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Posts Tagged ‘communications’

I’ve heard it said that change begins by asking questions.

Some early questions may just involve assessing what reactions to a shift may be likely, and why.

Say communications has just become more formal and emphasized. Perhaps there is an instance of someone implementing their own outreach, or another of someone disparaging the aspirations.

Probe and you may find the first person simply didn’t know who to turn to and found it easier to just do it themselves, while the second person tends to strive for new accomplishments and is forestalling dashed expectations.

It’s helpful to recall that different people have different motivations, based on what matters to them.  Since most people are generally just trying to take care of themselves, anticipate a range of reactions.

Culture matters

Your assessment will suggest how to mold and shape the environment to reinforce desired behavior, such as these steps:

  • Link the change to values expressed by the prevailing culture
  • Enlist influential champions to demonstrate support, and
  • Look for chances for a respected leader to mention the new priorities

A soft touch may engender less resistance, and repeated exposure to the idea can help “socialize” it.   Altogether, such measures help percolate the change throughout the organization.

Meanwhile, in individual contacts, ask  questions. That allows people to consider alternatives and shift their position without feeling pressured, as well as providing time to adjust.

There are typically three reactions to new developments. About 10 percent of folks have a propensity to take a negative view. Another 10 percent seize opportunities. The remaining 80 percent are relatively neutral and open-minded.

Emotions behind those reactions must be acknowledged before new information can be absorbed. A few folks will resist out of fear. A few will embrace change early on. Many others will be somewhere in the middle, slightly confused or uncertain.

Recognize the temporary discomfort change causes, and then provide avenues for discussion. This phase could be compared to the hashing-out that occurs during political campaigns, say, by holding a debate prior to people casting a vote.

Use existing channels and new ones, such as dedicated Q&A sessions and email.

People will begin looking for concrete information, such as an explanation of how decisions are being made, the timetable and rationale.

Next: Facing naysayers

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I ran into an acquaintance the other day, Tamara Helfer, who said she is teaching computer animation to fifth-graders. I was fascinated that students that young could master something so complicated. I discovered her spark of inspiration has led to about 200 kids learning everything from lacrosse to Spanish – all in voluntary programs that didn’t exist two years ago.

Her instruction springs from a drop-and-drag program created to teach college students computer programming basics. Being able to offer an afterschool club took her several months of building support through enthusiasm and perseverance at her sons’ magnet school, Sequoia Elementary. Due to drawing carpooling students from all over the district, the school  had been believed to be unsuited for afterschool enrichment  programs.

Now fully a third of the students from the elementary school participate in one afternoon program or another, organized by an enthusiastic parent committee, and she earns a small stipend.

When she started, the school had just opened a lab with 34 new computers. By the second week of her new Imaginary Worlds club, there were 49 students clustered around to learn creative expression through computer science.

On an afternoon visit this spring, students were listening quietly to her brief lesson about modifying graphics. For the next hour, they broke into small groups or worked individually on animated stories – displaying a minimum of distraction after having already spent a full day at their strict back-to-basics school.

My friend moved between groups, guiding the students to come up with solutions. They needed to complete projects in the remaining few weeks left so their work could be screened for the school community.

The first awards night took place during a heat spell in a room with no air conditioning. The multiuse room was packed all the same. Addressing the families present, the volunteer instructor spontaneously remarked she wanted the students, particularly girls, to remember what they have shown they can do.

This software that creates short, animated 3-D stories, Alice, was created at Carnegie Mellon. Its simple drag-and-drop approach ensures a beginner programmer’s instructions will run without syntax errors. (For her thesis, doctoral student Caitlyn Kelleher subsequently created Storytelling Alice, with images that are meant to motivate a broad spectrum of students, particularly girls, to engage in introductory computer science.)

Tamara said afterwards she was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the project, since it could appeal to both kids who like programming and others who like storytelling.  Her pursuit of the project was inspired by the Last Lecture delivered by Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch. (His group helped create the original Alice software.) She sees value in having the students learn logic, and realizes they are excited and fearless because they have grown up playing with computers and electronic games.

I can imagine these kids moving into a future where they operate at ease with multimedia content, perhaps though using simple software services processed in a cloud computing environment.

In a sense, embarking on the bridge to get there can begin as simply as child’s play, much as someone — like her — who recently instructed teachers about cosmology may once have tinkered with a pinhole camera as a child, using an old shoe box to watch a solar eclipse, and fanning an early fascination with discovery in the process.

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I’ve been busy helping an interactive agency reengineer some processes and keeping track of our evolving field.

One of the advantages of living in the Silicon Valley area is hearing from experts here. The other night I attended an event at the Computer History Museum (which, coincidentally, my friend’s in-law runs).

The invitation-only event provided a future scan, and was put on by technology recruiter Dice as it gears up a new social-network interface.

Harry McCracken, called the #1 techie-to-follow on Twitter, obligingly ran down a list of his educated hunches about what’s in store:

1) Mobile (one of my faves) – the new third-generation standard, Long Term Evolution, or LTE, is billed to allow seamless access to any multimedia content anywhere with quicker, more efficient transmission. LTE will start to matter toward the end of next year and require new devices
2) ePaper will become more flexible and interactive with improved battery life to boot.
3) 3-D is coming to TV with some channels becoming completely 3-D. Although there are no standards yet, some gaming console software is written with 3-D in mind.
4) Fuel cells may appear in conjunction with consumer electronics in five years or so. Toshiba has an external charger now. Imagine a laptop operating with on-board power for 40 hours . . .
5) Augmented reality, which overlays the real world with digital information, is also imminently spreading. For instance, Yelp, where consumers review businesses, can potentially add GPS data to overwrite the physical information in front of you. One application for layering the web over the physical world? A full-size keyboard projected from a phone.
6) The cloud – data will live online to be accessible from anywhere
7) Wireless power, like the Palm Pre uses with inductive charging. In about 10 years, perhaps a laptop inside a case near a recharging station could recharge without physical contact.
And last, #8: Voice recognition will be possible with advances in computational power, Now it requires sending the information to a server – with Nexis One, emails can be dictated . . .

Other insights for future posts!

In keeping with closing with an observation, one mixed-up usage of language I somehow recall fondly was seeing a writer inadvertently write about “fermenting” revolution instead of “fomenting”. The phrase did paint a dynamic mental picture!

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