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I’m Working! Mobile Working Can Be Highly Effective, From Anywhere…

Aquapark

Believe it or not, one of my most productive work days this week was here.

At the risk of no one taking me seriously again, I wanted to write briefly about mobile working… from a water park.

Sometimes your kids have a day off, beg you to take them to Aqua Park because it is practically empty (they have a teacher’s in-service day and other schools/classes do not), but your husband is travelling and you still have work obligations.

Does this, or something like this, ever happen to you?

Well, I have actually (after an obligatory 1 hour of water slides to begin with) done several very productive hours of work. How? I carried my mobile office with me, including the following:

Aquapark mobile office 1

1) One Smart phone with internet;

2) One set of headphones with microphone for making discreet calls (I’m sure the lady sunbathing next to me never even noticed);

3) A Bluetooth keyboard that folds up into a small square. (This is amazing technology and allows for long, serious emails to be written on your phone instead of a computer or iPad – I wrote this entire blog post comfortably on my phone using this nearly fully-size keyboard.)

4) My GTD A4 mesh pouch, filled with Action and Project files, highlighter, pen, post-its etc.

5) The GTD files themselves – these are labeled folders with: In, Read/Review, Action Support, Waiting For, Filing, Expenses, and Trash (and a couple of blank ones). I needed this as I hurriedly emptied my in-box into another GTD A4 mesh pouch to organize on site;

6) My paper calendar (because I build in redundancy with both a paper and e-calendar, or just call me old fashioned);

7) My own GTD folder (below) with my lists (Next Action, Waiting For, Projects, Agendas, Someday/Maybe) to help me optimize my time – no wasting time trying to figure out what to do next;

GTD folder

This all packs into a small tote bag, that I then should have put into a plastic bag (being a water park and all) but so far so good.

It’s good to have this mobile system thought through and ready to go, especially when plans change and you find yourself working away from your office in some unusual place (e.g. café waiting for judo lesson to finish, car park at rainy football game, restaurant because hammering in house, airplane…I could go on).

I guess this means I can really work anywhere, anytime (Health Warning: Not that working everywhere, all the time is good! I promised and will enjoy going back to the water slides and wave pool again before we go, with a much freer and clearer conscience!)

Aquapark 2

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How to Say “Yes” to Projects: A Policy Guide for a Small Social Enterprise

Say you run a small social enterprise that is services-based  – like a small learning and process facilitation group that works on sustainable development issues for instance. Then you really need to work to manage the throughput of projects so that you can maintain high quality, uphold your social values and work within the capacity of the team. 

That might sound easy, and it is, if you have a good underlying policy for the kind and amount of work you accept. We sat down recently and made a checklist of things that we would like to be true in order to say “yes!” to projects. 

Because we are working mothers part of our social values include time for children and families, our sustainability values help us focus in on environment and development projects, and our learning edge means that stretching for partners and us is also a goal. Because we’re small, we need to watch the scope of work, and because we work in multi-faceted processes, we know that sometimes there are tradeoffs, 

Here’s the checklist we generated. When these things, or the majority of them, are favourable, we can say YES! 
  • The project deadlines and events don’t clash with important family birthdays, events, school holidays or another booked event;
  • There is sufficient time between facilitated event delivery dates to recuperate energy, change gears (and change clothes) i.e. not back-to-back events – we’ve done some of these and they are hard!
  • The project aims to contribute to sustainable development – this can be broadly defined (environment, natural resources, green economy, population, climate, conservation, etc.) and can be any sector (business, government, UN, international NGO etc);
  • The project has potential to be high impact – that is, there is scope to maximise the outcomes through our input (e.g. good learning or process design, good facilitation and delivery etc.) This is important because sometimes we get asked to “preside” over or only moderate at events and are brought into a tight process in the very final stages, then our contribution or ability to use our tools for learning is small and cosmetic. In this case, we should probably turn it over to someone who specialises in more formal moderation or stage work;
  • The project stretches us in some way, and also if possible the project partner.  We love to learn, both about sustainability subjects as well as using new tools, or learning about new partners and sectors. We also like to bring new things to our partners;
  • It is within our capacity and scope. Although we do regularly put together teams to deliver larger projects, we need to make sure that the scope of work fits within our current capacity to deliver, even if that is just taking on management for a larger team;
  • The reporting for the event-based project is conducted by the project team. We are happy to contribute ideas for a final report for an event, but we don’t take on event report writing for a number of reasons which are written up in more detail in these blog posts (effectively it externalises the team’s learning): Don’t Outsource It! Learning from ReportingMore Learning Through Reporting: Using Reporting for Teambuilding and more provocatively Why Your Facilitator Can’t (Always) Listen
  • If there is travel involved, it meets out travel policy. This includes cabin indications for long-haul flights and travel days coverage for long journeys so that we can work along the way. This is most important when there is a period of heavy travel, and because with small children we prefer to spend the least number of days away from home and so don’t tend to add on a couple of days before an event to relax and recover after a long trip; 
  • Our small size also means that at the moment, we happily provide costing estimates for projects on request, and that on larger bidding processes where substantial design inputs are needed to bid, we tend to send these on to others in our network of facilitators and trainers; 
  • The project fees comes within our standard rates. We have a sector-differentiated rate schedule that we use and maintaining this helps us to do a quantity of pro-bono work annually, whether it is adding a couple of pro-bono days onto a contract for an NGO of CBO (community-based organisation) partner or run a full workshop for a non-funded network or other event (like our TEDxGeneva Change event last year) or provide design inputs or advice, etc. 

    In addition, and this is not so much a criteria but an added bonus, we also love working repeatedly with the same partners, which lets us use our learning from past projects to make the onboarding process shorter and more economical for the partner, and lets us go further with more nuanced knowledge of the dynamics of the organisation.  

    When all or most of these are a “Yes” then that makes is easy for us to say “Yes!” 

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      A New Year’s Commitments: Where Do You Choose to Spend Your Time?

      It is that time of year when, if you have time, you review the past year and think about what you learned; what you would like to continue to do; and what you might like to do more of, or do differently.

      I took on  a part-time project last June which, if it had been half time (although what even is half time for an independent worker?) would have had a manageable effect on my overall time allocation. I could organize myself for that. But by the end of a rather frazzled year I was left feeling like I didn’t have a minute for anything non-obligatory. What happened to fun time, or reading time, or even lunch time?

      I was given an excellent exercise at the very end of last year by a wise advisor – so simple, yet powerful in its help in thinking about this issue of time, and the choices that we make in spending it. Here it is, try it for yourself:

      You have 168 hours each week (7 days x 24 hours each day) (this is, sadly, non-negotiable)

      1. How many hours do you want to sleep each day? (x 7, calculate and subtract)
      (Bear in mind that this is not necessarily what you do, but what you want to commit yourself to doing because you, in this case, value your health – think sustainability, not getting over the next major project deadline.)

      2. How many hours do you spend eating each day (x 7, calculate and subtract)

      3. How many hours do you want to spend together with your family each day? (x 7, calculate and subtract)
      (If this some of this is built into eating, then add the additional non-sitting-at-the-table time)

      4. How many hours a day on average do you want to spend alone with your partner or spouse? (x 7, calculate and subtract)

      5. How many hours a day do you want to spend on personal care (showers, brushing your teeth, you get the idea) (x 7, calculate and subtract)

      You see where this is going.  Here are a few more categories to consider and calculate, and you can add your own:

      6. Personal development and balance? (reading, yoga, exercise, blogging)
      7. Travel or commuting?
      8. Time with friends?
      9. Time in the garden or with important hobbies?
      10. Time spent doing menial housework and picking up after other people (I added “housework” to my list – you might be lucky enough not to have to add that, or have usefully reframed that into “balance”, but not me)

      Do the math. What you have left is time for WORK.

      You might be surprised by what you get. Do you (choose to) do more than that “work” stuff than you have time allocated, and if so, what is “paying for” that time – is it sleep, eating, time with friends/family, etc.? I tried to be realistic about what I could spend and still stick to my personal values, and priorities. This exercise gives you the opportunity to think through those again and be clear about your commitments and choices, in terms of how you spend the hours of your day, week and life.

      What I came up with when I did the math was exactly 39 hours available for work. If I divide that between my independent work and my new project, then I do have 20 good hours a week for the latter, which is exactly what I had agreed to do – half time. So now it is up to me to spend that time, and not more, or at least as an exception and not as a rule, in order to keep myself on track in the New Year. This little exercise makes those time decisions much clearer.

      What about you? How are you spending your time?

      (I have written quite a few blog posts about time – from time in big blocks to tiny increments – it is clearly a topic that holds curiosity for me. No wonder I liked this exercise! Here are a few I like: The Work at Home Field Guide to Time, The Time it Takes: A Learning Practitioner’s Lessons on Time, and  Time to Reflect: Cooking Up Your Weekly GTD Review)

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      Mobile Worker’s Checklist: Don’t Forget Your ‘Phone

      Today I left my phone at home again and only discovered this 20 min before my flight was boarding for a 3-day work trip to Stockholm. Thankfully I had my iPad and computer, both with Skype; not the same as a telephone but would do in a pinch. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that it will be extremely inconvenient at the conference I am going to, where I will be coordinating and working with a number of colleagues scattered around the venue on a joint workshop. I will feel completely foolish telling them that I forgot my phone – people will look at me incredulously.

      Ok, so I’m not happy about this, well actually I am extremely annoyed with myself for walking out without my phone. This is not the first time in recent months that this has happened (at least only the second). So what can I do about this worrying trend (at least two data points into a trend)?

      Recently I have joined the ranks of mobile workers everywhere. I took an interesting 18 month, 50% job with a global organization whose HQ is in London. On top of my other travel, weekly or biweekly trips to London now seeing me passing, two feet and two wheels, up to four times a week through Geneva airport.

      In spite of the fact that I have lived over half my life without one, I feel amazingly lost and rather lonely without my phone. I’m sure I am the only person over 5 years old on this plane without one. Thankfully, by virtue of my age, I’m wearing a watch and don’t rely on my phone for that ( see Sir Ken Robinson’s interesting TEDtalk – Bring on the Learning Revolution –  about generational shifts in learning and watch wearing). A watch is another essential (for me) in a workshop setting.

      Inspired by both Atul Gawande (Better and Checklist Manifesto – how checklists save lives) and David Allen (of GTD fame -checklists are blackbelt moves), I decided to make a Mobile Worker’s Checklist.

      Just a word about checklists here, you might be saying, “What? That’s all, that’s the answer? I make lists all the time.”  But do you reuse them? That’s the difference. You need to make a master list, update it until its perfect, and use it every time. Now that kind of  list takes a lot of things off your mind, and avoids foolish mistakes which you are bound to make as a mobile worker. Repetition and familiarity make you very cavalier with travel, but one really can’t afford that. We might not be doctors or pilots, who also rely on checklists, but a mobile facilitator or trainer or co-worker without a phone can cause serious team communication problems too. So here’s my checklist:

      Mobile Worker’s Checklist

      1. Communication (this has to come first)

      • Phone with charger (USB and wall)
      • Plug adapter (international)
      • USB hub
      • Power bar (to plug in multiple devices when there is only one awkward socket behind the hotel bed)
      • iPad if one day trip with Bluetooth keyboard and charger
      • Laptop if multiple day trip with power and USB key with docs, your whole music repertoire and movies to watch when you’re shattered

      2. Travel

      • Keys (home and destination office)
      • Tickets with boarding passes printed
      • Passport
      • Airline cards and insurance card (international)
      • Oyster card (local travel pass)
      • Train pass (home country)
      • Currency and bank cards
      • Loyalty cards for destination Office city (from coffee to hotel)
      • Envelope to keep receipts labeled with trip date

      3. If conducting a workshop

      4. Clothes and toiletries

      • As needed
      • List of what has been left in destination office (eg sports clothes, toiletries, sweater) so you don’t pack it again (and you will forget if you don’t make this sub-list and keep taking the same stuff back)
      • Vitamins (because you are getting up at 4am and going to bed after midnight)

        5. Documents

      • GTD file (still on paper)
      • Agenda (can’t let go of paper mirror of electronic)
      • Business cards (for both organizations)

      An additional benefit of making such a checklist is seeing how many heavy things could be replaced with soft versions on a USB or external hard drive, or even better on the ‘ cloud’. For example, Dropbox can do away with the external hard drive (although you can’t use Dropbox on the flight). Also, I leave my heavy laptop at home and only take my iPad and wireless Mac keyboard when I know I will be in meetings all day and will only need email. The iPad is great for filing on flights and syncs all that work once connected to the internet again.

      With a new organization comes a new email account, folders, password etc. (I already had two-personal and company). Three separate gmail accounts is clunky to manage.  Not to mention the fact that people often use whatever email address pops up in their automatic address function, so the messages are often in the wrong accounts in terms of their folders. Add this to online/offline mobile working (planes, trains and automobiles) and you need a new email management system.

      So I migrated my email (which was previously kept in outlook on my hard disk) to imap where I can see all three accounts and their folders in one view, and they are kept on the cloud. (I say “I” migrated it, but it was actually tech support from software-writing husband downstairs in office cave.)

      For a mobile worker this system is good because your work, files, etc. need to both sync and be available from multiple machines: laptop, iPad, phone (if you remember it) and random dumb terminal.  You don’t want to have to do anything twice, and you want to be able to access all your aliases, being able to send from all accounts and use different electronic signatures.

      With this checklist I won’t forget my phone, and everything else I forget will have a place to go – on the checklist…it might take me a few iterations, but hopefully then will be foolproof.

      (This is my checklist, what’s on yours?)

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      Online Facilitation – Adapting to a Virtual Environment with Free(mium) Tools – Part One

      We’ve written a number of posts about both facilitation and the use of online tools for virtual and face to face events. See, for example:

      “The Connected Facilitator: What’s in the Online Toolbox?”,
      “Look Behind You! The Webinar Facilitator’s Non-Technical Checklist”,
      The Two-Day Total Twitter Immersion: Using Twitter for Social Learning“,
      “Knowledge at a Distance: Skype Video – It Works!“; and
      “Create a Facilitator Role for Your Conference Calls and Webinars

      In this two-part blog post, we are sharing (in part 1) some examples of tools that are either free or have a “freemium” model (you pay for increased functionality) and which we think can be usefully used in online facilitation; and (in part 2) some ideas about how you might adapt facilitation methodologies to an online environment using these tools (plus IRISnotes – as we haven’t yet discovered a lower-cost option…). We hope you find it useful, and that you’ll share your ideas and experiences too!

      Twitter.com
      ● Contribute to / follow conversations in real time with short bursts of info: max 140 characters
      ● Hashtags aggregate related content
      ● Content can be ‘retweeted’
      ● “Follow” option
      ● Tweetdeck

      Backnoise.com / Yammer.com
      ● Similar to twitter
      ● Private option

      Skype.com
      ● Conference call diverse group sizes
      ● Option to add video (max 10)
      ● Screen-sharing
      ● Instant-messaging with chronological display
      ● Send files

      Screenr.com
      ● Create screen-casts, recording screen and voice to share online

      Slideshare.net
      ● Share presentations, documents and professional videos publicly or privately
      ● Create slidecasts (slideshow + MP3 audio synced)
      ● Create channels & favourites

      YouTube.com
      ● Upload video content
      ● View video content online
      ● Create channels & favourites

      Wikispaces.com
      ● Co-create documents collaboratively
      ● Track changes / contributions
      ● Password protection option

      Docs.google.com
      ● Co-create documents collaboratively
      ● Similar editing to word / excel (and can export in these formats)
      ● Design surveys (google forms)
      ● Auto-generate survey reports with graphics

      SurveyMonkey.com
      ● Design and manage online surveys
      ● Auto-generate survey reports with graphics

      PollEverywhere.com
      ● Create multiple choice or free-text polls
      ● Collecting info in real time via text message, web, twitter, and smartphone responses which can be instantly combined
      ● Charts update instantly as people respond (online or embedded in ppt)

      Doodle.com / MeetingWizard.com / TimeAndDate.com
      ● Propose dates / times and gather responses online to quickly and easily determine preferred options

      MindMeister.com
      ● Co-create Mindmaps online in real time
      ● Working simultaneously and see changes as they happen

      Wordle.net
      ● Generate “word clouds” from text with greater prominence given to words that appear more frequently

      Smart Phone / computer video cameras
      ● Create short videos for sharing (by email if video-bites)

      Smart Phone / computer audio / voice recorders
      ● Create audio files for sharing

      DimDim.com
      ● Slideshow, chat function, audio for presenters, recording, private chat, whiteboard, video link for the facilitator, and more.

      Online-stopwatch.com
      ● Keep time online, counting up or down
      ● Customize the visual (stop-watch, clock, egg timer, etc.) and sound (bell, alarm, laughing, beeping, etc.)
      ● Once customized, download the link to your timer. (Personally, I like the egg timer with applause as here: http://www.online-stopwatch.com/eggtimer-countdown/full-screen/?ns=../../s/3.mp3)

      And here’s another one we love but that’s not free (you’ll need to make a small purchase):

      IRISnotes
      ● A pen and mobile note taker
      ● Capture handwritten notes and drawings
      ● Edit, save and export them
      ● Convert handwritten notes into editable text

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      Online Facilitation – Adapting to a Virtual Environment with Free(mium) Tools – Part Two

      Following part one of this blog post (which shares some examples of tools that are either free or have a “freemium” model and which we think can be usefully used in online facilitation), this part two shares some ideas about how you might adapt facilitation methodologies to an online environment using tools that are either free or have a “freemium” model (plus IRISnotes – as we haven’t yet discovered a lower-cost option…).

      1. Scheduling future events
      • Use Doodle.com / MeetingWizard.com / TimeAndDate.com to quickly and easily determine favourable dates and times for future events (e.g. future conference calls). Not only can this be done to schedule your online event – you can effectively use it during the online event to efficiently schedule your next in real time!

      2. Presentation
      • Use Ignites (igniteshow.com) / Pecha Kucha (http://www.pecha-kucha.org/) (timed presentations) to keep to timing in online events and make sure presentations are well prepared and maintain a good pace.
      • Use Prezis (Prezi.com) for variety in presentations (a change from powerpoint), creating visual interest.
      • Use short videos and/or screen casts via YouTube.com / Screenr.com or Slideshare.net

      3. Work in small groups with online “job aids
      • Provide a participants list to everyone in advance, including names and Skype.com IDs (or equivalent). Divide the group up into small groups, designating a host.
      • Pre-create job aids using Wikispaces / Google Docs / Mindmeister etc. These will most often be templates, to which you can provide links.
      • Direct people to your ‘job aids’ with links (plus log-in and password).
      • Provide an online timer to keep time and remind people to promptly rejoin the whole group at the specified time.

      4. Report back (after small group work)
      • Use Screenr.com to create screen-casts for report back
      • Create video or audio recordings – using computer and smart phone programmes / applications to pre-record report-back and share using YouTube.com or Slideshare.net – helping to avoid lengthy monologues and add diversity to the event
      • Use an online timer (such as online-stopwatch.com) to help with time-keeping and speaker management

      5. Prioritizing questions (e.g. for a Q&A with a speaker)
      • Use Twitter.com / Yammer.com / Backnoise.com. Determine a hash-tag in advance and provide this to participants.
      • Give participants a few minutes to submit questions. To prioritize these for the speaker (so they respond where participants are most interested in learning more in a limited time), then ask participants to ‘retweet’ the questions others have posted that they are most interested in hearing the responses to. The questions most ‘retweeted’ are then prioritized and the speaker addresses the questions according to this prioritization.

      6. Clustering questions / ideas
      • Use a mind-mapping online tool such as Mindmeister.com (or do a hand-drawn version using IRISnotes). Set up the mind-map in advance and provide all participants with the link / access (to edit or view) or, just use Skype.com screen share (or equivalent) to share the map and designate one editor.
      • Ask all participants to think of a question / idea and then cluster these as follows: Ask any person to start, sharing their idea using instant messaging (this is important to keep it concise and to the point) – as well as reading it aloud (but not expanding on what is written unless someone asks for clarification!).
      • The mind-mapper copies and pastes the idea from the instant message into the mind-map. With this done, ask for someone with a like / similar idea to share it (again, instant messaging it and reading aloud), which is then copied and pasted into the mind-map / or summarized by hand if using IrisNotes. Do this until there are no more like / similar questions or ideas. Then start with a different ‘branch’ of questions / ideas on the mindmap. Repeat until all questions or ideas are represented.
      • The mindmap will clearly show where there is greatest interest, most clarification needed, most energy and/or ideas and conversation in plenary afterwards can start from here.

      7. Voting
      • Use an online tool such as PollEverywhere.com to do real-time voting (with an anonymous option). Prepare the questions / options in advance, or generate them online and set the poll up in the course of the online event. Either-way, if you think you might vote on something, get familiar with polleverywhere and its parameters (e.g. more than 30 people and you may need to pay a subscription fee) ahead of time.
      • One advantage of poll-everywhere over google docs and survey monkey (see below) is that rather than having to download the results as a pdf, you can actually see results live – as they change second by second, creating more excitement and anticipation.
      • Google docs (‘forms’: docs.google.com) and SurveyMonkey.com could also be used for voting prior to or during an event. Both enable results-exporting as visuals (pie charts / bar graphs) in pdf.
      • All give you the option to track – or not – who responds and how, so you have the option of anonymity or respondent profiling and analysis. (e.g. how do responses vary by sector / region…)

      8. Carousel
      • Use Skype.com video conference calls (or equivalent) for small group discussion (Note: make sure all participants are in one another’s contact list in advance and provide a participant list with names and skype IDs, as well as who is in which group for the carousel so that the host / facilitator of each station discussion knows who they need to include in the conference call)
      • Use wikispaces.com / google docs (docs.google.com) / Mindmeister.com mindmaps in place of flipchart stations
      • And/or use IRISnotes for visual / hand written work in combination with Skype.com screen share (can save and share doc with next group for further editing, or have same station ‘facilitator’ throughout)

      9. Open Space Technology
      (visit openspaceworld.org for the ‘how to’ steps in a face-to-face environment)
      • Use instant messaging (e.g. Skype.com chat) for people to submit topics / questions to schedule
      • Prepare a blank timetable (in word / google docs / wikispaces.com) and copy and paste across questions and topics as they are submitted
      • Provide each topic ‘host’ a few minutes to decide where they would like to capture the key points of the discussion as it progresses (e.g. wikispaces.com / google docs / Mindmeister.com / irisnotes), to set up the appropriate ‘page’ and send you the link plus log-in / password if necessary. Note: If you prefer, you could just pre-determine that everyone will use (for example) a wiki and provide the topic hosts with links to appropriate wiki pages – labeled topic x through to topic y.
      • In the same doc as the timetable, include the following info:
      (a) Who is hosting the conversation (plus their Skype ID)
      (b) Links to the page(s) where the conversation will be captured, plus log-in / password if necessary.
      • Use a screen share tool (e.g. Skype screen share) to share the timetable with everyone as it is developed
      • Ask participants to instant message the topic host when they wish to join a conversation
      • As the facilitator, keep time and use instant messaging to inform groups when they have 10 mins / 5 mins / 0 mins until the end of their session (OR use an online timer such as online-stopwatch.com) and then invite everyone to revisit the timetable for information on where to go for their next conversation.
      • Use Skype conference calls (or equivalent) for small group discussion, in combination with Skype screen share as necessary.

      10. World Café
      (visit theworldcafé.com for the ‘how to’ steps in a face-to-face environment)
      • Provide a participants list to everyone in advance, including names and Skype IDs (or equivalent). Include also in this list some coding (in a table) to facilitate organizing three different groupings of 4 participants for each round of the World Café, and nominating a host.
      For example, for the first round of the World Café / first grouping of 4, you might group people by simply going through the participant list organized alphabetically by surname, and counting people into groups of four – giving each person a letter next to their name – e.g. the first four participants would be coded ‘Group A’, the second four ‘Group B’ etc. For the second grouping of four participants, go back through the list and this time number them from 1 through to the total number of participants / 4 (e.g. if you had 40 participants you would number them 1-10 four times. For the second round of the World Café, all the 1’s will chat together, all the 2’s together, etc. Then for the third round, you might assign different symbols or colours. You choose – the important thing is to determine in advance how you will group everyone, and include this ‘coding’ in the participants list so it is clear and easy to create the groupings.
      Additionally it is important that, for each round of the World Café, you designate clearly in the participant list who is responsible for hosting the conversation (i.e. hosting the Skype call, keeping time and making sure everyone contributes!)
      • Once everyone is clear about with whom they will chat in the first round and who is hosting the call (plus their Skype ID), you can launch round one. But first – set an online timer (such as online-stopwatch.com) that everyone can see and which will ring to call everyone back into plenary.
      • Back in plenary, take some highlights ‘popcorn’ style from each group (call on the hosts of each group of four) and capture these in wikispaces.com / google doc / Mindmeister.com / irisnotes using screen share at the same time.
      • Repeat.

      11. Point and counterpoint (read the description of this methodology for the ‘how to’ steps in a face-to-face environment in the book: Thaigi’s 100 Favourite Games)
      • Provide a participants list to everyone in advance, including names and Skype IDs (or equivalent).
      • With everyone on the conference call, use Polleverywhere.com (or google forms / or SurveyMonkey.com) to gauge participant’s positions regarding a controversial statement. Set the poll/survey question up in advance, putting opposing controversial statements at either end of a scale of 1-10, with 10 fields in between into which they must enter their first name. (You need the names later!) Give participants only 30 seconds to decide where they are on the scale.
      • As soon as you have all the results, generate the report (export the results) and share this with participants using Skype screenshare (or equivalent). You should be able to see the names of all participants on the scale from one to ten. At this stage, make a comment on the distribution. Then ‘count off’ participants, starting at the person nearest 0, putting them alternately in team 1, team 2, team 1, etc. Note: Designate one (or two) participant(s) – you want to ensure there is an equal number of participants in each team) who fall in the middle of the distribution as ‘judges’ who won’t participate in the work of team 1 and 2. Then designate the person nearest 0 as the “captain” for team 1 and the person nearest 10 as the captain for team 2. They are then responsible for hosting two team calls (using the list of participants shared prior to the meeting).
      • Use a tool such as wikispaces.com / google docs / Mindmeister.com as a work space for each of the groups (having set up a space for each team in advance). Provide them with the link and (if necessary) login/ password and set them to work brainstorming all the arguments in favour of ‘their’ controversial statement – capturing all contributions on the tool provided. (This capture is essential for later.) Use an online timer (online-stopwatch.com) to keep time and remind them to return to a full group call.
      • Meanwhile, set up 2 quick slideshows. Make sure you can play both on loop. In the first, go through the results from the poll, entering one name per slide into the slideshow starting with the name closest to 0 (and remembering to remove the judge(s)). With all the names in place, make the slides with the names of all participants from team 1 one colour, and all the names from team 2 in another colour. When you play the slideshow, as it goes through the names, the slides should alternative team/colour one and team/colour two. You will use these to call on the members of the teams to share their arguments, as well as helping everyone keep in mind who is talking and on behalf of which team / position. A second slide set is just two slides with just the two team colours (no names).
      • Back in full group, launch the ‘debate’, determining who speaks when using your slide set, until all the arguments captured are exhausted. The switch to your second slide set and invite people to ‘change teams’ and spontaneously argue from the other team. You will not have names, so just switch from colour one to colour two. Participants can only share if they are adding a new argument from the other team to the one in which they participated.
      • Once all arguments are exhausted. Invite the judge(s) who have listened to the debate to give their ‘verdict’ with a brief synthesis of which arguments they found most compelling.
      • Finally re-do the poll that you started with. Generate the report and compare the results! Have people shifted in their thinking?

      Please let us now how you get on and what you think!

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      The Connected Facilitator: What’s in the Online Toolbox?

      Full disclosure: I ran a workshop at the  International Association of Facilitators Europe Conference a little while ago on Facilitation and Web-based Tools. It went well, and the participating facilitators were enthusiastic users and happy to share. We did a quick mass collection of what and how people were using different tools – I diligently took down the flipcharts and promised to send out the results.

      Well, in an office clean today I found those flipcharts, buried in a stack of papers. Hmmm, to keep my promise, I thought I would share the results. If any of you who attended read this post – I will apologize profusely and sincerely hope that “Better Late Than Never” is actually true. A sheep seemed to be the best picture I could use for this blog post.

      So here they are, a list of tools that this group of facilitators reported using (I have checked, added some notes, and updated them where necessary). Some of these are obvious and some a little less so, in any case it is an interesting snapshot of what web-based tools are in a facilitator’s online toolkit:

      YouTube

      • Creating and posting video clips to be played in face-to-face events or a WebEx event when participants/speakers cannot attend live, or to save costs or carbon, or just for additional time-restricted content (e.g. you need an on target 5 min clip and not a speaker who will go over by 10 min);
      • Using video clips as an information and learning source for facilitation (“Facilitation” has 2,970 YouTube video clips available today);
      • Uploading videos of you in action for promotion of your facilitation work (and to answer the “What is Faciliation?” question as you would answer it);
      • Uploading videos of your work for funders as a part of evaluation or reporting process;
      • Uploading video for participants of projects and events in addition to or replacement of a written document (as in a final “video report”).

      Blogs (e.g. WordPress or Blogger)

      • Sharing written blog updates relating to facilitation work and linking them to your company or institutional website as information about your work;
      • Blogging for knowledge sharing on facilitation;
      • Setting up a new blog to support a particular training or facilitated event (I also like http://www.posterous.com/ for this, as it is very easy to use it in sessions to share group work and keep real time track of products created, mainly because posting is done by email);
      • Creating an internal blog for a group of facilitators- for in-team learning, requests for help and challenging management decisions (sic);
      • As a place to connect to and share web-based facilitation resources (e.g. you could set up a blog to aggregate other blogs and online resources on facilitation, or you could simply connect up to relevant blogs through a dashboard, a reader, or using something like Delicious (one of a number of social bookmarking sites – Note: Delicious is owned by Yahoo and might be closing, so do some research if you want a good social bookmarking site – I personally just switched my Delicious links to Evernote). 

      Ning

      • Setting up one to support specific training or facilitated events, for posting updates for a distributed community during an event, and community development more generally before and after a facilitated event;
      • A place to facilitate or join topical discussions related to any theme (there are 65 nings that are tagged with Facilitation);
      • As a support platform for building new organizations or networks (Note: This used to be free, and is now a pay platform).

      Wikis

      • Creating an internal wiki in an organization to collect and record learning (such as pbworks);
      • Using other wikis as an information source and for sharing on things like games – such as the gaming wiki  WoWWiki to understand everything from “chat” to “bloodcurse” about how the game works (you might wonder about using World of Warcraft for learning – try a 30-day trial and see what you think – I enjoyed exploring it for examples of negotiation, teamwork, collaboration etc.) (Anyways, another facilitator put this down as being useful for him, so you don’t have to take my word for it 🙂

      LinkedIn

      • Useful for promotion and business for facilitators (I have now had a number of requests come through LinkedIn and not email initially);
      • Helping to manage professional links – especially people who work with many different teams and organizations;
      • There are many functions for networking (e.g. slideshare, events, etc.);
      • As a place to tap into ongoing discussions through LinkedIn Groups – today in the Groups Directory there are 219 Groups that deal somehow with Facilitation and 8,280 with Learning. 

      Twitter and Twitter-like tools

      • Can be used to generate energy around a project (keep people posted, update on activities, achievements, learning etc.);
      • A place to talk facilitation business with other facilitators (“Follow” other Facilitators – and see who they are following to find others);
      • To identify communities through hashtags (such as #Facilitation, #AppreciativeInquiry and #Learning and anything else you care to find);
      • Useful as a way to gather customer appreciation (what are people tweeting about your facilitation work?)
      • Using Yammer  (a private Twitter-like tool) internally in an organization to keep track of people and their work, ideas, etc.;
      • Using Backnoise in events for more audience participation.

      Facebook

      • Maintaining “social” work contacts;
      • Using the Events (+CreateAnEvent) function for announcements and promotion of your facilitation work;
      • Starting a business page for your facilitation work (to inter alia “Invite your friends”, “Tell your fans”, “Post status updates” etc.)

      Second Life (This dates us a little)

      • Useful for dialogue and storytelling practice;
      • Keeping in touch with the virtual world technologies;
      • Useful as an alternative to conference calls, to make them more interactive.

      Others

      • http://www.doodle.com/ for meeting time planning and invitations (MeetingWizard is another);
      • Basecamp for project management and as a collaborative tool for teams of facilitators or facilitators and their partners;
      • Personal Brain (http://www.thebrain.com/) – Useful to develop self-managed learning applications or even as support for group mind mapping, brainstorming, and more;
      • WebEx and DimDim– video conferencing for facilitation and training;
      • Campaign monitor – for email marketing campaigns;
      • Zoomerang and Surveymonkey – free places to create and run surveys and questionnaires – useful for both demand articulation/needs assessment as well as post-workshop evaluation/feedback.
      • To this list I would add Evernote to keep track of the photos of flipcharts that I take, and I attach any other job aids I produce, I also have an image of all the visual facilitation icones that are standards that I might want to include on a flipchart, this is in addition to all my online links which have become a valuable on-demand resource for me (as mentioned above)

      I think this list is interesting as a snapshot of what and how Facilitators are using web-based tools in their facilitation work, as well as a way to acknowledge that we all are using new media today in so many different ways. (Please feel free to add to the above!) I’ll bet you are using something in each category above – before you read through this list did you realise how many online instruments were on your facilitator’s dashboard?

      Oh, and next time I hold a workshop at an IAF conference, I won’t wait so long to report back (she said sheepishly).

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      Look Behind You! The Webinar Facilitator’s Non-Technical Checklist

      I am currently in the middle of an online sustainability learning project that includes facilitating a number of webinars (10 to be exact) for a big multi-national company with staff based all over the world. For this project, I am one of a distributed delivery team from AtKisson Associates which is located in North America, Europe and Asia, because every module features virtual events in all these three regions. Webinars are the main “person-to-person” component of this programme, so they are the anchor of the learning process (and they need to be good!)

      I’ve worked with online learning in the past, such as Horizon Live (an early webinar-like platform, but with no video input or participant audio interactivity possibilities), and even earlier with CD-based, email-mediated distance learning. This is the first real experience I have had faciliting webinars that have so many bells and whistles. For this project, we are using DimDim (http://www.dimdim.com/), which provides the slideshow, chat function, audio for presenters, recording, private chat, whiteboard, video link for the facilitator, and more. For these webinars we are adding the audio interactivity for participants through a call-in conferencing number, which I access by skype.

      Needless to say, the first time I facilitated (after a trial run of course) it took me a while to get my head around all the moving parts of this delivery system. At any one moment, I could be presenting slides myself or advancing the slides for a presenter, tracking and answering chat questions, watching myself on video, private chatting to the technology support person in Stockholm, looking for my skype mute button, while trying not to cough or type too loudly, and so on! AND you have to pay attention on top of it, because you are facilitating after all and may need to bring a point back into the discussion later on. (Don’t worry, it gets easier each time to do so many things concurrently – for the video game generation this is probably no big deal.)

      I’ve participated in three so far, and during last week’s webinar, anything that could happen seemed to do so technology-wise, testing our creativity, resilience, and Plans B and C on the spot. This morning I facilitated another one, and again, there were multiple, delightful surprises with Dimdim and even Skype at various times within the length of our one-hour event.

      Because weird technical things happen during these online sessions, combined with the fact that I need to be fully present in terms of my attention, I find I need to prepare much more than I would have ever imagined prior to this one hour of sitting-at-my-computer facilitation. As a result, I made this checklist for myself – a non-technical checklist for facilitating a webinar. It considers things that I have noticed, about my computer, the content, my environment and myself. With these things ticked off, I am ready for (almost) anything – or at least I am not distracted by things I could have anticipated myself!

      Non-technical Webinar Preparation Checklist:

      My Computer
      There are a number of checks that need to be made on your hardware that is not connected to any particular webinar package. For example:

      • (I assume that I have already tested the webinar package and accepted the webinar invitation.)
      • Close down all competing open programmes that may be running, and shut down any open documents, except exactly what is needed: internet and skype – (all those extraneous open windows, half written email messages and blog/Twitter/FB/LinkedIn pages need to be shut down/saved)
      • Check that the mute button on the computer is not on.
      • Unplug the extra monitor, stick to one (nothing more maddening than having to look two places at once on top of everything else).
      • Check that headphone/microphone cables are in the right jacks.
      • Make sure you have enough money on your skype account.

      Content

      Whether you are the presenter/facilitator or facilitating another speaker, you will need to be able to anticipate the next slides and have your discussion questions/notes queued up and ready to go.

      • Have a copy of the printed slide set in handouts (6 per page – latest version of course).
      • DON’T staple (it’s hard to turn pages with one hand on your mouse/keyboard/pen).
      • Print slides one sided (as an exception to the rule – turning pages is also noisy).
      • Make sure the pages are numbered legibly (so easy to keep in order as you slide them across).

      Environment – Ambient Noise

      This is critically important, whether you are in a cubicle or a home office – the latter can be even more unpredictable, as is my case. As the facilitator, you have your audio on 99% of the time, so any kind of noise is a big issue.

      • Turn your cell phone on vibrate (even if it is across the room).
      • Move any other phones like landlines out of the room (they tend to all go off at the same time as someone tries one, and then when you don’t answer it, they try the other).
      • Put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door (with the time frame of your call).
      • Lock the door.
      • Tell anyone in the house with a penchant for spontaneous hoovering to wait until after your call (nicely so they don’t decide that they never want to hoover again).
      • Let the cat in (especially if it likes to sit outside the office window behind your computer, meows loudly, has incredible persistence and suffers from bad timing).

      Environment – Your Office

      Managing and preparing the space around you is incredibly important and easy to forget until you are right in the middle of your webinar and shuffling through stacks of stuff looking for a pen.

      • Clear the desk from EVERYTHING except your slideset, one note paper and pen (everything else will be in your way at some point).
      • Add tissues (seasonal)
      • LOOK BEHIND YOU! (Use your video for this -move dead or past-prime plant, coffee cups, extraneous rubbish, strange photos, from view behind you).
      • Straighten up any pictures on the wall or put up some visual interest behind you (NOTE Business Idea: Backdrops for webinar presenters that cover messy office spaces and add pleasing, unfussy visual interest. Swiss alps, Tibetan monastery, Carribean beach view.)

      You

      You and the slideset are the only thing that people are seeing/hearing for an entire hour, have a heart and think about it from their point of view.

      • Think about what you are wearing (top half only). Can you add colour, pattern? (Same consideration as for a stand-up facilitator, but from the waist up.)
      • Comb hair
      • Apply lipstick (or increase your video contrast controls – only half kidding here – nothing like a bland, washed out presenter.)
      • Do you need coffee or water on hand?
      • Don’t forget the washroom (you won’t be nipping out during the group work on a webinar)

      When I first started this checklist, I couldn’t believe how many things needed to be considered prior to facilitating a webinar. I imagined that if I had my slides prepared I could just sit down, plug in and present.

      But there is definitely more to it than that – especially if you want to be able to concentrate on the content and dynamics in a virtual environment where you are getting much less sensory input. In this kind of setting many of your facilitator senses are cut off or drastically reduced -you have no sight to speak of and certainly no visual cues on how people are feeling and following. You also have very little hearing, as most of the time participants are on mute until they want to speak, and certainly none of that sixth sense that helps a facilitator in a face-to-face setting read her participants in order to know how and when to engage them and adjust the process to fit their needs.

      So for webinar success, increasingly a feature of a facilitator’s work, you need to anticipate and prepare much more than you might expect. Make your own checklist or add to mine – what have I left out?

      (For the checklist without the bla, bla, blah, click here: Webinar Facilitators Checklist)

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      Futurists Give Us the “Shape of Jobs to Come”: What This Might Mean for Facilitators and Learning Practitioners

      Just published by Fast Future is a study commissioned by the UK Government’s Science: So What? So Everything campaign on the Shape of Jobs to Come .

      The study produced a list of 20 jobs for 2030, which I thought I would share because Rohit Talwar, from Fast Future, keynoted at the International Association of Facilitators European Conference in Oxford last September. His presentation, “Dancing in the Dark: The Future Business Environment”, thoughtfully provoked us all consider how we as facilitators might keep up with the game as the institutions we work with, and the profile of people in them, potentially change.

      In that context, he had us imagine a participant group with, for example, age ranges fom 18-200. He questioned how will we structure our sessions, breaks, marketing, preparation, when everyone has global internet exposure and is hyperconnected? How will we work in an extremely resource constrained world – green our events, dramatically reduce costs, save time? When there is incredible ethnic as well as other diversity in the room, how will we celebrate that as well as continually work on issues of difference and potentially tolerance? And so on. For some, parts of this future are already here.

      I received this list of future jobs this morning and blogged it because I thought it was interesting to consider how facilitators and learning practitioners might flex methods now for working with all kinds of change in the future (whether it is with body part makers or not!):

      The Shape of Jobs to Come list of 20 future Jobs in 2030 (taken directly from their list published on the links above today):

      1. Body part maker: Advances in science will make the creation of body parts possible, requiring body part makers, body part stores and body part repair shops.

      2. Nano-medic: Advances in nanotechnology offer the potential for a range of sub-atomic ‘nanoscale’ devices, inserts and procedures that could transform personal healthcare. A new range of nano-medicine specialists will be required to administer these treatments.

      3. ‘Pharmer’ of genetically engineered crops and livestock: New-age farmers could be raising crops and livestock that have been genetically engineered to improve yields and produce therapeutic proteins. Possibilities include a vaccine-carrying tomato and therapeutic milk from cows, sheep and goats.

      4. Old age wellness manager/consultant: Specialists will draw on a range of medical, pharmaceutical, prosthetic, psychiatric, natural and fitness solutions to help manage the various health and personal needs of the ageing population.

      5. Memory augmentation surgeon: Surgeons will add extra memory capacity to people who want to increase their memory capacity. They will also help those who have been over-exposed to information in the course of their life and simply can no longer take on any more information thus leading to sensory shutdown.

      6. ‘New science’ ethicist: As scientific advances accelerate in new and emerging fields such as cloning, proteomics and nanotechnology, a new breed of ethicist may be required, who understands a range of underlying scientific fields and helps society make consistent choices about what developments to allow. Much of science will not be a question of can we, but should we.

      7. Space pilots, tour guides and architects: With Virgin Galactic and others pioneering space tourism, space trained pilots and tour guides will be needed, as well as designers to enable the habitation of space and other planets. Current projects at SICSA (University of Houston) include a greenhouse on Mars, lunar outposts and space exploration vehicles.

      8. Vertical farmers: There is growing interest in the concept of city-based vertical farms, with hydroponically-fed food being grown in multi-storey buildings. These offer the potential to dramatically increase farm yield and reduce environmental degradation. The managers of such entities will require expertise in a range of scientific disciplines, as well as engineering and commerce.

      9. Climate change reversal specialist: As the threats and impacts of climate change increase, a new breed of engineer-scientists will be required to help reduce or reverse the effects of climate change on particular locations. They will need to apply multi-disciplinary solutions ranging from filling the oceans with iron filings, to erecting giant umbrellas that deflect the sun’s rays.

      10. Quarantine enforcer: If a deadly virus starts spreading rapidly, few countries, and few people, will be prepared. Nurses will be in short supply. Moreover, as mortality rates rise, and neighbourhoods are shut down, someone will have to guard the gates.

      11. Weather modification police: The act of seeding clouds to create rain is already happening in some parts of the world, and is altering weather patterns thousands of miles away. Weather modification police will need to control and monitor who is allowed to shoot rockets containing silver iodine into the air – a way to provoke rainfall from passing clouds.

      12. Virtual lawyer: As more and more of our daily life goes online, specialists will be required to resolve legal disputes which could involve citizens resident in different legal jurisdictions.

      13. Avatar manager / Devotees Virtual teacher: Avatars could be used to support or even replace teachers in the elementary classroom, for instance, as computer personas that serve as personal interactive guides. The Devotee is the human that makes sure that the Avatar and the student are properly matched and engaged, etc.

      14. Alternative vehicle developers: Designers and builders will create the next generation of vehicle transport using alternative materials and fuels. Could the dream of underwater and flying cars become a reality within the next two decades?

      15. Narrowcasters: As broadcasting media becomes increasingly personalised, roles will emerge for specialists working with content providers and advertisers to create content tailored to individual needs. While mass market customisation solutions may be automated, premium rate narrowcasting could be performed by humans.

      16. Waste data handler: Specialists will provide a secure data disposal service for those who do not want to be tracked, electronically or otherwise.

      17. Virtual clutter organiser: Specialists will help us organise our electronic lives. Clutter management would include effective handling of email, ensuring orderly storage of data, management of electronic IDs and rationalising the applications we use.

      18. Time broker / Time bank trader: Alternative currencies will evolve their own markets – for example time banking already exists.

      19. Social ‘networking’ worker: Social workers will help those in some way traumatised or marginalised by social networking.

      20. Personal branders: An extension of the role played by executive coaches giving advice on how to create a personal ‘brand’ using social and other media. What personality are you projecting via your blog, Twitter, etc? What personal values do you want to build into your image – and is your image consistent with your real life persona and your goals?

      Whether you agree with this list or not, it is still interesting to consider how things change (both with the people and the context) as a learning practitioner and facilitator, and consider how you notice this, and how you adapt your practice to work with it.

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      Ahead of the Curve: This Year’s Learning Trends at Online Educa

      I just spent the last two days at Online Educa, one of the largest global conferences for technology-supported learning and training, held annually in Berlin. It is my third time attending and every time I return full of new ideas and a glimpse at the future learning trends through the eyes of some of the top thinkers, academics and techno-geeks. This year was no different.

      Each year there is some tool or topic that is capturing the excitement and imagination of the 2000+ participants. When I first attended in 2006 it was blogs and wikis, with many people enthusing about their experiences with these young tools. At that time we had just started this blog, so were eager to hear how people were experimenting with theirs for learning. Informal learning was also a topic with Jay Cross’ original book on this published.

      In 2007, the buzz was around real learning applications in virtual worlds, like Second Life (SL), which most people had discarded as playgrounds for slackers. Many formal and informal learning experts were exploring and exploiting their potential for all kinds of learning. Podcasting was also a hot topic, and mobile learning was a beginning topic of conversation then, but was being drowned out by SL avatars and a much bigger conversation about the quality and quantity of user-generated content. (I’ll never forget plenary speaker Andrew Keen -author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture- who was boo-ed for proclaiming to the audience of thousands of otherwise very polite internet enthusiasts that wikipedia and the internet was being written by monkeys, or something to that extent.)

      Trending this year were a few things: Tools like Twitter were not only mentioned in practically every session, but also was being actively used to extend the learning beyond the seminar rooms throughout the conference. All kinds of video application was also a trend, from having school kids use the video clips they took with their phone for show and tell, to the question of whether YouTube and its mega supply of how-to, just-in-time learning content might ever replace formal training. Mobile learning was also very big this year, with everyone doing it on their I-phones (or other, although I saw lots of them) as well as discussing the future of learning as being “hand held”. This was linked to an ongoing discussion about the coming of cloud computing, having everything in the “cloud” with ubiquitous access, where any user can access any content, anytime with their phone, PDA or even a TV. One plenary speaker heralded the end of “bulky” laptops, while holding up one of the smallest I’ve seen.

      I myself found it fascinating that I only turned on my own PC once the whole two days (and that was for a skype call to Sweden). Not that I was taking notes and talking instead, no, I was on my phone the whole time. I used it to Twitter the conference, used it to give feedback in sessions on Backnoise.com, to ask questions of other participants, to meet and interact with many people, and more. Instead of sitting down to write my blog posts, I micro-blogged the whole time (I would have never found the hour it takes me to write a proper blog post during that fast-paced conference.) And in doing got some experiential learning in “going mobile”, learning alot about this new handheld future, from many who do it so expertly.

      In fact, my last Tweet from the Conference was: “#oeb2009 Difference @ OEB for me this yr: Didn’t use my laptop at all- all interaction with mobile & found it great- Next yr no pc 4 me!”

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      The Work-From-Home Field Guide to Time

      Time is like snow. It’s all made of the same stuff – minutes for time, or water in the snow case – but it takes so many different forms. Did you know there was a Field Guide to Snowflakes? (over 35 different kinds!) I want to write the Field Guide to Time.

      I never noticed what kind of time I had until I had a different kind of time. And now that I have made this observation I’ve started to look more closely at the nature of my time, at the individual forms of time, to see how different they really are. In my Field Guide to Time I would have both Office Work Time and Home Work Time.

      In the office I saw different kinds of time floating around me:
      • Desk Time – Perceived blocks of time for working on documents/reports/proposals, often interrupted by all of the following. What you tend to get hired to do.
      • Email Time – Chunks of time for zeroing in-box and working on action file. Should be linked to “Desk Time”, but can include many other extraneous things.
      • Meeting Time – Hours of time (and sometimes whole days or weeks of time) for collaborative discussion that can sometimes also count as working, and sometimes not.
      • Corridor Meeting Time – Minutes of time to gather information that is not found elsewhere.
      • Pop-in Meeting Time – Usually happens when you are at “Desk Time”, longer or shorter depending on the pop-in person’s place in institutional hierarchy, and/or desire to procrastinate.
      • Phone Time – Answering calls that I miss while I was at Meeting and Corridor Meeting Time.
      • Negotiation Time – Very brief moments providing windows of opportunity to change things.
      • Talk to Your Colleagues Time – This time expands when procrastinating and can often lead to “Coffee Time”.
      • Coffee Time – Self-explanatory
      • Cleaning Your Office Time – Time so called when you can’t or don’t want to concentrate on anything else. Could also be called “Procrastination Time” except nobody would ever pay you for that.
      If you were lucky, you could get useful things done in all of these times (including needed mental rest and processing time from the last one). And if you needed to, you could theoretically shift around the time so that you had more Desk Time when you needed it, and less of the other kinds of time in your day.

      Now that I am working at home, I am getting to identify some different kinds of work-related time, some are the same, many are different. At home, for example, I find I can subtract “Corridor Meeting Time” (for obvious reasons) and “Pop-In Meeting Time” has reduced (or at least now there is a warning phone call since I live outside of town). And some new specimens of time have been added:
      • Car Time – This could also be called “Thinking Time” for return trips when car is empty.
      • Judo Time/Circus Time/Football Time – Highly fragmented minutes of calm during children’s flurry of activities – could also be called “Checking Iphone Time”.
      • Car Park Time – This time only occurs in daytime or in carparks where the space near the light is free. Includes much balancing of papers on knees.
      • Skype Time – Occurs more because now I am paying the phone bills myself.
      • Google and Social Networking Time – This time increases, as guilt decreases about surfing when someone else is paying for your time.
      • Cafe Time – This is different than “Coffee Time”, although they can overlap. Cafe Time is more about working around people (as opposed to working with them).
      • Making Dinner Time – This would have previously been called “Phone Time”, now all the most important calls come when you are making dinner.
      I’m sure there are more, feel free to add some!

      These latter kinds of time take forms that I am not yet used to using productively, although I am getting better at it. I do notice that they crowd out a lot of “Desk Time”, which means that I need to be clever about the kind of projects I take on. No longer do I seem to have long stretches, day after day of “Desk Time” when I can work on a big writing project, for example, or any task that demands hours back-to-back of stationary, uninterrupted concentration. This seemed to be an easier environment to organize in a workplace office rather than a home office. Now every work day is an aggregation, a collection of kinds of time, a veritable snow bank of the many different, often fleeting forms of Time that make up my day.

      Being productive in this kind of environment must be like choosing the right shovel or wearing the right clothes – noticing the kind of work that fits the quality of your time. Being able to identify the kind of time you have, in your own Field Guide to Time, must be a first step.
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      Embedded Learning and Making the Bed

      Last night I participated in an excellent webinar run by Chief Learning Officer Magazine called “Metrics of the Modern CLO: Measuring Formal and Informal Learning“.

      (CLO offers a great series of free learning webinars, by the way, see the archived version of this webinar here.)

      The speaker was Josh Bersin, and he spoke about three kinds of workplace informal learning and how to measure them:

      1) On-Demand Learning
      2) Social Learning, and
      3) Embedded Learning

      He said businesses report that informal learning gives the greatest business value, with 72% of learning coming from on-the-job experience (stretch assigments, etc); on-the-job mentoring/projects/rotations; and coaching and peer learning. Only some 28% comes from formal training. He noted that informal learning was not fad, it was an evolution in workplace learning. Yet only 1/3 of organizations have learning and development programmes that reflect future talent needs (and that is in the private sector, I wonder what the percentage is in the other sectors – higher? lower?)

      This morning I woke up thinking about the third kind of informal learning. I am not used to seeing or hearing the words “embedded learning” and I needed a way to remember this, and here is the learning anecdote I came up with.

      Embedded Learning is the invisible learning on the job, feedback from managers, performance support from mentors and peers, and so on. It helps you on the job to learn as you go, in the context of your working community, rather than noticing something you need to learn and then going out to search for it yourself (this is on-demand learning).

      From June I started working from home. So that is my workplace, and at the moment I work primarily alone. Of course I have many virtual partners, and occasionally meetings in my home office. However, one person I do see weekly during my working day is the nice lady who comes in to help for a few hours. She just started just over a month ago, and we already appreciate her as a masterful mentor in her approach to family order.

      The first week she was here, the house was a jumble, and when she left the house was perfect. Everything that had been out on any flat surface was gone. Some things are still not found (library book, football socks, telephone list). The second week, it happened again. The third week, again, although slightly less was exposed. After a few weeks I noticed that just a few days prior to her arrival, things started to get put away. Now, the day before she arrives, everyone reminds one another of her imminent arrival. And like magic, order gets restored even before she comes. She set us on this learning pathway and it is working through embedded learning.

      This woman is a household manager and she is clearly giving us feedback. When she doesn’t like where something is, she shows us what she wants by putting it where it belongs (in her estimation). She models the kind of (workplace in my case) environment she wants us to maintain. It’s happening over time, and she is helping us make the change ourselves. This is embedded learning. There is no job aid or checklist on how to maintain this productive learning/working environment (on-demand learning) or no wiki where we are writing down where we are putting things (social learning). Although both of these kinds of learning might also be useful in the future.

      Today when my husband left the house he reminded me very seriously that it was Friday (implicitly, anything you don’t want to disappear needs to be moved now) – and this from someone who has not traditionally noticed anything below 1 meter. The mere mention of her name and my 8-year old is scouring his bedroom floor for precious items. This order mentor and household coach has been like magic. She has embedded new practices at the smallest unit of organization, although not through formal training, or setting formal systems into place. If she stays long enough, dare I say, this might be permanent; and eventually she could leave quietly and move to another family, like Mary Poppins, her work done.

      Once you start to think about it, you might notice embedded learning in other places around you. Today’s high turnover in organizations might provide an opportunity for embedded-learning spotting. In a workplace where someone has moved on, you might notice habits and practices that have changed as a result of someone’s influence, coaching, modelling, mentoring. That is, if they happened to be in tune with embedding learning, overtly or not (I am not sure the nice lady in my house is actively thinking about her household learning programme, although I may be wrong about that.) Not everyone operates that way of course.

      How you get people to operate like that is one of the keys to a learning organization. Then people can move in and out, and the learning is embedded, it stays and just keeps building and growing.

      Even if it is not the original person, with successful embedded learning, someone keeps making the bed.

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      Motivating the returning new mother in her first days back to work

      Some top tips for managers from my first day:

      • Invite her to a ‘welcome back’ one-to-one meeting with you and brief her on key ‘must know’ information before she delves into the delighting deluge that is her inbox

      • Present her with prioritized objectives and actions to get stuck into… things that you just can’t wait to get her tackling with her unique and much missed talents! (No mother wants to leave her child to be at work twiddling her thumbs.)

      • And offer chocolates, biscuits, balloons and beaming smiles (helping her realize that there is still a heart beating in her chest even if it feels like she left it in the crèche)

      What tips do you have for the powers that be… and me?

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      Create a Facilitator Role for Your Conference Calls and Webinars

      Last week I was asked to facilitate a conference call. Sound odd?

      Well, originally it was supposed to be a face-to-face meeting on sustainability reporting for a high-level company review panel. In its first iteration it had two people conferencing in from distant time zones. That meant we had to design activities that the participants physically present could do, as well as meaningfully engage the people who were virtual. We created a design and it seemed like it would work, using in part the interactivity of an internal webinar platform. However, before the meeting occurred, the format changed again.

      For financial reasons, for time reasons, and for environmental reasons, the organizers decided to hold the meeting entirely virtually, and yet, they still wanted interactivity and a facilitator. Why a facilitator for something that would end up as a modified conference call? Surely someone from the team could convene the call and walk the group through the agenda? It turned out to be a good idea to have a facilitator. Here is what we learned…

      First, having someone facilitating the call helped the team hosting it to concentrate entirely on what people were saying (the content), rather than focus on process -and I can tell you that it is hard to do both for a virtual event. In the end, we decided on a blended format – we used a webinar platform to show a Powerpoint slide set which we could control in our HQ office. Then we added a phone-based conference call so that we could talk to one another, as we went through the slides. So my facilitation included managing the telephone (calling on people, mute button, helping people come in and out, getting technical advice), as well as paying attention to the webinar slide show questions and the transitions (thankfully I had someone else changing slides, I just called them and facilitated their content.) I was surrounded by technology, and still it took just a few minutes to get used to it so it would run smoothly. (Note: We did a thorough test of the system a week before the event.)

      Second, having a facilitator also meant that another layer of structure could be incorporated into the virtual meeting and there would be someone there to handle that extra complexity. Rather than asking the question to the group and then opening for comments -thus having people jump in at the same time and potentially speak over top one another (the case in both conference calls and in meeting rooms), I managed the inputs by having a list of participants beside me and calling on people by name. I varied the order so it wouldn’t get too monotonous, and each person got the chance to comment on each question without fail, or say “Pass”. And I could go back to people if someone built on their answer in a way that might change their comment. This way there was no stress on the part of participants about how and when to jump into a conversation, as it is in open conference calls, and no fear of interrupting people. We set some norms at the beginning around brevity and conciseness and people seemed to be happy to support these. Because they were called by name each time, they always knew who was saying what.

      Third, we added another interesting facilitating feature of this virtual meeting. We took the decision to send out the slide set in advance, and to design it as a job aid. Instead of just descriptive information, we used the slide format and made it more instructional, guiding participants through the agenda. We included the various questions for discussion and formatted them into something that could be used as a preparatory worksheet for participants with places to fill in answers, and visuals (matrices, scales) to capture responses to different questions. For example, one question included a continuum, which we put on a slide, numbered the options along the continuum (1 to 5), and asked people to place themselves along it in advance with a cross. When we got to the call, we showed the continuum on the webinar and asked people to tell us where they were using the numbers as a guide for precision puroses. We collected these orally and made an aggregated visual continuum for the group and report.

      Having the slide set also meant that the few people who for some reason (firewall, etc) could not access the webinar, could follow along on their printed slideset, using the page numbers. Because it was a worksheet, everyone had been able to think about their answers to the questions in advance and have a place to record them for use during our call. We got brief, considered responses and the participants got a practical way to prepare. Because people knew they would be asked each question they could hold their comments/questions and elaborate on their previous answers in the next question.

      On final reflection, we are not sure that a face-to-face meeting would have produced very different results. Certainly it would have taken more time for a number of reasons. We probably wouldn’t have sent through a worksheet in advance with the exact questions, and as a result, people might not have prepared as much. Also the quick feedback (supportive/opposition) and the spontaneity of facilitated face-to-face meetings might have encouraged people to speak longer as they took the cue from the group to define their points of view as well as their role/value in the group. Our virtual meeting took exactly 2 hours, and I think it would have been twice that at least for F2F meeting. And we still had good interaction, with people listening to each other (that might also have been because I was calling on them in different order, so as to not miss your turn you had to pay attention and not just lurk and do your email in the background- although I didn’t do that on purpose!)

      Conference calls and webinars are getting more and more popular for the reasons cited here. Consider establishing a facilitator role, and some facilitation structure to help your meeting be te most productive learning environment possible.

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      Lesson #1: There’s (Almost) Nothing Like Being There

      We are here at the World Conservation Congress Forum, which started officially yesterday, One of our activities is coordinating a facilitation team of six who are working on 38 different sessions with session organizers. As this is the first time that we have done this, I thought we would capture some lessons along the way.

      The first lesson came through loud and clear in our pre-conference meeting of the Facilitation Team: Design work, education (about different facilitation styles and interactivity tools), and trust building (to try those tools) is a challenge to do virtually.

      Our facilitation team and their session leads were all over the world with very little if no chance to meet. So we needed to work differently. We didn’t take as a lesson not to do the prep work virtually, but the fact is that no one had ever done that before -on either side. Normally when you bring in external facilitation help you meet first and do the creation work jointly and use that process to build rapport (at least at the beginning of any partnership).

      We found that email was creating long time lags between question and response, it was too either too sparse (missing the info that one side or the other needed) or too long. Many started to pick up the phone or skype and found that a time saver and voice2voice helped with some of the trust-building. I guess video conferencing would have helped even more although we did not try that. As would have a small video library of facilitation techniques that people could see first so not everything would be left to their imagination. If I would have thought ahead about this I would have brought a video to record those activities at this Congress and had them on hand for the next one!

      We were onsite early, so have set up F2F meetings with everyone here prior to the events. That is helping, although in a few cases it is coming late for this important interpersonal side. For facilitation collaboration, we need to think about how to use a virtual preparation stage most powerfully. As our teams become more and more distributed, actively seek the intercultural benefits of working with colleagues in other places, we work more from our homes, and try to limit our travel carbon footprint, all these things provide an opportunity to think more in-depth about what it means to take facilitation (at least the prep stage) virtual.

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      Working By Walking Around

      In the last 2 days, I have hand delivered three letters in my office building. I think that is the first time I have ever done that. But these days it is an absolute necessity. Our office is a little crazy right now (I wanted to call this blog entry “Going Postal” but with the stress levels right now it did not seem very p.c..) We are 3 weeks away from the opening of our enormous Congress, almost entirely run by and for people in our Union (staff, partners, and members alike). People’s email boxes are overflowing, their phones are on voicemail, meetings overlap, schedules are triple booked, questions and requests are flying in from all corners of the world. Time is precious. I had a 4 minute meeting today which actually accomplished something important. I am assured that this is completely normal just before one of our huge four-yearly Congresses.

      What it means is that people are having to work very differently, which might not be a bad thing. If I need something now, information or a decision or someone’s attention, (like my 3 invitations to speak at workshops), I need to get off my chair and go out of my office and physically find them. Sometimes they are at their desks, sometimes coming out of meetings, sometimes ducking into the ladies or heading out for a smoke, where ever they are, I need to find them. Because in 5 minutes we have discussed, informed or solved something that would otherwise go into an action file and re-emerge in a week or a month (or never). No time for that now.

      Actually I am enjoying this new mode of working. I get to see people, talk for a minute, learn about their latest whatever. I am getting to hear more about what people are doing, their hopes, goals and sometimes frustrations. I can even help at times which is very satisfying. Like the postman in the old days where I grew up – he walked around door to door, chatted with people, knew what was going on in the neighbourhood, and was always willing to exchange a few words or give some friendly advice. I think that this way of working helps reduce stress, pulls the community together, builds relationships, and fosters informal learning. There is something deliciously counterintuitive about this way of working (I am too busy to send a 2 minute email and wait for a response. Instead I’m going to take a 10 minute walk to get what I need.)

      I remember reading an article about the workplace of the future (which is now) suggesting that the ONLY reason to come into an office today was to interact. At home, people have all the equipment they need to work – online access to intranets, skype, Instant Messenger, and more. So if you are not in the office to interact with colleagues, you might as well work from home. There, your only interuption might be the postman.

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      Lost: Three Hours of My Time

      Well, I think I am going to give up on the idea of workplace applications for Facebook. In three hours I managed to find some long lost friends, see photos of people I know in various guises, and learn a bit more about some of my “friends” hobbies (must google Rufus Wainwright, might be missing something big.) But as much as I tried, I could not see an obvious non-leisure link to this social networking tool.

      If I was being generous, I could say that it would help colleagues to get to know each other better outside the office. However, my non-rigorous research showed that not too many “Friends”are also colleagues in people’s lists. Maybe about 10%. I also noticed that there is still a big demographic slant, which goes without saying; the number of Friends seems to be inversely correlated with the number of other people you are doing laundry for.

      So Lizzie (196 Friends) and Caroline (239 Friends), can you share your thoughts here -does your Facebook time add anything to your work? I’m not saying it should of course. I just wonder whether Facebook might be a part of our 9-to-5 someday; so far I can’t imagine how I could timesheet the three hours I just spent scrutinising thumbnail photos for signs of aging and poking people.

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      The Workplace of the Future: Technology-Enhanced Mobility

      I was interested to hear last week, from the Regional HR Director at Dupont, that for many companies the virtual office is now the norm and that companies are turning their attention to helping employees maintain connectivity, not only of the technical kind but also of the interpersonal kind.

      This may be the case for the private sector, but as far as I can tell it is still in an experimental stage for the not-for-profit sector. My organization for example, has a few people (only women I believe) who are working less than 100%, that gives them some flexibility, but no one (but me I think) is working part of my time from home as a rule. Experimenting with mobility has been interesting in an institutional culture which is very immediate and in some cases inpromptu. My observation is that dividing your time between a physical office and a home office demands a level of organization that is not always necessary if you routinely go into an office every day (for about 10 hours). You need to define and set some boundaries, and then keep both yourself and your colleagues mindful of them.

      The Dupont spokesperson said that the golden rule of mobile working, especially if you are doing it for work/life balance reasons, was to set limits, but still focus on a) flexibility and b) the customer. To make this work, particularly if you are a part of an office-based team, is to identify your customer (your immediate colleagues, your line manager, the top boss but probably not everybody) and keep your customers happy. It also seems that if you are in a results-based environment, it is easier to show that this distributed team system can work and be productive (perhaps even more productive than a traditional office-based team).

      It is also, ultimately, a perk. As the best people have more choice (HR is quickly becoming known as Talent Management in some industries), stay in the workforce longer (so salaries can reach their cap long before retirement), and the technology exists, I guess we will be seeing more people becoming mobile workers even in the non-profit sector. Institutions can also see that non-financial benefits work for employee retention and overall staff satisfaction. Still, there is a little fear about the empty institution; that social connections will be replaced by internet connections. So how can we make sure that the time people do spend together at work is really quality time, and not just coming in those big doors and going into a small office for the rest of the day (sending email to each other)? A workplace revolution needs to be accompanied by a workspace revolution….(and perhaps a small shift in institutional culture?)

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      Organizational Talent Scouting: Finding Julie Andrews

      Recruiting senior staff for a global knowledge organization these days is very much like casting a movie. First you need a good idea of the movie you want to make, then you need to cast it with the right talent. If you have a choice of actor profiles, in order to have a good movie, you would look for a great actor, rather than someone that necessarily has experience doing what the character does. For example, Julie Andrews did not need to have experience being a nanny to be a fantastic Mary Poppins. She is talent and she can play a variety of different parts very well – she knows how to prepare herself (go talk to some career nannies), she can learn her lines and part, she can work with the director to improve the script, she can innovate and shape her role around her own assets for maximum effect, she has chemistry with others, and she can breathe energy and life into her role – here, her job.

      In a fast changing world, organizations need to be able to continually adapt to new conditions, new information and developments on the global stage. You need your senior staff to have widely applicable skills to be able to change as their roles change. Having a very specific experience base might be less important than having the skills to learn the job, the motivation to improve the context, the creativity to shape it to maximise their assets, the contacts with the subject matter experts, and the ability to work with others to get the job done well.

      Need a new senior staff member? Advertise for a Julie Andrews. (After all, wouldn’t you like to work with someone who believes that, “In ev’ry job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game…”)