!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: July 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1912 - 2007

I am not a theoretician of the cinema. If you ask me what directing is, the first answer that comes into my head is: I don't know. The second: All my opinions on the subject are in my films. Among other things, I am an opponent of any separation of the various phases of the work. Such separation has an exclusively practical value. It is valuable for all those who participate in the work - except for the director, if he happens to be both author and director at once. To speak of directing as one of the phases in this work is to engage in a theoretical discussion which seems to me opposed to that unity of the whole to which every artist is committed during his work. Isn't it during the shooting that the final version of the scenario is arrived at? And, during the shooting, isn't everything automatically brought into question - from the theme to the dialogue itself, the real merit of which is never revealed until it is heard in the mouths of the actors?

                          – Michelangelo Antonioni
                              Cahiers du Cinema, October 1960



Monday, July 30, 2007

Strategies for Confronting Double Binds that Women in Business Face

Yesterday's post discussed three double binds often faced by women in leadership roles in business. Catalyst, the organization that collected the evidence to support this none-too-surprising list of dilemmas, also offers suggestions (pdf) for addressing them.

On the individual level, women can try:
  • Talking openly about the issue. "Clearly communicate your concerns. Note when a comment or behavior is inappropriate. ... Address assumptions about women to create awareness [of stereotypic bias]."

  • Becoming visible in a way that demonstrates the inaccuracy of people's biases. "Show your competence. ... seek high-level assignments. Speak up at meetings."

  • Using clear and effective communication. "Let people know what you want (e.g., assignments, aspirations). Ask questions. Be diplomatic."

  • Minimizing the issue. "Learn to ignore gender and act in gender-neutral ways. Reframe the issue to your advantage."
The Catalyst report emphasizes that all such strategies must be viewed simply as possibilities to consider; a particular strategy may or may not be helpful in a particular situation.

In fact, greater mileage can be expected from strategies adopted at the organizational level. Such strategies aim to create constructive changes in the organization's culture and behavioral norms. Catalyst's specific recommendations are to:
  • Provide employees with tools and resources that raise their awareness of the skills of women leaders and of the effects of stereotyping.

  • Assess the work environment to identify risk factors for stereotypic bias. (Catalyst has developed a tool, described in the final chapter of the report, that its members can use for this purpose.)

  • Implement work practices that target stereotypic bias (focusing on specific areas of risk identified through the aforementioned assessment of the work environment).
A key goal is to limit employees' automatic thinking — thinking that fails to recognize and reject bias — by raising awareness of how stereotypes operate and holding individuals accountable for bias. Steps to consider include:
  • Managerial training and diversity education that includes "information about ways to recognize bias, inconsistencies between values (e.g., gender egalitarianism) and actual behavior, and causes and effects of gender inequality in the workplace."

  • Professionalism in performance management. This means using objective and unambiguous evaluation criteria that make it hard for bias to distort managers' evaluations of employees. As the report points out, well-designed HR practices "increase managers' accountability and motivation to avoid bias."
Catalyst's earlier report, "Women 'Take Care,' Men 'Take Charge:' Stereotyping of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed," includes a further recommendation: An organization should mindfully create situations in which employees gain constructive experience in interacting with people different from themselves.


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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Double Binds for Women Business Leaders

I have been following research produced by Catalyst, a non-profit organization focused on the experience of women in the business world, and am struck by the evidence they have pulled together supporting the view that women in leadership roles face prejudice that hurts both their performance as individuals and the performance of their organizations.1

"The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership: Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don't" (pdf), published this year, identifies three double binds that limit the ability of women leaders to achieve their full potential:
  • Extreme perceptions — "When women act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes, they are viewed as less competent leaders (too soft). When women act in ways that are inconsistent with such stereotypes, they're considered as unfeminine (too tough)."

  • High competence threshold — Higher standards and lower rewards for women relative to men. "On top of doing their job, women [h]ave to prove that they can lead, over and over again" and women "[h]ave to manage stereotypical expectations constantly (e.g., too tough–too soft). Because of these higher standards, women tend to receive lower rewards for the same level of effort and competency."

  • Competent but disliked — Women leaders tend to be perceived as competent or likable, but not both. "[W]hen women behave in ways that are traditionally valued for leaders (e.g., assertively), they tend to be seen as competent, but also not as effective interpersonally as women who adopt a more stereotypically feminine style. ... Accordingly, even when women act more 'leader-like' or adopt behaviors considered typical of effective leaders, they still have difficulties influencing others on account of being viewed as less personable leaders. Not being liked can also negatively impact women's work relationships, access to social networks, day-to-day interactions and, ultimately, their advancement opportunities."
In tomorrow's post, I'll look at individual and organizational strategies that the Catalyst report suggests for dealing with the stereotypic bias and double binds that women business leaders face.

1 Catalyst has published two previous reports on stereotyping of leaders: "Women 'Take Care,' Men 'Take Charge:' Stereotyping of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed" (2005, pdf) and "Different Cultures, Similar Perceptions: Stereotyping of Western European Business Leaders" (2006, pdf).


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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Advice for Managers on Rewarding Employees

A 2006 publication of the American Management Association (AMA), The Manager's Guide to Rewards: What You Need to Know to Get the Best for — and from — Your Employees, by Doug Jensen, Tom McMullen and Mel Stark, has a well-designed graphic in its first chapter (see below) summarizing the elements of organizational rewards and recognition.1 (The AMA has posted the chapter online as an introduction to, and sample of, the book's content.)

The authors are at pains to place rewards and recognition within a larger framework that identifies a complement of seven levers an organization operates, more or less deliberately, to get from its business strategy to end results:
  • Leadership

  • Values and culture

  • Work processes and business systems

  • Management processes and systems

  • Organization, team, and job design

  • Individual and team competencies

  • Rewards and recognition
Jensen, McMullen, and Stark emphasize that the level of business success and ROI on human resources an organization achieves, is highly dependent on bringing these levers into mutual alignment, so that they reinforce each other rather than working in isolation and possibly at cross purposes.

In talking specifically about employee compensation, the authors argue:
Sports teams rarely win based on new plays. They win with great players, great coaches, and the ability to execute as a team. Likewise in business, compensation can and does play an important supportive role in achieving success, but it rarely causes performance. In our experience, too much weight is placed on compensation, yet not enough is placed on alignment; there's too little focus on what's truly important. Moreover, the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is very important if compensation programs are to have true motivational value.
As the above graphic indicates, a well-run organization will design its compensation arrangements as part of a carefully thought-out total rewards system embodying both tangible and intangible elements.

1 The authors are senior executives with Hay Group: Doug Jensen is US Executive Compensation Practice Leader, Tom McMullen is US Reward Practice Leader, and Mel Stark is Regional Reward Practice Leader in the New York office.



Friday, July 27, 2007

Cultural Production in Botswana

As a follow-on to yesterday's post, here are some images of the beautiful goods produced by Botswana's artists and artisans.






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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Training in Botswana

Among African countries, Botswana has done especially well in pursuing development policies that are broadly beneficial to its population. In the training arena, the Botswana Training Authority (BOTA) has a primary role.

BOTA was established in October 2000 as part of the implementation of the 1998 Vocational Training Act. BOTA's main responsibility is to monitor and regulate vocational education and training, hence their mission statement:
We coordinate an integrated vocational training system that meets the needs of learners and industry through the development of standards; quality assurance; policy advice and monitoring and evaluation.
After consultation with stakeholders — business and industry, training organizations, and community representatives — and with a view to matching global quality standards,1 BOTA established seven value principles (pdf) for Botswana's vocational training programs (slightly edited):
  1. Foundation — Learning materials must be guided and supported by the aligned or outcomes-expressed curricula and they must be relevant to industry needs so that they are capable of preparing the learner for current and future trends in the world of work; be challenging but still appropriate for the level of the target group; adapt rather than duplicate the existing materials – e.g., reference materials and manuals; be internationally comparable; not violate copyright laws; and indicate notional learning time.

  2. Scope (breadth and depth of the learning material) — In order to ensure that the scope is fit for the training's purpose — i.e., suitable for the target group and addressing the expected outcomes of learning — developers need to: identify the relevant outcomes of learning or competencies, and support their acquisition; relate to the appropriate target group(s) — i.e., be flexible enough to accommodate varying abilities and backgrounds; provide clear examples, explanations and illustrations; indicate resources needed; provide an accurate industry context to suit current and future work environments; emphasize the purpose of learning in terms of employment opportunities; and provide a list of recommended further reading.

  3. Structure and Design — Learning materials must not only promote effective learning and assessment strategies but must also have a clear structure and be sequenced such that the target group can easily explore them. They must: be easy for the learner to navigate; present a visually attractive design; be usable by the hearing, visually and physically impaired; provide activities and learning strategies designed to motivate learners; and use words / language appropriate for the level of the target group.

  4. Flexible delivery — Learning materials must consider that learners (as well as trainers and assessors, as appropriate) have varying needs, preferences and entry levels, therefore must: provide a variety of learning methods; provide for use in a variety of training / learning contexts, e.g., on-the-job, off-the-job, and simulations; provide guidance on entry requirements (especially for learning packages / self-access materials); be adaptable for use under different but similar conditions — e.g., making coffee is different from making tea but the process is more or less the same; provide adequate user guides; provide guidance, as necessary, on safety, health and environment requirements pertaining to the learning event; be challenging to cater for the target population (e.g., should challenge both homogeneous and heterogeneous groups); be linked to industry minimum performance requirements / standards in order to adequately prepare the learner for the world of work; and highlight issues pertaining to modes of delivery – e.g., distance learning.

  5. Access and Equity — In order for learning materials to be inclusive, they must: accommodate learners from different geographical locations — e.g., using relevant examples and contexts — for workplace learning taking place in remote areas; accommodate cultural diversity; challenge stereotypes of gender, ethnicity, creed and ability status, which can be corrected / reversed by use of non-discriminatory words, pictures, illustrations and examples; be affordable in terms of purchase price / procurement; be moderately colorful but attractive — not boring but not too colorful; be produced in a way that is affordable by producers; take information technology needs into account; provide guidance on training / learning and employment opportunities.

  6. Content — Well-balanced content must: be interactive, keeping the target group engaged — i.e., tasks must adopt a practical approach, — e.g., role plays, projects, drama and surveys of living examples; be presented in a language appropriate for the level of the user — e.g., the lower the learner’s educational background, the simpler the language; be simple but yet challenging to the learner in order to sustain their interest; simulate reality in terms of work requirements and problem solving — i.e., be realistic; assist the trainer’s effort in delivering / implementing the curriculum; be sufficient in parameters guided by the curriculum — not too much and not too shallow; internationally and locally comparable and up-to-date; provide the notional learning time frame; and integrate and correlate theory with practice.

  7. Feedback and Evaluation — Learning materials must promote self-assessment for the learner and provide feedback to both the learner and the developer. They must: show the date on which the material was produced; show the date of next review of the material; provide a list of assessment questions / tasks / activities for the user; include a questionnaire to evaluate the material; and state the contact details of the producer.
I have done some preliminary investigating of how BOTA's efforts are working out, but have not come up with anything very informative. I will continue to watch for reports of what BOTA is accomplishing.

1 BOTA hired Peter R. Fleming, an expert from New Zealand, to direct the group charged with promoting effective structured work based learning.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"The Comedy of Errors"

A half dozen friends and I went across the Connecticut River to the Hartsbrook School in Hadley MA to have a birthday picnic and watch the Hampshire Shakespeare Company's al fresco production of The Comedy of Errors. The setting, with the east-west Holyoke Range in the background, is idyllic — certainly congenial to Elizabethan drama staged by a well-directed amateur company, several of whose members are in the photo below.

In honor of Shakespeare and the Hampshire Shakespeare Company, I've reproduced the prose synopsis of The Comedy of Errors from Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare (made available online by Eldritch Press).

The states of Syracuse and Ephesus being at variance, there was a cruel law made at Ephesus, ordaining that if any merchant of Syracuse was seen in the city of Ephesus, he was to be put to death, unless he could pay a thousand marks for the ransom of his life.

Ægeon, an old merchant of Syracuse, was discovered in the streets of Ephesus, and brought before the duke, either to pay this heavy fine, or to receive sentence of death.

Ægeon had no money to pay the fine, and the duke, before he pronounced the sentence of death upon him, desired him to relate the history of his life, and to tell for what cause he had ventured to come to the city of Ephesus, which it was death for any Syracusan merchant to enter.

Ægeon said, that he did not fear to die, for sorrow had made him weary of his life, but that a heavier task could not have been imposed upon him than to relate the events of his unfortunate life. He then began his own history, in the following words:

"I was born at Syracuse, and brought up to the profession of a merchant. I married a lady, with whom I lived very happily, but being obliged to go to Epidamnum, I was detained there by my business six months, and then, finding I should be obliged to stay some time longer, I sent for my wife, who, as soon as she arrived, was brought to bed of two sons, and what was very strange, they were both so exactly alike, that it was impossible to distinguish the one from the other. At the same time that my wife was brought to bed of these twin boys, a poor woman in the inn where my wife lodged was brought to bed of two sons, and these twins were as much like each other as my two sons were. The parents of these children being exceeding poor, I bought the two boys, and brought them up to attend upon my sons.

"My sons were very fine children, and my wife was not a little proud of two such boys: and she daily wishing to return home, I unwillingly agreed, and in an evil hour we got on shipboard; for we had not sailed above a league from Epidamnum before a dreadful storm arose, which continued with such violence, that the sailors seeing no chance of saving the ship, crowded into the boat to save their own lives, leaving us alone in the ship, which we every moment expected would be destroyed by the fury of the storm.

"The incessant weeping of my wife, and the piteous complaints of the pretty babes, who, not knowing what to fear, wept for fashion, because they saw their mother weep, filled me with terror for them, though I did not for myself fear death; and all my thoughts were bent to contrive means for their safety. I tied my youngest son to the end of a small spare mast, such as seafaring men provide against storms; at the other end I bound the youngest of the twin slaves, and at the same time I directed my wife how to fasten the other children in like manner to another mast. She thus having the care of the two eldest children, and I of the two younger, we bound ourselves separately to these masts with the children; and but for this contrivance we had all been lost, for the ship split on a mighty rock, and was dashed in pieces; and we, clinging to these slender masts, were supported above the water, where I, having the care of two children, was unable to assist my wife, who with the other children was soon separated from me; but while they were yet in my sight, they were taken up by a boat of fishermen, from Corinth (as I supposed), and seeing them in safety, I had no care but to struggle with the wild sea-waves, to preserve my dear son and the youngest slave. At length we, in our turn, were taken up by a ship, and the sailors, knowing me, gave us kind welcome and assistance, and landed us in safety at Syracuse; but from that sad hour I have never known what became of my wife and eldest child.

"My youngest son, and now my only care, when he was eighteen years of age, began to be inquisitive after his mother and his brother, and often importuned me that he might take his attendant, the young slave, who had also lost his brother, and go in search of them: at length I unwillingly gave consent, for though I anxiously desired to hear tidings of my wife and eldest son, yet in sending my younger one to find them, I hazarded the loss of them also. It is now seven years since my son left me; five years have I passed in travelling through the world in search of him: I have been in farthest Greece, and through the bounds of Asia, and coasting homewards, I landed here in Ephesus, being unwilling to leave any place unsought that harbours men; but this day must end the story of my life, and happy should I think myself in my death, if I were assured my wife and sons were living."

Here the hapless Ægeon ended the account of his misfortunes; and the duke, pitying this unfortunate father, who had brought upon himself this great peril by his love for his lost son, said, if it were not against the laws, which his oath and dignity did not permit him to alter, he would freely pardon him; yet, instead of dooming him to instant death, as the strict letter of the law required, he would give him that day to try if he could beg or borrow the money to pay the fine.

This day of grace did seem no great favour to Ægeon, for not knowing any man in Ephesus, there seemed to him but little chance that any stranger would lend or give him a thousand marks to pay the fine; and helpless and hopeless of any relief, he retired from the presence of the duke in the custody of a jailor.

Ægeon supposed he knew no person in Ephesus; but at the very time he was in danger of losing his life through the careful search he was making after his youngest son, that son and his eldest son also were both in the city of Ephesus.

Ægeon's sons, besides being exactly alike in face and person, were both named alike, being both called Antipholus, and the two twin slaves were also both named Dromio. Ægeon's youngest son, Antipholus of Syracuse, he whom the old man had come to Ephesus to seek, happened to arrive at Ephesus with his slave Dromio that very same day that Ægeon did; and he being also a merchant of Syracuse, he would have been in the same danger that his father was, but by good fortune he met a friend who told him the peril an old merchant of Syracuse was in, and advised him to pass for a merchant of Epidamnum; this Antipholus agreed to do, and he was sorry to hear one of his own countrymen was in this danger, but he little thought this old merchant was his own father.

The eldest son of Ægeon (who must be called Antipholus of Ephesus, to distinguish him from his brother Antipholus of Syracuse) had lived at Ephesus twenty years, and, being a rich man, was well able to have paid the money for the ransom of his father's life; but Antipholus knew nothing of his father, being so young when he was taken out of the sea with his mother by the fishermen that he only remembered he had been so preserved, but he had no recollection of either his father or his mother; the fishermen who took up this Antipholus and his mother and the young slave Dromio, having carried the two children away from her (to the great grief of that unhappy lady), intending to sell them.

Antipholus and Dromio were sold by them to duke Menaphon, a famous warrior, who was uncle to the duke of Ephesus, and he carried the boys to Ephesus when he went to visit the duke his nephew.

The duke of Ephesus taking a liking to young Antipholus, when he grew up, made him an officer in his army, in which he distinguished himself by his great bravery in the wars, where he saved the life of his patron the duke, who rewarded his merit by marrying him to Adriana, a rich lady of Ephesus; with whom he was living (his slave Dromio still attending him) at the time his father came there.

Antipholus of Syracuse, when he parted with his friend, who advised him to say he came from Epidamnum, gave his slave Dromio some money to carry to the inn where he intended to dine, and in the mean time he said he would walk about and view the city, and observe the manners of the people.

Dromio was a pleasant fellow, and when Antipholus was dull and melancholy he used to divert himself with the odd humours and merry jests of his slave, so that the freedoms of speech he allowed in Dromio were greater than is usual between masters and their servants.

When Antipholus of Syracuse had sent Dromio away, he stood awhile thinking over his solitary wanderings in search of his mother and his brother, of whom in no place where he landed could he hear the least tidings; and he said sorrowfully to himself: "I am like a drop of water in the ocean, which seeking to find its fellow drop, loses itself in the wide sea. So I unhappily, to find a mother and a brother, do lose myself."

While he was thus meditating on his weary travels, which had hitherto been so useless, Dromio (as he thought) returned. Antipholus, wondering that he came back so soon, asked him where he had left the money. Now it was not his own Dromio, but the twin-brother that lived with Antipholus of Ephesus, that he spoke to. The two Dromios and the two Antipholuses were still as much alike as Ægeon had said they were in their infancy; therefore no wonder Antipholus thought it was his own slave returned, and asked him why he came back so soon. Dromio replied: "My mistress sent me to bid you come to dinner. The capon burns, and the pig falls from the spit, and the meat will be all cold if you do not come home." "These jests are out of season," said Antipholus: "where did you leave the money?" Dromio still answering, that his mistress had sent him to fetch Antipholus to dinner: "What mistress?" said Antipholus. "Why, your worship's wife, sir," replied Dromio. Antipholus having no wife, he was very angry with Dromio, and said: "Because I familiarly sometimes chat with you, you presume to jest with me in this free manner. I am not in a sportive humour now: where is the money? we being strangers here, how dare you trust so great a charge from your own custody?" Dromio hearing his master, as he thought him, talk of their being strangers, supposing Antipholus was jesting, replied merrily: "I pray you, sir, jest as you sit at dinner. I had no charge but to fetch you home, to dine with my mistress and her sister." Now Antipholus lost all patience, and beat Dromio, who ran home, and told his mistress that his master had refused to come to dinner, and said that he had no wife.

Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, was very angry when she heard that her husband said he had no wife; for she was of a jealous temper, and she said her husband meant that he loved another lady better than herself; and she began to fret, and say unkind words of jealousy and reproach of her husband; and her sister Luciana, who lived with her, tried in vain to persuade her out of her groundless suspicions.

Antipholus of Syracuse went to the inn, and found Dromio with the money in safety there, and seeing his own Dromio, he was going again to chide him for his free jests, when Adriana came up to him, and not doubting but it was her husband she saw, she began to reproach him for looking strange upon her (as well he might, never having seen this angry lady before); and then she told him how well he loved her before they were married, and that now he loved some other lady instead of her. "How comes it now, my husband," said she, "O how comes it that I have lost your love?"—"Plead you to me, fair dame?" said the astonished Antipholus. It was in vain he told her he was not her husband, and that he had been in Ephesus but two hours; she insisted on his going home with her, and Antipholus as last, being unable to get away, went with her to his brother's house, and dined with Adriana and her sister, the one calling him husband, and the other brother, he, all amazed, thinking he must have been married to her in his sleep, or that he was sleeping now. And Dromio, who followed them, was no less surprised, for the cook-maid, who was his brother's wife, also claimed him for her husband.

While Antipholus of Syracuse was dining with his brother's wife, his brother, the real husband, returned home to dinner with his slave Dromio; but the servants would not open the door, because their mistress had ordered them not to admit any company; and when they repeatedly knocked, and said they were Antipholus and Dromio, the maids laughed at them, and said that Antipholus was at dinner with their mistress, and Dromio was in the kitchen; and though they almost knocked the door down, they could not gain admittance, and at last Antipholus went away very angry, and strangely surprised at hearing a gentleman was dining with his wife.

When Antipholus of Syracuse had finished his dinner, he was so perplexed at the lady's still persisting in calling him husband, and at hearing that Dromio had also been claimed by the cook-maid, that he left the house, as soon as he could find any presence to get away; for though he was very much pleased with Luciana, the sister, yet the jealous-tempered Adriana he disliked very much, nor was Dromio at all better satisfied with his fair wife in the kitchen; therefore both master and man were glad to get away from their new wives as fast as they could.

The moment Antipholus of Syracuse had left the house, he was met by a goldsmith, who mistaking him, as Adriana had done, for Antipholus of Ephesus, gave him a gold chain, calling him by his name; and when Antipholus would have refused the chain, saying it did not belong to him, the goldsmith replied he made it by his own orders; and went away, leaving the chain in the hands of Antipholus, who ordered his man Dromio to get his things on board a ship, not choosing to stay in a place any longer, where he met with such strange adventures that he surely thought himself bewitched.

The goldsmith who had given the chain to the wrong Antipholus, was arrested immediately after for a sum of money he owed; and Antipholus, the married brother, to whom the goldsmith thought he had given the chain, happened to come to the place where the officer was arresting the goldsmith, who, when he saw Antipholus, asked him to pay for the gold chain he had just delivered to him, the price amounting to nearly the same sum as that for which he had been arrested. Antipholus denying the having received the chain, and the goldsmith persisting to declare that he had but a few minutes before given it to him, they disputed this matter a long time, both thinking they were right: for Antipholus knew the goldsmith never gave him the chain, and so like were the two brothers, the goldsmith was as certain he had delivered the chain into his hands, till at last the officer took the goldsmith away to prison for the debt he owed, and at the same time the goldsmith made the officer arrest Antipholus for the price of the chain; so that at the conclusion of their dispute, Antipholus and the merchant were both taken away to prison together.

As Antipholus was going to prison, he met Dromio of Syracuse, his brother's slave, and mistaking him for his own, he ordered him to go to Adriana his wife, and tell her to send the money for which he was arrested. Dromio wondering that his master should send him back to the strange house where he dined, and from which he had just before been in such haste to depart, did not dare to reply, though he came to tell his master the ship was ready to sail: for he saw Antipholus was in no humour to be jested with. Therefore he went away, grumbling within himself, that he must return to Adriana's house, "Where," said he, "Dowsabel claims me for a husband: but I must go, for servants must obey their masters' commands."

Adriana gave him the money, and as Dromio was returning, he met Antipholus of Syracuse, who was still in amaze at the surprising adventures he met with; for his brother being well known in Ephesus, there was hardly a man he met in the streets but saluted him as an old acquaintance: some offered him money which they said was owing to him, some invited him to come and see them, and some gave thanks for kindnesses they said he had done them, all mistaking him for his brother. A tailor showed him some silks he had bought for him, and insisted upon taking measure of him for some clothes.

Antipholus began to think he was among a nation of sorcerers and witches, and Dromio did not at all relieve his master from his bewildered thoughts, by asking him how he got free from the officer who was carrying him to prison, and giving him the purse of gold which Adriana had sent to pay the debt with. This talk of Dromio's of the arrest and of a prison, and of the money he had brought from Adriana, perfectly confounded Antipholus, and he said: "This fellow Dromio is certainly distracted, and we wander here in illusions"; and quite terrified at his own confused thoughts, he cried out: "Some blessed power deliver us from this strange place!"

And now another stranger came up to him, and she was a lady, and she too called him Antipholus, and told him he had dined with her that day, and asked him for a gold chain which she said he had promised to give her. Antipholus now lost all patience, and calling her a sorceress, he denied that he had ever promised her a chain, or dined with her, or had ever seen her face before that moment. The lady persisted in affirming he had dined with her, and had promised her a chain, which Antipholus still denying, she further said, that she had given him a valuable ring, and if he would not give her the gold chain, she insisted upon having her own ring again. On this Antipholus became quite frantic, and again calling her sorceress and witch, and denying all knowledge of her or her ring, ran away from her, leaving her astonished at his words and his wild looks, for nothing to her appeared more certain than that he had dined with her, and that she had given him a ring, in consequence of his promising to make her a present of a gold chain. But this lady had fallen into the same mistake the others had done, for she had taken him for his brother: the married Antipholus had done all the things she taxed this Antipholus with.

When the married Antipholus was denied entrance into his own house (those within supposing him to be already there), he had gone away very angry, believing it to be one of his wife's jealous freaks, to which she was very subject, and remembering that she had often falsely accused him of visiting other ladies, he, to be revenged on her for shutting him out of his own house, determined to go and dine with this lady, and she receiving him with great civility, and his wife having so highly offended him, Antipholus promised to give her a gold chain, which he had intended as a present for his wife; it was the same chain which the goldsmith by mistake had given to his brother. The lady liked so well the thoughts of having a fine gold chain, that she gave the married Antipholus a ring; which when, as she supposed (taking his brother for him), he denied, and said he did not know her, and left her in such a wild passion, she began to think he was certainly out of his senses; and presently she resolved to go and tell Adriana that her husband was mad. And while she was telling it to Adriana, he came, attended by the jailor (who allowed him to come home to get the money to pay the debt), for the purse of money, which Adriana had sent by Dromio, and he had delivered to the other Antipholus.

Adriana believed the story the lady told her of her husband's madness must be true, when he reproached her for shutting him out of his own house; and remembering how he had protested all dinner-time that he was not her husband, and had never been in Ephesus till that day, she had no doubt that he was mad; she therefore paid the jailor the money, and having discharged him, she ordered her servants to bind her husband with ropes, and had him conveyed into a dark room, and sent for a doctor to come and cure him of his madness: Antipholus all the while hotly exclaiming against this false accusation, which the exact likeness he bore to his brother had brought upon him. But his rage only the more confirmed them in the belief that he was mad; and Dromio persisting in the same story, they bound him also, and took him away along with his master.

Soon after Adriana had put her husband into confinement, a servant came to tell her that Antipholus and Dromio must have broken loose from their keepers, for that they were both walking at liberty in the next street. On hearing this, Adriana ran out to fetch him home, taking some people with her to secure her husband again; and her sister went along with her. When they came to the gates of a convent in their neighbourhood, there they saw Antipholus and Dromio, as they thought being again deceived by the likeness of the twin-brothers.

Antipholus of Syracuse was still beset with the perplexities this likeness had brought upon him. The chain which the goldsmith had given him was about his neck, and the goldsmith was reproaching him for denying that he had it, and refusing to pay for it, and Antipholus was protesting that the goldsmith freely gave him the chain in the morning, and that from that hour he had never seen the goldsmith again.

And now Adriana came up to him and claimed him as her lunatic husband, who had escaped from his keepers; and the men she brought with her were going to lay violent hands on Antipholus and Dromio; but they ran into the convent, and Antipholus begged the abbess to give him shelter in her house.

And now came out the lady abbess herself to inquire into the cause of this disturbance. She was a grave and venerable lady, and wise to judge of what she saw, and she would not too hastily give up the man who had sought protection in her house; so she strictly questioned the wife about the story she told of her husband's madness, and she said: "What is the cause of this sudden distemper of your husband's? Has he lost his wealth at sea? Or is it the death of some dear friend that has disturbed his mind?" Adriana replied, that no such things as these had been the cause. "Perhaps," said the abbess, "he has fixed his affections on some other lady than you his wife; and that has driven him to this state." Adriana said she had long thought the love of some other lady was the cause of his frequent absences from home. Now it was not his love for another, but the teasing jealousy of his wife's temper, that often obliged Antipholus to leave his home; and (the abbess suspecting this from the vehemence of Adriana's manner) to learn the truth, she said: "You should have reprehended him for this."—"Why, so I did," replied Adriana. "Ay," said the abbess, "but perhaps not enough." Adriana, willing to convince the abbess that she had said enough to Antipholus on this subject, replied: "It was the constant subject of our conversation: in bed I would not let him sleep for speaking of it. At table I would not let him eat for speaking of it. When I was alone with him, I talked of nothing else; and in company I gave him frequent hints of it. Still all my talk was how vile and bad it was in him to love any lady better than me."

The lady abbess, having drawn this full confession from the jealous Adriana, now said: "And therefore comes it that your husband is mad. The venomous clamour of a jealous woman is a more deadly poison than a mad dog's tooth. It seems his sleep was hindered by your railing; no wonder that his head is light: and his meat was sauced with your upbraidings; unquiet meals make ill digestions, and that has thrown him into this fever. You say his sports were disturbed by your brawls; being debarred from the enjoyment of society and recreation, what could ensue but dull melancholy and comfortless despair? The consequence is then, that your jealous fits have made your husband mad."

Luciana would have excused her sister, saying, she always reprehended her husband mildly; and she said to her sister: "Why do you hear these rebukes without answering them?" But the abbess had made her so plainly perceive her fault, that she could only answer: "She has betrayed me to my own reproof."

Adriana, though ashamed of her own conduct, still insisted on having her husband delivered up to her; but the abbess would suffer no person to enter her house, nor would she deliver up this unhappy man to the care of the jealous wife, determining herself to use gentle means for his recovery, and she retired into her house again, and ordered her gates to be shut against them.

During the course of this eventful day, in which so many errors had happened from the likeness the twin brothers bore to each other, old Ægeon's day of grace was passing away, it being now near sunset; and at sunset he was doomed to die, if he could not pay the money.

The place of his execution was near this convent, and here he arrived just as the abbess retired into the convent; the duke attending in person, that if any offered to pay the money, he might be present to pardon him.

Adriana stopped this melancholy procession, and cried out to the duke for justice, telling him that the abbess had refused to deliver up her lunatic husband to her care. While she was speaking, her real husband and his servant Dromio, who had got loose, came before the duke to demand justice, complaining that his wife had confined him on a false charge of lunacy; and telling in what manner he had broken his bands, and eluded the vigilance of his keepers. Adriana was strangely surprised to see her husband, when she thought he had been within the convent.

Ægeon, seeing his son, concluded this was the son who had left him to go in search of his mother and his brother; and he felt secure that his dear son would readily pay the money demanded for his ransom. He therefore spoke to Antipholus in words of fatherly affection, with joyful hope that he should now be released. But to the utter astonishment of Ægeon, his son denied all knowledge of him, as well he might, for this Antipholus had never seen his father since they were separated in the storm in his infancy; but while the poor old Ægeon was in vain endeavouring to make his son acknowledge him, thinking surely that either his griefs and the anxieties he had suffered had so strangely altered him that his son did not know him, or else that he was ashamed to acknowledge his father in his misery; in the midst of this perplexity, the lady abess and the other Antipholus and Dromio came out and the wondering Adriana saw two husbands and two romios standing before her.

And now these riddling errors, which had so perplexed them all, were clearly made out. When the duke saw the two Antipholuses and the two Dromios both so exactly alike, he at once conjectured aright of these seeming mysteries, for he remembered the story Ægeon had told him in the morning; and he said, these men must be the two sons of Ægeon and their twin slaves.

But now an unlooked-for joy indeed completed the history of Ægeon; and the tale he had in the morning told in sorrow, and under sentence of death, before the setting sun went down was brought to a happy conclusion, for the venerable lady abbess made herself known to be the long-lost wife of Ægeon, and the fond mother of the two Antipholuses.

When the fishermen took the eldest Antipholus and Dromio away from her, she entered a nunnery, and by her wise and virtuous conduct, she was at length made lady abbess of this convent, and in discharging the rites of hospitality to an unhappy stranger she had unknowingly protected her own son.

Joyful congratulations and affectionate greetings between these long separated parents and their children made them for a while forget that Ægeon was yet under sentence of death; but when they were become a little calm, Antipholus of Ephesus offered the duke the ransom money for his father's life; but the duke freely pardoned Ægeon, and would not take the money. And the duke went with the abbess and her newly found husband and children into the convent, to hear this happy family discourse at leisure of the blessed ending of their adverse fortunes. And the two Dromios' humble joy must not be forgotten; they had their congratulations and greetings too, and each Dromio pleasantly complimented his brother on his good looks, being well pleased to see his own person (as in a glass) show so handsome in his brother.

Adriana had so well profited by the good counsel of her mother-inlaw, that she never after cherished unjust suspicions, or was jealous of her husband.

Antipholus of Syracuse married the fair Luciana, the sister of his brother's wife; and the good old Ægeon, with his wife and sons, lived at Ephesus many years. Nor did the unravelling of these perplexities so entirely remove every ground of mistake for the future, but that sometimes, to remind them of adventures past, comical blunders would happen, and the one Antipholus, and the one Dromio, be mistaken for the other, making altogether a pleasant and diverting Comedy of Errors.

[The graphic above the synopsis is by Arthur Rackham (1909).]



Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Rich Collection of Training Exercises

The pdf document here is addressed to people learning to do motivational interviewing, but many of the exercises it contains can be readily adapted to training on other topics.

As one example, I'll mention one of my favorites, the list of sentence stems suggested for eliciting constructive feedback on a training program. The sentence stems are:

I learned __________ .

I relearned __________ .

I gained __________ .

I appreciated __________ .

One thing that surprised me was __________ .

I could use [skill X] to __________ .

One thing I hope we cover before this training is over is __________ .

I am more confident now that I can __________ .

When I get back to work, I can't wait to try __________ .

Something I wanted more of was __________ .

Training participants should complete the stems individually, and then on a voluntary basis share their feedback with the rest of the group.

Note that all of the stems are basically positive in tone. Tracy Wyman, who contributed the exercise to the collection, recommends seeking negative feedback in written form (e.g., responses to the question, "What parts of the course did not work well? How could they be improved?) in order not to end the training on a down note.


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Monday, July 23, 2007

Roadblocks to Listening

In reading material relating to motivational interviewing for yesterday's post, I came upon a list of roadblocks to listening developed by Thomas Gordon that provides useful food for thought.

Gordon's twelve roadblocks are:
  • Ordering, directing, or commanding

  • Warning or threatening

  • Giving advice, making suggestions, or providing solutions

  • Persuading with logic, arguing, or lecturing

  • Moralizing, preaching, or telling [people] what they "should" do

  • Disagreeing, judging, criticizing, or blaming

  • Agreeing, approving, or praising

  • Shaming, ridiculing, or labeling

  • Interpreting or analyzing

  • Reassuring, sympathizing, or consoling

  • Questioning or probing

  • Withdrawing, distracting, humoring, or changing the subject
As in yesterday's post, it is clear that we are dealing here with guidance specifically geared to the needs of clients in a therapeutic setting. Therefore, there is only limited applicability to the business setting.

Still, I'd suggest recognizing that the roadblocks listed above are something a coach should be conscious of during that part of a conversation with an employee in which the goal is to understand clearly the employee's perspective. After such understanding is achieved, it's safe to proceed to discussion of how to address whatever problems or issues need to be resolved.


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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Coaching that Nurtures Change

The June/July 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind has a short article by a pair of psychology professors, Hal Arkowitz of the University of Arizona and Scott O. Lilienfeld of Emory University, that offers advice on how to help people change.

Since today's businesses are generally intent on effectively managing a high level of dynamism, it makes sense to tap what could be of use in the ideas Arkowitz and Lilienfeld offer. In reading the excerpts below, you need to substitute "manager" for "therapist" and "employee" for "client," but I believe the substance of the recommendations remains useful even as the context shifts from interaction in a psychologist's office to coaching in a business setting.

Arkowitz and Lilienfeld advise against adopting highly directive approaches to promoting personal change — "cajoling through advice, persuasion or social pressure" — because such techniques are too likely to elicit resistance rather than cooperation.

In lieu of a highly directive approach, Arkowitz and Lilienfeld suggest motivational interviewing, a technique developed for treatment of addiction by William R. Miller (pdf) of the University of New Mexico and Stephen Rollnick of the Cardiff University School of Medicine in Wales.
In this method, the therapist aims to enhance the client's intrinsic motivation toward change by exploring and resolving his or her ambivalence [toward change]. The goal is to help the client (rather than the therapist) become the advocate for change. In other words, a client's resistance to change is seen by the therapist as ambivalence to be understood and appreciated rather than opposed directly.
Methods to try include:
  • "Highlighting client statements that reflect conflict between the person's behavior and values ... Such discrepancies create discomfort about the status quo and increase motivation to change."

  • Paying "more attention to the cient's talk about changing versus not changing, to help resolve ambivalence and tip the scales toward change."
In other words, motivational interviewing involves "listening and understanding hesitation about change, not opposing it, and trying to supportively strengthen the side of the person's mind that wants change."

I'm not saying that there is a direct and complete applicability of motivational interviewing, a therapeutic technique designed to help people overcome addiction, to situations in which businesses are trying to win employee engagement in making change happen. What I'm suggesting is that the type of conversation involved in motivational interviewing could be helpful as part of the process of coaching employees through an unsettling transition.

Note: You can read more about the philosophy behind motivational interviewing, the principles of motivational interviewing, interaction techniques, and motivational interviewing traps at the MotivationalInterview.org website.



Saturday, July 21, 2007

"John James Audubon: Drawn From Nature"

I joined a couple of friends this evening to see a special preview of the fine documenatary, "John James Audubon: Drawn From Life." The film was produced for the PBS series, American Masters, by Florentine Films/Hott Productions, based in the section of Northampton called Florence (after Florence, Italy).

Northampton's Academy of Music
venue for the Audubon preview

You can read WNET's press release about the film here. The national premiere is scheduled for July 25th. (You can check your local station's schedule by starting here.)



Friday, July 20, 2007

Second Life Reality Check

Frank Rose, a contributing writer at Wired, has a refreshing article in the August issue. In "Lonely Planet," Rose debunks the corporate invasion of Second Life. He points out that companies setting up a virtual presence there aren't getting much of anything for their money, time, and effort.

Toward the end of the article, Rose quotes a couple of informed observers:
"A terror has gripped corporate America," says Joseph Plummer, chief research officer at the Advertising Research Foundation, an industry think tank. ... "The simple model they all grew up with — the 30-second spot, delivered through the mass reach of television — "is no longer working. And there are two types of people out there: a small group that's experimenting thoughtfully, and a large group that's trying the next thing to come through the door." Second Life appeals to the latter — the ones who are afraid of missing out, who don't consider half a million dollars to be a lot of money, and who haven't figured out (or don't want to admit) that Second Life is less than the bold new frontier it appears to be.

      "For people who've grown up in analog, Second Life is not that hard to understand," says Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of Denuo, a consulting arm of the global ad giant Publicis Groupe. "I have a store in the real world; I have a store in the virtual world." In contrast, the kind of digital marketing that actually works requires a conceptual leap. Successful online marketing is targeted and specific, like direct mail — but it's direct mail in a fun house, where the recipients can easily seize control of what the mail says, where it goes next, and how it gets there. You need to know how to buy up keywords to maximize search returns, how to make the most of recommendation engines, how to use the viral potential of Web video, how to monitor what's being said in blogs and message boards, how not to blow it by trying to be deceptive. Building a corporate pavilion in Second Life doesn't require any of these things. It's simple and it's obvious.
More generally, taking advantage of Web 2.0 capabilities intelligently requires learning how the people you're trying to reach, whether customers or employees, use applications like blogs and wikis and, in notably limited ways, virtual reality sites like Second Life.



Thursday, July 19, 2007

What drives radical innovation?

Prompted by a one-page write-up in the Summer 2007 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, I've had a look at an intriguing working paper by Gerard J. Tellis, Jaideep C. Prabhu, and Rajesh K. Chandy (TPC), "Innovation in Firms across Nations: New Metrics and Drivers of Radical Innovation" (pdf).1

I was most interested in what TPC had to say about the role of company culture in promoting radical innovation, which they define as
the commercialization of new products that are based on substantially different technology and provide substantially higher customer benefits relative to existing products in the market.
As examples, TPC cite the microwave oven and the compact disc. Radical innovation is important for its impact on consumer welfare and on growth, both at the firm level and at the national economic level.

TPC define culture as
the set of values, aspirations, traditions, and protocols of a group of people which regulate their interpersonal relations and their attitude to their environments.
They look at two aspects of firm culture:
  • Attitudes — measured in terms of willingness to cannibalize current assets (reduce past investments' value), future market orientation (extent of emphasis on customers and competitors who are not currently in the markets the firm serves), and tolerance for risk.

  • Practices — measured in terms of incentives (monetary and non-monetary rewards for innovation), support for product champions (employees who aggressively pursue new product ideas), and internal markets (level of internal autonomy and internal competition among the firm's business units).
TPC's analysis of survey and archival data2 leads them to conclude that the internal culture of a firm is the strongest driver of radical innovations. More precisely,
the effects of future market orientation, willingness to cannibalize, and tolerance for risk are particularly strong. While the effects of incentives and product champions are relatively weaker, they are still significantly larger than zero.
Only the internal markets variable did not pan out as a significant driver of radical innovation.

The other finding TPC emphasize is the importance of measuring innovation in terms of final outputs, such as radical innovation, not in terms of intermediate outputs, such as patents, nor in terms inputs, such as R&D.

From their research, TPC conclude, "Commercialization of radical innovations has an important impact on a firm's financial performance and as such is a more valid measure of innovation than patents." However, TPC also find that "R&D has a strong and significant effect on market-to-book ratio [their measure of a firm's financial performance], even after controlling for radical innovations. This effect reflects markets' expectation of the future returns to current expenditures on R&D." TPC acknowledge that their results make it clear that firms must deploy R&D resources in order to achieve radical innovation.

1 Gerard J. Tellis is Director of the Center for Global Innovation, Neely Chair in American Enterprise and Professor of Marketing, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Jaideep C. Prabhu is Professor and Chair of Marketing, Tanaka Business School, Imperial College, London. Rajesh K.Chandy is Carlson School Professor of Marketing, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

2 The companies studied were in 17 large and/or populous economies: the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Korea, and Singapore. The data covered only manufacturing companies; TPC intend to do similar research on service companies. They also intend to refine their metric for innovation by moving away from a survey-based measure to a broader measure that draws on news reports and public databases.


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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Some Case Studies of Social Network Analysis

In its July 23 issue, Fortune takes a look at how organizations can best identify and use the informal networks that underlie their formal reporting relationships.

If you're already familiar with the basics of social network analysis, the most valuable part of The Hidden Workplace," by Jennifer Reingold and Jia Lynn Yang, is the portion describing five case studies:
  • Bell Canada — Needed to leave its monopoly self behind and become "more outward-looking, dynamic, and productive." Management identified a core of employees "who embodied the mentality the company sought: committed, passionate, and competitive." These employees were made the seed for a group of "Pride Builders," who became leaders of cultural transformation at the company.

  • Lehman Brothers — Worked with Rob Cross at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce. The goal was to improve retention of talent by helping top performers do even better by improving their networks.

  • Fluor — To meet employees' desire to know more about the company, melded mentoring and networking in the form of "mentoring circles." In each circle, an executive was matched with "five to nine lower-level employees drawn from different parts of the company." The aim was "to give employees a sense of belonging to a broader organization, one whose different parts fit together in a certain way."

  • Procter & Gamble — To improve collaboration among R&D personnel — located in 25 technical centers around the world— used a social network analysis to see where there were gaps. Two important findings: R&D in China and new-hires were not well-connected with the rest of the R&D organization.

  • Raytheon — Did an analysis of the network at their Rocky Mountain Engineering Center. The upshot was creation of "five 'centers of excellence': groups of engineers who communicated via their own e-mail lists and occasional face-to-face meetings." Raytheon also helped a relatively isolated group of system architects become more connected with others who had allied expertise.
Reingold and Yang close their article with a couple of recommendations to managers seeking to optimize the role of their companies' informal organizations: set loose parameters (no micro-managing, but also no abdication of all effort to create structure), and find "the right ambassadors to shuttle between the formal and the informal."


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Negotiating the Ground Rules for Negotiation

As a follow-up to yesterday's post concerning how to handle people who lie when negotiating, here's a reminder of what Roger Fisher and William Ury have to say on the subject of dirty tricks in their classic book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

In Chapter 8, "What If They Use Dirty Tricks? (Taming the Hard Bargainer)," Fisher and Ury argue that the key is to resisting dirty tricks is to negotiate fair ground rules.

There are various types of dirty tricks the other party can try:
  • Deliberate deception: phony facts (e.g., claiming that a used car has never been in an accident when that's not true), ambiguous authority to conclude a deal (so that it can turn out late in the game that the other party has to "see my manager for approval"), dubious intentions to follow through on the negotiated agreement (e.g., promising to make child support payments without actually intending to do so).

  • Psychological warfare, i.e., tactics that make you uncomfortable so that you're inclined to hurry through the negotiation: stressful situations (e.g., a room that is too hot or cold), personal attacks (e.g., making you wait past the appointed time for the meeting to start), good-cop/bad-cop routine, threats.

  • Positional pressure tactics, i.e., tactics "designed to structure the situation so that only one side can effectively make concessions": refusal to negotiate and/or insistance on preconditions, extreme demands, escalating demands (e.g., reopening issues that you thought had already been settled), lock-in tactics (e.g., a union leader making a public commitment to achieving a 10% pay raise for union members), falling back on a hardhearted partner (e.g., a spouse who supposedly won't go along with a proposed deal), a calculated delay, "take it or leave it."
Fisher and Ury lay out three steps for negotiating ground rules. When the other party seems to be using a dirty trick:
  1. Recognize the tactic.

  2. Raise the issue explicitly.

  3. Question the tactic's legitimacy and desirability, and negotiate to arrive at fair rules.
For the last step, Fisher and Ury prescribe the same method as for the negotiation proper, namely:
  • Separate the people from the problem. Avoid making the other side defensive because this may impede resolving the problem.

  • Focus on interests, not positions. Inquire about why the other side is using the tactic in question.

  • Invent options for mutual gain. Suggest an alternate approach that helps both sides.

  • Insist on using objective criteria. "Frame the principle behind each tactic as a proposed 'rule' for the game. 'Shall we alternate spilling coffee on one another day by day?' As a last resort turn to your BATNA (your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and walk out."
As their closing thought, Fisher and Ury say, "Don't be a victim." Be firm in seeking agreement to ground rules consistent with good faith bargaining.



Monday, July 16, 2007

Robert Adler on "Negotiating with Liars"

What to do with bad actors? In the case of people who lie during negotiations, Robert S. Adler, Luther H. Hodges Sr. Scholar in law and ethics at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School, has several suggestions.

In his article, "Negotiating with Liars," in the Summer 2007 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, Adler explains protective steps you can take prior to and during a negotiation.

Prior to the negotiation
  • Due diligence — "If suspicions arise about the other side's bona fides or good faith, asking that person to disclose credentials, credit record or personal history forces the individual to prove his or her legitimacy as a bargaining partner."

  • Ground rules — "... some experts have argued that parties (especially lawyers) should consider entering into pre-negotiation agreements whereby they commit themselves to negotiate according to higher standards [than the legally required minimum]; specifically, they might agree to disclose all material information, abstain from unreasonable delays and abstain from imposing hardships on the other party to force favorable settlements."
During the negotiation
  • Look for potential signs of deception — "Despite evidence that there are no reliable behavioral 'giveaways' of lying, the reality is that some individuals are incompetent liars."

  • Ask questions in different ways — "If the questioner isn't convinced that the complete story is forthcoming, he or she can try another approach."

  • Ask the other party to come clean — If "one feels that the other side is not being forthcoming, one should push the other party to reveal all relevant information. To do that, one needs to ask whether there are any material facts that have not been disclosed — in effect to come clean about knowledge."

  • Ask questions to which you already know the answer — a time-honored technique for uncovering lying.

  • Take notes — "Expert negotiators typically take good notes on critical points to remove any potential ambiguity. Some read the other side's words back to them and ask them to confirm [the wording] for accuracy. Others go so far as to bring another party in as a witness to the discussion."

  • Include written claims in the final agreement — "In cases where the other party's representations about facts are fundamental to making the deal acceptable, it makes sense to insist that the relevant representation[s] be included in the written terms of the deal."

  • Use contingent agreements — "... a 'contingency' provision in the contract ... provides specific protection should the [other party's] representation turn out to be false. In contingency agreements, the parties agree in advance on consequences and remedies (including monetary damages) if and when certain events unfold." In a note, Adler adds, "Contingent agreements are often used in circumstances in which the parties have different and irreconcilable visions of the future. Rather than argue endlessly about what the future holds, the parties can simply put a contingency in the agreement that provides different outcomes depending on which version of the future proves accurate."

  • Trust but verify — "Society has developed a number of legal and regulatory tools (including performance bonds and escrow agents) to help provide protections against dishonesty and bad faith in bargaining. Depending on the circumstances, negotiatiors should always consider whether such mechanisms are appropriate for achieving their objectives."
As you can tell from reading the above excerpts, Adler recommends steps to take when negotiating with someone you suspect of lying that are generally an escalation of what you would do anyway as a prudent negotiator.



Sunday, July 15, 2007

21st Century Journalism XXI: NewsU Healthcare Course

I've begun working my way through the preview version of a new course on healthcare reporting offered at the News University website.1

"On the Beat: Covering Hospitals" is free to any registered user of the NewsU site. The content for the course — a simulation in which a rookie reporter covers a hospital story with help from an editor and a more experienced reporter — was developed by Charles Ornstein and Karl Stark. Ornstein covers public health and health policy for the Los Angeles Times; Stark is National/Foreign Editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The course aims to improve critical thinking skills and to help the learner acquire beat-specific knowledge necessary for effective coverage of hospitals in the local community.

There are seven learning objectives, namely, to improve your ability to
  • Uncover sources at hospitals, local associations and goverment agencies.

  • Work with sources to get the information you need.

  • Work with your editor to get to the heart of the story.

  • Interpret reports, statistics and tricky government forms.

  • Extract information pertinent to your story from lengthy source documents.

  • Tap online resources to flesh out your reporting.

  • Detect trends across years and among documents.
The course has two story lines. The one that is currently available deals with quality of care issues by looking at how three local hospitals handle pneumonia cases. Promised, but not yet accessible, is a story involving comparative analysis of financial management at local hospitals.

1 NewU is a project of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. You can access the complete list of NewsU courses here.


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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Argument Maps

Tim van Gelder, Principal Fellow in the Philosophy Department at the University of Melbourne, and CEO of Austhink, an Australian software development and consulting company, and Andy Bulka, Technical Director and Software Architect at Austhink, have developed a software tool called Rationale that can help people you're training practice critical thinking skills.

example of a reasoning map

Rationale is based on the concept of argument mapping — diagramming of reasoning and argument (in other words, diagramming the logical structure of an argument).

You can see an overview of Rationale's critical thinking applications here. The applications include:
  • Building hierarchical grouping maps to organize information that comes out of discussions such as brainstorming.

  • Supporting decision making by building structured reasoning maps that show reasons for and against a position, along with the strength of each argument. (The graphic above displays an example of a reasoning map.)

  • Supporting analysis by building more complex multi-premise argument maps. "Display multiple premises within a single reason or objection, represent support for inferences as opposed to premises, and evaluate premises separately from the reasons or objections to which they belong."

  • Creating a structured essay outline from an argument map.
Note that you don't need to purchase Rationale in order to make use of argument mapping techniques. Austhink provides a set of six well-organized tutorials that do a good job of covering the concepts and techniques.

The important thing is to recognize the power of practice for improving critical thinking skills. Van Gelder argues (pdf),
CT [critical thinking] is a complex, higher-order cognitive skill. We know from cognitive science that cognitive skills, like skills of any sort, improve with practice. We also know that practice should be motivated, graduated, guided, scaffolded, and there should be lots of feedback. Further, for CT the practice should be practice-for-transfer. ... [S]kills acquired in one domain or context often do not carry over to other situations. Improving general CT skills ... involves practising transfer itself — that is, carrying concepts and skills over to new problems in diverse domains and contexts. This is 'quality practice'.

... Critical thinking skills only improve with quality practice. Key evidence comes from studies of students engaging in intensive quality practice. We rigorously pre- and post-tested students who used software designed to facilitate quality practice. Their mean gain in critical thinking over one semester was almost twice the expected gain over three years of undergraduate study. Properly designed instruction can therefore make a real difference.
Van Gelder's message is one trainers should take to heart.


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Friday, July 13, 2007

A Model for Moderating an Online Forum

I'm always on the lookout for good examples of rules for an online forum. A friend in Latvia who likes the Television Without Pity (TWoP) site mentioned it to me in an email, so I took a look. In course of exploring the site, I checked out the FAQ.

The items in the FAQ that explain the rules for participation are a useful paradigm both for the rules themselves and for the site-compatible tone in which the rules are explained. Some examples:
Q: What's up with all the forum rules and enforcement?

Let it be known that we at TWoP are strict, and our moderators are vigilant. We are the way we are because we think the quality of messages counts as much or more than the quantity. Now that that's out of the way, let's find out what we are so strict about...

Q: What's the difference between a personal attack and taking it personally?

Consider the situation, here. If you're talking about a faction within the fandom of a given show -- like, if you're a 'shipper for a particular pair of characters -- what that boils down to is your turning one opinion you have about the show (that X and Y should be a couple) and choosing to define your entire identity as a poster by that one opinion. In that case, you may take it personally when another poster disagrees with that opinion about X and Y, but unless that poster denigrates you by name, it's not a personal attack.

If you choose to pledge allegiance to a particular sect of fandom, that's your business and your right. But it's not the same as aligning yourself with a political party, religious faith, or sexual orientation protected under anti-defamation laws.

To put it even more succinctly, just because you choose to take it personally doesn't mean it's a personal attack.

Q: I love typing in all lowercase or all uppercase, ignoring proper grammar and punctuation, and writing my messages like I'm text-messaging on a cell phone with an eight-year-old. That's cool, right? I mean, who cares? This is the internet!

Well, we care...but the sad truth is that other posters might skip over your posts if they're too hard to read. Things like proper spacing, capitalization, and punctuation make your posts much easier on the eye, and they make you look like quite the Captain Smartypants, too.

Look, we're not grading you. You won't get banned for misspelling "definitely" or anything. Just try your best to write neat, coherent posts. Don't type "2" for "to," or "U" for "you," or "l8r" or "LOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!" or any of that nonsense. Throw in a carriage return now and then to break up the text, and please use proper capitalization. Your computer comes with two shift keys. Use 'em.

Q: I found an article about one of the shows. Can I cut and paste it on the forums for others to read?

No, you can't. That's copyrighted material, and it could get us in trouble if you post it without permission. Please just link to it instead.
I'd emphasize that the way you explain the rules for a forum your organization runs should reflect your organization's style. For example, you might not want to be quite as informal as Television Without Pity. Or, you might not be quite as strict as they are. For me, the key point is that the rules have been thought through, are explained clearly, and are enforced so that the forum is comfortable for the people whose participation you're trying to encourage.


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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Danes at Jacob's Pillow

My friend Nancy and I had a beautiful evening at Jacob's Pillow, where Dancers of the Royal Danish Ballet put on a generous program that included pieces dating from 1836 to 2007.

Thomas Lund of the Royal Danish Ballet in Napoli, choreographed by August Bournonville. Photo by Henrik Stenberg.

The 1836 piece was "La Sylphide," of which the Pillow audience saw the second act divertissement. Diana Cuni was the sylphide, and Tim Matiakis was James. The three sylphs accompanying Cuni were Christina L. Olsen, Louise Østergård, and Alexander Stæger.

The other Bournonville pieces on the program were the pas de deux from "Flower Festival in Genzano" (1858), danced by Kizzy Howard and Thomas Lund; the jockey dance from "From Siberia to Moscow" (1876), danced by Mads Eriksen and Alexander Stæger; and the third act pas de six and tarantella from "Napoli" (1842), with Diana Cuni as Teresina, Tim Matiakis as Gennaro, and the rest of the company playing various villagers.

The 2007 piece, "My Knees are Cold," choreographed by Louise Midjord, had its world premiere yesterday. The piece has three parts, each accompanied by distinctive music: The first part was performed to pieces by the Balkan composers, B.J. Nevenko and Goran Bregovic, the second to Cat Power's "Naked if I Want To," and the third to music of the Ethiopian jazz musician, Mulatu Astatke. I was surprised to find myself liking the dance, since so much contemporary ballet choreography is boring at best and ugly at worst. My friend Susan pooh-poohed it. The performers were Elisabeth Dam, Christina L. Olsen, Alexander Stæger, and Sebastian Kloborg. (Kloborg is one of the leaders of the group, along with Ulrik Birkkjær.)

The program was rounded out by a pas de deux called "Festival Polonaise," first choreographed by Harald Lander in 1942 and then reworked for TV in 1963; and "Triplex," a piece choreographed by Tim Rushton in 1999.

When I interviewed Ulrik Birkkjær by phone (he was still in Copenhagen) for a short preview article in our local newspaper, he told me that "Festival Polonaise" is a real challenge for the dancers' stamina because the 1962 version reflects the ability that TV offers to stop and start, rather than having to do the whole 10 minutes at one go. (Birkkjær partnered Gudrun Bojesen, with some hiccups during supported pirouettes.)

The choreography for "Triplex" was thin. The dancers were Diana Cuni, Sebastian Kloborg, and Alexander Stæger. When I talked to Sebastian by phone from Copenhagen, he described the dance as "fun, joyful, playful," material that the dancers enjoy performing. I have to admit that the audience responded enthusiastically, but I maintain that the dance should be dropped from the repertoire.

It is a credit to the Danes that they came across so well on the bare Ted Shawn stage. They weren't able to bring scenery with them, but all the same, they got plenty of mileage from their lovely costumes, technical mastery, and expressive warmth.



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How to Structure Online Discussions

As use of elearning becomes more common, it is increasingly important to determine what techniques are most effective. In the January 2005 issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology, Patricia K. Gilbert (Pearson Prentice Hall) and Nada Dabbagh (George Mason University) published a paper reporting the results of research on how best to facilitate students' asynchronous online discussions of course material.

Gilbert and Dabbagh tested the effectiveness of online discussion protocols for promoting meaningful discourse, defined as:
the ability of learners to demonstrate critical thinking skills by (1) making inferences, (2) relating course content to prior knowledge and experience, and (3) interpreting content through the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of others' understandings.
Gilbert and Dabbagh's main finding was that "guidelines that assist the facilitation and evaluation of online discussions increased the cognitive level of student postings[,] promoting a deeper understanding of course content."

As an outgrowth of their research, Gilbert and Dabbagh propose the model for structuring asynchronous online discussion illustrated in the graphic below.

[click on image to enlarge]

The model highlights the three elements of online discussion structure that proved most important in helping students discuss and think critically about a topic:
  • Facilitator guidelines

  • Evaluation rubrics

  • Content protocol items
A prepublication version of Gilbert and Dabbagh's paper is available here.


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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Daniel Kahneman

In the process of researching the impediments to sound decision-making, I have come upon frequent references to Daniel Kahneman — not surprising since Kahneman work on decision-making earned him the 2002 Royal Swedish Bank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (shared with Vernon Smith).1

Kahneman, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School, was cited by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences "for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty." In their press release, the Academy go on to note that
Kahneman has also discovered how human judgment may take heuristic shortcuts that systematically depart from basic principles of probability. His work has inspired a new generation of researchers in economics and finance to enrich economic theory using insights from cognitive psychology into intrinsic human motivation.
The Spring 2007 issue of Rotman Magazine contains a good interview Karen Christensen conducted with Kahneman as part of the issue's focus on risk. You can download the entire issue here. (pdf)

The full interview is worth reading. I'd particularly note Kahneman's response to Christensen's question about how organizations should deal with the all-too-common problem of business people not learning from their mistakes. Kahneman considers systematically evaluating decisions in order to determine why they did or did not pan out as key to steadily improving the quality of decisions. He highly recommends that executives get over their reluctance to be second-guessed. Doing so would enable a substantial increase in how much their organizations learn from experience.

1 Kahneman collaborated closely with Amos Tversky, who died in 1996. Princeton provides a summary of Kahneman's work here. You can read Kahneman's Prize Lecture, delivered December 8, 2002, at Aula Magna, Stockholm University, here (pdf). Vernon Smith is a professor of economics and law at George Mason University.


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Monday, July 09, 2007

Usability Professionals' Association

The Usability Professionals' Association's (UPA) website is of interest both for the wealth of resources it provides access to and as an example of usability principles in action.

As you would expect, the organization of the material included on the site, or linked to from the site's pages, is clear from screen layout.
  • The main sections of the site are listed on navigation tabs arranged horizontally below the home page header.

  • The rest of the home page is devoted to a brief explanation of UPA's purpose, a prominent search box, news, a list of most-visited links, membership links, a link to a SurveyMonkey feedback page, links to UPA publications, a link to information on the value of usability, several links aimed at helping organizations access the services of usability professionals, and links to UPA's sponsors.

  • Once you click on a particular navigation tab — say, "About UPA" — you are taken to the appropriate overview page, where you find that navigation to subsections is handled by a vertical menu on the left, below the search box.

  • Links are used judiciously. For instance, since the meaning of "usability" is of central importance, a link to the "What is usability?" page is one of just three links included in the main portion of the page giving an overview of UPA.

  • You are never surprised by finding a link opening in a new window rather than overwriting the window you are already in.
Browsing the UPA site is well worth the time required to become familiar with the types of information they have assembled. I'd particularly commend attention to the ROI tools.



Sunday, July 08, 2007

More on the Talent Front

I was happy to find myself reading an article in today's New York Times Magazine that provides some scientific basis for the view that inborn talent is a significant factor in explaining why some people are more expert than others in fields like sports and the arts.

As I indicated most recently in this post, I am not sold on the view of Anders Eriksson that "deliberate practice" is pretty much the sole factor underlying an expert's skill and applied knowledge.

In the NYT Magazine article, "The Gregarious Brain," David Dobbs writes about people with a genetically-based condition called Williams syndrome. As Dobbs explains, Williams causes cognitive deficits but is also characterized by "exuberant gregariousness and near-normal language skills."

Dobbs goes on to describe Williams as "perfect for studying not just how genes create intelligence and sociability but also how our powers of thought combine with our desire to bond to create complex social behavior — a huge arena of interaction that largely determines our fates." As one scientist tells Dobbs, "Williams ... is the most compelling model available for studying the genetic bases of human behavior."

The lesson some scientists are drawing from research on Williams syndrome is that "genes (or their absence) do not hard-wire people for certain behaviors. There is no gene for understanding calculus. But genes do shape behavior and personality, and they do so by creating brain structures and functions that favor certain abilities and appetites more than others."

In other words, there is evidence that brain structure conditions what types of experiences a person finds particularly rewarding. When a person seeks to prolong rewarding experience, "already-strong neural circuits get stronger while those in weaker areas may atrophy. Patterns of learning and behavior follow accordingly."

I believe that Eriksson and like-minded researchers need to give these scientific findings and theories — especially the notion that what people are motivated to learn is influenced by the genetic determinants of individual brain structure — greater weight in their own behavioral models.


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