Innovation for Entrepreneurs

One of the issues that surfaced during the industry capacity initiative this Winter was a lack of high-level business skills in the region. We do not have enough experienced people, especially those with a tech start-up background. Dave Pollard, a fellow Canadian, has a couple of interesting articles focused on business skills. The first is on Avoiding the Landmines in the Entrepreneurial Business. Since most NB learning companies are private, Pollard’s advice is pertinent. I’ve been hit by some of these landmines – biting off too much; being too far ahead of the market and copycat businesses. I’m sure that many of us can relate to this post.

Pollard’s other article, The Caring Enterprise Coach offers a new service to small and medium sized companies. This service is not what you get from the Big 5 consulting companies; it’s focused on entrepreneurs:

The Caring Enterprise Coach is a collaborative enterprise of independent consultants, technologists, trainers and retired entrepreneurs. Our members are equal partners, each with unique and specialized skills essential to the delivery of our offerings. We have no hierarchy, no physical assets, no front or back office, no overhead, no bureaucracy, and no employees. Our assets are the shared intellectual assets of our members’ expertise, skills, experience, networks – and the leading edge tools and technologies that they have developed and contributed for our collective use. We bring agility, economy, efficiency, and, through our powerful independent networks, reach and depth, that no limited, hierarchical, traditionally-trained professional services firm can match.

These articles are worth a read, and may provide food for thought on how we can develop a community model to foster innovation and sustain our businesses.
Harold

Lean, Six Sigma & HPT

Mark Lauer explains in May’s PerformanceXpress how human performance technology (HPT) is closely linked to Lean Manufacturing methodology. He shows the direct connections between Lean’s six elements, and the performance standards for HPT professionals.

We are all fellow travelers on the performance improvement road. We bring to the table a long dedication to human performance improvement and expertise that is not at conflict with theirs but is a perfect complement to it. We are all comrades in arms.

Whether it be Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma or HPT; there are enough similarities in methodologies that we can easily work together. Another comparison, between HPT and Six Sigma, was recently published by Darlene Van Tiem, of the University of Michigan.

Six Sigma can benefit from HPT’s broader approaches incorporating theory and practice from a wider variety of fields. HPT, on the other hand, can benefit from Six Sigma’s commitment to decisions based on evidence and its involvement with senior management.

It’s not how we help to improve organizational performance that’s important, it’s about making lasting changes that are important to our clients. A multidisciplinary approach makes more sense, and I will continue to learn from other methodologies.

Understanding DRM

Digital Rights Management (DRM) and copyright are all in the news today. I’m not a lawyer, and haven’t studied the legal field, but it’s becoming obvious that we all have to understand the impact of DRM on our lives. It’s no longer enough to be legal, as the laws, and their digital applications, keep changing. From The Shifted Librarian:

So in summary, iTunes, MS Reader, and Palm Digital Media DRM: bad.
This is what really scares me about libraries getting into the digital files business, even outside of all the issues surrounded subscription-based access versus ownership. When terms change on a whim, upgrades take away existing rights, and files become locked and inaccessible, how is this going to affect how we circulate titles to our patrons? It’s not like libraries have any leverage in this situation since publishers and Congress are doing their best to eradicate fair use rights, including the right of first sale.

These are the same issues that keep coming up with academic clients who are looking at selling learning content. Do you need to control content? How are you going to control content? Are your partners controlling content? What are the effects of controlling content? How will this influence your business model?
I should have followed my mom’s advice and become a lawyer 😉

Learn New Brunswick

I had commented on the closing of TeleEd and its “After 5” newsletter on my other blog. The newsletter is now going to come under the umbrella of LearnNB, which I think is appropriate. I see LearnNB as the brand under which a number of independent ventures (public & private) can flourish. With this model, the closure of one part (e.g. TeleEd) would not require rebranding or renaming, as the LearnNB name can be more than the sum of the parts. This is a more networked, and non-hierarchical, model.

Our community of practice (CoP) will be developed under the LearnNB banner as well. My intention is to link this blog from the LearnNB site, as well as the other components to come – the collaborative work site and ELF’s Spoke network.

Here is another idea for the CoP. I think that we can use the After 5 newsletter as a discussion vehicle. For instance, a few of us could write a collaborative wiki on an area of interest. How about a wiki to collaboratively write a visit report on ASTD next month? (I won’t be there, but can write and edit from here). The wiki could be part of the newsletter, or we could use it as a development tool before “going to press”. How about 2 or 3 volunteers to blog ASTD? I can set up a blog for you on this site, or we can start one elsewhere. Let’s practice what we preach. If you don’t know how to use a wiki, then you can LEARN. I’m not an expert either.

Any volunteers?

Worms & Viruses

Yesterday I found out about the Sasser Worm, the latest evil creature on the ‘Net. The first thing I did was open my Norton anti-virus software and click on "LiveUpdate". I then received one update. This morning I did the same and received another update. Each time I checked, an update was available, but at no time during the past 24 hours did Norton/Symantec "push" an update to me. Since I pay for this service, which most of us do, I must say that this is poor customer service. There are many people I know who only update when they receive a notice from their anti-virus service. I guess this is what happens when you have an oligopoly (or a "pigopoly", as the Register says) – bad service 🙁

Managing Projects

In The Problem, the Balloon, and the Four Bedroom House, the author discusses the critical component of project management – clearly understanding the problem and the expected results with everyone involved.

75% of the work of every successful project is completed in the initial stage. In other words, every project has a balloon phase. And if it doesn’t happen at the beginning of the project, then you may get into some serious trouble.
The “understanding” phase needs to provide you with the framework for the project. It should be assembled with all major stakeholders. And its purpose is to define the problem so you can design the solution. The 4 bedroom house.
On 13 March, 1999, Habitat for Humanity in New Zealand made the Guinness Book of Records. They constructed a four-bedroom house from scratch. It took a mere 3 hours, 44 minutes and 59 seconds. (I’m sure there’s a reality TV show in there somewhere, but I don’t believe we need another one of those.) An incredible feat. The significant fact is that it took 14 months of planning to achieve.
The balloon was inflated at the correct end.

I often refer to the “first rule of project management”, which is – choose the right project. The balloon analogy is similar. If you don’t address all of the issues at the front end, then your project may balloon out of scope (and budget) in the middle, which is probably after you’ve negotiated the price. This is a great little article to remind us of many things that we probably already know about project management, but are worth reconfirming. The discussions are interesting, too.

Still Polling Your Interests

Not many people have responded to my poll request. If you are in the region and want to get involved, then please look at this initial poll. I would like to know where you want me, and the community, to put our efforts.

Thanks;
Harold

Farewell TeleEducation

I had mentioned earlier that Teleeducation NB was going to close; the victim of government budget cuts. The news was finally been posted to the After 5 website [which is now offline], and the official closure date is May 7th, this Friday. Philippe Duchastel, the Director, has penned a final note [I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him], on TeleEd’s accomplishements and on what is left to be done:

For one thing, TeleEducation NB was very good at what it did: it led the way in creating a climate in which e-learning thrives in many sectors: our main universities and many of our colleges now use e-learning routinely; our school system enrols thousands each year in specialized courses offered online; and despite ups and downs, the e-learning industry in New Brunswick is still going strong. So e-learning is all around us.

Isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t then the mission of TeleEducation NB accomplished? Yes and no? Yes, e-learning is here to stay and thrive. No, we are not a model of an e-learning society as initially envisioned. A lot is missing. Take the government professional sector. Professional development of civil servants should be taking routine advantage of the benefits of e-learning. As should also the health sector. And the education sector [the professional development of teachers]. These are all sectors where tradition is heavy and that need to be ?¢‚ǨÀúbrought along?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ to e-learning.

There is another article written by the staff at TeleEd, reviewing the specific accomplishments over the past ten years – including the Program Development Fund. I am certain that every company in this Province tapped into this fund for online learning content development [I know, I evaluated the fund in 2001]. The staff cite the legacy of TeleEd as:

* Citizens have increased access to education
* Businesses have been established
* A culture of education as an economic development tool has been created
* Public and private sector organizations collaborate for the good of both
* New Brunswick has been recognized internationally as a centre for e-learning development and delivery

I agree with these, but have to add that many businesses have been "uncreated" as well. What really matters though, are the people.

Furthermore, this legacy is only a snapshot. We need to continue to innovate and create new pedagogical and business models. It will only be in the next ten years that we will see if TeleEd’s legacy has resulted in something lasting for the learning sector and the region.

I know that there is an initiative to continue with the "After 5" online ‘zine, and I have offered to write, edit or do whatever is necessary to continue the conversations that have been started here. After 5 was in its infancy, and just getting a following. Let’s keep the conversation going; and that includes you – the "anonymous instructional designer" ;-).

This just in: After 5 ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú the e-learning newsletter for New Brunswick" will be available May 31, 2004 at LearnNB – Watch for it!

Intellectual Property Legislation

In Mark Federman’s post The Fundamental Problem with Intellectual Property Legislation, he reports on an interview with Jack Velenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America. In the interview, Valenti shows his ignorance of the fact that copyright laws are infringing on a lot of people (at least 2 million Linux users) who are doing what should be "legal" activities.

And that’s the problem. There are a lot of things that Jack Valenti – and the legislators whom he lobbies with stunning effectiveness! – don’t know, and haven’t realized about the issues of copyright, the evolution of culture, the cultural history of their (and other) countries, and the reversal of conventional distribution and marketing models in an age of instantaneous communications.

One of the problems is the disconnect between policy makers and the creators (not publishers) and users. Fortunately courts in Canada are more enlightened.
It’s true that "markets are conversations", and I believe that politics is conversation as well. It’s just that some of us are only allowed to converse every four years or so. If you think that copyright issues are important – copyright is inextricably linked to innovation and creativity – then get informed and join in the conversation.