Monday, December 8, 2008

Learning and Development Awards

At the Management Consultancy International end of year prize giving function, several of our candidates and training managers received special awards. These individuals and teams stood out from the over 600 portfolios that we assessed during the year and the high quality and precision of their work was truly remarkable.

TAA portfolio of the year went to Sharon Morgan from Oporto and Peter Quinn from Hyundai.

FLM students of the year were Matilda Ika Rob Scott from Toll Holdings.

Customer Contact student of the year went to Abbe Keeble from Travel the World.

Sydney Ports took the team award for best TAA group where there was a 100% completion rate and some outstanding portfolios submitted.

Often in learning and development, managers and coordinators who put so much effort into ensuring the successful rollout of programs are not recognized. This year, we introduced a new category called ‘Learning and Development Champions’. We awarded certificates to Daniel Fluckiger (ex-Allianz Insurance), Fel Donatelli (Allianz Insurance), Tanya Sitta (Toll Personnel), Dan Moore (Daikin) and Jodie Elder (Travel the World). All of these learning and development champions show an extraordinary amount of passion and dedication for ensuring successful projects and programs.

Last but definitely not least, there is always the admin support team that ensures that it all happens smoothly. This year Co-ordinator of the year awards went to Laura Kennedy and Emma Bates from Toll Personnel and also to Maria Mercado-Thai from Vodafone.

HR and Innovation

A few weeks ago I listened to Terry Davis, MD of Coca Cola Amatil, talk at the Local Government HR conference on the topic of innovation and HR. Here are some of the key points that he put forward:

1. Terry stressed that particularly in tough times, what gets you through is having the “best team of people in place”.

2. The top brands will survive – the others will cease to exist.

3. Staff do what they are rewarded for most and this makes KPI’s integral to the business model. People gravitate to what hey are paid for and earnings are at risk based on performance.

4. People who own a strategy should be the ones developing it. People therefore come before strategy.

5. Business success depends on levels of engagement and how rewards are structured.

6. Core values are extremely important as this is what drives the business.

7. Community projects are important as they create higher levels of customer advocacy.

8. You need the right leadership to challenge the status quo – you need to be able to question things without fear of retribution.

9. Coca Cola has its own internal recruitment and does not outsource to an external agency. Key roles are filled via referrals and not through advertising. Files are kept on key people who will eventually be head-hunted.

10. Coca Cola is committed to a strong policy of diversity – 2 women out of 8 board members and 25% of senior leadership are women.

11. OHS features as a standard agenda item at board level.

12. You need to continuously innovate – even if at first you do not succeed. The ‘Mother’ product was not initially successful and has now been re-launched with great success. Failure is a way of learning.

13. Tough times mean that we will have to work much harder and much smarter to achieve what we want to. CEO’s need to be clear about what the goals are for the future to avoid coffee machine talks about who is next on the chopping block.

14. It is important for all employees to take leave. This refreshes everyone to come back with new ideas and also is valuable in eliminating petty fraud.

15. Work-life balance is not a key value at Coca Cola. There is no substitute for hard work and that is what life is about.

16. Set clear codes of conduct so that everyone knows how to respond in a range of situations and there are no issues around ethics.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

LEGO plays seriously at the Microsoft conference

I was invited to assist in facilitating the Womenbuild session at the Microsoft PDC conference 2008 on 26 October this year. I was privileged to co-facilitate at this most incredible event – particularly as it is an issue that is close to my heart. The purpose of the Womenbuild session was to find ways to attract women into technology fields and to create avenues for them to harness their talent and innovation when developing software.

The 5 hour session was formulated around the principles of LEGO Serious Play and the group was challenged to build a whole range of different models, all relating to the theme of what it would take to create a more vibrant network of women and how the message could be spread at further conferences to be held in the future.

The recurring theme from the WomenBuild day was about establishing relationships and connecting with others to form stronger networks. Participants also spoke about how vital it is to commence working at school level to encourage younger generation girls and show them that bridges can be built and obstacles to entering the profession can be overcome.

The group also discussed establishing a mentoring program where young women are ‘buddied’ with those who are more experienced in the profession.

About 20% of the group was made up of men. They made some interesting comments - some had specifically come as they would like to ensure that their daughters have every opportunity available and that there would be no glass or concrete ceilings in their way.

The WomenBuild program incorporated the powerful LEGO Serious Play hands-on process that draws on the power of creative thinking to shift group conversation from talking heads to focused minds. Each table was run as a facilitated conversation with physical LEGO brick constructions that ensured that the diverse wisdom within the group was tapped into.

The participants certainly left the room with a clearer shared understanding of the inspirational career paths for women in the IT profession.

Well done to Microsoft for stepping up in a proactive way to encourage a diverse workplace and to ensure that the software development industry has pathways and possibilities for all who wish to enter the field of software and product development.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Frontline Management - why now?

I am often asked about why it is important to hold nationally recognised qualifications.
Some organisations prefer to do training that is needed simply to fill skills gaps and do not want to spend the time or the money linking these immediate needs to training packages.
There is certainly an argument though that, particularly when the labour market tightens, individuals who have sent themselves a clear career path value qualifications. National certificates and diplomas are are worth their weight in gold in terms in terms of creating the entry point into a job.
As an article in the My Career section of the Sydney Morning Herald on November 1-2, 2008 briefly mentions, in a tighter marketplace the key action items to holding a job and progressing career prospects are:
Upgrade your qualifications and nurture your networks.
Your viewpoints are welcome!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The world the Google way...

Just attended a fascinating session with the General Manager of Google Aus and NZ, Kerim Temsamini.
He was speaking on the speed of change and how he even finds it "scary" to see his own kids doing things on the internet which at their age would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.
There are now no delays between the news and the story. You can no longer totally control your message.
There are 183 Billion emails sent every day - that is 2 million emails every second. On Youtube over 100 000 years of video has been watched. And yet only 15% of the world's content has been digitised.
The internet has truly democratised our access to information - for the first time the mass exchange of text is possible. A true "revolution" as never seen before.
So what are the further changes for the future?
1. At the moment mos of the web is in English - this is set to change and other languages are entering the web. But, fear not, as Google translator is being further refined and developed to be able to translate for you.
2. Mobile phones will be the next major point of access for on-line information.
3. People will be spending more media time on line.
4. There will be more consumer engagement with on-line and off-line marketing working together.
5. There will be more customisation and personalisation available - think of shopping carts that will guide you around the supermarket to the correct aisle and give you the information you need on your purchase.
6. Devices will be built that anticipate what we want - we will receive advice that there is a sandwich store around the corner and we had a sandwich yesterday - do we want another one?

So what do we extract from this session for our own organisations:
From the perspective of Management Consultancy International, it all comes down to innovation and being aware of what the trends are - taking these trends and translating them into your own business strategy and models.
Google itself as an organisation makes use of the LEGO Serious Play methodology to ensure that they remain in touch and engaged with their own workforce.

Monday, October 13, 2008

LEGO Serious Play

In the Financial Review Education Section (13/10/08) there is a great article entitled 'Lego-like plan creates thinkers' by Alexander Symonds.
The article is based on a discussion with Mitchel Resnick who is the Head of the Lifelong Kindergarden Group at MIT in Boston.
Prof Resnick makes the point that when we talk about learning we cannot use the term 'delivery' of learning as this implies that there will not be much interactivity. For true learning to take place, you need to ensure that there is more than just access to information or to content.
By allowing children to design and create things we ensure that they have a better understanding of the world and that they become creative thinkers.
This line of thought is just as applicable for all levels of an organisation - which is where the adult application of LEGO - LEGO Serious Play - becomes so valuable in moving an organisation towards a culture of innovation.
LEGO Serious Play sessions hinge on all participants actively creating the world and their perspective of it - and sharing that view with others. Sessions also ensure that learning takes place when the participant is in 'flow' and knowledge is not 'delivered' by the facilitator. As participants engage in play, meaning becomes more clear and learning happens through constructing models and sharing stories.
The technology side will soon appear when LEGO Robotics is introduced next year for use in the adult and business environment. This will create further opportunities for learning in a dynamic way and with positive outcomes for the organisation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


It is not exactly a rosy picture at the moment if you are on the corporate front line - stocks are tumbling and unprecedented events are taking place.
The impact on training teams is immense. When tough times bite the first thing to go is the training budget and that is if the L and D team still has its job and they aren't cut as well.
Well - let's accept that it is not business as usual and do something positive. Our pleas for extra budget are probably going to fall on deaf ears - so what can we proactively do to ensure that skills needs are met and that those who remain in the business are motivated and engaged.
First up, have a look at government-funded training. Forget about those who have turned their noses up at it on the basis that their business is so specific and on such a high level that "we don't need the forms and paperwork that a traineeship entails". $4000 per person who completes a traineeship is a substantial boost to any organisation's learning and development budget.
So instead of sitting back and waiting for an internal budget that is not going to come for a while, investigate whether funded training would be viable for your business.
Besides providing participants with needed skills, you are also ensuring that they remain motivated as they are acquiring nationally recognised, fully portable qualifications.
It is clearly a win-win-win situation.
It is very frustrating watching organisations who do not take up this incredible opportunity to boost budgets, upskill employees and create a positive environment.
Without question the most common objections to traineeships are:
1. The paperwork and bureaucracy
2. The organisation has its own way of doing things that is not in line with the traineeship
3. Lack of senior management buy-in or resistance from management.
In answer to these challenges:
1. Yes there is paperwork - but so is there paperwork to take a bank loan. Efficient systems keep this to a minimum. When you have a slashed training budget, learn to shuffle a few papers.
2. National qualifications are designed so that each organisation can utilise them in their own way. Participants do need to demonstrate that they can apply skills in the workplace and each workplace's standard procedures are allowed for. In any event, is it not better to display skills in the workplace instead of just looking at the happy sheets after a training session??
3. Get your figures correct and put a strong case to management based on the benefits to the business. Talk in financial terms - show how much the government pays and what this money would be used for. Talk about the impact of what the traineeships will be to the business. For example, how a frontline management program will assist managers who have to break bad news to team members.
Other tips:
Start keeping records not of everything you do - but of the impact that this has had on the business. Results count now more than ever and the days of the happy sheets is over - do not be as concerned about whether people "enjoyed" the training or not. Rather document what did they do differently as a result of the training. If nothing has changed, why was the training done at all?
Agree to make some sacrifices to the budget - this makes you look like a team player and that you don't always fight the system. If your interventions have been prioritised by the impact they have on the business, you will know which programs can be cut.
Have a look at the article on the Management Consultancy International website on traineeships for more concrete information.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2008 Transport Leadership Program Gains Further Momentum

It is wonderful to have yet another group of Transport Professionals participate in the Transport Leadership Program, which results in the qualification of the Diploma in Business (Frontline Management).

Some of the themes that participants will be learning about include
  • situational leadership
  • finance for non-financial managers
  • contemporary techniques for motivating team-members

We look forward to active discussion from delegates via this blog!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gary Hamel Learning Points

I attended an excellent seminar by Gary Hamel who is considered to be one of the top business thinkers in the world and currently visiting professor of strategic and international management at London Business School. He is also in the process of establishing the management innovation lab where he is aiming to create tomorrow’s best practices – see

So what did I learn from Prof Hamel?

Some key pointers:

1. In order to create an organisation that can out-innovate anyone else, we need to re-look our current management structures and create management for the new century.

Can we even imagine the different forms of management that we are familiar with right now? Can we picture for example an organisation where we invite outsiders to co-develop strategies? Can we imagine an organisation where there are no titles or rank? Where we give employees the right to say ‘no’ to any order or request?

Well, these types of companies are starting to emerge. Have a look at HCL Technologies as an example of a world-class company where command and control as a model no longer exists; where bonuses are paid at the beginning of the year on a trust basis and where customers are told employees come first.

2. Why has management stayed the same for so long? If you brought managers back form 100 years ago, they would find many things that are almost the same. They would find things to be just as hierarchical and as many big leaders who appoint little leaders.

There is no question that these management practices ensured strong economic progress and organised people in an efficient way. But are we now prisoners of a paradigm trap where the management practices of old gurus are still embedded in organisations right now?

In order to be truly competitive we will need to radically re-invent management practices. We will need to re-visit the way we manage, the way we adopt business models and the way on which we provide service. Look at companies such Ryanair, Facebook, IKEA, I-tunes for examples of how innovative practices have led to great success.

We are now facing challenges as organisations that we have never had to face in the past. The pace of change has gone crazy and for the first time ever, each generation that is born is born into a whole new world. Industry has changed in the last 10 years more than it has in the last 100 years. An organisation like Coca Cola where the brand was thought to protect the organisation – now finds itself behind the ball when it comes to changes in the beverages industry.

Everything is moving at such an exponential rate with changes in social networking, communications bandwidth, pressures for ‘green’ and the amount of information in the world and how we access it. The companies who are resilient survive and those who are built to accommodate that kind of change are ahead of the pack.

We often seem to change only when there is a crisis. Oh – suddenly we wake up and put in new leadership to turn things around. But surely there must be a better way? Surely, we don’t have to wait until we reach the bottom of the trough to work out how to be a better organisation.

3. What can we do?

3.1. Don’t try to dismiss the evidence. Look at those who thought MP3 files would never be as good as CD’s. Don’t rationalise your way around the facts and the stats. Don’t think you know everything – have some humility. Don’t simply listen to people with a fixed mental model – get out and listen to those you don’t normally hear from. Don’t be afraid to do your own research. When Nokia decided to take on Motorola the top team went to the Rapangi district in Tokyo to see what was happening out there. They learnt to play by different rules. What wave can you surf when your competitors are not even paying attention?

3.2. Start with lots of ideas and experiment to find the real winners. You don’t get straight to a winner. The next big opportunity does not look like that at the start. If you visited Ebay’s offices 10 years ago, you would not have said that it would have the 30 billion dollar market value it has today.

3.3. Fully engage the talents of everyone – ensure that everyone brings their full potential to work. Sounds straightforward – and it is! You can buy global commodoties anywhere but you can’t buy the best people unless you have created the right environment.

Monday, August 4, 2008

SHRM 2008

I returned last month from the most amazing conference imaginable and it was a real privilege to have been among so many interesting and like-minded HR professionals.

The conference was the annual major event for the Society of Human Resource Managers – SHRM. All 15 000 delegates congregated in Chicago in a vast conference centre – I had blisters on my feet from walking up and down to the various venues.

There were 750 exhibitors and full of new ideas – and some new gimmicks. Unbelievable guest speakers including the fabulous Sydney Poitier, the most eloquent speaker I have ever listened to. He had me in tears and thankfully I saw that the girl next to me was in the same teary state. If you can get hold of his biography it is an inspirational read.

So – what did I learn? Where do I even begin to tell you everything as there is just so much. So sit back as this is a longer than usual blog.

Main learning trends


A very strong theme that came through in all sessions was the power and the value of story-telling. This was really interesting for us at MCI as our LEGO Serious Play methodology is based on the use of the models as a catalyst for creative thinking.

Keynote speakers at the conference all told stories. Sydney Poitier told the story of his life and why he is now a philanthropist. Historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, told the story of why Abraham Lincoln is such a great leader.

Linda A Hill, Prof of Business from Harvard University, used story-telling as a way of explaining why Indian organisations are moving so far ahead of the pack.

Speakers on presentation and facilitation skills emphasised how CEO’s who make a difference and lead teams through change, use the value of story-telling.

In order to create powerful stories think of the following events in your life and then link the story to some challenge that your division or organisation is facing right now:

Inspiring moments in your life of in the life of someone you know

Personal challenges, difficult decisions, choices, hurdles, obstacles in your life or the lives of people you have known.

Startling events, major changes, new experiences that shaped you

Awkward situations, failed attempts, lots opportunities.

Inspiring people, mentors, individuals you admire, remarkable achievements, memorable events you have witnessed or experienced.

2. Messages for HR managers

The Director of the SHRM was retiring and gave an inspirational message to HR practitioners.

She said:

1.Don’t ask for a seat at the Exec table
2.Dare to be bold
3.Dare to change the way HR is perceived
4.Dare to be personal
5.Keep the human in human resources

3. Professional development

The States is very focused on ensuring that HR managers maintain professional development points to ensure continuing registration as HR professionals. HR managers cannot secure top jobs without proof of ongoing professional development and that registration has been maintained.

This ensures that qualifications are current and that managers are up to date with latest thinking. Certain sessions at the conference and the pre-conference were attended by thousands of people in order to secure points. The points work in a 3 year cycle so everyone has adequate time to attend sessions and ensure currency.

Wish that this was something that we could do in Australia!

4. Exemplary Practices

The States follows the criteria set by the 'Great Place to work Institute' and awards organisations that meet these criteria.
Have a look at their website for some insight into how this operates:

Interesting to note that on stage on the second morning of the conference were representatives from 100 large and small to medium enterprises who were publicly recognised and acknowledged as having met the criteria.
This was accompanied by full page adverts in the New York Times and other newspapers.
A real encouragement for organisations to also live up to these standards.

5. Inspirational messages

Several speakers sending out messages to motivate and energise - and let me tell you that these sessions were also really full!

If we look at tombstones, they are written as 1920 – 1999. The small dash between the 2 dates represents someone’s whole life.

If you don’t control your mind, someone else will.

Write things down to help memorise them.

The most important story is the one you tell yourself

Energy runs the world – focus your energy

The past is a reference point and not a residence

There are infinite possibilities and opportunities – if we don’t see that we have not been paying attention

We grow by making a decision to do things differently

In HR, help people to fulfil their dreams.

Energy for growth is learning. The fuel for growth is curiosity.

Customer service is about giving people an experience that is sensational

As HR professionals bring vision, passion and purpose to the organisation.

If this blog is of interest to you, we are running sessions in Sydney where I go into more detail about what we learnt. Email for more details.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rio Tinto lunch presentation

I attended an interesting presentation by the Chief Executive of Rio Tinto, Tom Albanese. Much of the discussion revolved around the Rio Tinto strategy moving forward - but nonetheless some interesting points made that have a bearing on HR and L and D planning as well.
1. Albanese sees a great sense of opportunity in Australia and says that how we react to these opportunities will define our future. Australia is in a strong position economically but it is at a critical juncture. The decisions that are taken now will have a massive impact on future generations.
How do we maximise and prolong our resources?
How do we deal with the skills shortage?
How do we lift the capacity of the minerals sector?
2. He sees an unprecedented move by people into cities from rural environments, particularly in developing countries such as China and India. About 1.4 billion people will move into cities globally and as they move they will require additional housing, roads, schools and consumer goods.
3. In order for Australia to take advantage of this sustained demand for metal, there is going to be a huge need for expertise and for skilled labour. Rio Tinto employs 17000 people in Australia and is the largest employer of Aboriginal labour as well.
4. Albanese sees the critical place for skills and training. 20 years ago engineers were being churned out in great numbers. To reach these types of numbers again we need major shifts in thinking. Today the attraction of banking has been more apparent than a career in engineering. So it is a full commitment required in the schooling system as well to ensure that people are steered to this sector.
5. Albanese also points out that in order to increase their talent pool, Rio Tinto has looked to the Aboriginal community. They have taken up the challenge of doing pre-employment training as well as adjusting the interview process to suit this community. 8% of the Rio Tinto workforce is Aboriginal.
In order to continue to punch above its weight globally, Australia need to see challenges as opportunities.

Frontline Management

We are so excited! We have won the Best Frontline Management program award from LEARNX and Training Australia magazine. The award is for the frontline management program that we developed for Toll.
The reasons for receiving the award are:
  • An innovative approach to delivery. We made sure that we used a blended learning process including mainly face to face delivery as well as DVD input.
  • The program is specifically tailored to the transport environment and this ensures complete engagement from the participants
  • Yes - there is theory but the emphasis is on practical examples and scenarios which ensure that the level of confidence of participants increases
  • The portfolio of evidence is user-friendly and this also increases the percentage of completions on the frontline management program
  • The facilitators are familiar with the Toll 'story' and relate their insights to what happens in practice
  • A varied and exciting content also keeps the learners engaged - there are guest speakers from within the business; there are external videos; the groups build LEGO models and there are debates, role-plays, quizes and theoretical input.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Conferences 2008

AHRI 2008 was their best conference ever as far as speakers are concerned.
Some very interesting insights emerged and some of my main learning points are outlined below.
All across the speakers, I noted the links in their thinking to what LEGO Serious Play achieves and when it comes to thinking creatively, LEGO Serious Play methodology is where all of this great thinking has the possibility of becoming a reality.

1. Daniel Pink

Daniel is the best-selling author of 'A Whole New Mind' and he looked at the 6 abilities that we need in this fast-moving world.
Brains are complex and one side specialises in linear, sequential and rational thinking while the other side looks more at the context and not only the text.
Our jobs used to be best suited to functions of the left side of the brain where we could follow things step by step and where analysing spreadsheets was important.
But this is no longer sufficient.
Big picture thinking through the metaphorical right brain is as important and if we don't value this function of the brain, we will be left behind our competitors.
The world balance has shifted as a result of
  • Abundance
  • Asia
  • Automation
Our rate of consumption is incredible compared with for example 60 years ago when few households had a fridge. How many people now in the first world go without computers, mobile phones, microwaves and the list goes on... Not so long ago, in 1990, only 2% of households had a mobile phone.
Now in Australia, we are a population of 21.1 million with 21.26 million mobile phones.
Companies competing in this environment are looking to give the world something that they didn't know they were missing - the IPod strategy!
If we are to take bold and inventive leaps, or take something functional and infuse it with something unusual, we will not achieve this through left thinking alone.
Asia is also causing us to off-shore routine functions. India will be the largest English speaking country in the world and together with free telephony, any function that can be reduced and written down with a right answer will be done by Indians at a lower charge-out rate.
Automation where software in fact takes over some the sequential operations of a business, is going to be outsourced to other parts of the globe.
So what do we need to do to overcome these challenges?
We need:
  • Design
  • Story
  • Symphony
  • Empathy
  • Play
  • Meaning
1. Design
When General Motors lost 10 Billion Dollars in one year, Bob Lutz, CEO said about having to turn the business around:
"We are now in the arts and entertainment business and we are putting a huge emphasis on design."
Design is what is so important in terms of solving problems - we should be keeping a design notebook and keeping notes on good and bad design - this should be a fundamental business literacy.
Again - linking this to LEGO Serious Play thinking we play out in the real world what is happening in the mind!

2. Story
Get your organisations telling stories...
(Is this not where LEGO Serious Play becomes so powerful??)

3. Symphony
Create opportunities for diverse teams with diverse thinking to come together - with all these different types in the room seeing things from different perspectives, we start to see things in a systemic way and from a strategy perspective.
Again - this is what LEGO Serious Play Real Time Strategy workshops achieve. We have different types of people participating in real time in a cohesive way looking at what the organisation could be facing in the future and coming up with a better way forward.

4. Empathy
How do we enhance our empathy skills? Are we too self-oriented or do we see someone else's point of view. With LEGO Serious Play we have an enabling environment to encourage seeing the world from someone else's perspective.

5 + 6. Play and meaning
Have fun in what you do and also give meaning to what you do.
These are also key LEGO Serious Play principles.

2. Lynda Gratton
Lynda is Professor of Management Practice at London Business School

Lynda spoke about the importance of creating 'hotspots' in an organisation as this is where cross-divisional elements come into place. We can then span boundaries and jump into different worlds where we do not normally operate.
For example, at Tesco, they wanted to conduct a staff engagement survey. Where did they go for assistance? To the marketing team - why - marketing had been doing external customer surveys for years.
So how do we create hotspots where ideas can ignite?
  • We need a feeling of cooperation
  • We have to create networks to allow people to jump the boundaries
  • We have to create igniting questions
Hotspots are crucial to an innovating business. Teams are so differently structured from how they were in the past as the world of work is more emergent, more voluntary and more virtual than ever before..
Knowledge workers are volunteers and you are looking for their discretionary effort to be creative.
Where teams are too similar, you rarely have hotspots. So, keep it diverse and yet not too complex so that the team falls apart.
The value of a company is not held so much in the people themselves, but in the relationships between people.
To move from the big freeze to hotspots you need to build a cooperative culture.
Create this cooperative culture from the top. If the Exec team itself is not cooperative, people notice as kids do when they see their parents fight.
Select the right people to join your team - a person who is too competitive does not do well in an environment that wants to be supportive.
Give gifts to employees in terms of time - such as mentoring and coaching as this builds a cultural cycle of cooperation.
Practices, processes and habits create hotspots - measure your own organisation to see if they exist!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Innovate or Evaporate

As part of the SHRI conference we paid an on-site visit to the PHILIPS innohub - a most amazing centre for innovation and experimentation for the Philips group. New inventions are on display including an ironing board with a built in steamer and jacket refresher that clears odours. There is also lighting that changes colours to enhance moods and lighting that is more enviro-friendly yet as bright as conventional lighting.
The presentation from the team who work with Philips in this centre included some great discussion on what makes for innovation. They quoted Steve Jobs from Apple as saying, "Innovation is teamwork" but acknowledged that there are so many different versions and understandings of what innovation could be. At Philips, Innovation is understood to mean "creating new value and bringing it successfully to market."
Ideas are seen as the start of the journey. For all these ideas to generate, there cannot be silos and people have to be actively connected.
How does one ensure that innovation is stimulated throughout the organisation? People need to be encouraged to come up with the small ideas that could make the difference.
At the innohub, there are idea generation workshops to actively harness the creativity and to try things out through simulation.
There is also a focus on seeing the vision and exploring the options. As part of this process, story-telling is seen as vital.
One area where companies are using innovative thinking is to go beyond customer service and enter into the realm of staging customer experiences.
Companies are looking to be more than simply the sellers of goods and services and want to transform into centres of excellence.
As Proust writes, "The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes."
In a diverse team with different people moving into different roles, we could meet this challenge.
This is all about looking for the small improvements that can result from small ideas and thereby setting the scene for continuous innovation.

LEGO Serious Play

We were fortunate to present a session on LEGO Serious Play at this week's Singapore HR Congress and Business-Connect Exposition. It was so exciting to meet HR and L and D professionals from other countries and to share the power of LEGO Serious Play with them. The reaction was overwhelming with a first session sold out and participants even sitting on the floor to play and to experience what LEGO Serious Play methodology can achieve. We had to hold a session the following day for those who could not make it into session 1!
It was so interesting that no matter the culture or background of the participants, everyone got going and constructing and giving meaning to what they had built and then sharing with the others at the table. The mood in the room was positive and the idea of play in a serious way certainly hit home.
Here are some photos from the sessions and also of our exhibition table. We had over 100 companies come to us for more information on the uses of LEGO Serious Play and even the Minister of State from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr Lee Yi Shyan, popped past for an update!

Monday, April 28, 2008

MCI's training awards

We are so excited! We have been acknowledged by the training industry for excellence for the supervisory program that we designed and delivered for Toll.
We have won the Training Australia magazine award for a Frontline Management program and we were finalists in the AITD award for Excellence in Design.
We are overwhelmed with these 2 great achievements. The Toll program has been successful for a number of reasons
  • We took the time to do a needs analysis based on conversations and discussions with several Toll sites
  • The program itself is therefore directly relevant to the group and contains practical skills that can be immediately applied
  • The variety of media used in the program make it unique - we use videos of guest speakers from within Toll; there are off-the-shelf videos and we combine all of that with role plays, discussions and written work.
  • We also work with some of the LEGO Serious Play challenges to ensure that there is full participation and engagement
  • Finally, the evidence required by the Frontline Management Certificate 4 is collated into the MCI Portfolio Builder which ensures that evidence is presented in a straightforward and user-friendly way.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

LEGO Serious Play

In addition to attending the IDEA conference, I also took part in a 2 day partner meeting with LEGO Serious Play partners from all over the world - every continent was represented with incredible stories being told and ideas being shared.
So, what are LEGO Serious Play partners doing that is innovative?
David Gauntlett, Professor of Media and Communications at the Univeristy of Westminster, London spoke on 'Making Things, Making Knowledge'.
He said that LEGO Serious Play is a way of giving the randon mish-mash in our brains some form. We often make things in different ways - we design collages and draw things. Through the methodology of LEGO Serious Play, we are able to construct identities that are rich in meaning and have meaning to the people in the room. LEGO Serious Play is a way of getting our stories out there and sharing them with others.
David has done substantial research into how LEGO Serious Play methodologies benefit teams and individuals.
LEGO Serious Play is a great tool he says for ensuring that through metaphors intangible concepts have meaning. It takes away usual constraints and allows people to present their ideas in one go.
We all like to present how we are in the world - like our magnet and photo collection on our fridge door. There are many identity theories of how we present what we want to of ourselves on the front stage and what we don't want known, we keep on the backstage.
What is so interesting with LEGO Serious Play is that the front and backstage become visible simultaneously through the models that are constructed and through the speaker giving meaning to the model.
There is also a tension that usually exists between the individual and society - individuals want to be distinct but at the same time want to feel part of the community.
LEGO Serious Play allows for this tension and incorporates it into the process of the day.
In addition to that, there is a revised interest at the moment in making things. This is exemplified in Web 2.0 where we create our wikis and blogs. LEGO Universe is under construction and will be a creatable world all in LEGO.
This emphasis on craftmanship creates a feeling of well-being and lifts self-esteem. We are no longer just a passive audience watching TV but are moving back to this culture of making things - this also allows us to problem solve and although what we make might not be perfect, this all leads to us investing time in things that we can change and where we can leave our mark in the world. We improve ourselves in the world through reflecting on our ordinary day and through making = the very principles of LEGO Serious Play.

Another speaker, Per Kristiansen, from a Danish consultancy firm, Trivium, spoke about how they are implementing new workshops in organisations based on the principles of unlocking potential by learning through play.
He has devised a series of workshops for an organisation that wants to ensure that all teams are on board in undestanding what the business's value proposition is.
The workshops that Trivium designed are based on Otto Scharmer's Theory U where we move from sensing to reflecting to acting. This takes into account that if we want to come up with new ideas, we need to learn both from the past and the present. If we don't think about the future, we won't have one.
LEGO Serious Play is one of the best ways of articulating Scahrmer's U curve and ensuring that there is genuine 'flow' where enactment and embodiment of new concepts is more likely.
In fact, wherever an organisation is confronting a challenge, LEGO Serious Play through its methodology enables change and the devising of a solution.

LEGO Serious Play

Denise Meyerson with the owner of the LEGO Group, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen.

Denise with the CEO of the LEGO Group, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, at the LEGO IDEA conference.

Denise with Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology

I was immensely privileged to attend the LEGO IDEA conference in Billund and to listen to a range of incredible speakers from all over the world.
So what's new?
There is a lot of talk around being an ambidextrous organisation.
Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of the LEGO Group, started the conference by asking the participants:
"What would you do if you had one week to do anything you want with no worries about food or money?"
He said that most people tend to respond by saying that they would like to make a difference to someone and help them to grow and to reach their potential.
He stated that one of the ways of achieving this is to create an organisation that is highly scientific in its thinking and at the same time very creative to allow for all forms of exploration.
We need to become organisations that are collaborative in creating and innovating through a spirit of entrepreunership and at the same time have a well-functioning and coordinated business model.
We need to balance the right and the left hand - the right and the left brain. It is optimum in organisations to have both functioning at the same time. But how?
We start by imagining that it is possible to combine right and left and work with the whole brain. At school, children play and at the same time achieve their objectives. They learn and are not even aware of their learning. They are so 'in flow' that they pick up skills as they go along.
In organisations, we do not learn by listening. So what else could we be doing to create an environment where learning through play is possible.
This theme was picked up by the next speaker, Tony Lai, Managing Director of the Idea Factory in Singapore.
He spoke about how play has become crucial for societal innovation. There are so many new global forces at play - the initiation of Web 2.0 in all its facets, the new world of Gen Y and Z and so on. We need new Players for this world where some argue that the web is the new platform of the future and Google reigns supreme.
It is now possible to get ideas across far quicker through Youtube or Wikipedia - it is a participatory culture that is emerging on a wide scale.
Is it possible that Nintendo Wii will become the ultimate learning tool? How will Second Life be integrated into learning scenarios?
Time Magazine has made 'YOU' the person of the year.
We have the possibility of creating new ideas that might not be the ultimate solution - there are often ideas behind ideas that are also good.
Societal innovation will have economic, social and environmental factors linked together to create a triple bottom line.
So in all of this, why is play so important?
Play is necessary to change the questions.
Play changes the processes by allowing prototypes to be piloted and tried out. We do not need to get things right the first time and the culture of the organisation needs to allow for that. These prototypes create small experiments that provide fresh ideas.
Lai talks of new pedagogies that allow play to be included in the process:
  • Futuring
  • Soak it in
  • Identity searching
  • Pattern breaking
  • Collaboration centred
  • Inspire to aspire
  • Circle of Life
  • Chaos navigation
  • Spin a tale - the power of story-telling
Lai also says that we need to increase the real diversity of teams as this creates the right environment for co-creation and involvement.

I then attended a session on LEGO mindstorms where teams use LEGO robotics in the LEGO First League. What an amazing process to involve children in team-work, creative play and problem-solving to ensure that they develop strategies for working collaboratively to solve challenges.
LEGO FIRST league is the brain-child of the final speaker at the conference, Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST - For Inspiration a d Recognition of Science and Technology. Dean has won prizes in recognition of his work in the medical field and is the inventor of the Segway.
He decided that there were not enough kids coming through school that were entering science and engineering and that these professions were not highly valued.
He decided to create the FIRST League to encourage children to realise that sport is not the only way of competing and that science is also fun.
Teams now compete from all over the world in the League and and fill Olympic Stadiums as the competition has grown so large.
Dean had a dream and he ensured that it happened. He was awarded this year's LEGO prize.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Transport LEADERSHIP Program Gains Momentum!

One of the most exciting things about being a training facilitator is seeing delegates grow professionally from their learning experience. This is particularly obvious in the delegates of the first Transport Leadership Program, an extension of the Transport Supervisor Program which MCI first ran in 2007.

Candidates from around Australia who completed the 2007 program are upgrading their skills and bolstering their leadership abilities as well as gaining a Diploma in Business (Frontline Management). The program focuses on values-leadership, influencing-skills as well as communication skills.

Our facilitation team at MCI looks forward to reading comments on the program from participants on this blog.

So to kick discussion off, I'd like to pose the open question of what the differences are (if any) between MANAGEMENT and LEADERSHIP?

I looking forward to reading responses from our Transport Leadership delegates!

Friday, March 7, 2008


The power of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is incredible! It still astounds me how the use of 3D models combined with story-telling can transform a session from something mundane into an opportunity to explore and capture new ideas.
We have had such break-throughs in recent sessions that I have felt invigorated as a trainer and had the sense that yes - training can work and be an effective tool for change.
We ran a team-building session for a group where there is a division between 2 parts of the business. Groups were building walls and barriers and showing their models as silos.
The one part of the business has animosity towards the other part and did not have many people attend the session - they bailed out at the last moment with excuses.
One staff member from this section was brave enough to come.
He listened intently to what others were telling about their models and slowly his body language started to change - he removed his hooded jacket and sat forward more readily.
When it came to landscaping the common view of the team, he slowly starting talking more.
And then when it came to connecting himself into the landscaped model, he grabbed his model of himself and placed it slap bang in the middle of the whole landscape and said:
"I realise that I have to make more of an effort to connect with everyone if this is going to work."
Unbelievably big of him and what a huge step in the right direction.
Can you imagine if we could achieve this with all the groups we facilitate?
In another session, we had someone placing the green curly flag on the floor of her model - she said that this reflected the status quo of the business which is full of noxious weeds....
The language and the use of metaphor is so strong and she immediately had everyone's attention.

Monday, March 3, 2008

2008 Transport Supervisor Program Kicks Off!

Last year MCI successfully ran the first 'Transport Supervisor Program', a customised program for entry-level managers in transport and logistics. With eight full-day sessions, the course lead to the Certificate IV in Business (Frontline Management) qualification.

As one of MCI's facilitation team working on the program, it was a privilege to work with these hard-working, often neglected managers. Transport is a backbone industry of the Australian economy.

The 2007 program finished in October, this week heralds the beginning of the 2008 Transport Supervisor program. We've just run the first course day in Brisbane and Sydney. It is amazing to see how our frontline managers take to the learning process with gusto and enthusiasm!

One idea that really stood out for me as a training facilitator during our first sessions is the importance of managers having facilitation skills. Even in the transport industry, managers need to have honed their communication skills so they can run toolbox talks, get teams together to plan activities, set ground-rules and make consensus decisions in an environment not usually known for its collaborative management culture.

In our opening course for the program we discuss the importance of setting team goals. I'm reminded of the importance of involving workers to ensure team members feel a sense of involvement in organisational goals. In his book 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People', Steve Covey discusses the importance of involvement in fostering commitment and an emotional connection to the goals of an organisation. Although i think that Covey is somewhat over-quoted, that particular idea really resonates with me. The ability of frontline managers to keep team meetings informal and collaborative can really help them achieve a real sense of buy-in and ownership of the decided outcomes from their team.

I'm looking forward to learning more from our transport supervisors as we roll-out the program over the coming month and a half in all State and Territory capital cities as well as four regional centres.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Informal Learning - the other 80%

I went to another interesting breakfast under the auspices of AHRI with guest speaker Neysa King, Leader of L and D at American Express. Some of her thoughts are summarised below:
1. She asked the group to give some thought to what impact the following areas have on L and D- organisational factors
external factors
2. There is a definite paradox between learning input and learning output and the research is indicating that 80% of learning happens informally. We therefore can't leave this to chance.
3. At American Express, 2 key elements underpin informal learning - fostering learning communities and providing people with the right skills to learn effectively in informal settings.
4. Informal learning tends to be unstructured, short, self-guided and it doesn't involve travel expenses! People learn informally through observation, through coming together to problem solve, attending meetings, coaching sessions, newsletters and chatting to colleagues. It is just in time learning that happens in short bites and relates to what "I need to know how to do right now".
5. One of the key competitive edges that an organisation has is related to its knowledge capital and how do you ensure that this rich learning is spread through the organisation? The people who create the most value in an organisation are those who know the right people, the right stuff and the right thing to do".
6. Employees who have the capacity to learn are more versatile in adapting to future conditions.
and if the organisation can create a platform where conversations are fostered, the knowledge of the organisation will be better harnessed. This entails a shift towards a learner-centric culture where modules are delivered in short, sharp ways with lots of flexibility and peer mentoring is included.
7.AMEX has adapted a radio-type format that includes 'best practice calls'. This is not top-down driven and instead includes the kind of information that learners want to know about. People can jump in and listen to any part of the 45 minute call and the calls are also recorded and kept for 90 days.
8. In addition, mentors are being trained in how to ask the right questions. Look no further than the techniques used by Andrew Denton in Enough Rope programs for some tips on how to do this.
9. The gen Y style of learning has implications for informal learning. The expectations are for peer discussions in a safe environment as well as elearning. Don't measure success rates by completion of elearning programs though as they rarely complete - they get the information they need and move on.
10. Team leaders are provided with templates, movie clips and activities for team meetings so that they can engage team members and ensure that the learning that is needed is conveyed in short chunks.

Management and Leadership

What a pleasure to listen to John Stewart, Group CEO of NAB. I went to a luncheon today where he spoke and his easy-going, relaxed style certainly was a show-stopper.
He spoke about the possibilities of a recession and also the profitability of Australian banks.
What really struck me was how he used the power of story-telling and used metaphors to enliven the main points he was making and also to ensure audience engagement.
In order to make the point that the markets overseas are over-heated and are over-reacting to situations, he made this analogy:
If everyone in this room agreed to do business together BUT there was one person in the room who had a contagious disease. If you simply touched that person, you would catch the disease, what would you do?
This is what is happening in the markets, where investors have perceived problems in one sector and has over-reacted by not doing business anywhere at all.
John could be a roving ambassador for LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. He is able to get messages across through the power of stories and through the use of analogies - all that LEGO SERIOUS PLAY stands for.
John ended his discussion with a plea to establish centres of excellence in Australia so that young people don't leave to take up positions elsewhere in the world. We need to keep investing in education at all levels, he said.

Monday, February 25, 2008


We continue to have the most amazing interest in the methodology behind LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. Our sessions are sell-outs and the level of input from attendees is astounding. We are learning so much about a range of different organisations and what their current challenges are.
There is definitely a common thread that is noticeable - that organisations and teams are dealing with substantial changes in their structure and in their vision. Groups have been sharing insight into these changes and how managers and their teams are struggling to cope with the enormity of the changes and the substantial challenges that these changes have generated.
Through using the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY process, the groups have shared stories about feelings that the group is experiencing and the disarray that they sense around them. Some groups have seen the positive side but others simply feel that they are overwhelmed.
This is really where LEGO SERIOUS PLAY comes into its own. The process allows the participants to tell their stories and work through issues in a non-threatening way. This serves as the opening of the pressure valve and creates non-pressurised time to express feelings and allow others an insight into the mood of the team.
These are some of the models built in the breakfast sessions that became metaphors for challenges and for the experiences of team members.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

LEGO Serious Play

The LEGO Serious Play methodology once again proves that its versatility and power. We used the bricks as a way of introducing a discussion around major changes that were going to be implemented in an organisation.
The challenges posed to the group included - what do you currently enjoy about your present role and what are the challenge and what are the challenges that you see coming up for the team over this period of change.
It was simply amazing to see the most incredible models that were buit and the heartfelt stories that were told by all team members. Those experiencing physical pains as a result of the changes in their environment as well as stories about how they see the road ahead.
The session served as a type of catharsis and allowed all participants to participate without any single player dominating the conversation. There was a lot of discussion about how to deal with the changes and cope with the feelings of anger and isolation that were being felt in the team.
A model of the brighter future was constructed towards the end of the session and there was overall a more positive sense that this was achievable.
I am more convinced than ever that the methodology around LEGO Serious Play ensures that teams hold deeper conversations and more meaningful discussions when the power of play is involved. I have read all the theorists pondering on the differences between instructionism and constructionism - but when you see it happening in front of you with teams who are genuinely in the grips of some really scary change and who can for the first time see a clear path ahead....that is very powerful.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2008 Professional Development

At the end of last year I completed my Diploma in Training and Assessment (TAA05). It was a mommoth task and it highlighted to me the importance of maintaining on-going records for professional development purposes.
I started to realise that continuous professional development (CPD) is a question of setting yourself objectives for development and then charting your progress towards achieving them. It's about where you want to be, and how you plan to get there. I needed to reflect and focus on outcomes and results, rather than on how many courses I had attended.
I started to capture useful experiences and had to assess the practical benefits of what I had learned. I had to think about - what can I do now that you couldn’t do before? It’s so much about what I did, but how I can use what I learnt
As a learning and development professional I think that it is critical to
have a responsibility to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. It makes you more accountable and ensures that the advice that you are giving out is from the standpoint of current knowledge.
I think that going through this reflective process is an investment in yourself. It’s a way of planning your development that links learning directly to practice. CPD ensures that you keep your skills up to date, and prepares you for greater responsibilities.
I believe that it definitely strengthens your professional credibility and helps you become more creative in tackling new challenges that are bound to crop up in 2008!