Imagining Knowledge in the Age of AI

K35621_cvr  Artificial intelligence, data, analytics, neural net, computer-human interface…these aren’t the future. They are now. For those of us with a foot in the age of human intelligence and a foot in the age of artificial intelligence, it makes us wonder: so what do we make of what we know, if we (as humans) may become irrelevant?

It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds.

This blog will be brief because the idea is huge, and I want to give us all time and space to ponder this one thought.

Humans are finite, at least for now. We have a limited lifespan. For generosity’s sake, let’s call it 100 years. And then we take what we know with us when we go.

Some of us have preserved our thoughts, ideas and creativity for future generations, but let me venture to guess that most of us have not.

For millennia, without that knowledge capture, preservation and transfer, we kept starting all over.

All that changed with the printing press, and accelerated rapidly with video and audio capture. Look at the rapid proliferation of knowledge, now doubling about every one or two years because we are able to continue to build on what came before.

So what is the threat of AI to human intelligence? Here it is…

Computers don’t die. Teach them to think, and they will keep thinking and growing and learning and eventually…well, their intelligence surpasses that of any human simply because their learning curve is theoretically infinite.

This is what all the fuss is about.

I leave you with that.

And encourage your thoughts and debate in the comment section or send an email at workingwithsmes@gmail.com.

Oh, by the way, my latest book, Retaining Expert Knoweldge: What to Keep in an Age of Information Overload, was published in hard cover on May 10 and you can buy it here. I just noticed that a Kindle version has been added. Thank you for your continued interest!

 

Available Now! Retaining Expert Knowledge: What to Keep in an Age of Information Overload

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I couldn’t wait to get out the word that my new book, the latest in the Working with Experts series, is available for sale today!

I’ll be doing some promotions which you will hear about later, but for now here’s the description on Amazon:
Retaining Expert Knowledge: What to keep in an age of information overload covers two major topics central to capturing and transferring expertise in organizations:

  • Methodology and best practices for interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs) to capture their knowledge
  • Identifying the SMEs to interview

The more critical problem is identifying the SMEs and the knowledge that needs to be captured.

One reason identifying the right experts is now so important is that in the next 10 years, the largest recorded exit of talented and knowledgeable workers from organizations will occur as baby boomers retire. In their wake, they leave their former employers understaffed and, even scarier, under-informed. Identifying the right SMEs is also critical because of the rapid acquisition of new knowledge. Some estimates say knowledge now doubles every two years, so it is crucial each organization identifies its journey and catalogues it individually and collectively.

This book provides managers with answers to the following questions:

  • Are we talking to the right subject matter experts?
  • What knowledge should we capture?
  • What knowledge needs to be captured immediately as opposed to eventually?
  • If we have limited resources, which experts are most important to speak with first?

Every organization has a history, a culture, and knowledge that may have lost its current relevance but not its importance. It is that broader vision of capturing knowledge, which this book addresses. It guides readers on how to preserve corporate knowledge and provides tools to assess organizational circumstances and judge the value of the resources to capture.

Retaining Expert Knowledge is a training resource, but it is also a business resource. As knowledge proliferates and organizational culture rapidly changes, now is the time to step back and determine what has been important to your organization’s success, where the organization is today, and what it will take to stay in the game tomorrow.

Your company houses knowledge, skills, attitudes, intellectual property, trade secrets, company culture, and individuals who will never be replicated exactly as they are today. Because they have demonstrated value in the past and are demonstrating value today, these treasures are worth preserving. This book shows how to preserve these valuable assets today for tomorrow’s successes.
You can buy this wherever you normally purchase your books.

Here’s a link directly to Amazon. 

 

Free Webinar 5/18:Critical Thinking Skills and Your SOPs

chuttersnap-425090-unsplash  Do you teach learners how to handle errors?

With Terry McGinn

Training programs usually teach “the right way” to do something, supplying learners with perfect answers, procedures, methods, policies, information, and so on. That’s good, but as you probably have noticed in your operations or studies every day, it isn’t enough. How often have you heard an employee implementing a “work around” that makes you want to smack your palm to your forehead after all the routing and requested changes (e.g. “You did WHAT in a sterile area?”)

The right way to do things works as long as everything goes according to plan. As we have all learned, nothing always goes according to plan. Every once in a while, you’ll encounter a deviation (and that’s okay). And when you do, what you do is critical. It can be the difference between averting a disaster and creating an issue that won’t pass regulatory scrutiny.

So, while the average training program teaches employees how to do it the right way, a full education teaches your employees how to do it right way and gives them the capacity to think through things that don’t go as planned. Comprehensive SOP training teaches investigational processes as well as correct document procedures to ensure the quality standards for your products are met and the results are recorded for investigational purposes, when necessary. After all, teaching requires building competencies.

But do we teach people how to take the right actions, make better decisions, choose wisely, and handle deviations? Most of the time, the answer is no. The severe impact of mishandled opportunities to make good, independent decisions can result in slow, no or poor actions, errors in judgment, and impulsive or risky decisions. And any of those things can hit your organization’s bottom line or reputation in fines, product recalls, regulatory rejection and more.

Interested in hearing more? Join us for a one-hour primer on applying critical thinking skills in an SOP environment and find out:

  • Why you need to teach learners more than just the “right ways of doing things”
  • Why workers and learners need to learn beyond the “what” to the “why”?
  • What are Critical Thinking Skills and how do adult learners absorb information?
  • Why do Critical Thinkers always learn new things while at work?
  • How is Critical Thinking applied in errors or unfamiliar situations?
  • How can we set up a culture of Critical Thinkers?

Join us for our free webinar “The Process of Critical Thinking About Your Standard Operating Procedures” and learn how to apply critical thinking skills in SOP situations.

Click on this link to register for the webinar hosted by Levy & Levy Enterprises with your presenters Terry McGinn and Peggy Salvatore on Friday, May 18 at 10 a.m. Eastern. And bring your questions. We look forward to meeting you there.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

In an Age of Over-Regulation, Are Compliance & Safety Mutually Exclusive?

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In going through my old blog files, I found this item from another website where I was writing about five years ago and thought it particularly relevant for our SOP, compliance and regulation series. So without further ado, this blog asks the question: In an age of over-regulation, are compliance and safety mutually exclusive?

In aviation, safety is always the primary concern. In fact, aviation’s safety record is so stellar that it is considered a model for healthcare. That is quite a testament.

However, a retired pilot friend recently bemoaned that the emphasis on FAA rules and regulations has overtaken concern about safety, and aviation is not better for the change.

“Now we’re only concerned about compliance. We have a cast of thousands as support staff. When I started flying in 1964, Part 91 federal regulations were about 30 pages. You could memorize it. Today, it is hundreds, if not thousands, of pages and nobody can possibly know everything that is in there. We are less safe today than we were 50 years ago,” he complained.

Making and keeping track of all those regulations costs aviation a lot of money. It requires a boatload of federal regulators to oversee them, and costs private carriers a bundle of money to hire people to monitor every jot and tittle of the laws. One misstep, and they can shut you down. And, he opined, neither the passengers nor the airline employees benefit from this over-regulation.

Will Healthcare Follow Aviation Again?

Just about everyone in healthcare knows about the vaunted aviation checklist, and how it has become standard procedure in many operating rooms today. Books are written and consultants make good livings just teaching the checklist approach to safety. The checklist is a great tool. Healthcare is better for following aviation down that path.

But is healthcare going to benefit by following the FAA down the road to over-regulation? We can trip on our path toward safety by using regulations as stumbling blocks instead of using some common sense rules to pave a smooth road to improved quality and performance.

So Many Rules They Can’t Be Followed

I recall a conversation from a training class at a major pharmaceutical company. We were training hourly line employees on procedures that affect product safety. To a person, they had one complaint: standard operating procedures were becoming downright cumbersome and made it very difficult to follow, let alone implement, them.

One veteran employee said when an incident occurs, someone writes another procedure and adds it to the book of procedures. Nothing else in the book is deleted or changed, and so it is becoming nearly impossible to follow. In fact, the employee complained that SOPs are written in response to each incident, meaning that many new SOPs only relate to one isolated incident each. The SOPs are losing their meaning and rationale. It is just a jumble of unrelated knee jerk reactions to specific incidents.

The employee concluded the company was creating more problems than it was solving by having a procedure manual that could not be followed. There are now so many rules to follow, the rules can no longer be followed, the employee complained.

Is All of Healthcare Headed Toward Unwieldy SOPs?

With the passage of the Accountable Care Act, known colloquially as ObamaCare, many believe that we are headed down a path of over-regulation. Where common sense and good medical practice once dominated the industry, healthcare practitioners (formerly known as nurses and doctors) are overwhelmed with rules regarding how they practice, to which the actual art and science of medicine is taking a backseat.

At a recent visit accompanying a friend to a physician’s appointment at a hospital center, we observed that we were two of only four people sitting in a new waiting room with 25 chairs, two large receptionist desks – one that seated four and another with 12 stations – and a physician accompanied by a nurse and a receptionist carrying around a brochure rack deciding where to place it. Let me say that again. A highly skilled specialist was carrying around a brochure rack with his nurse and receptionist trying to find a place for it.

In this brand-spanking-new hospital wing where our doctor’s office had been moved since our last visit (from a very modern, extremely functional office building now sitting vacant in the parking lot), we also observed not one – but two – printers behind the one receptionist desk and a wall of file drawers. We filled out our medical information on a clipboard, which we have done for each of his visits for the last three years, to have it inserted into his manila file folder.

Sigh.

The Trend Is…

By personal experience as well as professional observation, the trend is toward more regulation, more staff to assure compliance with the rules, and an ongoing steady stream of physical and electronic paperwork to track patients and processes in all sectors of the industry.

Instead of continuing to ramp up our regulatory oversight into the stratosphere, perhaps it is time to – if I can paraphrase my retired pilot friend – throttle back and re-evaluate what we are really trying to accomplish.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

 

Back by Popular Demand: More on Writing Standard Operating Procedures

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3 Tips for Creating Transparent SOPs

Co-written with Terry McGinn

Each company in a regulated industry is required to follow written procedures.  The written procedure describes how steps or tasks are to be followed to achieve the desired outcome or result.  Having these steps identified permits the distant or precise way to achieve the end of your process or practice. 

Knowing the critical nature of having written procedures, your standard operating procedures and best practices need to follow a few procedures of their own so you can replicate what you do across your organization.  In other words, your standard operating procedures need to be transparent and streamlined.

One of the many purposes of the SOP or best practice process is to ensure that the process flow can meet expectations. Done well, your standard process or procedure should result in a quality product or achieve the desired result every time.

Knowledgeable and trained  personnel must have the SOP available to follow because no matter how many years’ experience they may have, even experts get stuck for a variety of factors. In fact, some experts know their jobs so well that they think they can skip or modify steps, take shortcuts, or do it from memory. This is a red flag!

The SOP should be written in a logical process flow that will allow someone looking for the cause of a failure later can pinpoint where  a difficulty arose. Reviewing the SOP with someone internally or externally who is checking or auditing your procedure should allow them to identify what and where things  went wrong.

When you have a point of failure, an examination of the SOP should indicate gaps or problems that can include one or more of a host of issues including materials, equipment, environment and much more. Often, a failure can point to the source of your complications by reading the SOP against practice.

A well-written procedure or best practice document will:

  1. Be written to describe the flow clearly to anyone trained on it
  2. Include every essential step without including extraneous steps or materials that can and should be accessed elsewhere
  3. Always be followed by everyone from the new hire to the veteran employee using the current SOP

Expect you will have changes to your SOPs on occasion. Expect you will need to review your documents periodically according to your SOP. And expect that when you have a clean, clear, streamlined SOP process that your errors should be few and easily identifiable.

To summarize, standard operating procedures and best practices need to follow procedures of their own so you can replicate what you do across your organization.  In other words, they need to be transparent. If they are the opposite of transparent – opaque – they are hard to follow and may result  in errors.

If you would like to talk to us about your SOP process, give us a call for a no-obligation preliminary review of your procedures.

 

Terry McGinn has worked in regulated industry for many years and has experience in written procedures that will help pass scrutiny of a regulatory authority inspection. To have a conversation about writing your standard operating procedures, write to us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com to set up an appointment.  

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

Standard Operating Procedures and Accountability: Perfect Together

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By Terry McGinn and Peggy Salvatore

We’ve been getting quite a bit of interest and feedback regarding our series on standard operating procedures, so we’ll continue writing about this topic this week.

After all, inherent in the word “expert” is the idea that something is done correctly. Correct procedures and best practices need to be captured and passed on. Sometimes, though, it seems the only people who care if the SOPs are followed are the experts who wrote them.

Truth is, everyone needs to care. Accountability right down to the last man or woman is absolutely the key essential ingredient in ensuring regulatory compliance.

Train for Accountability

Employees who are tasked with executing the many small, incremental steps are responsible only for their piece of the process. Sometimes in the laser-focus on one task, people may lose sight of the bigger picture. That bigger picture – a safe product going out the door – needs to be reinforced occasionally. Training usually steps in here for both reinforcement and correction. When that fails, the regulatory authorities will notice. Companies get slapped with government warnings and fines at a higher rate than the average person may realize. But if you are in a regulated industry, you know how often you are out of compliance.

Think about dialing the failure point back to its origin. The failure point is when the SOP is not correctly written, understood and applied.

Only then does the employee fail to perform to specifications.

Only then will training have to step in for often very expensive correction.

Only that will happen when an audit reveals you are out of compliance with your SOPs, and the Corrective and Preventative Actions (CAPAs) applied at that point of failure. That doesn’t need to happen.

In a perfect world, it should look like this:

Point of Success

If your current plant is not operating flawlessly as above, identify your points of failure:

  1. How many people are asked to retrain personnel after a deviation or equipment issue?
  2. How many SOPs do you have? Are they overwhelming or conflicting?
  3. Are they easy to understand and do they follow a logical, stepwise process?
  4. After a deviation, is the SOP reviewed?
  5. Are people observing the CAPAs?

And, the big question…

Do your employees feel responsible and accountable for performing their jobs according to the SOPs in place?

Employees feel empowered when they are able to follow well-written SOPs, and when they are acknowledged for contributing to a well-run organization. Points of failure cannot be business as usual. Organizations that accept points of failure as the status quo have a company culture that unintentionally encourages non-compliance.

Maybe that is worth repeating:

Organizations that accept points of failure as the status quo have a company culture that unintentionally encourages non-compliance.

And the road to audit hell is paved with regulatory non-compliance.

The Solution

Dial back your points of process failure to the source.

Ask yourself:

  • Are my SOPs well written?
  • Do my employees feel a sense of responsibility for performing to specifications?

If your answer to either of those questions is, “No” or “I don’t know”, give us a call.

We would be happy to speak with you.

Unlike some problems in the universe, the problem of poorly-written and executed SOPs can be solved. Let’s do it.

Terry McGinn has worked in regulated industry for many years and has experience in written procedures that will help pass scrutiny of a regulatory authority inspection. To have a conversation, write to us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com to set up an appointment.  

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

The Online Course Opportunity and Your Expertise

jazmin-quaynor-392995The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is typically one that is slow or completely non-existent for business. Traditionally, I use that week to do a lot of offline activities to plan for the upcoming year. This year I took two great online courses, and decided to build one of my own in 2018.

First, the plan.

The last few years, I went through Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever online course and found it very helpful in the way it structures your planning process, challenges your assumptions, pressure tests your goals and is full of logical advice. He has captured the course in a book that launches today, Tuesday January 2, and if you grab it now it comes with some bonuses available until the end of the week, Friday January 5. His bonuses are terrific  and will help you apply what you learn in the book. If you are still in your planning stage for 2018, I recommend it. Here’s a link that will get you the book and bonuses.

As part of my 2018 goals, I am going to build an online course to accompany the launch of my next book due out later this year. The book, Retaining Expert Knowledge: What to Keep in an Age of Information Overload, takes the Working with SMEs series into some new territory. Writing this book met one of my 2017 goals to write a book with a major publisher, and I am very happy about meeting that goal. (More about the upcoming book in later blog posts.) Writing a book is just the first step, however, because it is getting the book and ideas out to the public that is the most important part of the process.

As part of that effort, I am going to build an online course to help readers apply the content of Retaining Expert Knowledge to their areas of expertise and their companies. Which leads me to the second course I took last week.

Executing the Plan

Big plans are accomplished one small step at a time. As Michael Hyatt says in his course (paraphrased), you only need to take the next small step to attain big goals. If your goal is big, hairy and audacious enough, you won’t know exactly how to get there. Hyatt advises that you set goals outside your comfort zone and take the very next small step that you can see, and it will usually appear in the form of resources or some kind of help that you need. That is exactly what happened. I had signed up with an elearning hosting platform, and they offered a course to make the most of your investment.

For three days, I delved into how to use this particular online platform and now I am very excited about building and presenting an online course for Retaining Expert Knowledge.

The course reminded us:

  1. Online learning is mainstream.
  2. Education is now lifelong.
  3. People want bite-sized information.
  4. Information wants to be free.
  5. The size of the online opportunity is about to explode.

Learning from Experts

For those experts who read this blog and the trainers who work with them, that list tells us that we’ve only just begun. As knowledge and information explodes, we have so much to share and people have less time to absorb it. It is a great time to share what you know and do it in a way that you can reach a lot of people.

Massive amounts of information are free or very inexpensive. Because information is free, you have to earn the space you take up in someone’s brain. Keep it short. Keep it relevant. And provide value. Blogs are one of the new “free information” sources, as well as endless streams of webinars, podcasts and more.

That is why when building a course for sale, experts need to build premium courses.  Your Expertise 101 is free, and Your Expertise 301 premium course has some price attached to it as well as support that helps your learners apply the information.

Today is the first workday of 2018. It is exciting to do what we love. And it is equally exciting to share what we love. If you are an expert in some area and have something to share or teach, think about the fact that adult learning is all-the-time, online, bite-sized and much of it is free.

You don’t have to wait to be asked. Get out there and share what you’ve got. People want to know. You can be part of the knowledge explosion.

 

Can Experts Teach? Well, Sometimes…

aaron-ang-61849   Yesterday I met for coffee with an expert in operational efficiency. He runs workshops, and he observed that the experts he has met have trouble teaching what they know. He said the best teachers are people who are middling performers – people he described as performing at 60 to 80 percent of someone who is excellent.

Because middling performers have had to work so hard to be good enough, they understand how to acquire their craft, skill or knowledge. They know the steps so well because they figured them out so they could attempt to replicate greatness.

Greatness, on the other hand, just is. And people who are great, just are. They can’t tell you how they do what they do because it is instinctual and innate. Therefore, my coffee companion concluded, it is pretty hard to get a great person to teach a class or teach anyone anything effectively.

This observation is the basis for the Working with SMEs book in which I describe the innately great person as an unconscious competent, they don’t even know what they know, so they have trouble telling others. The book explains why the conscious competent –  the person who knows what they know and how they learned it – is the best teacher of a craft, skill or knowledge. In their struggles, the conscious competent has put the building blocks in place to acquire something valuable.

We can probably all think of exceptions to this situation, but for the most part, he was correct.

Mel Torme – arguably one of the greatest jazz singers of all time – recorded a master class for PBS in the early 1960s where he described some of his technique. On the other hand, when you observe his face and mouth, and listen to his tone, you know how much of what he did was purely instinctive and based somewhere in his soul.

Imagine Picasso teaching someone how to paint. Then look at Guernica and imagine the mind that conceived those images. That greatness came deep from within his soul, and went far beyond paint, brush and canvas to the very meaning of existence.

For a genius in the world of science, read Ray Kurzweil who imagined artificial intelligence and leads humanity to the next level of possibility through technology.

Hard to teach that kind of inspiration.

To find a teacher, look for someone who has broken down the components of a piece of greatness into replicable chunks.

To find your own greatness, look deep inside yourself and find your truth. Everyone is a great something, and your soul knows what that is.

Photo by Aaron Ang on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

Vantage Point of the Expert Takes You Out of the Instructional Design Box

ben-white-197668  Twice this week, experts around me reminded me about the unique way they see the world and how it impacts the way their knowledge gets passed on.

In fact, twice this week I faced experts with important lifetimes of knowledge within them who had thought deeply about how best to package and move that information beyond them to others who can benefit from it. In both cases, their solutions are unique and complex but necessary to the tasks they have set forth.

Touchy-Feely

One communications expert is searching for ways to teach his very unique skill set to the several generations behind him. Like any skill, acquiring and mastering it takes physical practice. The value of his method has been proven over decades and he is recognized for his system by world-class organizations. But beyond the one-on-one practice sessions where he teaches his system, the long view requires setting up a practice pattern among participants until the habit is engrained in the students and the system is part of a culture.

In a world where we communicate mostly via smartphones and computers, it is increasingly difficult to engage people for extended periods of time in face-to-face human interaction. Yet in a time of increased human-to-device interface, the human interaction required for interpersonal skill practice has never been more important.

The basic skill set requires two humans –  not a human and a computer-based role play or a human and a disembodied AI voice. While those two options were my first thoughts, this expert makes it clear that the lessons to be taught and the skills to be learned require human beings involved in the process over time.

This expert’s dilemma highlights that learning technologies won’t fit all needs, and we are faced with the limitations of moving this type of skill to an online platform.  Only the expert understands his system well enough to transfer it, and he has come to realize that he will need something akin to 12 disciples who can carry the practice forward by geometrically dispersing the interpersonal skill practice required.

By the Book

The second expert is a process genius. Quite simply, he sees patterns in numbers and relationships where others only see isolated data. He has a lifetime of imposing order on what others perceive to be random information, and doing it in a way that saved and makes corporations many times over his value as a consultant.

Today, as he considers retirement, he is assembling his lifetime of knowledge into a searchable database of information. Each individual business insight is broken down into steps. The project will involve 100 or more related experts before it is through.

This challenge is more about organization than content, as the actual content is straightforward. However, each bit of information relates to the whole in several ways which creates an interwoven matrix of content that must be easily cross-referenced.

The Expert Knows Best

Two experts. Two radically different areas of expertise. And two completely different approaches to capturing, storing and transferring knowledge.

Proving once again, working with experts is as individual as their knowledge, their backgrounds, and the unique characteristics of what they have to offer. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when you are working with true experts with a lifetime of knowledge, skills and attitudes that led to great success. They have put a lot of thought into developing their areas of expertise, many hours teaching others, they know what works, and it pays to follow their instincts when you are capturing it for posterity.

Sometimes your expert is the best source for how to transfer what they know. Best not to try to squeeze them into an instructional design box because their expertise just won’t fit.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Your Experts and Your IT Department – Data Integrity Best Practice

ilya-pavlov-87438  Somewhere in your organization whether it’s on a mainframe, in the cloud, resident on someone’s PC or in a paper file somewhere, just about every piece of data lives, breathes and is waiting to be put to good use.

Even in the best circumstances, often your data inputs are not easily accessible or completely accurate.

As organizations begin to understand the importance of data integrity in an age where data is your company’s gold mine, it is a good time to engage your experts across the organization to verify and bolster your current information assets.

Your data adventure has a few distinct phases:

  1. Locating all relevant data for all parts of the organization
  2. Organizing and archiving it for easy access
  3. Updating as necessary
  4. Migrating everything to your most recent platform – new forms, new enterprise software
  5. Ensuring that your data migration involves people at every stage who can ensure the integrity of your data and the integrity of the way it is handled – from subject matter experts to IT professionals and archivists
  6. Analyzing information collection and storage methods so the way it is collected is consistent and can be retrieved in a logical way – this includes making sure your data fields are named clearly, your forms are clear and your files are logical
  7. Giving IT the responsibility for locking down sensitive data and making it tamper-resistant, including establishing audit trails
  8. Engaging legal to make sure you are handling data correctly in the case of any information that is subject to laws, rules and regulations – this can save you millions or even billions of dollars in fines, lawsuits and such

Your information is your organization’s most important asset. Your data tells you what you are doing right, where your problems lie, what your customers think and how your employees are performing – just to name a few items. If you have a problem or question, you already have the answers. The key to thriving is to make sure you can find what you need, when you need it, in a form that is usable.

No time is too soon to start to review your information collection, storage and retrieval practices, and establish some guidelines to make increase the value of your most important asset.

Are you engaging your experts to make sure your information is accurate?

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash