more! In 2009, Sears Optical with the help of TiER1 Performance Solutions, realized that their opticians and retail staff needed to change the way they looked at themselves, their jobs and their customers before changes to their customer experience could be successfully implemented. In this interactive case study, TiER1’s Stephanie Lusk and Tiffany Ripley, along with Sears Optical’s Lisa Henn, explore the six steps to research, evaluate, and plan cultural change in order to support and enhance training and development efforts.

Click here if you would like to learn more about this conference!

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), April 14-16, Chicago, IL

Talent Alignment Strategies for Supporting Strategic Organizational Shifts

TiER1’s Stephanie Lusk and Tiffany Ripley will sit on a panel of experts along with others from organizations in the Midwest including GOTHAMculture, Trinity Health, and Leader OnBoarding. They will be discussing their work on aligning talent in organizations and sharing their best practices and recommendations for how to assess talent management strategies to support their organization’s mission.

Want to learn more about this conference? Check it out here.

If you are planning on attending any of these conferences, be sure to check out our sessions. If you hadn’t planned on going to any, maybe now you have a reason to go!

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More “Newbies” at TiER1

We are excited to have two new employees at TiER1! Learn more about our “newbies” below.

Navigation Team

Karen Nelson

Karen has over twenty years of experience as a technology professional in a variety of roles, including software engineer, mid-level manager, and executive, within entrepreneurial firms, mid-sized and large best-practices corporations including Fidelity Investments and LensCrafters (now Luxottica). 

Originally from southern California, Karen’s family of eight relocated to Lexington, Ky. when she was in high school. She then attended the University of Kentucky on a track scholarship, where she graduated with an Education degree.  Karen is a Certified Professional Coach through the International Coach Federation.  Through her private practice she helps clients discover their innate talents, unearth their passions and embrace their values to enhance their quality of life.  She believes the world needs more authenticity, positive energy, laughter, warm influences, and simple, daily joy.  She strives to live a life looking forward with intentional choices and no regrets. 

Karen lives in Wilder, Ky. with her husband, Chris, and her 13-year-old son, Jonathan.  As avid boaters the Nelson family can be found enjoying beautiful Lake Cumberland whenever possible.  Her family enjoys traveling and exploring new places.  At home Karen is usually outside in the garden, enjoying the back deck or plotting her next adventure.

Danyele Harris-Thompson

A native of West Virginia, Danyele is a proud “country girl”. Danyele has worked in the R&D world for 10 years, studying and improving decision-making and cognitive performance. Some of her favorite projects have involved capturing the “tacit” knowledge of retiring personnel, and transferring that knowledge to newer staff to move them up the learning curve more quickly. She also did some cool projects on consumer decision-making (it’s amazing how passionate people can get about bagged salad!). Danyele studied Organization Development at Bowling Green State University, and is excited by change management and process improvement efforts. She has worked with organizations in the Dept. of Defense, healthcare, non-profit, and commercial industries.

Danyele and her husband, Brian, have a two-year old son, Anthony. They have another big boy on the way this summer! While Danyele’s extracurricular activities used to involve writing poetry and short stories, and playing games on the PlayStation and Wii; these days those activities mostly involve blowing bubbles and watching Nickelodeon Jr.

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Covington, Ky. – TiER1 Performance Solutions announced today that they received a Phase II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) award from NASA. The Phase II contract will continue development on the Phase I project under the name  Human Factors Analysis Support Tool (H-FAST).  H-FAST provides human factors guidance and support to NASA engineering design teams performing evaluations of systems. According to Dr. Terence Andre, Principal Consultant for TiER1, this is the first Phase II SBIR with NASA, bringing together an innovative solution for knowledge management and human factors evaluation support.  “This new tool will empower engineers to create more usable systems, thus reducing the number of design iterations and resulting in higher-quality products.  We will develop H-FAST to support a variety of NASA design projects such as space vehicles, mission control centers, and flight deck systems.”  

This grant is TiER1’s sixth SBIR win for their research and ground-breaking technology, which is a true testament to the company’s innovation and credibility as leaders in the industry. “NASA was really impressed by our innovative technical approach and the talented individuals we put on this project,” said Dr. Kevin Moore, TiER1 Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer.  “Working with NASA will be a rewarding experience for our team.”

About TiER1 Performance Solutions  

Founded in 2002, TiER1 Performance Solutions provides end‐to‐end on‐line learning and knowledge management solutions to large distributed organizations.  Its core service offerings of Learning Solutions and Knowledge Management are supported by a suite of technologies that act as solution accelerators for clients in solving human performance challenges.  Visit TiER1 on the web at http://www.tier1performance.com   

About the NASA Small Business Innovative Research Program  


The NASA SBIR program funds over 150 million dollars each year in early-stage R&D projects at small technology companies — projects that serve a NASA need and have commercial applications. This program encourages small business to explore their technological potential while providing the incentive to profit from its commercialization. For more information, visit http://sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov/SBIR/SBIR.html

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Being a TiER1 Newbie

I joined TiER1 Performance a few months ago and we have been growing at a phenomenal pace. No matter how many years of working experience you have, there is always some sense of disorientation when you start a new job. As a new hire I was trying to figure out the technology, the on-boarding handbook, the names, new faces, a new manager, time sheet deadlines, new systems, and the list goes on….

But regardless of the challenges I faced as a new hire, I have found genuine care, humor, and concern from the TiER1 team that has allowed me to jump in and thrive in our growing organization.

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TiER1’s Monika Royal was featured in a Q&A session in a recent edition of the Business Courier. You can see the article here or learn more about her below.

(Oh yea, and did we mention she is one of their Forty Under 40 2010 winners? Pretty cool, huh?)

Q: Where do you go for advice?

Often I use Twitter to ask friends and colleagues their advice on work-related topics; crowd-sourcing opinions, essentially. For the weightier topics, I have a close group of girlfriends that I count on, and for the very big stuff, my mother and my grandmother are absolutely invaluable.

Q: What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I love the fact that I work in a fast-paced, ever-changing field. I’m fascinated by technology and working in the interactive space lets me indulge my inner geek-girl on a daily basis. I’m also a social person by nature and it plays to my strength that my job allows me to continuously meet new people.

Q: If you could do something dangerous one time with no risk, what would you do?

I would drop everything and spend a year traveling the world.

Q: Your workday is off to a bad start. How do you turn things around?

That depends on when my bad day starts. If I’m not even in the office yet, it’s as simple as blasting “My Coco” by stellastarr* in the car on the drive to work. At the office, I have amazing co-workers who are sympathetic and let me vent when it’s needed.

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

Stupid/bad drivers!

Q: What professional accomplishment do you hope to achieve by the age of 40?

One of my passions is music and I’m a partner in a music business called The All Night Party. I’d love to see us take off and make a tremendous impact on the Cincinnati music landscape by the time I’m 40 – so that I can still enjoy the scene!

Q: What personal accomplishment do you hope to achieve by the age of 40?

Getting my master’s degree.

Q: Do you have one movie you watch over and over?

It’s a book, not a movie. I read “Gone With the Wind” every year. My copy of the book is completely dog-eared and losing pages.

Q: Fill in the blank: “The trouble with ‘having it all’ is …”

Not having enough time to enjoy everything once you have it.

*Q&A credited to the Business Courier

Read more: Royal works in tech field by day, music biz by night | Business Courier

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