Cory Ragsdale, a Project Associate with Training Resources Group, Inc., committed to “spend 10-15 minutes each day researching one new thing in an area related to my work and record what I learned, how I might apply it (or not) in my work, and how others at TRG might apply/use it” during CLA Challenge Week. Here’s her diary of that experience.
Monday, January 22, 2018 | A Method to the Madness
With the end of a five-year project quickly approaching, it is nice to see all that has been accomplished and have the data to measure successes and inform future programming. At times I feel very confident in my ability to communicate our successes.
Then there are times I feel on the verge of an existential crisis, careening towards a ravine angst and dread; flirting with nihilism. So I thought maybe instead of meaninglessness, I could try assigning meaning to everything. Now, since this is not that kind of diary, I will stop with philosophy and press on to the next steps that brought me here.
With all this meaningful data, what are the best ways I can package and communicate it for improved CLA. Now I am on a (sprint) mission to figure this out.
My first step in this challenge is to take some time to research and think about the different audiences we need to consider when communicating our story. This will set up a framework for the rest of my research throughout the week.
Here are the audiences I chose to look further into this week, in hopes of discovering more about how to best communicate our data for their interest and benefit:
- The Client (USAID)
- The Project Team (ECO)
- Our Organization (TRG)
- The Industry (Org. Development, Org. Learning, Adult Learning)
For some inspiration the rest of the week, I had time to read this article from the HBR: “Data is Worthless if You Don’t Communicate It”
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 | The Client
Although my goal is to spend 30-minutes or less researching each day, I wanted to have a good mix of research on theory and practical tools. I don’t expect some grand discovery or life-altering epiphany where I find the perfect answers for everything, but I hope my little bit of research this week can inform some decisions on the future. A short sprint to warm up for the marathon.
I wanted to focus on the best way to package and visualize data for our client and I found some inspiration via Florence Nightingale in this article from Deloitte. While we need proof based on numbers, we don’t find as many people interested in looking at big sets of data and conferring meaning...especially if it’s not their job and they’re already really busy and would rather spend the weekend watching critically-acclaimed tv shows. UNDERSTANDABLE and, quite frankly, job security for moi. So, now that I’m inspired, I found my mission for today: tools for packaging and visualizing data to tell our story.
I found it VERY funny that most of the research I was trying to do regarding telling a story and communicating data for impact was like: “Click here and get a copy of our white paper”.
Uhhh, no. Jeepers, let’s try finding something I can interact with, not substitute for Ambien.
I did find this MIT Open Course called “Communicating With Data” and bookmarked for the future. I also bookmarked a few courses on Lynda.com, but since I didn’t have 2-3 hours to kill right now, I decided to pick one tool, research its features and drool over/be inspired by some cool interactive graphics.
If you were the kid who had to push every button while you asked “What’s that do?!”...Tableau is for you!
I think this could be a really effective tool in communicating data and results with our client. I’m super jazzed to start my free trial.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | Project Team
Oh, communicating with colleagues seems simple, right? We see them almost every day. Well, we spend more time with our faces in screens, waiting for the singularity, but being in the same office should make communicating easier, right?
Sometimes it’s not so simple. Communicating project data with busy team-members can be difficult because everyone is SO busy with their pieces of the puzzle. I want the data to be helpful, not a burden.
I try to communicate our data with the ECO team in a way that’s helpful for them, isn’t a burden with their already busy schedules, and informs in a way that we can work better as a team to adapt and improve in real time. We put out a periodic internal newsletter, which is fun as well as informative, but I wanted to discover more ways to incorporate the data into our communications. I found some interesting listicles, like “30 Smart Tips to Improve Workplace Communication” to get me started. Most did not have helpful content, but sparked ideas!
Sidebar: I think listicles are a great way to communicate. It’s kinda like how you won’t open that whole candy bar, but you’ll eat 250 bite-size candy bars.
I decided to further explore the software we already use, SharePoint, to see if there are any add-ons or widgets that would be useful for the rest of the team. I began to see what information I could get from Office Support, Lynda.com, YouTube, and even just digging deeper into the site and testing out a few things to see what happened. While this was fun I started to feel more like I was wasting time messing around when I was actually behind on inputting some of our data and associated materials into SharePoint.
So, I put the fun exploration on hold and spent the remainder of my pre-scheduled time to catching up on some good old fashioned data entry. I was reminded that while data is worthless if it’s not communicated, it’s not worth much if it isn’t complete.
Thursday, January 25, 2018 | Our Organization
I won’t go into the abstract thinking around knowledge sharing and good knowledge management systems within an organization because I will be typing for daaaays.
Instead I focused on learning more about a new platform we are building, specifically looking for tools, tips, and tricks for communicating what we learned from our data.
This entry is going to be short and sweet because I spent all the time I had today learning more about the cool things we could do with this platform, and how easy it is to use as a digital workplace.
Instead of thinking about packaging data, infographics, or data visualization, my focus here was on organizing resources and data that would be accessible and easy to find, even if someone didn’t know exactly what they were looking for. While I didn’t have all day to mess around with our new platform, it did get me really excited to utilize and champion it in the future.
Friday, January 26, 2018 | The Industry
For my final day of the Sprint Challenge, I wanted to look at the bigger picture and think more about ways we communicate data with broader audiences for knowledge sharing, learning, and storytelling.
Through my research this week, I tried to take note of what kept my attention and interest. Hands down, it was the .gifs. They are, by far, the most fun.
Unfortunately, they’re not really content or data rich. But when we’re sharing data and information with a broader audience, it’s so easy to lose people when they’re not engaged. So, I decided to research some ways to communicate data and information that was not a boring, blah, bland white paper.
I chose a few tools to do some research on and write down some thoughts and notes below:
Wow. Well, I liked Medium more than I thought I would. But honestly, if I wanted to write things no one would read, I would have gone on to get that MFA. Saying that, it is exciting to think about using a platform that has this collection of writing and sharing capabilities from various thought leaders and industry experts. I’m interested to do more research and find out if the things published just go out into the void, buried under all our favorite cat videos.
We’ve all heard the saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t stop him from doing his own podcast.” While I don’t think a podcast is the solution for everything, it can be a really useful tool when used correctly. We don’t use a hammer to fix a leaky sink.. Podcasts are most effective when partnered with excellent story telling...think Serial.
I wanted to research more, but ran out of time for this week. Though, one of my big takeaways from the Challenge was that I can always make a little time to learn about something new, try it out, and share with others.