Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bringing About a Change

Dave Ferguson raises a valid point in my previous post "Are you ready to change?" I have made an attempt to respond to Dave's concern. Please feel free to add your thoughts.

This is a bit tangential to your question, but I saw cell-phone use while driving as a behavior that's widespread among early adopters and change agents.

These are often the people trying to get others to change. What's more, my hunch is that they see their behavior as skilled multitasking, and dismiss evidence suggesting that talking while driving is on a par with driving after two or three drinks.

So: how comfortable, convenient, effective would they find it to make their own change? To do what the bumper sticker puts gently as "hang up and drive!"

One story I see in this is that if you don't want to change, or don't care to change, then change is hard, even if it's rearranging your desk or trying new outfits. All the more difficult if we're talking about significant changes to the way you work (or prefer to work).

I'm not defending people who don't change. On the other hand, I think some people who constantl push change might balk at what they'd see as changing back.


I am reminded of the post by Geetha Krishnan on Changing Behavior. As Dave suggests, most of us know using the cell phone while driving is hazardous but we still do it. Similarly, there are several other things that we continue doing though we know we shouldn't be. Dave discusses an interesting point: "What's more, my hunch is that they see their behavior as skilled multitasking..." Many believe that multitasking in reality reduces efficiency and that at any point in time you are actually focusing on one task before you switch to another. (Change Blindness; you cannot be aware of everything) The concern that Dave voices is that early adopters and change agents themselves refuse to change. Like Dave mentioned, people take drinking and driving more seriously than talking and driving. Why?
  • People do not seriously believe that talking while driving can cause any serious harm. This is especially true in the case of early adopters and change agents.
  • Most people spend several hours commuting from home to their place of work and back. Busy as life is, they take this time to catch up with others. Cell phones are also important links between home and work. I will probably not ignore a call from home because I may consider it urgent. (Though I strictly do not use cell phones when I drive. I prefer to stop the car and then attend to any urgent calls. But, that could be because I am sure I can not concentrate on driving and talking.)
  • Curiosity may be a strong reason why people take calls. When they see a name flashing, they wonder 'What could he/she want?" This question has to be answered and therefore, they take the call.
  • Sometimes you just have to take the call. It could be a client, your boss, wife/husband, or a person you have been trying to get in touch with for ages.
  • People genuinely think they call keep the call short (while waiting at the traffic signal) but are unable to do so.
When do people 'change'?
  1. When it suits them: It is as simple as that. People change when it suits them. I have seen people answer the cell and say I am driving right now and make their excuses. The same people have chatted on other occasions. Therefore, people 'change' when it suits them. This is along the same lines of people 'learn' things that confirm their own ideas or thoughts (read it somewhere on Twitter and agreed this made sense).
  2. When people experience a negative experience: Negative experiences impact behavior. It could be a near-death experience, a traumatic experience, a humiliating experience, or an emotional experience. These have huge impact on an individual's psyche. People change to ensure that this kind of experience never happens to them again.
  3. When they see a HUGE benefit: I say huge (in caps) because it has to really big from people to change their behavior. What is beneficial for one person may not be the same for another. People may change to set an example and earn a good name. People may change to acquire a goal they have set their minds to.
What can we do to ensure a change to encourage a desired behavior? I know most people claim that bringing about a behavioral change is close to impossible through training. I think it depends on what kind of behavioral change you are trying to bring about. If it is a deep routed value/belief/habit that you are trying to change, it is bound to be extremely difficult. In other cases, what are the things that you can do to ensure a change is brought about:
  • Monitor behavior: If it is a workplace behavior (which it is most of the time), ensure that you have monitoring in place immediately after training is delivered. This may seem school-like, but if you are required to bring about a change, the management must show that they are serious about it.
  • Provide positive reinforcements: This again may seem school-like. But it works brilliantly. We had to teach sales executives at a retail store about grooming skills. In the form of positive reinforcement, we had suggested internal competition with announcement of Best Groomed Employee. This worked wonders. The learners were highly motivated after taking the tutorial and we all geared to display the newly acquired knowledge to win the title.
  • Make it a habit: Through monitoring and positive reinforcements, you can ensure that the behavior becomes a habit. For example: people buckle in their seat belts (not in India thought) as soon as they are in their vehicle due to a habit and not because its a rule.
  • Show consequences: In some cases, it becomes necessary to show a cause and effect relationship. It is important for the learner to see the consequence of their actions to understand how the decision they have made it going to effect them.
  • Show them, rather than tell them: Rather than telling them how they should be doing it. Ensure that you show them scenarios in which they get to see the plot unfold. Let the learners arrive at their own conclusions. Ensure that your case it a strong one, else learners will find excuses. For example: Recently, we designed a course for programmers. During the learner testing, we realized that the learners were making excuses for applications by passing the blame on to the users. Therefore, we realized that the impact had to be higher and we had to ensure that all loose ends were tied.
I am sure they are still doubts as to whether external factors can change an individual and I think the external factors could play an important role. Rest is upto the individual. If the person does not want to change, nothing you say or do will bring about a change. I don't necessarily agree that people who push for a change may not want to change themselves. I think it depends on what aspect they need to change. Again, if it is an internal belief which they feel strongly about (say religion), change may be impossible. But, if it suits them, most early adopters and change agents will change. I think it is a matter of making sure that it also suits them.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Are you ready to change?

I was reading Dave Ferguson's post, Resisting change: a phone-y example. This had me thinking. How do people in the training/learning field resist change? (These are only generalizations.)

  • Avoid trying news modes of delivering training.
  • Refuse to understand that a learning program that is fun, can also be serious.
  • Spend money on things they have been spending money on for so many years.
  • Being part of the brainstorming session which will help them contribute and stay in the loop.
  • Refuse to treat their learners as responsible adults and are always suspicious of their intentions.
  • Refuse to let go. They have to have the power and control. (Read Jane Bozarth's post)
  • Resist innovative ways of teaching.
  • Insist on sticking to the content centric outlook.
  • Think they know what is best for the learners.
  • Hate to say 'I don't know.'
Instructional Designers:
  • Stick to Gagne's nine events without trying anything new.
  • Include assessment questions right at the end of the course.
  • Overuse right image-left text templates.
  • Think they know what is best for the learners.
  • Design for themselves rather than for the learners.
  • Have an irresistible itch to design even before they have the information.
  • Do not do enough research to identify interesting videos, example, and case studies.
  • Do not network and prefer to interact through e-mails only.
  • Do not wish to stay in touch with news and events.
  • Think it is not necessary to learn about new technology.
  • Refuse to treat ID's as experts and learners as adults.
  • Refuse to make learning interesting.
  • Refuse to take responsibility for their role.
  • Do not play a more pro active role in the design phase. IDs have to haunt them to get something out of them.
  • They only validate, but add no value to the program.
  • Continue to have a content centric outlook.
People, being people, resist change. All of us do. What makes us change is a powerful, positive or negative experience. Keep the following in mind:
  • If you wish to change someone else's life through training, remember to make it a high impact, powerful learning experience.
  • And, keep your mind open.
  • Look for opportunities to try something different.
  • Do not stick to things you are comfortable doing.
  • Read a lot and form your own opinions!
  • Network, you will learn a lot from others.
  • Always remember that you can always do things better.
Easier said than done! But, let us give it a shot.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Getting Information Gathering Right

Have you noticed that most clients hate the information gathering stage? You may want to do detailed research and have answers to all your queries before you propose a solution, but several clients wonder "Why are they over doing it?" Have you experienced this? What could be the reasons for this?
  1. The information we ask is common sense to them and therefore, they wonder why you haven't figured it out yourself.
  2. They wonder how certain information is going to help you design the training program and therefore, they feel that you are asking way too many irrelevant questions.
  3. They have sent you all the documents but they feel you have not read them and that you continue to ask the same questions.
  4. My previous vendor did not bother me with a third degree. Why are these people wasting my time?
Why is information gathering important?
  • Anyone can design a training program based on documents shared by the client, but getting the right information will help you design a training program that will make a difference. You are expected to deliver an effective training program. How are you going to do so without understanding the organization and its employees?
  • This stage also plays a crucial role in building credibility, trust, and rapport with the client. This is the instance where your team gets to interact and make an impression with the client.
  • It helps clearly understand the reality. All misconception, ambiguity is discarded right at the beginning.
On some accounts the client are right. What can you do to ensure that information gathering stage is effective.
  1. Ensure that you keep it short. If this stage takes too long to close, it is bound to test the client's patience. They want to see solutions and results. The faster you propose a solution the better. Avoid long breaks between meetings. Ensure that you get the information you need over a short span of time. Also, ensure that you make good use of the time allotted to you by the client.
  2. Fix an agenda for the meeting. Ensure that the client knows in advance what the goal of the meeting is. This will give them time to prepare for the meeting. They will be able to answer your queries immediately.
  3. Ask the right questions. Do not have a standard list of questions and ask all your clients the same questions. Each project is different. You need to modify your questions as per the need. Remove the irrelevant questions and stick to the ones that will provide you valuable information to move ahead.
  4. Ensure that you read all the documents shared by the client. It is a bad idea to think that you can get the information directly from the client and therefore, avoid reading the documents. Clients will be offended if they realize that you have not read the information they shared.
  5. Do not ask the same questions over and over again. Get your question right and record the answer.
  6. Do not introduce new team members halfway through the information gathering stage. If you do, ensure that they are briefed well. Else, they are going to ask the same questions and it may be difficult for them to catch up.
  7. Explain the rationale for the questions. This will help clients understand why you need this information. It will help them see that you are not over doing it but just doing your job right.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pecha Kucha and Learning

Each Kernite gets an opportunity to present on a topic of their interest on Tuesdays and Fridays. This has not become a ritual at Kern. It was my turn to present and I was looking for a topic to present on. This was when I came across the term Pecha Kucha. I read more about this and was quickly fascinated. I presented on Using Pecha Kucha in Learning. This session was meant to be interactive where we all pooled in our thoughts to understand how and whether Pecha Kucha would be a useful tool in training. Given below is a brief introduction to the concept and then thoughts by Kernites.

Pecha Kucha (pronounced as peh-chak-cha) is a Japanese term for chatter or chit chat. In 2003, Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham designed with presentation format to ensure that young designers got an opportunity to share their work. The idea was the keep each presentation really short and concise to ensure that the audience stayed focused. This also allowed multiple presenters to present at one event. The most fascinating aspect about pecha kucha is that the environment has to be informal. Pecha kucha is not about being locked indoors with a presenter going on and on and the audience sleeping with their eyes open. Check out the pictures in Pecha Kucha's official website to get an idea of what informal means

A typical pecha kucha night has 8-14 presenters. Each presenter is allotted 6 minutes and 40 seconds. They can show 20 images for 20 seconds each. Pecha kucha must be highly visual. Presentations do not have text and bullets. Instead, they have eye catching images/photographs that supplement what is being said by the presenter. Let us look at a popular example of pecha kucha.

This presentation format is widely used in the field of design, architecture, photography, art, education, and business. In the corporate world, employees are opting for this format for internal presentations to:
  • check the length of the presentation
  • ensure that the presenter zeroes in on the message
  • avoid interruptions
  • avoid horrible poorly designed PPT presentations
The essence is to keep the presentation crisp and short. During a pecha kucha presentation, the slide automatically moves to the next one as the presenter talks. The presenter must practice to ensure that he/she says what he/she has to say in the span of 20 seconds.

Can pecha kucha be an effective learning tool? I think so! Why?
  1. It is bound to grab the audience's attention (especially Gen Y).
  2. The presentation is crisp and to the point. All unnecessary information is filtered out leaving behing the real message.
  3. It may help bring people out of their shell. Since the setting is informal, people may be more comfortable.
  4. It is energy packed and highly dynamic.
Pecha kucha as an instructional tool
A trainer can teach a concept using this presentation format. But, we Kernites were not too kicked about this idea. Why? Pecha kucha is supposed to involve several presenters. The fun may be lost if it is restricted to just one. Also, 6 minutes and 20 seconds may not be suitable for all learners and topics. The learner may feel that the lesson was rushed. Another disadvantage is that the Q&A happens at the end of the session.

However, it may be an effective tool to recap what has already been taught or prior knowledge. It may also be useful to summarize a particular topic using pecha kucha. How? Allot one topic to each group in the audience. Ask them to design a pecha kucha presentation summarizing the topic assigned to them. From each team, have a presenter present their topic. This will ensure high involvement and motivation. This will also encourage healthy discussions and in turn, informal learning among learners. If your learners are spread across the globe, you could conduct pecha kucha online. This may not be as effective as conducting the event in a physical location but it is good enough.

Pecha Kucha as an Assessment Tool
How can pecha kucha be used as an assessment tool?
  • Problem Solving: Give a case study to your learners. Ask them to arrive at a solution(s) based on what they have learnt. Ask them to present this to other learners using the pecha kucha format.
  • Analysis/Critique/Reflection: Pose a question or a statement and ask the learner to analyze, critique, or reflect on it using the pecha kucha format.
Pecha kucha is a great collaboration tool. It not only brings learners together, it also encourages informal learning. One concern that Vaishnavi, a Kernite, raised was that not all will be comfortable with the presentation format. She personally feels that she would feel under pressure if she was asked to stick to 20 seconds per slide. The environment must be informal and dynamic. It must encourage participation. Presenters must also ensure that time has been kept aside for Q&A.

Have you used Pecha Kucha for training? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

Also read:,9171,501060724-1214999,00.html