Technical Training….Training

“People aren’t puzzle pieces, turn-key products, or canned beans. They are investments, copilots, and will form connections within and outside your organization you never would have guessed”

Fuelling People is probably one of the tougher things to do in an organization – training programs, interesting work, mentorship, matched teams, surveys, open door policies, carefully tailored workloads are all a nice set of sliders and controls an organization can play with and optimize, But the most difficult thing is still creating training around an institutional knowledge set that includes some really hard-to-capture aspects – gut feel, interpersonal relations, estimating workloads and performance, turning measurements into decisions, and understanding people’s true capacities and capabilities.

Smashing has an interesting take on setting up technical courses for technical people inside a technical organization. A few key points, which I’ll add a bit to:

  • Give context and purpose to what you are teaching. The big picture – how will you be stronger within the organization, and how will it make the organization stronger (i.e. a better place to be!)
  • Teach by example. For example, the ‘Cookbook style’ Where a specific need is solved, allowing the learner to auto-generalize (something humans are almost too good at). Check out the micro article on learning as foundations and differences
  • Have some awesome homework. Learning is, in the end, doing, and watching someone else cook doesn’t make you a chef. Make the homework rewarding, possibly collaborative, and flexible to meet the motivations and interests of the learner. It’s also a breeding ground for real questions and feedback, not the polite stuff or pile-ons you might get immediately after a presentation
  • Learn how the training went – get feedback and get it immediately as well as later on. You have to learn how to teach people, after all, and accurate feedback is more than one datapoint in time – The term, “Let it sink in”, and “experience is the best teacher” have a very good reason to exist!

How to effectively study

Alan Turing Statue

Alan Turning : “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”

You never stop learning, which means you never stop studying. Sometimes the hardest things to learn are those that don’t have a concrete test or exam at the end. How do you know how well you did in a race if there are no hurdles, laps, timer or finish line? That’s part of being an adult, and actually a part of a Human Factors model where your “comfort zone” must be stretched into an area where you are uncomfortable, but, as it turns out, competent.

A good way to stretch yourself in the direction of learning something new is not just to read the manual. Humans are designed to learn through doing, so doing examples and writing example exams is generally more effective than just linear reading.



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What is the heart of inspiration?

From Gavin Aung Than's ZenPencil's

From Gavin Aung Than’s ZenPencil’s

A big issue that faces anyone who has had to grow up is choosing a career. It is tied so much to our time, identity, our goals and what we want to mean.

Even those lucky enough (and by lucky we can mean any mix of hard work, opportunity, and will) still have to contend with the day-to-day reality of Living A Dream of a Certain Size.

Take Chris Hadfield – the mundane aspects of being an astronaut may dominate his time – training, studying, paperwork, details and more details; a dream job tied up in procedure manuals and velcro.  What people find most interesting about his being an astronaut is not just the experience itself, but what it took for him to get there.

So what is that? Of course there is studying, and of course there is the hard work, but what he has shared with the internet community during is the not-so-simple fact that you actually can change your future. Not just in principal, and not after a lot of preparation, but every time you make a decision, big or small.

This message, above the inspiration that science, research and curiosity, is the most human message and the one he is most qualified to share.

And of course a message like that would be lost on most of us if not put into cartoon format, so here is it, from Reddit and Gavin Aung Than

Frank Borman, Astronaut and Leader in tough times

220px-Frank_BormanIn creating new content for the web – educational, corporate, entertainment – we have a bit of a pressure-cooker atmosphere. Teams are quickly assembled. Ideas are tried and tested and implemented in hours and days, and deadlines are often set with everything but technical feasibility in mind. 

Of course, in web, the stakes are rarely as high as those of, say NASA. We can update, beta test, and the consequences are not typically life altering. There is always “CTRL-Z”

Nonetheless, we need good teams – exceptional teams, really – to get the job done.

Looking back over 50 years, one of the most amazing teams, goals, and deadlines was the Apollo program to land a man on the moon by 1969. 0.4% of the Gross Domestic Product of the United States at that time was diverted to NASA, and when the project had started it was science fiction – it would be like us today building nuclear starship in 15 years, just enough feasibility to not be pure science fiction.

But things did go wrong, because of the rush to meet the deadline, and because of the unique nature of risk: nothing goes wrong until things go wrong – the only symptom of high risk is catastrophe. Continue reading

The Practical Take on Platforms

theFWA has a great set of quotes from leaders in the creative industry about what transitions like the one from Flash to other technologies really mean. Beyond the rhetoric, these are the tools of a community, and it is the creativity that is the real strength, not the platform. Also, a great Freudian slip in the use of the word “canvas” :

…”The relevancy of Flash and potential of HTML5 both lie in the hands of the creative community. More importantly, the future of the Internet remains a vast and exciting canvas so long as we seek to continually provide the most engaging and effective user experiences possible.”

Jared Kroff, Creative Director, RED Interactive Agency