Twilight, LOLcats, and sales training

I haven’t read any of the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer, and now I don’t have to, thanks to the reviews at Pop Suede.  (I started with the third, the one for Twilight: Eclipse, but here they’re in what I think is the proper sequence.)

Review of Twilight:

i is vampire!  rawr!

Review of Twilight: New Moon

oh hai. is me. bella.

Review of Twilight: Eclipse

Twilight Eclipse -- i is jes sum hansum dude gettin offa da bus

What’s the point (other than a teensy bit of humor)?

It struck me that, based on the little I’d picked up from newspapers and online, the Pop Suede folks have done a great job of capturing the plot of each book, then tweaking it enough that you see both the textual source and the satiric object.  It’s like a wildly informal approach to… a book report.

Understand: I no more want everyone churning out lolcats book reviews than I want another couple thousand terabytes of online-learning Jeopardy quiz.  But think what it took to put these things together: you had to grasp the key points of the original book, weed stuff out, and then express your understanding in a way that communicates.

It’s that kind of reworking and recasting of a complicated set of ideas that helps foster learning, not a 20-item multiple-guess test at the end of the half-day module on Twilight: New Moon.

I once needed to mitigate the effect of the typical marketing department information dump.  New victims employees were sentenced to hear 90 minutes’ worth of feeds and speeds about three major products.   So I asked the product managers to agree to a new format in which they’d present for only an hour, take a short break, and then participate in a discussion with the new hires.

This is how I explained the “discussion” to the sales folks, immediately before the first presentation:

We’re going to have three one-hour presentations today.

Yeah, I know, but after two of them, you get a 15 minute break.

Look on the back of your name card.  You’re in one of three groups based on the colored dot.

At the end of each presentation, I’ll name one of the colors.   During the break, that color group has 15 minutes to make a pitch on “the 10 main ways to sell [whatever the product is].”

After the break, you make your pitch.  The rest of you get to ask questions, kibitz, figure stuff out.
At the end, the Product Manager will jump in.

Yeah, it was manipulative.  Hey, I’d been working with sales reps for a while.

Some of the things I had in mind:

  • Reduce potential product-manager-induced sleep by 33% (one hour instead of 90 minutes).
  • Increase attention, at least in the first session, since the sales rep didn’t know if he had to work on the pitch till after it was over.
  • More breaks than expected (a feature, but for most folks, a benefit).
  • Rethinking / reworking by the sales reps replaced canned product-manager summary.
  • Product manager got to hear what the sales reps thought were the main sales ideas.

In a way, it was very formal learning: one-time, face-t0-face,  scheduled.  We even had mediocre coffee, pastries, and PowerPoint.  But we also got the salespeople doing what their jobs called for: thinking about the products and how they could sell them to potential customers.


3 thoughts on “Twilight, LOLcats, and sales training

  1. This reminds me of the micro movement. I used to read 100s of pages about whatever topic and then synthesize it into something about 50 pages long. It would’ve been more difficult to write 10 pages, harder still to do it in one. I’d love to do a daily blog that is nothing more than an image and a caption to illustrate some big news of the day or week. As always, a good post. Thanks.

  2. OMG, I did *not* know about the LOLcats reviews. So, thank-you. The thing is, I *completely* agree with what you said here:
    “…think what it took to put these things together: you had to grasp the key points of the original book, weed stuff out, and then express your understanding in a way that communicates.”

    which is why I do NOT share the feeling you expressed in the sentence before that:

    “Understand: I no more want everyone churning out lolcats book reviews than I want another couple thousand terabytes of online-learning Jeopardy quiz….”

    I recently did a presentation titled “LOLSCHOOL” about the challenge to build a curriculum entirely based around the “cheeseburger” network of sites (including LOLcats, Fail, GraphJam (my personal favorite) and TotallyLooksLike).

    I did a sort-of version of this for Gov 2.0 titled “Creating Passionate Citizens”, which is on YouTube:
    (11 minutes, LOLcats part is near the end)

    I believe your statement on “think what it took…” is so dead-on that it could in some ways be the key to *everything*. Not Lolcats, specifically, but reverse-engineering the phenomenon that causes people to *create* this kind of content — and what it takes to do it — is fascinating and dramatically useful.

    Ben Huh — founder of the Lolcat network of sites — said they get a staggering number of submissions each day across those sites — nearly 20,000. Every, single, day. People always talk about the *consumers* — the person surfing these sites and getting a quick laugh — but I care only about the people who are *creating* and contributing. That’s a tool we could use.

    Just looking at GraphJam alone, wow, kids cannot graph what they don’t understand. And here teachers and parents are frustrated as hell that their kid won’t do, say, his algebra homework. Here he is on GraphJam making a Venn Fricking Diagram of the latest pop culture phenomenon, or crafting photos with elaborate pattern-matching on TotallyLooksLike.

    And the more popular these sites are, the more difficult it is to get a submission accepted, so the *obvious* things have been done. So now you have people won don’t seem to care about politics, but yet the best chance you have to get a TotallyLooksLike accepted is to compare, for example, Nancy Pelosi to come obscure Anime character. You can’t summarize what you don’t understand, and you can’t graph what you don’t understand, and you can’t compare and contrast photos of people you have never heard of.

    I LOVE it :)

  3. Kathy,

    I’m delighted to have your point of view. The comment about not wanting everyone to churn out lolcats reviews has more to do with what I see as a tendency to structure things too much. It’s a short step from there to thinking that using lolcats makes the thing clever, rather than the cleverness being in how you use lolcats.

    In the formal-training world, once upon a time, a Jeopardy-style game might have been clever. Now, it’s just trite, with about as much imagination as the Happy 70th Birthday section in the greeting card rack.

    Not that I’m disagreeing–as you say, we’re getting the opportunity for a lot more original thinking. On YouTube, if you search for “Hamlet,” you’ll find scads of stuff, like the version that Adam McNaughtan made for his Scottish students.

    “Oor Hamlet” (as he called it) has some potential drawbacks–the Scots accent, for example. The idioms. (“He kids on” would be “he lets on” in American English.) And I’d known this song for years before learning that Seven Eight-Four was a Scottish drama group.

    As I was writing this reply, I realized these aren’t (necessarily) drawbacks. They could be opportunities for some individual to make yet more connections. What was McNaughton thinking? What were his frames of reference? How might I do the same for a different audience?

    Might be lolcats, might be new text or audio plopped onto movie trailers, might be animated Lego figures.

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