Monday, November 30, 2015

"That's a Great Question" is the New "Um."

There is a new public speaking epidemic roaming the earth, threatening to distract you from hearing otherwise interesting conference talks, panel discussions, and podcasts. People used to say “Um, um, um,” driving audiences to flee to the free drinks at the opening night reception. Now, all I can hear is "That’s a Great Question” preceding just about every response to a question.

In the words of Marlon Brando, “The horror. The horror. The horror."

I was at a conference in mid-November 2015 watching a panel discussion. One panelist began every response with "That's a great question.” I mean, every single response.

First of all, if every question is great, none are great, but don’t get me started on that. 

After hearing the phrase, “That’s a great question” a few times in a row, that was all I could hear. It was distracting, and I found myself thinking about that instead of listening to the responses. The panel discussion was an otherwise interesting one, but I could not help being distracted by that phrase. 

“That’s a Great Question" is the New “Um."

We’ve all heard speakers who say “um” repeatedly and thought to ourselves, “Great Scott, this person uses “Um” more often than any other word in their response. 

Yesterday, a colleagued of mine, Dan L, came into the office and said to me, “Bill, I thought of you last night. I was at a talk and one of the speakers said, “That’s a great question” before every response. 

Why Do We Say “Um” and “That’s a Great Question” 

Why we do say “Um” or “That’s a great question” anyway?

That’s a great question. Let me explain.

“Um” and phrases like it, are filler words that we use for two reasons. 1) people say phrases like these while their brain catches up with them while they think of what to say; and 2) People hate the silent pause.

How Do We Stop It?

The solution to this public speaking epidemic is simple. When a question is asked, just pause, wait until you know what you want to say and then answer the question. There is no “3 ways to stop saying “Um” or “That’s a Great Questions.” Just do this:

Question: How can I get more people to share my Linkedin Updates?

Wrong Response: “That’s a great question. What I find is that when I add a statistic to a post on Linkedin, I get 4X the likes and 2X the shares. We did some A/B testing on 87 posts and the results were totally obvious." 

Right Response: [Pause. Then Answer.] "What I find is that when I add a statistic to a post on Linkedin, I get 4X the likes and 2X the shares. We did some A/B testing on 87 posts and the results were totally obvious."

I know, it sounds a bit like that doctor’s visit you had last week with the sarcastic doctor.

You: “Doc, it hurts when I bend my elbow.”  
Doctor: “Don’t bend your elbow."

But we have to start somewhere. If you are on a panel or speaking at a conference, just be aware of it. Embrace with silent pause and just answer the question. 

Save “That’s a great question” for the extremely rare moments when someone actually does asks a great question. 

Embrace the Pause

The second part of the solution is to listen for it at conferences and consciously notice it. Once you notice it, you will not be able to un-notice it, and you will be like my colleague, Dan. You will be at a talk or listening to a podcast and hear "That’s a great question” repeatedly, and you will be so distracted by it that you will you will think of me and this blog post, and you will not want to sound like that. Once you become aware of this underground stall tactic, you will not be able to un-hear it, and you will automatically catch yourself doing it.

I wrote this blog post as one small effort to help prevent myself from using fillers. I hope it helps you too. 

Call for Comments

  1. What other filler words must be stopped? 
  2. Did you use filler words and then overcame it? How?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Guest Post: Training is Support Before Customers Need It

Training occurs (mostly) before people know that they need help. Most often, people take a product training course in the early stages of learning a new product. At such an early stage, people do not have a full understanding of what the product can do. When training is designed well, it covers two broad topics.

First, it covers context. Effective training helps learners understand what the product is, what is possible, and why it is an important part of how someone gets their job done.

Once context is established, effective training can cover specific tasks a person will perform in the product to get that job done. Training, therefore, covers how the product works, including most common tasks and should also cover pitfalls and things to look out for.

In other words, training is proactive.

[Read Full Post at]

Monday, November 2, 2015

The 90-10 Paradox of Software Selection

How many times have you been involved in selecting software for your business and the final decision came down to rejecting a great software product because it did not meet 10% of the requirements, rather than accepting the product because it met 90% of your requirements.

I call this the 90-10 Paradox of Software Selection. A.K.A., the Evil Software Killer.

Don't those final meetings go something like this?

Even though a product satisfied 90% of your requirements, people argue to the death, criticize the product as worthless, insult the product managers as having no vision, and otherwise disparage the company for not being forward-looking or for not understanding customer needs. 

"How could you build a product without this feature? Crazy!"

In some cases, customers and vendors try customizations and workarounds. 


Both parties are asking for trouble trying to find workarounds, customization options, integrations or other apps to address this 10%. This doesn’t work. I am not talking about software that is designed to be customized. I am talking about trying to create functionality not inherent in the current build.

The customer will not get exactly what they want, and the software company gets distracted from its current road map, which is probably doing quite well in satisfying the target market.

My advice: Use the software how it was intended and grow with it. Save yourself and your company a lot of unnecessary and distracting work. 


  • your industry
  • your company
  • your requirements
...are not as special as you think you are.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Marketo CEO Says Customer Education Biggest Growth Limiter and He's Right

In a recent post on diginomica, Marketo CEO, Phil Fernandez, was quoted as saying, "I believe the single biggest growth limiter for our market at large, in fact, is customer education." A bold statement, indeed, when one considers growth limiters could be anything from competition, product maturity, an effective salesforce, the economy, and customers entrenched in old ways of operation, to name only a few. 

Fernandez goes on to say that the marketing automation space is "still a market that is in the learning and skill-building phase." As a marketing professional learning new skills, I agree first hand that the marketing automation space is on the learning and skill-building phase. But I find it incongruent that the response to improving customer education is to build up Marketo's salesforce capability through improved sales enablement practices.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

How to Make Sure Enterprise Software Gets Used

Worldwide spending on enterprise software was $314 billion in 2014. If you add the time and resources spent evaluating and selecting enterprise software, the cost is much higher. This effort alone makes it difficult to switch software tools, even in a world of pay-as-you-go enterprise cloud subscriptions. Therefore, enterprise must figure out a way to get the most out of their investment in the software they have chosen.

Mostly when people talk about software adoption, what they mean is the process by which organizations purchase software. This is what the technology adoption lifecycle explains; how different people finally make the decision to purchase (adopt) software.

I believe the real pain begins when an organization purchases software. The challenge becomes, "OK. I just spent months getting this purchase decision made. I have now put m reputation on the line, so I need to make sure we get the most out of this thing. How am I going to get people in our organization to actually use it?"

How, indeed.

I have been studying this issue for several years now. I believe it comes down to this: Organizations adopt software when:
  1. The product is right (whatever "right" is) 
  2. People needs are addressed 
  3. Perpetual support is put in place 
At the moment, it looks like I am calling it the 3 P framework of enterprise software adoption: Product, People, Perpetuity.

I am not wild about that last P, perpetuity. But there it is.

I am finishing up a short article summarizing the framework. This article will be my minimal viable product (MVP) of a book on the same subject.

This subject matters because I believe there are 2 audiences that need this book.

Audience Number 1: Enterprise managers who either influence or make purchases decisions on software for their company or anyone in an organization who has been charged with implementing a software tool that one of the former purchased.

Audience Number 2: Founders, CEOs, product heads, marketing leaders, and anyone who runs services or customer success functions in enterprise software companies who's job it is to ensure that customers actually use the software and achieve the outcomes that the software promises or that the customer desires.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Key Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2015 #CMWorld

The week of September 8 to 11, I attended one of the best conference I have ever attended: Content Marketing World (#CMWorld) 2015. I have been to myriad tech conferences in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I have been to niche learning and development symposiums. I have been to the Consumer Electronics Show, and I have been to Dreamforce four times. I have also attended numerous marathon expos and skiing conventions (yes, these count).

OK. I have not been to SXSW or Burning Man, so maybe I don’t know what a good conference is, but #CMWorld makes my top 3.

As a means of processing, reviewing, and reinforcing what I learned and sharing it, I thought I would write about my key takeaways, which will explain why I enjoyed the conference so much.

Tables at the Keynotes and in Each Breakout Session

One of the nicest touches at #CMWorld is having tables in each session. It was great to sit at a desk with my laptop and take notes and tweet. 

Loved the Location

A conference the size of CMWorld, almost 3,500 people, could easily be held in one of the glamorous locations conferences frequent: Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Boston. But it continues to be held in Cleveland.

Kudos to the Content Marketing Institute.

I had never been to Cleveland, but I thought it was a great place for a conference. September is a great time of year for weather in Cleveland, which works for me coming from California. Downtown was very nice; far nicer than downtown San Francisco, and Cleveland is on Lake Erie, so there were nice views. 
Walking around was easy and convenient. I had a good time exploring downtown on two of my runs and on one run managed to run around the baseball park, basketball area, and football stadium, plus run underneath the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and along the harbor shores of Lake Erie. 

Very nice.

The Opening Keynote

At the opening keynote address, I enjoyed getting the state of the content marketing industry. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), shared preliminary results of the industry research report the CMI does every year. The results were not all roses. Overall content marketing effectiveness was down from 2014 to 2015. The good news is that Pulizzi shared actions that high performing marketing teams perform that set them apart from low performing teams. 

I found that very helpful. 

Content Marketing is Disillusioned?

Have you heard of the Hype Cycle? I had not. But when Pulizzi shared with the audience that content marketing was likely approaching the Tough of Disillusionment, I was both shocked and appreciative of the candor.

I have to be honest, a few of the talks I attended had a them of “We still stink at this…….and here is what we can do to improve.” 

I like that honesty, even if it is hyperbole, since so may companies are great at content marketing.

Sessions that Teach, Not Pitch

Most conference have product pitches thinly disguised at session talks. Content Marketing World is not one of them. Of the seven sessions I attended, all were designed to help me not pitch a product. It was not until the very end, as a seeming afterthought, that speakers mentioned their product/service. Two gave away valuable products to all who attended their session, so I could do it (what it was) myself…instead of hiring them.

In other words, the speakers helped me so much, I may not need their help. I bet these speakers get the most business from the conference as a result. 

Note to conference organizers: Require speakers to offer educational sessions not product pitches. Seriously! I know sponsors pay the bills, but C’mon.

Heed the words of David Beebe of Marriott:

My Favorite Single Session

My favorite session by far was from Doug Kessler of Velocity on Insane Honesty. As Kessler describes it: insane honesty is putting your worst foot forward and actively seeking out weakness to share them openly. Can you believe that? 

Kessler goes on to say that this works because customer can trust everything the company says about the positives if they are insanely honest about the negatives. 

In his talk, Kessler offered six reasons to practice insane honesty:
  1. It surprises and charms
  2. It signals confidence
  3. It builds trust
  4. It alienates less likely buyers
  5. It attracts ideal prospects
  6. Focuses you on battles you can win
You can learn more in his SlideShare presentation. 

One of my favorite parts of his talk came when in response to a question from the audience, more insane honesty about his company’s approach: 

Panic Early

Throughout the conference, there were multiple moments of inspiration. One was from John Cleese who talked about the importance of panicking early in order to get it out of the way. If you take on a new assignment or project, it is best to panic early so at least you have time to do something about the panic. If you procrastinate and wait to panic three days before the project is due, you don’t have enough time to do anything useful. You panic either way. The smart thing to do is panic early and get it out of the way.

Visiting Every (Well, Almost) Booth

I am new to marketing, so I wanted to make it a point to see as many booths as possible to learn everything I could about the tools marketers use to get stuff done. 

Sure, I will get a ton of sales calls and I will be saying “No" a lot because I cannot buy everything, but it was great to learn about ways to make this job a little bt easier through tools.

I appreciated the opportunity to learn about some excellent content marketing products.

Participation Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Advocacy Marketing? 

Get it straight people. Which is it? At Content Marketing World, I learned about participation marketing, Influence Marketing, and Advocacy Marketing. As I heard people discuss the differences, it reminded me of the scene from Cheers when Fraiser attempted to read A Tale of Two Cities to the gang in the bar.

Frasier reads: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."

Norm interrupts: “Wait, wait, wait. Which one was it?"


I am not sure I know the difference, but I intend to find out.  

If I Have One Regret…...

I did not network very much. I was so busy racing from session to session and booth to booth, I did not take the time to really network and meet new people. For that I feel bad. I flew in late Tuesday night and left early AM Friday and was going non-stop most of the time. 

I felt like I was 10 minutes behind schedule the entire time. If I get a chance to go again, which I hope I do, I plan to arrive a bit earlier. 

Overall, Excellent Conference

As I said, I been to a lot of conferences and Content Marketing World ranks among my favorites for all the reasons listed above, and more. If you are in Marketing, I strongly suggest you attend this conference. You will learn more about using content to make a meaningful impact on your marketing results during this week, than in any effort you do to improve your marketing effectiveness. That sounds like a strong statement, but I believe its true.

Think about it. If you want to have good SEO, you need good content. If you want to have effective social media marketing, you need good content to share. If you want to increase conversation rates, you better have the right content in the right stages of the buyer journey.

This is not even a complete list.

But you get the point. If you do attend, perhaps we can meet for a Sunkist and   candy corn snack. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

On Distractions: If Logos Were Honest

I thought I’d share a fun little series of slides I saw at Doug Kessler's talk at Content Marketing World 2015 called How Insane Honesty Can Take Your B2B Story to the Next Level.

These slides related to the topic of distractions and I thought you would find them interesting:

If Logos Were Honest: 



Friday, September 18, 2015

Dreamforce: Self-Guided Quests Helps Conference Goers Learn Salesforce

Demand for learning new technologies keeps rising and the faster technology moves, the more (and faster) people have to learn.

The speed at which software is moving is exemplified at Dreamforce 2015. Salesforce announced a dizzying array of new products and feature enhancements including the App Cloud, Analytics Cloud, IoT Cloud, Thunder, Lightening, tighter integration with Microsoft, to mention only the big ones. As a professional trainer, my mind spins thinking about all the new things people need to learn just to keep up.

And I am not the only one.

Salesforce takes learning seriously. For good reason. They have data that suggests people who attend Salesforce University classes have higher adoption rates, are more productive, and renew at higher rates. If you had this data, you’d take learning seriously, too. 

Do you have that data on your product?

To demonstration how demand for learning is increasing, let’s take a look at Dreamforce 2014. Last year, Salesforce trained over 10,000 people in live training sessions and proctors certification exams at the conference. These are staggering numbers.  

And considering all of the new announcements at Dreamforce in 2015, it is not nearly enough to just offer live training to 10,000 people.

To address the demand, Salesforce University created an innovative, self-directed way for Dreamforce participants to learn new skills and win fun prizes along the way. It’s called the DevZone Quests and Mini Hacks

Here is how it works. The DevZone Quest has three phases of tasks that people need to complete.

Step 1: Watch a Demo    

The DevZone Quest has four demos covering the following topics: App Cloud, Design HQ, IoT Cabin, Partners. These demos help participants get started learning what can be done in Salesforce. For example, developers can see the App Cloud features and how it works, to set the context for how Apps could be developed. In the Design HQ, people learn about the new Salesforce UI, Lightening (This is big news all by itself. The first major UI update in 16 years). The Internet of Things (IoT) Cabin shows off use cases. IoT is so new, people need to know what is possible and what people are doing? “Why would I connect a motorcycle to the Internet?"

Step 2: Pick Up a Starter Kit

In Step 2 of the journey, participants pick up a starter kit that covers all the resources needed to get started in learning Salesforce for any role. And there are a lot of roles that use Salesforce: developers, administrators, and end users in sales, service, marketing, community, and analytics.

Step 3: Get Hands-On

The final part of the DevZone Quest is performing specific actions (Mini Hacks) to get hands-on experience in some the new tools. These hands-ons experiences with core App Cloud features, guided tutorials with expert facilitators leading the way, and mini challenges that when completed, earn participants prizes. 
Photo: Credit:
Combine all of this with earning achievement along to way, and you have a fun way to experience some of the new things in Salesforce and explore possibilities you had not yet thought about it or even knew were possible.

Gamify Learning at Dreamforce

As steps are completed, participants earns stamps that unlock prizes, from t-shirts to hoodies. As participants completed more advanced tasks like hacks, they are entered into giveaways to win higher value goodies like computers, kayaks, and mountain bikes. 

DevZone Quest is great because it taps into both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

You Go to Dreamforce to See Stevie Wonder

So, I am just sitting there at the Dreamforce Keynote waiting for Mark Benioff to start talking...........and Stevie Wonder starts singing.

Stevie did a number of tunes, got crowd singing, and pulled out this cool instrument to simulate a guitar and played a mean Superstition.

Not bad. Not Bad at all.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Urgency and the Evil That Distractions Do

Bill Cushard: The Evil that Distractions Do
 Distractions can be a nice diversion to help us relax, reset our minds and souls, and allow us to come back refreshed.  
This is what we tell ourselves when we are 3 hours into a mindless binge of plane crash complications on YouTube, Facebook friend photos of their 14 year-olds’ first day at school (Seriously?), and seemingly harmless scanning of news headlines.
Not that I have ever done anything like that. Nope.
Actually, I have never taken a photo of my children on their first day of school and posted it in Facebook. The way I see it, you can do that once. On their first day of pre-school; the actual first day of school. Ever.
Distractions, we say, can be a good diversion.
After all, it is important to have a good weekend off to come back to work on Monday fresh. Endurance athletes need rest and recovery days to allow their bodies to build back up and be strong for another hard workout. Vacations are important too for all the reasons said, written, and experienced by many.
But we delude ourselves to think that distractions are a good diversion. 
Distractions are holding us back.
OK, I will not speak for you. Distractions are holding me back.
I have been thinking a lot about distractions lately. Whenever I un-purposefully swipe through the screens on my phone or watch another video of Keith Richards playing 30-20 Blues (C’mon, this is OK, right?), or refresh by Twitter timeline for no specific reason, I think to myself, “What am I doing? This is pointless."

Nir Eyal is right. I’m hooked.
But don’t try to tell me I’m hooked. If you tell me that, I will get defensive and  deny all charges. At the very least, I will think less of you for pointing it out. At the most, I will accuse you of being distracted and point out, without conscience or mercy or regard for your self esteem, that your distractions were the reason you ruined your relationship with that certain someone, whoever that is. I’ll think of someone. 
And don’t come over to my house with my wife and my mom and my best friend from college to conduct an intervention.
It will not work. 
I will probably just take a photo of you all and post it to my Facebook page, “Look. My first intervention."
No. Don’t do it. It will not work. These are things people need to figure out for themselves. 
As I have thought more consciously about distractions in my life, three small, independent, but significant events that occurred this month, have come together in a series of signs of sorts telling me to sweetly that I must pay attention to distractions and try to stop them when I see them.
Work Like There is a Gun to My Head
On The Lede podcast, John Carlton, a legendary copywriter, told a story about how he started out in copywriting. When he started getting writing assignments he had nothing to fall back on, so he says he wrote “like there was a gun to his head.” He clarified saying, “This has to work.” He wrote with a focus on creating something as good as he could, not doing anything fancy or risky just focusing on the basic principles of good copywriting. In other words, he did not allow himself to get distracted by shiny objects.
This Better Work Or We’re Dead
At a session talk at Content Marketing World 2015 about how to buy a media company, Scott McCafferty talked about how he evaluated media companies to buy and described his process for buying them. He made an interesting comment about what goes through his mind every time he buys a little media company. “This better work or we’re dead.” 
What he meant is that in these acquisitions, he used his own money. He is not using bank loans or investor money, but his own money from the business and in some cases, equity from his home. 
Talk about an event that drives focus. With a future on the line like this, one would not easily get distracted by too much idleness. 
Do it Now or it May Never Come Back
On a recent Showrunner Podcast (I’m sorry, I cannot remember the one it was), the guest describes an opportunity about creating a course about running a podcast. The idea came from Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger. It was an opportunity the guest knew he could not pass up. He did not know how he would do it, but he knew he had to do it. Rather than say, as most of us would do, “That’s a cool idea. Maybe I should do it?” He called Brian back, got an introduction to his friend, and started making it happen that day. He did not allow himself to get distracted by fear or research or even his Facebook feed, all which would be excuses for inaction.
He just started. Now. 

Secrets to Life: Focus and Action

In each of these stories, distractions would be the reason for inaction at the very least and a person’s downfall at the most. It is scary to think what these people who not have produced had they allowed themselves to get distracted. 
That is what I think about often.  
I am now way more conscious of distractions in my life and the concept of urgency and action. Every day, I fight the distraction demons so I can do the things I really want to do. Some days are better than others.
If you’d like to see one more funny visual about distractions, click here to see three slides from a talk I heard at Content Marketing World. These three slides answer the question: If Logos Were Honest...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Meetup Recap: Building a Scalable Customer Education Function

On Thursday, August 13, I attended the Bay Area Customer Education Meetup in San Francisco, which is not surprising for two reasons. First, I have spent most of my career developing and delivering employee and customer training, so I have a passion for the topic. Second, ServiceRocket sponsored the event, so I attended to support the team. 

At the Meetup, I moderated a panel of customer education leaders in the enterprise software space. The topic for the panel focused on how to create a scalable customer education function. It is an important topic that I frequently encounter when I speak with customers and prospects and other professionals in this space.
[Read the Full Post on the ServiceRocket Blog]

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How Training Can Improve Customer Success

This post originally appeared on the Bluenose Blog.

All good things come from product adoption. The more end users use your product, the higher the likelihood that they’ll renew, the better chances there are for upsells and cross-sells, and – importantly – they’ll be solving business problems at a faster pace. Training is an area that can often be underserved by Customer Success but it is critical to driving adoption.

In this post I discuss how to make sure customer training is as successful as possible with specific actions to take.

[Read Full Post]

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Millennials do not learn differently, contrary to popular belief

This post originally appeared on Employee Benefits News.

Much has been written about how millennials learn differently, suggesting companies should change the way they manage and train this digital generation. While it’s true millennials have grown up without ever having used a pay phone or typewriter, read a newspaper or waited for a scheduled TV program, does this mean they learn differently?

It does not.

[Read the Full Post]

(Requires log in at

Friday, June 12, 2015

Interview with Nir Eyal, Author of Hooked!

I was fortunate to help interview Nir Eyal with Sarah E. Brown discussing the key principles in Eyal's author of the book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. We discussed how behavior psychology relates to customer training and customer success and how companies can apply psychology to enterprise software training.

[Listen to the full Interview on the ServiceRocket Blog]

Saturday, May 30, 2015

On Building a Great SaaS Training Organization

I wrote this post on Linkedin because I get this question a lot from Customer Success Managers who have been asked to take on the role of building training for customers. SaaS enterprise software companies are realizing how important training is to the success of their new customers. And when SaaS companies do not become profitable for at least 3 years, companies need to make sure customers are achieve desired outcomes with their product.

The post summarizes the 8 process capabilities of great training organizations, which comes from the very good book, What Makes a Great Training Organization? A Handbook of Best Practices by Doug Harward and Ken Taylor.

Have a look at my post on Linkedin.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I Took a Coursera Course…and I Finished It. Seriously.

Hey, guess what? I just completed a Coursera course. Seriously.

When I enrolled in the course I had the following thoughts. This time, I thought:
  • To hell with low completion rates.
  • To hell with my busy schedule.
  • I want to learn something on this topic.
  • And I want to see if I can complete this course, also for the sake of completing it.

“So,” I said to myself. "I am going to complete this Coursera course."

The course is offered by Northwestern University and is called: Content Strategy for Professionals 1: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization. As it turns out, this course is part of a 3-part specialization called “Content Strategy for Professionals in Organizations.” I am considering taking all three courses. There is a Capstone project in course 3 of the specialization that interested me as an exercise, but I imagine it would be a lot of work.

I am considering it. But I am not quite certain it is worth the money for a verified certificate.

Brief Description of the Course

It is a 6-week course that had several requirements that included:
  • Spending 2-4 hours per week (pretty steep considering my schedule)
  • Watching video lectures each week
  • Participating in discussion forums by topic each week
  • Completing an assignment and peer reviewing the assignment of 3 other students
 The topics in the course are very relevant to my new marketing role as ServiceRocket as head of content, so I do have a particular interest. We intend to change how B2B marketing is done, with an extreme focus on educating and entertaining buyers.

There Was Also a MeetUp

The course hosted a live meet up at Coursera office in Mountain View, which I found very cool. But the MeetUp was at the same time I was on vacation in April in Lake Tahoe. So I chose vacation. See:

Bill Cushard Skiing Squaw Valley

My Impressions

It started off rocky. Actually, I started late. I did not even log into the course until the end of week 2. I was very busy at work and home and did not have much extra time to spend in a MOOC. But I took a mini-vacation in mid-April and early in the mornings that first weekend, I logged in and started to catch up. By the end of my vacation I had caught up with the videos and most of the readings through week 3.


The Discussion Forums Were Not Valuable

When you start a MOOC late, the discussion forums feel overwhelming. There were dozens of topics and scores of posts, and there did not seem to be any official discussion questions, but a free-for-all of people starting their own topics for very little thing. Many, it seemed, of the comments were light-weight, low-value support questions about the course.

I did not participate in any of the discussions, which is saying something because I am a huge fan of social learning and have written extensively about it, participated in it, and even implemented social learning projects in organizations.

The Lecture Videos and Readings Were Valuable

I enjoyed the lecture videos and found them a good use of time. They covered valuable, relevant content and gave e great ideas for how to structure and deliver content marketing services in my work.

The course offered downloads from several chapters from the text book, “Medill on Media Engagement.” I read two of the chapters, and used one chapter in particular to complete the assignment part about writing buyer personas and appealing content to a specific persona characteristic.

I have saved those chapters and believe I would use them as resources in my work. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, despite starting the course two weeks late, I caught up and found the experience enriching. I did learn some valuable things…things I will apply directly to my work, which is a huge bonus.

I would classify taking a Coursera course, or any other MOOC for that matter, with reading a book. If you want to learn something, you need to make the time and go through the steps of consuming the content, internalizing the content, and then putting it to work somehow, if applicable.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I am Taking a Coursera Course....and I Am Almost Done

I have been taking a course on Coursera called Content Strategy for Professionals 1: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization.

And guess what…I have stayed mostly on track, and I think I will finish it.


I only have one week left, and I have only one task to complete. Not bad if I do say so myself. I must be a genius. Not like the 95% of you who started a MOOC and didn’t finish (Not that I ever did that). Not this time. I am a "five percenter” (well, almost) and proud of it.

OK, seriously.

Even though some say high drop out rates don’t matter, I wanted to finish this course for two reasons:
  1. I am interested in the topic
  2. I didn’t want to start it and not complete it 
It helps that I have been injured and not able to train for my next race, the Uber Rocker 50K, so I have had extra time. But I did want to go through the course watch all the lectures, take notes, think about some of the important topics, and even finish the assignment.

The only thing I did not do was participate in the discussion forums. I found them overwhelming and pointless. They felt more like support communities and course communities.

Next week, I will write about what I thought of the course and what I learned.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

On Writing

Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

- Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

GoodData Guest Blog: How Data Can Make You Smarter

Can data really make you smarter? The true answer to this question is, “It depends.” Here’s what I mean.
If by “smarter," we mean that someone has learned something, then the answer is, “Maybe.” The science of learning has become more and more clear about how people learn, and it has very little to do with the existence or use of data. 
However, if by “smarter,” we mean that by using data to make better decisions, which leads to higher performance, then the answer is, “Yes.” At least, in this case, data did make us appear smarter. After all, if a manager uses data to make a decision that improves sales or leads to a major cost savings or speeds up a process, then that manager is seen as smarter. 
At the very least, the act of using data to make an informed decision is a smart thing to do. But does this use of data make the manager smarter or was the manager smart to begin with? Whether data can make managers smarter is probably not the right question to ask. What matters is that a manager (or anyone for that matter) uses data to make informed decisions that improves performance in his or her organization.
Unfortunately, not enough organizations use data to make informed decisions, and they are suffering for it.