Archive for December, 2008

What is it with women and shoes?

December 19, 2008

red-shoesBreda wore a lovely pair of teal green shoes to work the other week.  They were round toed with a heel not too high and a little strap and buckle to keep them on.  We all admired them and asked where she’d got them from.

That lunchtime I went out and bought a pair, same colour, and was delighted with my purchase.  Clare also went and bought a pair too.  They were such good value that we also bought the same style in red.  That weekend Breda went back to the shop and bought the red pair and the brown pair too (they really are lovely shoes).

Great minds think alike.  But we probably wouldn’t have got them if we hadn’t seen them on Breda first.  So that got me thinking – that’s very typical of Learning Pool.

We’re very lucky (and humbled) to have customers who are prepared to share their good buy stories with others, especially when that means they stand up in front of an audience and say why they think others should buy a Learning Pool subscription too. 

How fantastic it was to realise, from our summer Customer Satisfaction survey, that 97% of our customers would recommend us to others, or had done so already. 

So thank you for sharing with each other.  And thank you, Breda, for the shoes.  As long as we don’t all wear the same colour on the same day we’ll be grand.



So, did the best team win?

December 15, 2008

winners-trophysWell, it wasn’t about winning, of course.  It was about the taking part. 

It was also about having to navigate across country in the dark, on an unfamiliar road with Ben, Clare, a rubbish map and handwritten directions from Maeve.  That was the first challenge, or so we thought, but maybe we were just a bit hyped up. 

There were 28 of us in the wilds of County Fermanagh, staying in wooden lodges overlooking beautiful, if damp, scenery.

We had a great day and a half and there are numerous highlights that spring to mind. 

Who can forget nearly driving off the end of the pier (certainly not Ben and Clare) or John and Chris’ comedy double act at the after party on Friday night?  Or Maeve and Janet dancing to The Stone Roses and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack – repeatedly – because they were the only 2 cd’s we brought with us? 

Who too can forget Alan and Dawn’s freakishly good none verbal communication skills as demonstrated by their talent for charades?  Or four of us lifting sylph like Ben off the seat with only 2 fingers and lots of concentration? 

We had a fantastic time and really got to know each other better.

It was great to do the Belbin personality profiling to help us understand each other and what role we all play within team Learning Pool.  Great fun, very interesting and spookily accurate.  Now we all know why we behave the way we do and how to get the best from each other in the future.

Breda took her first ever driving lesson in a huge jeep through a muddy quarry.  A tough call in anyone’s book but especially difficult when you need a booster seat to see out of the window and you’ve never been behind the wheel before.  So all credit to her when she had her second lesson an hour later – driving the same jeep, blind folded, through a circuit of cones with tennis balls balanced on top. 

That evening, after a lovely Christmas dinner, we all swapped our Secret Santa gifts and oohed and ahhed at the thought our fellow Poolers had put into the gifts given. 

And the winning team?   It wasn’t us, as it should have been, but the festively titled ‘Seven geeks are laying’ team.  Well done to you all, it was a close run thing.


Tempting Fate?

December 10, 2008

balancing-peopleWe’re like little children in the office today.  The excitement is building, alliances are being created and faux enemies being made.  What, you may ask, is all the fuss about?

Well, we’re all getting together for a day of team building on Friday at the brilliantly named Lusty Beg, and we can’t wait.

The wellies are being hunted down, thermals sourced and waterproofs put to one side (being in Ireland, they’re to hand most days).  We know who are team mates are and we’re busy honing our competitive streaks as we speak (put those cigarettes down, Ben Jones!).  My team is going to win (oh yes we are).

So the plan is that we’ll learn about each other in a way that can’t quite happen in the office.  How will Sam cope when his team loses?  How will Maeve react when she doesn’t get what she wants?  How will Andy feel when his team’s canoe capsizes?  (They’re all on a different team, you understand).

Being in team Learning Pool isn’t a 9 to 5.  Many of us clock up the air miles together (and train miles, John) on our trips to see customers so we have often seen each other when we’re quiet, stressed or just plain missing our beds.  Ben, for example, likes his lunch and Mary likes her mobile phone reception. 

So what will Friday bring?  Traversing ravines with rope ladders we’ve just created?  Getting 6 team members across the freezing lough with only 1 canoe and 1 paddle between us?  The anticipation is high.

But whatever happens, it will be a good day.  It’s an investment in us, as a team.  It will be a chance to let things out and form new ideas about our colleagues; a time to develop our trust in each other. 

And, at the end of the day, when everyone’s finished congratulating the winning team (ahem), we can raise a little toast to the Learning Pool customers without whom none of it would be possible.


Christmas has come early

December 9, 2008

santaLast night I braved the crowds and went late night shopping.

After three hours I’d had enough and went home, with lots of bags and a lot less money!  That’s me done for now, but what’s on your Christmas shopping list?

I thought I would give you a few ideas.  Not anything to do with gifts for friends and family, just a list of goodies to get you going in your e-learning.

Mind Maps
Try FreeMind, an easy to use piece of software for any sort of planning.

Word Clouds
Check out Wordle which is fantastic if you need to put something different in your presentation or elearning. If you need more persuading check out one of my other posts on it.

Screen Capture
SnagIt is my favourite for capturing screenshots, it also has a very easy to use editing features.  SnagIt is available as a 30 day trial download.  

Sharing presentations is easy using Slideshare.  Create an account and upload your presentations. You can share presentations publicly or privately.

The good news is that all of these are free.  Merry Christmas!


Mind the gap

December 5, 2008

mind-the-gapL&D managers will have heard the interesting training news this week with the announcement, in the Queen’s speech, of the right to request time off for training to be given to British workers.  Employees can use this right to develop their capacity and skills, not just for their current day job but also for their future career development too.

But another, equally interesting announcement was also made this week. 

In a report published two days before the Queen (such manners!) the Chartered Management Institute says that the use of the internet is heavily policed in the workplace and a technology ‘generation gap’ is holding the UK back.  

On the one hand highly enthusiastic under 35’s are citing professional development and research as key reasons for wanting to use the internet at work while, on the other, suspicious employers say that the internet is a time waster.  Such employers actively monitor (cyber snoop) the surfing habits of their employees and block access to ‘inappropriate’ sites, while some even impose internet curfews.

The data, published in association with Ordnance Survey, also reveals different usage patterns according to age group.  For example, 67 per cent of those under 25 have ‘read a forum’ in the past 3 months, compared to just 51 per cent of those aged over 30.  Two-thirds (69 per cent) of those aged 25 or under have watched videos online (work or otherwise), compared to 54 per cent of individuals aged 30 plus.  With evidence also suggesting respondents want to use business networking sites (6 per cent for both managers and students), the implication is that employers must change their attitude towards technology, or risk alienating their future managers and leaders.

So, with this in mind, who is most likely to use their new right to request training?  Cynics may say that it’s unlikely to be those older, longer serving employees who do not embrace the internet, let alone Web 2.0 technology, and that perhaps it’s this group of managers who need training the most.

However, all is not doom and gloom.  The CMI’s report was published in the wake of wider research showing how ‘new media’ learning is growing in popularity.  A report called ‘Learning at Work: evolution or revolution‘ revealed that 51 per cent of directors now say they use online videos to develop new skills (up from 21 per cent 12 months ago) and one-third (34 per cent) also use social networking sites to boost their knowledge, compared to just 12 per cent, last year.

Part of the answer?  A social networking community you can take part in at your desk.  A discussion forum where you ask questions from your peers in similar organisations and get answers that help you do your job better.  A collaborative community where you share you work and they share theirs and re-purposing is the name of the game.

 Wonder where you’d find an organisation like that?


Meeting Councillors in Kent

December 4, 2008

toolbox-cartoonIf you’re a Councillor from Kent then we may have seen you at last Friday’s Kent Member Development Meeting ‘Opening the Toolbox to Community Engagement’ at Oakwood House, Maidstone.

Aine and I gave live demonstrations of the latest Modern Councillor courses at the Learning and Development exhibition where we met about 100 Members.

As an exhibitor it’s always interesting to note what the conference speeches and debates are and this event was no exception.

The day began with a keynote address from Nick Nielson, Director of Envision which is a youth empowerment charity that supports young people to realise their capacity to make a difference in the world. 

Delegates then attended a series of workshops throughout the remainder of the day which included ‘Involving people in decision making’, run by Senior Policy Advisors from Wiltshire County Council, ‘Participatory budgeting and community involvement’, run by Davy Jones from the Participatory Budget Unit and ‘E-democracy’ run by Stoke on Trent City Council.

Members of the Kent Youth Council also attended the meeting and ran a ‘Revitalising Democracy’ session with Dami Benbow, former Deputy Young Mayor of London Borough of Lewisham and current chair of the Mayors Young Advisor Group.

We had lots of interest about Modern Councillor’s very own Community Leadership course which was very relevant to the day’s agenda. This course focuses on understanding community leadership, achieving effective leadership and community cohesion and aims to encourage councillors to think about what it means to lead their communities.

In addition the course touches on how local strategic partnerships and local area agreements contribute to community leadership and considers how Councillors can help make their communities more cohesive.

It was lovely to meet so many enthusiastic agents of change (Councillors!) and we were well looked after at Oakwood House, with regular refreshments and great puddings!

It was great opportunity for Learning Pool to speak to so many Members from Kent County Council; hopefully we will be invited back again next year.


It’s been a busy week at Learning Pool….

December 4, 2008

sleeping-on-laptop-2Between the Steering Group meeting, the inaugural Modern Governor Steering Group meeting, the Public Sector Skills conference, some on-site account management visits, an Instructional Design workshop in central London and a sprinkling of other events and visits the Learning Pool team members have managed to see 32 individual council customers in the first 2 days of this week.

This was the thought that struck me as I was half dozing on the Easyjet flight back to Belfast from London on Tuesday night after an action packed couple of days.  If we could keep that pace up, we’d be able to see everyone who is part of the Learning Pool “club” once a month.  But what a pace!  And where would that leave the team members?

Check out some photos of you that we’ve taken recently!

I think most people in our community are aware that the team has grown considerably in the last 12 months and now consists of:

  • an in-house technical team (there to help you with any technical developments or even some of the IT challenges you may face internally)
  • an in-house instructional design team (headed up by Deborah and busily working away on about 12 customer commissions on a diverse range of topics at the moment)
  • a fully formed Customer Services team (see the recent Newsplash article that tells you more about these guys and what they get up to)
  • a group of regionally based Learning & Development consultants
  • and our marketing team (there to help you with your internal marketing of e-learning as well as the million and one things they do for the company)

If you are reading this blog and it’s making you feel a bit left out and insufficiently “Learning Pooled”, or lacking in a bit of “Ben Jones love” as I described part of our customer service offering at yesterday’s Steering Group – then let us know by emailing us at and we’ll send someone out to see you….


He’s making a list…

December 2, 2008

santa-shopping-onlineChristmas is coming, we are all shopping like mad and, due to the credit crunch, trying to do it as frugally as possible.  My procurement method of choice is shopping on line.  I love it, been doing it for years and each year I do more.

The ease of logging on to Amazon or and surfing through recommended options is just marvelous. Knowing what someone likes and being able to see “ people who bought X also bought Y” makes buying the correct presents a lot easier than in previous years.

And what about the excitement of Ebay shopping?  The thrill of netting a bargain in the dying seconds of an auction is fab feeling, and losing a bid in the same way is also a bit of an adrenalin surge too.  Ebay is an Aladdin’s cave of wonders and if you are ever at a loose end try typing in any random word and you will be amazed at the strange, the bizarre and the downright dross that people are trying to sell.

Ever fancied a lie detector, a tin of Roadkill Stew or the wishbone from someone’s Christmas turkey?  No?  Well, I am sure that there is something there that you would love to find in your Christmas stocking.

With all this stuff on line, and with it being so easy to find and buy what you want, how come no one has managed to sort out a sensible delivery method?  You know, one that is prepared to deliver when you are at home. 

The majority of my purchases come via Royal Mail who does a pretty good job most of the time.  If I am not in, the depot is close enough for it still to be convenient to collect but why do they only open from 7.00am to 12.30pm?  Surely that is just wrong (or, in this day and age, not particularly customer friendly)?

Then there are the delivery companies who leave you a note saying: “We tried to deliver to you but you were obviously out earning enough to pay for these frivolous items so we have taken them back to our depot which is hidden in an industrial estate 22 miles away and you can only collect your item when you should be at work.”

When will someone come up with a system that allows you to get the stuff you want, where you want it and when it is convenient to you?

Anyone coming up with a system that:
• delivers what you need
• delivers it when you need it
• delivers it to you where you happen to be
deserves an award.

(from the awarding winning company, Learning Pool)