On Michael Bay, and finding the problem before the solution

By now you’ve probably had your fill of social media posts about Michael Bay’s, shall we say, “issue” at CES last week. Allow me just one more viewpoint.

In the days that followed the “issue”, many people noted Bay’s seeming inability to Improvise. And, friends reached out to me to say much of the same and to suggest he take an Improv class so this sort of thing wouldn’t happen again.

Not so fast. 

While I would love it if Michael Bay took an Improv class, I paused at their reaction.

Instinctively it might seem as though Michael Bay doesn’t know how to Improvise and that learning how to would solve the problem.

The same suggestion could be made for other skills like Mindfulness, for example. We could pitch a myriad of solutions to him. But we can’t be sure they will actually help.

We can’t pitch a solution without first finding the problem.  

My knee-jerk assumption used to also be, “Improv will fix this”. But I’ve learned to check some of those assumptions at the door.

As learning and organizational development professionals we need to understand and find the underlying problem, and not just treat the symptom.

A symptom of the larger problem in this particular case might be that Bay can’t Improvise. But, what’s the problem? We can’t be so sure without testing some assumptions and asking more questions.

By not doing so, and simply solving for the symptoms and not the larger issue we’re stopping short of what this work is capable of.

Nine words on leadership and learning

“For the rest of my life, I want to…”

Can you finish the sentence?

This is the question posed by Learning and Leadership expert Kevin Eikenberry, here.

What do you want to learn about for the rest of your life? What holds your attention enough to keep you motivated and interested, especially during tough times?

When you have a clear purpose and strong desire to learn…well, you are unstoppable. And, if you can combine this drive with a constant beginner’s mind…well, you are my hero. These are nine powerful, wonderful, vulnerable words.

Leaders inspire and help others to finish their sentence, or turn it on its head, or keep you out of your comfort zone, who pose more questions instead of answers and who stress the importance of a mission.

Sometimes, nine words are enough.



What’s the drill – August 6: The Four Traits of Learning

Here’s a crazy idea.

What if, instead of pushing learning on people, we find ways to integrate it into their everyday lives? We take an approach to learning that makes it fun, engaging, humor-filled even… one that’s memorable, co-created, and reminds us that our ideas matter.

Recently I watched a speech by a man whose company and mission I am so excited about. In this speech he says:

“Curiosity, creativity, discovery and wonder; they aren’t traits of youth, they’re traits of learning. If you want to feel younger and you want to replicate the conditions of youth, do that.”
Adults are busy, adults are information-saturated. Learning, especially at work, can be viewed as a chore. I believe, the more we can do as educators to provoke curiosity, encourage questions and discovery, add play, humor, fun and exploration, we are encouraging people to not just learn, but to be changed by what they learn.

How to make learning relevant and personal in the emerging workplace

I have a confession that might shock you.  This toolkit that I have here, well, it’s not all online and virtual.

In fact, here’s a picture of my real toolkit….er, toolkits.

It’s filled with articles, book chapters, my curriculum, notes, ideas. Truthfully, it sits in my house taking up space, until I need it. But I feel comfortable knowing it’s there because I created it.

It was a way for me to take a more active, reflective and personal role in my learning journey.  True it’s a lot of information, but to compile it I had to sift through and find what resonated, applied – what mattered to me.

Shouldn’t that be what all learning is about?

In this age of information overload – learning at work needs to be more relevant, personal and applicable than ever – otherwise how can we retain it all?

I often come across professional development opportunities where participants leave with a pre-made binder filled with articles chosen for them, answers filled out, and way too many case studies.

Companies seeking compliance may sleep better knowing the “tools” have been handed off.

But we can do more than just check learning off a list.

We can make learning relevant, personal, and applicable.

Make it easy to digest, give learners the opportunity to control their learning – even ask them to compile their own toolkits.

Information that sticks with you is information you seek out and have a general interest in.

Build the toolkit, feel safe knowing it’s always there to come back to, and give learners the opportunity for autonomy and mastery in order to help them be more engaged.



What’s the drill – May 15: Give your presentation skills a boost

Are you a detail or big-picture person? Do you describe or present information with all of your senses?

One simple exercise changed the way I look at presenting information – and its applications stretch from vision planning, leadership, presentation skills, story, learning retention and more.

It’s an exercise I first learned in an Improvisation class at BATS Improv, and then continued to read about in Kat Koppet’s book, “Training to Imagine”, and then applied to my workshops at DreamWorks Animation.

It’s called, Color/Advance.

Here is a basic example of how it works: Grab a partner and pick one of you to begin describing your day.

At any point, your partner can say, color… or, advance. Color means to add more description to your story – use all of your senses. When your partner says Advance, it is your job to then go back to advancing or continuing the story. Continue to switch back and forth, with the direction given by your partner.

Give your storytelling, imagination, creativity, and presentation skills a boost.

Also use this tool to learn what inspires or interests your audience – see what they want to learn or hear more about.

Color. Or Advance? Why not add both to your toolbox.

The joy of life-long learning

Growing up, my favorite word was “Why”.

Well, truthfully it was also, “baseball”, and probably words relating to boy bands, but I was always a curious person.

I wanted to know why things were the way they were, and this fascination and curiosity has always played a part in every job I’ve had. I was constantly observing, watching, reading and listening. I wanted to know everything – specifically about human behavior.

Especially intriguing was the opportunity to get at the root of an issue, a person, a process, and uncover the meaty reasons why things were the way they were.

There is a beauty to approaching each job, and each experience this way. It allows us all to view everything as a learning opportunity.   I find the same beauty in a growth mindset. If we view ourselves and others as having the ability to constantly change and grow and learn, then the challenges we face aren’t obstacles, they are opportunities. Part of it starts with an open mind.

One of the greatest things about being a Learning and Development professional is that I will never reach the end of my learning. There is always room to grow, and this growth and learning directly benefits others. That is the goal.

I’m off to a 5-day learning adventure in New York and can’t wait to see what I uncover there.

Where have you found your most profound learning experiences?

HR Roundtable: What Hinders Effective Training & Development?

HR Roundtable: What Hinders Effective Training & Development?.

Great read, and even better reminder that humor and storytelling are learning devices that help us retain information.

Three fundamentals of adult learning

One can surmise adults are busier, more stressed, and saturated with more information than ever before.

So, when tasked with creating adult learning initiatives, here are 3 fundamental concepts to keep in mind:

1. Make it matter to them – if you want people to change their behavior, they have to understand what’s in it for them. Make the learning relevant, specific, and directly applicable.

2. Build time for self-learning and self-reflection – Adults don’t like to be told to change their behavior – it is a threat to their status (and one of David Rock’s social triggers). If you want people to change, build interactive learning experiences that lead adults to discover for themselves that change is important, and how they can achieve it personally.

3. I do, we do, you do – If adults have to teach others, they are more likely to do it themselves. Create active (not passive) learning environments and help the learning stick by giving participants responsibility for communicating the learnings to others. Provide adult learners with opportunities to be in charge of their own learnings to build accountability, self-reflection and the new insights and connections that follow.