Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sandbox Time – The Importance of Play When Learning New Technology

Sandbox Time – The Importance of Play When Learning New Technology: "

Put in sandbox time to master your technologyOne challenge many teams and organizations face is getting their people to use and embrace much of the amazing collaboration software and technology that is available. In working with virtual teams, we find that many people tend to fall back on email rather than shared online work spaces – or opt for traditional conference calls rather than using web meeting or conferencing services.

Find Their Comfort Zone

The biggest stumbling block is getting your team comfortable with the new software or service and truly understanding the benefits it provides.

In short, why would it make my life or job easier?

Far too few companies provide training on these technologies – so you and your colleagues are forced to figure it out as you go along or after a very brief tutorial. This sink-or-swim mentality causes many of these powerful tools to go untouched and impedes productivity.

The secret to turn this all around is simple . . . play!

The Power of Play

Play is a non-threatening way to remove stress from learning and encourage exploration of the features of new technology. Create some type of project for your team that’s fun and everyone will be excited about using the new tool.

Want your team to start using SharePoint or some other type of web-based discussion board or collaboration space? Why not setup a place where they can share recipes, bios, and information about their hobbies and families?

Want them to use WebEx or some other meeting service? Create time to have a regular virtual water cooler where they can share photos, create a poll about which books or movies are their favorites, or pass control of the desktop around to write a story together (with each person typing their paragraph into Word) or give a tour of favorite useful websites.

Play Let’s People Succeed and Fail – Safely

Let’s face it, no one wants to explore using a new technology or tool with the pressure of a project deadline; or the possibility of looking foolish in front of peers and co-workers if you are not using it correctly. I’m extremely comfortable with technology, always have been, and I attribute that mostly to the fact that I play with it and explore it’s features before trying to use it for something important.

When trying to learn Sony Vegas for video editing I didn’t create some critical video for my business website – instead I took some family footage and created something fun to share with friends. When looking to learn more about desktop publishing I didn’t immediately create a company newsletter – I created a mock CD cover for my band.

The only limit is your imagination!

Ask the people on your team, they may have some great ideas for fun projects. This is extremely useful for virtual teams: using a fun, playful approach to learning new technology not only leads to greater technology adoption and increased productivity, but also encourages informal communication and team building, which in turn increases trust and accountability.

It’s not just about choosing the right tool – it’s how you thoughtfully apply it. So find ways for your team to play with the tools you want them to adopt and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they find new ways to apply them to their work process and teamwork.

Have you used “play” in your work environment? Post a comment below and tell us about it!

(Thanks to Webex for featuring this as a Guest Post on their Ideas in Motion blog. I highly recommend this blog where they share ideas and tips for innovation and working smarter)

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amazon Delivers Kindle for PC — Works Great on a Netbook

Amazon Delivers Kindle for PC — Works Great on a Netbook: "
Amazon’s Kindle for PC beta application arrives this morning. The software supports Windows XP, Vista and 7 machines, while Amazon says that a Mac version is coming soon. What’s ingenious about this app — as well as the iPhone app before it — is that you can read Amazon Kindle books without buying the Kindle hardware. With a Windows version, Amazon is expanding their potential customer base to 85% or more of computer users. Reading books on a computer certainly isn’t the same experience as reading them on a light eInk device or a handheld, but I could see this swaying more money into Amazon’s bank account. Fortunately the application is NOW AVAILABLE IN CANADA as of November  17, 2009.

I downloaded and installed the beta app on the Windows 7 partition of my Toshiba NB205 netbook this morning. Once I signed in to my Amazon account, I was able to see all 44 of my archived book purchases with full color covers. Books can be sorted by Title or Author. A double-tap downloads the book and you’re off and running. Page navigation can be done by mouse, arrow keys or Page Up/Down keys. There are 10 font sizes to choose from and you can modify the page width using a “Words per line” slider. Kindle for PC does support Whispersync, so the software will pick up from the last read position if you were reading on a Kindle. Or you can read on your PC and your Kindle will synchronize to that point when you move from PC to Kindle.

Notes, highlights and bookmarks also sync to the PC, but with this version of the software, there’s no way to make notes or highlight text on the PC — you can bookmark pages, however. Amazon is also planning to add search and zoom / image rotation to Kindle for PC in a future version. Of course, you shop directly for Kindle books, but not within the application. Clicking the “Shop in Kindle store” button opens your default browser where you can then send samples to or purchase full titles. Now that my software is registered, I see a “Kevin’s Kindle for PC” delivery option for content. It’s worth noting that Windows 7 users with touch supported hardware gain one bonus now and one in the future. The current app supports touch zooming with a two-fingered pinch. In an upcoming release, Amazon will add page turning with finger swipes.

Since I have a Kindle, I’ll still rely on it for my daily reading. I generally take the Kindle everywhere, but on the off-chance I don’t bring it, I usually have my netbook with me, which will make for decent backup reading device. I’ll still likely use Kindle for iPhone as well, but that would be for a different scenario. When I have five or ten minutes of just standing around, the iPhone does the trick. If I can sit somewhere and I’ll want to read for a longer period of time, the netbook will be my tool of choice. And if I have my Kindle with me, it will likely trump both options, provided I have enough light to read the eInk display. The only exception might be a graphic novel of some type as the PC app supports reading color.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Global Tools and Downloads

Global Tools and Downloads: "

Thanks for following along in this global series. The last part I would like to share with you are some of the Global Tools I use to keep this all going smoothly. If it weren’t for the following tools, I would not be able to live the fun nomadic life that I do. Take some time to review the list and implement any of the downloads that fit for your business!

Recommended Global Tools & Downloads

  • WordPress- This is who I use for my blog. I highly recommend it because it is easy, even for first time users. Just having WP is ok, but knowing how to make it function so you get a greater audience is why you pay a professional.

  • Skype- I use Skype for my weekly client coaching calls, and also to communicate with my family. If the other users are signed up with skype, your calls are free. You can also purchase Skype credit to make calls to landlines and cell phones. I use this to check in with my friends and family, or to call potential clients that do not have Skype already. The calls are only two cents a minute to any country so consider setting it up even if you just want to stay connected with international friends!

  • Firefox- I have saved a ton of time since changing my browser to Firefox. I can save my pages without having to re-open them later. This, alone, has saved me hours of research time and redundant opening of windows. Use it. Love it.

  • Gmail- Outlook isn’t global, gmail is. I have switched out and never felt better. Global is better. I can check email from anywhere, forward several accounts to one, share documents, have a calendar, and store my contacts. They *of course* have better search tools for your email, as well. Save time, get gmail.

  • Twitter tools- There are several tools that integrate with social media and make your life easier. I use a few that integrate well with Twitter because that is my main tool. Currently, I use to track my posts and shorten my address. is great if you want to simultaneously update facebook, twitter and linkedin (plus a variety of other tools). For checking in on updates, I use Twhirl. It is easiest to do multiple Retweets, or to thank people that are saying great things about you. Another twitter tool you might want to check out is Destroy Twitter. This is another integration tool and you can manage your tweets through your dashboard.

Play around with these tools and see which combination work best for you. The ease of use and time saving should help you to better manage your global tools so that you can spend your time more efficiently. I’d rather you be seeing the world and enjoying your life, so get to downloading!!

Thanks so much for participating in this blog series. It is my hope that you now feel more equipped to take your business online and go global. There are many other tips and tricks you can find my visiting my website. Feel free to be in touch, leave a comment, and let me know future posts you would like to see on this sight.

If you’ve got a question, I’ve got an answer! Leave ‘em below! Also, if you have other tools you would recommend, please add them here so we can all benefit!