Transforming your staff's potential

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Entrepreneurial Learner Quote

On Identity Shift:

"We’re moving from a sense of 'I am what I wear/own/control' to 'I am what I create, share and others build on.' How do I put something into play so others build on it? When you figure this out, you understand agency and impact."

-- John Seely Brown, Chief of Confusion, Co-Chair of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Hi everyone,

Williams Instructional Design blog will be taking a hiatus for a few months. 

However, you can still follow me on to see what I am reading and tagging for future use.

Happy Autumn and Happy Learning!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Rules" to Live By

From :

"Buried in various corners of the web is a beautiful and poignant list titled Some Rules for Students and Teachers, attributed to John Cage, who passed away twenty years ago this week. The list, however, originates from celebrated artist and educator Sister Corita Kent and was created as part of a project for a class she taught in 1967-1968. It was subsequently appropriated as the official art department rules at the college of LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent, her alma mater, but was commonly popularized by Cage, whom the tenth rule cites directly."

And from Bertrand Russell:

"Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On Creativity and on Humor

A couple recent finds:

First, Krista Tippett of On Being conducts a dense and beautiful interview of Rex Jung, an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He's a Distinguished Senior Advisor to the Positive Neuroscience Project, based at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr Jung speaks on "Creativity and the Everyday Mind."  It is difficult to summarize all they cover in this wide-ranging conversation.  However here is the introductory text to the podcast:  "How do we prime our brains to take the meandering mental paths necessary for creativity? New techniques of brain imaging, Rex Jung says, are helping us gain a whole new view on the differences between intelligence, creativity, and personality. He unsettles some old assumptions — and suggests some new connections between creativity and family life, creativity and aging, and creativity and purpose."

An interesting tidbit from this interview is that their research shows strong correlation between humor and other key indicators of creativity.

This, in turn, reminds me of another recent interview.  This one, by Shankar Vedantam of NPR, is with Robert Lynch, an anthropologist and stand-up comedian.  It delves into the connection between humor and human bonding:

 An Anthropologist Walks Into A Bar And Asks, 'Why Is This Joke Funny?'

Saturday, June 30, 2012

On the interplay of creativity, experimentation and learning

On Creativity is an inspiring set of interviews of artists in different disciplines.

In this interview of Andrew Zuckerman, the photographer speaks to the creative process, yes, and on leadership and learning and the importance of "not knowing" and allowing yourself the opportunity to experiment and respond:

Hat tip to one of my favorite muses:  SwissMiss

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Joy of Learning

Not only inspirational, but also a lovely example of addressing the affective domain when teaching the value of learning:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

File under "Less is More"

 Or, "Just because we can doesn't mean we should."

 “What lies in our power to do,
lies in our power not to do.”



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Clay Shirky on Creativity

Clay Shirky says creativity is the ability to produce valuable novelty. Different cultures and organizations will define valuable novelty differently depending on the goal. An organization or culture that knows its definition of valuable novelty will be best able to identify creative opportunity and create the most effective environment for fostering the creative process.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ken Burns on Storytelling

Ken Burns is a national treasure. 

There are so many take-aways for instructional designers and trainers and OD professionals in this five minute piece.  But I won't go on and on.  It speaks for itself. 

What I am reflecting on:

The power of storytelling for teaching in the affective domain.
The power of storytelling to illustrate complex concepts such as cognitive dissonance.
How there is no one version of truth... everybody holds a piece of the truth.

Friday, May 11, 2012

On Teachable Moments

I am a big fan of the comic strip, XKCD.  The best humor is observation of the small ironies and truths of everyday life.  Randall Munroe is brilliant at it.

Having worked in the past in the field of ABE, I am particularly sensitized to the fragile confidence with which adult learners often struggle.  This is also true in workforce training, where people's jobs and professional futures may be on the line.  Most everyone struggles with what I call "the imposter syndrome."  Leaders and trainers must know there are no insignificant comments or tone of voice.

Early wins built confidence and engagement.  Use every opportunity to encourage both.  The more learners can relax in to trusting you and the experience, the more they will learn.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Designing for Flow

It also has me reflecting on the concept of "flow," both in how I practice my craft and in my life.  The core theme of the book is introducing the concept of  the constructal law: “For a finite-size flow system to persist in time (to live), its configuration must evolve in such a way that provides easier access to the currents that flow through it.”  The author goes on to say:  “The constructal law is a shout from the rooftops: Everything that flows and moves generates designs that evolve to survive (to live)."

Things that live / move persist and become sustaining by constructing and evolving themselves for the most efficient flow.  Think rivers, lightening strikes, animals staking out prime grazing or hunting grounds. 

Diverse, easily-accessible sources of input, minimizing/removing barriers and inefficiencies to the "flow" process, and opportunity for expression/practice/application/output to "feed forward":  These are the prime, universal elements of the law that I can identify. It all speaks to sustainability... the persistence of the "life" of something, be it a river, a person, an idea.  This concept has implications for and application to all aspects of life, including support networks of family, friends and professional colleagues, the rise of social media for communication and learning, democracy, the politics of energy and conservation, etc.

It makes me think about how I:
  • Structure a lesson plan
  • Architect a performance management program
  • Manage my own professional development
  • Prioritize my time and nurture my relationships / communities - personal and professional
  • Take care of myself and the ones I love
It creates a new paradigm for approaching it all.  Wow... and I haven't even read the book yet!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Failure: Necessary for Success

The more I read about creativity, the more I read about failure.  Failure is a necessary and integral element of the creative process, for leadership, for success in business, relationships... just about everything.  Here are a couple examples to my point:

From Stanford's School of Engineering's blog, "Ask the Expert":  How Should Organizations Handle Failures?

"The best-run organizations understand that failure enables improvements in everyday work and characterizes the creative process. Dysfunctional companies create a climate of fear where failures are stigmatized and hidden. There, mistakes are never examined, creativity is stifled and progress is difficult."
This Business Week article, "How Failure Breeds Success" argues that breakthroughs depend on failure and the best companies embrace their mistakes.  I particularly like the idea of "failure parties."
From Hack the SystemHabits, Failure, and the Creative Process–How IDEO, the World’s Premier Design Firm, Succeeds by Expecting Failure

In the Creative Liberty blog post: Embracing Creative Failure (I): Getting It Half-Right , insightfully aligns "failure" with the inherent iterative nature of the creative process.
Dave Atack of Intrepid Learning argues we should embrace failure as a learning tool in his post, "Fear of Failure." 

Michael Hyatt, who writes on intentional leadership and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  In his podcast: How to Benefit from Setbacks and  Failures he speaks to the lessons he's learned from big failures in his work and personal lives.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More on Creativity

“It’s hard to have original ideas when you are surrounded by people who all have the same experiences as you.” 

 – Jonathan Harris

“Intuition is a very powerful thing—more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.” 

– Steve Jobs 

 A friend forwarded this link to an NPR interview of author Jonah Lehrer on his new book: "Imagine:  How Creativity Works."  His book, and the interview, focus on recent research on how inspiration and the creative process work.  The findings support long-held folk wisdom on epiphanies in showers, the tortured artist, and more.  This Fresh Air podcast is a 1/2 hour well spent:

'Imagine' That: Fostering Creativity In The Workplace

Delicious Tidbits: Measurement

A colleague will be speaking on "getting real with measurement" soon at an industry event.  She asked her community of practice to provide her with opinions on what this means to each of us and with resources that might be useful.  Themes that arose were alignment with organizational goals, ROI and "less talking, more doing."  I dug through my Delicious library recently and found some interesting articles and other resources on measurement:

From Educause, an article by George Siemens and Phil Longon on, "Penetrating the Fog: Analytics in Learning and Education."

From the eLearning Curve Blog, a post by Micheal Hanley on:  "Evaluating Non-formal Learning: Validity in Research"

And another eLearning Curve Blog post: "Using Quantitative Data when Evaluating Non-Formal Learning"

A measurement job aid from Will At Work Learning.

From the Dissident: Trying to Find Life's Instructional Manual, a post on
"Measuring the value of communities of practice."

A Beth Kanter blog post on Reporting Social Media Metrics To Stakeholders.

From The Social Organization blog, a post on Social Media Metrics.
And, finally, from Forbes Magazine, an articles on Five New Management Metrics.

Do you have favorite, "go-to" articles or tools you would like to share?  I'd love to see them! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Belonging and Leading

“Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong. One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people. We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we can’t resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new. … We want to belong not to just one tribe, it turns out, but to many. And if you give us tools and make it easy, we’ll keep joining. Tribes make our lives better. And leading a tribe is the best life of all.”
- Seth Godin
Tribes, by Seth Godin

Hat tip to design maven SwissMiss

Sunday, April 1, 2012

To Do

As I sit here on a Sunday morning, blogging and tweeting and pinning (all work-related, of course!), with a list of weekend tasks a foot long at my side,  I found this print, To Do, by Wendy MacNaughton, particularly apt:

via SwissMiss... a great source of design inspiration....

On Peer Learning

Having the opportunity to participate in the design and development of a professional development program for my client, I am investigating all kinds of informal learning strategies.  Here is what I've been reading on Peer Learning:

First, a couple definitions:

From glossaryPeer learning is an approach that involves working with communities of practice, developing learning 'journeys', etc. This can also be called 'learning from within', i.e. not trying to replicate what others have done (because there are no panaceas and no two places or situations are the same), but replicating their creativity, ingenuity and reflexivity in order to develop and implement new ideas whilst reducing the risk. 

From InnovateOnlineTopping and Ehly (1998) define peer-assisted learning as "the acquisition of knowledge and skill through active helping and supporting among status equals or matched companions" (1). Peer tutoring, as a specific form of peer-assisted learning, is a collaborative approach in which pairs of pupils interact to assist each other's academic achievement, with one pupil adopting the role of tutor and the other the role of the tutee. Reciprocal peer tutoring "employs same-age student pairs of comparable ability with the primary objective of keeping both peer student and peer teacher engaged in constructive academic activity" (Fantuzzo and Ginsburg-Block 1998, 121). This is in contrast to more usual forms of peer tutoring, which operate with different abilities in the pair and sometimes with pupils of different ages.

Now, some other insights:

From a paper published in the International Journal for Academic Development, " Situating academic development in professional work: using peer learning,"  by David Boud, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia:

Boud speaks to the challenges arising from locating development in academic work.  He says that not all contexts are conducive to peer learning and careful consideration is needed to determine when it's appropriate. He highlights the following points to consider:

  • Will development be a form of enculturation?
  • What is it legitimate to do for and with one’s peers?
  • Linking development with strategic priorities
  • Leadership support and development as part of leadership
  • Using appropriate personnel in development

Beth Kanter, at her blog, recently discussed peer learning in the non-profit world.  She spoke to peer learning as a strategy for building three types of capacity: network weaving, the strategic use/measurement of social media and investing in networks.
She listed six initial observations that she has seen emerge as the most important in this type of application:
  • The substance of the peer learning experience should be of immediate use in the participants’ work—ideally an emerging area that needs attention where there is not yet a lot of information, and where the group can co-create material.
  • The participants need a substantial amount of common ground in relation to the topic—whether it is their size, issue area, location, or other factors, they have to share enough that their commonalities are easily visible to one another.
  • The group needs to quickly build trust, so that participants are comfortable learning alongside one another and seek out their peers for direct input. For many groups, meeting in-person is key, particularly in the early stages.
  • The participants’ motivation is essential, so it works well for grantees to be given a free hand in choosing whether to join.
  • It should be clear to all involved that the learning process will be exploratory and emergent rather than tightly structured and directive.

Over at Employment @ Suite 101, Andree Iffrig writes about how informal communities of inquiry can enhance professional commitment through storytelling in the post, "Peer Learning and Storytelling in Organizations":
Storytelling in an informal setting is an invitation for professionals to step into a new space and frame of mind, detached from the harsh reality of the workday world. Stories are compelling because they speak to people at a feeling level, cutting through the coats of professional veneer employees accumulate working in organizations. In the context of an informal community of inquiry, stories bring out the collective wisdom and experience of participants.
Getting at this kind of knowledge would be nearly impossible with conventional meeting techniques. It takes the combination of safe environment and storytelling to illuminate this wisdom and make it available to the group. Storytelling in the context of a discovery process helps participants move from reflecting silently on a topic, to sharing their reflections, to group discussion. The end result is often a discovery of shared values and a reaffirmation of commitment.

In a research paper published by Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative entitled "Bridging the Gap: The Use of Learning Partnerships to Enhance Workplace Learning," by Kate Collier and  Jacqui McManus, they concluded that peer learning partnerships and related strategies appear to be successful in bridging the gap between 'off the job training' and workplace learning.  However, the way learning partnerships are set up and supported throughout a training program appears to have a direct impact in their effectiveness.  They list benefits that include:
  • Participants becoming more aware of themselves as learners
  • Discovering how others can support participants in their learning
  • Enhancing participant's learning in formal learning programs, and
  • The effective transfer of learning into the workplace

In a paper published by University of Alberta on "Peer Collaboration as a Model for Workplace Learning in Health Care: Possibilities and Challenges" by a slew of academics (click on link to see authors), they conclude:
"In the rapidly changing workplace, peer collaboration offers health care workers a sense of community and provides a forum for self-reflective practice. A barrier to effective collaboration is “creating a space to meet.” Within the goal-directed milieu of the Calgary Health Region, participants reported difficulty in reconciling the time “spent on self” when patient needs seemed more pressing. However, participants reported both personal and professional gains from their involvement in the project. Therefore, a preliminary conclusion is that peer collaboration offers a stable and supportive learning context and is a compelling option for continuous learning in the workplace."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Delicious Tidbits: Creativity and the Creative Process

In my work these there are some delicate challenges to address and wicked problems to solve.  As a result, I have been picking up on themes related to the creative process. The following are articles in my Delicious library that include the tag "Creativity" or "CreativeProcess".


On new research that finds brainstorming hinders creativity:

FastCoDesign recently published a post on deliberative discourse: Innovation Is About Arguing, Not Brainstorming. Here’s How To Argue Productively.  Science shows that brainstorms can activate a neurological fear of rejection and that groups are not necessarily more creative than individuals. Brainstorming can actually be detrimental to good ideas.  Five key rules of engagement to constructive and creative arguing yield fruitful sessions and ultimately lead to meaningful ideas.

Over at Psyblog, they are thinking about the same thing:    Why Group Norms Kill Creativity.  The upswing of the article is similar to the article above, but their conclusion are different.  They conclude creativity within groups isn't impossible, but it has to fight hard to get out. Coming up with something truly new often means having to steer a path away from the herd, towards new horizons.  They say, "go it alone".

On the hard work of synthesizing and interpreting visual ideas into verbal communication:

Dan Roam and Nancy Duarte compare their processes for interpreting their visual ideas into language and organized them into cogent "stories."

Dan Roam - Creative Process from Duarte Design on Vimeo.

On Improvisation

Liz Danzico, equal parts designer, educator and editor and sports an impressive professional pedigree.  People are improvising. She speaks here on improvisation and design.  Whether intentional or not, designers are putting forth opportunities for people to engage in frameworks, giving them connections to take advantage of (or not). This session explores how these frameworks take hold and what the opportunities are for interaction designers.

Liz Danzico-Frames:  Notes on Improvisation and Design from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

On Failure as a critical element of the creative process:

and highlight three parts of the design thinking process.
    1. Inspiration: Observing users in their own environment to identify latent needs. Takeaway: See the world differently in order to capitalize on needs that your competition hasn’t taken the time to recognize.
    2. Ideation: Developing new ideas based on observations to address latent needs. Takeaway: Don’t depend on your customers for the big ideas.
    3. Implementation: Testing assumptions of new ideas to continuously shape them into viable opportunities. Takeaway: Fail quickly and often not to kill an idea but to make it better.

 Jessica Hagy at This is Indexed speaks (visually) to why 2nd and 3rd and 4th chances are vital:

On Creative Leadership:

Clark Quinn over at Learnlets created this mindmap of John Maeda's presentation on creative leadership and the need for art in his keynote for Learning Solutions.

Here is SHRM's white paper on Creativity and Innovation in Human Resource Management.  In it, the author addresses the meaning of value creation, thinking Strategies for creativity, innovation diagnostics and tips for practice.

On the value of courage, vulnerability and authenticity for the creative process:

Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. Brené Brown, whose earlier talk on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores what can happen when people confront their shame head-on. Her own humor, humanity and vulnerability shine through every word.
Brené Brown studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.

Humorously and profanely, Louis CK also addresses the topics of courage, vulnerability and authenticity as vital traits for the creative process.  He spoke at an event remembering and honoring his idol, George Carlin.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Humor in Visualizations and Presentations

It is said that the jester was the only person in court who could speak hard truths to the king without risking the guillotine.  Humor is as powerful a tool to help us "see" as visualizations.  Together?  Pow!

Jessica Hagy plots out learning relationships at "This is Indexed":

Learning curves on winding roads.

It’s called learning.

Next, Randall Munroe's infographics do a little navel-gazing at XKCD:


Don McMillan explains how NOT to use PowerPoint for presenting: 

Demetri Martin uses an infographic to explain a dating phenomenon.

And here he is describing his self-misdirected learning.  (No infographics here, but lots of visual aids!)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Delicious Tidbits: MOOCs

Among the threads of learning I am weaving into my understanding of instructional design and adult learning is the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).  Here are some finds I've stored away in my Delicious Library:

Per Wikipedia:
"A MOOC is a course where the participants are distributed and course materials also are dispersed across the web. This is possible only if the course is open, and works significantly better if the course is large. The course is not a gathering, but rather a way of connecting distributed instructors and learners across a common topic or field of discourse. MOOCs are a more recent form of online course development, departing from formats that rely on posted resources, Learning Management Systems, and structures that mix the LMS with more open web resources."

To me, one of the most exciting qualities of MOOCs is their empowering nature  MOOCs empower learners to self-define the goal and metrics of success of the learning. Additionally, learners are co-creators of knowledge along with their facilitators and colleagues. 

Here are some useful and fun resources, plucked from my delicious library, for learning how to participate in and build/deliver a MOOC:

The MOOC Guide

The purpose of this eBook, hosted by Google, is two-fold:
  • To offer an online history of the development of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
  • To use that history to describe major elements of a MOOC

Each chapter of this guide looks at one of the first MOOCs and some early influences. It contains these parts:
  • A description of the MOOC, what it did, and what was learned
  • A description of the element of MOOC theory learned in the offering of the course
  • Practical tools that can be used to develop that aspect of a MOOC
  • Practical tips on how to be successful

A Brief Guide To Understanding MOOCs

In this article, written by Ken Masters for the Internet Journal of Medial Education, and published by Internet Scientific Publlications, the author presents a brief guide to assist teaching staff in understanding the conceptual changes required by instructors to implement a MOOC successfully.

Friday, February 3, 2012

On Understanding

Brick and mortar life has gotten the best of my e-life recently.  The universe, however, has "magically" provided a theme for this week's post:  Understanding.  Here are a couple tangential thoughts on the value of understanding:

From This is Indexed, a graph that plots why it's OK to look behind the curtain:

From TED, a presentation arguing that understanding doesn't diminish wonder:

Friday, January 20, 2012


 Do you know what it means?  I didn't!

A learning services firm I work for is looking to expand its development of informal learning services.  Of course this intrigues me as I am a great admirer of self-directed learners and the leverage that informal learning and communities of practice hold for individuals.

So, I began researching (read: mucking about on Google) informal and self-directed learning.  I did not know that self-directed (or "self-determined") learning has a formal term:  Heutagogy.

In education, heutagogy, a concept coined by Stewart Hase of Southern Cross University in Australia, is the study of self-determined learning. The notion is an expansion and reinterpretation of andragogy, and it is possible to mistake it for the same. However, there are several differences between the two that mark the one from the other.[1]

Heutagogy places specific emphasis on learning how to learn, double loop learning, universal learning opportunities, a non-linear process, and true learner self-direction. So, for example, whereas andragogy focuses on the best ways for people to learn, heutagogy also requires that educational initiatives include the improvement of people's actual learning skills themselves, learning how to learn as well as just learning a given subject itself. Similarly, whereas andragogy focusses on structured education, in heutagogy all learning contexts, both formal and informal, are considered.[1]