Best Practices Conference 2013


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I was asked to present on creavitiy for this group of tech doc professionals. The video clips probably don't work in this upload.

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  • She notes that at Pomona, there were 16 English majors out of 1560 students total.
  • The training issue is the relationship between the OR teams and the ICU team that must receive the patient. Which relationship would you want if you were coming from brain surgery?
  • Best Practices Conference 2013

    1. 1. Creativity & Communication Jim McQuaid
    2. 2. Abstract • My personal journey through high technology and creative work and how that enabled me to pursue my path. • Changes I‟m seeing: – The “demise” of culture – Story telling and the future of (technical) communication • Thoughts about the problem of creativity in large organizations
    3. 3. Life Story
    4. 4. Life Story • I was born in Detroit and grew up there. • My Father worked for Ford for 35 years and used to draw on napkins at the dinner table to explain things.
    5. 5. Life Story • In elementary school learned how to read and write (and spell). • Thank you: – Mrs. Kaiser – Mrs. Horton – Mrs. Eckholm
    6. 6. High School • I attended a private secondary school. • Fortunately, the English department was ruled by a fanatic for writing. – 1000 words every weekend for six years . . . Carl Wonnberger
    7. 7. High School • While at Cranbrook I never fully knew about these buildings that were part of an exotic organization known as the Cranbrook Art Academy.
    8. 8. A Liberal Education • At the University of Michigan earned a degree in Political Science – (Because I got an “A” in the intro course) • But that was not my real major . . .
    9. 9. A Liberal Education • I had a double major, – Sports Car Rallying . . .
    10. 10. A Liberal Education • And Bluegrass Banjo.
    11. 11. Photography • Regular
    12. 12. The Maryland Institute • I spent one year doing foundation art courses and beginning photography.
    13. 13. Side trip: Ex-convicts • I spent two years working at a halfway house for ex-convicts, learning “reality therapy” which = holding people responsible for themselves • Invaluable for dealing with both the underprivileged and the overprivileged!
    14. 14. Graduate School • With two fellow students, I wrote and published a “source book for creative photography.” • Modelled somewhat on the Whole Earth Catalogue.
    15. 15. I also made some photographs
    16. 16. Academic Nomad • I taught photography, the history of photography and introductory art at: – Central Michigan University – Denison College – The Cooper School of Art – Western Michigan University – UMass, Boston
    17. 17. Oral History Project • Before the last teaching gig, I ran an Oral History Project at the George Eastman House (NEH grants) • We interviewed aging, under-documented photographers • I conducted eight memoir-length interviews during this time – Frederick Sommer, Paul Vanderbilt, Lisette Model, Henry Holmes Smith, Brett Weston, Arthur Siegel, Andre Kertesz, Berenice Abbott
    18. 18. And High Tech • Failing to get a permanent position (the primary goal of any academic): – I decided not to move again, (I was in Boston) – I was able to get a job as a technical writer for Data Terminal Systems, an electronic cash register company. • And I worked my way from there to the roles that seemed easier and more fun!
    19. 19. Problem with High Tech • I had one major problem with my work in high tech: – Technology is extremely interesting • This messed up my “artist with a day job” plan pretty well – I eventually took programming courses at Harvard Extension
    20. 20. Technical Documentation • In 1985, the idea was to orient the user / reader with a way to know which manual to read or skip. • MACSYM was a measurement & control desktop computer shortly made obsolete by the IBM PC
    21. 21. My Journey in High Tech • Data Terminal Systems (tech writer) • Analog Devices (tech writer, marketing communications) • Wandel & Goltermann (training, marketing comunications, product management) • NetScout (product management & documentation) • NetIQ (product management) • NetQos (product management)
    22. 22. My Journey from High Tech • Product managers – Know a little bit about many things – Tell people what to do, encourage them, harass them, excite them – Tell the story of the product • Filmmakers – Know a little bit about many things – Tell people what to do, encourage, harass, excite, incite – Tell stories that they think have value
    23. 23. Filmmaking • Around 2000, digital video became affordable and I decided to make short films.
    24. 24. Films • Another Typical Class, a teacher underestimates his students. • Dead Artist, an alienated teen struggles for acceptance.
    25. 25. Films After The Peak, the end of cheap oil, a docudrama in the form of a TV news show. Touching, a cascade of moments from one person to the next.
    26. 26. Films Eight Lessons In Living Together Roger & Tatum adjust to the realities of living together.
    27. 27. Films Grace Running Grace is 14. Grace makes beautiful drawings. Grace is a good girl. Things are about to change.
    28. 28. Films Endings A mother dies; you don‟t get to pick the ending.
    29. 29. Change?
    30. 30. The End of Civilization • Okay, slightly hysterical title but some key things seem to be in decline: – Critical thinking and the ability to write clearly, – Separating fact from fiction or myth, – Willingness to see shades of gray, – Books, magazines, newspapers, – A general understanding of science or mathematics.
    31. 31. College Students Today: “They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon. And they get good grades for doing just that. But as for writing clearly, simply, with attention and openness to their own thoughts and emotions and the world around them — no.” – Verlyn Klinkenborg, writer, teacher (Pomona College, Harvard, Yale, Columbia)
    32. 32. Facts & Fiction • Clearly, in our political speech, assertion is more important than fact. • Facts have the quality of becoming inconvenient; at odds with modern life, more or less. • Myths acquire tremendous power in the face of ignorance. • Myths and conspiracies make goodstories.
    33. 33. Print Media • Generally in decline? • The Internet appears to jeopardize newspapers and eventually broadcast television as well. • Journalism may be lost in the deal. • Ebooks appear promising – But paper is high bandwidth
    34. 34. Science & Math • “Creationism” is the best example – Essentially ignores the scientific method in favor of alternate sources of authority. • Probabilities remain esoteric – And Nate Silver predicts the election. • We lose the context for judgements – Faced with a 1:1billion chance of a problem, we react emotionally (depends on the problem).
    35. 35. Liberal Education? • The old notion of liberal education has died, taking a lot of reading, writing and clear thinking with it. • In its place we find a short-sighted mix of vocationally-oriented majors, leading to a potentially great first job and a lot of questions about life. • Would you hire a music major?
    36. 36. Storytelling
    37. 37. Scott Russell Sanders • • • • • • Stories entertain us. Stories create community. Stories show us the consequences of our actions. Stories educate our desires. Stories help us to dwell in place, to be rooted. Stories help us to dwell in time, to understand its flow • Stories help us to deal with suffering. Stories teach us how to be human • Stories help us acknowledge the wonder and mystery of creation.
    38. 38. Storytelling “The steering wheel kicks in your hands as one wheel catches the gravel at the edge of the curve. You punch it into 4th gear and watch the tach climbing as the jump approaches. . . .”
    39. 39. Find a Story, Any Story • The “news” was that a simple multiplier chip, second-sourced by Analog Devices was now being made in a one-micron process. (funny, hunh?) • This was the “B” version of the product. • Big whoop.
    40. 40. Killer “Bees” • The simple addition of “B” to the part number was the springboard for this silly but wonderful idea. • Manufacturing even changed the boxes the parts were delivered in, adding the image of the bee!
    41. 41. Enjoy the Confusion • The advance of killer bees from their escape into the wild in South America provided the base for a some fun about the spread of the chip into sockets worldwide.
    42. 42. Storytelling • Writing white papers for a high tech company wasn‟t anything special, • But I was searching for ways to tell the story of the product.
    43. 43. Storytelling • Even at semiconductor firm, Analog Devices, one element of success was the wealth of “application notes” of all kinds. • An “application note” after all, is a kind of story about how to actually use some technology to accomplish a purpose. • It may not exactly be the „hero‟s quest‟ but it creates the context for understanding value.
    44. 44. Scenario-Based Training • The majority of my commercial video business is collaborating on the creation of what I call “scenario-based training.” • There is plenty of literature on this and related subjects.
    45. 45. Scenarios • The fundamental challenge is to discover the stories inherent in the task or operations or field of knowledge at issue. • Example: – Wake County Board of Elections – -Help Desk scenario; voter moved
    46. 46. BOE video
    47. 47. Standard Training • Most videos, even those illustrating a complete operation are relatively simple narratives of the method at issue. • With some realms of policy, it is possible – and therefore important – to have more fun.
    48. 48. BOE – Voter ID Card
    49. 49. Alternatives • Another training video approach that can be extremely useful is showing both the right and the wrong way to accomplish some operation. – This approach can also be used in a testing & verification setting: can the viewer detect the errors? – Which level of OR-to-ICU communication would you want for your surgery?
    50. 50. Wrong + Right
    51. 51. Changes • Web video takes over many aspects of communication post-internet. – – – – – – VINE: “cool moment” YOUTUBE: “How do you do that?” YOUTUBE: “I’m a star too!” HULU: “What’s on?” FB: “What are you doing?” LINKEDIN: “What do you do?” • And sometimes, “I‟m engaged with a story.”
    52. 52. The Good News • The overtones of video are subversive. – Sometimes in a good way • (I trust this guy) – Sometimes in a weird way • (What is he doing with his left hand?) – Sometimes in a bad way • (You can tell he‟s lying)
    53. 53. The Aura? • Walter Benjamin famously wrote that the “original” had an aura which the reproduction did not. • Digital media eliminates the original for virtually all purposes. – Instead, there is the original experience and the record, which can be duplicated and transmitted endlessly
    54. 54. The Aura • Live – Emotionally complete – Time-consuming, hard to arrange • Asynchronous – Email? Voice mail?? • Recorded / played back – Video emulates “live” better
    55. 55. Creativity & Organizations
    56. 56. Leadership “All problems are leadership problems.”
    57. 57. Creativity • Everyone has some degree of creativity • Education generally diminishes (channels?) this over time • It‟s like a muscle that has to be used to be strong • Some of the best creative work is collaborative work (not taught in most classrooms)
    58. 58. Creativity In Organizations • Alan Kay said it best: • “It’s easy to get innovation. You take smart people and money and you rub them together.” • But it‟s hard for organizations to recognize or appreciate.
    59. 59. Who Do You Hire? • Someone whose resume contains the keywords that match your HR department‟s automated search function? • Someone with a degree in technical communication? • Someone with a broad background and basic skills? • Who may take a while to get up to speed but potentially have some new ideas
    60. 60. How Do You Manage? • My 29-year-old daughter won‟t tolerate being micro-managed. – (possibly genetic) • How often does the mission change? • Does resource allocation reflect the realities of creating something?
    61. 61. Creativity is Personal • People with no time, no power and no ownership will have a hard time becoming creative. • Collaboration can be creative, but this is not a natural organizational structure – it‟s not hierarchical.
    62. 62. Scott Russell Sanders • • • • • • Stories entertain us. Stories create community. Stories show us the consequences of our actions. Stories educate our desires. Stories help us to dwell in place, to be rooted. Stories help us to dwell in time, to understand its flow • Stories help us to deal with suffering. Stories teach us how to be human • Stories help us acknowledge the wonder and mystery of creation.