Pope’s treatise on Leadership!

The Pope really hit the nail on the head in his address to the leaders of the Roman Curia when he outlined the diseases that ail Leadership in general. Gary Hamel in his article in HBR The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis translated Pope’s message of last year to corporate speak for the benefit of leaders outside of the Roman Curia.

Some of those stood out as common diseases visible all over:

A) Sense of being indispensable

B) “Leadership Alzheimer’s  disease”

C) The disease of hoarding, which I would like to broaden the scope of to include the disease of Silos and lack of information sharing

D) The disease of poor coordination- building on Mr. Hamel’s thoughts I believe this disease has its roots in the ‘better than the pack’ mindset

Definitely a great read by two stalwarts in their own fields! Enjoy!




Corporate Social Responsibility- Volunteering

As a committed Pro bono professional with Catchafire I was delighted to read an article on volunteering by professionals on Fastcoexist. Corporate philanthropy is a well-known, well-embraced movement. It has its pros, and cons which merit a separate article, however, to state briefly, one of the biggest challenges in philanthropy is almost always the victory of ‘activity’ over ‘outcome’.

This may be due to various reasons, one of which is qualified manpower focused on outcomes ( ensuring funding goals are met, impact is ensured, and impact is measured). Problems for small not-for-profit include lack of skilled resources, and scarce funding.

In the aforementioned article Ali Marano provides insight into how corporations might execute social responsibility by making their employees available for volunteering. Catchafire started a movement that has demonstrated success with pro bono professionals devoting skills, and time to meet operational needs of small NPOs, or small social enterprises.

Imentor, an organization that leads the mentoring movement for underserved students is another example of a model that leverages the skills and time of pro bono professionals to be mentors to those students who might drop out before entering college if not for the scaffold of mentors, and their commitment. I have studied their work in detail, and am convinced they make an impact through their volunteers (mentors).

More and more corporations might be able to fulfill their quota of commitment to society by allowing its employees time to work on select causes. From an organizational culture and development perspective, what better way than to watch employees make impact via influence rather than power, achieve self-actualization, and develop skills and commitment for a cause.

Strategic Success feeds off of Culture

I came across an article by Derek Irvine at TLNT .com on the importance of culture over strategy. While I do not wish to emphasis on the ‘over’ part of the conversation, I certainly agree with the writer that culture determines lasting success.

Culture influences employees more than anyone outside of HR  might estimate. Strategy can determine direction of an organization, but it is the employees imbued in the company culture who can propel the machine forward.

Culture impacts hiring, and retention decisions; culture impacts talent development ethics, and it is only the right culture that builds collaboration between teams, and LOBs to foster innovation.

In the article, the author gives an example of Zappos where customer satisfaction is a direct influence of culture. As a Learning and Development strategist I appreciate it perhaps more than a few others that Strategy and  L&D efforts are critical to success, but they are not the only determinants. Neither is the financial acumen or blessings of a VC the determinant of success.  Culture, strategy, and tactics interwoven as the fabric of operation lead to success.

A link to the above mentioned article is here

Education and Incentives: A woman’s perspective

In an effort to share good/great writing, this week I have choosen a blog by Jo Aggarwal. Jo  is my former manager, and a very highly regarded and respected mentor.  In this post Jo speaks to incentives for higher education in a specific circumstance!

Education and Incentives: A woman’s perspective.

Bring your party to life!

I was at a very well-organized party held in a remote location. The organizer who is a good friend did a great job of thinking about every small thing that guests might ask for. Dull and drab as the party was, someone had to do something to keep it going!

Two things brought life into the party: questions and games! And we designers,  curriculum strategists, or learning and development professionals forget about these two essential elements of a learning program, or a training intervention.

We engage in ‘engaging interactivities’ which are either mere drag and drop, or match the column, or multiple choice with nice round radio buttons, and worry about the user interface. Not to say all of us do this. Some of us who do not only think about drag and drop, or radio buttons think have started thinking about Blended-Learning!

So we think of video, we contemplate inclusion of pre and post test, we make a case of case-based learning. If we are more creative, and courageous, we think about including social-learning. Great stuff all, don’t get me wrong guys! However, for learners to creatively respond, to strongly engage, and definitely reflect, discussion questions are a great activity.  Beauty is that for your video content, you can have questions; for the case-based learning, ask questions, and ensure people engage in a conversation through answers and comments. Sadly, we do not significantly leverage discussion questions, and certainly not in effectively.

We all know not to ask closed questions all the time, but our open-ended questions are not interesting enough. The party I refer to came to life when somebody else asked the organizer how they had remembered to bring even the smallest of items. Can you imagine how interested the organizer will be in your/your questions? Immensely is the answer!

When you bring the learner to a classroom for training, or a student for learning, or create an elearning program, engage your learner with content, and activity both.

Here is a list of my pet peeves ( do you care?) around discussion questions as an activity as we designers often present it:

  1. Only teachers/ community managers ask discussion questions most of the time. Learners/Students do not get to pose a question for peer-peer discussion.
  2. Inevitably closed questions find a place in a ‘discussion question’ category, thus limiting any potential discussion. Closed questions are great for gathering facts/information , but not to foster inquiry or intellectual dialogue.
  3. Too many questions, little participation, and little or no moderation/ summarization.
  4. Too many learners responding to one question, and / or a few specific comments
  5. Many LMSs that afford discussion questions do not facilitate download. All learning / knowledge captured goes with expiration of access.
  6. Group-think, and need to confirm also prevent learners from questioning responses/ arguing /inquiring if there is no encouragement to present views fearlessly.

Okay, lets take a quick look at how to include Discussion Questions and make them work for the learners/students:

  • Make sure questions are as open-ended as possible
  • Encourage ( sometimes mandate) participants/students to share there views, and comment on another one or two people’s views. This will allow for reflection, and collective contemplation
  • Ensure there is a regular summary of the discussion, or a curation of the comments. This can be performed by the teacher/trainer, or better still by a nominated student
  • Have a community manager who is tasked with directing the conversations toward a productive direction/knowledge enhancing direction
  • Create smaller groups to facilitate deeper and meaningful peer-peer conversation

These practices, a great online system to handle it, and a watchful eye of the community manager, and your online discussion forums are super-charged learning objects.

As always, would like to hear comments/thoughts. Feel free to add them.


What will be the fate of Facebook, now that Google+ is here? From my perspective Goggle+ has the advantage of Google universe of Search, Docs, Picasa photo,Chrome, extensions for Chrome, Google Reader, and Google books, all in one!  It is essentially the ‘to-be’ social support system if you will. Perhaps not everyone will echo my sentiments, but from the 1000 users who responded to a question on their impression of Google+, my vote would be for this social support role. In my opinion, Facebook never envisioned itself to occupy that space.

Google+ has the potential to be the top governing layer to all other google services. The Sparks feature uses the same search algorithms, and therefore, one need not necessarily think about another search engine. After you have done your search, add the searched entity to ‘Sparks’  and you have your alerts, but much more detailed!
Google’s education business will definitely leverage Google+ as the social layer to its Google Apps. Integration issues would be sorted quickly for business.
For organizations that do not have a centralized collaboration space, or more importantly a Knowledge Management space  Google+ will surely work,  especially if there is a vision and a desire to enhance, and promote collaboration and innovation. Facebook was never perceived as that collaboration space.
Challenge from a business perspective would be potential security issues. From a casual perspective, I have had three friends, and two acquaintances tell me they will not join ‘one more social network’. That might change soon, or might not, but the number of Google+ users is increasing every day.
Finally, the upcoming Google+ API should demonstrate the interoperability and openness of the platform. I look forward to stories of Google+.  If you have a good story, add it to comments.
Google+ pages for brands are up and running.  G+ is ready for showtime!
7/22/11- 20 million users on Google+ as of today http://mashable.com/2011/07/22/google-plus-apple-huluInteresting interview with Vic Gundotra, and Bradley Horowitz of Google or should I say Google+?

Innovation all around!

Imagine this scenario-  you just learnt that someone in your organization had an idea which was ground breakingly innovative, and had the potential to turn around the loss making entity. No big deal there, except that the idea went undiscovered for 32 long years!

This actually happened in a yarn manufacturing unit, which was suffering from yarn breakage problems and so losing markets ( Kanter, HBR 10 Essential Reads). A newly hired executive, who believed that innovative ideas can come from everywhere encouraged people to speak up.  An immigrant worker suggested an idea, and when asked how long did he have this idea, he answered, “32 years”.
Nobody had heard about this idea, because nobody had asked!

Innovation can come from every direction, not only top down, and that was my take away.  Serendipity, that same evening my father told a story about his practice when designing and manufacturing a product for his customers.  My father has been an engineering expert for the last 40 years and successfully runs his own company.  He makes sure that the welder, and the lathe worker are part of the initial product design and estimation, and one day when he and his foreman were ideating on a product, it is this welder who identified that the rod was thick, and not suitable for what they were thinking, and suggested an option to make this work!
A lesson in innovation right in my own home!

Just take away a few things such as-1. Ask

2. Be open to ideas from anywhere
3. Do not reject anything before having examined it  thoroughly
4. Smart people are all around you, ask and ask again, this time for their opinion
5. If you have the power to authorize, and you believe the idea makes sense..prototype.
This does seem over-simplified now, does it not? Well, use all the innovation models you wish while making sure you implement the first four points always.

As a Learning and Talent Management professional, I see big lessons learned here.  In this supremely ‘interactive’ age, are you harnessing the potential and knowledge of all the employees of your company?

Think about an opportunity here to be able to impact Learning and Development of employees, business goals and strategy of the organization as a whole, a cultural shift from ‘innovation is top down’, and Talent retention and management.
In subsequent posts, I want to dig deeper into Innovation, Learning and Talent Management.

Now back to my coffee at Starbucks in Times Square, NYC.