Innovation lessons from the world of music – part 2

One of the areas of musical innovation that has interested me the most over the years has been the fusion of Rock music and the world of the Orchestra. And what makes this really interesting is that the pioneers of the 60’s and 70’s are still doing it today!   One of the early adopters in this was of course Deep Purple who performed their epic “Concerto for Group and Orchestra 1969” – here’s the 3rd movement of this. The opening of this movement wouldn’t be out-of-place in an Orchestral concert today – love the Horns!




It’s a real shame the sound quality doesn’t make it obvious but 30 years later, they are still using an Orchestra – the “Smoke on the Water” riff is perfect for the brass:




One band though that found you couldn’t make much money out of this was Pink Floyd whose “Atom Heat Mother” is still a favourite of mine, probably because of the huge use of brass! Touring with a brass section and a choir wasn’t cost-effective and in recent times, some of the band members themselves have thought it was rubbish anyway! (see – I like it though hence its inclusion here!




One of the down sides to this kind of work is that you are unlikely to have the same resources available from one gig to another – and that can impact on the quality of the performance. Back in the day, I used to do a lot of work at local clubs backing whichever ex-celeb was in town this week. They never knew what they were getting from one night to the next and this was one of the issues that Floyd faced.


One band that did make a big commercial success out of using an Orchestra was Procul Harum – there won’t be too many record collections from that era that don’t include “Live at Edmonton” with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. And they are still doing it today – here’s Gary Booker’s distinctive voice with Procul Harum and The Danish National Concert Orchestra with “A Salty Dog” from 2006.




Amongst the many lessons we can draw from all of this, there is one that sticks out:


  • Don’t create a service if you can’t control the quality of the localised resources that you may need to deliver it.

I also can’t ignore my all time favourite band: “Yes”. I first saw them live in 1974 at Queens Park Rangers FC, Loftus Road, London – the first tour post Wakeman with new boy Patrick Moraz and the “Relayer” album. Much of the 70’s prog rock use of the Mellotron, which sampled strings, could have been done using the real thing  – so why not do that!?  Enjoy the superb slide guitar of Steve Howe in “Soon” from the Relayer album, performed with the European Festival Orchestra in 2001.




And to finish, I just love this Bill Bailey item from his “Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra” – as if Ron Grainger and the Radiophonic Workshop weren’t innovative enough, Bill discovers the “Dr. Who” theme could easily have been Belgian Jazz! (The original video posted here was removed from YouTube due to copyright reasons – however, Bill has used this sketch before as can be seen in this alternative version).



Innovation lessons from the world of music

It’s been a while since my last blog as I’ve been busy getting stuck into my new job. One of the benefits of my travel schedule though is the amount of time I now have sat in hotel rooms!


Today’s blog is not only a follow-up to my earlier post “Succession Planning lessons from the world of Rock Music!”  but has been inspired by discussions with Peter Cook of “The Academy of Rock”  (check out his new book “The Music of Business”) who has made some great links between Rock and Roll and the Business world. It turns out that Peter was heavily involved in the Open University’s “Creativity, Innovation & Change” module which I did as part of my MBA and much of my thinking about Social Learning & Knowledge Management has its roots in that course and the OU Knowledge Management  course.


One of the key ways to get innovation in the workplace is to ensure that staff have access to data & information from both inside and outside of the organisation – yet I still hear of companies that do not allow staff access to the Internet from inside the firewall! Taking an existing idea and adding to it with influence and fresh ideas from outside of the organisation can refresh an old product and gain new customers but of course, that’s nothing new to us musicians! Take The Beatles – great songs, presented in a way that can’t be bettered. Or can they? Many would argue that Earth Wind & Fire did a much better version of “Got to get you into my life”:




And whilst many more might disagree, The Carpenters had a knack of taking a sad song and making it better! Not, not that song, but this one:




But if you are looking for radical change, then look at what happens when multiple external ideas get put together: Led Zeppelin, Reggae and an Elvis impersonator shouldn’t work – but it sort of does! And even Robert Plant likes these guys:




My final example comes from a different genre altogether – the world of Shakespeare and “Romeo & Juliet”. This one never had music and wasn’t even an original idea! According to Wikipedia, Shakespeare borrowed heavily from 2 earlier works The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1567. 


But what none of those people would ever have come up with was moving the tale to mid 1950’s New York – the writing of Arthur Laurents, the lyrics of Steven Sondheim and the musical genius that is Leonard Bernstein. So, texts first written in the 1500’s are still producing income today! This clip takes one of those songs, Maria, into yet another new plane – the stratospheric trumpet playing of one of my hero’s, the late, great, Maynard Ferguson:




The world of music is great at innovation – we see it around us constantly with new slants on an old tune, adaptations of music to the stage (Mama Mia), taking the stage to the big screen (Les Miserables) through to Paul Anka making Nirvana swing! Some thoughts for our business life:


  • Old products needn’t just die – adapt them to new uses or even simply re-package them. (Lots of re-issue CD’s have “bonus tracks” to make them just slightly different for example).
  • There may be audiences for your product that aren’t yet aware of it because you are marketing it to a particluar niche customer base.
  • Licence products you can’t change to someone who can still make money out them. Royal Enfield motorcycles still live on, now manufactured in India for example.
  • Years after its demise, the Stylophone came back! A bit like the tribute acts, don’t forget that there may sometimes still be life in an old product! (and even Vinyl is making a small comeback).

And finally, speaking of Rolf, here’s another slant on Led Zeppelin – enjoy!







Reflections on Life at Kineo

As I am shortly taking up a new and exciting position with Hitachi Data Systems, I wanted to reflect on what has been a great 5 months spent with the UK’s leading e-Learning company, Kineo.


My role at Kineo was specifically around consultancy support for their larger corporate TotaraLMS customers – and for me, this was new territory on two counts:  a) working on the vendor side of the fence and b) working with Open Source based products. Now, I have personally had a Moodle site for a number of years – it was a great way of having a second place to test SCORM content! But as I have said many times, Moodle is not an LMS and has no place in the regulated world which I have inhabited for the last 25 years or so.


Which brings me to Kineo: When I met Sven Laux & Steve Rayson for the first time, it was clear that they were doing something about that!  There is still development to be done but Totara is certainly headed in the right direction. But don’t just take my word for all of this, check out the recent eLearnity report on Moodle and see what David Wilson and his team think.


There is another though another dimension to the LMS debate and this is where Kineo have also added real value. The User Interface is often cited as a major challenge for enterprise LMS implementations but when engaging a vendor which has a rich history in elearning design, you stand a better chance. Kineo have a lot more experience in creating engaging UI’s than the average LMS vendor (although it is also fair to say that a lot of LMS customers don’t invest enough in learning how they could improve their UI themselves – maybe a later blog for that one!).


The final major insight I gained relates to Corporate Purchasing processes – and yes, I have been on the other end of this for many years! But the Open Source model is something that seems to be totally alien to many corporates and they don’t always get it. If you are one of those people, then go read this Learning Solutions article:- “Levelling the software procurement playing field” 


Another interesting Open Source tool from the Kineo stable is Mahara – an e-portfolio tool. My own website at is now powered by Mahara.


So, a great company with great people – you might ask why then is Andy leaving? It’s simple. I had an offer I couldn’t refuse and am returning to the client side of the equation with a Saba customer where my 10+ years experience of working with Saba and their product set can be fully utilised.

It’s been a fun ride and my thanks to all at Kineo – I leave you wiser and much richer for the experience and also with these thoughts about Moodle from the users themselves:


Implementing an LMS? Here’s My Top Ten things to consider!

I am often asked “what are the most important things you have learned about implementing an LMS” – so cue the music if you can’t access YouTube through your firewall, you might need to imagine listening to “At The Sign of The Swinging Cymbals”! (for non UK readers, this was a famous radio theme for a top ten show!)

  1. Involve IT from day 1– I cannot emphasise this one enough! And this is important even if you have gone for a hosted or SaaS solution too. Your users will have to negotiate a number of potential IT “traps” which can spoil the user experience from day 1 including:- Desktop – how is their PC setup, what browser versions, Java, Flash, Adobe Acrobat, sound cards etc
    – Firewalls and proxy servers – they need to get out of the infrastructure to wherever you LMS is hosted
    – Security standards – you will need to consider the standards for passwords, access controls, data security and much more. And don’t forget to consider the Data Protection issues that may arise from your decision on where the LMS is hosted!
    – Penetration and performance testing – trust me, your IT team will have a view on this! (and rightly so!)
  2. Understand the business requirement – and meet it! There’s nothing worse than deploying a big-ticket system and finding that it doesn’t actually do what your business needs! Requirements gathering up front is one of the most important tasks and must go beyond what the L&D or Compliance teams want to do. All successful implementations have a clear link to meeting the needs of the business. Seems rather obvious I know but trying to mandate a central decision for an LMS into a business that isn’t bought into the idea is also a recipe for failure!
  3. Make sure you have budget to train your own implementation team – they need to know how to configure the LMS, especially the UI. One of the most important things you can do is invest in training – something that is not always done. Understanding how you can change the User Interface yourself will pay dividends later on and also, save you a considerable amount of money! Of course, you also need to have enough people who know the system inside out and ensure that any skills you gain around the tools are transferred. You could use one of the wiki tools in your LMS to capture best practice for example.
  4. Run a proof of concept with your short listed vendors – time for them to put their money where their mouth is! This can be a serious way to discover for yourself if the tool will actually deliver what the RFP response said it would! It is also a good way to test out some of those key business needs whilst also testing compatibility with your network infrastructure.
  5. Reference visits – and seek out your own from the vendor client list. Remember, they will give you their best clients! Most vendors will have customer lists on their websites – but you can also seek out customers through your PLN’s (Personal Learning Networks) – a quick tweet may get you a reference site your vendor would prefer you didn’t meet! I once sat next to the Sponsor of a reference project at dinner. He shared with me the fact that they were considering a change of vendor due to some of the issues they were facing. Priceless!
  6. Get an active sponsor – an inactive sponsor such as CEO may seem a good idea but just wait until he leaves! (I speak from experience here!). Hearing a CEO say “It’s a no brainer” is great for the project until circumstances change.
  7. Find your Champions – people out in the business who will help you spread the message are very important and will help to establish the business relationships you will need for success.
  8. Employ an expert – if this is your first LMS, go and find someone who has both the T-Shirt and is the sequel of the Video to save some pain!
  9. Win the hearts and minds of the Training world – especially classroom trainers who may see an LMS and eLearning as a threat. (It’s not, it’s probably more career enhancing but they don’t all know that!). Get them involved by ensuring they are trained on how to use the trainer functions on the LMS. Use this as an opportunity to upskill them in how to manage on-line training activities such as asynchronous chats and discussion forums.
  10. Governance – if you are deploying an LMS cross function, country or organisation, you will need to have some kind of governance board to ensure consistency in approach for global initiatives. Trying to deploy a centrally mandated project requires buy-in from across your organisation.
  11. Involve IT from Day 1 – did I mention that one? 😉

And remember, when implementing an LMS, if all you do is automate the chaos you already have, all you will get is very fast chaos!

Learning Management – Systems have a part to play

Learning Management – Systems have a part to play – from Learning Technologies Conference 2012


I had the pleasure last week of speaking in a panel discussion with Charles Jennings & Barry Sampson on the LMS at the Learning Technologies Conference in London.


My presentation video is now available here:


The first thing that will surprise some is that fundamentally, we all agreed! You cannot “manage” learning using a system! What an LMS does incredibly well though is to manage the processes around learning – and this for me is vital in any business that has a regulatory or other compliance requirement. What confuses the issue here is the terminology used to describe the systems we use – if it’s not “managing” learning, then should we really still be calling it an LMS? The term LMS conjures up a very specific image for many – and that image is sadly often based on what these systems were like 10 years ago! I have to say that for some people, the LMS evolved whilst they weren’t looking!

Like the cell phone, they still do all the things they did 10 years ago but now do so much more including:

  • Performance Management
  • Talent & Succession Management
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Delivery of social media
  • Blended Learning

Now I know there are those who will tell you that you don’t need these tools in your LMS and that you should be using those openly available – such as Twitter & Yammer. And of course, I use both of those and more! However, it’s not always as simple as just setting up a free Yammer account especially if you are regulated! At least one regulator would not be happy that you cannot control user access to the free Yammer environment for example and there are other requirements relating to security testing for any data held outside the organisation.

Perhaps the real meaning of the term LMS is Litigation Mitigation System!

To support my session at Learning Technologies, I surveyed a number of my peers in the world of Financial Services – whilst it was a relatively small sample, their opinion is nevertheless important:



How valuable is your LMS in ensuring you can provide supporting data about the competency of your people to your regulator?


How Vluable is your LMS?


How would you collate the information you need if you didn’t have an LMS?

  • by spread sheet and rubber bands!
  • Spreadsheets or forms on Sharepoint!
  • Manually by a myriad of Excel docs no doubt!
  • Excel Spreadsheets or bespoke access database
  • By hand…
  • Manually on Excel spreadsheets


If you didn’t work in a regulated industry, do you still think that you would deploy an LMS?

  • 100% Yes

In your opinion, will Social Learning tools ever make your LMS redundant?

  • 100% No

So, next time someone tells you the LMS is dead, consider the 2011-12 Towards Maturity Learning Technology benchmark which tell us that:

  • 71% have Learning Management Systems
  • 78% have electronic based content
  • 68% have online assessment
  • 77% use surveys and questionnaires

The last LMS I deployed had all of these of course!

And the final statistic: 69% want to roll out new IT systems – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a lot of “LMS” Vendors are getting a slice of that too!

Knowledge Management + eLearning + Web 2.0 = Learning

At a presentation to a team of IT leaders back in 2011, I was asked what Web 2.0 and Knowledge Management (KM) had to do with my role as a Learning Technologist – and the answer is of course, it has EVERYTHING to do with learning! Our role as learning professionals is surely to enable our people to have access to the knowledge and tools they need to do their job. Personally, if that makes me a digital publishing company or a provider of Electronic Performance Support systems then it doesn’t actually matter as long as the end result is an engaged and productive workforce. Consider the following 2 definitions:

 “A Community of practice is a community of people who care about the domain, thus creating the social fabric for learning, sharing, inquiry & trust.”
Source: Wenger, McDermott, Snyder, Cultivating Communities of Practice, (Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press, 2002) 


 A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, ideas, financial exchange, friendship, sexual relationships, kinship, dislike, conflict or trade.”

Not a lot of difference really – what these statements do highlight is that the success of what we used to call “Communities of Practice” and the newer “Social Networks” is all about like minded people being involved. We used to say in the eLearning world that “Content is King” – in the world of informal learning, the King is dead and there is a now a new King on the block called “Context”!

But where does Knowledge management fit into all of this? Some of you will believe that KM is the domain of the IT Community. Others will think of it as being owned within the Corporate Communications team. But the reality is that ensuring there is a culture that encourages the free sharing of knowledge is a People problem – IT systems are simply enablers.

Those of you that have read Nonaka & Takeuchi’s 1995  work “The Knowledge Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation” will be familiar with the “Knowledge Spiral”. The challenge here is to capture Tacit Knowledge and move this around the organization, enhancing and improving at as it  matures and creating new knowledge from the combination  of what we know now with new information from outside of the organization. Many of the tools that are frowned upon in some organization can actually be of real benefit here, especially when looking to add to what we know from new and often external sources. 

The Knowledge Spiral

The Knowledge Spiral - Nonaka & Takeuchi

The sharing of tacit knowledge does of course happen – often known as the “water cooler culture” and of course, Web 2.0 brings a new dimension to this with sites such as Twitter being used very effectively for sharing knowledge – and now, not just 1-1 but 1-many. For those of you who work in the Learning & Development world, the weekly LRNCHAT on Twitter is an absolute wealth of useful information!

If we map some of these tools onto the Nonaka model, we can see that the technology really can enable a knowledge sharing culture: 

Social Media mapped to The Knowledge Spiral

(TLN Communities are internal Communities at L&G – this could equally be a Yammer Community for example).

At the heart of this though are the communities or social networks – and if you hire me, you hire my network at no extra cost!

At Legal & General, we implemented an LMS that included Community features and this gave us an advantage in that the LMS can provide the context that is vital for communities to thrive! Most of our communities were in fact formed without any corporate-led initiatives and were the result of staff seeing what others had done and understanding the art of the possible. The video on “Wikis in plain English” from www.commoncraft.comhas been widely used to show how you can use a Wiki for more than just an on-line encyclopaedia!

It was the use of communities for distributing meeting agendas and managing meeting minutes that fired up many of the newer groups. One group in particular decided to use a Wiki instead of email for gaining sign-off on critical documents. Instead of the process taking a week as the emails went around, they have achieved sign-off in ½ day!

Of course, not all communities will thrive – and some will have a natural lifespan as either the people or the topic moves on. One example we found was a community called “Blue Sky Thinkers” – you might be tempted to think that was a great idea to have a community especially for people who want to be innovative. Sadly, that wasn’t the case! The community was setup and nobody came. This was further proof for me that if there is no context for a discussion to take place then it won’t! Context really does make a community work.

But context in isolation isn’t all you need – here’s an interesting thought from Harold Jarche and

The basic skills ALLworkers will need are:

  1. Personal knowledge management skills so that they can make sense of, and learn from, the constant stream of information that they encounter from social channels both inside and outside the organisation.
  2. Collaboration skills so that they can share their knowledge as well as  work and learn productively and purposefully in teams, communities of practice, and social networks.

For more of Harold’s thoughts on PKM (Personal Knowledge Management), do check out – to whet your appetite, here’s a brief introduction video:

But this isn’t just about enabling our people – every night, all of our tacit knowledge walks out of the door and we hope that it all comes back the next day! In these days of rightsizing and outsourcing, that isn’t always the case though. Add to that natural turnover and retirements, and this could mean that over the next 5 years, some 50% of the current implicit knowledge held by our people walks out of the door and doesn’t come back. Ever.
(based on HR data at a major Financial Services organisation)

It doesn’t have to be this way though!

If we get the culture right and encourage our people to share what they know, we can capture more of this knowledge whilst they are still here.

–         Blogs, Wiki’s, discussion forums
If we implement a culture of trusting our people with the Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter, Blogs and Facebook, we may still have access to them after they have gone.
–         My contact list contains a large number of current and former colleagues. (and I suspect, some future ones too!)
.–         Make some of our eLearning Public Domain – if the Defence Acquisition University can do it, so can we! If we expect to receive then we must be prepared to give. (DAU content is on Itunes)
In summary, I can’t put it all much better than this quote, attributed to Al Gore:

“Our challenge is to process data into information, refine information into knowledge, extract from knowledge understanding, and then let understanding ferment into wisdom”.

And now, we have “Big Data” to add into the mix! It seems you can’t go anywhere these days without reference to “Big Data” – but what is it? I am indebted to Michael Hay, Vice President of Product Planning at Hitachi Data Systems and Chief Engineer at the Information Technology Platform Division (ITPD), for this definition:

“Big Data of the Future will become at scale agile processes realized by multidiscipline teams leveraging a variety of data categories and types flowed through various technologies, including provisions for security and privacy. The end result – timely discovery of sparks of insights leading to valuable innovation and knowledge.”

And that timely discovery is exactly what we are looking to achieve with the sharing of information and data. But of course, data analysis isn’t new! What is perhaps new for many is the variety of data types & sources that are now in the mix – you can see from the different sources of information shown in the diagram above  that we have not only text but the social media elements such as video & audio in vast volumes from external sites to make sense of as well.

Of course, technology to assist in knowledge sharing isn’t new and organisations will already be looking to deploy such tools. So, who is best placed to create the context, which to me, is fundamental to the success of any collaboration or Knowledge sharing programme? The answer to that lies in understanding the sort of communities that would add value to our people such as:

  • People with the same job – sharing success and ideas across locations & borders
  • People with the same competency requirement – helping each other to achieve competence quicker
  • People in the same location – adding the social aspect by way of location specific knowledge sharing
  • People attending the same training event – adding value to existing classroom activities by including collaboration outside of the classroom, changing learning from an event to a process. (very successful in the UK with the Open University)
  • Communities that are created dynamically based on these and other criteria – you don’t have to look for the group, the group finds you!

I don’t believe that this can be as effectively done outside of the HCM space as the source of the data to support this sort of dynamic environment exists in one place – your Human Capital “eco-system” of LMS, HRMS, Talent & Performance systems.

At a recent industry conference, Thomas Otter, formerly Research Director for Human Capital Management at Gartner, suggested that we should “Work on your strategy for social software in HCM and Learning now.“ I have to agree fully with this viewpoint to avoid being second in the race behind IT and/or Corporate Communications!

If this truly is a “People Problem”, then it requires “People Solutions” to fix it!

(Excerpts from this article have been used in earlier blog posts but having had a discussion last week with a colleague around the Knowledge Spiral, I thought the entire article was worth an airing! And since writing this, “Big Data” has become a buzzword and has been included)

Succession Planning lessons from the world of Rock Music! (Updated July 2015)

Peter Green

Peter Green, founding member of Fleetwood Mac

Over the weekend, I caught a late night documentary on Fleetwood Mac – many of you will remember them for “Albatross” and others for their later albums which were a different direction musically. This set me thinking about how bands like this deal with the loss of a key member and what “succession planning” might look like in their world!.
The sound of Fleetwood Mac that many of you will recall today is possibly more related to their 1977 album, “Rumours” than “The Green Manalishi” which was the last single recorded with Peter Green. The various changes in personnel that followed over the years don’t appear to have been planned and each one looks like a reaction to the most recent loss. In one case, whilst on tour, one player went out to buy a magazine and never came back! (He joined the “Children of God”!). Peter Green was persuaded to join the tour to enable them to fulfil obligations but this was only temporary.
Now, does that not sound familiar? How many reading this have not seen examples of an employee leaving and being taken back as a contractor or temp?!
A totally different example though comes from my all time favourite band, “Yes”.

Yes in 1977

The definitive “Yes” lineup from 1977

Like Fleetwood Mac, they too have seen changes over the years. Most fans would probably agree though that the definitive “Yes” lineup would probably be: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White and Rick Wakeman.

To quote Steve Howe in the sleeve notes for their 2003 DVD “Live at Montreux”, “We love to play certain Yes songs just like the audience love hearing them”. Which of course, becomes a problem if the distinctive voice of Jon Anderson isn’t available! And in 2008, that is exactly what happened! John was admitted to hospital following a severe asthma attack and advised not to work for at least 6 months.
To maintain that distinctive “Yes” sound though  needed someone who sounded like Jon Anderson. So, where else would you look than a Yes tribute band! Benoit David, from Canadian tribute band “Close to the Edge” toured with the band during 2008 in North America  together with another new boy – Oliver Wakeman. You see a pattern here? – I saw them at Hammersmith in 2010 and the band still sounded like the Yes I remember.

Of course, the band had lots of other changes over the years too but the difference for Yes was this apparent underlying desire to maintain the “Yes” sound rather than a permanent change of direction as was the case with Fleetwood Mac.

As an update a few years later, the same thing happened! And now they have Jon Davison who also sounds like Jon Anderson! Of course, many predict that the real Jon will return again one day! (will your key employee ever return?!)

Sadly, Yes have again had to consider what to do about the illness and subsequent death of founder and bass player, Chris Squire. When Chris had to take time out for treatment, this presented a problem with a US tour and their popular “Cruise to the Edge” event. Chris in fact chose his own replacement in the form of Billy Sherwood – a hugely talented multi-instrumentalist who had been a band member from 1997-2000 and also their 2014 album “Heaven and Earth”.
Chris always believed that the band would outlive it’s original members – a sentiment echoed by a recent interview with drummer Alan White:

“Things can’t just stop, you know? We’ve got to maintain the Yes name and … meet the high standards of musicianship Chris created.” 

But for now, the band have kept this in the Yes family and a successful brand will continue.

Since writing this post a year or so ago, I have discovered another gem, this time from Genesis. As all Genesis fans will know, there is “before Peter Gabriel” and “after Peter Gabriel”!

So, how did they go about solving this problem? Well as a starting point, they did what most organisations would do and tried to recruit a replacement. One small problem though: the songs for the new album “A Trick of the Tail” were in the wrong key for their shortlisted singer! So, Phil Collins had a go and the album was recorded with him as the lead singer. This was only meant to be a temporary situation and further auditions were subsequently held for the lead position on the tour. Well, you know what happened next but who better to tell us than the band themselves:





So, what can we learn from all of this?

    • We need to have plans on what to do if a key staff member leaves – particularly if they have unique skills that are part of a Unique Selling Proposition
    • We could consider a total change of direction depending on who we recruit as a replacement – “get the right people on the bus and see where it takes us”
    • Keep  tabs on former key staff – we may need them back at some point and they will have gained fresh experiences along the way.  We might even benefit from someone they know so don’t be too quick to remove them from your LinkedIn or Facebook lists! (I knew we’d get back to Social Networking eventually!)
    • Consider what talent we may already have in the organisation

Corporate Learning at a Band Contest?!!

Butlins Contest

Butlins Contest

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Butlins Mineworkers Brass Band Contest held in chilly Skegness!

This post though isn’t about the music but more about the contest as a metaphor for what we in Corporate Learning teams are trying to do.

A band, like an Orchestra, consists of a number of different sections, all of which need to work together to achieve the best performance. But, like any Corporate, they need direction. And that direction will vary depending on the man in the middle – think of the Musical Director/Conductor as a CLO (Chief Learning Officer), directing the different divisions to work together towards the central goal. In the case of the band performance, that goal is simple: Perform the musical work according to the interpretation that the MD is giving. If only all goal setting was as clear!

The history of the brass band in the UK is interesting – band players would have traditionally been less likely to attend a music college or university (although that has of course changed) and one of the ways they developed was by healthy competition, hence the concept of the brass band contest. For bands though, there is just the one performance assessment – and inevitably, there is much discussion after the event as to whether or not the judge was right. Some people do go for a 360 assessment and these were much discussed in the bars of Butlins over that weekend!

On this occasion, I was there as a performer with my good friends of Brighton & Hove City Brass but as a conductor myself, I have prepared bands for many such competitions. Whilst musical ability is clearly a core competency, when working with amateur players, you also have to be a great communicator, motivator and leader. Indeed, there are some great conductors whose musicals skills are not as good as their leadership skills. (did your CLO come from an L&D or HR background?)

This was truly a weekend of great teamwork – be that in the rehearsals, the final performance or the post contest activities. My thanks to Matthew and the team for the opportunity to work with them at this event.

There are some interesting comments here on further musical metaphors.

Effective use of QR Codes

In recent months, we have started to see more and more QR Codes – for those that don’t know what they are, here’s a brief description from

“QR Codes are a cell phone readable bar code that can store phone numbers, URL’s, email addresses and pretty much any other alphanumeric data. Storing up to 4296 characters they are internationally standardised under ISO 18004. Think “print-based hypertext links” and you’ll start to get the idea. “

In short, a way of getting content of various kinds onto a mobile device such as an Android or iPhone simply by using the phone’s built in camera!

If you’ve not seen one before, they look like this: (This is a link to my blog!)

But what role do they have to play as far as my day job is concerned?  Currently working in a Financial Services Organisation, that isn’t at first obvious! But here’s just a few ideas that I have already come up with:

  • Adding a link to a video in printed sales training materials to enhance the printed material without needing a PC or Video
  • Making item specific learning available at the point of need – imagine having the user manual for that complex telephone on your desk available simply by pointing your handheld at the QR code!
  • Having a vCard on you business card – scan the code and put the contact details straight into your contact list
  • Deeplinking to just about anywhere in our LMS
  • Adding the ability to listen to an MP3 version of a printed document for the visually impaired.

Imagine having your contact details printed on your T-Shirt or a baseball cap at the next Conference you attend! (I have a T-Shirt on order hopefully in time for the 2011 Learning Technologies Conference!)

Creating them is easy too – there is a great free tool at which will create links to websites, your social networking profile, vCards, vCalendar events and even simple text.
An alternative site which gives free high resolution images is – you will need high resolution if you want the QR code to be displayed on some printed items.

2010Work Review

Saba Award

Saba Customer Excellence Award

As we come to the end of 2010, it also heralds the end of my time at Legal & General – and what a great time it has been!

During this year, I have been invited to speak at a number of conferences on the topic of social learning and knowledge management – the highlight though was my time at Saba People 2010 in Boston where I collected an award for Legal & General’s use of Saba’s collaboration tools. This adds to the eLearning award gained in 2009 and our contribution to Saba gaining a CLO award in the same year.
What has also been interesting at many of these conferences is the re-emergence of knowledge management as a hot topic and the links between KM and social learning/social media. My old Nonaka & Takeuchi slides still have some life in them yet!
I have an article on the theme of Knowledge Management & Learning in progress for a US based HCM Magazine which I hope will be published in 2011.
I was also interviewed by KM World in October KM World logo– you can read the article here.
I have also spent more time this year working with open source tools – this blog is a good example of that as is the Drupal based website for Uckfield Concert Brass and the owners discussion forum created for Vila Branca in Portugal. All of this plus my Moodle & Joomla sites are hosted for me by where I get 10 sql databases for less than $10 a month.
Looking forward to 2011, I am expecting to be available from early February onwards – watch this space! (Potential employers can find out more at