Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Lies Beneath

At Up 2 Us this year, MJ Broadbent encouraged us to go outside and really look at our environment.
So Dave Gray (shown), Michelle Gray (who took the picture above), Mike Hruska, Patrick Scullin and I grabbed the nouveau Polaroid camera to take up the best real estate at the park - the end of the boardwalk by the Haw River.

Notice that the water doesn't look like much - just a sludgy brown surface.

When the pictures came out of the camera, it was amazing what came out.

Probably a bit tricky to see in the shots above (thanks Megan for taking a picture of the board), but the camera captured a lot more detail than I saw staring in the water with my naked eyes.  The branches and small shrimp-like critters. The differences in the currents between the surface and underwater.

The pictures also didn't capture the water temperature (cold, but I could stick my feet in it comfortably for about 10 minutes), the conversation (mostly about the nature of joy), the smell (slightly swampy)...all the little details.

MJ intended for us to see how environmental systems in nature can be mimicked in our human environments, but I got something a lot more valuable out of the exercise....

A reminder to slow down and really be with my surroundings.  Observe ALL of the parts - not just what is apparent with the eyes. Not just how I THINK things should flow and work and evolve.

Yeah...we "debriefed" afterwards.  I stood up in front of people I have mad respect for and improvised something sortakindanotreally related to the "exercise." I think I was muttering something about paying attention to "what lies beneath" when analyzing any system at the time this picture was taken.  At least - I tried to sound intelligent. 
"So Wendy, what do you think "Joy" is?" Dave asked when he realized I wasn't really engaged in the conversation by the river.

You know....this may be it.  The feeling that all is as it should be and I belong here.

That realization alone made the weekend.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ospreys v. Maryland Transportation Authority

Maryland public enemy #1 Easter week and the "test stick"
Thank you wtop.com and the Maryland Transportation Authority for the week's worth of entertainment. 

Start at the bottom of the page and scroll up to read the whole live blog.
You know the scenario.  An "executive decision" is made by a "protected" entity.
They won't budge from that decision.
The decision messes up a bunch of activities for another part of the organization.
They are persistent.
Worse - they won't budge.
So what do you do?
During Easter weekend, a pair of ospreys decided to build a nest in front of a traffic camera by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

For a bird, it is an awesome location.  Stable, bayside view, easy access to hunting grounds...

They weren't entirely crazy about the camera, but other than becoming reality TV stars - everything was perfect.

The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) had an entirely different view. They weren't crazy about the ospreys blocking their view of the cars going towards the Bay Bridge.
"It's an expensive camera!"
"It's a public safety issue!"
"The ospreys, osprey eggs, nest etc might fall into the road!"

The battle was on!
Round 1: After consulting with "specialists" about what they can and can't do to the protected entity, MDTA removes the nest.  Ospreys rebuild in the same location early the next day.

Round 2: Hoping to catch the issue before the nest is as large as the one they just removed - MDTA removes the nest.  Since the Ospreys are protected, and since they realized very quickly that the birds really really like the spot - MDTA goes back to the "specialists" to figure out what to do if the Ospreys come back.

If the solution is too different from the solution the protected entity (the Ospreys) have determined is the correct one, it will be rejected.

Meanwhile - MDTA prays the Ospreys don't come back.

The Ospreys rebuild in the same location.

Round 3: MDTA removes the nest.  A few hours later, one of the Ospreys place a "test stick" on the camera (see above).  MDTA removes the test stick.  They also start work with the specialists to build a more desirable platform to "entice" the Ospreys into moving. 

All is quiet until......

Round 4: The Ospreys have started building on the OTHER camera on that gantry!

MDTA's comment: “I can safely say this wasn’t expected from anyone.”

Thankfully - MDTA and the "specialists" have finished their alternate solution and mounted it.  They hoped that it met the requirements of the protected entity:
- Near the desired area / solution (check)
- Baseline support structure for the nest (check)
- Away from the traffic cameras (check)

During all of this, there was a public outcry for the "protected entity".

They carefully moved the new nest from the Osprey's second chosen location to what MDTA hoped would be the desired location (the new platform).

Then, they waited.....

MDTA even put in a camera setting for "Osprey Cam!"  - taking a recommendation from the comment feed.
That will be turned on Mon - Thurs noon - 12:15.

MDTA gets to continue watching the traffic.
Public gets to watch the Ospreys.
Ospreys get a safe and desirable place to nest.

After a few days of drama....everyone wins.

And like any organizational conflict - it took all parties "listening" to each other.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Remembering the Context of the Original Decision

Those answers may look mighty different by the time the solution is built....

From the Federal Highway Administration - Context Sensitive Solutions for Better Transportation. Practitioners Guide
I was talking with a colleague of mine about a communications system we put in place for compliance training.

Read more....

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Remote Coaching

Mike Nelson's response to my deadlift form.  This deadlift was done at 115# - which was under my working weight for that day of 135#.

I thought it was a great example of "customized distance learning".

Mike was kind enough to let me share and answer some questions regarding how he structured his class.
For those of you who have read this blog for years, you know that I've been on a bit of a health kick.
Actually - it may be more than a kick since I've been at it for 4+ years....

Anyway, I had an opportunity to do some remote coaching with a trainer / nutrition researcher who's work I have been following for the past couple of years.

I thought the course was a good example of "customized" eLearning.

Brief notes on the design of the course / coaching from the student perspective:
- Duration: 6 weeks (5 weeks of material + 1 week of wrap-up)

- We would receive an email with a link to the week's material.  Mike would then follow-up with a call for questions and some homework.

- The student would respond with the requested material.

It was pretty straightforward and, I thought, really effective.

What got my attention, however, was the care he took in responding to some of my inquiries - such as taking a look at my deadlift form from a really crummy cell-phone video.  His comments were incredibly helpful.

My current working weight is up to 175# for 5 reps.  Not bad for someone who took a year off from all heavy work and who's 1RM at her strongest was 205#.  Last September, a few months after this course - I was able to easily lift 205# again.

Thank you Dr. Mike Nelson for letting me share the video.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

#perspectives14 The Spark

Using Buffer (timed twitter)
Also using Snapcaster (broadcasting tweets)
Speaker: Lyn Heyward, Cirque du Soleil (another one best to have seen)

Door 1: Great Expectations
- Everyone has a wellspring of creativity
- Tap into it every day and in real life
- Practice.
- Every situation. Every encounter is a creative opportunity
- You have so many choices.
- We are all looking - but not always certain what it is

Door 2: Surrender to your senses
- Our world is constantly changing
- Sometime we are the instigators.  Often - on the receiving end
- Are we sensing everything out there
- Journey inward - technique. Only progresses when go beyond mechanics
  + Gotta trust senses, intuition and self
- Capture new ideas and experiences as occur.  EVEN if don't seem valuable.

(How do you break things down. What are the order of the senses in an experience?  What is the core and which do you want to emphasize?)
Go to the source

Door 3: Treasure hunting and creative transformation
- They look for tough-minded entrepreneurial spirit.  First wave - very street performers
- Second wave - more educated and disciplined.  More refined relationship with the paying spectators
- Third wave - athletes. Intense discipline.  Individual
  + Where they started doing "training"
- How do we take all three
- Don't do traditional casting.  Scouting looking for individuals.  (like sports). Closed auditions.  They are looking for the individual and hidden talents then build show.
- General training - bringing candidates around world.  Have them do things never done before + evaluate core HUMAN value
  + Can you work together to solve problems
  + Risk taking
  + Share?
  + Learn quickly?
- They hire for what they might become and how can contribute.

Creative transformation - So...who are you?
- Who are YOU?!?  Strip them of stereotypical tics and behaviors.
- Work on getting raw being
- Often we define through jobs etc.  Not through creative emotions.
- Lots of onion-peeling....

4 keys
- Work outside of comfort zone
- Try new things and take risks
- NEVER repeat yourself
- Apply creativity to everyday tasks AND to projects

The openness is what is what opens to the creativity.

Door 4: The Nurturing Environment
- Transition from individual to team
- As leader, our most important responsibility is to create an environment for creativity, productivity and personal growth.
- At Cirque - everyone is expected to be generous, creative and "give up" ideas
  + Applies to EVERYONE
- Looking for team players. Try to cultivate

Designer / costumer collaboration.  The creative and the implementor.

Look outside your world and take responsibility for what you are working on.  What THEY are working on.

Also have to understand how the environment we work in impacts the work itself.

They do "dress rehearsals" of the artist before goes out on the show.  For the WHOLE company.
They get a chance to see the performance and say goodbye to the artist.
Teamwork - very prolific.

The decoration of the playground also important.  Remider on a journey.

Door 5: How constraints, challenges, differences and consumer expectations become creative catalysts.
- Restraints help with creativity  Requires resourcefulness.
- Help become motivators for getting the job done.

"There are many ways to do something"
"What best represents you?  Your brand?"
What we do does NOT have to be expensive to evoke the emotions. (or get the job done)

What do you do best?
How do you do that within the "restrictions"?

Also important to understand what is happening around you.

How do you spead positive messages?

Cirque pyramid:
Amazement (92%) / Happiness (88%) / Exhilaration (77%) // Sadness (23%) / Fear (18%)
Urge to surpass myself (23%) / Nostalgia 30%) / Spirituality (31%) / Hope (32%)

Door 6: Risk Taking: Do you ever get burned?
Creativity is all about courage.
Courage to try. Courage to fail. Courage to share the experience.

"You have got to learn to leverage the creativity and credibility you have earned over the years."
You take the risk. you live with the risk. you go beyond that risk.

Complacency is the single biggest risk you take. And least productive.

We have to practice risk taking. "We call this research and development"

Technology to enhance human performance.  NOT replace.  (for Cirque and I think for all of us)
- The human has to stand out.

Door 7: Keeping it fresh
- How do you help it grow.
- How do you keep motivated between projects?
- People notice what the elders are doing.
- How do you encourage?  make them better?
- Employees have to be recognized for what they are doing.
- Gotta be committed to look at product from outside perspective.
- They have artistic directors listen to comments in audience.  They try stuff throughout.
- Don't lose sight of the vast human potential around him.  Share success with EVERYONE.

Continuing questioning relevance in the environment.

Expose folks to product.  Will encourage sense of ownership. AND share success.
- Let the employees oogle the work first.
- also encourage activities.  Let the employees up on stage to play.
- Let people come forward to show their talent too

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

#perspectives14 UNThink

Turn negative stress into positive pressure.
Take control through action.
Presenter: Erik Wahl
(This is one of those presentations that would have been better to film vs. my notes)
(Check the #perspectives14 twitter feed)

"Who can draw?"  Nothing.
But if he goes to the high schools - 8-10%
Preschools - everyone.

At what age does our creative energy dry up?

The challenge is how to remain an artist as we grow up.

How do we build emotional connection?

Creativity is the new corporate capital.
Look at the space "between the notes"

The Introduction to Poetry - J. Evans Pritchard.
- Objectively calculate the value of each poem and stanza.
- Score the poem and its greatness. THEN you will enjoy it.
- "Bah"

Go outside your comfort zone.
- Fear Factor - all about going outside the comfort zone.

Sometimes it pays to take a risk and take action on an idea.
Trail of breadcrumbs from an umet goal - always goes back to fear.

Fear of the unknown
False evidence appearing real

We let fear paralyze the creative thought process.
Fear KILLS Performance
Amplify your opportunity to scale.
If want to grow your org - got to grow your people
Find ways to emotionally connect
Find meaning

What is a creative idea WORTH?
What is it worth to expand your (tolerance) of risk.
Southwest - "hire for attitude, train for skill"
Hard to train flexibility, adaptability, deal effectively with onslaught of changes....

Built decisions on people and how they are trained and supported with that core.
Imagination is MORE important than knowledge - Einstein
Past experience and success can be the greatest factors that hold you back.
We were all taught, trained, disciplined to be "logical"
- We were trained to search for one, proper, standardized solution.
- Gets worse and we inflict this on others.
- We are taught to become risk averse, and "busy"

We talk about innovation and creativity
But when it comes time to write the check - we do what we have done before...

Linear, logical still necessary.  But FAR from sufficient.
Esp. not to compete and engage.

How do we work and hire smarter vs. working harder and harder......
Trust is the strongest form of currency

If you can humanize your brand - you are better equipped to succeed.
Internet revolution = trust revolution
Internet is social
Retaining talent, recruiting talent = trust

The future of business is social.
We have got to learn to communicate.
(and we have to learn candor)

The future is in building the trust out.

Amplify trust.
Spread out to scale.
The art of great leadership going forward will be in the science of intentionally slowing down,.
How do we build back emotional connection. (Heart)
(This will require slowing down......fighting the addiction to "busy")
Breakthrough thinking - if we break out of the corporate-speak....get more human and access the emotional portion of our mind
This is where breakthrough results blossom.
Sometimes - "gotta get out."
Especially when you "lose everything"
(wish I recorded this - because I can relate.....)

What are you repressing?
What is dormant?

Really - disruptive strategies, creativity, etc.
Not genetic.
Really expressing self.
Looking at things from another perspective.
Creativity is a practiced and disciplined skill.

Emotional connection
(This has been a huge theme this morning)
How are we going to re-awaken the child-like imagination?
How to re-awaken the artistry?
Harmonize notes?
Build the emotional connections that drive future effort?
What standardized testing, six sigma, best practice etc does - it stigmatizes being wrong.
We become afraid of being in the "bottom"

In building a culture of innovation....what happens if you have the best baseball team but the game has changed to basketball.

Trust is the holy grail.

How do we motivate and empower our students?  Help those individuals become the best possible version of themselves.

How do we look at the challenges of business as an opportunity?
Business as usual no longer cuts it.

Remember: education is an industrial model.  Same with our organizations.
Create opportunity by changing the game.
(Hey B-Sharps!  This person Geocaches his artwork! Find it you keep it.  1:45pm - will launch clues where painting hidden @erikwahl and skillsoft twitter.  Let's go look for Elvis!)

Look at the ordinary and take the risk / opportunity to create the extraordinary.
See what those around you see - but have the courage to twist the landscape

#perspectives14 Big Data

(Went out to find a plug)

Speaker: John Ambrose (SkillSoft)

McKinsey Big Data paper

Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2014

Overwhelmed Employee - businesses today are struggling to adapt to 21st century
- HUGE increase in data
Employees interrupted by information all day long

Compounded by the fact that we have the most generationally diverse workforce ever

Imperative for us to find better ways to absorb data
- Through tech
- Through better implementation
- Make it simpler

Characteristics of Overwhelmed Employee
- Checks cell phone 150x per day.
- Can only focus for 5 minutes at a stretch (if we are lucky)
  + Attention span plunged from 12 minutes in 1998.  (Yikes)

- People try to contact multiple ways now and not wait.

Everything is "one big now"
- Not just mere speeding up.  Amplification of EVERYTHING happening at this moment.
- Diminishment of what is NOT.
- Becomes very hard to keep site of goals and future

Antidote - how do we deal with the data that is overwhelming us?
- Answer to data overload is data.
  + Like the flu shot
- If we think about data - we can imagine ways we can improve the lives
- Its about using the data more intelligently.

Lots of ways to look at this
- Drive revenue (Wal mart, Visa, Amazon....)
- Decision-making
  + but most people don't know where to start
- New jobs (data interpreters)

(Trick - use data to determine what is the best course of action.  What will make you more effective in the things you are trying to do.  What problem are you trying to solve?)

(Caesar's example - they are using data to optimize the person's experience.  They seemed to start with a question - "how do we get the customer to come back?")

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas as data
(This is why the guy came to my room with the speaker gift bag.  He KNEW I was in the room. Kinda creepy actually)
Each module and element in SkillPort - a piece of data.
What are the user content interactions.
Then what is the sequencing?

What is the payoff?
- Key to successful learning program
  + Engagement, alignment, adoption, value

- These are driven top-down

Big data opens complementary path.  Successful knowledge transfer happens at individualized / personallized level.

Find what they need when they need it.  PULL vs. PUSH.

- Learner centered world.
- Away from program centric to user centric

(How do we empower people to learn?)

(So the first step, for me, is to define the measurable behaviors.  What evidence will I have that we are moving towards a Learning Organization)

- Improving user engagement.  (From what to what.  Also - run models and algorithms. Working on this now.)

Big Data
- Engagement sensors. 
- Recommendations engine
- Visualization of WHY you are getting that recommendation

(wandered off at this point to take care of some work stuff)

#perspectives14 Leadership Lessons

Dear SkillSoft....
These beanbag chairs are still epic.
We should have those in the morning sessions instead of chairs.

Maybe I'll ask them to drag them in to the session I am giving this afternoon.

Speaker: Jack Welsh

Innovation and competitive advantage
- Innovation = little steps becomes a big deal

Mindset - reward every little improvement every day.

Find a better way every day - this is a "headset"

"Innovation" scares people
"I can't innovate!  That's for someone else!"
Engage every single person to find a better way.

Faster accounting system, new customer program, turning screws...

These small things make your company competitive
AND you engage every mind.

"Innovate" - don't wait for the "innovators to innovate"

Praise the small victories.

Known for candor.
What is the argument for candor in the workplace?
How do you walk the fine line between honest and hurtful?

Candor means searching for the truth.
Not about being rude.

If looking for strategy // tactic - need truth.

Candor about your relationships with your people.

Why don't we reward candor? (This is where I feel like I am really lucky in my org)

"You have no right to be a manager without demonstrating to your people knowing where they stand"

Simple piece of paper.  What are you doing well. Where can you improve.
And they can come back too.

Honest conversations.  Not rude. Not hurtful. Honest.

Get the real stuff on the table.

NEVER let your people come to work not knowing what you think of them.
Characteristics of effective leaders

EEEEP - energy, excite, edge (make decisions), execute (get the damn thing done), passion (do it with passion, caring)

4 more things (past 10 years)
- Get in the SKIN of every employee.  Sweat with them and make relationships.  Try to understand. (1 to 1 relationships)
   + Today - everyone has same information.  So how do you get everyone engaged?

- Become the "Chief Meaning Officer".  Make it CLEAR why they are there.  Everyone needs purpose.  Give them a purpose.  Where are you going? Why are you going there? Rinse and repeat.

- Be the sweeper.(see Curling)  Get the crap out of the way!  Don't layer in reports / bureaucracy etc.  Let your folks do their job and flourish

- Generosity gene.  People who LOVE to give raises.  People who give credit.  Never steal an idea. Excited to see people grow.  Gotta love to see others flourish.
  - The Employee thieves don't thrive anymore
  - Kissing up and kicking down doesn't work anymore
  - This CAN be learned.
Hiring - Hiring great people is brutally hard.

Even when we know people, we don't know how they will behave at the next level.

Too often you hire a dud and you hang onto the dud because you are embarrased.
If have a Generosity Gene.  The cheapest money you will ever spend is severence.

Gotta love them as much on the way out as much as on the way in.

Hardest job in the world.
Own your mistake
Be candid
Take care of them 

This will also help build a better organization.

- Lots of flak on that. 
- "Business is like a game - the team that fields the best players wins."

Baseball teams manage out the weakest people.

Differentiation - unfair if the employees have no idea where they stand and can't grow.
Only works in environment with candor and opportunities.

People don't want to hang out in the bottom 10.
People want to work places where they have a chance to be winners.

If you are candid, open and fair - you will field the best team.

Worst manager - "Kind" person.  "I can't tell them they stink."
- Don't want to surprise them.
- Very cruel to not be honest with people.

You have to field the best team.
T&D - your job is to help build this team.

HR MUST report to CEO.

The job is ALL PEOPLE!
The rest is crap around the thing.

An HR person has to be well-respected,
Training is critical
A learning organization is the ultimate competitive advantage.
Open to learn from EVERYWHERE.
Have that - you win.
What leaders need to keep in mind during transition
- Clarify the vision. - Where we are going, WHY we are going there, How are we gonna get there (behaviors), consequences

- "More with less" usually = fewer folks.

- Here is what is in it for you.  Most companies forget that.
Those consequences..has to be in the forefront of any big change initiative.
Change has to be on a personal level.

Don't hide.
Explain what is happening, why it is happening and what is in it for them.

Gotta get under everyone's skin.
That is the game.
Strategy - to make strategy reality, find the big a-ha

- One objective every day of strategy session
- Get outside the organization
- Get outside the politics

slide 1 - what does the playing field look like.
- nitty gritty. What are the details...Especially about your competitors
- What's going on in the industry.
- Make sure everyone in room knows.

slide 2 - what have they done in the last 12 months to change the playing field
- what did the competitor(s) do.
- Why does the playing field look this way

slide 3 - what have YOU done to change the game.

slide 4 - what are you worried that they might do (may be most important slide)
- How are you taking care of your resources (ie - the person they might steal)

slide 5 - what are you going to do in the next year to change the playing field
- This is the strategy.
- Strategy is not a big book of theories.  Strategy is you and them on the playing field.

Don't get tied up in the charts and powerpoints.

Speed to Market / Agility / Simplicity

As a leader
- Self-confidence (only self-confident people can be simple)
- Simplicity
- Speed (how fast and agile are you?)

See someone with business-ese - they are playing a game.

When a company is simple and straight-foward, they will be fast.
You will never get that with non-self-confident people CYA.

Speed when people are given the self-confidence to take risks and get out there.
Speed is the winning ingredient.

Go for the damn decision!
New ventures

In any initiative - the personnel counts more.

Your appointment (who is in charge) speaks more than the speeches.
Wrong people in the positions....you've said volumes about how important you REALLY think it is.

Gotta discern when to bring the company culture and issues to the table and when to respect the local issues.
- That discernment - really important.
- Requires touch
- Requires understanding of culture - destination AND own culture.

His mentors / influences
- Peter Drucker (named - but lots of them)

Worst idea corporations have EVER had - the "Mentoring Program"
You should see EVERYONE as a mentor!

Pick and choose what you like and need.
Stuff you don't like - ignore it.

If you look to find a better way every day EVERYONE is a mentor.

But - if you are stuck with a mentor that is assigned to you that isn't well liked, you are stuck.

Pick the best and grab it.
But don't get stuck in one person's mold.
That person may be carrying too much of a load for you to deal with.
The leadership techniques work.
They work in different size companies.

Online MBA - teach on Monday, Practice Tues - Thurs, Return on Friday to share.

Welsh institute - Strayer

Want to promote people within the company.
Using all business practices.
Faculty has a customer.  Customer is the student. Faculty fired when get bad grades from students.

Series of online programs in leadership, change management, strategy.
Partnered with SkillSoft to move these ed programs to companies.
Learning organization is the ultimate competitive advantage.

If you can get your team to field the best players...you "win"
Doesn't matter if small company of minite.

Wants to be known for building leaders.
Creating atmospheres where people have fun.

Your job - to make it an environment where people have fun.

(People learn when they have fun)

Performance, performance, performance.

Greatest responsibility - make it exciting for people who depend and count on you.
They really don't care who the CEO is.
They care about YOU.
And you have to care about them
Gotta give them a chance to grow and flourish.

Leadership is like having a garden.
May get some weeds, but fertilize and keep tending.

If work is not fun, shame on you.

Reward systems - find ways to reward people and make sure one of them is NOT going to dinner with YOU.
- They spend all DAY with you.
- Reward on THEIR terms.

Make it fun.
Build leaders.

Get them rich in the SOUL AND the wallet.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Superiority of Backroads

My road buddy.....

I chose to do a grand southern road trip for Up 2 All of Us and Ecosystem 2014 this year.

My initial thinking - since it was easier for me to drive down to Greensboro, NC...then I was looking at turning around, driving BACK to DC, THEN getting on a plane to Orlando the next day...I might as well drive the whole loop.

With the weather being as dodgy as it was ... best choice I've made in awhile.  I would have never made it to Ecosystem 2014.

Besides, I figured the road trip would give me the opportunity to:
- take the Mustang out for a lengthy road trip
- Visit an uncle in the Florida Panhandle I haven't seen in 20 years
- See the extended family in Merritt Island (just MISSED getting a winning lottery ticket) and Orlando without worrying about transportation
- See some friends I haven't seen in 18 years in Savannah
- eat REAL BBQ (not the stuff that passes for BBQ in the mid-Atlantic)

I forgot how much I enjoy driving off-interstate.

The quickest route between Greensboro, NC and Monticello, FL is mostly US and Georgia state highways once you hit Augusta.

I discovered that driving the backroads is a lot less tiring than just zoning out on the interstate.
4 hours on I-95 was a LOT more exhausting than 7 hours noodling between Augusta and Monticello.

I suspect it is the forced interruptions of small towns, interesting turns, varying landscapes.
The rhythm of cruising spots interspersed with areas you MUST pay attention.

Having a working GPS helped with the confidence-level. Google Navigator on mobile phones = best use of mobile devices EVER. 
Those forced interruptions in really good conferences, classes, online sessions and workshops are the things that make those work.

Not the constant pounding of information in an effort to "get it all in".

The interruptions need to be a variety of activity.  Not "ok - let's take a 10 minute break."

Personally - I've tried to keep the courses I've designed under 60 minutes (under 30 if I can help it). Mostly because I find my audiences over the years have balked at longer sessions.  And, honestly, because I find teaching sessions longer than that tiring.

Still - for longer engagements, I have to keep in mind that if I can manage to provide different activities (not "ok, let's change subjects" or "let's look at another program on this computer" ) I'd likely have a better chance of having an engaged audience. The trick will be to have that activity still point folks towards the objective(s).

It was a good thing to learn.  And I think I may take backroads more frequently.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Accessibility - the Ariadne GPS Experiment

This past fall, the Mobility Guru and I were chatting at his cube. I was telling him about my accessibility experiments and my Dad.

You know, Wendy, we should probably add Disability Support to the Mobility Roadmap. Actually, we probably should have done that in the first place. We could use this stuff you are working on professionally - though I know why you are doing it. Have you heard of Ariadne GPS?

Ariadne GPS is an app for iPhone that allows the blind to navigate.
If the worst case scenario comes to pass - I want Dad to be as independent as possible. Maybe the iPad is the wrong form factor? Plus - Dad has an old-style clamshell phone that he only uses for emergencies. None of us have his cell number. Hmmm.....
One of the other things I am learning is that I too am inclined to lean on my eyesight when testing. When testing apps for the newly (and somewhat suddenly) blind - this is not the best way to go. I need to figure out how to teach someone who is blind. Which means I need to reduce the reliance on my OWN eyesight. Get in the student's shoes....

It was humbling how frightening it was to close my eyes and follow.

Even more interesting to learn how the emotional charge of the situation (I'm doing this for my Dad!) impacted my ability to focus and learn. (Hint: it made it harder). 
As of this writing - the necessity for this tool isn't immediate.  Dad is doing well. 
Not seeing great (imagine Vaseline on your glasses with some clear spots), but still seeing.
Still, it's good to know these resources are out there.

To those of you developing for the blind and who keep us all focused on accessibility and Section 508 compliance when we develop our materials...

Thank you.