Thursday, August 20, 2009

Spreading the Wealth

Knowledge is an asset which appreciates when shared...

Too often in large organizations the knowledge and expertise of our best people only gets shared with small circles of employees or gets lost in a procession of 'once and gone' learning events. We aren't as good as we could be at capturing, archiving and reusing critical knowledge from our 'stars'.

How do we normally learn in large organizations?

A) we attend multi-day training and eat wraps with strangers
B) we listen to talking heads bloviate about why they're terrific
C) we log onto web-based learning that takes hours to finish
D) we get a wake up call or a kick in the pants from the boss

A, B and C all have value but D can be very effective - it's short, wrapped in colorful commentary, and memorable for life.

The common misconception about corporate learning is that it has to be long to be good. Yet what if you tapped into your best brains and 'pro from Dover' experts and captured their thoughts in bite-sized video learning nuggets for publication and use on your intranet? What if you didn't give it a real fancy name like The Center for Advanced Professional Development?

Try something simple like "How To Do Stuff Around Here".

Examples long and short abound in cyberspace. has a video B-School on their website where they have professors from University of Chicago and Insead and other leading schools opine on a variety of management and leadership topics. YouTube has something called Expert Village (now E-How) where you can see hundreds of video tutorials like a guy on his apartment webcam teaching you how to play guitar. MIT has 'open courseware'. You can go online for free and see teaching legends like Walter Lewin on a swing in front of his physics class in Cambridge demonstrating a pendulum.

My all-time favorite though is an oldie called Red on Roundball.

Red Auerbach, the legendary basketball coach of the Boston Celtics, gathered the leading NBA stars of his day and filmed them demonstrating key techniques to help kids become better basketball players. Just go on You Tube and watch Red and 'Pistol Pete' Maravich show you the art of passing the basketball. The entire clip is 4:27.

Now, imagine a Red on Roundball-type video series in your shop featuring your best players talking about business basics and simple stuff like how to run a meeting or cold call a prospect or cut NPE costs. Here's an example of a useful topic...

Even top executives get agita when they go before the firm's executive committee or board of directors. What if you had a 4:27 video of your CEO saying, "here are 3 things we like to see in presentations and 3 things that drive us up the wall". Think of the anticipatory anxiety that could be relieved with that tutorial.

If you do these video learning nuggets, a few suggestions:

- Don't put your stars in what I call the "stiff in the studio" setting. Get them in more natural settings where they can just look into the camera and talk.

- Don't restrict 'stars' to the usual suspects. You have talent up and down your organization around the world. What if a 'star' executive assistant in London or Mumbai did a 4:27 tutorial titled "Getting Past the Gatekeeper". Wouldn't your people love to know how to do that when calling clients and prospects?

- Think about asking favorite coaches (like me) to add a clip on a key topic or ask clients to contribute. What if a top client did a clip called "worst sales pitches I've ever sat through and why they stunk". Your salespeople might eat it up.

- Keep them short. Under 10 minutes - maybe under 5. It's not a boring slide show. It's a tip on "how to do stuff around here."

A few reasons why this makes sense.

It's cheap - a few smart employees, a camcorder, a list of 'stars' to film and a set of topics to cover is all you need to get started.

It's global - once it's done, it's out there on your intranet for everyone to use and reuse. Simple repeatable messages from your in-house experts all over the world.

It's yours - you can brand it for your company and best of all, your people are the stars of the show as they get to show off their talent for the whole organization.

The days of the big magilla development experiences are fading because they're too costly, too cumbersome and the learning doesn't always stick past the last cocktail hour with the faculty.

Save a little money and spread the wealth.

Unleash your 'brains on board'.

If you need help email me at

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