Transforming your staff's potential

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Entitled: "There's No Such Thing as a Know-It-All"

From Jessica Hagy's "This is Indexed" blog.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The New York Subway as Stringed Intrument

This imaginative animated visualization tool uses the the NYC subway's schedule and plan as a stringed instrument. The piece begins in real time by tracking trains scheduled to depart in the last minute, then continues accelerating through a 24 hour loop. The visuals are based on Massimo Vignelli's 1972 diagram.

I love how the line/tone struck is appropriately higher or lower depending on the distance between the nearest two stations. I also love the added touch of the "bounce" animation. Whimsical.

Here is a recording of one start time.

Conductor: from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.

For "live" starting, go to: MTA.ME

Conceptually, a beautiful metaphor. What might be the useful applications for learning?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Colors in Cultures

The site "Information is Beautiful" has a great infographic that shows the different meanings of colors in different cultures. It is designed as a color wheel and legend. This is not only a great data visualization but also an important tool for instructional designers and trainers when working cross-culturally:

Via: Information Aesthetics

When You Do it Well, It's Invisible.

In my previous post about safari guiding I mentioned that the hallmark of some skill sets is that, when done well, they seem so easy. Similarly, when training is done well, the learning process is almost invisible. I guess training itself, as the underpinning of knowledge and skill, is often invisible too. :)

Gotta love XKCD...

If you go to his site, hover your mouse over the image for an extra punchline.

A Renewed Appreciation for Self-Directed Learners

The lights are back on at Williams Instructional Design, having just returned from a three-week holiday on photo safari in Botswana. It was an incredible adventure, made possible by the highly knowledgeable, skilled and committed staff at each of the camps I visited.

Working at the safari camps takes a substantial personal commitment. Staff members work for 2-3 months straight, every day, for up to 12 hours a day to host their guests. Each team member performs multiple roles. For example: managers supervise staff, graciously host (and sometimes manage) guests, manage reservations and activity schedules, manage the gift shops, oversee logistics and repairs, etc.

I was most impressed, however, by our guides. They are responsible for all aspects of the safari activities. As a result, they must seamlessly blend a wide range of knowledge and skills every day, twice a day for the four-hour game drives for up to 10 guests each.

Like a ballet dancer, those most highly skilled are those that make the job look so easy. However, they must be thoroughly knowledgeable/skilled in: wildlife biology, botany, geology, conservation theory, animal behavior, astronomy, extreme driving, guest safety, first aid, tracking, nature interpretation, bar tending, hospitality, etc. Usually, this is all in a 2nd language. Batswanas' (the people of Botswana) first language is Setswana. All of the guiding is done in English.

To become a guide in Botswana, a candidate must pass a lengthy and stringent three-part exam, including guiding a National Park Ranger on a game walk. One of our fabulous guides actually had a master's degree in wildlife management from South Africa. Other had taken guide training courses. However, one guide trained himself independent of any educational organization.

Robert of Savute Elephant Camp in Chobe National Park, Botswana is my new self-directed learning hero. Excellent naturalist, guide and historian, Robert was also an amazing tracker, driver and host. His technical vocabulary and ability to explain scientific concepts in English was impressive. When I complimented him on this, he said he learned much from prior guests. Robert is truly a lifelong learner. I learned much from him, more than he realized.