The ATD International Conference & Exposition (ATD ICE) was held in Denver May 22 to 25, 2016. I was able to volunteer through the ATD Rocky Mountain Chapter. I was a room monitor in the Mile High rooms 4a – 4c on Sunday and the Four Seasons 2c – 3c on Wednesday. Basically my volunteer job consisted of checking in with the speaker to see if he/she needed anything, finding the AV person when we had issues, counting the number of people in the room, taking lost items to the lost and found, and helping people find seats as the room started to fill. The good thing about being a room monitor is that you get to listen to the speakers in your room. I also met a lot of interesting people while volunteering.
I think your conference experience will vary based upon the sessions you go to. Themes this year that I heard; adapting to millennials, understanding neuroscience and learning and leadership training is not taken seriously by organizations and there is a serious leadership problem. Seeing Simon Sinek was the highlight of the conference. Here is a long recap of what I learned.
Sunday, May 22 – Volunteer Day
Session 1 – Champions for the Human Spirit: Peer Leaders and Change Agents speaker Valerie Noll
This session I didn’t catch a whole lot of it because I was looking for an AV person but what I did was surprising. Ms. Noll’s presentation focused on how companies are constantly attempting to change and innovate but to those who are change agents and peer leaders this change can feel like a constant cycle of standing still without any of those things actually happening. Some of the more interesting points:
- You are part of change every day but some of it is without your permission.
- Working on changing the systems and processes does not help the person but rather the company.
- Your organization’s health does not depend on your health – if the boat is rowing forward then everything is fine.
- Big systems, like a large organization, like inertia.
- Good things happen when real change happens but it’s hard and it’s ok to want change within the organization.
Session 2 – So You Want to Be a Consultant? Practical Ways to Start speaker Susan Onaitis.
This was a pretty interesting talk that Ms. Onaitis gave. I have toyed with the idea of going out on my own full-time but I do not know if I’ll ever be ready to do that. Part of my volunteer duties were to count the number of participants in the room. If I remember correctly about 120 people attended this session. When Ms. Onaitis asked, three-quarters of the room raised their hands to indicate that they were full-time L&D consultants.
Four ways to get new business:
- Get the word out on social media – let the world know specifically what you are doing. Tweet, update LinkedIn, even send out email snail mail cards to announce what you’re doing.
- Build your public image – Volunteer to run workshops, be a speaker, become known outside your circle. Hire a PR person.
- Get published and market it – authors have credibility.
- Target the clients you want.
Setting your fees:
- Find out what the going rate is. Tip – sales training weathers any storm. Leadership training is more expensive than management training. The longer you do it the more you can charge.
- Who is your target audience? Small to mid-sized companies pay less. Geography – companies on the East and West Coast pay more.
- How good are you? Be known as an expert in something.
- What services do you offer?
- How much do you have to learn? Keeping up with new things influences your earning power.
- How fast are you? Know how long a project takes. Document everything including meetings, phone calls – you have to think about where every minute of the day is spent.
- Don’t publish a fee schedule – there isn’t one price for everything.
- Aim for the realistic highest amount you can charge.
- Know when to walk away from a gig.
- Raise rates at the end of every year.
- Ms. Onaitis said that she gets 50% of payment before she even starts a job and will not start until check is in hand.
Creating an effective follow-up System.
- Develop a system that is simple, user-friendly and works for you.
- Stick to the system consistently. People may forget that they spoke to you.
- Make a minimum of two marketing contacts per day.
- Use a variety of ways to follow up.
- Stay in touch with clients but do not pester them – hot issues today can turn cold tomorrow. Always have a cancellation policy in place.
Random Notes: Being a problem solver for clients equals repeat business. Love what you do, it’s infectious.
Session 3 – The LeaderShift. How to Engage and Develop the Next Generation of Leaders speaker Dan Schawbel.
Millennials, leadership and the science of learning were a big themes at ICE. Baby boomers who hold leadership positions will be retiring soon. An alarmingly large number of corporations have not examined the impact this creates on their business and about a quarter of corporations have succession plans in place. This is a pretty scary thought. I think there are very few people who are born leaders. We need to be training our future leaders now. Mr. Schwabel cited a statistic that 93% of millennials want to be leaders but not at their current company. I can tell you that this Gen Xer has worked at companies where she wouldn’t want to be a leader also. He also stated that “60% of people who start a job are still looking.” People spend an average of 4 hours a week actively looking for a new job.
Mr. Schawbel also pointed out that millennials do not want to work at insurance companies, they want to work at Apple and Google. They are looking for companies that embrace technology, are fast paced and exciting. The new competitive advantage is corporate culture. Mr. Schawbel also pointed out some other interesting facts about millennials:
- Millennials want continuous feedback, not an annual performance review.
- They prefer continual learning, mentoring and feedback. They like to check in with managers/supervisors to get continuous feedback.
- If you do not invest in millennials, they will not invest in the company.
- The 9 to 5 workday is a thing of the past. Business is done 24-7. Salaried employees average a 47 hour work week. Flexible schedules work for employees – telecommuters are 10% more effective. Millennials want this flexibility.
- Millennials learn from continuous feedback, collaboration with peers, social learning and using mobile devices.
The engagement problem. Mr. Schwabel provided some scary statistics. According to Gallop 71% of Millinneals, 67% of Gen Xers and 68% of Baby Boomers are either not engaged or actively disengaged at their current position.
The retention rate problem. The average person has 11 jobs between 18 to 45. The organization loses knowledge when people leave. If you’re going to leave your job, do it between 3 and 5 years. It costs companies about $20,000 to replace each millennial that leaves and 66% of millennials expect to leave their jobs by 2020.
Career alternatives. Corporations who do not support millennials will lose them to their side gig that that turns into a career, freelancing and entrepreneurship.
- Millennials are not prepared to step into leadership roles but they are being rushed into these roles.
- Millennials prefer continuous development but less than 50% of companies have this type of culture.
- Millennials most desire leadership skills training from their employers.
- Designing programs – embed leadership development in the culture and strategy, transfer knowledge through generations and personalize training to reflect individual needs.
- As L&D professionals, we need to change leadership training today. Not in 3 or 4 years but now.
- Corporate cultures need to shift to be more employee focused.
- The things that millennials are demanding from employers are things that we all should be asking for.
Session 4 – Driving Productivity, Engagement and Loyalty Through Brilliant Coaching speaker Susan Croft
This was another session that we had some AV issues with and I tracked down some help. I have a couple of takeaways:
- To coach someone, you must understand that person’s frame of reference.
- Silence in coaching is golden.
- Engage, Empower and Equip.
Monday, May 23
Keynote – Simon Sinek – Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don’t
Tony Bingham, President ATD spoke before Simon Sinek. He spoke about millennials and how corporations and L&D needs to shift to accommodate their needs. Millennials now out number baby boomers. There are big changes coming that will impact all of us.
Simon Sinek was hands down the best speaker at ATD ICE. He spoke about leadership which is not surprising because he writes about it too. He started by talking about the fact that there isn’t a good definition of what a leaders is. Everyone has their own definition of a good leader.
Together we are remarkable but we need others we trust and feel safe around. When we feel safe trust and cooperation exist. When we don’t feel safe it results in cynicism. He talked about CYA emails and how it is essentially people taking time out of their day to protect themselves from their own company. People work hard to protect themselves in the wrong environment. Our primal instincts drive us when we don’t feel safe.
Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin. These chemicals generated by our bodies impact our brains and the behavior of leaders.
Endorphins provide drive and endurance.
Helps us to stay clear of distractions so we can see our goals. Companies need to have clear goals – vision statements are useless without goals. We need a sense of what we are working for because it gives our lives purpose. Milestones and metrics help us to measure if we are reaching our goals – feel like we are making progress. You have to work for a company where you believe in their corporate culture. Dopamine when left unbalanced and become highly addictive. That leads to an unhealthy corporate culture where:
- There is no trust.
- Where people stab anyone in the back to get to the goal.
- The feeling doesn’t last over time.
The feeling of pride and/or status. Public recognition for doing well releases serotonin. That’s why we have award ceremonies – email recognition doesn’t accomplish the same things. Serotonin is tied to self confidence and it reinforces relationships.
Alphas and preferential treatment. We are not offended by people giving special treatment to those who are higher up. It doesn’t come without cost though because we expect protection in return. We are ok with them getting more money. We are ok sacrificing the tribe to preserve the alpha’s interest.
Mass layoffs to balance the books (and protect the alphas) didn’t exist until the 1980s. “I can no longer provide for the family because the company missed arbitrary goals.” People tend not to take risks in these environments. Innovation is about risk. We are not getting people’s best when they prefer to stay under the radar because they don’t feel safe. When we feel that our leaders have our backs, we will protect the company. Leaders put the needs of the people first. Leaders put themselves between the people and harms way. If you speak truth to power you could lose your job because you spoke up. There isn’t much consistency with leaders. It may take a while to become a leader (Sinek said he doesn’t know how long) but practice with the smaller things and move on to bigger things. Take care of the people and they will take care of the results.
Oxytocin is responsible for love, loyalty, unicorns and rainbows. We want to be around people we like. Human touch makes us feel safe. That’s why we hug each other in hard times. Time and energy are a nonredeemable commodity. When you give someone your time and energy the feeling is overwhelming. It feels good when we do something nice for someone and it releases oxytocin. It’s the body’s natural reaction to make sure we take care of each other. Great leaders take the risk to bestow trust.
Unfortunately, people are promoted to leadership positions and they aren’t taught anything about how to be a leader. Leaders have to fight to take care of people. We need to take care of each other. Simon Sinek believes that we should feel safe at work, return home and feel fulfilled by our work.
Session 1 – Your Brain on Creativity: The Secrets to Making Creativity Work for Your Business speaker Leslie Ehm
What is creativity? It’s not thinking outside the box. It’s being inside the box or on the edge of the edge of the box with lots of tools to play with. Creative thinking is combining previous thoughts to come up with new ones. Creativity is the precursor to innovation. Creativity is about becoming a problem solver.
Your brain and creativity. What is tested and proven is safe. What is not tested and proven isn’t safe. Upshifting is the process of turning off that part of the brain that freaks out when things aren’t safe – ask questions quickly and give feedback to create more context. Ms. Ehm said she is suspicious of ideas that people bring her because we tend to feel comfortable with things that have been done before. You need to wipe out the little voice in your head that repeats what other people have told you – it’s bullshit. Why do we need the same ideas repeated? Defer judgement of yourself. Be a freak that’s where creativity starts.
When you follow the path, you are trusting your brain. When you diverge from the path, you are generating new ideas. You can beat people into a state of “creativity,” you need to be in a state of flow to be creative. Holding tension limits flow.
Session 2 – Collaboration Begins with You speaker Ken Blanchard
The session I wanted to attend Learning Trends, Shifts and Disruptions was full when I got there. The room next door was full also. So the third room I tried had seats so I decided to stay. Plus Ken Blanchard is well known and respected in management training. However, I did not connect with Mr. Blanchard and I didn’t learn anything new from him. He basically told stories for an hour and a half. Other people loved it and even gave him a standing ovation at the end of his talk.
- Love is helping people to be the best that they can be.
- People should bring their brains to work and be able to use them.
- Utilize differences in the people around you. They can help you to build on what you know.
- Nurture safety and trust.
- Involve everyone to establish the company’s values and goals.
- The important things about leadership happen when you’re not there.
Session 3 – Learning Anytime, Anywhere: How to Activate Informal Learning at Work speakers Cal Wick and Katherine Granger
This session was about informal learning. The old 70-20-10 (70% experience, 20% Exposure, 10% formal education) model and pushing learning out to learners is changing to 70% learning on the job, 20% learning through people (social learning) and 10% formal learning or pull learning. The new reality is that work is the classroom, the internet is the library, colleagues and your network are the faculty, capabilities and performance on the job are the final exams. Learning speed is the ultimate competitive advantage. Incorporate best practices. Set short team challenges to focus on deliberate outcomes. Tie challenges to KPIs. Use technology to activate social learning. Have structure so people have milestones. Use real-time data and analytics.
I didn’t find a lot of value in this session. A large majority of time was spent in a PPT deck with images of books the speakers used to support their theories.
Session 4 – Make Powerful Infographics… Fast speaker Mike Parkinson
I think that infographics are a great way to convey information to learners. Here are the things that stood out to me:
- Mr. Parkinson in his talk said that text and images are more powerful than text alone.
- About 50% of the time one spends on designing infographics is spent with coming up with the concept and the other 50% is rendering the images.
- We are translators of SMEs for our learners.
- People are predictably irrational.
- Things to focus on when designing your concept – the audience and the message.
- An infographics is any image with text.
- The title of you infographic is your message. Benefits should be first (may be unstated) and the “how” is second.
- Pull out the most important information and get rid of the rest. Assemble the information to tell a micro story. Stories impact us.
- Most of the time your instinct is more right than over thinking.
- Literal method – what is it? When do I use it?
- Substitution method – visual metaphor or simple analogy.
Mr. Parkinson showed us how to design a lock icon in PowerPoint. I know that people are just trying to be helpful but why are we L&D professionals using PPT to design graphics? Is not even close to being the best tool for the job.
Tuesday, May 24
Keynote – Brene Brown – Brave Leaders, Courageous Cultures
Rob Green from ATD opened the session talking about millennials and how they will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020. He also mentioned that being digital is part of their everyday lives. Millennials don’t feel that risk taking will cost them their jobs. They also have a sense of purpose – they want to contribute to something bigger than them. I think we are really behind when it comes to appealing to millennial employees from both a corporate culture and L&D standpoint.
Brene Brown opened her session by stating that courage and vulnerability are hard for people to understand.
- Courage is the ability to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
- The narrative you make up leads your behavior. Emotion gets the first crack of making sense of your behavior.
- Without failure there is no innovation and learning. Get curious about the emotion. Realize the story we made up.
- Courage vs. comfortable – you must be able to see what is going on and then be able to act on it.
- Courage is teachable.
- We don’t like it because we feel it is weakness.
- It is our most accurate measure of courage.
- Shame, scarcity, fear, anxiety, uncertainty are all associated with vulnerability.
- Vulnerability is also the source of love, belonging, joy, courage, creativity, accountability, etc.
- Then most terrifying experience is joy because we don’t want to be blindsided by something bad. We rehearse bad things in our head.
- Ethical decision making is one of the most vulnerable spots to be in.
- When we walk away from vulnerability we walk away from everything we want.
- Vulnerability is not weakness. You can’t opt out of it.
- It’s sharing our thoughts and stories with those who have earned it. Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability.
- You can not go it alone.
Clarity of values:
- People will spend their lives spreading fear, judgement and doubt. Set down the armor, the weapons, just show up and be you.
- Have full clarity of your values. Know exactly why you are going in there.
- When you are outside your values – it can feel bad physically. Have empathy and self compassion.
- Trust is built in small moments.
- Having a talk about trust issues is difficult.
- Confidentiality – the moment I share something about someone else with someone (gossip) it ruins trust with others.
- Judgement – if you judge yourself when you need help you will judge others when they ask for help.
- One shame trigger at work is the fear of irrelevance.
- Favoritism and gossip are indicators that shame is at play in an organization.
“When you own the story, you get to write the ending. If you don’t own the story you lie to cover it up.” – my ah ha moment. Ms. Brown also quoted Henry James, “We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have, our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task, The rest is the madness of art.?” It was a good way to end her talk.
Session 1 – Zombie Salespocalypse: Making an Epic 3-D Immersive Sales Video Game speaker Karl Kapp.
I really enjoy Karl Kapp and his talks about gamification. If he’s speaking at a conference that I’m at, I will make a point to see him. He explained how he built this game. His original client backed out of the game after a reorg. He then marketed it to a pharmaceutical company and an insurance company. I think it was interesting to hear about his issues bringing a product to market. The resources he used. How he can get inexpensive labor by hiring students from the local junior college. However, I think my expectations for Karl Kapp are a little high. I wasn’t all that impressed by the game itself. The game was a salesperson chasing a client around. When you found the client, you had to answer multiple choice questions before the zombies attacked you. It is essentially a timer to add some pressure to answering the questions. I suppose it’s better than anything I could build and it was his first effort of a 3-D game.
Session 2 – Becoming a Learning Experience Designer (LXD) speaker Marty Rosenheck
This session started out by discussion the 70-20-10 rule again. Instructional Design focuses on formal training but formal training is only a small part of learning. He spoke about UX and how important it’s becoming in learning.
I liked Mr. Rosenheck’s take on learning objectives. I’ve always thought they were more for the people designing training rather than the learner. He suggested replacing them with proficiency statements because most learning objectives contain “meaningless terms but I want you to actually do something.”
Define the context: Culture, social, job, learner. Learning experiences happen outside of our control.
Define the learning path: are experience formal, informal, on the job. Learning should be adaptive. Customize the learning path based upon the learner’s need (micro adaptive learning).
Types of learning experiences: modeling, scenarios, simulations, IJT.
Experience: If content is king, experience is the emperor. Start with the experiences.
Content: Ondemand content knowledge base. Use video or audio. Social. Checklists, guidelines and mini tutorials.
Feedback: Feedback is critical in the teachable moment. Scenario based eLearning.
Start with a lot of support at the beginning for learners and gradually take it away. Use experience maps as scaffolding. Deliberate spaced practice over time.
Mr. Rosenhack said in his talk that eLearning should contain no content rather it should only contain interactive experiences like scenarios and places to practice. This is the first time I’ve ever heard this and I don’t think I agree. It can contain both content and practice opportunities. I’m not sure I walked away with this with the tools or knowledge to be a LXD. I think I do that now to some degree anyway. This session was a lot of theory and didn’t contain many real world applications.
Session 3 – Stand Out: Be a Rockstar at Work speaker Wendy Terwelp
- Portable. You can take your brand to another company or reinvent your brand there.
- Assigned to you by others when you don’t take control of yours.
- Consistent on what they stand for.
- Clear on what they are and what they are not.
- Communicate your story.
- Consistent at both work and home.
The 3 C’s of branding
Position yourself for your future – know your brand. Communicate your value with everyone you meet. Use social media and keep it current. Repurpose the heck of what you’re learning and share with your network.
CAR stories (challenge, action, result) drive your career.
Session 4 – Using Neuroscience to Increase Attention speaker Anne Beninghof
This was a pretty interesting session on how chemicals in the body impact the brain.
There are 5 memory paths two were discussed:
- Semantic memory – word based and the least accessible to retrieve information from.
- Episodic memory – Location/autobiographical memory. This is the most accessible. Something in the location sparks your memory.
Mind maps lead to a 10% boost in retention – make multiple connections between things in the brain. The more connections you have the faster your brain is.
Executive Attention Network. Effective adult problem solvers look for non-examples and rule them out.
Novelty is the #1 thing at grabbing the brain’s attention – for example, Plickers. Novelty releases norepinephrine which is responsible for alertness, focus and memory. Dopamine is responsible for pleasure, motivation, perseverance and memory. Low dopamine levels cause animals to take the path of least resistance. Emotional connections release dopamine. Props can get your thinking going and release dopamine. Icebreakers should not be about meeting people but they should be about getting your mind ready to learn. Movement causes more oxygen to be released in the brain. Sitting for 20 minutes, the blood pools in your butt and is taken away from your brain. Get people up to make blood move to the brain to deliver more oxygen.
I don’t know if any of this was new to me except the part about no using icebreakers to get your brain ready. However, I didn’t always know the neuroscience behind it. I thought it was interesting to find that out.
Wednesday, May 25 – Volunteer Day
Session 1 – Creation and Innovation: Learning from the World’s Most Famous Entertainer speaker Bob Berkman
I thought this session would be really fun and it was. I don’t think I took anything away from it but not every session is awesome. The first three-quarters of this session was devoted to Disney Trivia. Sure some of it had to do with Walt Disney and innovation but most of it didn’t. The last part was a visualization exercise of standing on three papers placed in a triangle shape in front of you. The speaker guided the room through a series of questions involving your inner dreamer (stand on green paper square), realist (stand on yellow paper square) and critic (stand on red paper square). While you stood on one square you would think about how that interacted with the other two. He did it twice with the group and a lot of the participants said that it was easier to visualize their dreams the second time.
Session 2 – Training Internationally: Effective Design and Delivery speaker Beth Yoder
Session 3 – Increase Your Impact: Learning Transfer Starts with You speakers Shana Campbell and Jason Sturges
- Research shows that the supervisor is the most important individual before training. Supports the learner or not.
- ACT mentality – Action Changes Things
- Things become easier as you practice them – practice is key after training.
- Discuss action plans after training. Schedule briefings for trainee to train others.
- Protect trainees from disruptions and distraction.
- Note participant is mandatory.
- Select the right (appropriate) trainers.
- Brief class on the purpose and objectives – What’s in it for them (WIIFM).
Keynote – Jeremy Gutsche – Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas
Jeremy Gutsche was extremely interesting. He’s a good storyteller. I thought he was fun to watch.
Fortune 500 companies have an average lifespan of 15 years. Companies are not prepared to react.
Everyone wants to be better and faster but not everyone will put the effort in.
Be insatiable – work harder and never give up. The act of getting inspired has become overwhelming. Things that inhibit businesses are the same everywhere – we get stuck in a groove.
Farmers vs. Hunters
- Farmers repeat whatever led them to last year’s success.
- Traps of a farmer. When we are successful we become complacent, repetitive and a product of our egos.
- Hunter instincts – insatiable – always looking for what’s next, curious and willing to destroy.
Every innovation creates ripples of opportunity. Copy the innovation or find opportunity in the ripples. You don’t need one big idea, you just need one little idea done big. Opposing the mainstream fuels success.
And that is what I saw/learned at 2016 ATD ICE. It’s always a great opportunity network, learn and gain exposure to new ideas.