First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Karl M. Kapp: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

KappKarl M. Kapp, Ed.D., CFPIM, CIRM, is a scholar, writer and expert on the convergence of learning, technology and business operations. He is a graduate professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. where he teaches courses in instructional game design and gamification and is the Director of the acclaimed Institute for Interactive Technologies. He is author of six books on the convergence of learning and technology and has authored courses for Lynda.com.

Karl works internationally to help government, corporate and non-profit organizations leverage learning technologies to positively impact productivity and profitability. He provides advice on e-learning design, games and gamification and learning technology to companies and organizations in diverse industries ranging from pharmaceutical, to manufacturing to high-tech. Karl He is a Participant in the National Security Agency Advisory Board (NSAAB) (Emerging Technologies Panel) and sits on several National Science Foundation (NSF) visiting committees. He works frequently with startup companies. He has been called a “Rock Star” of eLearning and is listed among the top gamification experts in the world as it relates to learning and instruction. In 2007, Karl was named one of the Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals as voted by TrainingIndustry, Inc.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Katl. To read the complete interview, please click here.

*     *     *

Morris: To what extent is the Fieldbook a sequel to Gamification, a volume in which you, Lucas, and Rich develop in much greater depth core concepts introduced in the previous book? To what extent does Fieldbook break new ground?

Kapp: In comparing the two books, the fieldbook is a sequel in the sense that it provides foundational knowledge that is helpful in developing a game, gamification or a simulation. Certainly someone can pick up the second book and find lots of value but the two together provide the how and why of creating engaging instruction. I think this is the best combination for understanding the most from the topic. The new content and ideas in the second book revolve around the worksheets and steps needed to creation gamified instruction but also provide more in depth and exhaustive case studies. I wanted to provide clear examples of what others had done and show how gamification is already being implemented that it is not something that is unheard of or crazy. The second book provides information on what others have done and provides guidelines for someone to do it themselves and that is my desire. I want people to be able to create engaging instruction using the ideas concepts and worksheets in the book.

Morris: To what extent (if any) are there any unique challenges when creating a fieldbook rather than, let’s say, a straight narrative such as Gamification?

Kapp: Our biggest challenge was deciding how to chunk the information we wanted to present. So we spent a lot of time determining the sequence and order of the table of contents. We all had a great deal of knowledge of our content but thinking of the best way to arrange it among the three co-authors and then thinking how to leverage contributors was a tricky process. We were also challenged to arrange the content in a certain was because we knew that people would be accessing the content in a non-linear fashion (unlike the first book) meanwhile, certain foundational topics needed to be addressed before someone could just jump into “designing a game” for example. In the end, we created sections and felt that a person could turn to the section which was most appropriate for them—no matter what type of learning they were developing or where they were in the process. This approach seemed like a good way to provide the content in a way that could be accessed differently based on the individual needs of the reader.

Morris: In your opinion, how important is it to read Gamification before reading the Fieldbook?

Kapp: If you have no knowledge of games or game elements and little understanding of how games can be crafted for learning then it’s really, really important to read the Gamification book first. You cannot develop or design a game, gamification or a simulation without a good, solid understanding of the key elements of games. But, unfortunately, many people try to do that. So, I think it is highly important to read Gamification before the fieldbook.

Morris: With regard to the writing of Gamification and the Fieldbook, did either pose greater challenges than did the other? Please explain.

Kapp: Not really, although both were different. Gamification was linear and a contained a great deal more academic based content that I worked hard to translate to non-academic readers. The fieldbook did not have much of the theoretical information but had practical tips and techniques that needed to be presented to the reader so they could develop their own interactive learning event. Each book posed it’s own challenge. Although one specific challenge of the second book was to try to be careful not to just re-state what was in the first book. We wanted some overlap but very little. We cut a good deal from the second book as we wrote it to avoid as much overlap as possible. There is still some overlap but where it overlaps, we feel is important information that is worth repeating or needs to be repeated to make sure someone designing the instruction gets it right.

Morris: To what extent did game-based methods and strategies prove beneficial to your collaboration with Lucas and Rich?

Kapp: Ha! Good question. Not sure we really thought of it that way. Of course we had the constraint of time so that’s a game element. We also knew the second book was the next level from foundation to application but as far as consciously approaching the writing of the fieldbook as a gamified event, that was not the case. As we say in the book…you can’t and shouldn’t gamify everything and I guess writing this book was one of the non-examples.

Morris: By what process did you select the contributors (in Sections IV and V) and then decide what the nature and extent of each contribution would be? Or did they make that determination? Please explain. They produced some great stuff.

Kapp: We specifically selected the contributors for their knowledge and experience in a certain area. Again we wanted many voices for the reader to gain a perspective larger than the three of us could provide. We each could have written the contributor chapters but, instead, felt that it was really important to have those voices. For each chapter we provided the contributor with an outline and general instruction but gave them a good bit of latitude in terms of exactly what they decided to write. In some cases, we inserted some materials into the chapters for consistence and to add any additional information we felt was necessary but that was rare due to the knowledge and experience of the contributors. For each contributor, Lucas, Rich or I knew the contributor’s work so we didn’t have any doubt about what the quality would be and we knew they all had rich experience and knowledge of the industry so we were excited to have them share and help expand the thinking in the area of engaging learning through games, gamification and simulations.

* * *

To read alll of Part 2, please click here.

To\ read Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Karl cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Karl’s Website link

Karl’s TEDx Talk link

YouTube Gamification link

Facebook link

Pinterest link

Articles:

“Gamification Myths Debunked: How To Sidestep Failure And Boost Employee Learning” link

“Improve Training: Thinking Like a Game Developer”link

“Gamification of Retail Safety and Loss Prevention Training” link

Thursday, October 30, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jeff Bloomfield: An interview by Bob Morris

BloomfieldAs a founder of BrainTrust, a successful organization that trains and develops sales and marketing professionals, Jeff Bloomfield has given a lot of thought to why customers say yes. In Story-Based Selling: Create, Connect, and Close, Bloomfield says it’s really no mystery. People buy from people they trust. They trust people they like, and they like people they connect to with. And he believes that storytelling is the best way for salespeople-and all of us-to immediately connect to a customer’s feelings of trust and liking. He thinks teaching sales professionals to close a deal by presenting their product, probing its mutual benefits, and overcoming the customer’s objections and skepticism, is a waste of time. Instead, he urges them to tell a great story to create a personal connection. Bloomfield calls upon the latest research in neuroscience to explain the process of communication.

The truth is that during the salesperson’s engagement with clients, people quickly base their decisions on how they feel, not the way they think, so trying to persuade someone by first imparting lifeless facts and figures is self-defeating. In fact, this information goes right to an area of the listener’s brain (the left brain neocortex) that drives doubt and skepticism. To make a deal we need to connect with the parts of the customer’s brain that inspire emotions of trust and empathy. By telling a story, we can immediately connect to these good gut feelings and drive away the client’s fear of being sold. Bloomfield tells his own engaging stories while teaching step-by-step techniques of intentional storytelling to create a fast connection with the listener, no matter who is buying or what a person wants to sell.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Jeff. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Story-Based Selling, a few general questions. Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Bloomfield: Yes. Growing up on a farm, my Papaw was my mentor. He was an amazing storyteller and communicator. Unfortunately, he died of lung cancer when I was entering junior high. Through his example, I learned how to positively influence others through the power of story. I went on to get a degree and work in the field of bio-tech where I was fortunate enough to help launch a therapy for brain cancer. During that time, I poured over neuroscience articles and became absolutely fascinated with two things. One, my Papaw, with just an eight grade education, was a genius. He had an intuitive sense of how the human brain worked well before we had research to back it up.

Secondly, no one that I knew in corporate America really knew, let alone understood neuroscience as it pertains to sales and marketing. If we did, we wouldn’t be communicating with customers the way we do. It was that clear, summer day overlooking the San Francisco bay from my office that I knew I had to do something about the gap in the market. It was at that moment that I knew I would start a company that focused on teaching business professionals the neuroscience behind things like connection, trust and how we make buying decisions.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Bloomfield: I would say that the biggest thing my formal education taught me was the discipline of learning. I’m a fast thinking, day dreaming, idea guy and it’s hard for me to be pinned down to one idea, one subject. The education process taught me how to stay focused on learning one step at a time.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Bloomfield: I know that it’s not just about what you know and it’s not just about who you know…it’s about unique ideas, presented in creative ways that move people emotionally. It doesn’t matter if your selling tires or working in a factory. People are drawn to creative thinkers who can motivate and inspire. I believe all of us have that divine spark but the typical grind of a “job” and the distraction of simply doing task oriented work tends to prevent or at least inhibit that creative expression. If I had to do it all over again, I would have started my own company before I was thirty. I might have been broke for a few more years, but I would have loved every minute of it.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Bloomfield: This may not be your typical answer but to me Braveheart. Think about it. It’s about leadership, inspiration, motivation, teamwork, having a common goal and banning together to overcome the odds. Nearly every scene is chock full of metaphorical business application. Try watching it again through that lens and see if it doesn’t surprise you. On a lighter note, I highly recommend to all of our sales clients that they watch the movie Tommy Boy. Yes, it’s a bit slapstick and over the top but the sales principles around making a genuine connection, building trust and being an authentic communicator are everywhere in this hilarious comedy.

Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Bloomfield: Without question the Bible. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the Bible is literally written as a book of stories to instruct one on how to live. The principles contained within from how to treat one another, to leadership to mobilizing large groups of people around a common cause of directly applicable to any company. In fact, most, if not all culture problems a company has today can be solved by simply following this timeless instruction book.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Bloomfield: This quote is all about “leading from behind.” Great leaders help inspire greatness in others and don’t need or desire the credit for success. It also touches on how leaders who understand this philosophy also learn the most from their team. They know they don’t have all the answers and understand that even if they did, giving the team the answers doesn’t help anyone grow and develop plus it robs the team from the feeling of accomplishment when they feel they’ve contributed.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Bloomfield: Great ideas are often met with stern resistance because they typically force people to change. Whether it’s changing your actual actions or simply your way of thinking, great ideas challenge us. I know I’ve come up with a great idea when my business partner tilts his head slightly to the right and says, “I’m not sure I understand that, let alone if it will work.”

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Bloomfield: This is basically the fulfillment of the ida from the Aiken quote. Once you’ve come up with a radical, crazy idea and you finally force feed it to the public, eventually it will be adopted and become almost passé. Take today’s automobile. To paraphrase Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.” But once they get over the shock of not riding horses anymore and realize just how incredible this new “idea” is, it becomes old hat…yesterday’s news. We are a “what’s next” type of world.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Bloomfield: There’s something invigorating and seemingly imprinted on our DNA that causes us to get more enjoyment out of pursuing that which we don’t understand versus what we think we’ve figured out. Eureka is fleeting. It’s a momentary pleasure but inevitably leads us to boredom with the very discovery. It goes right back to my previous comment. “What’s next.”

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Bloomfield: Yes, as human beings, we can certainly be extremely busy without actually being productive. For many of us, we flop into bed after a long day and lay there, staring up at the ceiling and wondering to ourselves, “what did I actually accomplish today?” The hamster and the wheel syndrome. It’s all about prioritizing the right things to work on both personally and professionally.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Bloomfield: To me, this speaks directly to the importance of teamwork. So many companies have silos these days and unfortunately, those silos don’t have bridges that connect to one another. The company’s that seem to be hitting it out of the park are the ones that understand how to develop processes around decision making that involves the best ideas from the brightest people and allows the accountability of the “team” to force greater and greater communication between stakeholder groups.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Bloomfield: I concur wholeheartedly. In business as well as life, you will make mistakes. Make them strategically and continue to “fail forward.” The greatest lessons in life are learned from the moments we realize we should have turned left instead of right. The key is to realize that mistake within the next mile and course correct. Those are great mistakes. It’s when you make a wrong turn and continue to travel in the incorrect direction due to either blind stupidity or stubbornness that sink companies and careers.

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?

Bloomfield: For many of us, we became known for our ability to “do” something extremely well. We get promoted through the ranks known for our ability to take action and get things done. Unfortunately, the old adage, “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.” starts to become a leadership habit that many of us fail to recognize and correct. Ultimately, it comes down to fear. Whether it’s fear of losing control, fear of failure, fear of fill in the blank, it still comes down to fear. Great leaders delegate not because they necessarily want to, but because they know they need to.

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Bloomfield: Storytelling is simply in our DNA. Great leaders have an intuitive sense that storytelling influences others more effectively than ordering folks around. Leadership is simply about the ability to influence. The best way to influence is through trust. The quickest way to trust is through building a connection and the easiest way to connect with another human being is through a story. Period. End of “story.”
Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?

Bloomfield: People seldom change until the pain of staying where they are becomes greater than the perceived pain of where they have been unwilling to go. This resistance is all about understanding what one can gain should they make the change. That gain has to be perceived as great enough for them to put forth the effort to change or they will not. If you are seventy five pounds overweight and don’t really care, you will never lose weight. However, after your first heart attack, the pain of staying overweight has now become greater than the pain of going to the gym. Hence, you change. It’s the same with any change we are faced with…personally or professionally.

Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any Advice?

Bloomfield: Maintaining a relational connected culture in an ever increasing transactional social media world. The advice I have is to remember that the next generation of workers is growing up in a very different world than we did, however, that doesn’t make them any different when it comes to the desire for connection. The entire rise of social media was simply born out of our desire to use technology to help us stay better connected. The problem is, without real human interaction and relationships, it will eventually lead to isolation, even if one has 5,000 Facebook friends or 10,000 twitter followers. You must continue to create a culture that fosters and encourages direct human contact. Without it, your workplace will become transactional and your customer base will become even more transactional leading to a death spiral of innovation and commoditization of nearly everything.

To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Jeff cordially invites you to check out the resources at this <a href="https://braintrust101.com/“>website:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter DiGiammarino : Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

D13_041_019Peter DiGiammarino is a senior executive with 35 years of success leading businesses that target tight public and private markets around the world. In addition to running companies, he serves public, private, private-equity-owned, and venture-capital-backed software and services firms as an adviser and/or board member and has consistently helped them to achieve their full potential to perform and grow. As a leader who has served successful companies in the role of CEO, Peter knows how to develop and lead teams of high-powered, driven professionals. His emphasis is to create and implement plans that are true to the organization’s market, offerings, competence, and purpose. Peter currently serves as Chairman of Compusearch and advises a dozen other organizations as CEO of IntelliVen. He is based in San Francisco, California. He is also adjunct professor in the Organization Development program at the University of San Francisco where the workbook he authored, Manage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help You Change the World, is used to teach a course he developed on Organization Analysis and Strategy. His book, Manage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help You Change the World, was published by IntelliVen (July 2013).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2. To read all of that interview, please click here.

* * *Morris: When and why did you decide to write Manage to Lead?

DiGiammarino: I have been writing consolidated insights based on lessons learned since undergraduate days. My first work-study job was to draft a procedures manual for the computer center to train new employees and to find ways to be more efficient. As a leader, I learned it was smart to write-up and distribute lessons learned to save others the trouble of learning again what had already been figured out. I stopped far short of writing a book, though, because it seemed that a book was nothing more than a heavy business card written primarily to gratify the ego of its author.

In 2010, American University asked me to organize a class based on what I had learned about developing successful organizations. My Teaching Assistant and I organized volumes of material into the seven truths and developed slides and scripts to cover each in detail. Students eventually suggested that the slides and script be handed out ahead so class time could be spent learning how to put the material to work rather than listening to me tell them what they could have read. Suddenly, it became clear that my content in book-form solves a real problem.

Still, I worried that AU would think I was just trying to make money selling slides in book-form to students who would have no choice but to buy them. When I shared my concern with my eldest daughter, she said: “Come-on Pops! Get over it and just write the darn book!” My wife piled-on saying the content deserved to be more polished and that working on a book would improve the product. Both were right!

At first I wanted to publish the content on a Web site thinking it more accessible to more people. I found that Web sites and blog posts are good for developing, organizing, and storing content but not so accessible to mass audiences who are conditioned to referencing books. After over 100 blog posts, more or less one for each of the slides used to lead 38 hours of classroom content, I organized them into the eight sections of the book.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

DiGiammarino: When I asked friends who authored books what they had learned from the experience, it became clear that an author is a customer of his/her publishing company though most authors think otherwise until they have been through the process. Also, I wanted to target early- and mid-career professionals who are more comfortable with digital content integrated with templates on intelliven.com. I also wanted to easily add and push-out new content as it evolved in a way that reader could access for no additional fee Publishers are not yet geared to support such an approach so I looked for a way to self-publish.

I came upon Inkling, the largest distributor of interactive, digital college textbooks and worked with their content management platform, Habitat and a third party, Innodata, to load the text, work problems, links, and graphics into interactive, digital form. Inkling, Habitat, and Innodata are outstanding to work with as they transform the way academics and professionals share and monetize original content. The Inkling version is accessible from PC, pad, or phone. Other advantages of the interactive version:

o Syncs between devices in real time, regardless of one’s Mac, PC, and mobile device preference.

o Includes self-assessments and work problems which help ensure that material is being actively learned as opposed to being mindlessly skimmed.

o Allows users to record notes in the text itself while reading or in class; notes are easily shared with instructors and classmates and in real-time to support running discussions as desired. Particularly helpful notes can be starred for easy reference later.

o Allows highlighting, search, glossary look-up, private or public annotations, animation, slideshows, puzzles, and social media sharing.

o Links to templates that can be filled out to put content to use as soon as it is learned.

Manage to Lead also had to be available in softcover from Amazon because most readers (unlike college students) are still conditioned to buy and read books in paper form which was accomplished using Amazon’s self-publishing platform known as CreateSpace.

Morris:
To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

DiGiammarino: My daughter’s original suggestion was that it be a workbook for students and clients; and that is exactly what it is, just as initially envisioned.

Morris: In your opinion, what are the most significant differences between great leadership and great management?

DiGiammarino: I agree with those that say you manage things and lead people but you also manage things in order to lead people so the two are not so much different when intertwined in great leaders. That ties in with the double meaning of the title of my book. Manage to Lead helps you to

o Manage yourself to do things that every leader ought to do and when you do them you are de facto leading.

o Squeak by in the role of leader even when you do not happen to be a born leader but you are a good manager!

Morris: Can great leadership be managed?

DiGiammarino: Even great leaders can and should be managed: by themselves, by their board, and/or by their team. The very thesis of Manage to Lead is that following the advice there-in helps any person, even a great leader, better serve in the role.

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many organizations have such a difficult time retaining their most valuable employees?

DiGiammarino: It is a badge of honor and a sign of greatness for an organization’s best people to leave in order to take top roles elsewhere. Consider, for example, how Mckinsey spawned future leaders of American Express (Golub) and IBM (Gerstner). GE has also made its stellar reputation grooming top CEOs but keeping only one for itself. As described in Reid Hoffman’s recent book (Alliance), jobs are projects, not life sentences. A career is best thought of as a mosaic of experiences across many organizations. Jim Collins once told me that the most an individual can do in one organization is a tour of about seven years. In my case it was two seven-year stints that necessarily had to end in leaving. It is inevitable that the best will leave. The wise strategy is for leaders to make the most of valuable employees while they have them.

Morris: Opinions are sharply divided about the importance of charisma to effective leadership. What do you think?

DiGiammarino: I have little use for charisma all by itself but it can come in handy. For example:

o When on the brink of disaster, such as when funding levels drop precipitously overnight as in 2008, an organization leader needs to resist temptation to squirrel away behind a closed door to figure out the exact right things to do and, instead, personally stand and deliver in front of the troops a message that compels them to follow.

o People in an organization need to be known, liked, respected, appreciated, and admired by others, especially by the leaders. The CEO does not need to be on a first name basis with every employee but each needs to feel like a person of importance and the leader needs to make sure it happens.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

Peter cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

www.intelliven.com(my web site that features a blog of tips and tools for getting organizations on track to fulfill their potential to perform and grow; subscribe to receive 2-3 short posts per month at no cost)

www.skills2lead.com/Leadership-Skills-blog.html (sample vision, mission, values)

www.harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu (HBR: strategy & change)

www.leadership.wharton.upenn.edu (strategy & leading change)

www.theheartofchange.com(leading change)

www.wiley.com/nonprofit(management books for non-profits)

www.itulip.com(current assessment of national financial activity)

www.businessbecause.com (international site connecting MBAs and aspiring MBAs with key topics and each other)

www.boardsource.com (for nonprofits)

www.grove.com (graphic tools for strategy, change, et al)

www.ai.cwru.edu(appreciative inquiry)

www.balancedscorecard.org (evaluation and measurement)

www.eq.org (emotional intelligence)

www.thevaluescenter.com (cultural transformation/values)

www.mindtools.com(wheel of life, development tools for people and organizations)

www.ceoexchange.com(books and other resources for CEOs)

TWITTER accounts to consider following:

@IntelliVen
@BusinessBecause
@fastcompany
@harvardbiz
@brazencareerist

Sunday, October 26, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | Leave a comment

Rod Pyle: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Pyle, RodRod Pyle is author of multiple best-selling books on space exploration and innovation for major publishers including Smithsonian, McGraw-Hill, HarperCollins, Prometheus/Random House, Sterling and Carlton. His most recent books are Innovation the NASA Way: Harnessing the Power of Your Organization for Breakthrough Success for McGraw Hill (March 2014), which the Library Journal called “A gripping history of NASA… riveting… [the] writing is superb,” and, Curiosity: An Inside Look at the Mars Rover Mission and the People Who Made It Happen, published by Prometheus/Random House. It is listed as a “Top Ten Science and Tech Book for July” by The Guardian. Rod wrote and co-created The Apollo Leadership Experience for NASA and The Conference Board, which he taught at the Johnson Space Center for C-suite executives from companies like Michelin, Conoco-Philips, Ebay and The Federal Reserve. He continues to give keynotes and seminars on innovation and leadership.

His 2012 Destination Mars (Prometheus) was heralded as “The best recent overview of Mars missions” by the Washington Post, and was selected for Scientific American’s book of the month club. Rod has produced and directed numerous documentaries for The History Channel and Discovery Communications, including “Modern Marvels: Apollo 11” and “Mars: 100 Years of Discovery.” Rod is a space journalist, writing frequent articles and creating videos for Space.com, LiveScience, Huffington Post, NBCNews Online, the Christian Science Monitor and the Daily Telegraph. He is a graduate of Stanford University and the Art Center College of Design, and taught communication studies at the University of La Verne for ten years.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of him. To read all of part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing (in Part 2) Innovation the NASA Way, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Pyle: Honestly, the entire cadre of Gemini and Apollo astronauts. While my friends memorized states and collected cards for football and baseball players, I was studying NASA’s best. These guys were going to the moon, and I wanted to be with them! Alas, that was ultimately less likely even than my buddies joining the NFL…

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Pyle: There are so many, but Gene Kranz, the flight director for most of the Gemini and Apollo missions, was a major influence. His tough but fair approach to managing Mission Control teams, and his unashamedly “Gung Ho” attitude is inspiring. But I think the ultimate inspiration was the “Kranz Dictum,” as it came to be known; the speech he gave to his teams after the Apollo 1 fire. He was not even in charge the day of the fire, but it was Kranz who made the seminal speech, and it is posted all over Mission Control to this day. At its core is being “tough and competent,” and making Mission Control “perfect.” His people came as close to that demand as any organization can.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Pyle: Calculus! After encountering differential equations (with a less than stellar result), it occurred to me that astronomy at UCLA might not be my best option. My next choice was to tell science stories via visual and print media… and that’s turned out to be a lot of fun. Film and TV was my final undergrad major, and at Stanford I had a blast studying the more theoretical aspects of communication. Since then it’s been books, articles and TV work, and I hope to never stop.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Pyle: In the media business, excepting to some extent journalism, degrees don’t mean very much. In TV they mean nothing at all. So any progress I’ve made in those areas was fueled primarily by passion and tenacity. On the other hand, I did teach in various colleges for about twelve years and there, of course, the masters degree was everything. And I enjoyed teaching quite a lot.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Pyle: Success is as much about instincts, drive and dogged persistence as it is about brilliance or intellect. Determination to achieve a goal – often to the exclusion of anything else – seems to be critical. In NASA terms that equates to having the tenacity to sell a flight concept or a scientific goal, then pursue the accomplishment of that mission. We see it over and over again, how an individual voice makes all the difference in a project, science instrument or flight plan. And that’s great.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Pyle: There are a few classics that relate here… but Casablanca is one, in which personal passion and individual needs are secondary to duty and honor. Along the same lines, the original Star Trek TV show had some things to say about duty, persistence, honor and success, but always with a cost. I think that these apply to business success on a personal level, decisions that you live with long after the company has moved on to other concerns. Finally, Patton demonstrates the drive and brilliance often needed to succeed against great odds, and the personal costs that often come with it. As George C. Scott quoted “All glory is fleeting…”, a worthwhile sentiment to remember.

Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Pyle: Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Here is a man, Doc Ricketts, to whom business success, always elusive, was subsumed by, then buoyed by, the beauty in his personal existence. He maintained the former and grew the latter like a bloom. Together they made for a whole life, though marriage and the consummation of his inner desire for love remained somewhat elusive. But the longing within us often makes for a far greater motivator than achieving.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Pyle: Lao-tse was a smart man. I took a class at UCLA years ago in the Chinese mystics – this reminds me how insightful they could be. Human needs and behaviors have not changed much over time (anyone who has read Greek mythology knows that the core emotions discussed have not changed one iota). To the point: an inspired leader would do well to give his team a voice and a tangible stake in the process of building and succeeding. I address this in my innovation book and leadership seminars: give your team members a sense of ownership, a stake in the process of innovating and making that innovation into a success. I think it’s critical – in many cases, the passion of that person, or team, is the core force, the engine driving the process. Then, in a perfect world, the team shares the sense of accomplishment.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Pyle: I’ve always loved that one. Ask John Houbolt, a mid-level engineer in the Apollo program, who had to jump all the way to the top of NASA’s management chain to get his ideas about Lunar Orbit Rendezvous heard (it was the solution to the puzzle of how to land on the moon). Top minds like Wernher von Braun, who favored another method, finally saw the wisdom of LOR. This was certainly an example of one man forcing the organization to accept his excellent idea, despite much resistance at the top.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Pyle: Yes, or “That’s interesting…” or perhaps, as John Grotzinger, the Curiosity Mars rover’s chief scientist said when looking at some new and exciting data, “That’s one for the history books!” So often it is the surprises, the results that surpass our expectations, that foreshadow developments and discoveries far beyond what we had planned for. It’s a bit of scientific serendipity… the universe playing with us, deciding what to release at this moment, and providing discoveries beyond, or at least perpendicular to, our expectations. And since all great science is to a certain extent magical, that is often where the magic lies.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Pyle: Yes, GM built the Chevy Cobalt with great efficiency just before they went BK. And while millions of those Spartan autos served people for years, I think we would have all been served better had the car never existed (if you ever drove one for any distance, you know what I mean). This is a very basic and prosaic example of a great thinker’s ideas placed onto the road, but it’s certainly an expression of this loftier thought.

* * *

To read all of part 1, please click here.

Rod cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

His LinkedIn link

His Amazon link

Huffington Post link

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robert Sher: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

SherRob Sher is founding principal of CEO to CEO, a consulting firm of former chief executives that improves the leadership infrastructure of midsized companies seeking to accelerate their performance. He has published extensively on the successful leadership traits of CEOs of mid-market companies. His first book, published in 2007, is The Feel of the Deal: How I Built a Business Through Acquisitions. His latest book, Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers, was recently published by Bibliomotion in 2014. Rob is also a regular columnist for the online version of Forbes and CFO Magazine and recently published a seven part series on HBR online.

He and his partners act as consulting CEOs who help client companies’ CEOs and their top teams to navigate difficult passages. Running a company is a series of judgment calls, each of which can have major consequences. They often help make those judgment calls, drawing on deep experience as CEOs and by helping their clients think through situations. Some people call him a CEO coach. Others call him a CEO mentor. And some think of him as their own “Chairman of the Board.”

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Rob. To read all of it, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Mighty Midsized Companies, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Sher: Warren Bennis, the author of On Becoming a Leader and so many other groundbreaking books on leadership, really made me a better leader. It was an incredible awakening. I started reading his books as they came out in the mid 1980’s, and at that time I was on a personal development binge, reading (and listening to) Wayne Dyer, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins and Earl Nightingale. I was so honored when Warren Bennis agreed to endorse my newest book, as it turned out just a few weeks before his passing.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Sher: In 1996 I joined a peer group of CEOs called The Alliance of Chief Executives, in northern California. Sitting with peer CEOs every month and learning from their wisdom (and their mistakes) was a quantum jump in my learning. I still actively participate in Alliance groups. You see, when you run just one business, there is a limit on how many things—good or bad—can happen to you that turn into lessons. In a group of 12, the process is accelerated. Similar groups exist everywhere in the country. Vistage and YPO are two of the largest.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Sher: In 2004 I was sitting in my CEO group and shared some frustrations (for the umpteenth time) about some seemingly intractable frustrations that were holding me back from leading my company to the next level. The group (which had known me for years) hammered mercilessly on me for over an hour (we CEOs are hard headed and often need a drubbing to take notice). Their point was that I needed to affirmatively find a solid long-term solution or to move on with my career. That day I went back to my office and triggered a series of events that led to my exit, and to the founding of my consulting firm in 2007. I’ve never looked back. Interestingly, we often play this role for clients, who need a push, plus a little confidence and guidance to make courageous changes that help them break free from their past and pursue a brighter future.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Sher: It has been very important. It gave me a solid understanding of the basics of business, like accounting and marketing. It seemed slow and laborious at the time, but from every class, I drew nuggets. Realize that I worked while going to school, leading what was then a small business. So I had every chance to practice what I learned. I got my graduate degree when I was 27 in an executive program, and I realized, to my surprise, that I was truly an executive. Too often, small and middle market business leaders exist in an isolated world. They really don’t know what they’re made of, how they really stack up. That certainly was true of me, and my confidence took a big step up from the experience.

That, and Michael Porter’s teachings! I also learned how to learn, and today, many years later, what I learned in a class has given way to what I now learn on my own. I can become an expert in many things if I devote some time and focus to it. My formal education also includes teaching at the MBA level, and assembling my curriculum. I learned a lot by having to organize my thoughts and deliver them effectively in a classroom.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Sher: Building a strong, deep, wide network. I grew up being taught about hard work, but teamwork and friends were not emphasized at all. I got a long way with hard work and good insights. It wasn’t until way later that I learned that who you know (and who you’ve helped along the way) is a powerful factor for success. And helping people is gratifying as well!

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Sher: The more leaders you can harness in pursuit of your vision, the more quickly it will become a reality. Even employees at the bottom of the org chart can feel a bit like leaders if they have some latitude, and are allowed to participate in decision-making. Understand where your people are, and work to help them get better, if only in small increments. An incremental approach to greatness is what works best, and the people will indeed feel like they have ownership of the success. As the top leader, sometimes it can feel a little unfair that little credit is given—yet offsetting that is an amazing team that will continue to perform at high levels.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Sher: From the CEO’s seat, I advocate planting the seeds of my ideas within my team and letting them grow there. Then, hopefully (!) my team will take ownership of an idea, and it will blossom. But that’s not stealing my ideas, that’s nurturing them. I believe that in midsized companies, there must be a process for evaluating ideas, so that the best ones will eventually become “obvious” and eagerly adopted, not “forced down people’s throats.”

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Sher: I’m probably not deep enough to really appreciate this, but from my perspective, in business, it’s a reminder that the best and most profitable growth comes when you are innovating to find scalable opportunities and then growing them before everyone else jumps in.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Sher: Our ears are more powerful than our mouths. Too many of us fail to listen, to observe with care and to think and deliberate. While we may love our ideas the moment they pop into our heads, most of them require research and observation before they are worthy of acclaim.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Sher: Being clear about why we are doing something, why it is essential, and how it ties into our most important strategies is a great place to start before diving into any business project.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Sher: There is never, ever a substitute for a great leader. The best leaders create and maintain the conditions for great teams to make great decisions. In most cases, the leader won’t have to make the decision, because they have a great team doing so. Is a great leader a great man? I think so, but not because of their individual contribution or personal judgment. Likewise, I would point out the vast difference between a tyrant with “direct control” and a “single leader” of a great team. Approach is everything.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Sher: Of course we must test things, and many ideals will fail. My big point is that failing on a small scale makes sense, but there’s no excuse for failing big without de-risking first on a small scale. Too many midsized firms make reckless attempts at growth, blowing big money. That’s foolish, a stupid mistake. Nothing brilliant about that whatsoever.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

Rob cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

All about Mighty Midsized Companies link

Free assessments and other tools link

Rob’s consulting firm, CEO to CEO, website link

Sunday, October 19, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karl M. Kapp: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Kapp

Karl M. Kapp, Ed.D., CFPIM, CIRM, is a scholar, writer and expert on the convergence of learning, technology and business operations. He is a graduate professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. where he teaches courses in instructional game design and gamification and is the Director of the acclaimed Institute for Interactive Technologies. He is author of six books on the convergence of learning and technology and has authored courses for Lynda.com.

Karl works internationally to help government, corporate and non-profit organizations leverage learning technologies to positively impact productivity and profitability. He provides advice on e-learning design, games and gamification and learning technology to companies and organizations in diverse industries ranging from pharmaceutical, to manufacturing to high-tech. Karl He is a Participant in the National Security Agency Advisory Board (NSAAB) (Emerging Technologies Panel) and sits on several National Science Foundation (NSF) visiting committees. He works frequently with startup companies. He has been called a “Rock Star” of eLearning and is listed among the top gamification experts in the world as it relates to learning and instruction. In 2007, Karl was named one of the Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals as voted by TrainingIndustry, Inc.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Kapp: My family had a huge influence on my personal growth. Growing up everyone in my family was involved in teaching. My mother was a teacher, my father taught classes at the local community college and my grandmother had been a teacher. It was instilled in me early that education is a ticket to great things. I learned to value learning and gained an appetite for continual learning. My grandmother was so into learning that during her lifetime, she earned two different master’s degrees in biology. She had gotten her masters in biology early in her career and after about 10 years, she decided that the field had changed so much that she had to go back and refresh her knowledge with another master’s degree. So my family set the expectation that learning was something that was of value, important and should be pursued. I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. In fact, one of most frequent gifts I got as a youngster was books. I can tell you a 13-year-old boy doesn’t really appreciate the gift of books on his birthday when he really wanted a soccer ball. You can’t appreciate that until you are older but over the long run, it makes a difference. I can still remember when my grandmother gave me “Gone with the Wind” to read. At the time, it was the longest book I ever saw and never thought I could finish it. My grandmother paid me to read the book—she bribed me. It turns out I really enjoyed the book and then discovered I could read that many pages.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Kapp: In high school I had a teacher for composition named Mr. Mortimer. He did two things that had a profound impact on my later success as a writer of non-fiction. First, we had class every day and every day he made us write for the first ten minutes. We would come into class, sit down and he would set the timer for ten minutes and we would write. At the time I thought this was the dumbest, stupidest and most frustrating thing to do. We could write about anything so most of the time I wrote about how dumb it was to write for ten minutes straight. Looking back years later, it was the best gift anyone could give me. He taught me in those ten minutes a day that writing is not an instant inspiration or a shazam of insight but rather a deliberate process that can be mastered through practice. He taught me to write even when I have nothing to write about and something will come. He taught me to overcome writer’s block. He taught me about writing and re-writing. Those ten minutes every day were the best ten minutes I spent in my high school career.

The second thing Mr. Mortimer taught me was that getting published was not just something that “other people” did but that people I knew actually got published. I always thought just famous or special people got published. One day Mr. Mortimer came to class all excited because he had just gotten an article published in “Field and Stream” magazine. I was so impressed and I remember thinking if my English teacher here in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania can get published then maybe I have a shot. It took me almost a decade later for my first published article but I did it and I owe that inspiration to Mr. Mortimer.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Kapp: The turning point for me was landing an internship at an instructional design company after college. There was this company near my hometown called Applied Science Associates (ASA) and no one really knew what they did—something with computers or learning or something. So having an English degree as an undergraduate with lots of courses in Psychology and a teaching certificate, it seemed like interning at a company that had something to do with learning would be a good fit. Plus when I was younger, I was involved in a local theatre group and we were recruited by ASA to play kids in a safety video. So my pitch to work at the company was that I had actually worked for them before as an actor and so now I wanted to work for them as an intern. They gave me a little quiz, I think it was creating a small instructional lesson based on some content and the next thing I knew I was interning for them. As I learned more about what they did and how they created corporate training with technology (at the time green screen computers with text-only interactions), I decided this was the career for me and changed my graduate school enrollment from educational counseling to instructional technology. I loved what they were doing and how the field used all my skills of teaching, Psychology and writing. It was an eye opener because before that I never even knew the field of instructional design existed.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Kapp: My formal education influenced me in terms of writing, from the experience with Mr. Mortimer and then my English degree and teaching certificate influenced my ability to get the job at Applied Science Associates and my Doctoral degree influenced my ability to get my job at Bloomsburg University. At every step of the way, my education has propelled me to the next level. I think what formal education does is to make you study, in-depth topics and that it sometimes makes you learn and do things you don’t think you want to do but in the end are really good for you. Good formal education stretches your mind, it needs to hurt a little, it needs to be a little frustrating and then you can truly grow and learn from the experience. I think informal educational experiences don’t always have the same pain point and, at times, that pain point is good for personal growth even if you may not like it at the time.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Kapp: I think The Matrix. So why this movie? First, it is one of my all-time favorite movies. But second, it is really about thinking beyond perceived limits. It is about breaking boundaries and refusing to be stuck in the status quo. Innovation in business is about taking a look at what everyone else sees and then finding the areas that can be pushed or destroyed or reconfigured to create new value and to introduce new ideas. So the concept that “there is no spoon” really resonates with me. I like to think about what boundaries can be pushed or removed to create a new way of presenting content or interacting with learners. The concept of gamification is about pushing the boundaries of traditional learning and shaping a new reality…it’s what The Matrix is all about.

Morris: From which non- business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Kapp: George Orwell’s Animal Farm had an impact because it led me to realize that power and control can be a cyclical occurrence. One can be in power and then easily drop out of power and the people who gain the new power will eventually be out of the position of power as well. This served a cautionary tale to me so that I always try to keep in mind that power or control is fleeting and that you always need to be careful of what you do and say to people because no matter what your relationship is with someone, it can change for better or worse so apply the golden rule or you could be in a terrible position. The book also highlighted to me that a person can be influential without having to be in power or control. As a young kid in high school, those were some pretty impactful lessons.

Another book I read in high school but didn’t really understand until my job at the university was Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Heller so elegantly and hilariously captured the workings, or should I say mis-workings of a bureaucratic organization. Unfortunately, not a week goes by that I don’t think I am in some kind of sequel to the book. It taught me to laugh at the absurdities that surround every working adult.

Morris: From which business book or author have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Kapp: The following business books have always had an impact on me. Early in my career I read everything I could by Tom Peters. I loved the way he gathered and interpreted research from multiple sources, loved the way he wrote and expressed his ideas. He openly contradicted himself, he interviewed smart people. My favorite book of his is Re-Imagine and I hope one day to use that format of tons of graphics, call outs and general chaotic pages for a book. It was brilliant and stands the test of time.

In fact one quote that Peters had in one of his books was by Mario Andretti, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” Whether or purpose or by accident, I seem to live that quote frequently. Control is an illusion that we need to get rid of to excel. But that’s hard to do but the results can be fascinating.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Kapp: Leadership is about consensus. I think too often young leaders envision everyone automatically falling in line with whatever they want to do. In reality, to lead is to serve to work with others to accomplish goals. I always try to involve others in my writing and projects. Early in my career I wrote an article titled “Lone Ranger Need Not Apply” the article was about how it takes a team to implement new software. And I think it takes a team to accomplish any goal worth accomplishing and good leaders first create good teams.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Karl cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Karl’s Website link

Karl’s TEDx Talk link

YouTube Gamification link

Facebook link

Pinterest link

Articles:

“Gamification Myths Debunked: How To Sidestep Failure And Boost Employee Learning” link

“Improve Training: Thinking Like a Game Developer”link

“Gamification of Retail Safety and Loss Prevention Training” link

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter F. DiGiammarino: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

D13_041_019Peter DiGiammarino is a senior executive with 35 years of success leading businesses that target tight public and private markets around the world. In addition to running companies, he serves public, private, private-equity-owned, and venture-capital-backed software and services firms as an adviser and/or board member and has consistently helped them to achieve their full potential to perform and grow. As a leader who has served successful companies in the role of CEO, Peter knows how to develop and lead teams of high-powered, driven professionals. His emphasis is to create and implement plans that are true to the organization’s market, offerings, competence, and purpose.

Peter currently serves as Chairman of Compusearch and advises a dozen other organizations as CEO of IntelliVen. He is based in San Francisco, California. He is also adjunct professor in the Organization Development program at the University of San Francisco where the workbook he authored, Manage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help You Change the World, is used to teach a course he developed on Organization Analysis and Strategy. That book was published by IntelliVen (July 2013).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Peter. To read the complete Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Manage to Lead (in Part 2), a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

DiGiammarino: My father. He and my mother raised six of us; I am the oldest of a generation on my father’s side. He was a high school teacher, football coach, and camp director who in mid-career got his PhD from Syracuse University in Education, became an assistant superintendent of a public school system, and taught at a teacher’s college. He guided us to be interested in new technology and tried constantly himself to use the latest and greatest to improve the work of teachers. His master’s thesis in 1954 was on the potential for the felt board to improve teaching. In the ‘60s he was the AV (Audio Visual) guy who brought home a projector and movies on reels for us to watch well before the days of VHS and DVRs, and in the ‘70s he led a team to design and implement a mini-computer based system to keep track of student data that is still ahead of its time.

He taught that a smart and motivated person could figure out how to do anything (work on a car, repair a washing machine, fix a computer) … and, further, that there is no point in figuring something out if you don’t also share it with others; starting with your siblings!

He had reservations about the big, bad business world so stayed in academia his entire career. We never seemed to have much money and I thought it must not be too hard to do well and vowed to one day have more than enough financially.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

DiGiammarino: Charles Rossotti has been my career-long mentor. He was one of a team of five that left the group known as McNamara’s Whiz Kids in the ‘60s to start American Management Systems (AMS) in 1970. I joined 7-years later in an annual wave of aggressive MBA recruiting. We grew AMS to a $1B and 10,000 people over 20 years. As our CEO, Charles modeled constant experimentation, learning, growth, and performance with intelligence, teamwork, and drive.

In the mid-80s the $30M/year unit I had grown from start-up was underperforming relative to plan. Charles called on me more frequently to review status and plans but didn’t take over; instead he showed interest, confidence, and patience and offered help and support. He knew we could get back on track…and we went on to generate nearly $200M/year within a next decade.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

DiGiammarino: After 20 years at AMS felt I knew too much; every day people came to me with problems that I knew how to solve. I wasn’t learning any more. I wanted something new and figured it was time to run an entire company, not just a large business unit. In 1996 I let myself be recruited to be president and COO of a $200M public software company.

I quickly found that I had a lot more to learn. While I had been successful at AMS, it was almost too easy in an environment that was familiar and insular. I knew I had figured out some useful and important things about growing past the start-up phase and crossing over to being a credible business but needed to test, hone, and further develop my ideas before I could credibly share them with others. It was at this point that I began a systematic process to immerse myself in different companies, in different markets, at different stages of evolution, scale, and business model in order to enrich and apply anew what I had learned first at AMS.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

DiGiammarino: I attended the University of Massachusetts for as an undergraduate because I was accepted only to UMass. I vowed that I would never let important things in life “happen to me” again. Instead, I would figure out what I wanted and then make it happen. On the last day of high school I decided to graduate in the top few percent at UMass and go to MIT for graduate school. Which is what I did.

At UMass I was accepted into a new interdisciplinary major for upper-class students who wanted to pursue an unconventional course of study. Even though the program was open only to juniors and seniors, I entered as a freshman because I only wanted to study computers and there was no other option for undergrads to take computer courses. I recruited as my advisor Dr. Wogrin, a 20-year veteran of teaching at Yale and Chair of the UMass Computer Science Department. He became interested in me and assisted me in developing a four-year plan to study math and economics (which is really applied math!) in order to prepare to someday study business (which is, after all, really applied economics!) rounded out with all the courses from the Masters Program in Computer Science.

For my senior project, which enabled me to graduate with honors, I designed, and led a team to implement, a system students could use online to find and register for courses that fulfilled specific requirements, such as being well-liked by other students, meeting a core requirement, and not held before 10:00 AM. In doing this I experienced first-hand the potential different disciplines have to create enormous value that did not previously exist when brought to together to bear on real-world problems.

From the interdisciplinary program I also learned to:

o Plan
o Be accountable to a plan
o Implement a governance structure; by having to review my progress against plan with my advisor twice a semester
o Master bureaucracy
Note: For example, I got the Computer Science Department and the interdisciplinary program to each pay half of the increase in costs relative to state school tuition to finance a semester of study at MIT in my junior year.
o Set high goals and then drive to achieve them no matter how lofty
o Follow through on commitments
o Work hard; because it generates worthy results and it is a waste of time and money not to
o Be comfortable being different
o Appreciate the value of outstanding counsel and advice
o Take full advantage of available resources

Conventional education tracks the best students to learn more and more about less and less as they go from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s and then on to a PhD in a subject area. The limit to this approach is that a student learns everything about nothing. Those that follow this path tend to be extraordinarily deep in their chosen specialty and remarkably inept on topics outside of it as they are intimidated by their own lack of knowledge relative to what they know in their field.

An interdisciplinary program prepares the best students:

o To learn a great deal in any field they want and so are not inclined to get good at only one subject but easily develop depths of competence in whatever they want or need to know.

o To be enriched by the insights, ideas and opportunities that unfold from the blending of competency depths, empowering them to synergize and innovate to create value far beyond what could previously have been imagined.

Upon graduation from UMass I went on to the MIT Sloan School of Management where I studied Information Systems, Strategy, and Organization Development (OD). I took all the OD classes I could because when I arrived I came across a study of alums 20-years out that said the number one course of study they wished they had had more of by far was OD! I had the opportunity to study with some of the second generation founders of the field including a course from Richard Beckhard and a class from Ed Schein.

* * *

To read the complete Part 1, please click here.

Peter cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

www.intelliven.com(my web site that features a blog of tips and tools for getting organizations on track to fulfill their potential to perform and grow; subscribe to receive 2-3 short posts per month at no cost)

www.skills2lead.com/Leadership-Skills-blog.html (sample vision, mission, values)

www.harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu (HBR: strategy & change)

www.leadership.wharton.upenn.edu (strategy & leading change)

www.theheartofchange.com(leading change)

www.wiley.com/nonprofit(management books for non-profits)

www.itulip.com(current assessment of national financial activity)

www.businessbecause.com (international site connecting MBAs and aspiring MBAs with key topics and each other)

www.boardsource.com (for nonprofits)

www.grove.com (graphic tools for strategy, change, et al)

www.ai.cwru.edu(appreciative inquiry)

www.balancedscorecard.org (evaluation and measurement)

www.eq.org (emotional intelligence)

www.thevaluescenter.com (cultural transformation/values)

www.mindtools.com(wheel of life, development tools for people and organizations)

www.ceoexchange.com(books and other resources for CEOs)

TWITTER accounts to consider following:

@IntelliVen
@BusinessBecause
@fastcompany
@harvardbiz
@brazencareerist

Formatted Version: Complete

Sunday, October 12, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How We Learn: A book review by Bob Morris

How We LearnHow We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where and Why it Happens
Benedict Carey
Random House (2014)

How to take full advantage of a host of techniques that deepen learning that remain largely unknown outside scientific circles

As Benedict Carey explains, “this book is not about some golden future. The persistent, annoying, amusing, ear-scratching present is the space we want to occupy. The tools in this book are solid, they work in real time, and using them will bring you more in tune with the beautiful, if eccentric, learning machine that is your brain.”

Ironically, perhaps paradoxically, Carey invites his readers to use their minds to think about their minds in new ways. He examines an emerging theory that accounts for new ideas about when, where, and why learning happens: The New Theory of Disuse. “It’s an overhaul, recasting forgetting as the best friend of learning, rather than its rival.”

There really is a “science of learning” and it requires the same rigor and focus that the study of physics or calculus does. His research and analysis of others’ research invalidate some assumptions about learning, validate others. When asked, “How much does quizzing oneself like with flashcards help?” here is Carey’s response:

“A lot, actually. Self-testing is one of the strongest study techniques there is. Old-fashioned flashcards work fine; so does a friend, work colleague, or classmate putting you through your paces. The best self-quizzers do two things: They force you to choose the right answer from several possibilities; and they give you immediate feedback, right or wrong. As laid out in Chapter 5, self-examination improves retention and comprehension for more than an equal amount of review time. It can take many forms as well. Reciting a passage from memory, either in front of a colleague or a mirror, is a form of testing. So is explaining it to yourself while pacing the kitchen, or to a work colleague or friend over lunch. As teachers often say, ‘You don’t fully understand a topic until you have to teach it.’ Exactly right.”

In a similar vein, Albert Einstein once suggested to a graduate student at Princeton, “If you can’t explain a great idea to a six year-old, you really don’t understand it.”

Of even more interest and value to me is his repudiation of cramming. Is it a bad idea? “Not always. Cramming works fine as a last resort, a way to ramp up fast for an exam if you’re behind and have no choice. The downside is that, after the test, you won’t remember a whole lot of what you ‘learned’ – if you remember any at all. The reason is that the brain can sharpen a memory only after some forgetting has occurred…Spaced rehearsal or study or self-examination are far more effective ways to prepare. You’ll remember the material longer and be able to carry it into the next course or semester easily. Studies find that people remember up to twice as much material that they rehearsed in spaced or tested sessions than during cramming. If you must cram, do so in courses that are not central to your main area of focus.”

These are among the dozens of other subjects and issues that also caught my eye:

o Cognitive science and physiology of the brain: Aids for study (xi-xvi)
o Retrieval of memory (21-41, 59-79, 82-97, and 205-209)
o Philip Boswood Ballard (Pages 29-35 and 205-206)
o Elizabeth Ligon Bjork and Robert Bjork (35-40, 93-100, 153-158, and 160-163)
o Context for memory, environment for learning (47-64)
o Four Bahrick Study (69-74)
o Testing as self-examination (76-79)
o Preparation in learning (92-103)
o Carey’s experiences in learning: Incubation or percolation, problem solving (107-130 and 131-148)
o Obstacles to learning (124-126, 145-156, and 167-168)
o Psychology of learning (134-1e39)
o Learning Cognition: Discrimination (142-146, 159-163, and 175-194)
o Interleaving (163-171)
o The brain during sleep (195-212)
o Learning: Essential Questions (223-238)

Here’s my take on Carey’s book:

1. People must be self-motivated to learn.
2. They learn more when focused on whatever interests them.
3. Achieving that objective is the reward they value most.
4. People learn more when they learn with others, in collaboration.
5. The more people explain something to others, the better they will understand it.

Ben Carey concludes his book with a Q&A section, responding to many of the questions you may have. (I had them and others before I began to read it.) Here is one question of special interest to me: “Is there any effective strategy for improving performance on longer-term creative projects?” That is an excellent question and his answer to it again stresses the importance spacing one’s efforts. “Simply put: Start [longer-term creative projects] as early as possible, and give yourself permission to walk away. Deliberate interruption is not the same as quitting. On the contrary, stopping work on a big, complicated presentation, term paper or composition activates [or re-activates] the project in your mind, and you’ll begin to see and hear all sorts of things in your daily life that are relevant. You’ll also be more tuned into what you think about those random, incoming clues. This is all fodder for your project — it’s interruption working in your favor [rather than as a distraction] — though you do need to return to the desk or drafting table before too long.”

Those who purchase this book expecting Carey to reveal a “secret sauce,” cheat sheet checklist, short cuts, etc. to accelerate their learning process will be very disappointed. This is not a book for dilettantes and pseudo intellectuals. There really is a “science of learning” and it requires the same rigor and focus that the study of physics or calculus does. The best works of non-fiction offer a journey of personal journey. To those who are about to read this brilliant book, I offer a heartfelt “Bon voyage!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Zinger on Employee Engagement: A second interview by Bob Morris

Zinger

David Zinger connects the strength of one with the power of many as an engagement speaker, coach, and consultant. He founded and hosts the global Employee Engagement Network, with more than 6,400 members and counting. He fuses a down-to-earth prairie upbringing with a global reach. He has worked on engagement in Canada, United States, Poland, Wales, Germany, England, India, Spain, and South Africa. He is a prolific author. He wrote Assorted Zingers: Poems and Cartoons to Take a Bite Out of Work and Engage: How to Get More Into Your Work to Get More Out of Your Work. He has written more than 2500 blog posts on work, engagement, management, and leadership. He has also co-created 10 exceptional free employee engagement e-Books in conjunction with the Employee Engagement Network.

He is also an educator. He taught Educational Psychology and Counseling Psychology at the University of Manitoba for 25 years. David’s specialties were work, humor, career development, well-being, engagement, management and leadership. He created the popular “Ten Building Blocks” pyramid of employee engagement to help clients focus on practical and tactical engagement. David believes that small is the new significant and that small, simple, strong, significant, scalable, and sustainable actions within the context of good work will make the biggest difference in engagement for the benefit of all.

Finally, David is innovative and experimental. He worked for three summers making connections between engagement, honeybees, work, and community. David believes honeybees provide an insightful and living model of the social elements of work and the importance of thinking differently inside our hives (organizations). To receive a free copy and learn more about his finding click on the title of David’s eBook, Waggle: 39 Ways to Improve Human Organizations, Work, and Engagement.

Here is an excerpt from my second interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here

To read the first interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: A great deal has happened since our last conversation in January, 2012. It’s good to get caught up. Of all the changes that have occurred in employer-employee relations since then, which do you consider to be most significant? Please explain.

Zinger: I think mobile work combined with new technologies is significant but will grow immensely in the next 24 months. I see so many people using Fitbits and other ways to get metrics on their fitness and sleep and with the new Apple watch I see a lot more workplace applications coming out very quickly. Employee engagement needs to reside more in mobile.

Morris: At which point in your life did you become passionately interested in employee engagement? Please explain.

Zinger: Hearing my Dad, an executive, complain about his job when I was young made me wonder about work and relationships. Having a job early in the railway where people did their best to avoid working. But primarily working as an employee assistance counsellor for 15 years with Seagram let me know the workplace from the inside out. I want work, to work, for everyone.

Morris: To what extent (if any) are the dynamics of employer-employee relations in Canada significantly different from those in the U.S.? Please explain.

Zinger: I travel the globe and I don’t study the macro elements. I am interested in the day-to-day. I redefined employee engagement a few months ago as good work, done well, with others, every day. I don’t care if you are in platinum mine in South Africa, the government in Singapore, or an office worker in Vancouver — we can all achieve good work. For too many people work is hell when I believe work can make us well!

Morris: Recent research by highly reputable firms such as Gallup and Towers Watson indicates that in a U.S. workplace today, on average, less than 30% of the employees are actively and productively engaged; as for the others, they are either passively engaged (“mailing it in”) or actively disengaged, undermining the given company’s success. Why are so many employees either indifferent or hostile?

Zinger: Still not sure I believe the numbers. It often is just the classic bell curve and so given the bell you would expect about 20% disengagement. I think there is a lot of iatrogenic disengagement, meaning what we do around engagement may cause disengagement. I think it is tragic, on a small scale, when we don’t have open, honest, trusting, and respectful dialogues at work with everyone at work and that we need to rely on anonymity and outside consultancies to learn about our own workplaces.

Morris: Here’s a follow-up question. How to increase the percentage of those employees who are actively and productively engaged?

Zinger: That’s a book or two. I think it is small, strategic, significant, and sustainable behaviors done daily. I think culture and strategy and climate are way too large to handle. I want three or four key engaging behaviors done every day. This can range from meaningful conversations to beautiful questions, to ongoing conversations about performance, progress, and setbacks, etc.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

David cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

www.davidzinger.com

www.employeeengagement.ning.com

Sunday, October 5, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Organized Mind: A book review by Bob Morris

Organized MindThe Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Daniel J. Levitin
Dutton/The Penguin Group (2014)

How to “recapture a sense of order and thereby regain the hours of time wasted by a disorganized mind”

Clutter can fill up our minds the same way it fills up closets, drawers, cabinets, attics, and basements of residences. The problem is even more serious in offices, given all the places in which clutter can accumulate. Climate-controlled storage has become a multi-billion dollar business in the United States precisely because so many people have so much “stuff” that there is insufficient room for it anywhere else.

Don’t blame the human mind. It is what the brain does and is remarkably well-organized but our use of it is certainly not. Pretend for a moment that you are behind the wheel of a Ferrari F12berlinetta, a vehicle that combines superior design and performance. Start the engine and begin to drive it. Oh, I forgot to mention, you don’t know how to use the accelerator, brakes, and steering wheel. The challenge is to understand what this magnificent vehicle can do and then master the skills necessary to take full advantage of those capabilities. I realize that citing the hypothetical situation of driving a Ferrari F12berlinetta without any control of its speed or direction is a bit of a stretch but the fact remains that many human beings feel overwhelmed by the velocity and complexity of their lives. Cluttered thinking results in a cluttered life.

Daniel Levitin wrote this book to help as many people as possible to meet this challenge, to increase their understanding of (a) the human mind and (b) how effective use of it can help them “recapture a sense of order and thereby regain the hours of time wasted by a disorganized use of mind.” He notes two of the most compelling properties of the human brain and its design: “richness and associative access. Richness refers to the theory that a large number of things you’re ever thought of or experienced are still in there, somewhere. Associative access means that your thoughts can be accessed in a number of different ways by semantic or perceptual associations.” These are but two of countless functions and capabilities of the human mind. “The cognitive neuroscience of memory and attention — our improved understanding of the brain, its evolution, and limitations — can help us to better cope with a world when more and more of us feel we’re running fast just to stand still.”

The best business books tend to be research-driven and that is certainly true of this one. Levitin provides 83 pages of annotated “Notes” (Pages 397-481), a clear indication that the abundance of information and insights he provides has a rock-solid foundation of authoritative sources.

These are among the dozens of passages of special interest to me, also listed so as to indicate the scope of Levitin’s coverage:

o The Inside History of Cognitive Overload (Pages 3-13)
o Information Overload, Then and Now (13-32)

Note: How serious has the problem become? According to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, “From the dawn of civilization until 2003, humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes [begin italics] every two days [end italics]…and the pace is rapidly accelerating.”

o How Attention and Memory Work (37-45)
o The Neurochemistry of Work (45-48)
o Where Memory Comes From (48-54)
o Where Things Can Start to Get Better (77-87)
o Home Is Where I Want to Be (106-112)
o How Humans Connect Now (113-120)
o Aren’t Modern Social Relations Too Complex to Organize? (120-135)
o When We Procrastinate (195-201)
o Creative Time (201-215)
o Thinking Straight About Probabilities (220-230)
o How We Create Value (268-276)
o The Future of the Organized Mind (329-337)
o Where You Get Your Information (365-369)
o Browsing and Serendipity (376-383)

Levitin acknowledges, “There is no one system that will work for everyone — we are each unique — but in [this book] there are general principles that anyone can apply [begin italics] in their own way [end italics] to recapture a sense of order and to regain the hours of lost time spent trying to overcome the disorganized mind…Getting organized can bring us all to the next level in our lives. It’s the human condition to fall prey to old habits. We must consciously look at areas of our lives that need cleaning up, and then methodically and proactively do so. And then keep doing it…The key to change is having faith that when we get rid of the old, something or someone even more magnificent will take its place.”

Long ago, I began to realize that our lives are the results of the decisions we make, for better or worse. Also, that making no decision is itself a decision, usually with consequences and sometimes with serious consequences. I am deeply grateful to Daniel Levitin for all that I have learned from this book, especially during a second reading when preparing to compose this brief commentary. It seems ironic — and is perhaps a paradox — that we need the human mind to enrich our understanding of the human mind. The material in this book can help anyone to make better decisions about what’s important — and what isn’t — so that better decisions can be made about what to keep and what to eliminate.

It really is true: Cluttered thinking results in a cluttered life. The choice is ours.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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