The Story of a Presentation

The science and art of sharing your story

As the Chief Storyteller for IBM Watson Work and IBM Watson Talent, I’m often asked about how I create my presentations. I’d like to offer a quick story of a presentation from concept to delivery.

THE NEED

At some point, either through some insight, a challenge or an invitation to share, I am faced with the need for a new presentation. For this story, I was asked to speak for 20 minutes as the keynote for the IBM New Way To Work Tour. My instructions were as follows:

  • We don’t want a product presentation. We want something insightful to kick off the event.
  • The technologies we want to introduce are Cloud, Social and Analytics
  • The audience will be people from Finance and Marketing as well as Business Analysts
  • We want them engaged and challenged so they will get the most from the breakout sessions

THE HOOK

Those familiar with music recognize most song lyrics have a hook. It’s a turn on a phrase, a surprise twist or something catchy you’ll remember. To make something about products, NOT appear to be about products, you have to offer a different perspective. So we chose “The Perfect Storm”.

A storm is the coming together of two forces. The two used here was Culture and Technology.

THE 3 POINTS

Most audiences are capable of remembering 2-3 points. Any more and they’ll begin forgetting some or most of them. So I look for 3. Since culture was my point of entry and technology my exit, I needed to find a thread to follow. Here’s what I decided on:

CULTURAL ISSUE

WHAT IS NEEDED

TECH THAT MEETS THE NEED

Chaos

Clarity

Analytics

Complexity

Convenience

Cloud

Confusion

Connection

Social

You may note the cultural issues and what is needed all begin with the letter “c”. When I’m able to do so, I try to select key points that relate to one another. Beginning character or rhyme or parts of an object being used as an analogy (tires, engine, seat) help it stick with the audience.

Don’t announce “I have three issues and needs and they all begin with the letter ‘C’”. Let them figure it out. We enjoy connecting things and as you uncover the points, they will begin to connect them and get a bit of a “I solved that” rush that serves to further implant your points in their memory.

THE STORYBOARD

I’m a big fan of Garr Reynolds and his book Presentation Zen. A major lesson I learned that totally reformed the way I create presentations was this:

Don’t start your presentations by opening PowerPoint.
Start with Post-It Notes. Start analog then go digital

I began my work on this presentation in my home office. So I got a pad of 3×3 Post-It Notes and used my white board as my working surface. An office wall, a large table, even a window will work. I can’t tell you how many hotel windows I’ve used as surfaces for my storyboards. The challenge with windows is the view can sometimes be distracting. But at night, it works well. Note, if you are on the first floor near a sidewalk, this will cause people to stare.

I put my title ideas on one note. Then I put my main points, each on a separate note and attach them under the title note.

Now I begin writing notes that serve to illustrate each of the points and put them in the appropriate column.

If you have too much information to fit on a Post-It Note, it’s probably too much for a single slide

If you have a number of related things to say, instead of using a bulleted list, consider separate notes (and slides).

Here is a picture I took of my initial notes.

Like many of you, I travel a lot and you can imagine this creative process of designing and building a presentation usually isn’t a one session thing. In fact, I’ve found that breaks in the process can help me see things in fresh ways. I’ll come back to a work in progress and think, “Where was I going with this? This doesn’t make sense.” Which is likely what my audience was going to think. So use breaks as needed.

For a mobile person, I strongly suggest an iPad app “Post-it Plus”. It’s also available on the iPhone, but I found it hard to use on the smaller form factor.

This app takes the picture I shared above and captures the individual notes as editable and moveable objects. It doesn’t do character recognition, but it will find each note and save the image as the content. So from a mobility perspective, this is quite liberating. For this presentation, I took the photo in the app and was able to work on my presentation while on a plane. (Last August I wrote a posting about this process Slices of Genius)

The app also allows you to replace the photo captured with text. Which I often do as I alter the words as the idea refines. There is a free version which does most of what I need, but for a small upgrade fee I was able to use features like color coding the notes. For this story I used colors to designate slide types. Here is a pic of the nearly completed storyboard:

The image here is just to illustrate the flow.

  • The light blue slides are title and set up thoughts.
  • The green slides are audience questions.
  • The red slides are the ones I want the audience to feel or question something. Hopefully this leads them to want an answer.
  • The orange slides are the three cultural forces
  • The blue slides are stories or examples that help them understand the need (the previous red slide).
  • The dark pink slides are stories or examples that illustrate the solution (the previous red slide)
  • The closing pink slides are specific instructions and challenges for the three audience groups (Finance, Analysts, Marketing) to prepare them for the breakouts to come.
  • The tan slides in this example are transitional. They might be a story or something light. It helps to let their minds relax for just a bit. If you constantly try to keep them excited, they attention wears out quickly.

THE FLOW

From the picture you should notice the presentation has rhythm and cadence. And most importantly a purposeful design.

When you are introduced to present, most audiences go into “educate me” mode. They shift their brains into a mode of listening with the possibility of learning. Most people who are well rested and laser focused can take in information in “educate me” mode for maybe 10-15 minutes. And remember, most of your audiences aren’t usually well rested and laser focused, so the time is much shorter.

Keeping your listener’s minds engaged with a purposeful variety of left and right brain activity will result in them investing their attention for your entire message.

So after the intro (blue slides) I ask a series of questions (green slides). Even in large audiences, I seek answers from the crowd. Many speakers pose a question and then continue with stating the possible answers. If you get the crowd involved their brains shift out of “educate me” mode into either “I have a response to that” or “what if he calls on me” mode. Either way, they are engaged.

While their minds are engaged (and open), I introduce the main point (first red slide) “We’re at a point where the forces are requiring us to find a new way to work.” Now downshift a bit and let that sit. “Let’s look at the cultural forces” Their minds are shifting back to “educate”.

For each of the cultural forces I do an introduction (orange slide) followed by transition and then back to a question to snap them back out of “educate me”. I try to keep the questions light and conversational. This isn’t about solving a puzzle (that’s a different part of the brain that if used too much can also wear out an audience). What I’m looking for is for them to personalize the question and imagine their particular answer. This makes it emotive and real for them. Now that I have them feeling something, the brain is open again. Time to introduce the solution.

By itself, the solution statement is often informative and maybe a bit provocative, but often it’s just a statement. To solidify it in their minds, I use a story or an illustration that gets them to picture something. Most statements are not tangible. You can visualize the words, but they are like all other words. The related story implants a picture of something tangible on which they can attach your statement. The more relative the story can be to the audience the better. That’s one reason I love to use stories involving children as they are easy to relate to. Popular movies, common work experiences, stories from books and even current events can be used. But consider your audience and don’t risk alienating them by using an illustration that is irrelevant or worse yet, insulting to their culture or world view.

I then close each topic with an example and story of the solution in practice. For those of you who are in sales, I like using customer stories. Please note, I didn’t say customer references. Don’t just insert a customer reference slide here. If you have a customer example and fact filled slide, take it and find the one thing most impressive about the story. Find the one thing that made it stick for you. Then put that on a slide with a big picture that is relevant to the topic.

MY CHALLENGE TO YOU

I am privileged to do a lot of presentations. Some might say I have a lot of time I can dedicate to doing what I’ve described above. While I may have a little more than some of you, I can tell you that I spend a lot of time (if you want to call it outside of work) pondering, practicing, and refining presentations. It is worth the investment. I believe the way in which we communicate our message is key to our success. And if you do that poorly, it will be the main reason for your failure. So take the time to question and improve your presentations and messages.

It’s not what you say that matters. It’s what your listener understands.

You have an outstanding story that deserve your best efforts in presentation.

RELATED MATERIALS

Below is a video of me presenting this material at the Social Business Forum in Milan. This was an event separate from the New Way To Work tour, but their theme was “Digital Disruption” so a version of the “Perfect Storm” fit perfectly for their keynote.

I hope this has been helpful. Please let me know your thoughts and let me know if I can ever be of service to assist you in your efforts.

The Triangle Story

"and a little child will lead them."

When my children were quite a bit younger, our family found ourselves at numerous pre-school plays and programs. It was during one such Christmas pageant that I was schooled by a 4 yr. old boy.

If you have kids and have been to such programs, it’s a familiar scene. The teacher stands off the front of the stage and an aide aligns the kids in a single file across downstage center. The purpose is so every parent can have a clear view of their little darling’s performance.

They began by singing a couple of Christmas carols. Well, mostly they scanned the audience for their families and waved. Once that was accomplished they settled into singing.

At the close of one song, the teacher’s aide brought out a cardboard box and walked down the line of anxiously awaiting kids. It was rhythm instruments. For those unacquainted with pre-school symphonies, rhythm instruments consist of small implements designed to make noise. They range from castanets, maracas, sticks to hit together, straps with jingle bells attached and yes, a triangle which ended up in the hands of a small lad at the end of the row.

They proceeded to sing a few more carols that were unrecognizable because their melodies were hidden by the exuberant instrument playing. It was a beautiful and joyful thing to behold.

Then it ceased. The proud teacher turned to the audience and said, “We want to thank you for supporting your children and our school by attending to our Christmas pageant. We’d like to close by singing two more familiar carols and welcome you to join in with us.” Then she turned to face the kids, nodded to the pianist, and the music began. But there was a problem.

All the kids looked perplexed. Obviously in practice, the aide collected the rhythm instruments before the final songs, but here they stood, three and four year old kids with these ‘things’ in their hands. Things that shouldn’t be there. One by one each child got rid of their distraction. Some put the sticks into their pockets. Girls tucked the maracas into their dress sashes. But the kid with the triangle. He looked down the line and saw what the others were doing, so he attempted to put the triangle into his pants pocket.

He started with one corner, but as he pushed it in the width of the triangle prohibited it from going in far enough to stay in. So he rotated it to another corner only to discover the same results. You could see and feel his angst. This was a problem he must solve.

By this time, most of the parents in the audience were focused not on the carols, but on the dilemma of this boy as he continued to rotate and struggle to make the triangle fit. You could almost hear the thoughts “That’s not going to work. Just put it on the floor.” Then it happened. It’s the first time I can admit to really observing a stroke of genius.

His countenance changed from confusion to confidence. Then he pushed the beater (yes that is what the striking stick is called) into his pocket. This left a portion sticking out of his pocket onto which he simply hung the triangle. Then he humbly stepped forward and joined his classmates in song. He was unimpressed with his brilliance.

Most of those watching were like me, amazed at the solution. We didn’t think of that. A majority of us sighed in relief and a few lightly clapped in congratulations. It was such an audience reaction that the teacher turned slightly to us to see what was going on. The song wasn’t over. Why were we reacting?

This scene happens every day in your organization.

No, you don’t have a kid with a triangle. But you have someone who is struggling with getting their weekly status report in on time. They look around at their co-workers and they seem to get it done, but for their work, it just isn’t easy. They are struggling. They try countless approaches, yet each week it’s not enough.

Then it happens, this individual discovers a macro that greatly simplifies the compiling of the spreadsheet report. It saves them hours of work and allows them to hand in their report alongside their fellow peers. But here are the missed opportunities.

The other performers aren’t paying attention. They might find great benefit from this new solution. This macro might shorten their process and save them valuable time. But they don’t notice because they are too focused on getting it done the old way to experiment and discover new approaches.

And like the little boy with the triangle, the creative problem solver may not appreciate their own accomplishment and simply step back in line and join the chorus. They may have an idea that would revolutionize a specific process, but like their lemming brothers, they focus on getting back in step rather than sharing their discovery.

And worse, their manager (the teacher) is so caught up in the big picture that they don’t even know their worker was struggling and that they discovered a brilliant solution to a common concern. They are too focused on managing and measuring that they neglect to mentor.

If you are a worker, take a moment to pull your nose off the grindstone and look around. Check out what others are doing. Be inquisitive and interested in learning new ways and experimenting.

If you are a manager, remember your job is not to get the thing done. Your job is to take care of your people, who get the thing done. Focus on your people. Come alongside them. Make them feel safe and appreciated.

And if you are a creative (which includes everyone), take the time to share your ideas and innovations. There is likely another kid struggling with a triangle that could use your insights.

Learning to Orbit the Giant Hairball

My ongoing journey as a creative soul in IBM

orbiting-picSeveral years ago I was introduced to a little book titled “Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace”. orbit-bookIt’s only available in hardcopy and there is a good reason, it’s filled with little doodles and art from the author, Gordon MacKenzie. In the 224 pages, Gordon describes his journey as a creative in a corporate environment.

It would be unfair to go much further about my own journey without describing the concept of orbiting a hairball. And to do that, I’d like to use Gordon’s explanation (page 33):

Orbiting is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the corporate mind set, beyond “accepted models, patterns, or standards”—all the while remaining connected to the spirit of the corporate mission.

To find Orbit around a corporate Hairball is to find a place of balance where you benefit from the physical, intellectual and philosophical resources of the organization without becoming entombed in the bureaucracy of the institution.

If you are interested (and it is not for everyone), you can achieve Orbit by finding the personal courage to be genuine and to take the best course of action to get the job done rather than following the pallid path of corporate appropriateness.

To be of optimum value to the corporate endeavor, you must invest enough individuality to counteract the pull of Corporate Gravity, but not so much that you escape that pull altogether. Just enough to stay out of the Hairball.

Through this measured assertion of your own uniqueness, it is possible to establish a dynamic relationship with the Hairball—to Orbit around the institutional mass. If you do this, you make an asset of the gravity in that it becomes a force that keeps you from flying out into the overwhelming nothingness of deep space.

But if you allow that same gravity to suck you into the bureaucratic Hairball, you will find yourself in a different kind of nothingness. The nothingness of a normalcy made stagnant by a compulsion to cling to past successes. The nothingness of the Hairball.

That single page of text has changed my approach to being a creative in a large corporation.

I’ve had the pleasure of serving with more than a dozen companies in roles that span graphic art, software development, tech publishing, consulting, sales and marketing. The companies have ranged in size from 20 people to 400,000+ and crossed many industries. With the exception of a few, most of these companies held a common, yet unspoken tendency toward the safe harbor of normality. Standardized processes, procedures and policies were regarded as the ultimate safe-harbordestination for efficiency and profitability. While some served a purpose in time, most just became a hitching post to which tired and unimaginative people could tie themselves for safety.

I’m not much for hitching posts or safe harbors. Real life is on the trail and open seas. For that reason, I’ve always liked mantras over mission statements. You’ll get more from me if you give me guidelines rather than a set of rules. So in my zeal for creative freedom and unique impact I began to address issues in very different ways. After all, why should I attend weekly cadence calls (a corporate standard) when I could do more by taking that time to be in front of customers? Why even consider the standard messaging and assets coming from our product team when I knew I could produce and deliver better and more customer relevant materials?

spiral-outBut I learned that my approach—the “ask forgiveness rather than permission”, the “stand aside and let me show you how wrong you are” resulted in me and my work totally escaping the gravity of the Hairball and I found myself alone in the nothingness of space.

While I delivered on my goals, I was punished for not “owning it”, which is shorthand for “you didn’t align to our way”, so my accomplishments were ignored. And my approach was not a path to be followed because it led to discipline.

I serve on a worldwide team, so I serve our sales teams, business partners and customers. One desired outcome of my work was to bring others along—to help enable them in a way they could reuse or remix my materials to meet their needs. What I found was my presentations and sales materials proved to be so effective that I quickly became overwhelmed with requests to speak and work with customers. Mostly because I was the only one able to deliver the material I created. I use big pictures and few words in the actual presentation and rely on spending a great deal of time in preparation. Most of our sales reps are overwhelmed (many by Hairball requirements) and can’t, or don’t invest the time needed. chasmSo the assets I was creating were unusable by most of our sales teams.

I was so far outside the gravitational pull of the Hairball that much of my efforts were irrelevant.

I learned I needed to come in closer to the Hairball. Not become a part of it, but close enough to have impact. To do so I began looking at the corporate procedures I had mostly dismissed and examined them for creative ways I could leverage the better parts to remain within the spirit of the Hairball. I found I didn’t have to attend every meeting or conference call, but I did attend the most important ones.

I considered “why do we have meetings anyway?” and determined a significant benefit was the communication and awareness of activities among the leadership team. So I began using our corporate social network to document and share my work. This way managers could see what I was doing and my peers could leverage my work as well. I began developing content designed for “remix”. The resulting interaction has been a valued source of insights and feedback, which has resulted in more effective and reusable assets.

But the Hairball constantly changes. Companies like IBM reorganize often to fit the demands of an ever changing marketplace. And once again, IBM is defining a new era of Cognitive Computing. Add in cloud, digital sales and a host of other evolutionary business practices and you’ve got an ever adapting organization. As the organization changes, so must your orbital calculations. For me this has meant remaining flexible and observant to the changing infrastructure of the Hairball. Roles and departments I once counted on for gravitation pull could lose their significance and mass. I’m having to watch for new opportunities and markets that are reaching critical mass and sufficient enough to have the Gravity need for orbiters like me.

So if you feel you’re caught in the Hairball, it’s not too late. If you’re so far from the Hairball that you are irrelevant, there is hope. But in each case, it’s up to you to change—you, not the Hairball. The Hairball is NOT going to easily adapt to fit your style.

Elephants can dance, but they are still elephants. They’re fun dance partners, but watch your distance and mind your toes.

Happy Orbiting.


And I would encourage you to get a copy of MacKenzie’s book. It’s engaging and enlightening. It’s one of my most popular giveaway books. For anyone who knows me, you can tell why just by looking at the TOC.orbiting-toc

My Secret to Being Out of Office

Using Social Business Practices to Focus on the Important

April 22, 2013 – It was going to be my wife and I’s 35th wedding anniversary. Discussing our options for celebration, I was told that if I wanted a 36th anniversary, I should plan for a week off.

I serve in a worldwide capacity and have conversations and demands from a large number of individuals. These usually come in the form of emails, instant messages or phone calls…but most often emails. If you are like me, the thought of being gone for a week just caused visions of a swollen in-box that I’d have to suffer through on my return. That is when I decided to leverage our internal social business network.

At IBM we use Notes for email, so I crafted the following “Out of Office” notification:

“I’m out of the office from April 22-26. If you are an IBMer and reading this message, please be aware that I am not going to read your email…not while I’m gone or when I return. If your message was important, please post it on my profile page and I will address it on my return. If you are a customer, please note I will read and respond to your email.”

Then I went on a week’s vacation, totally “off the grid”. I didn’t take my PC or smartphone with me to triage emails. I didn’t sneak off to the corner somewhere to check in during the week. I didn’t care. I spent the week focusing on my family.

fishing

On my return, I sorted all the unread emails to locate those from IBMers. There were about 5 screens full, so somewhere around 300. I selected the top one, held the shift key, scrolled down and selected the last one. Then I hit “Delete”. I never looked at the titles, senders names, or topics. If they sent me an email, they saw my “out of office” message and knew what to expect.

I then went to my profile in our Social Business system (called IBM Connections). Of the 300 emails, only 29 turned into posts. And of those, 20 were already answered by people in my network. That is two thirds of my work being done for me. Like the following:

profilespage

So after a week of vacation, I had only 9 issues from IBMers that needed my personal attention. That allowed me to focus on my customers.

And more importantly, if you look at the example above. The request for help came on April 23rd, the 2nd day of my vacation. And it was answered on April 23rd, the 2nd day of my vacation. For the requestor, they got their response without me. In fact, the responder knew more about the subject than I did anyway. So by asking “out loud” he was able to get a quicker response and better qualified answer.

But what if one of those emails was important? I’ve been taking this same approach every year and I’ve yet to delete an “important” email or be called out for not responding. Important things tend to come back around.

If you think you couldn’t possibly get away with doing something like this, then I would encourage you to ask “Why not?” Your fear of missing the 1 important thing out of 1000 emails is causing you to spend unrecoverable precious time going through the 999 worthless emails..which probably impacts your ability to properly address the important. And if you don’t have a social business solution in your organization, let me know by comment below or reach out to me at louis@creativitycrisis.com and I’d love to share with you how you too can truly learn to be “out of office”.

If you’re interested in what’s next, at IBM we’re combining IBM Watson Cognitive services to communications (like email) to help you identify the important from the trivial. And it’s not based on some filter you create, but rather on the way you work. Who do you interact with? Who are you quick to respond to? What is the tone of the message? Is there a request for some deliverable? All these factors can be applied to help you prioritize your time and attention. For more on this subject, contact me or check out www.ibm.com/watson/work/.

Play and Get To Work

stop-playing

I remember as a kid spending several summer days digging a large pit in the field behind our home. It was about 6 feet deep, 5 feet wide and 10 feet long. Laying tin sheets across the opening and covering them with dirt we made our first “man cave”. Now if my math is right, that’s 300 cubic feet of soil my cousin and I dug up to make our hideout. Were we hard at work? No. We were hard at play. During our play we learned a lot about the fickle nature of south Georgia sandy soil and how to “shore up” the sides. We learned about load bearing structures and how being below ground made for a cooler place to play in the Savannah summer heat. We also learned about how the underground water table will rise after a long rain and turn you fort into a shallow muddy swimming pool.

As a teenager, if my father had asked me to dig a burn pit the same size, I would have considered it quite a bit of work. It would have been the same effort, but in one case it was hard play and the other it was hard work. Side note: Our fort eventually became a burn pit for leaves and was covered up before winter.

Earlier this week I came across the video below from Stephen Johnson. Several years ago, his TED talk and associated book on “Where Good Ideas Come From” caused me to reconsider the environment for innovation. Likewise this more recent video proposes a link between play and innovation. Take a few minutes, view this video and then read on.

For several months now I’ve been playing with a Cognitoy Dino. For anyone unfamiliar with this marvelous toy, check out their video:

Last year I purchased a couple of the first toys produced. I gave one to my 5 year old grandson and I kept the other for myself. The Dino is connected to the Elemental Path and IBM’s Watson. I’ve playfully experimented with how this toy reacts to questions and commands. Through play, I’ve pondered a number of issues and ideas around the possibilities. Earlier this week I was giving a keynote speech at a large insurance provider. I used my Dino to show how Watson was helping kids be more curious and creative in their own educational journey and asked the audience to imagine what how Watson might help their workforce and customers be more curious and innovative. Some in the audience were experts in the areas of risk and security. So it was no surprise that one attendee approached me after the session to ask, “What happens when the kid asks the Dino, ‘Can you keep a secret?'” Great question, so I simply asked the Dino. His response was, “I suggest telling a secret to an adult you trust.” That is one example of an answer handled by Elemental Path’s experience in helping kids in a learning environment. Another case of this is the question “Where do babies come from?” Now the information is available to answer that question but the response from the Dino is “Dinosaur Eggs. At least that is what I’ve been told. You should speak to an adult.”

The Cognitoy Dino can challenge the child with questions, help them be creative by making up stories and challenge them in math. Considered out of context, this quizing could be considered “hard work”, but instead it’s playful and fun. We seem to recognize openly that kids learn through play. Perhaps we should consider Steven Johnson’s insights and encourage ourselves and those around us to “play and get to work”.


And for anyone wishing to purchase their own Cognitoy Dino, they are available at ToysRUs and Amazon.com as well as Cognitoys.com. If you use the Cognitoys site, feel free to use promotion code “IBM10” to receive an additional $10 discount on your purchase.

Note: I am not associated with Elemental Path or Cognitoys and do not receive any consideration or benefits for promoting their products.

Slices of Genius

Capturing every precious minute

Today I remembered a line from Linda Hill’s TED talk on “How to Manage for Collective Creativity”. She mentioned “slices of genius”. It’s those short quick insights that so quickly get overlooked or lost in the chaos of the day.

For me, today started like many, heading to the Atlanta airport for a flight scheduled to leave at 11:30. In the car, Delta kindly alerted me the flight was delayed. Upon arrival at the airport I find it’s going to be 2+ hours before I’m to depart. Being a frequent Delta flyer, I make my way to the SkyTeam lounge where I set up my office.

shot1

I had the need to develop a new presentation. So out comes my Mac, but more importantly, my pad of PostIt notes. I always keep at least one pad in my bag.

Using a technique introduced to me by Garr Reynolds (author of Presentation Zen), I always start analog and then move to digital. For years, this has been a life changer for me as to how I organize and refine my presentation…long before I begin to commit anything to a presentation tool.

But there can be a problem. Analog (physical sticky notes) can be challenging for a mobile person. Shortly after I finish this post, I need to pack all this up and head for the gate.

Here is where PostIt has an answer. It’s an iPad app called “PostIt Plus”. I think it’s available for the iPhone as well, but the small form factor is difficult for me.shot2

I simply take my iPad, launch the app and start a “new board”. This activates the camera on my iPad.

It focuses in on what it detects as sticky notes and activates the shutter.

It then captures those images and places them into the PostIt Plus application.

shot3This results in a mobile ready, editable, moveable board from which I can further work to refine my presentation…like I’ll likely do on the flight.

There is a free version of the app that performs all the items I just mentioned. And I think in the free version you can edit the text, by replacing the image with text you type. That way you can change the notes. And you can add new ones in the app as well. But if you’re a sticky note fiend, once you get a feel for this, you’ll want to shell out the few bucks to get the full app that allows you to assign colors, etc.

Let me know if/when you use this app. I believe for road warriors, it’s a great tool.

 

Adopt or Adapt

Thoughts on the future work culture

adaptFor the past several years I’ve been involved in many discussions, training session and workshops regarding the adoption of social smarter work. And this is serious business. Companies around the world are spending large amounts of time and resources trying to get their organizations to work in a more productive, transparent and effective way.

But there’s a problem. In most cases we’re trying to address this as if it were just another in a series of technological advances. We install corporate social networks, new collaboration solutions and advanced messaging and meeting software. After installation we provide training into what and how these technologies operate. Then we begin to measure the extent to which our employees are using the new tools. And all of this we call adoption.

But maybe we should reconsider this. Let’s look at a couple of definitions.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” ― Mark Twain

Adopt – to make one’s own by selection or assent

Adopt, that pretty much sums up our efforts. We strive to get people to choose to use the new way of working versus their old way.

Adapt – to adjust oneself to different conditions, environment, etc.

I believe that today’s workplace and certainly the future workplace is full of different conditions and a new environment in which to do business. This isn’t about retooling technology, it’s about rethinking work cultures.

Now don’t get me wrong, technology is certainly an enabler of the adaptation, but using the technology is not the goal. The real value comes when we adjust ourselves to a new way of working; to evolve from the ineffective and overused habits of email, meetings and reporting into the new way of working using mobile, social and cognitive practices designed to free us to do what we were meant to do.

I just read an interesting article on the National Geographic website regarding adaptation. It states:

An adaptation can be structural, meaning it is a physical part of the organism. An adaptation can also be behavioral, affecting the way an organism acts.

I believe our future way of working will constitute both the physical adaptation (new tools, work hours, reporting structures, etc) as well as the behavioral adaptation (how we fit work into life, the revival of creativity, curiosity and risk in the workplace, etc.).

Get to Work – The Immobile – Earth SOL 53

June 2

I’m not sure it’s fair to title this “The Immobile” any longer. In the past 53 days I’ve progressed to walking, carefully taking stairs and automobile travel. I’ve abandoned my walker (after being asked by an elderly woman outside a grocery store if she “could help me”) and leg braces. I’m using a pair of canes and getting around nicely. I’ve been told I should be back to normal (able to handle air travel) in early July. So thanks to everyone, especially my manager, Ron Denham and my VP, Pam Chandor for their support during this time.

immobile ipadBut for this posting, I’ve reflected on how my work has changed since I’ve been unable to “get around” like I used to. Other than lacking the personal face-to-face, it really hasn’t. My role as Storyteller usually requires in-person visits and speaking engagements, which I have missed. But the ability to work, communicate and interact with customers and sales teams has been awesome. And I have to give full credit to IBM for their support and development of outstanding collaboration solutions.

When I was bed ridden, I had my laptop, iPad and iPhone all available to me and with them I was able to participate and contribute to our business efforts. Our social networking, IBM Connections has kept me in touch with what is going on. The use of IBM Verse and IBM Sametime keeps the communication channel always open. And our Smart Cloud platform of these components, including web meetings, desktop sharing and fully collaborative document editing, has made me truly be “at work” anywhere and anytime.

I’m anxious to get back on the road and visiting our clients and sales teams, but I have to admit that being “immobile” has not meant being “out of touch”. Quite the contrary.

So if you are a corporate employee and reading this, imagine for a moment what it would be like if you were “immobile” for an extended period of time. Would it just be an endless stream of email and phone calls? What about the interruptions of the day for therapy and doctor visits? Would your connection to work suffer because you don’t have social tools that allow you to contribute at your convenience? Would you be getting emails on your phone and having to get back to your PC before you could actually do any work?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Contact me or check out this link for more information on how you can maintain your creativity and connectedness, regardless of the circumstances.

Get to Work – The Immobile – Earth SOL 11

April 21

4F4C44204B4E4F574C45444745204953204E4557204B4E4F574C45444745

Can you decipher the line above?

At one point in my career I worked at Lockheed Georgia where they build C-5 and C-130 aircraft. I worked in the Engineering group producing technical manuals for these airplanes. What I learned quickly was that every aircraft differed from the previous ones. Most of the differences were minor, such as an improved avionics component, while others were more significant. In both cases the differences required unique documentation and instructions for the specific tail number.

We kept copies of documentation on all the aircraft. If you know these airframes you know they have an extremely long lifetime. And these planes were very complex. Jus the documentation required to be physically on the aircraft weighed around 300 pounds. If at any time, one of our planes had an “incident”, we would often be called on to recreate the documentation on board to assist in the investigation.

I remember times when a high profile event would occur and we would gather not only the documentation but also those individuals involved in the design, construction and manufacture of the plane.

During “the Martian” story, there were a couple of instances that required a look at historic technologies and techniques.

IMG_4874-768x576The first was the use of hexadecimal encoding to represent ASCII characters. The rudimentary communication method required something simpler than a 26-character alphabet.

As for the opening line in this post, it’s HEX and you can convert it at this web site. http://www.rapidtables.com/convert/number/hex-to-ascii.htm

The next instance of old knowledge becoming new knowledge came when Watney dug up the old Pathfinder vehicle. Upon discovering his intentions, the NASA team immediately converged on the Johnson Space Center where they still had a working Pathfinder in storage. But more than that, they called together all of the remaining Pathfinder original team members. It’s that old knowledge that could not be easily replicated.

The great thing about knowledge is that it always remains knowledge. It may become less relevant or seemingly outdated, but it’s still knowledge. And in some cases, as we face new challenges, that old knowledge may be extremely helpful in providing a perspective that is unknown to those attempting to address the challenge at hand.

Promoting a social business culture not only assists in finding new knowledge, it can also be instrumental in uncovering and revisiting much needed old knowledge.

I believe future IBMer’s using our social system will be able to investigate the decisions we made, the process we went through and the discoveries we encountered. This old knowledge will be instrumental in helping our successors face the challenges of their day.

Or maybe I’m just being an old guy.

Get to Work – The Immobile – Earth SOL 6

April 16

immobile-social-crap-300x200When you’re working with other people, communication is key. As we work today, most of us have a variety of available options. And when I’ve asked people why they prefer one method to the other, the response is usually around fit or function. But I think there’s more to it.

In The Martian the original team on the planet would radio back and forth with Earth. Based on the speed of light, this causes a time delay of 12 minutes. So an answer would appear 24 minutes after the asking.

I can imagine this results in taking some time in framing your conversation.

I think email is like that. It gives you a sense of completeness, a form that can be reviewed, stored in draft, mulled over until you’re finally satisfied to send it. The turn around time can be lengthy, obviously not because of speed of light, but more affected by complexity of day. But we accept this delay knowing the email conversation is a structured, well-accepted means of collaboration.

After being left behind, Mark Watney had to figure out some way to communicate his existence. There was NO communication channel. Through creativity and clever problem solving on both planets, Mark was able restore to service the Mar’s Pathfinder that had a camera and ability to send images. At first it was a matter of posting a binary question on a sign with “yes” and “no” signs on either side. When the Pathfinder relayed the picture of the question, Johnson Space Center personnel would remotely direct the rover camera to the left or right…giving Mark the answer. The binary interface was awful and time delay was huge, but it was communication.

In today’s world I would guess an instant message, use of emoticons (single character to represent a larger message), chat or maybe even a tweet would be comparable. It gets the job done but it’s difficult to be the container for an expansive conversation…or so we think.

Mark Twain once said, “Sorry for such a long letter. I didn’t have the time to write a short one.” When communicating, it’s imperative to not lose the message in the medium. You have to think a lot about shortening a message to its bare essentials.

Some of my first communications with my team after the accident came by way of chat message. Attempting to relate a complex story in a few phrases was challenging. I spent a lot of time reading back what I had written to make sure it was meeting my intention.