Posted by: simfulb | September 7, 2009

Do it like Don: Entrepreneurial Style Learning!

Learning can be tough...especially when it comes to your hair products!

Learning can be tough...especially when it comes to your hair products!

How do they do it? 

It is a question I often have when I talk about people who are entrepreneurs.  To me, it is simply amazing that people have the ability to harness their energy, money and passions towards a vision that is their business.  The old Nike term, “Just Do It” seems like a motto all entrepreneurs can live by.

The knowledge and skills entrepreneurs need to have span not only their own specific business, but also many other fields such as marketing, finance, customer relationship management, IT, and so on.  So I ask again, how do they do it?  And of course, I’m interested in how they learn to do it.

A great article recently published n T+D Magazine called Entrepreneurial Learning:  Secret Ingredients for Business Success, highlighted not only what entrepreneurs learn, but also outlined the following ways how they learn:

  • Learning through experience:  Something I have talked about before (see Dimonstratzione post), combining learning from failures and successes.  They always talk about Donald Trump “learning” through his various bankruptcies!
  • Learning from others:  here the author, Mike MacPherson, talks about how entrepreneurs have the ability to learn from anyone – mentors, formal and informal teachers, etc.
  • Self-Directed Learning:  Entrepreneurs are often driven by their passion for a business idea or subject and thus, I see them as highly motivated learners when it comes to their businesses.  Think about whatever subject you are passionate about, don’t you try and learn as much as possible in whatever way you can?
  • Reading:  This isn’t just books, or the latest and greatest successful entrepreneur…it is publications, news, reports and a whole lot more about the business, inside and out!
  • Conversation:  One of my favourite ways to learn.  MacPherson coins the acronym QLT:  questioning, listening and talking.  Tremendously effective in understanding a subject matter, especially when you talk to people close to the action such as managers, customers and suppliers.
  • Team Learning:  But aren’t entrepreneurs independent?  Absolutely, but at some point, and by using the next learning method discussed, entrepreneurs recognize they cannot go at it alone.  They incorporate others to help them with areas that they are challenged to address and thus, they learn from the new teams created to address these challenges.
  • Critical self-reflection:  When I think of a successful entrepreneur, I have a vision of someone who is extremely well versed in who they are, what they can do, and what they cannot do.  But critical self-reflection also allows people to examine their behaviours, assumptions and habits, suggests MacPherson.

While I personally love to learn from conversation, this article reminded me of the other ways individuals can “own their learning” and recognize learning outside of the classroom and formal learning models.  When we identify an area we need to be better at, often times a course is seen as the answer when perhaps being more entrepreneurial can bring a more complete learning experience.

Which entrepreneurial learning method would you use?  Come on you entrepreneurs, are all of them listed, or do you have more goodies for us?

Could you be using this money to "feed" your TDL budgets?

Could some of this money better "feed" your TDL budgets?

Finally, I’m going to write a “hard hitting” article!  Well, to be honest, it may not be as hard hitting as I think, and given my .294 average this season for the Burnaby Yankees, I’m not what one would consider hard hitting!

Ok, back to the post…today I came across one of my favourite Annual Reports on learning – The Conference Board of Canada’s 2009 Outlook on Learning & Development.  The Conference Board does a fabulous job of reporting on the level of investment being made in the areas of learning and development across many industries from a National Perspective.

Some interesting insights this year for me include:

  • Surprise, surprise…while their are increasing pressures from the economic times, globalization and the challenges of aging workforces, spending on TLD (training, learning and development) is trending downward.
  • Informal learning is on the rise – while it is extremely hard to track, there is an acknowledgement that informal learning is up…by the way, anyone know what informal learning is?  😉
  • While spending might be down, at least organizations acknowledge and are changing strategies to use TDL to bridge skills/knowledge gaps.

So on the surface, and given the “times” we are living in, this report doesn’t seem to give us a shock, but think about it in terms of what your organization is doing.

  • Is your organization contributing to the trend of less annual training hours per employee?  That trend is down over 30% during the past 4 years!
  • Does spending and training hours really matter, or is informal learning a reality for your folks?  Or are you using informal as a way to justify cutting costs?
  • Has your organization adapted their TDL strategies based on changing workforce dynamics, including an aging employee base?

Like I said…this article may not be so hard hitting, but perhaps the 2009 Outlook can provide us all with an opportunity to ask some hard questions about where our money is going.

Posted by: simfulb | July 24, 2009

Because the Elders told me so…

Ok, I’m tired.  I just spent the last 48 hours with about 3 hours of sleep, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

Shawn and his Granny

Shawn and his Granny

I travelled to Calgary to watch as my cousin, Shawn Atleo, was named National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.  To say that I am proud, is an understatement.  Yet, I was once again reminded of an incredible source of learning that we sometimes forget to tap into.  As many of you know, it is paramount in First Nations culture to learn from Elders.  What I witnessed in Calgary showed me just how much that learning can help you in life.  When Shawn gave his victory speech, it was his Granny that stood right beside him…a testament to his learning from her over the years.

Whether you are of First Nations decent or not, the knowledge of those that have “been there before us” is something all of us should embrace more.  It could be the Elders within your family, at your office, or in your communities.  Listen to their stories, heed their words of advice.  The learning experience you will have just might transform you.

During my 10 hour overnight drive from Vancouver to Calgary, I learned about the theory of Tsawalk – the view that “the nature of existence as an integrated and orderly whole…recognizing the intrinsic relationship between the physical and spiritual”.  Listening to my uncle describe to me how the theory shows itself in our daily existence was an engaging way to learn about this topic.  I could have just read the book, but it was my uncle’s description of how the theory shows itself in life that allowed me to appreciate the theory even more.

COMMENT ON THIS POSTING >  Tell me what you have learned from your Elders…and the story of how the Elder told you. 

It is the journey of our learning that is just as powerful as what you learn.

Posted by: simfulb | July 9, 2009

You blog!? Who cares…

As you can tell from the date stamp between this post and my last post (June 18th), blogging has obviously not been priority number one. 
My little bro got married, I am now president of my Rotary Club (Vancouver Quadra), and my baseball team is on a winning streak, so I needed to focus my efforts on improving upon my .200 batting average so that the young guys wouldn’t take my spot!
See, plenty of excuses!  🙂
alexSeriously speaking, does anyone read your blog? 
This cartoon pokes fun at blogger readership, but does it really matter if no one does?
While there are many benefits to reading blogs from experts in the field, writing a blog yourself has tremendous benefits that can help in one’s own professional development. 

Blogs can…

  • Act as Knowledge Transfer devices – such as  sharing ideas, insights, and lessons learned with colleagues on specfic projects. 
  • Journalize your professional development – you can provide an up-to-date portfolio of your work…something many of us do not do!
  • Provide a forum for instant feedback – got an idea you are interested in getting feedback on?  Blog about something and use interactive tools like mini surveys, polls, etc. to hear back from people.

A great example of using a blog for learning purposes is from a colleague, William Azaroff, who is in Bologna Italy learning about Cooperatives…have a read!

I just finished reading a CLO magazine article talking about the BTS business simulation tournament champions being crowned for 2008 and it got me thinking about how powerful business simulations can be in learning.  Many of you have tried this type of learning, and if you haven’t, I recommend checking them out with sites like Forio.
"It's going blow up...real good!"

Destruction of Simonville's beachfront condos led to some quick decision making by my Executive Team!

SimCity provided me with my first business simulation experience.  Remember how SimCity taught us to make complex decision in a business context?  Zoning was like strategic planning, keeping your population happy was like employee engagement, and budget management was like…budget management!  Of course, blowing things up and causing mayhem allowed us to develop our business continuity planning as well.

What are some of the benefits of business simulations?
  • Realism in learning
  • Team building and collaboration
  • Taking risks without dire consequences (except from teammates)
  • Training for impact – building the confidence to apply skills right away on the job
  • Instant feedback on performance – don’t have to wait for that mid year review!

See if you can utilize a business simulation in your next learning intervention…it can be simple, so long as it follows the idea of Full-Circle Learning, summarized by Clark Aldrich in the “Field Guide to Education Simulations” published by ASTD:

  1. Understanding the System – it may be full understanding or partial, but it provides the foundation to start
  2. Have a goal – People can use their understanding to plan on achieving the goal
  3. Receive Feedback – This is where mistakes and risks are rewarded with enhanced learning…
  4. Update Knowledge – Whether people are perfect in achieving the goal, or make many mistakes, knowledge is enhanced through the simulated experience.


Posted by: simfulb | May 27, 2009

Reflections on Greece

Love it here…warm, nice people, great food and beautiful sunsets!  I feel like I am in the cradle of European and Western civilization and there are a few things that have caused me to stop and reflect:

  • Greek is one TOUGH language to learn – even the thanks and hello is difficult to get…and remembering that “Neh” means yes takes some getting used to!
  • Great conversation trumps action – sometimes our busy North American lives don’t allow us to stop and have truly enriching conversations with those around us.  I have enjoyed the dialogue even more than the coffee!
  • Interesting perspectives on international affairs – Ok, so everyone hated Bush, but what is more interesting is how fearful people are of America’s collapse.  Makes me feel a bit isolated in our fantastic country of Canada
  • Freedom with Good Grades – top Greek students (based on national ranking) get to choose which profession and school they want to attend.  The competition is fierce and there are re-writes, but while scholarships provide incentive in N.A., the freedom to choose is the motivation here.


  • I see that a few of you have voted in my pole…I find it interesting that I spend a lot of time reflecting while on holidays, but less at home.  Do I learn more away?  What about YOU?  Is it the beer?  Comment…

That’s all for now…Yassou!

Well, I have just arrived in Germany after a longer than anticipated flight.  Not sure why we didn´t take the arctic route but oh well.  In the mean time, as I recover from jet lag, have a glance at my poll…a bit of a preview of what´s coming next!  🙂


Posted by: simfulb | May 13, 2009

Tough Times? Become a Mixologist of Learning!

Ever been a bartender?  Well I have, and understanding how to make drinks is only the beginning of this very challenging occupation.  Try making 8 different flavours of margaritas with only 1 blender on a $2 Margarita Monday…talk about learning how to do “more with less”!


Come on, we can't all look like Tom C. in Cocktail!

Great bartenders, unlike me, have become known as mixologists.  Mixology was a term created to articulate the skill and art form  in creating the right cocktail for the right customer. 

Mixologists like our friend Tom C. dazzled and amazed people with his tricks, but if his drinks tasted worse than Buckley’s Cough Medicine, not many people would have strolled up to his bar*!

The same ability to combine art and skill is also required when thinking about organizational learning, especially during tough economic times.   Some of the reasons for mixing learning in today’s world may come from having less resources (see Elliott Maise’s Learning Resources Barometer). 

As Mixologists of Learning, we must consider the key combinations of content, delivery methods, formal/informal learning, multiple intelligences, demographics, etc.  all with our learner in mind.  We need to make sure our mixes are not only appealing, but provide the sustenance our learners and businesses require.  If not, the value of learning will be lost.  ASTD’s white paper on communicating the value of learninghelps to further illustrate the importance of embracing the mixology of learning.  Like many things worthwhile, start with some action and good advice.  A concept I was introduce to (by Holly MacDonald) early in my career was “High Tech/High Touch“, which helps me to remember the importance of balance in the mixing of learning.

 The most important thing you can do is explore and keep your audience and business front and center!  So remember, if I can make that many margaritas in one blender, then how hard could it be to mix learning?  😉

*Note:  I recognize that there may be other reasons why people would have visited Tom C. at his bar, but I do not feel we need to get into that here!

Posted by: simfulb | April 23, 2009

2009 Virtual School Society Conference

On April 23rd, I had the pleasure of speaking at the 2009 Virtual School Society’s Annual Spring Conference.  “Inspire Learning by being Technologically Adventurous ” was the title of my session, and I identified some possible links that attendees could visit to enhance their own exploration into online learning. 
So be a “clickaholic” and surf away to some of these links…and let me know which ones I’ve missed!
Posted by: simfulb | April 16, 2009


Dimonstratzione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience

leonardo_da_vinciOk, my Italian is horrible…and to be honest, the only real Italian I know is not appropriate for blogging and was learned watching soccer matches at various Cafes in the city! 

Since my Italian is so limited, I wasn’t sure if Dimonstratzione was an Italian word when I first came across it in How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci:  Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael Gelb.  Dimonstratzione is one of seven principles that Gelb identifies as critical in achieving success in performance and/or learning endeavors.  When considering how adults learn, it is very important that our knowledge is tested through experience.  We need to prove to ourselves that the knowledge we have acquired will work in “the real world” and provides us with some value. 

For organizations and individuals, the challenge becomes creating the space and environment where this testing can occur.  So before you take that next course, or design a new workshop for you employees, think about how you will adhere to the principle of Dimonstratzione.

NOTE:  Due to a recent facination with Yahoo Bablefish, I may use more non-English words in my posts.  Nothing is more fun than sending “Happy Birthday, I hope you enjoy your day” in Japanese to your pal in Tokyo!

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