Monday, June 21, 2010

Speak With Your Mind, Not Just What's On Your Mind

Speaking comes so naturally to many of us that we often lose sight of those who are listening. If we kept our listeners in mind, we would speak with our minds engaged. Here are a few tips for speaking in a virtual space:

Environment: Try to eliminate any background noise or distractions - anything that could interfere with you understanding others and others understanding you

Pace: Think about who you have on the line. Are there any non-native speakers on the call or individuals who might find your accent challenging? If in doubt, slow down. Check with those on the call if you are speaking at a comfortable pace

Clarity: Articulate your words and phrases clearly. Don't rush over words or speak in a low voice that causes people to strain to hear you

Precision: Try to avoid abstract and vague words and phrases, e.g., 'as soon as possible'. Be specific

Simplicity: Use simple words and short sentences. Make sure everyone on the call will understand any jargon or acronyms you use. Stay away from using slang as it can cause great confusion

Intonation: Be expressive. Put verbal emphasis on important words or phrases. A monotone voice will also cause people to lose attention faster. Use your voice to highlight and engage. Smiling while speaking can also make the voice sound brighter

Courtesy: Keep interruptions to an absolute minimum. Let non-native speakers finish their thoughts, and don't try to finish their sentences. Ask permission before putting anyone on speaker phone

Length: Be concise. Keep your continuous talk time short; people lose attention and could miss important information. Break up what you have to say into small chunks

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What Kind of Web Animal Are You?

According to the BBC I'm a Web Elephant. What does that mean?

Slow-Moving - Web Elephants browse the Internet at a stately, methodical pace. They rarely see a reason to rush things.

Social - Web Elephants often use social networking sites to keep track of friends and family, and are happy to to rely on information from sites whose content is created by its users.

Adaptable - Given their large brains and multi-purpose trunks real elephants are very adaptable. Web elephants are also adaptable and certainly capable of multi-tasking.

It's all fun stuff, and a diversion from task, task, task. What Web Animal are you? Find out at the BBC's Virtual Revolution site Consider this blog a virtual watering hole - all Web Animals welcome, unless -of course - all you want to do is snarl and bite.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Don't Collaborate Unless You Have To!!!!!!

Occasionally, I will review the books I have on my shelves. Actually many are not on the shelves, but standing in piles on the floor and on various pieces of furniture. There is no real order among my books; my theory is that if books are scattered randomly the weird juxtapositions that occur will stimulate my creativity. It does happen, but the time spent searching for a specific book can be painfully long. Why don't I put the books into some kind of order? Well, it's hard to let go of a theory once you've adopted it. But I digress!

On a recent safari through my books, I came across one that deserves to be brought back into the light. It's called Managing to Collaborate: The theory and practice of collaborative advantage by Chris Huxham and Siv Vangen, Routledge, 2005.

In this age when everyone seems to be talking and hyper-ventilating about collaboration, it's always good to stay rational and ask the simple question, "Do we need to collaborate?" The authors mentioned above developed the theory of collaborative advantage which, to paraphrase,is the synergistic result of collaborative activity; the achievement of something beyond what could have been achieved by individuals working alone. To read some of the current commentary on collaboration, it seems to be collaborative advantage all the time! No one should underestimate the difficulties of achieving successful collaboration; it's tough, tough work. I'm not talking about mass collaboration here which is another animal.

What I like about about Huxham and Vangen is how they also hightlight the opposite of collaborative advantage - collaborative inertia (the dark side). In a paper in Organizational Dynamics, Vol 33, 2004, they say "collaborative inertia captures what happens very frequently in practice: the output from a collaborative arrangement is negligible, the rate of output is extremely slow, or stories of pain and hard grind are integral to successes achieved." They leave with the sage advice - DON'T WORK COLLABORATIVELY UNLESS YOU HAVE TO.

Good collaboration begins with understanding the value that collaboration can bring (or not) to solving a problem, innovating,executing a plan, or working through an issue. Good collaborators know when not to collaborate, as well as when to bring others on board.

Think about collaborating when the problem and the solution are unclear, or the problem is clear but the solution is not. When problems are 'wicked' - collaborate. Don't waste time forcing collaboration on relatively simple problems with simple solutions.