Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

Tip12ForSuccessfulESNIn this final post in my series on building a successful enterprise social network (ESN), I draw on my learning background and goal orientation. That said, tip #12 is:

Never be satisfied – keep growing.

This is true in a variety of areas for someone who has responsibility for a company’s ESN.

First, let’s consider the area of technology.

No platform is perfect. We’re in better shape in 2014 than several years ago in the capabilities of software and in our understanding of what is possible and wise technologically. Still, community managers and others responsible for an ESN must always be on the lookout for big and little changes in the platform that help the company accomplish its objectives better and that can also improve the user experience. Work with the platform vendor as needed to suggest changes. Give your users an easy way to suggest changes that you then vet and perhaps pass on to the vendor.

If you did your homework well when selecting an ESN platform, you should be able to stay with it for a long while to come, but keep pushing for improvements. A vendor who rarely provides updates will not meet an innovative company’s needs for long. If you decide that there is no alternative but to change platforms, do so, but understand that there is great pain that accompanies such a drastic change. Only change platforms if there are overwhelming business reasons for doing so. Likewise, don’t stay locked in to a platform and vendor that refuses to evolve.

The user experience is another significant area you should always strive to improve. This is, of course, related to the technology improvements mentioned above, but it isn’t limited to that category. Identify those who have a knack for seeing and using the software from the viewpoint of a new user or another particular audience and take seriously their feedback. Listen to what is said repeatedly over time about negative aspects of the user experience and address those issues. Most workers don’t have the luxury of a lot of extra time on their hands, so be diligent – even aggressive – about championing changes that improve the user experience so that they will enjoy it and want to return. One of the great things about an ESN is that you usually don’t have to go out of your way to solicit opinions or to get volunteers for some user experience initiative. You’ll probably find a large, willing group of volunteers eager to help in response to a simple post on the platform.

A third area worthy of continuous effort at improvement is that of deeper integration of ESN use – both in its physical presence across various platforms as well as in the day-to-day processes and work flow that guides so much work that happens routinely. As was suggested in an earlier post in the series, the most successful ESN will not be the one that is its own separate destination apart from the tools and processes where people normally do their work; it will be the one easily accessed in the tools people use and in the normal workflow of how that work gets done.

Lastly, be sure to grow as an individual along the way. Make use of internal and external resources to continuously expand your knowledge and grow professionally. I cannot imagine a life without continuous learning. I have several go-to resources for learning about ESNs in particular or social media in general. For example, I’m a big fan of Rich Millington and his advice given at I also have memberships in the professional organizations The Community Roundtable and I will be blatantly biased, though, and say that my favorite ESN resource is the weekly Twitter chat I host – #ESNchat! With a different topic each week, many knowledgeable professionals contributing to the discussion weekly, and archives of that great content going back to September 2013, you will find a wealth of existing info and a tremendous opportunity for continuous learning weekly by taking part in the chat. Use the ESNchat menu at the top of this page to explore more and then join us each Thursday afternoon from 2-3pm Eastern time on Twitter by following and using the tag #ESNchat.

We don’t stop learning once we’re out of school or just because we’re no longer pursuing formal degrees or certifications. We continue to learn because we’re built that way as human beings. To quote a few lines from the children’s musical Education Rocks:

Never stop learning. Never stop growing.
Never stop seeking the brightest star.
Never stop moving from where you are.
Never stop trying. Never stop reaching.
Never stop doing what you can do.
Never stop growing your whole life through.

If we possess that attitude about learning and growing and constantly improving ourselves, I suspect that will translate into the same intention to continuously improve the areas of our work for which we have responsibility – ESNs or otherwise.

Tip #12 is Never be satisfied – keep growing.


See the following posts for previous tips in this series:

MiniMarathonNobody would ever accuse me of being the picture of health or a model of purely healthy behavior. There is room for improvement in my diet, exercise and sleep patterns. Still, one of the major takeaways of 2013 for me will be a renewed awareness of and emphasis on healthy behavior.

I was reasonably good about eating and sleeping and getting enough activity the first nine months of the year, but everything kicked up a notch once I started wearing a Fitbit Flex in September. Since then I’ve tracked activity, calories and sleep daily. I decided to lower my maximum weight another five pounds and now maintain that level. I’ve counted calories of everything I’ve consumed the past three months and am far more aware of the caloric and nutritional consequences of my eating decisions. I haven’t had a single day since getting my Fitbit of less than 10,000 steps, averaging at least 80,000 per week. I may not be doing all that I should for better health, but more health-related behaviors have become ingrained and an important part of how I live each day. I have new habits, and that is critical to changing one’s lifestyle.

It’s easy to make excuses not to make time for physical activity or not to take the time to track calories and nutrition of what you consume or not to sleep enough, but I’ve known for a long, long time that we always find time for what is really important to us. If watching the TV or eating certain foods or killing time with our favorite sedentary or unhealthy pastimes is what we value most, then we’ll choose those over more healthy options. Short-term gratification is a formidable foe of long-term better choices, and too often it wins the battle in many households.

Research varies as to how long you must do something before it becomes a habit, but there is no dispute that you can develop new, healthier habits if you choose to do so. What motivates one person to change behavior may be very different than what motivates another. How long it takes to get to the point where you can live the new lifestyle without hardly thinking about it may vary widely from one person to the next. But new habits can come to pass.

Let me offer an analogy from running to explain the point I believe I’ve reached this year…

When I first take out on a longer run, the first several miles are the toughest for me psychologically. After just a few miles I’m battling inside my head unwanted thoughts like “Why are you doing this?” and “Why don’t you just stop now and go home?” The temptation to call it a day is great and sometimes I’ve given in to that voice.

However, I have run enough times to know that for my body, for whatever reason, it’s at about the six-mile mark when something happens. After that distance and length of time, it’s as though that unwanted voice takes the hint and finally realizes “I guess he’s going to keep on going. I may as well go away.” At that point, I can keep on going literally for as long as the ol’ body will allow. I’ve never run a marathon, but I have run out on my own in such circumstances up to about 18 miles or so.

So it seems like this year has been when I’ve passed the psychological six-mile mark in creating new habits of eating and maintaining a regular routine of activity such that the temptations to do otherwise just don’t win the day any more. That’s a good feeling.

Unfortunately, you can’t build up healthy behavior like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter. It’s something you have to keep at year-round. That’s a good thing, really, because breaking the habit for a long period would not only be detrimental for the short term, but most likely for the long term as newer, unhealthy habits emerge.

Consider yourself fortunate if you are surrounded by others who set a good example of healthy behavior and who encourage you to do so as well. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones if your employer offers numerous health and well-being initiatives and incentives as does my company. Any and all external motivation and encouragement to live healthy helps pave the way to a better, longer future.

Ultimately, though, you have to make the decision to pursue a healthy lifestyle yourself. Nobody can successfully force you into it and keep you on the path against your will. I understand that in the absence of any external support and encouragement, the lone commitment to improve seems like a long, uphill climb. But it can be done! And it doesn’t all have to be done quickly. In fact, it can’t happen quickly. In pursuits like this, I like to take an annual or monthly view – not a daily or weekly one – and ask myself, “Am I in a better place today than I was a year or a month ago?” If the answer is “Yes,” then that’s good enough. At least I’m moving in the right direction.

My thanks to work colleagues, family, friends and my employer who encourage healthy behavior. You have helped make 2013 an important year for me in changing habits that should serve me well for years to come. Things are shaping up for some new healthy goals for 2014, but with the advantage of already having established a new baseline of healthy habits on which to build.

Being healthy isn’t automatic or easy. You have to want it and work for it. I am grateful that one of my major lessons learned for 2013 is to work at being healthy.

Take RisksContinuing with periodic posts in December about the major lessons learned throughout 2013, today I turn my attention to the matter of taking risks. Each of us takes risks daily to some extent. We do so in relationships we establish, goals we pursue, changes we attempt, causes we promote, work we devote much time to, and incalculable other small decisions made consciously or unconsciously. Some also choose to take more obvious risks on a grander scale that may be devastating or even deadly if unsuccessful.

We all live somewhere on a risk continuum and our perception of where we are on that continuum may or may not match others’ perception of the risk. It is difficult for me to imagine being on the extremely risk averse end of the continuum if I desire to make an impact in any area of life. Always playing it safe doesn’t appeal to me very much. There are too many needs and too much potential out there to stay only in the confines of the immediate, familiar, comfortable surroundings that bring little sense of risk.

I wrote about a month ago on the subject of taking chances and wrote in that post about the risk I felt launching the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in September for business professionals involved in their company’s enterprise social networks. I won’t repeat all of that content here, but as I reflect on 2013 and major lessons learned, the importance of taking that risk deserves a place in the top few lessons of the year.

The impact of that effort continues to grow in importance not just for me personally and professionally, but, I believe, for a much larger network of professionals worldwide. It has the potential of being a positive force in advancing the field of enterprise social networking – not so much because of what I’m doing, but because of the amazing people who are now involved with that weekly chat, and the value of their pooled insights being recorded week after week from which others can also benefit. It is filling a gap that I perceived to be there earlier this year. The success of the chat confirms that the gap is being filled.

I wouldn’t know some incredible kindred spirits around the globe I now know and communicate with weekly without taking the public risk of starting that Twitter chat. I would not learn weekly all that I’m learning for my own professional development and to help my company without taking that risk. As a side note, I am thrilled at the uptick in the quantity of requests for interviews, articles and speaking engagements that are coming my way as a result of contacts made over the past few months. That isn’t why I started the chat, but it does seem to be a consequence that will bring yet more opportunities to meet and work with some wonderful people I would not otherwise know.

In whatever area of your life you may be considering taking a risk, I encourage you to do your due diligence in weighing the possible outcomes. I also plead with you to not always follow the age-old advice of erring on the side of caution. You shouldn’t take enormous, life-changing risks daily, but you probably ought to do so at least periodically. For me, 2013 will be remembered in part as the year I started #ESNchat – perhaps a small things in the eyes of most, but a pretty big deal for me.

In the earlier post mentioned above about taking chances, I wrote:

“Sure, it’s possible that things might not turn out the way you wish. Taking the chance may cost you. But not taking chances is also costly. The minimum price you pay for avoiding risk is the uncertainty of never knowing whether you would have succeeded or not. The actual cost may be far greater.”

I’d rather take a risk and know if I fail or succeed instead of play it safe and never know what might have been. I’m grateful that one of the major lessons learned for 2013 for me is this: take risks.


Tweet: “Take Risks” – blog post by @JeffKRoss –> #risk

2013 Lesson Learned: Rest

Posted: December 6, 2013 in Health
Tags: , , , ,

hammockDuring December I will sprinkle throughout the month a few posts regarding key lessons learned for the past year. I’ll kick off the lessons with this post on the subject of rest.

I have noticed both my body and mind yearning for more rest than I’ve given them this year. Even though I have intentionally worked at sleeping at least six hours per night, I know that isn’t enough. It may be more than any recent year in memory when the average was closer to five hours, but if I listen to what the ol’ bod is saying, I have to conclude that somewhere between 7-8 hours per night is what I need these days. That will be reflected in the goals I set for 2014.

Besides sleeping, though, I need more unscheduled down time than I’ve given myself. It’s nice to have ambitious goals at work and outside of work and feel the accomplishment their achievement brings. However, there are too many days when I grow weary of a self-imposed task list that would require me to keep going late into the evening and throughout the weekends if I really did everything on the list. I need time to chill, relax, do something fun and spontaneous or just veg in front of the TV or play with my dog for a while. Doing so rests not only the body but the mind, and rejuvenates the spirit. It contributes to overall well-being in a way that constant activity cannot.

I’ve long had feelings of guilt if I relax too much, so changing that will be an adjustment for me. I’ll really have to battle guilt when I reduce the goals and tasks in 2014 and intentionally increase the hours of sleep and unscheduled fun and relaxation, but I must overcome that in the long-term interest of better health – physical, mental and spiritual.

The title of this post may include the phrase “lesson learned,” but it remains to be seen whether I’ve really learned it or not. I know it, but I will only prove that I’ve learned it and care about it when I change the behavior. Since I do care about my wellness, I believe I’ll do better in 2014, but I have to quantify what that looks like in goals and then make sure I do it. One more hour of sleep and one less hour of structured evening tasks daily equals 14 hours per week of less activity than what I’m doing now. That has to come from somewhere, so the challenge will be in deciding what goes away. Fortunately, I have the rest of the month to ponder that before deciding the 2014 details.

As an educator for most of my life, I’m grateful for lessons learned – even those learned the hard way. So the first big lesson that stands out to me from this year’s experience is this: I need more rest.

Lessons From My Dog

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Pets
Tags: , , , ,

Callie helping me form a dog beard

For years I’ve kept a tall poster hanging beside my favorite chair. The poster is titled “All I Need to Know About Life I Learned From my Dog.” It contains the following advice which makes perfect sense for dogs and to some extent for people, although I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of all the suggestions from a human standpoint:

  • If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you will get what you want.
  • Be direct with people; let them know exactly how you feel by piddling on their shoes.
  • When it comes to having sex, if at first you don’t succeed, beg.
  • Be aware of when to hold your tongue and when to use it.
  • Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
  • Always give people a friendly greeting; a cold nose in the crotch is effective.
  • Don’t go out without I.D.
  • When you do something wrong, always take responsibility (as soon as you’re dragged out from under the bed).
  • If it’s not wet and sloppy, it’s not a real kiss.
  • When you go out into the world, remember: always take time to smell the roses…and the trees, the grass, the rocks, the street, the fire hydrants…

We learn a lot about life from the magnificent creatures and creation around us. I marvel every day at the simple fact that another species lives contentedly in our home as a member of the family. I’m amazed that we seem to understand each other perfectly. The joy the relationship brings is satisfying and consistent – a source of comfort every day. I shake my head in wonder at the depth of love we share, and the unlikeliness of how it all came to pass walking past a Humane Society location in a pet supply store over three years ago.

There is much more to life and this universe than what we humans sometimes imagine in our self-centered, human-centered perspective. This day and every day I am thankful to be part of a larger story – one that involves the mystery, joy, and unconditional love of a sweet little canine friend, Callie, who is such a big part of my world. I’m an even bigger part of her world. I don’t understand how it all works, but it does, and I am thankful.