Archive for August, 2008

Disrupting Class. How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn & Curtis Johnson.

A kindergarten classroom in Afghanistan.Image via Wikipedia

Disrupting Class.  How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn & Curtis Johnson. 2008 ISBN 9780071592062.  Rocket Builders most influential author, Christensen,  with his co authors has taken his theory of disruptive innovation and focused on the education sector.  The authors do not lay blame but with Christensen’s laser sharp analysis,  peel back all the root causes of public perception and changing goal posts for education and what it has done to the institution over time.  He then goes on to explain how classic disruption theory – which starts with non consumers and then slowly moves up the competency level as the incumbents are forced to retreat to higher value activities is already progressing in education. He predicts that by 2020, disruptive innovation will hit that 50% mark to turn the tables on other methods (monolithic education in this case) .  They show how trying to bring the disruption inside present institutions can not succeed due to the constraints that are already in place.  His statements ring true as we have seen the impact of disruption on public and private sector already.

Since his team always does their homework, you are exposed to fascinating research on the impact of verbalization on new borns up to 3 years old. They explain how that is an academic headstart any parent can give their child now.  He posits that early kindergarten (after 3 yrs old) and other high priced interventions are doomed to a limited success rate. As well he quickly exposes the paucity (weak techniques and theory)  of real research in education since it all to often stops short of causality ( I can certainly testify to that) .  Then he explains how computer based education methods are already changing and adapting to the needs of a student centric model. He illustrates how  Howard Gardners multiple modes of learning could be accomodated in the disruptive model.

Once again there is a second book within the book with copious research notes in every chapter.  I am one of those  professional educators who packed it in based on what I experienced as the overall futility of real change in education. Now  this book has reawakened my interest in change in the education market – moving to a student centric model.  If you have children or grandchildren – you need to buy and read this book. If you are in the e-learning market – it is required reading.  Thank you McGraw Hill!  I really liked it and it is as always an easy read with loads of detail if you want it.

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8 To Be Great. The 8 traits that lead to great success. Richard St. John

Two girls smiling.Image via Wikipedia

8 To Be Great. The 8 traits that lead to great success. Richard St. John. 20057. ISBN 9780973900910. This book is a delight!  Very easy to read, chock full of quotes from 100s of successful people.  The book was sparked by a little girl asking the author – ” So how do you get successful?”  He spent several years interviewing those considered successful and most of them gave him something like the eight traits. The eight traits are:

  1. Passion
  2. Work
  3. Focus
  4. Push
  5. Ideas
  6. Improve
  7. Serve
  8. Persist

A book to inspire and help you get to where you are destined to go to!  I packed it around for a few weeks, reading and rereading sections. To some people this could be a life changing book.  Very well done. Lots of Canadian references as well.

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Literary reflections. James A. Michener.

Author James Albert Michener attends an observ...Image via Wikipedia

Literary reflections. James A. Michener.  1993. ISBN 0812550528.  Mitchener on Mitchener, Margaret Mitchell, Ernest Hemingway Truman Capote & others.   I am slowly building my collection of writer’s tools.   This one is a loosely organized set of insightful essays showing Mitchener’s growth as a reader and writer.  His life experiences are shown, but only briefly (giving me a desire to know more) He gives us some of his most useful writing tools and work attitudes. His thoughts on  writers that had great impact on him was what I found  revealing. Some writers I had read, but others I had not. He has caused me to want to read those ones too.   I am learning just how much homework these successful writers put into becoming skilled craftsmen.   This is an easy delightful read, well worth the few hours required (definitely not one of his “big” books).  Unexpected treats are his poems sprinkled throughout.

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On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft. Stephen King.

On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft. Stephen King.   2000. ISBN 1417647019.  What a delightful book – part personal story and part a master class on writing, Steven King tells a compelling story. As well as his guiding comments you also get inside views of his stories – what prompted them , endings he tried and those he picked.  As well you get insight into his long struggle back after a horrendous car accident.  The man can write and if you read this work, your writing can not help but improve. He believes that every story has a nugget and the writers job is to excavate and polish that.  Not a surprise, he is a fan of Strunk and White.  Lesson learned for me is how long he lets a story sit after the first draft before he goes to the rewrite stage. Easy read, good pace and enjoyable on a plane or cruise.

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The Real Secrets of the Top 20%. Mike Brooks, Mr Inside Sales

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 30:  (NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The Real Secrets of the Top 20%. Mike Brooks, Mr Inside Sales. 2008. ISBN 9780979441622.  This is a small but powerful book that every salesman and sales manager shoud have handy on his desk   This is the real deal if you wish to be one of the big money sales guys. The “secrets” are well known, but Brooks puts this together in a very succinct and learnable package. My lesson learned is his advice on the power of using scripts to help advance the sale. It just makes so much sense.   Buy it.

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So how did you spend your weekend?

The lack of reading posts has a simple answer. I got married. My partner Amanda and I decided Sunday (Aug 3)  that 8.8.08 seemed like a good day to get married.  It turned out that a lot of other folks felt the same!

Friday August 8 ’08 was the busiest day for weddings for 10 years in BC!  The pastor we knew was on holiday. After lots of dialing (hey I am the head-set guy) I found a marriage commissioner. She only had two weddings that day – “if you can have it at 3 PM and not take too long, I can squeeze you in”. My cousins offered their view patio on the  New West Quay (They could be home by 2). We both had busy work mornings booked. Things were looking up.

The sequence of events was sort of like that prisoner statement, ” Nothing like facing a firing squad at dawn to make you focus on your last dinner.”  (forgive me)

Marriage license – check (but someone needs to talk to the BC vital statistics about their redundant web services with a brutal implementation of Adobe Forms).

Rings- a lesson – one shopping mall, eight stores (mostly chains)- I was a motivated buyer (not a wide range of sales approaches- mostly poor to terrible).   Only one sales guy (Chinese)  gave us the right answers, no pressure, just a lot of yes we can do that, by that time, and in 90 minutes – the buy was done – fair price and I made no ask for a discount – he earned the deal.

Flowers – Do people not want the business? Just because we were not booking this a year in advance should not diminish the value of our dollar. Three stores – closed, in the middle of the day?  People, this was cash in the drawer this week. My faith in Canadian retail salesmanship, never high, was disappearing.  Eventually a small Chinese grocery store – florist (little bit of everything)- was johnny on the spot with exactly what we needed.

Dress- The dressmaker was home in the Balkins, so it was the local Chinese alterer who stepped up to the plate!  She finished 3 hours before the ceremony.  Another under promise over deliver service person.  A back-up dress was found after much searching in the major ladies retailers – finally in a marked down section. Amanda was very happy with her find (It will be stunning on the next cruise formal night) , yet dismayed at the decay in fashion retailing. Unless you want to look like Amy Winehouse or a high school prom queen,  in what used to be “good” stores, any search is disappointing. It’s not only the new owners of the Bay that have a huge task ahead of them.

Guests – My sons were all working – Joel in New Zealand made four days notice tough. Kyle was catering two weddings,  which had been booked a year in advance ( With nine days notice he could have worked around it).  But the youngest and oldest (Brock and Michael)  put in early shifts and were able to watch their Dad get married, and do the pics ( My sister, Marni, canceled her trip to the Okanagan (She was married 7.7.07).

Feast?  What else than a well written up Asian restaurant. Green Basil Thai. Great service, friendly staff and delicious flavors.

A sales  lesson in this?

I think that deteriorating Canadian sales skills- retail sample- are a problem. If we did not have an influence from immigrants who want to do well for the customer, we would have no service culture at all. This is more than a productivity problem Prime Minister Harper, it is an attitude problem.  Serving customers to their full satisfaction is a simple but tremendous skill, that some “Canadians” seem to have put aside. Do they  lack the desire to do it? I think so.

Any wonder why so many of us shop in the US?  Yet,  Canadian consumers put up with our lack of service in Canada.  Maybe it is time to put the wallet back in your pocket and demand a few things. In the US, consumers refuse to pay as much as we do for cars, as well as meat, dairy and other products – and their retailers still compete on service.  If you do not ask for better – you deserve what you get.

I will be back to my regular programming shortly, just a  little right of Attilla the Hun.

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The Last Lecture. Randy Pausch.

The last lectureImage by nimboo via Flickr

The Last Lecture. Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow. 2008. ISBN 9781401323257. Perhaps you have already watched Randy Pausch give his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon, afterhe was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The video is compelling and truly inspirational. This book is the result of as series of interviews Randy gave Jeffrey Zaslow after the lecture (Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams ). It has the background and thoughts of Randy that go with the lecture. He is young man, very bright, very articulate who wanted to leave something behind, a book and a lecture that his young children could have as they grew up to know what their father was like. The writing is clear, concise and full of strong emotional content. I recommend it to everyone as one of the decades most uplifting, inspirational conversations you can have.

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