Monday, May 27, 2013

Use your imagination

We discussed this last week at a training session. The objective of the session was to imagine any object as any other object and engage with the object completely. So, I first picked a bench and imagined it to be a bicycle. Then I picked up a bag and pretended it to be a book. And then a steel tumbler as a phone and so on.

In the discussion that ensued, the takeaway was not that, we believe that the tumbler is a phone, but the fact as an actor one has to make the audience believe that the tumbler is a phone. The actor who cries in a crying scene is not as good as the actor who makes the audience cry in the crying scene.

And that led to the story that children find more joy in their imagination than in an actual toy. The process of making the toy builds up the imagination that is far more rewarding then mere ‘unboxing’. So, a cardboard quiver made of cardboard, double sided tape, a satin ribbon is far more fun than a plastic quiver. The cardboard quiver has decorations, names, colour all customized to the childs liking (and not an adults liking) and they are doubly proud of the fact that they made it.

For a child that imagination is the bigger part than the toy. Likewise, for an actor on stage, one does far more with imagination (and making the audience believe in that imagination) than with actual props.

Learning Martial Arts

Actually the title is a misnomer. You can substitute Martial Arts with just about anything. But let us stick to martial arts for now. How does one learn martial arts?

First you need a master. Second, you need to be physically conditioned to learn. You cannot get up one fine morning and decide to learn martial arts. Well, you can, as long you know that you are committed to it. Third you need to be committed. Fourth, you need discipline. Fifth, you need to unlearn.

And unlearning might be the biggest hurdle to learning. 

Unlearn to look the person in the eye. Unlearn turning away your body when you are fighting or sparring. Unlearn using your technique rather than your instinct and then make that technique your instinct. Unlearn not to rest when you are in training. Unlearn to keep those hands up, keep the guard up. Unlearn to react and learn to drive the direction of the fight...

Unless you do this, it is not possible to learn. Rather all the techniques they teach you is focussed on getting you to unlearn these and learn the others.

And how does that happen. In a nutshell - practice. Practice by yourself. Practice with a mirror. Practice with bags. Practice in sparring. Practice in scrimmages. Practice with self awareness. Practice. Practice. Practice. There is no damn shortcut to learning something like this. And it does not happen in an instant.

It takes time, effort and lots of commitment.

And why is this important here. Read through this when you want to see a change in behaviour or culture or knowledge. Unless you create an environment where one can practice safely, that change wont happen. Unless it is sustained both at "class" and "away" it wont happen!

(And how do I know this. What qualifies me to say so? Because sometime over the last couple of years, I learnt from the good folks at ICSA. And the entire process of learning with self awareness has been meditative, to say the least.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Branding in a crowded space

The apps market is a pretty crowded place. Anyone who has searched the iOS store or the Google Play store will tell you that is quite tough to cut through the clutter despite the best efforts of the designers. Yet, in this space, over all these years, there are brands.

As usual, we were trawling through the app store on what we could download – looking  for that mix of cost and space and entertainment that can be branded as education enough to be ‘marketed’ and ‘justified’ and then made available to the kids. And then, all of a sudden, the little one says, Chillingo – they make good apps. They made Cut the Rope. Endless Road is also nice – therefore this (whatever we were looking at) must be nice. So, we googled, read through the Chillingo site and promptly downloaded whatever they had to offer.

And then after a moments reflection, “even Half-Brick is good – they made Jetpack Joyride and Fruit Ninja”.

Now who said, making space in a digital store is impossible? Of course, it is tough, but not impossible. If you can create an impression in a place like this, what makes it unable for us to create space for ourselves in any arena we choose?

So what gives? How does one get there? Taking a leaf from those apps – and this is my list, it probably means:

·         Coolness - Consistency of ‘wow’ moments (the games are different each time, yet I can have fun)
·         Ease of engagement -Intuitive (ease of play)
·         Value for money (or else appa wont download)
·         Great design (that makes the users ‘feel’ each time)
·         Challenges that make one want ‘more’ (basically delivering more each time)

Some lessons for personal branding there…

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Solutions or Challenges?

Recently we downloaded this game – Pudding Masters and we have been having fun playing it. The game is unique in the sense of its ‘money making ‘ model.

Traditionally, most apps offer a 'freemium' model – where one gets a few levels free – and we pay for the rest of the levels. The Angry Birds and Cut the Rope app fall in this category.

Then there are those who offer in-app purchases like some random thing like a jetpack or gold coins or bananas or some such thing to make progress inside the app better.

Pudding monster (like Push Cars before it - though Push cars does both) sells solutions.

The question I have in my mind – is it easier to sell 'solutions' or 'challenges’?

For a person like me, buying a solution is an ‘ego’ issue – I would rather do it myself whereas the challenge of unlocking newer levels is more amenable to my ‘ego’. I personally feel that selling ‘challenges’ works better than selling ‘solutions’ at an app level. But keep in mind that everybody is into selling 'challenges' and the audience profile of Pudding Masters is children who probably want 'solutions'.

But wearing a learning hat – what would work? Solutions or Levels? I am inclined to think it is the latter, but who can say, perhaps it is a different level of thinking!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Creating an immersive learning experience

Over the last few weeks, while working on creation of various learning workshops, I think I am in a position to formulate the thumb rules of creating an immersive learning experience.

a) Create original content
b) Touch different learning styles
c) Use metaphors both as examples, but also as activities
d) Connect, ruthlessly and relentlessly to the work
e) Bring in a 'lateral' learning experience
f) Ask, ask, ask. Tell little.
g) Share your passion on the subject (corollary: let your trainer have passion on the subject)
h) Create a 'learning atmosphere' in the room
i) Create competition
j) Get people to work in groups

Developing thought...

On Training Content

Over the last few months, I have been busy creating learning courses, attending some courses and watching people teach - this will continue to be a big part of my own learing and I strongly suspect that what I have seen so far is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. And this has led to some interesting thoughts in my head.

One is that, I dont think we emphasize enough on getting content right. Content has to fine tuned every now and then to
a) meet the needs of the audience
b) to reflect contemporary reality and research
c) updated with relevant pedagogy.

I have found trainers sheltering under the argument that goes that fundamental stuff does not change, hence our course does not need to be updated. But that is a fallacious argument. The underlying content may not change, but the language has to reflect the reality. For example, if you are showing a video in which the conversation and look and feel is distinctly 1990, the language used and the settings are a distraction from getting a thorough learning experience. On the other hand, if your content is up to date, the learners definitely have a better experience than the case mentioned before that. So, as a trainer choose what you want the audience to experience. A feel that you have not updated the content since Halley last visited or if they feel that you have respected their time/industry/work profile and made changes to the content.

Second, I saw a trainer using an old powerpoint slide with some atrocious formatting. Sure, he was facilitating a technical course, but even a technical course can be taught with so much passion  - and surely that passion can be reflected in the way your material appears? And surely you have read those 'Headfirst' that are a far cry away from those old text books?

Your training content reflects the passion with which you have put it together. It is not about slapping a few slides together. It is way more than that. If you see it from another perspective, it is all about curating content - getting stuff that excites your learners. Anything less than that is an injustice to those who spend their time in your class.