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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

If you’ve received a Google Wave invite, perhaps you were overwhelmed and confused the first time you logged in like I was. Or maybe you’ve never even heard of Google Wave. Either way, I recently found a great FREE resource to get you up to speed on Google Wave.

Appropriately titled “The Complete Guide to Google Wave,” this online guide describes everything in simple terms. They start with the basics like what Google Wave is and how to sign up, then build up to Wave-specific terminology, possible use cases, and advanced features. I especially liked this video explaining how Wave is different from and improves on email:

Don’t let the prominent “$6 Buy Now” graphic throw you off – that’s for the PDF version download. Not that 6 bucks is a lot, but you can read the whole guide on their site for free; just scroll down and click on the chapters.

I’m still exploring and tinkering with Wave myself, but it has a lot of potential to improve communication and collaboration – for work and play. So get yourself signed up for a free invite and read the free guide while you’re waiting. Then you’ll be ready to wave like a pro when you’re given the green light.

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On Saturday, December 5th, 2009 at 10 a.m. ET, the DARPA Network Challenge will launch, literally. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Internet, the DoD research agency is hosting a contest to see how social networking can aid in solving time-sensitive problems with a geographically dispersed team.

To claim the $40,000 prize, you (and presumably some some friends spread across the country) have to be the first to find 10 red weather balloons tethered to the ground. So if you’re in need of $40k (you’ll have to split it with your friends, of course) and weekend plans, check out the official DARPA link above. CNN also has a story about it here: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/12/04/darpa.balloon.challenge/

Good luck!

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Over the past 10 years, the way businesses and consumers use the Internet has evolved from informational to transactional and to participatory forms of content. In its commercial infancy, the businesses flocked to provide information about themselves on the web. No one was really sure what to do with the new medium but they knew it was an important component.

As technology improved and both businesses and consumers became more comfortable with it, the transactional application of the Internet became important. We watched as Amazon and EBay capitalized on the ability of the Internet to sell goods without a storefront.

Now, the Internet has made another evolutionary step. Not that the information or transactions have gone away like dinosaurs, but the technology has expanded to allow more robust media as well as two-way flow of content between site owners and their users. Tools like Wikipedia and YouTube allow users to create their own content and share it with the larger community. Even TV shows like Lost and Heroes are leveraging the technologies to provide content to its fans in a variety of formats. The shows’ writers provide videos, stories, clues and insider information to their biggest fans. Fans can even post their own ideas and questions and interact with one another.

As the Internet evolves, it expands to provide new ways of leveraging the technology, improving the many ways we communicate and know one another. Businesses and consumers are both reaping the rewards.

The Internet technologies available now can provide a lot of value to any organization whether non-profit, commercial or governmental.

What is the value?
The value of leveraging the Internet technologies now available is threefold:

  • Increases productivity
  • Reduces costs
  • Repeatability

Let’s explore each of these in the context of a specific implementation.

How do we leverage the technology?
For example, imagine a local economic development organization who is challenged to communicate the assets, advantages and resources of their community to attract new business development and new residents to support the economic growth. Leah, the organization’s director believes that using the Internet will provide a good outlet for posting their materials. But she wants to do something beyond just posting a text, she wants to create an experience for her target audience.

She decides to develop a two-stage approach to the experience. The first stage is to develop a traveling program that introduces the region to neighboring government, business, community and corporate leaders. Stage 2 is the development of an online community that will enable Leah’s audience to:

  • Choose topics that are most relevant to them
  • View information about chosen topics in layers, each giving the viewer more depth of information
  • Participate in discussions with other users by viewing, posting and responding to questions and other posts in a technology-based discussion board
  • Access recent updates through news articles and blog posts connected to the site
  • Locate other sites that provide more focused information

The value of this mixed approach is that Leah’s organization can reach more people than with a live presentation alone. This allows Leah and her core team to spend the most time with the contacts that will be most productive to reaching her goals. Participants who want more information will be able to seek that information even after the presentation ends. This allows the presentation to continue its work even after the live session ends.

Leah’s team can also leverage the web site presentation to reach audiences that may not be reachable in person. By monitoring their web site traffic, Leah can make decisions about which areas may be the most impacted by a live presentation. This reduces the cost associated with each presentation made.

After the web site is setup, Robert, visits the site and is pleased to see how rich of an experience is provided. During his visit to the site, Robert views an online presentation sequence that includes animations, music, voice over and video of information about the topics he selects. At specific points during the presentation, Robert has the option to choose to learn more in-depth information about a specific part of the presentation or continue with a broader overview of information.

As part of the overall experience, Robert can sign up for more information about the live presentations and login to a discussion board to interact with other users of the site and members of Leah’s organization.

As Robert is viewing the presentation, he notices something that his colleague Jennifer may be interested in. He immediately sends her an email with the link to the site and Jennifer is able to view the same presentation.

The repeatability of the presentation brings value to everyone involved. Leah and the organization, Robert and Jennifer all benefit from a common message, that can be viewed any time by any one.

What are the benefits?
By integrating live presentation content with online versions and deeper levels of content, many organizations have been able to leverage Internet technologies to:

  • Provide more depth of information to their users
  • Provide updated information to an audience they have already met
  • Create an online community of interaction with customers and others interested in their information
  • Build trust and respond quickly to user needs
  • Facilitate relationships between their users and their members

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Communication is KeyI recently completed a project and during the “post mortem” meeting the topic of communication came up. Communication styles, expectations, and availability were the topics of the conversation. It never ceases to amaze me that all around the world we “flap our lips” everyday in verbal communication but are we truly understanding each other?

Effective communication is not natural to us. It is something we need to work on everyday. Yet, because we “communicate” every day we do not feel the need to work on improving this area. Our tendency is to converse and share information in a way that is familiar to us and expect it to be the same with those whom we interact with.

In our fast paced world clear and effective communication is a must. We live or die by how well we communicate. And, depending on your environment, communication can take several forms: verbal, non-verbal, email, phone, memos and letters, instant messaging, text messaging, video conferencing, VoIP, and more. Personal preferences, cultural differences, and accessibility all factor in. Communicating takes work but, those who are wise will invest the time and energy to make this an everyday priority. Your work, your relationships, your family, and your very life may depend on it.

A main ingredient of communication is silence and listening. This is almost always ignored. We all have something to say. When others are talking to us, instead of listening we’re thinking of what we want to say next. Ever been guilty of that?

Shhh…
Listed below are keys to incredible communication through listening. I know it is hard but, avoid the temptation to interrupt and use the principles below:

Listening With Your Eyes
Body language communicates more than words often do. Look at your body language as well as the person you’re talking with. Also, look into the eyes of the person. Do not look at other things around you — this communicates you’re not attentive, interested, or respecting what the other person is saying.

Listening With Your Ears
Focus on what the other person is saying by giving your full attention. Don’t talk back, although some probing questions may be relevant to get clarity (it also tells the other person that you are listening).

Listening With Your Feelings
Try as best as you can to “read between the lines” of what the other person is saying. Look to understand their feelings about the topic. As Stephen Covey says, “Seek to understand before being understood.”

For more on these topics and others, see Alec Mackenzie’s classic best seller, The Time Trap, Section Two: Biggest Time Wasters – Poor Communication.

Other Extra Tips:
– Better to over-communicate than under-communicate
– Never assume! Ask questions for clarification
– If unsure about information, be proactive and seek it out
– Be generous with your information
– Be inclusive with your communication
– If you think of something that needs discussion, do it now and do not put it off
– Keep everything above-board
– Like the one above, do not keep secrets or withhold information

Can you think of other tips? Leave them in the comment section for all to see!

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Son of a Teacher Man

I never wanted to be a teacher. My mom taught elementary school, my dad taught biology to high school kids, and just about everybody else in my family—cousins, aunts, uncles—eventually found their way into the education field (even my little sister’s a teacher now). But not me. I was going to be an artist.

So I went through college, majoring in art. When it came time to decide upon an emphasis, I picked graphic design—I joked that I chose design over fine art because I didn’t want to have to eat ramen noodles my whole life, but the real reason was that I felt like design played a more integral role within society than painting did (I don’t know if that was a commentary on contemporary art, or on culture in general… anyway). The general public actually saw design. Design communicated. Design persuaded. Design… taught? Oh man.

Of course, throughout my first few years as a graphic/web designer I was enamored with the flashy, hipper-than-thou, watch-the-logo-catch-on-fire visuals surrounding me. Design seemed to be all about creating something so interesting-looking that people said “wow.” Then the dot-com bubble burst, and that economic shift forced a lot of creative people to rediscover a fundamental design principle: design is more than pretty pictures. Good design not only inspires, but communicates. In other words, design should be both smart and compelling.

I started off spending all my design time on the compelling side of design; as I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve become consumed with creating smart design. Here’s an example: We recently created a Change Management Primer for a client. While it’s a beautiful and engaging piece, my favorite part of it is how we were able to layer relatively large amounts of information into a non-threatening and easily digestible system. By making the information easier and less confusing to access, we’re raising the chances of the end user actually receiving the information we’re trying to communicate. We’re not making people say “wow” anymore; we’re getting them to say “aha!” (To see what I’m talking about, visit the Primer. The diagram in the “How” section illustrates my point.)

At our best, good designers really are a lot like teachers—the most important charge for both is to communicate information to their audience. It’s taken me almost thirteen years of studying design to realize it, but I have finally come to the conclusion that I’m just like my parents. Except I can’t give out detentions.

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