The brain at work, your brain at work

This is the first in a (theoretical) series of keepers — interrelated items shared by people I follow.

A place for everything...
CC-licensed photo by victoriabernal

The keepers:

Why I’ve kept them, why I’ve posted:

The Stanford and SharpBrains selections both deal with the brain. On the one hand, Stanford’s countering the simplistic attitude that doing X will keep senescence at bay.

The promise of a magic bullet detracts from the best evidence to date, which is that cognitive health in old age reflects the long-term effects of healthy, engaged lifestyles. In the judgment of the signatories below, exaggerated and misleading claims exploit the anxieties of older adults about impending cognitive decline.
SharpBrains, for its part, says that its mission is “to pro­vide inde­pen­dent, research-based, infor­ma­tion and guidance to navigate the grow­ing cog­ni­tive and brain fit­ness market.” So cldearly they believe there are ways to maintain and improve brain fitness, though these beliefs don’t seem overdramatic. (Here’s Scientific American’s book review of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness.)
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That’s a lot of brain stuff, and I think a good supplement is the Roberts article on models that Mark Oehlert shared. It has a striking quote from anthropologist Alfred Gell:

The technology of enchantment is the most sophisticated we possess. Under this heading I place all those technical strategies, especially art, music, dances, rhetoric, gifts etc., which human beings employ in order to secure the acquiescence of other people in their intentions or project…to enchant the other person and cause him/her to perceive social reality in a way favourable to the social interests of the enchanter.

Says consultant Roberts, “We’d like to think that our interests are coterminous with those of the people we advise…[However…] In pursuit of certainty in the face of uncertainty, is it not sometime the case that the enchanter becomes the enchanted?”

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The e-learning challenge examples, for me, move from brain theory to workplace practice. Although I don’t work with Articulate, much of what gets done through the challenge can serve as a stimulus or even a model to get me out of far more conventional ruts. What’s more of a challenge than asking–and trying to answer–“How did she do that? How could I do that? How could I do something different now that I’ve seen that?”

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I really enjoyed David Kelly’s comparison between curation and photography. Decades ago, as he says, “photographer” tended to mean someone with a lot of technical skill and a lot of technical equipment. Mere mortals took snapshots, not photographs.

…Just as tools exist today that enable the average individual to take a quality photo, tools exist today that enable an individual to curate information.
I’m not quite ready to call myself a curator, but this post does contains items I thought worth keeping for myself that and potentially worth sharing with others. That’s good enough for now.

What I heard, what I read: keepers

I’m not all that fond of the word “curator.” (Keep in mind, though, that for some time I wasn’t all that fond of the word “blog.”) I was fine with the original meaning–a person in charge of things in a museum, zoo, or similar place of collection. I agree it’s a logical extension to use it for someone who chooses items from a collection, or chooses the items that go into a collection.

In the online world, though, there’s a tendency to call anyone who slaps four things together a curator. Sometimes, I think, he’s just a guy letting you look into his virtual junk drawer.

David Kelly looks at this more seriously. He believes anybody in the learning and performance field (or probably any field) can be a curator if they listen, analyze, and share:

In a similar vein, Harold Jarche stresses the need for every professional to do his or her own personal knowledge management, and he talks about this in his Seek, Sense, Share framework.

I’ve just finished my first year in a new job. One of the things I want to do in the coming year is more deliberate personal knowledge management. Part of that involves collecting information from the networks I’m involve in and sharing that with my colleagues. I know from experience this increases my mindfulness, and the more I seek, the more things I find I have to think about and to share.

My trusty sidekick for sensemaking is Evernote. (I just looked up their home page, and I smiled at the tag line, “the workspace for your life’s work.”) On my own computer, I can use their web clipping widget to add notes, adding my own tags and (if I’m so inclined) sending the new note to a particular notebook (section) in my Evernote collection. I can email things to my Evernote account, and from my phone I can create notes directly (in the Evernote app) or share things from other apps.

All that’s by way of introduction. Some time back I created a “keeper” tag for items I wanted to hang onto, specifically because I might want to share them with people.

What I’m now planning: a series of keeper posts. Rather than fling a bunch of things onto a page here because I have a bunch of things, I’ll go through my most recent keepers and pull out a subset of them. I’ll try to explain what I’ve kept, why I’m keeping it, and (at least implicitly) why I’m sharing it.

That’s what the next post will kick off.

Keepers: the (re)process

I have mixed feelings about the word “curation.”  On the one hand, I acknowledge its spirit–what Clay Shirky means when he says, “Curation comes up when people realize it isn’t just about information seeking; it’s also about synchronizing a community.”

Or what I think he means, because, let’s face it, there’s a certain lack of specificity to “Hey, Dad, watch me while I synchronize the community.”

I don’t think of what I do as curation.  I think of it as putting stuff aside because I think it might have value for me.  In the olden days, when “bookmark” means something you slipped between the pages of a book, those things tended to go into file folders and bookshelves.  Now, when content is (mainly) digital and storage is (virtually) free, they go into files.

To be honest, they tend to stay there, too.  That isn’t the direction to take for things you want to learn, or learn from.  So, once again, I’m profiting from the example of Harold Jarche, who for some time has made a habit of posting Friday Finds: weekly compilations of insights and observations that he’s captured on Twitter.

  • Via Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson), a link to Corey Vilhauer’s blog post, Building Confidence: The Hidden Content Deliverable.  The ostensible topic is content strategy (which is what both Halvorson and Vilhauer really do), but anyone working in learning or workplace performance could read the post in that particular light as well.  When we’re young and working as advisors, he says,

…We look down our nose. We assume our clients are dumb.  The faster this goes away, the faster we can start doing the real work: understanding and embracing the needs of our clients and organizations.

  • From Yammer: The Blog, a post by Maria Ogneva, This is Not Your Parents’ Software Training. Nothing earthshaking, just a clear summary of alternatives to a bunch of same-time people in a bunch of same-time seats being told when and what to click.

It's a real find

  • From Sweden, a 45-minute presentation at the Technical Communication UK Conference 2011 by Magnus Ohlsson and  Jan Fredlund of IKEA’s communications group.  The topic is how IKEA meets the challenge of 400 new sets of assembly instructions per year, plus revisions.  The presentation comes via Mediasite, and the interface allows you to click through the slides; the audio will jump automatically to stay in sync.  The first 18 minutes (slides 1-13) are background about the IKEA approach and the work of the group; starting at slide 14, there’s a more detailed look at what goes into the ubiquitous guides.
  • Via Pascal Venier, Graham Allcott’s new productivity rules of the road. Allcott’s business is helping people and organizations become more productive (warning: you’ll find Getting Things Done stuff).  Among the thoughts that struck me–in part because you don’t often hear the relentlessly busy say things like these:
  • Starting well: beginning the day with meditation, exercise, a hearty breakfast, and “consuming limited information of my own choosing.”
  • Going dark: from 9 till 1, Allcott shuts his internet connection off.
  • Making himself take lunch, and not work through it.

…That’s the first installment of my shared keepers.  You can think of them as having been curated if you want. Posting them here for me is my reworking/reprocessing of things.  (I tossed a few others overboard–not everything labeled “keeper” merits being kept.)

Photo from the Library of Congress.