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Choices: choose to read The Art of Choosing

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I spend most of my professional life facilitating decision-making in all kinds of libraries & organizations. I’m fascinated with how people make choices, how they decide, what influences these decisions – and what doesn’t.

I haven’t finished the book yet, so there will be more postings on this, but The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar is a fascinating study of how people – and publics – make choices. Why do I care about this? And why should all those in the library & information world care about this? Because every day, every minute, decisions are being made about your services, your libraries & their place in the community, the university, the organization. Look at the choices being made right now for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries or New Jersey Public Libraries or the Community Access Program in Canada?

Some initial highlights:

– in North America, the more choices people have the less likely they are to choose one; many very successful companies (like P&G) have scaled back the # of products they offer — and the result is higher sales, higher revenues, higher profits. Iyengar’s work in this area started with her famous study of the “Jam selection” — when people were offered samples of 24 jams, few ppl choice to purchase 1. But when they were offered samples of 6 jams, they were 6 TIMES more likely to purchase 1. I identify with this; I hate huge malls with lots of stores. I’m MUCH more likely to purchase items

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Special report in The Economist must reading for librarians

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The Economist’s Feb 25, 2010 issue has a special report on managing information targetting business but to be leveraged by all those in the information industry. Information management, which is all about understanding & applying information, is growing in businesses — so why are libraries being cut? We need to ask ourselves this.

Excerpts from the article: “Alex Szalay, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, notes that the proliferation of data is making them increasingly inaccessible. “How to make sense of all these data? People should be worried about how we train the next generation, not just of scientists, but people in government and industry,” he says.

Chief information officers (CIOs) have become somewhat more prominent in the executive suite, and a new kind of professional has emerged, the data scientist, who combines the skills of software programmer, statistician and storyteller/artist to extract the nuggets of gold hidden under mountains of data. Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, predicts that the job of statistician will become the “sexiest” around. Data, he explains, are widely available; what is scarce is the ability to extract wisdom from them.”

I hope I get this quote correct “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

Focus Groups: Gathering group gold

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I just finished doing one of SirsiDynix’ free webinars — what a great experience! Focus Groups: Perceptions for Planning is really about when to consider using focus groups – when not to – and how. I liken focus groups to organizational leadership. To be an effective leader, you need to journey within yourself. The same is true for organizations. To be a leader, organizations have to know who they are, what they stand for, and where their leadership comes from — or doesn’t come at all. Leadership, for individuals and for organizations, involves discipline, integrity, focus and hard work.

Focus groups are a fabulous – and fun way – for an organization to better understand itself or one or more of its services and how it is perceived within its market or constituency.

To gather that “gold” afforded by groups, focus groups need to be approached as guided discovery into the perceptions & opinions of representatives of your community or your university or your corporation. The facilitator is really the guide leading the group as they explore a specific topic or section of their environment. It’s not a beef session or a forum for complaints or suggestions — it is a group’s opportunity to focus on a concept.

What’s most often forgotten by those putting focus groups together is that the there needs to be something in this for participants. The WIIFM (what’s in it for me) syndrome goes beyond the $5.00 gift certificate you may give them to get

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Trainers & Instructors: “Don’t pack it”

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I often turn to Henry Mintzberg’s writings for his sage advice on management and leadership, yet tonight I found his advice on teaching. Here’s his “Ten Rules for Professors Who Want to Educate Real Managers”; they apply to anyone who is leading any kind of workshop, class, course, podcast or any other learning event:

1, 2, 3. Don’t pack it. Don’t pack it. Don’t pack it.

4. Schedule an extra hour for each session, but don’t tell the instructors until they arrive so they will have more time to turn the discussion over to the managers.

5. Profess less. Participants have at least as much to learn from each other as from the professors. (This is about what they learn, not about what we teach.)

6. Let participants run with the material on their agendas.

7. Be flexible. Let good discussion go on. If necessary, cut

what has to be “covered.”

8, 9, 10. Listen. Listen. Listen.

If you get nothing else out of that list, go back to #5; learning isn’t about what we trainers have to teach — it’s ALL about what the learners have to learn.

Third Generation Management Development

Follow-up to Taxonomy Boot Camp

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Jordan Frank of Traction Software has posted the presentation he & Christine Connors (TriviumRLG LLC) gave at the 2009 Taxonomy Boot Camp, “Ontologies & Tagsonomies: Linked Data, Web 3.0, Tag Mush”. Christine addressed “What do ontologies provide that taxonomies and thesauri lack? What is the big deal about the semantic web? What’s the difference between the semantic web, linked data, and Web 3.0 and what are the technologies that will power this next evolution of the web?” while Jordan explored how driven social tagging can work for or against you and then suggests tagging and search driven entity extraction strategies that can put tagging to productive work.

For those interested in other presentations, the userid and password is tbc2009 at http://www.taxonomybootcamp.com/2009/presentations.shtml

Top Ten Learning Tools on the Web – Twitter leads in August

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If you are doing anything in the learning arena (either formal or informal learning – just helping people “get it” in terms of doing something or knowing something), be sure to follow Jane Hart’s E-learning Pick of the Day, and link to her other sites and blogs as well, including her homebase, Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, and Social Media in Learning. Her August update of “Top Tools for Learning 2009” lists the top 10: Twitter, Delicious, Google Reader, Google Docs, Slideshare, WordPress, YouTube, Skype, Google Search and Audacity. Fast up & coming, Hart says, is prezi – which we hope to try out in the next few weeks. We’ll let you know how it goes. Have any of you tried prezi yet? I’ve been experimenting a bit with it….embarrassing as it is, I get a bit whoozi with the screen moving around so much – but the possibilities are fantastic – and I’m sure this old powerpoint dog can learn some new tricks!

Dreams & visions are meant to change – honest

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Earlier this week Karen Huffman, (an incredible thinker, and even more importantly “doer” with National Geographic), mused on her Facebook status whether it was ok to “re-write dreams based on life changes.” Oh yeah. It’s not only ok, it’s necessary. I empathize with Karen’s wonderings, as do many of us. Our dream for our life at 40 sure isn’t the dream we had at 21 – nor should it be. As we move closer to anything — either physically or metaphorically — the details become clearer to us — we can see more pieces of the dream and perhaps the environment or terrain surrounding the dream have changed. That environment or terrain is life’s realities. As those realities change, we may adjust our dream. I say “may” because sometimes the dream is broad enough, that it is the details that change rather than the essence of the dream. Sometimes you just develop a whole new dream. Either of those scenarios is ok – and is quite understandable.

It’s the same with organizations. It’s ok for an organization to “re-focus” or adjust the lens on their vision of where they were headed. Maybe the environment has shifted and that destination ain’t what they thought it was going to be. C’est la vie. What’s important is that they keep looking forward, they keep scanning the horizon and sending scouts out to explore what’s ahead. In otherwords, when the realities for organizations are shifting, they tend to hunker down and focus on operations

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Facebook-like Space for US Intelligence Community

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Nancy Dixon just blogged about A-Space, a Facebook-like space for the US intelligence community. She mentioned this to me a few months ago when we were finalizing her participation in KMWorld 2009 and I’m really pleased to see the executive summary in this post and the full 30 page study here. It talks about how A-Space is shaping the analysts’ work bringing in cogintive diversity. It emphasizes:

A-Space is an environment in which analysts collaboratively create new meaning out of the diverse ideas and perspectives they collectively bring to an issue. Through this collaboration, analysts have the potential to break through long held assumptions to provide new ways of thinking about complex problems.

Networked relationships on A-Space provide a stream of cognitively diverse information without the costly time investment that maintaining strong ties requires.

A-Space is reinforcing the value of asking questions of colleagues, providing analysts the means to uncover flaws in their own data and reasoning.

A-Space is providing analysts a set of new practices to: 1) build cross agency networks, 2) gain situational awareness, and 3) hold discussions of interpretation, that operate in parallel with the normal production process. These new practices constitute an emerging model that provides a level of cognitive diversity not previously available.

The non-hierarchal nature of A-Space, results in analysts feeling that it is okay to offer their thinking even if it is not completely formed or thought through, increasing the speed of product development by eliminating faulty hypotheses early

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Visualization Chart

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Thanks to Steve Barth for pointing out this definitely, as he says on Twitter/FB, “way cool” Periodic Table of Visualization methods. I love the way you can hover over one element and get a look at each method more closely!

KMWorldBlog

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I was very excited last year when Information Today started a blog for the KMWorld 2008 conference last September. Lots of different people blogged live from the conference. And now, we have started the converssation early this year in preparation for KMWorld 2009, November 17-19 in San Jose CA. AND, we’re using gravatars — small pics beside the contributors to the blog. Have you got one? You can see my mine (and Dave Snowden‘s) at the KMWorldBlog. I think they are so cool and can’t wait for all the interesting uses. Watch for new voices and thoughts on this blog and please join the conversation.

If you are interested in participating in the KMWorld 2009 conference, which also encompassaes Enterprise Search West and Taxonomy Boot Camp, please check out our call for speakers.