Saturday, June 27, 2009

Data Sets Old and New: Learning is Disorganizing

For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you might remember a post on the disorganizing nature of learning.

A friend recently asked me how to shake up her staff because she (and they) are so used to working in particular ways. In fact, the entire team has put a lot of effort into working creatively together, but those techniques have hardened into habit.

So What Do You Do?

To sustain creativity, it's important to change your universe of data -- people, ideas, places, and the connections we've forged among them in order to come up with solutions to problems. If you apply old information to new challenges, you are unlikely to innovate.

Another alternative is to take a new process and apply it to the old data. Where would you find that thinking process, and how would you use it?

Crossing disciplines often works. If you use a strategy from one field and (thoughtfully) use it for another, who knows what you'll come up with? Introduce new people to your process. Or new places. Or new things.

Sometimes even unresolved results are better than old ones.

Above all else, remember to play. Process usually needs more care and feeding than results if you want to keep things fresh. And if you're one of those people who want one habit on which to rely, make it sustaining curiosity.

It's probably the most productive (and stimulating) rut that you could possibly (and consistently) seek.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Time Out for a Small Miracle

Just thought I'd take a moment for a brief advert.

It's Not Like You Haven't Heard This Kind of Thing Before . . . .

This is another one of those stories where the hero spent hundreds of dollars, went to every great doctor in New York, over a course of years (15), and was told there was nothing to be done (ankle problem, me).

Then, after asking a London friend for a suggestion about a back problem, she found out that there was something to be done after all.

Everything changes when you can walk without pain.

Who Is This Magician, You Ask?

Dave Gibson on England's Lane -- I'm not kidding. If you are having any health problems, limp over there as soon as you can.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Geeks Are Coming

For those of you who are interested in what's going on globally in social media, you can take it (at least partially) off-line next week if you live in the UK.

Some American bloggers coming to London, and there is a big agenda planned. Some events open to the public, some closed -- but certainly worth a look.

Renee Blodgett, publicist extaordinaire, has organised the week and done a remarkable job.

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Worth Repeating: Feelings and Business

I've begun revising and posting some older pieces from this blog on Affect Labs' website.

As those who have followed me know, I've done a lot of research on the ways in which people learn, in business and elsewhere.

The bottom line:

The more resources of your own to which you have access, the more innovative and creative you can be.

Sounds Obvious?

In business, it's pretty clear that affect is frowned upon. Feelings are suspect; ideas are supposedly products entirely of the intellect. OK, Emotional Intelligence sold well back in the day, but how often is it actually applied in a board room?

Why is this Worth Repeating? And Why There?

Affect Labs is proof of concept. Their software crawls social networks for what is said about brand based on the feeling expressed in phrases. Jennie Lee, who invented it, says there are no algorithms quite like the ones she created to do this.

Jennie's pretty smart, so I believe her.

It seems like that site is the place to reposition the relationships among language, social media, learning, and business because Affect Labs can help companies benefit from them.

But first they have to believe it.

Feeling Presentable

This might be a good place to connect up how this is related to the way people present themselves and performance coaching.

But that's for another time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm now on the advisory board for It's one of the really good online magazines about women "heroes," generally women in new media.

And the founder, Simone Brummelhuis, is tremendously generous with her introductions. No politics, no nonsense. The spirit is genuine teamwork to get women some advantages in networking they might have missed (but that their male counterparts might take for granted).

What a relief.

Also will be working on a book for Simone -- so women heroes, step forward please. I'd be very glad to hear your stories.

Perfomance Coaching

I've begun a business doing several things, all of which fall under the category of business strategy:

--Advising on big-picture thinking on business plans and the steps that lead to where you want to go.

--Writing and editing website copy for best results, both for visitors and SEO.

--Coaching people on business presentations.

If you can't do any one of these things well, your business is probably in trouble. Out of the three, I find the last to be the most satisfying and the most misunderstood.

Business Coaching

I coached acting for 20 years and still work with people preparing for auditions. Along the way, I've picked up some executives who have felt their presentations could be better. Business coaching is both very similar and very different from what I did for the theatre.

What Are Actors Good For?

Actors (the good ones) are primed to be aware of their bodies, their pace, and so on. They build a relationship with the other actors on stage primarily by listening well. But they can't deviate from the script.

It can feel as though one's foot is nailed to the floor -- there is only so far you can roam from what was intended by the writer. And sometimes the playwright wasn't so smart.

What About People in Business?

Business people (the good ones) are less tuned in to the way they present themselves and more focused on a rehearsed, fixed set of content.

The problem? It's never strictly the content that sells a product. It's the presenter.

Given that business people can always change the script if the relationship with their listeners changes, a focus on fixed content (usually on power point slides) would not really be to anyone's advantage. Yet those slides seem to hold an almost mystical power over the presenters. They can't seem to let go.

Wouldn't it be better to focus on the relationship between yourself and your audience? Adjust your manner and even the content to the level and kind of receptiveness you meet?

Don't panic. It's just a matter of focus. And practice.

Emma Gilding wrote a nice piece about this. Take a look.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Affect Labs: Feeling Social?

I have begun working as a strategist and partnership developer for Affect Labs, a start-up based in Scotland with a London office (mine).

Jennie Lees, a tremendously smart entrepreneur, has designed some software that crawls the web - social networks, blogs, you name it -- and comes back not only with positive and negative phrases aggregated around key words but also with star ratings. Phrases are given values, and the algorithms automatically update the stars as opinions change or as positive or negative opinions arrive to weight the star differently.

It's an amazing tool for companies that want to know what people are saying. And it's an important thing, this Emma Gilding, just for example, would say it could be the most important conversation a business can hold with its stakeholders.

This Time, With Feeling

I've also begun blogging for them -- in the spirit of how the Learning Lab began, in fact. Isn't what people feel -- and how they express it -- the same as what they think? Or close enough for rock and roll?

Keep your eye on the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year where we'll test out the software to help theatre-goers figure out which shows they'd like.

When I brought shows up in the 90s, our casts always made sure to be there the second week of the Festival to get random people's opinions of what was worth seeing.

Now the random people can be heard on the first day. Good for the audience, good for the shows, good for the festival.

How wonderful is that?