my grandfather’s advice

16 03 2009

update: dave ferguson just added this post to the work/learning blog carnival for March.  check out the other contributors’ thoughts on the need for passion in our work and learning.

clark quinn hits on a key concept that i’ve lived and worked by all my life.  when i was seventeen, my grandfather pulled me aside and give me a sage piece of advice.

my grandfather - ed lee

my grandfather - ed lee

he said:

son.  you need to find something you love to do for you work, because you are going to be doing it for most of the waking hours of your life.

coming from a man who was a master carpenter who spend all of his spare time when he wasn’t working on a construction site in his home workshop, this made sense to me.  fortunately, three years into my professional life, i stumbled upon the field of educational publishing and fell in love with the field of learning.

like most learning professionals i know, i love helping people learn by personally helping them either by facilitating a learning experience or mentoring them one-on-one.  i also love constructing learning materials and experiences that will reach numerous people.

what it comes down to is that when my heart sings,  when i feel that all my knowledge and experience can be used to advance a greater good, when i feel i’m making a difference in other peoples and my, lives then there’s very little labor in my work.

as clark also points out, as a manager and as a learning professional i’ve found that if i can fire the intrinsic motivation in those i’m working with, they end up often esceeding even their own expectations.  research study after research study on employee and learner motivation show that intrinsic motivators (do i make a difference?  is my work contributing to the company’s goals?  will this prepare me for the future?) are much more powerful drivers than extrinsic motivators (salary, performance reviews, an A versus a B).

this is why i’ve always seen myself (see my post training vs. learning from five years ago) as a learning professional who tries to draw learners to learning versus a teacher who “makes” people learn.

so grandpa.  thanks for the advice you gave me 30 years ago.  i love what i do for work and work at what i love.





the web is almost legal!

13 03 2009

happy 20th birthday to the world wide web.  march 13, 1989 is the day that tim berners-lee is credited with inventing the world wide web.  check out scientific american’s tribute to this world changing event.

having used the internet for 18 years or so, it just doesn’t seem comprehensible how far we’ve come so fast.  one of my favorite stories is from the 1992 when I was working at heinle & heinle and the five editorial directors got t-1 access to our desks.  i gophered to singapore national university’s web site and downloaded their campus map.  five or six colleagues stood around my desk – oohing and aahing.  seriously!

the internet in 1985

the internet in 1985

One of my favorite artifacts from the development of the internet is a map that marty lyons created in 1985 that shows the entire internet as it existed then on one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper!  (click on the image to the left to see a larger version.)

to think that today it’s nearly impossible to create a site map for an average blog on one sheet of paper helps put the progress we’ve made.

as short a time ago as 2001 i was working on a project that would depend heavily on metadata tagging and microtransactions.  two things that at the time were questionable as to their viability.  Now millions of sites process billions and billions of transactions everyday and social networking has turned metadata tagging into a normal practice for everyday folks like my Mom.  that campus map i downloaded 17 years ago took several minutes to make it to my computer.  today we can watch real-time broadcast television on our cellphones!

so happy birthday world wide web.  go get a fake id and tip back a pint or two.  you deserve it.





the other lobe of the brain

11 03 2009

jim stellar,  psychology professor at northeastern university, and shwen gwee, a student of jim’s, have started a new blog called the other lobe of the brain.  their goal is to merge the discussion of neuroscience and social media for learning – both individual and organizational.

jim has been a friend for over ten years now and is one of the most innovative thinkers i’ve met.  jim has a great balance between academic and scientific research and practical business application.  his passion for understanding how learning happens and how it can be facilitated is contagious.  he’s convinced, both by his research and his experience, that experiential and social learning are the keys to accelerating learning.

if you enjoy innovative thinking and mind expanding insights, i’d suggest you add the other lobe of the brain to your blog reader.





what’s first? mentor or mentee?

9 03 2009

so you’ve decided that you want to create a mentoring program to enhance organizational learning and leadership development across the organization.  you know that social learning is the real driver to creating a culture that values learning and change.  social networking tools are being implemented so teams can communicate more readily.  you have employees contributing to a knowledge base to capture organizational knowledge.  now you feel a mentoring program where leaders help new employees and prospective leaders to expand their knowledge of the organization and their leadership skills.

But where do you start?  How do you matchmake mentors to mentees?  or mentees to mentors?

chick-eggwhich comes first?  the chicken or the egg?

do you first identify the employees who the organization wishes to groom for advancement?  Once you know who you wish to involve as mentees you could then determine the needs these people have and then search through your executive and management ranks for people who have what the mentees need.  you could then recruit them to match the needs of the mentees.

Or do you determine who amongst your leaders best exemplify the needs of the organization and establish them as mentors?  you could then either determine the employees who you wish to be mentored and match them to your team of mentors or you could let employees self-select by marketing the mentoring program and letting them apply to the program or to individual mentors.

How much control around participation in the program should you maintain?  How many mentees per mentor?  Should all managers at or above a certain level be required to be mentors?  Should all employees have a mentor?

What do you think?  Who comes first, the mentor or the mentee?