December 11, 2010

Changing Educational Paradigms

LOVE this presentation by Sir Ken Robinson. The animation from RSA adds a lot to the words. I wish I could get my notebooks to look that good. Enjoy!

November 21, 2010

Simple Milk Jug Job Aid

We go through a gallon of milk a day at our house. We keep extra gallons in the basement fridge and only one at a time in the kitchen. All too often we're on the last gallon of milk and don't know it until it's too late. A Sharpie marker and just-in-time learning approach to the rescue.

Posted via email from Todd's posterous

November 8, 2010

Kids Reading Stories

Discovered a wonderful site for kids, especially those learning to read, call Smories. It's a page full of children reading children's stories directly in to the camera. And I love the story of how the idea was born:
We got the idea for smories.com during an extremely long journey in a very dirty Land Rover from the Kalahari desert in Botswana to Cape Town in South Africa... (read the rest of the story here)
Here's one of my favorite stories, Stone Soup.

October 16, 2010

The Importance of WHY

Wonderful TED video, Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action, that explains the importance of WHY.

October 9, 2010

9 Helpful Resources Learned at Rise of Social Commerence

I met many cool people and gained several insights from Altimeter's Rise of Social Commerce conference. Here's the list of 9 helpful (or at least very interesting) resources I learned about from the speakers and sidebar conversations:
  1. Homophily - "Birds of a feather flock together." Sinan Aral gave a fascinating presentation about how to maximize word-of-mouth influence and social contagion through online networks. He's written several papers on the subject.
  2. Air Force Counter Blogging Flow Chart - Charlene Li presented this in her Open Leadership presentation. Looking forward to reading her newest book by the same title.
  3. Personalized Cards by Hallmark - Add your own photos and message, tell them where to send this real paper card, and they'll stamp and mail it on any date you want. Can't wait to try it.
  4. ModCloth - indie, retro, vintage apparel.
  5. diapers.com and soap.com - trying to be the Zappos of household basics. Free shipping and easy shopping, but how do they compare on pricing? I did a quick test by Red Lasering items in my bathroom and comparing them to prices on soap.com. Most were also like Zappos (where you can't pay more online), but a few items that had ecoupons were cheaper, and a few more were equal in pricing. Easy navigation and well designed, but know your prices or just embrace the convenience and be willingly pay more.
  6. Polyvore - creative community where anyone can be a stylists. The sight allows you to create your own fashion trends. "Clip + Create + Shop + Share = Polyvore"
  7. Tree of Tenere - how the loneliest tree in the world survive for 300 years.
  8. Making Meals and Memories - Le Crueset's engaging program to encourage customers to share the fun memories associated with their cookware. Love the viral maps at the end of each story.
  9. shopkick - a location-based program that drives traffic to retailers and can't be faked like GPS programs. I just downloaded the app and am headed to Best Buy to collect some kickbucks.
If you attended or watched any of it on ustream, what resources and takeaways did learn?

October 4, 2010

BEAUTY: Natural vs Man-made

This summer I had an amazing opportunity to to attend the Gemological Institute of America's Diamond Grading Lab followed by 4 days of hiking in southern Utah. I was truly surprised to discover that the two experience had a strong similarity between them. In both, I spend a lot of time viewing nature's beauty, and in both situations, nature's beauty had been enhanced by man.

With diamonds, that's obvious. These crystals take millions of years to form and are eye-catching in their own right, but it's when man cuts and polishes them that they become truly stunning.

Hiking in Zion National Park and then in Bryce Canyon National Park, I made the same observation. The rock formations took millions of years to form and are gorgeous all on their own, but it's man's efforts that cut in trails and create access to to these places that allow us to view them. These switchbacks were created by man:


While the revisions man made to the parks are more about accessibility and to and even larger extent preservation, both are examples of man taking something that is beautiful in it's own right and enhancing it. The challenge for any designer, whether working from scratch or improving on nature, is when to stop because there is a point of diminishing returns where edits start to detract beauty instead of enhance it. And, of course, not everyone agrees to what is actually adding beauty versus subtracting from it. Here's a quote from Lyndon Johnson that was posted at Bryce Canyon on the subject:

What examples of you seen of man enhancing nature? What examples have you seen of enhancements gone wrong?

October 1, 2010

Best Ride in the Park

One way to stand out in terms of customer service is to ensure associates aim to provide guests with the best ride in the park, an experience so memorable that it compares with the best ride at any amusement park. So for the last six days, I've been doing some serious research on what the best ride in the park actually means as my wife and I dragged our four children to six different theme parks: Universal Studios, Universal's Islands of Adventure, and the four Disney World parks (EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and, of course, Magic Kingdom).

So here's my complete ranking of the best ten rides from those six parks:

1. THE HULK > With the force equal to a jet taking off an aircraft carrier, the Hulk launches you up 150 feet and reaches speeds of 67 mph. With seven inversions, it feels like you spend a third of the ride up-side-down. (BEST RIDE at Islands of Adventure)

2. EXPEDITION EVEREST > The details - both waiting in line and on the ride - are incredible, and it's a fun thrill ride as you plunge backwards in the dark. (BEST RIDE at Animal Kingdom)

3. TOY STORY'S MIDWAY MANIA > You get spun around to pause in front of several large screens that depict realistic 3-D carnival games. The cannon you fire converts from throwing pies, to firing darts, to tossing rings. Engaging, fun, and competitive! (BEST RIDE at Hollywood Studios)

4. THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY > Wow! I would love to see the behind the scenes of how the flight tansitions from video projected dragon chases to animatronic dungeons. Heck of a journey especially for Potter fans. Wash it down with a butterbeer.

5. LAUGH FLOOR AND TURTLE TALK WITH CRUSH > I know, they're not really rides. And it's two instead of one, but these shows are "ride worthy" and they are very similar. They consist of interactive video presentations. In Laugh Floor (the better of the two), monsters deliver stand-up and have amazing interactions with the audience. In Turtle Talk, Crush comes to the front of a giant aquarium and takes questions from kids. Both are worth seeing at least twice, because it's never the same show. (BEST RIDE at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom)

6. DISASTER > Christopher Walken in person! Well, actually in an unbelievably realistic projection. The live host he interacts with is hilarious, and you should volunteer when she asks for one. (BEST RIDE at Universal Studios)

7. KILIMANJARO SAFARI > Real animals close and in authentic settings. We had a young giraffe stop us by licking the front of the truck.

8. DRAGON CHALLENGE > You know what's cool? Dueling inverted roller coasters. Dueling inverted roller coasters are cool.

9. TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR > You leave your seat as the ride falls faster-than-gravity, and you get a brief, but grand view of the rest of the park. My son asked the bellman if he would ride with us, to which he quickly replied, "No, I always take the stairs."

10. ROCK 'N' ROLLER COASTER > Zero to sixty in 2.8 seconds and Aerosmith!

Agree or disagree? What's the best ride in the park to you?

September 19, 2010

Classic Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Well, except for this one, of course.

Posted via email from Todd's posterous

August 22, 2010

Would you like crickets with that?

IMG_0422

 

I love Sonic Drive-ins!  My family and I just recently stopped at one in Columbia, MO for a quick lunch on our road trip to St. Louis, and I couldn't help but notice this sign on there menu board.  The top of the sign has a slit to change out the pictures - pull one promotion out, and slide the next one in.  For some reason several crickets were attracted to this sign and managed to jump down into the slot.  Unfortunately, that made for a very unappetizing poster.  

Posted via email from Todd's posterous

July 25, 2010

The Third Largest Country is... FACEBOOK?!?


Loved this graphic for an article in The Economist titled "The Future is Another Country." The article also makes an interesting point about what makes a country:

But many web-watchers do detect country-like features in Facebook. “[It] is a device that allows people to get together and control their own destiny, much like a nation-state,” says David Post, a law professor at Temple University. If that sounds like a flattering description of Facebook’s “groups” (often rallying people with whimsical fads and aversions), then it is worth recalling a classic definition of the modern nation-state. As Benedict Anderson, a political scientist, put it, such polities are “imagined communities” in which each person feels a bond with millions of anonymous fellow-citizens. In centuries past, people looked up to kings or bishops; but in an age of mass literacy and printing in vernacular languages, so Mr Anderson argued, horizontal ties matter more.

June 27, 2010

HOW TO HIRE A-PLAYERS | And the winner is...

Congratulations to SF Varney for winning the autographed copy of Eric Herrenkohl's book "How to Hire A-Players."

video

June 24, 2010

HOW TO HIRE A-PLAYERS | 3 Helpful Resources

Continuing my quest to become better at hiring A-Players, I found three helpful resources about the topic:

Enter to win a free autographed copy of Eric Herrenkohl's book "How to Hire A-Players" by leaving a comment on my interview with Eric.

June 17, 2010

HOW TO HIRE A+++ PLAYERS | Never Good Enough

Since reading "HOW TO HIRE A-PLAYERS" by Eric Herrenkohl, I've been looking for opportunities to raise the bar on hiring standards. And this morning, I was struck by a curious point of view. What if your standards are to high? I'm sure it's a far less common dilemma than too low of standards, but still it must exist. What do you think?

Can someone's criteria be so strict that no one will ever match up? If so, what problems can that create? If not, why not? Would love to read what you think in the comments section.

Also, leave a comment on my interview with Eric and be entered to win an autographed copy of his book. Contest ends June 26.

June 12, 2010

HOW TO HIRE A-PLAYERS | Eric Herrenkohl

I've spent my entire career helping others improve their knowledge, their skills, their understanding, and most of all their performance. After reading Eric Herrenkohl's new book "How to Hire A-Players," I was reminded of the importance that hiring plays in getting strong results.

Eric clearly makes the case that hiring A-players is much more effective than hiring C-players and working to transform them into A-players. It reminded me of the old quote from Robert Heinlein, "Never attempt to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

How many times do we determine a performance gap is a training issue when in reality it's a hiring issue? Eric's thought-provoking book really got me thinking (read my 5 big ah-ha's from the book), so I followed-up with him and asked a few questions. You'll enjoy his answers below. Even better yet, Eric agreed to give away a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of his book to one lucky Observation Paper reader. Simply leave a comment to this post and you'll be entered to win. I'll draw the winner on Saturday, June 26.

1. How do you determine whether a performance problem is a training issue or a hiring issue?
You set up a strong training and coaching program, make sure to define the key results you want people to achieve, provide regular coaching, feedback, and accountability, and watch as some people excel, some improve, and others don't make much progress. You had a training issue with those who improved; you had a (mis)hiring issue with those who did not. From there, you create an A-player profile that defines superior performance and performers, start interviewing all the time, keep your couch full of potential candidates, and begin to upgrade the talent level in that key position or positions.

2. How do you create an A-Player profile?

Don't focus as much on the people you currently employ in a role. Instead, focus on the results you want from the job. Get input from people in and out of the organization who really understand the role. Take the time to define what success looks like for the role i.e. if people perform exceptionally well in the job, what results will follow? How will we measure those results? then, assess people currently in the job, compare those results to the profile you have created, and make final adjustments. The end result will be a profile that sets a higher performance bar for the role, and a process that helps people focus on the people they need in the role vs just accepting the people they have.

3. The principles you lay out in the book make a lot of sense, from your consulting experience why don't more organizations follow them?

More and more organizations are following these principles. They are the companies where the CEO is "recruiter in chief" for the business. This does not mean that he or she is mired in HR details. It does mean, however, that the leader of the business talks about creating a team of A-players all the time. Such leaders reject the "hiring to fill positions" mentality. They cast a vision for the business they want and help everybody in the organization to appreciate that finding the next great team member is everyone's priority.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Add your comments, thoughts, or own personal experience to the conversation in the comments section below and be entered to win a free autographed copy of "How to Hire A-Players" by Eric Herrenkohl. Winner will be drawn on Saturday, June 26.

June 8, 2010

Top 5 Favorite Tips from "How to Hire A-Players"

“If your team is one Great Dane surrounded by Chihuahuas, your ‘big dog’ is at risk.”

That was one of the vivid, concrete points that really jumped out at me in Eric Herrenkohl’s new book, “How to Hire A –Players.” It’s hard to argue with the premise that our organizations would be more effective if we staffed them fully with A-Players, but Herrenkohl goes beyond the motherhood-and-apple-pie maxims, making strong arguments to change the way we approach hiring and offers specific tactics on how to actually build a team of solid A-Players.

The following are my top 5 favorite ah-ha’s from this practical guide:

  1. “IF YOU DON’T KEEP HIRING A-PLAYERS, THE ONES YOU ALREADY HAVE MAY START TO LEAVE.” The opening quote at the top of this post comes from that section. Of course, I want all A-players on my team, but I never considered the full impact C-players can have on creating an environment that does not foster and support the continual growth needed for A-players. In a very real sense, A+C+C+C=F. (pages 11-12)
  2. “STAY IN TOUCH WITH EVERY A-PLAYER YOU MEET.” Timing is critical. Either you may not have the right opportunity available, or the A-player may not be ready to make a move. Keep in contact and build the relationship, so that when the timing is right, you’re both ready to make the move. Not to mention, you’ll learn a lot from ongoing connections with A-players. (pages 47-48)
  3. “STAY AT NETWORKING EVENTS UNTIL THE BITTER END.” The same is true with meetings and workshops, the best dialogues happen towards the end or even after the official ending time. My career has been helped many times by being at the right place at the right time, and I did that by lingering after events. It’s a great way to learn a little more. (pages 85-86)
  4. “TAKE THE PROFESSOR, NOT THE CLASS.” Herrenkohl uses this statement to set up his point, “hire the recruiter, not the firm.” I like the professor statement because it has larger appeal beyond hiring A-players. In selecting business partners, if you are looking for long-term continuity, you may want to focus not relying on one person, but for short-term projects, go with the person who will be running the project instead of focusing on the biggest and best firm. (page 146)
  5. “INTERVIEW CANDIDATES, DON’T EDUCATE THEM.” This was a big mistake for me early on. I was always selling the job to the candidate (I still catch myself at times). It’s their job to sell us, and it’s our job to get them to open up and elaborate on the details of their previous experiences to determine strengths and weaknesses. (pages 159-160)

The next post will be an interview with the Herrenkohl and a chance for you win an autographed copy of the book. Stay tuned!

May 13, 2010

WASH HANDS | What's with the Quotes?


Wash Hands
Originally uploaded by Todd Chandler

That law that mandates these signs is silly enough, but what does this restaurant mean by putting quotes around the words "wash hands"? We don't really mean wash hands?

May 9, 2010

Quotes for Mother's Day

THE POWER OF ONE TWEET | Conan's Presenation at Google

Thought this was a fun presentation. The first 10 minutes are the least engaging, so feel free to skip ahead a little. Great examples of the power of social media, especially when Conan talks about selling out his entire tour with just one Tweet. That's an advertising budget that anyone can afford, of course, not everyone can reach the same audience that Coco can.

May 4, 2010

GET HAPPY | Abraham Lincoln

Yesterday, my family and I toured the Abraham Lincoln exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and I was struck by this quote posted on the wall:
"During the drive he was so gay, that I said to him, laughingly, 'Dear husband, you almost startled me by your great cheerfulness,' he replied, 'and well I may feel so, Mary, I consider this day, the war, has come to a close'—and then added 'We must both, be more cheerful in the future—between the war and the loss of our darling Willie—we have both, been very miserable.'"
—Mary Lincoln recounting the carriage ride they took the
afternoon before attending Ford’s Theatre on April 14th, 1865

I love the implied perspective of choosing to be happy, although I'm saddened by the thought of him expressing it so close to the end of his life. When I was searching for the exact quote, I also found this one from Lincoln expressing the same concept.
"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
- Abraham Lincoln

I thought both quotes were powerful reminders for all of us to GET HAPPY, before it's too late.

April 28, 2010

A Well-Intented, Misplaced Job Aid


Here is an example of a job with good content but poor execution. The outlets in this room at the Westin Copley Place were on the side of the desk, which made them very convenient to use, but also very difficult to find. I'm guessing the hotel got a lot of calls asking about the outlets, because this sign explaining where to find them was placed under the glass on the top of the table.

The problem with this solution is that you rarely look on top of the desk when you're looking for an outlet. The sign would be better if it was mounted on the wall where an outlet would normally be. Choosing the right delivery method is just as important as the quality of the content.

April 22, 2010

BRING YOUR DAUGHTERS TO WORK | a look at the results

Yesterday, I ranted a little bit about the dilution of a good idea when we expanded Bring your Daughters to Work Day to include male offspring and changed it to Bring OUR Daughters and Sons to Work Day. I thought I should take a look at the actual results of women in education and in the workforce, because maybe, just maybe I was over reacting.

EDUCATION
33% of women 25 to 29 had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2007, which exceeded that of men in this age range (26%). (source)

28% of women 25 and older obtained a bachelor’s degree or more as of 2007. This was up 11 percentage points from 20 years earlier. (source)

Women earned 58% of the bachelor’s degrees during 2008-09; 60% of the master’s degrees; and nearly 50 percent of first-professional degrees, such as law and medical. (source)
All good news.

EMPLOYMENT

In 2007, women earned 77.5 cents for every $1 earned by men. (source)
Not such good news. And even more frightening:
The 10 most prevalent occupations for employed women in 2008 were—
  1. Secretaries and administrative assistants, 3,168,000
  2. Registered nurses, 2,548,000
  3. Elementary and middle school teachers, 2,403,000
  4. Cashiers, 2,287,000
  5. Retail salespersons, 1,783,000
  6. Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides, 1,675,000
  7. First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers, 1,505,000
  8. Waiters and waitresses, 1,471,000
  9. Receptionists and information clerks, 1,323,000
  10. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, 1,311,0
(source)
But...
Women accounted for 51% of all workers in the high-paying management, professional, and related occupations. They outnumbered men in such occupations as public relations managers; financial managers; human resource managers; education administrators; medical and health services managers; accountants and auditors; budget analysts; biological scientists; preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers; physical therapists; writers and authors; and registered nurses. (source)
I don't know. Maybe I should just get with the program and bring all my children to work and make sure I talk to my daughters about plenty of career opportunities.

WHAT DO YOU THING?
Leave your perspective on this topic in the comments section. I would love to read what you think.

April 21, 2010

BRING YOUR DAUGHTERS (and your sons, too) TO WORK DAY

I'm the proud father of two boys and two girls. I've always had the idealized notion that my wife and I would raise them all gender neutral. You know, boys could play with dolls, and the girls could play with trucks. But the truth of the matter is that the boys choose trucks, and the girls choose dolls.

And the girls (a few years younger than the boys) talk a lot more about having crushes on boys and hurting each other's feelings than the boys ever did. In my own little household laboratory, it's been clearly shown that boys and girls are different.

When I first heard about Bring your Daughters to Work Day almost a decade ago, I was excited because I thought this was a easy and powerful way to help my little girls see they could be more than a school teacher or a secretary (not that there's anything wrong with those professions, but they should be a choice and not an implied expectation).

However, by the time my princesses were old enough to participate, sons where invited as well. It became bring all your offspring to work day. Here's a quick historical overview from the website College News:
Back in 1993, the foundation was called simply Take Our Daughters to Work Foundation, and its purpose was to show young women the benefits of a college education at a work, office, or career setting. At the time, college admissions for women were decreasing, and the organizers of Take Your Daughter to Work Day felt that something needed to be done.

The program was created in hopes of boosting self-esteem for young women, offering an insiders perspective to the workforce which had just experienced an influx of female professionals from the 1980’s career boom. In 2003, the program was expanded to include sons. Naturally, the boys felt a little left out.

This new format was:

Designed to be more than a career day, the Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® program goes beyond the average “shadow” an adult. Exposing girls and boys to what a parent or mentor in their lives does during the work day is important, but showing them the value of their education, helping them discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, and providing them an opportunity to share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals in a hands-on and interactive environment is key to their achieving success. ~ from the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation Website

It seems like male inclusion and family balance became bigger priorities than helping young girls see bigger career opportunities. And that bothers me. First I think the latter is a bigger problem, and second why do we need a foundation to help active boys feel involved and show them how to balance work life priorities. That's what regular parenting is suppose to do.

Taking daughters to work seems a clear and direct idea to expose them to possible career paths. Every spring when this day rolls around, I get mad about how our societal need for inclusion has diluted a great solution.

Okay, enough venting! For the next post I'll check out some of the facts. After all, I hear college enrollment is up for women, maybe a daughters-only program really isn't needed.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Am I being an old feminist crumugdeon? Should boys have the same chance as girls? Or am I on to something? I would love to read your thoughts. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

April 18, 2010

What Adults Can Learn from Kids

I learned about this TED presentation from my friend Paul Simbeck-Hampson and just had to share. Adora Svitak is very inspiring at only 12-years-old. This video is well worth the eight minutes it runs. Enjoy!

April 6, 2010

MANAGING CUSTOMERS | What's Your Etched Fly?

The most compelling speaker at the SMG Forum this year was easily Frances Frei. She was engaging, funny, challenging, and thought-provoking. One of the points she made that stuck with me is to learn how to manage your customers for mutual benefits. She went on to illustrate this point with a very concrete and memorable story.

At the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, they were having a tough time managing customer behavior, specifically males going to the bathroom. The men's restrooms were filthy, and the airport authorities determined the constant uncleanliness was due to a lack of consistent aim into the urinals.

Their first solution was to put signs that said, "Focus." I love when leaders try to solve problems with signs. The Department of Motor Vehicles in Missouri has turned this into a fine art. Sadly, the signs did not work. Next, they came up with the brilliant idea of giving guys something to aim for, and they created an etched fly on the porcelain.

Instantly the cleanliness of the washrooms improved. Don't mandate the behavior you want from your customers. Find the etched fly that will naturally drive the behavior you're looking for.

WHAT OTHER EXAMPLES HAVE YOU SEEN OF "ETCHED FLIES" THAT DROVE CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR?
Leave your observations in the comments below.

March 31, 2010

Nice tea box

Love how this Embassy Suites used this beautiful Tazo tea box to display their less expensive Bigelow tea bags.

Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from Todd's posterous

March 20, 2010

I don't think they really want to sell this

Up at Sam's this nice Range Rover was in the parking lot with a for sale in the windshield, but no phone number. I can't help but wonder if one spouse wants to sell and the other does not. "Yeah, I took it up there and put the sign in the window. I don't know why no one has called. I guess we should keep it."

Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from Todd's posterous

March 16, 2010

SMG FORUM | Quick Overview

One of my favorite conferences for the last three years has been the annual Service Management Group Forum. It's an opportunity to listen to top-notch industry experts share their wisdom about creating the ultimate customer experience, network with other business leaders, and challenge myself to make more of an impact in my own profession. As always, I walked away with some valuable lessons and actionable ideas, and of course, this year I thought, "Hey, I could get an observation paper out of that."

But my first drafts were nothing more than boring book reports. So and so spoke, and they said, "Blah," and I thought, "Wow." It wasn't keen insights worthy of an observation paper; it was more like the dry transcript from a court reporter. So I've gone back through my notes and looked for rare ah-ha's, patterns from one presentation to the next, and points of contradiction. And that's what my next couple of posts will focus on sharing.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the conference:
“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence… and having it last into your absence.”
~ Frances X. Frei

"We are striving for perfection, but we'll tolerate excellence."
~ Jeff from Chick-fil-A

"Raving fans are guests who come often, pay full price, and tell their friends."
~ Jeff from Chick-fil-A

"Human beings aren't horses"
~ Daniel Pink

"Collaboration is not a natural process. You have to demand it."
~ Jim Wright CEO of Tractor Supply Company

"The purpose of a business is to get and keep customers."
~ Peter Drucker via Jack Mackey

March 9, 2010

"Different" by Youngme Moon

This is a great video that makes me want to read the book.



What's your criteria for a great business book? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

February 23, 2010

OSCAR NIGHT PREP | "A Serious Man"

A movie about nothing, without all the humor of a show about nothing. It felt a little like the Saturday Night Live skit spin-off movies, meaning it was a clever idea that works well for a short, but falls short when stretched to a full length motion picture. There were a couple of captivating scenes, including the first of the movie which was an intriguing Hebrew folk tale with Fyvush Finkel in the role of a dybbuk.

The Coen brothers do a beautiful job of staging 1967 through the various scenes and characters including plenty of block constructed buildings, a doctor who smokes, and gorgeous Coupe de Villes. However, I felt no investment in any of the characters and the plot doesn't go anywhere. Which is actually the point I think they were trying to make. In my favorite scene of the movie, Rabbi Nachter tells an offbeat story of a dentist who finds a message on the back of one of his patient's teeth. His conclusion to the story provides a nice summary to the movie itself:
What would happen? Not much. He went back to work. For a while he checked every patient's teeth for new messages. He didn't find any. In time, he found he'd stopped checking. He returned to life. These questions that are bothering you, Larry - maybe they're like a toothache. We feel them for a while, then they go away.
The stunning visual transportation back to the 60's and the quirky subplots were just enough to rank it above District 9 but below Julie and Julia on my list of 17 movies to see before the Oscars.

1. The Hurt Locker
2. Inglorious Basterds
3. Precious
4. (500) Days of Summer
5. Up in the Air
6. Up
7. Star Trek
8. Avatar
9. Julie and Julia
> A Serious Man
10. District 9

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
  • Did you see the movie? If so, what did you think of it?
  • What else have you seen that is Oscar-worthy?
  • What movies do you want to see before Oscar night?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

February 21, 2010

OSCAR NIGHT PREP | "District 9"

I really had high hopes for District 9. It sounded like a intriguing premise, and I had read some promising reviews about the picture when it came out. Unfortunately, high expectations often lead to disappointment, and that's what happened here. Except for three big distinctions, it was surprising similar to Avatar in that it was a sappy, moralistic tale about humans treating yet another race as sub human animals that need to be controlled and potentially exterminated. Oh, how many times must we hear how bad we are? We get it already!

The first big difference is that instead of amazing 3D special affects, District 9 was filled with a sloppy mix of regular action movie shots and faux documentary style camera work with comments directly to the camera and even blood spatters on the lens. The main character kept switching from mimicking Michael on "The Office" to channeling Officer John McClane from "Die Hard." The problem was by the time I figured out what which role he was playing off of, they would switch to the other. Quite distracting.

Another difference was instead of having to rely on only one pedantic voice over as in Avatar, District 9 offered a wide range of judgmental perspectives in the form fabricated experts being interview for the mockumentary portions of the film. At least in District 9 they did less preaching and more filling in of back story.

And finally, instead of a tight, albeit predictable and didactic story line, District 9 only provided a sketchy plot replete with gaping holes and unnecessary innuendos. Why was it important that Wilkus worked for and was promoted by his father-in-law? How come the humans conducted over 20 years of medical experiments on the aliens and continued to study their advanced weaponry but left the mother ship totally alone? And speaking of advanced weaponry, if Wilkus could operated them within 18 of mutating why couldn't the aliens use the weapons themselves to prevent being bullied by the jarhead stereotypes?

So, other than that, it was just like Avatar. They both even had really cool exoskeleton body armor robots. Although, that was a minor difference as well, because in Avatar it was the earthling engineers that developed it, where in District 9 it was the product of the aliens, so advanced and so smart that they quickly evolved into prawns crawling around dumps eating cat food once they met mankind.

At least I have a new bottom feeder for my forced ranking list of movies from my list of 17 movies to see before the Oscars, which is good because I liked Julie and Julia, and I kept feeling bad for it being on the bottom; however, I'm very comfortable with District 9 taking that role over.

1. The Hurt Locker
2. Inglorious Basterds
3. Precious
4. (500) Days of Summer
5. Up in the Air
6. Up
7. Star Trek
8. Avatar
9. Julie and Julia
> District 9

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  • Did you agree with the critics and like it more than I did?
  • What's been your favorite movie leading up to the Oscars?
  • What do you still want to see before the Oscars?

Leave your comments and views in the comments section.

February 17, 2010

Measuring Learner Emotional Reactions

Campbell Soup has invested the last 2 years studying what customers want by conducting focus groups at the neurological level. Think of it as part packaging design, part consumer survey, and part "Lie to Me." After years of traditional research techniques, they came to the same conclusion as many retailers, "Buyers are liars" meaning that the answers customers gave in surveys didn't correlate to more sales.

This new scientific approach measures customer biometrics for emotional responses hoping to discover key triggers that actually translate into more soup being sold.



This innovative plan of attack got me thinking. What if you could do the same type of examination with learners in the classroom? Could you shape training and content to make it more sticky and to make learning more effective?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  • Do you think this "Neuromarketing" will lead to an increase in sales?
  • Could you use the same methodology in understanding how learners take in information?
  • If so, how would you structure such a study? What would you hope to learn?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

February 11, 2010

OSCAR NIGHT PREP | "The Hurt Locker"

The next check mark on my list of 17 movies to see before Oscar night was "The Hurt Locker." The film gave a very intimate (almost too close) ride-along experience with an elite Army bomb squad team in Baghdad. This three-man unit gets called in to defuse IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises). When the new sergeant takes over the leadership of the group, you see how they adjust to some awkward team dynamics while at the same time making several life and death decisions. Their role is a constant balance of being either too cautious or too risky.

One scene in particular provides a better case study in leadership than the old army classic "Twelve O'Clock High." When a young specialists asks his "boss" whether he should shoot or not, his sergeant simply replies "It's your call buddy."

Shot in a documentary style with authentic Middle East scenes, it's a powerful plot with genuine characters. It's too early to call, but right now, I'm pulling for Best Picture and Best Director, and it takes the number one spot on my forced-ranking list:

> The Hurt Locker
1. Inglorious Basterds
2. Precious
3. (500) Days of Summer
4. Up in the Air
5. Up
6. Star Trek
7. Avatar
8. Julie and Julia

Which movies have you seen so far? What's your ranking?

February 10, 2010

OSCAR NIGHT PREP | "Precious"

The next film from my list of 17 movies to see before Oscar night was Precious. It's a modern-day Job story where instead of a pious and prosperous man with every thing to lose, the tests of long painful suffering focuses on a poor, illiterate teenage mother of two with nothing left to lose. What I love about this tale is how Precious chooses to respond to her awful circumstances.

When she shows up to her first day of learning at a new alternative school, she asks what an alternative school is. The administrator says that it's another option for education. It's a choice. Precious serves as captivating example of how to make alternative decisions.

Mo'Nique was incredible as an absolutely horrific mother. I'm rooting for her for Best Supporting Actress. It's a stirring story that's well worth the pain. Just make sure you bring plenty of tissues.

Here's my latest ranking:
1. Inglorious Basterds
> Precious
2. (500) Days of Summer
3. Up in the Air
4. Up
5. Star Trek
6. Avatar
7. Julie and Julia

Which movies have you seen so far? What's your ranking?

January 31, 2010

OSCAR NIGHT PREP | "Up in the Air"

The first title to get crossed off my list of 17 movies to see before the Oscars was "Up in the Air." George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate lay-off professional. He flies in, sets up in a conference room, delivers the bad news, and sends ex-employees on their way. He also delivers motivational talks on the side encouraging participants not to get bogged down by the "baggage" of their lives with his "What's in your backpack?" seminars.

His own career starts to travel towards elimination once a new, young executive proposes to take their company of transition specialist "Glocal" by making their global presence more local. Instead of traveling many miles to lay off workers, Bingham and his peers can simply phone it in by Skyping the "You're fired" message. Bingham's road warrior way of life with his empty backpack is in serious jeopardy.

Along the way, Bingham begins to appreciate the value of connections in his life as he attends his sister's wedding with a woman he's allowed to enter his "backpack." But fortunately, like an airplane barreling down the tarmac for take off, the movie manages to pull up just in enough time to avoid the sappy love story at the end of the runway. Add in a dash of quirkiness, and a heaping of excellent acting, and you've got delightful movie.

So, to meet my compulsive need to rank order everything, here's where "Up in the Air" falls in the list of the six movies I've already seen in my Oscar prep. Better than "Up" for it's superb acting and display of touching emotions, but just under "(500) Days of Summer" which is the better anti-love story of the two.

Here's my latest ranking:
1. Inglorious Basterds
2. (500) Days of Summer
> Up in the Air
3. Up
4. Star Trek
5. Avatar
6. Julie and Julia

Which movies have you seen so far? What's your ranking?

January 27, 2010

January 23, 2010

January 18, 2010

5 Must Reads for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. POST? Share your must reads in the comments section below.

January 17, 2010

What Will You See BEFORE Oscar Night?

Here is Entertainment Weekly's "25 Movies to See Before Oscar Night" which is on March 7. The list is in the order they recommend watching the films just in case you don't make it through them all. I also added the TOMATOMETER score from RottenTomatoes.com after each as another reference point.

1. Up in the Air (90%)
2. Avatar (82%)
3. The Hurt Locker (97%)
4. Precious (91%)
5. Inglourious Basterds (89%)
6. Invictus (77%)
7. An Education (94%)
8. Up (98%)
9. A Serious Man (87%)
10. The Messenger (91%)
11. Julie and Julia (75%)
12. A Single Man (83%)
13. Crazy Heart (83%)
14. The Blind Side (70%)
15. The Last Station (68%)
16. Nine (36%)
17. Star Trek (94%)
18. District 9 (90%)
19. The Fantastic Mr. Fox (93%)
20. The Lovely Bones (37%)
21. (500) Days of Summer (87%)
22. It's Complicated (57%)
23. The Young Victoria (75%)
24. Bright Star (83%)
25. The Informant (77%)

So far, I've only seen six of the movies on this list: Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Up, Julie and Julia, Star Trek, and (500) Days of Summer. I have no intention of viewing two of the films: Nine and Lovely Bones. That leaves 17 major motion pictures for me to watch before March 7.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Which movies have you seen? Which ones do you feel need to be added to this list? Which ones do you plan to watch? Feel free to copy the above list and post in your blog with your reviews and Oscar game plans. Leave an overview and a link to your post in the comment sections below.

January 9, 2010

LEARNING IN 2010 | 3 Valuable Resources

10 WAYS TO LEARN IN 2010 > from eLearning Coach this is a list of specific and concrete ways to play to various learning styles with 41 links to incredible resources.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2010 > eLearn Magazine collected predictions from 29 industry leaders. There are a few contradicting trends (what kind of impact will Google Wave have), but all are thought provoking. My favorite is "Use it or Lose it." What's yours?

SHAPING VS MODELING
> This post is from 2006, but I think Harold Jarche's point still offers guidance for effective learning in the year ahead. What can we do to include more doing and less telling. Or as Elvis would say, "A little less conversation, a little more action please."

January 6, 2010

When LPT Nerds Decorate

Here's a true sign of a Learning and Performance Technology Nerd, Christmas decoration job aids. For years, I was relearning the best way to display and arrange our Christmas decorations all over again after Thanksgiving. So a couple of years ago, I got the idea to create a few holiday decor job aids. I made myself a few notes, stuck them in the boxes we pack away in the attic for 11 months, and then when it's time to pull them out and put them back up... Viola! It's just-in-time learning.

I know; it's a sickness. But in fairness, my grandfather, who was an engineer by trade, would cut branches off his Christmas trees and rearrange them in holes he would drill in the trunk to help the tree look more symmetrical. Where others see compulsions, we Chandlers simply see the continual practice for our craft.

For now, I've packed my festive job aids away until next year. But in the meantime, I've developed another very practical job aid for my home life. The problem was I would often forget how long I had been wearing my extended wear contacts. I usually took them out on a Saturday and put new ones in on a Sunday, but I couldn't remember if it had been one, two (the recommended amount of time), three, or sometimes four weeks; and now, I have new contacts that last 30 days. I quickly realized the need for performance improvement.

I could jot the date in a journal or in my calendar, but I usually don't have those by my bathroom sink where I change my contacts. Then it hit me. I've recently discover how versatile dry erase markers can be. They work great on a number of surfaces, vanity mirrors being one of them. I simply write the date I put the contacts in on the upper corner of my mirror and know exactly how long my contacts have been in. It's like the annoying cling stickers those lube places put on your windshield when they change your oil.

WHAT IDEAS DO YOU HAVE? I would love to read any examples of job aids you use around the house. Leave me a comment.

January 3, 2010

What is the WHY

I'm currently reading "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon. It's an engaging story focusing on two cousins in the late 1930's in New York who are working to break into the comic book industry as artists and writers.

As they begin to brainstorm potential characters for their first big pitch to a publisher, they start by listing superpowers, possible names, and costume designs, until Sammy "experienced a moment of global vision, one which he would afterward come to view as the one undeniable brush against the diaphanous, dollar-colored hem of the Angel of New York to be vouchsafed to him in his lifetime." Here's how Sammy shares his revelation with his cousin Joe:
"The question is why."
"The question is
why," Joe repeated.
"Why is he doing it?"
"Doing what?"
"Dressing up like a monkey or an ice cube or a can of fucking corn."
"To fight the crime, isn't it?"
"Well, yes, to fight crime. To fight evil. But that's all any of these guys are doing. That's as far as they ever go. They just... you know, it's the right thing to do, so they do it. How interesting is that?"
"I see."
"Only Batman, you... see, yeah, that's good. That's what makes Batman good, and not dull at all, even thought he's just a guy who dresses up like a bat and beats people up."
"What is the reason for Batman? The why?"
"His parents were killed see? In cold blood. Right in front of his eyes, when he was a kid. By a robber."
"It's revenge."
"That's
interesting," Sammy said. "See?"
"And he was driven mad."
"Well..."
"And that's why he puts on the bat's clothes."
"Actually, they don't go so far as to say that," Sammy said. "But I guess it's there between the lines."
"So, we need to figure out what is the why."
" 'What is the why,' " Sammy agreed.

They were focused on the wrong starting point. The WHY is much more important than the WHAT or the HOW. Good advice for all creators. What examples do have where you focused on the WHAT or the HOW when you would have been more productive to start with the question WHY? Share your experience in the comments below.