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Ann Augustine

Ann's Collaboration Tools Blog

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Two Heads are Better Than One: From Sesame Street to Shared Leadership

Saturday May 31, 2014

Sesame Street Workshop: Research Model of Collaboration
We learn about collaboration at a young age. Class projects, group discussions, and Sesame Street give us many ideas and make reference to why two heads are better than one. (See Youtube video of Herry singing a song for the Two-Headed Monster).

In contemporary times, the discussion of shared leadership in education is drawing attention to how co-principals in Essex, England have made shared executive authority work in the high school environment.  Read also, Nick Morrison on Forbes, "Two Heads are Better Than One: A Model of Shared Leadership." Morrison presents the case for shared leadership, perhaps in government and business, to invigorate leadership and make better decisions.

It is hard to imagine a world without team work and collaboration, even among the leaders of an organization. In fact, the framework of a collaborative culture that embraces the concepts of sharing must be far-reaching in every aspect. Read Creating a Culture Statement of Leadership, Values, and Collaboration.

In the coming years, more opportunities for collaborations will advance research, lead nations, and teach our children through experimental approaches that will tell the story as it unfolds. Co-founder of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney, in 1968 said, "We want to emphasize the Children's Television Workshop is an experiment."

Today, Sesame Street is in over 150 countries internationally offering a research model of collaboration--to borrow the words of the Sesame Workshop, " to crack the code of learning."

Photo copyright Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment

Gear Up Web Conferencing Tools for Social Learning

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Gear Up Your Web Conferencing Tools and Skills

Schools and business organizations will find the means to gear up web conferencing tools. When users need to acquire knowledge at the rapid pace of technological and economic change, the motivation should signal consideration of alternative learning methods. Social learning coupled with the right technology will provide readily acceptable solutions.

Social Learning

Social learning, that is learning in a social context, through specialized groups, can accelerate the desirable knowledge that people need. Engineers, sales professionals, and even student learning can utilize alternative formats like book discussion clubs or lunch and learn programs that create a platform for learning. Web conferencing, with video and voice have the advantage to include people across geographic boundaries and time zones.

Read about open content platforms in Creating Your Own Social Learning Experience

Facilitator Techniques

My interview with Cindy Clay, CEO of Netspeed Learning Solutions, offers insightful facilitator techniques for trainers, sales executives, and even college professors. Ms. Clay provides examples of building rapport for better engagement. What is the favorite tool for keeping everyone's attention?

Read about facilitated training styles in Building Great Webinar and Training Formats.

Web Conferencing Software

Choices for web conferencing tools can often stump even tech savvy facilitators and meeting hosts. Online meetings can be set up in minutes as online presence of your group is detected.  Hosting a group discussion, or working lunch can now fill the gap to help busy people stay on top of learning new products.

Read about some of the best web conferencing software and examples in Hosting Webinars, eLearning, and Online Meetings.

Photo Copyright Stone/Getty Images

Resourceful Ideas for Our Changing World of Work

Friday May 23, 2014

Saba Software published a thought-provoking video that poses challenges in the changing world of work.

These statements from the video could make you think:

"Half of what a student learns in the first year of college is outdated by their third year."

"This means we must be constantly training people for jobs that do not exist, using technologies that haven't been invented yet, to solve problems we don't even know we have."

"Organizations without a continuous commitment to learning will be left behind."

The first statement is based on the forecast that the amount of technical information people produce doubles every two years. What can we do to keep up?

Collaboration is the place to start in knowledge sharing and ongoing learning in schools and the workplace. I talked with Babak Salimi, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Saba who offered resourceful programming ideas for customers using virtual classrooms and training (see Saba's Collaboration Suite for review and case studies) that have turned into remarkable cost savings.

In the early stages of working in groups, note taking apps have the potential to transform how users share knowledge as it is collected and fleshed out (see Note Taking Apps to Share Great Notes Anywhere). Imagine these endless possibilities for resources through the power of collaboration.

Starting a Technology User Group

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Starting a Technology User Group

Software technology, like @mentions can get frustrating if you're not sure how to use the @username technology. The technology term is actually called user tagging, which is especially helpful in social media. Can you imagine there is software you have not even discovered that may benefit you in your day-to-day work?

A great friend of mine is starting an informal technology user group with family members and colleagues like me who want to learn about new applications for work and personal use. Think about it. Everyone can contribute knowledge, at the same time, your desire to share how you use technology will surely benefit others.

Technology is cool and fun to use. Consider students' access to technologies--the integration of communication and collaboration technologies, including voice, video, document sharing, and conferencing tools are becoming the norm (see Students Learn from Old to Use New Social Technologies).

My concern, really, is how companies overcome the hurdles of usability, as new and improved software products come on the market. There is growing interest in cloud services and making software easier to use while growing people connections (see SharePoint Online Has Its Advantages) is invaluable in business.

My recommended approach is to continue discovering ways to improve how you work and share what you know. Here are some resources and ideas for user groups.

  • Work or Community User Group: Microsoft provides a user guide for starting a user group. You don't have to be using Microsoft products to access this information.
  • Company Users' Business Meeting: Another friend hosts weekly business meetings to cultivate in-house technology usage. Co-workers can inspire team collaboration, and unify around the company's technology tools either through a similar business meeting format or lunch-and-learn session.
  • Technology Professional User Group: Microsoft User Group Support Services is a partner organization comprised of several user groups that you can access to find technology specific user groups in your area.
  • Special Interest User Group: Learn from others who have started user groups that focus on specific areas of interest, whether your meetings are conducted online or in person. These online group examples can give you some ideas, including public social networking sites also to take advantage of.

Also, you may take an informal approach to share better technologies and how you apply them. Starting a technology user group with family and friends anywhere is a fun challenge that provides unlimited possibilities.

Image copyright Crowther & Carter/Getty Images

TGIF: The Finer Details of Project Tracking and Reporting

Friday May 16, 2014

Project Tracking and Reporting

As Friday rolls around, are you reminded of a status report due? Of course we're thinking of the weekend, but we still have work to do.

Our software developers covered here have added finer details of project tracking and reporting:

  • time recording on tasks
  • percent probability of on-time finish
  • audit trail and reporting

These project management tools can help you forecast resource needs, track time on tasks, and complete projects on time. Now that sounds like we'll get that personal time we're after.

Time Recording on Tasks: An accurate account of time spent on tasks for billing is a requirement for client work. Besides, don't you want to know how you spend your time every day? Asana, the project collaboration tool, partnered with Harvest, a reputable time tracking app that integrates in any given task that you're working on. For Asana's announcement, read:  Time Tracking in Asana with Harvest.

Read also: Asana Emphasizes Productivity and Adaptable Workflow to Get Stuff Done

Percent Probability of On Time Finish: Endless project tracking is the order of the day for project managers. But project managers have a new feature in Binfire's cloud-based project management tool to help keep an eye on the target. The project manager's dashboard now gives you stats on the percent probability of the project's chance of finishing on time. For Binfire's announcement, read: A New Kind of Project Management Software.

Read also: Binfire's Newest Project Dashboards Geared for Novice and Experienced PMs

Audit Trail and Reporting: What if you could forecast support needs before they occur? Clinked, the social collaboration tool, released a new audit trail and reporting feature that enables you to identify trends and allocate resources. For Clinked's announcement, read: Keep Track of Content That Matters.

Read also: Clinked's Wiki Style Project Collaboration

Photo copyright Oll Kellet/Getty Images

Learning Appreciative Inquiry to Focus on What Works Well

Monday May 12, 2014

Professor John Hayes of Leeds Business School, UK spread his positive message on appreciative inquiryYoutube about appreciative inquiry, a technique that focuses on what is working well in our relationships, the workplace, and life in general.

Why is appreciative inquiry relevant in collaboration?

"By viewing the world more positively we can try and identify opportunities that can be embraced," says Hayes.

Now there is an app for that. Really, you can learn about appreciative inquiry with the app, Embracing Change, created by published author and expert on appreciative inquiry, Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, and developed by Polymash, Inc. Read: Embracing Change App Helps Discover Your Strengths.

My new team building exercise with Buck and Able, two fictitious characters, focuses on the pitfalls of working from home. As many of us share similar experiences, learning appreciative inquiry will surely help to focus on what works well.

Try appreciative inquiry in your organization to discover what is the best and why, and then explore the possibilities of amplifying the best, says Professor Hayes.

Image copyright Flying Colours Ltd./Getty Images

Teaming – the New Dynamic of Organizational Learning

Wednesday May 7, 2014

Collaborative systems have a new engine, teaming that is driving new capabilities in an era of economic change.

On Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge website, an excerpt from Harvard professor, Amy C. Edmondson's recently published book offers a glimpse into new leadership concepts. Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy is an authoritative work with explicit examples from several industries of historical precedence and transformation. Edmondson explains,

"Intense competition, rampant unpredictability, and a constant need for innovation are giving rise to even greater interdependence and thus demand even greater levels of collaboration and communication than ever before."

Time constraints and resource dependencies on innovation are compelling reasons for teaming, which is why the core of collaboration tools are designed as such to keep the team connections alive and flourishing.

New online communities are sprouting up to take advantage of the access to organizational resources and as well as the collaborative abilities that will contribute to shared knowledge and community.

In a recent IT Salary Survey in Computerworld, 34 percent of respondents say they want challenging job responsibilities, indicating changing priorities along with quality of life choices.  I would recommend revitalizing static teams then, with the synergies of resourceful and dynamic team members.

Amy C. Edmondson is brilliant in describing organizational learning that will influence new management practices.  The discovery of these new practices will be more ad hoc, however, such as 'learning from doing' and 'improvising' that will depend on people ready to jump right in at any given moment, says Edmondson.

Recommended Reading: Collaboration by Morten T. Hansen

Wednesday April 30, 2014

In Morten T. Hansen's book, Collaboration he suggests leaders misdiagnose the reasons people don't collaborate. He believes the many reasons, like not willing to share for fear of losing power, fall into one of two types of issues, motivational and ability.

Morten Hansen is a master at identifying these barriers or traps, as he refers to them, and sees leaders sometimes implementing the wrong solution.

You may want to browse my  summary review of Hansen's four collaboration barriers across organization units as presented in the book.

He advocates companywide collaboration, not simply teamwork. In fact, Morten Hansen designed a framework for the disciplined collaboration he has attracted so many readers to, that he sums up in one phrase:

"The leadership practice of properly assessing when to collaborate (and when not to) and instilling in people both the willingness and the ability to collaborate when required."

My understanding of Morten Hansen's body of work is that the collaboration goals of the company is not collaboration per se', but rather the focus on better results.

A friend recommended Morten Hansen's Collaboration, and now I am recommending it to my readers. When you're finished reading Collaboration, you may want to read these summary profiles of well-known experts who show us how to accomplish more with others than anyone can ever do alone.

My review of the collaboration assessment tool co-developed by Aberdeen Group and IBM can help your organization see collaboration strategies that may need assessment.  It is important to realize the consequences that may cause your company to miss opportunities.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone to Be More Productive

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Staying nimble and quick to manage tasksToday's business world is so fast paced, how do you keep up with today's tasks? Staying nimble to manage tasks is one approach.  Step out of your comfort zone to be more productive and see what happens.

Take for example, small business represents over 70 percent of the U.S. economy. In conversations with different people everyday, I have found many people shy away from project management tools, especially when it comes to managing tasks.

To overcome the hurdles of doing new things, I cultivated a list of five intricate ways to manage tasks for your flow of work that will benefit how you  manage any size project. And you may want to spend a few minutes everyday tracking your time, using time tracking apps, if only to see where the gaps are in your day.

Most recently I prepared a list of  7 productivity tips to help you be more productive and to help you accomplish almost anything.

Lastly, don't be stalked by the unexpected. Think agile!

Image copyright Manoj Shah/Getty Images

The Magic of Templates

Friday April 25, 2014

Collaboration tools, especially the templates they contain, leave much to the imagination.

Customizing templates provide an outstanding foundation to build on for your documentation project. In Google Sites, we created a project wiki using a template. For the Recipe Wiki Club, we also used a template.

For our next group project, I created a fictitious company, Pink Manufacturing, Inc whose product line, Pink Putty is illustrated in the tutorial, 5 Quick Steps to Make Group Documentation Projects Easier with tips in Office 365.

Templates will give you a springboard to work easier and faster. Remember to research and customize templates for your company's unique needs.

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