Extreme Productivity: Secrets of a Very Busy Man

Justin Fox interviews Bob Pozen, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and author for HBR and HBR Blogs, who shares with us his tips and trips for being more productivity in and HBR IdeaCast. The following are the key points discussed:

  • Focus on results, not on time spent. For a long time, and perhaps still in many organizations, much value is placed on the employee who works long hours to complete a project. It is seen as a sign of dedication, devotion and commitment. The problem is that it’s completely inefficient. Pozen suggests that  finding efficient ways of getting results should be the focus and priority. He mentions that in the past, he has told clients that he worked work twice as fast but charge them double his time and they had no objections. In the organization that I work for, more often than not, we charge by deliverable and by results rather than by time, which is another way of tackling this issue.
  • Know your comparative advantage. Most of us are familiar with the notion of competitive advantage: what it is that we do better than our competitors. But in an organization, our peers are not our competitors, or at least, they should not be. When thinking of an organization as a system, being competitive within the system is inefficient. Rather, according to Pozen, you should be thinking about your comparative advantage, that is what does your organization needs most from you. Management-level individuals need to focus on the question: “What are the functions that I and only I can do” and delegate the rest. Even in work teams, individuals need to focus on their strengths and unique abilities.
  • Think first. Read or write second. This one really hit home. I’ve been applying this principle since as early as I can remember, instinctively. I always hid it, thinking it would be seen as taking shortcuts, which in turn could be perceived as laziness. Now I’m so thrilled to learn that this is simply efficiency! Pozen explains that when you think before you read and think about what it is that you are looking for, you know better what to focus and know what to skip over. Thinking before you write means developing an outline as soon as possible (which can be revised) to steer your research and what arguments you want to write.
  • Prepare your plan, but be ready to change it. What are the highest priorities you need to achieve today? Whether you plan these the night before or early in the day, identify what it is that you absolutely need to get done today. If you start the day with that approach and something comes along to disturb your schedule, which for extremely busy people is very likely to happen, you’ll know what are the key things you need to focus on getting done and you’ll be able to defer the less important things. An additional note on this last point: My professional coach Nancy gave me an extremely helpful tool designed by Stephen Covey:  The four-quadrant matrix for importance andurgency, which is an amazing tool for priority management.
  • Naps are also high on Pozen’s top tips for productivity. The benefits of reenergizing through sleep are well know, and it’s a wonder we aren’t better equipped in our modern offices to allow for this. According to Pozen, research shows that a 30 minute nap can let you refresh and be more productive. He does this by putting his feet up on his desk and dozing off.
  • Being boring, or perhaps what I like to call having a routine, such as having the same simple breakfasts and lunches, is a way to take away some of the non-necessary thinking out of your day. Again, this is something I instinctively do because he’s right, it is a huge time saver. I spend a lot of time thinking of what I should be eating in general, that is what kinds of foods I should be buying for nutritional and health reasons, but very little time being creative about breakfasts and lunches on weekdays. That said, I keep the creativity for supper when I’m relaxing.

You may want to listen to the podcast on the HBR site or download this podcast in mp3 format. For more blog posts by Prozen, check out a list of blogs on productivity which he co-wrote with Justin Fox on HBR Blogs.

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Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

Tips to Not Suck as A Presenter

A few months ago, I wrote a post on Tips to Stop Sucking at PowerPoint. But as we all know, you may have the  snazziest presentation on the block, but you’re only half-way there. You, yourself, have to bring your A game. In other words, you have to offer the total package.

Clive Shepherd shares with us his 50 tips for better presentations, a little gem he found in his archives and a fantastic list that cover all the bases with a touch of humour. In addition, I’ll share another resources from my bookmarked archives that compliments Clive’s post: The TED Commandments.

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Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

I Know What Learners Need

Last Saturday, I was talking with a past colleague and good friend Virginie, an instructional designer working in the field for 10 years now. We talked about some of the struggles we go through in this profession. We tried to pin point what was the one character quality that all instructional designers should have. We both agreed that it was empathy, that is the ability to put one’s self in the learner’s seat and anticipate their needs. This, coupled with competency in applying sound instructional design techniques is what makes an instructional designer great.

When I read a recent post by Archana Narayan, I heard her strongly say “I know what learners need“. As professionals in the field of development and training, we all need to say it stronger and louder if we want to be respected as the professionals that we are. It can be a constant struggle to have our expert opinion heard, but it’s crucial that we do, both for the learner and for our professional integrity.

Whether it’s with dealing with clients who want to micromanage their learners, whether it’s dealing with outrageous requests or whether it’s dealing with subject matter experts and trainers that dismiss the instructional design process, Archana provides some great tips to get you started.

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Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

Enhancing Our Creativity by Tackling Others Challenges

In a recent research report published in the Personality and social psychology bulletin, Polman and Emich demonstrate how when we make decisions for others, we are going to make decisions that are more creative than the ones we make for ourselves.

This is just the latest extension of research into construal level theory, an intriguing concept that suggests various aspects of psychological distance can affect our thinking style. (link from quote)

I see this as a important validation of one of the benefits of case studies and problem-based learning for boosting the creativity of participants.

In addition, it is yet another argument for the importance of communities of practice which promotes the community-based tackling of issues in order to find creative solutions to advance the practice.

Again, this only further promotes the benefits of open innovation which consists of the gathering of external inputs to advance a concept, a product or a technology.

Reference:

How thinking for others can boost your creativity | Research Digest | Christian Jarrett | 1 Mar 2010

This post is cross-posted with Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

 

Dressing the Part: A Strategic Skill for Individuals and Organizations

When providing training and information to new and existing employees, ideally, we’ll focus on providing them the requisite tools for optimal performance in their jobs. But how much emphasis is there set on how the employee appearing polished, proficient, and professional?

In her article focussing specifically on organizations and dress codes, Sylvia Ann Hewlett describes how following UBS’s publication about how the Swiss Bank envisaged it’s employee’s appearance, there has been some mocking but also a lot of reflection on just how important someone’s appearance is in business. The focus has shifted to assessing the value in organizations establishing a dress code and/or providing guidelines on how the individuals they have hired to represent them should appear. Let us not forget that even Canadian Banks had policies up to 30 years ago preventing their employees from wearing red or female employees from wearing slacks, going as far as indicating the types of establishments that could be frequented outside of business hours.

The article also points out on how women may have a greater challenge then men in setting the right tone in appearance, in that we are asked to conform to a business code and subvert all elements of sexuality, all the while urged to not come across as masculine. I’d add that this is perhaps also quite cultural, highly influenced by the level of conservatism of a region. Then again, should I be dressing differently for a meeting in Abu Dhabi then a meeting in Montreal?

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Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

Which Content Curation Tool is Right for You?

Managing all the content that comes at us can get overwhelming. We can set up systems to tag, categorize, filter, sort, organize and essentially manage content at various levels. And once we’ve sifted through all the content that is sent to us, and we’ve decided what it is that we want to share, how do we select the system we want to use to curate it?

Pawan Deshpande has compiled a good Pros and Cons list of select content curating tools. Though the list does not cover the myriad options available, it does a good job at describing how certain tools work and why their functionalities may or may not work for you.

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Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

The Components of True Collaboration

Dan Pontefract has a wonderfully clear and thought out model on The Collaboration Cycle. In fact, to summarize it wouldn’t really do it justice. But I will highlight that he bases it on 3 components as illustrated in his diagram below:

  • Adopting the CARE Principle. (Continuous, Authentic, Receptive and Enrich)
  • Appreciating and adapting to Strong and Weak ties
  • Ensuring both the Consumption of and Contribution back to the network of Strong and Weak Ties.

 

When speaking of collaboration or communities of practice, often we speak of the necessity of engagement. This model gives us some standard guidelines of how to cultivate and maintain such a level of engagement.

Reference:

The Collaboration Cycle | Training Wreck | Dan Pontefract | 29 January 2011

This post is cross-posted with Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

A Reflection on Eight Years of Moodling

I’ve been more engaged in corporate e-learning as of late and away from the academic side of e-Learning. But recently I have been exploring options for blended learning activities, more specifically a hybrid mix of instructor-led online programs. It got me going back to one of my previous areas of expertise: Moodle.

I logged into Moodle this morning to finally get acquainted with Moodle 2.0 and I realized my profile has been active for 7 years 345 days. How time flies! My first experience with Moodle was in graduate school, developing a group project in 2003 for a Human Performance Technology course. I remember the awe on everyone’s face when they saw the application. I also recall them not understanding completely when I told them that I had not hand coded the whole site but rather was using an open-source system.

And how Moodle has evolved over the last 8 years. The interface is flexible and robust, the modules and plug-ins are extensive and cover all the bases. The new Moodle 2.0 has integrated many of the strong user generated plug-ins such as the feedback module, which I always found lacked in the standard Moodle installation. And I have only just begun rediscovering it and all the possibilities it offers. Moodle most certainly is a strong argument for community developed systems and how the strength of many practionners advance a concept or a system.

Discover LinkedIn and Discover the Power of your Network

MindTools has written what I consider to be the best summary and short user guide to LinkedIn. Not only does it provides a practical definition of LinkedIn, but also defines useful terms and outlines strategic individual and organizational uses. It also includes an extremely important write up on LinkedIn Netiquette.

My personal experience with LinkedIn dates back to 2004 and I’ve found it to be a great way to stay in touch with professional contacts and follow their professional and career development. Moreover, I have been kept abreast of professional development opportunities in my field (conferences, publications, job opportunities). In addition, it has been a great resource for the promotion of my book.

From an organizational perspective, in the past two years, LinkedIn has been a great support in my current position by enabling me to grow our customer base through the promotion our organization’s services. I’ve been able to attract candidates for our company’s professional development programmes through groups and events. I’ve also been able to locate specialized resources to help us out on projects. Furthermore, I have been approached by other organizations inviting our company to collaborate or bid on projects.

I personally consider it to be an essential tool for talent and opportunity management in organizations today. If you’ve been hesitating to get started, hopefully this tutorial will give you the boost you need.

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This post is cross-posted with Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

Online Learning and Development Strategy for Organizational Survival

One of the greatest challenges many of my clients share is convincing their organization’s decision makers and purse holders to invest in Learning and Development, and even more challenging—yes even now in 2011—is the argument for online learning and development.

Bob Lee comes up with some pretty convincing arguments and ties them directly to the bottom line in his latest blog post entitled Learning and the State of Business in 2011. In fact, he explains something that all of us in learning and development have known for a while: an efficient and effective learning and development strategy is necessary for organizational survival.

He first explains how globalization will increase the numbers of remote workers and virtual collaboration in the next decade, which will undeniably impact organizational culture. This directly impacts face-to-face training which is on the decline and audio and Web conferencing which is on the rise. The increase of remote access from just about anywhere is also a huge benefit to online learning.

The bottom line according to Lee is that online learning and development not only reduces the cost but also increases the efficiency and speed at which information is communicated and accessed.

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This post is cross-posted with Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today