my grandfather’s advice

update: dave ferguson just added this post to the work/learning blog carnival for March.  check out the other contributors’ thoughts on the need for passion in our work and learning.

clark quinn hits on a key concept that i’ve lived and worked by all my life.  when i was seventeen, my grandfather pulled me aside and give me a sage piece of advice.

my grandfather – ed lee

he said:

son.  you need to find something you love to do for you work, because you are going to be doing it for most of the waking hours of your life.

coming from a man who was a master carpenter who spend all of his spare time when he wasn’t working on a construction site in his home workshop, this made sense to me.  fortunately, three years into my professional life, i stumbled upon the field of educational publishing and fell in love with the field of learning.

like most learning professionals i know, i love helping people learn by personally helping them either by facilitating a learning experience or mentoring them one-on-one.  i also love constructing learning materials and experiences that will reach numerous people.

what it comes down to is that when my heart sings,  when i feel that all my knowledge and experience can be used to advance a greater good, when i feel i’m making a difference in other peoples and my, lives then there’s very little labor in my work.

as clark also points out, as a manager and as a learning professional i’ve found that if i can fire the intrinsic motivation in those i’m working with, they end up often esceeding even their own expectations.  research study after research study on employee and learner motivation show that intrinsic motivators (do i make a difference?  is my work contributing to the company’s goals?  will this prepare me for the future?) are much more powerful drivers than extrinsic motivators (salary, performance reviews, an A versus a B).

this is why i’ve always seen myself (see my post training vs. learning from five years ago) as a learning professional who tries to draw learners to learning versus a teacher who “makes” people learn.

so grandpa.  thanks for the advice you gave me 30 years ago.  i love what i do for work and work at what i love.

Karyn Romeis on 3/16/09

Nice post! Your Granddad was a wise man! My own Granddad thought that one should do a proper job like being a civil servant which he, his father and his grandfather did for all their working lives. It wasn’t about enjoying your job, it was about doing something respectable.

Did you know that Clark’s post was part of a blog carnival hosted by Dave Ferguson? See my contribution. You should send Dave a link.

Dave Ferguson: Dave’s Whiteboard » Blog Archive » Working/Learning carnival: the latest session on 3/6/09

[…] as is the renewal of the tradition in today’s world.  Dave Lee joins the carnival with My Grandfather’s Advice, where he looks at how his own career has developed in no small part because of that […]

Brian on 2/28/09

Great post.. and I think his advice might seem like common sense to a lot of people, but it’s actually something people should really think about. Because of the economy, a lot of people are a lot more worried about how much money they will make, and may even go into careers they don’t necessarily enjoy just because they are seen as stable jobs financially. For example, it seems like a lot of people go into healthcare for jobs such as nursing because it’s something that’s always in demand.. but they may not consider what goes into it. Healthcare jobs are very demanding, and the amount of work and time they require may turn some people off. My dad works in that field and even when he’s not working, he’s usually on call and most of the time he gets called and has to go in. I think I am lucky because I am going into a field that I am actually very interested in and like doing so far (Instructional Technology) and one that seems to be doing well even in the current economic situation. I also have to say I like the fact you consider yourself someone who “tries to draw learners to learning versus a teacher who ‘makes’ people learn”. That’s something I think I would like to consider myself, especially since the work I’m doing as a student now involves developing interactive learning modules, and I think since we have to consider the design and appeal of them, learners should hopefully feel ‘drawn’ to learning the material and more interested than they would be just reading the material in a textbook for example.

the web is almost legal!

happy 20th birthday to the world wide web.  march 13, 1989 is the day that tim berners-lee is credited with inventing the world wide web.  check out scientific american’s tribute to this world changing event.

having used the internet for 18 years or so, it just doesn’t seem comprehensible how far we’ve come so fast.  one of my favorite stories is from the 1992 when I was working at heinle & heinle and the five editorial directors got t-1 access to our desks.  i gophered to singapore national university’s web site and downloaded their campus map.  five or six colleagues stood around my desk – oohing and aahing.  seriously!

the internet in 1985

One of my favorite artifacts from the development of the internet is a map that marty lyons created in 1985 that shows the entire internet as it existed then on one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper!  (click on the image to the left to see a larger version.)

to think that today it’s nearly impossible to create a site map for an average blog on one sheet of paper helps put the progress we’ve made.

as short a time ago as 2001 i was working on a project that would depend heavily on metadata tagging and microtransactions.  two things that at the time were questionable as to their viability.  Now millions of sites process billions and billions of transactions everyday and social networking has turned metadata tagging into a normal practice for everyday folks like my Mom.  that campus map i downloaded 17 years ago took several minutes to make it to my computer.  today we can watch real-time broadcast television on our cellphones!

so happy birthday world wide web.  go get a fake id and tip back a pint or two.  you deserve it.

the other lobe of the brain

a blog about neuroscience and social learning

jim stellar,  psychology professor at northeastern university, and shwen gwee, a student of jim’s, have started a new blog called the other lobe of the brain.  their goal is to merge the discussion of neuroscience and social media for learning – both individual and organizational.

jim has been a friend for over ten years now and is one of the most innovative thinkers i’ve met.  jim has a great balance between academic and scientific research and practical business application.  his passion for understanding how learning happens and how it can be facilitated is contagious.  he’s convinced, both by his research and his experience, that experiential and social learning are the keys to accelerating learning.

if you enjoy innovative thinking and mind expanding insights, i’d suggest you add the other lobe of the brain to your blog reader.

UPDATE: 406 posts later, this blog is still going strong. If you want to understand some of the science behind social learning, you need to check this out.


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

what’s first? mentor or mentee?

When starting a mentoring program, do you start by gathering mentors? or mentees?

so you’ve decided that you want to create a mentoring program to enhance organizational learning and leadership development across the organization.  you know that social learning is the real driver to creating a culture that values learning and change.  social networking tools are being implemented so teams can communicate more readily.  you have employees contributing to a knowledge base to capture organizational knowledge.  now you feel a mentoring program where leaders help new employees and prospective leaders to expand their knowledge of the organization and their leadership skills.

But where do you start?  How do you matchmake mentors to mentees?  or mentees to mentors?


which comes first?  the chicken or the egg?

do you first identify the employees who the organization wishes to groom for advancement?  Once you know who you wish to involve as mentees you could then determine the needs these people have and then search through your executive and management ranks for people who have what the mentees need.  you could then recruit them to match the needs of the mentees.

Or do you determine who amongst your leaders best exemplify the needs of the organization and establish them as mentors?  you could then either determine the employees who you wish to be mentored and match them to your team of mentors or you could let employees self-select by marketing the mentoring program and letting them apply to the program or to individual mentors.

How much control around participation in the program should you maintain?  How many mentees per mentor?  Should all managers at or above a certain level be required to be mentors?  Should all employees have a mentor?

What do you think?  Who comes first, the mentor or the mentee?


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Andy Affleck posted on 3/9/09:

I am not sure the best initial approach but one thing struck me: do you want to identify those people who should be mentored or should you design a program to mentor everyone who desires it and let the motivated and upwardly mobile self-select? Seems to me that if you have anyone in an organization who you feel is not worth mentoring, they should be replaced by those who are. Too harsh? Missing the point? Possibly. But I always believed that everyone on my staff is worth training, worth helping grow their careers. If they aren’t, I sadly let them go so I only have people who are.

Dennis McDonald posted on 3/9/09

I was recently exposed to a 3rd option – a colleague informed me he was making a Sharepoint template available to mentoring programs. In that case it might conceivably be possible to start with a process before identifying mentors or mentees?

Harold Jarche posted on 3/9/09

Control is the problem here. If you want to let the best, or most motivated, rise to the top then you need an open market. The same goes for mentors. It should be an honour to be a mentor, not a task. Therefore you need to build a platform, not a programme. The specifics? That’s the $64K question 😉 [but one that can be addressed with some work and insight, I’m sure, Dave]

Harold Jarche posted on 3/9/09

got rid of all those caps that i put a lot of effort to put in? that’s sneaky, dave!

Clark Quinn posted on 3/9/09

I like Harold’s point, and want to add that you shouldn’t expect that your leaders are good mentors; I’d identify potential mentors, and guide them to be good mentors (and learners, they should have their own community) while you id your potential mentees. Those who do well in mentoring class are eligible to be mentors, with some rewards accruing. Guess that says start with mentors.

Guy W Wallace posted on 3/10/09:

First- define the business goals and the metrics to measure progress and the returns on the investments. Or, why bother? This was for an organization and not a social club, right?

Second- engage a cross-section of those that could be involved and facilitate them through a macro-design process where they would identify the process, the environmental supports/ tools/ etc., and then define the human interface rules/ guidelines/ contracts/ agreements for participants to honor…such as how to add value to both parties and ensure that no wastes the other’s time and effort. Then have a smaller team – a subset of the larger group do the micro-design to build a prototype for pilot-testing.

Third- implement a small pilot-test here and there around the organization, and measure the results, and then share those results to the design team and beyond. Capture testimonials and lessons learned to share/ market/ communicate to the masses. Announce step 4.

Fourth- reconvene the design team with new members that now may want to participate and do a continuous improvement or radical redesign to the “program” from the results and lessons learned. Make those changes and then implement widespread (or re-pilot) along with declared intent and plans for continuous measurement and improvement.

Fifth- continuously measure, market/ communicate, and improve as needed to achieve those business goals and the R’s for the Investments – so as to keep executive management engage and on-board and not seeing this as an opportunity to cut expenses later. Show value – or let it die – or kill it yourself before it becomes an embarrassment – or fix it and try, try again.

I think of it as a tight-loose design approach, or is that a loose-tight design approach? Hmmm. Whatever.

Dave Lee(09:46:15) :

thanks for the feedback so far everyone. i love the conundrums that arise from the idea of starting what should be/will be an ongoing, continuous improvement, organic system. i agree with guy that the key to starting is understanding the business goals and measures of success that are driving the decision to create a mentoring program. it goes to my mantra that the only purpose of organizational learning is the advancement of business objectives.

andy, harold and clark raise the interesting sides of the “who to involve” issue. is it “everybody in,” build a platform that enables quality self-selection, or pick the best and leave the rest? do each of these approaches have different implications for piloting, rollout, and implementation?

dennis, is your friend’s sparepoint template publicly available?

hopefully others will join in to help figure out possible starting points in this mentoring catch 22.

(p.s. to harold. my sneaky lower case trick is a simple css body tag.)

Tom Haskins(14:08:17) :

hi dave!
a blog post I read a couple years back explored strategies for jump starting mentoring in an organization where it was proving to be a tough sell. the consultant got creative and came up with a clever strategy. rather than try to convince the prospector mentors of the value, he gave briefings to the prospective mentees on the benefits to expect from getting mentored. that proved to be a very easy sell. it created demand, expectations and cooperation to “pull the change” through the system. there was lots of buy-in from prospective mentors who were responding to their people who wanted them and the difference they could make. what a contrast to pushing an imposed change through the system with a sales pitch of improved methods, new policies or increased accountability. the strategy that succeeded parallels the sales advice to — stop selling the features the inventor had in mind and sell benefits the customer will have in mind after using it.

Jim Belshaw posted on 3//09

David, I agree with Tom. Start with the mentees. Also, as Tom implies, get the mentees to nominate a prefered mentor if they have one in mind.

Mentoring is often seen in terms of one on one. In fact, a mentor can have several mentees. this opens new possibilities.

Jim Stellar posted on 3/15/09

To me what makes mentoring really work is the personal relationship. I have often said that a mentor is an advisor who thinks she/he is your aunt/uncle. So whatever you do, you need to allow that dynamic to develop. What I see in a web 2.0 world is that many people want to give advice and that is really valuable, but I would not confuse it with mentoring unless it is long-term and has that almost family-like feel to it. Still the web 2.0 software does offer good opportunities to set up mentoring.
Note in the analogy to family I used above, the mentor tends to be older and that is another issue. Sometimes only a little older is great because then the mentor and mentee can identify. Much older often works too. Peer mentoring is another issue and I have to think about that as to where mentoring leaves off and ask-a-friend begins.
Thanks. This topic needs much discussion.
-Jim (sorry to jump in late)