Anecdotally - September 2007
Date Published: 11-Sep-07
Welcome to the September Anecdote newsletter. It's been a busy but exciting past month. During August we celebrated Anecdote's third birthday and to mark the occasion, Shawn put together a number of short presentations exploring our history. This short history of Anecdote can be found on our blog:
In this edition of the newsletter we have:
* Book review: Understanding Comics
* Technique: Decision Games
* What we're up to
* Productivity Tip: TinyURL
* Breaking News
We hope you enjoy reading it. Feel free to send any comments, insights or feedback you might have.
Regards -- the Anecdote team
Books we're reading...
Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
A couple of years ago now, I read Dan Pink's "A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age". This book had such a big impact on me, inspiring both a number of personal changes and a more recent career change! So when I read Dan's recommendation of Scott McClouds; "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art" as "... one of the best books I've ever read.", I though WOW! that's some sort of recommendation, I've got to see this for myself.
While this book might have been Pink best book, for me that mantel is still held by J.R.R Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'. Nevertheless, 'Understanding Comics' certainly is an extremely interesting look at the strange, and yet somehow familiar world of comics.
The first thing that strikes you is that the book is written as a book-length comic. A brave and innovative approach. Yet it's appealing, and 'walks the walk' in terms of applying his own craft as a means of demonstrating what he's talking about. An amazing experiential form of writing. It's easy to digest, whilst at the same time thought provoking and interesting.
Not only does it explain how comics work but covers off a range of other comic related topics: looking historically at the use of comics as a medium; exploring the different styles and uses of transitions; time and motion and other techniques. McCloud also touches briefly on some weighty philosophical subjects, including the relationship between art and understanding. His look at the pictorial representation used in comics to explain the way that they represent the world and the reader is at first a little mind-boggling, but on further inspection is fascinating.
McCloud's use of a 'map' or triangular model of visual iconography to show the range of iconic abstraction to photographic representation (horizontal axis) and the range of ‘pure’ abstraction to representation (vertical axis) used in comics is useful. The plotting of different types of comics against this map was enlightening as it allows an insight into why artists may have chosen a certain style, and what they are trying to communicate through the art.
McCloud states that his goal in writing the book is to "encourage the reader to consider exploring, or continuing to explore comics on their own." Judged against this criteria, I have no choice but to say that he achieved what he set out to do. He has piqued my curiosity in the comic art form, and rekindled a dormant passion that I had for visual and graphic arts as forms of communication. I'm off to the library to dig out some comic books.
Techniques we're using ...
Decision Games: Developing intuition and problem solving skills through systematic and smart practice.
Meaningful experience improves your intuition by helping you to build patterns and mental models. Real life is experience is hard to beat but sometimes you don’t get the opportunity. And it may be that we can’t afford to learn from our mistakes. Anecdote recently worked on a project for a government department where we used decision games to help new starters get this practice. It is a technique described by Gary Klein in his book “Intuition at Work.”
Decision games help you:
1. Identify and understand the decision requirements of your job
2. Practice the difficult decisions in context; and
3. Review your decision making experience.
Decision games have a name, some background, a narrative description of the scenario itself and usually some sort of visual representation. They are stories that build to a climax and a dilemma. The actual decision is less important than the thinking that goes into it. It’s merely a device to trigger the decision making process and allow the group to talk about it and transfer their knowledge.
A decision game should use a personal experience that focuses on a type of judgement where people are repeatedly struggling. Stories collected from within the organistion are a good basis to build a game upon.
You can play decision games on your own but you lose much of the value gained from group learning. Small groups of six to eight people are ideal. The people in the organisation are the best people to develop the games and Anecdote can help facilitate the game development based on stories collected. Good learning can also come out of the process of constructing the games. You can even run a decision game online in a discussion forum.
You aren't just restricted to asking what decision they would make. You can also ask them what information they would gather, or what questions they would have, or how they would assess the situation. Ask them what problems the might anticipate, or what they would expect to happen in the future or what guidance they would offer. These are all ways people use their intuition.
They can also think about the external and internal forces that might be at work. What are the emotions and perceptions that might have influenced your decision and that might have influenced the behaviour of other scenario protagonists? Then consider what external factors might have influenced your decision and the behaviour of others in the scenario.
Here is an example of a decision game we used on our recent project.
-Giving someone a lift-
You have recently joined a government agency. The department was keen to employ you in this regional role because you will be able to work closely with the locals and form an effective link with the department. You have taken on a role as a project officer and will be helping, among other things, to organise job fairs in regional Victoria.
Two weeks ago your supervisor called you into her office and told you that you will be attending two job fairs, one in Bairnsdale and the other in Lakes Entrance. Your supervisor says you will need to take a government vehicle and there is one important rule that must be followed: only government employees can travel in the car because of insurance requirements.
Your supervisor has been terrific in getting you up to speed in the department. She really seems to care about your feelings and progress but at the same time it’s clear she is tough but fair.
On the day of the job fair you drive down early to Bairnsdale and the morning is a fabulous event for the department. All of the community is there and you catch up with plenty of people you have known forever and meet many more. You know there are some respected community leaders in town that you must catch up with so you drop in and pay your respects.
At lunchtime you realise you’d better get going to Lakes Entrance and as you start travelling out of town you notice a group of people next to the road. They are hitching tyo Lakes Entrance. They flag you down and ask for lift.
You remember the instructions you were given back by your supervisor.
Take three minutes and determine how you think you should proceed and consider the reasons for your suggestions.
We had heard this story told in the early stage of the project and there were some interesting solutions presented by staff and managers. But when it was presented as a decision game with a mixed group of new starters and experienced staff we were amazed at the variety and number of great new options that were suggested by the group. Experience teaches the biggest lessons and makes the biggest impressions.
What we're up to ...
Consulting Engagements and Projects:
- Aboriginal Staff Induction project for Large Government Department
- Knowledge Strategy program and regional deployment for Government authority
- Evaluation of a systems implementation for a large construction company
- Leadership program for a multinational Pharmaceuticals company
- Business strategy and leadership development for Defence organisation
Upcoming Events that we're running or attending:
- 04-Sep - Anecdote: Narrative Techniques for Knowledge Retention breakfast. Sydney, AU.
- 05-Sep - Anecdote: Narrative Techniques for Knowledge Retention breakfast. Canberra, AU.
- 06-Sep - Anecdote: Narrative Techniques for Knowledge Retention breakfast. Melbourne, AU.
- 19-Sep - Attending Intranet '07 Conference. Sydney, AU.
- 16-19 Sep - Attending AIM Conference, Sydney, AU.
Productivity tips ...
Partly because we're busy, but also as part of our quest for continuous learning and improvement, here at Anecdote, we're always looking for ways to improve our own personal productivity. We thought that we'd share a few tips and tricks ...
Have you ever experienced the frustration of sending a web link (URL) in an email only to realise that it has 'broken' when sent, causing the recipient to have to cut and paste it back together? I have: that was until a friend pointed me towards a simple solution ... tinyUrls.
What is it? Simply, it's a website http://tinyurl.com that enables you to turn a URL that looks like this:
into this tinyURL:
To do this, all that you need to do is copy and paste the long URL from your browser into a box on the tinyURL website and hit a button.
You can then copy and paste the tinyURL into your email. This URL will not break and never expires, meaning that the URL can be accessed at any time in the future, or can be re-used.
A simple solution that works well.
Breaking News ...
Last week we delivered our Narrative Techniques for Knowledge Retention seminars to audiences in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. We had some great conversations, shared our ideas and also learnt a lot.
Knowledge retention is certainly a big issue that many organisations face, not only in the coming years with the 'baby boomers' leaving the workforce, but also in the more immediately future. With today's employees constantly on the move and a high churn rate in the labor market new types of employee-employer relationships are created. Business is now complex, interconnected, messy and unpredictable.
New approaches and different ways of working together will be required to deal with this. That's why narrative techniques - stories and intuition - should play an important role in organisations knowledge retention strategy, particularly in the key area of transfering knowledge. Why? Because narrative techniques are a great way to get a handle on this messiness. Listening and working with the stories people are telling in your organisation delivers facts in context with emotion, and carry with them some of the messiness inherent in the business environment. We've shared a couple of videos on our blog of our client, Arthur Shelley from Cadbury Schweppes, talking about how knowledge has been lost, shared and recovered in his organisation, which illustrate the power of narrative.
If you'd like to know more about our approach to knowledge retention or if you're interested in attending a seminar on this topic in the near future, send an email to: email@example.com.
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