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Volume 5, Issue 31

November 2013 


What's your see? squeegie


So there I am, in a conference room on the top floor of a resort, with a bunch of bankers. But instead of pouring over stuffy year-end reports, these money folks are banging drums. I'm facilitating a HealthRHYTHMS drum circle and these bankers are creating one powerful voice from many. They're creating an effective team through the use of rhythm.


Bringing drum circles into the board room is one way that we can apply arts-based learning to organizations. As a Coach, I use storytelling and improvisation with clients to jumpstart/enhance creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.   

I'm always looking for additional ways to bring art and business together...which is why I was jazzed to attend last month's Learn St. Louis Conference 2013, co-sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of the American Society for Training and Development and COCA is the Center for Creative Arts and the biz is their business arm, where they bring together artists and business professionals to offer a variety of learning experiences to the business community.  


I had an opportunity to go to two sessions - one on improvisation, because I like to see how others use it in business. And then my favorite - which I share with you below. 


I'd also love it if you'd take a moment and visit my blog - Your BoldCoach. Comments and feedback welcome!


Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at BoldWork!



Boldly yours,



Jennie Ayers

Senior Partner

November 2013


In This Issue
  • Avatars Boost Recall
  • The Real Scoop on "Brain Training"
  • You Haven't MOOC'd Yet? What are you waiting for?



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BrainGet Yourself An Avatar!
Curated by Jennie Ayers, Senior Partner at BoldWork

My favorite session from the Learn St. Louis Conference is one exploring gamification, presented by Dr.Karl Kapp, Assistant Director of Bloomsberg University's Institute for Interactive Technologies and a gamification guru. (His lastest book is The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.)


For those unfamiliar with the term, gamification is the concept of applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. Integrating gaming elements into a learning program promotes behavioral change. Now I don't know jack about writing code and I'm not trained as an instructional designer, but we can all think like instructional designers and use gamification ideas as we create workshops and presentations. For example, would you be surprised to discover that participants in a learning event recall 30% more content when the content is delivered by an avatar? (I was.) If you have important info you want people to remember, add a character to your slide and let the character deliver this info. Did you know that learners aren't emotionally involved unless they're at risk? Offer them multiple opportunities to get outside their comfort zone or level of knowledge.


The next time you're putting together a presentation, think like a gamer. Use these five gamification tips and I guarantee participants will be engaged...and asking for more.


  1. Begin with an activity that gets people thinking and/or moving. In improvisational thinking workshops, I start off with a pop quiz...and no one knows who I'll call on to answer a variety of funny questions.
  2. Create curiosity, mystery and intrigue. Suggest covert takeaways rather than outlining goals up front. The responsibility for identifying takeaways rests with participants.
  3. Create a challenge for participants. In improv workshops, participants have to "think on their feet" in a variety of ever-changing situations.
  4. Put learners at "mock" risk. In improvisational thinking workshops, there is always the chance that the "game" will break down and participants will have to start over. Putting participants at risk helps drive home that it's okay to fail.
  5. Give learners choices. In improvisational thinking, there are many ways to build on the ideas of others. Participants find their own alternatives to reaching the goal.


Will gamification change the workplace? Before you answer, check out New York University professor Adam Penenberg's column in Forbes.


Train Your Brain? Not So Fast  
Curated by Janice Criddle


It's no secret that to stay viable in the workforce, we have to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn. And as part of this process, there's been a lot of emphasis on improving our brain's capabilities by training it through mental exercises like puzzles and games. I'm a big fan of puzzles and games. I'm also watching my mom as she meanders down the path of Alzheimer's, so I do things that will hopefully put me on a different path as I age. Puzzles and games are part of my strategy.


In an effort to learn more about "brain training," I checked out a number of websites that offer ways to harness the brain's plasticity. says that just 10 hours of their training can create drastic improvement; offers a variety of games and teasers intended to "grow" your brain and maintain optimal brain health. And even offers a short IQ test.


These sites are all intriguing. But the bigger question I started to wonder about is: can we really "train the brain?"


As I discovered, there's really no conclusive evidence or enough research to confirm or dismiss the idea of brain training. Dr. Orrin Devinsky, Professor or Neurology, Psychiatry and Neurosurgery at NYU says that there's not much scientific data to support the concept that adults can train their brain. "That's not to say it doesn't work. But do sites like work better than having a conversation with peers? Than reading a book, watching educational TV or doing Sudoku? No one knows."


Dr. Steven Novella, Clinical Neurobiologist and Assistant Professor at Yale University School of Medicine says that existing research is just scratching the surface when it comes to "addressing all the questions regarding brain training." In his article, "Does Brain Training Work?," he provides background on the complexity of what this training really means and he offers some bottom line recommendations:


  • Engaging in various types of cognitively demanding tasks is probably a good thing.
  • Try to engage in novel and different types of tasks. These do not have to be computer-based.
  • Find games that you genuinely find fun - don't make it a chore, and don't overdo it.
  • Don't spend lots of money on fancy brain training programs with dramatic claims.
  • Don't believe the hype.


So, here's the bottom line. The jury's still out when it comes to hard data on the effectiveness of brain training. But I'm a lifelong learner and a fan of brain training games. You'll find me continuing my daily dose of "brain training" for a very particular reason - I enjoy it. And while I don't have unrealistic expectations that my IQ will jump 20 points or that the training will physically change my brain, what I do have is a curious, inquiring mind that loves a challenge.


What about you?



You Haven't MOOC'd Yet? Really? 
Curated by Kris Campbell, Managing Partner at BoldWork


In the fall of 2012, I had a wonderful, exhilarating experience - I was MOOC'd.  

Since then, all other traditional learning has just been an also ran. How, where and when I learn will never be the same.






MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and to experience a MOOC you need only a computer, keyboard and online access. Last year I wanted to find out for myself whether all the hoopla about MOOCs was warranted, so I signed up for an online class at Coursera (, the largest, most well-known online MOOC. The course, A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior, was delivered by Duke University professor Daniel Ariely. I was blown away that not only could I take a class from top notch Duke, but one taught by Ariely, the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight, the co-founder of BEworks and the author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality, both NY Times best sellers. I could sit on my porch and learn from Ariely - for free.


If you're a lifelong learner like me, this new journey into learning is going to carry us forward on astonishing trips. And the broader concept of blending online and offline learning, often called Flipped Learning, is an innovation disruptor now making its way into corporate learning. In Flipped Learning, workshop material is made available to participants prior to in-person sessions, which lets in-person sessions focus on practical application that increase retention and mastery.  


A passing phase? Doubt it. As of this writing, Coursera offers 536 courses and 680,000 students from 190 countries have crossed through its online doors. These students have viewed 14 million videos and completed 6 million quizzes. The U.S. State Department just invested as a learning partner, and Caltech and the University of Pennsylvania have contributed $3.7 million. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offered Coursera support from its inception, with a grant of over $800,000.





A new paradigm of learning is afoot and, as with all great social transitions, it's a wild ride. There are optimistic early adopters as well as critics. Some call this time a natural "honeymoon hype phase" with wild swings in expectations. Drop out rates tend to be high. Completion rates hover around 7-9%. But there are many smart, creative people around the world working hard to overcome obstacles and smooth out the bumps.


This last summer while working on an Excel scoring protocol for our new Questionnaire, I realized I'd forgotten a lot about statistics since completing my post-graduate work. So I jumped online, typed in and within minutes was learning in a quiet, easy to follow classroom, at my own pace. Within hours I was once again up to speed on t-scores and standard deviations. Created in 2006 by Salman Khan, the Khan Academy offers over 700 microlectures via video and has delivered over 300 million lessons directly on YouTube. The Khan Academy is free and its doors to learning are open 24/7.


Want to learn what's fabulously new about online learning? 

  • Daphne Killer and Andre Ng are cofounders of Coursera. In this TED video, Daphne paints a vibrant picture of what the future holds for how we will learn and relearn across a lifetime. While preparing this month's see-musings, principal Janice Criddle and I were both drawn to this same TED talk. Janice admitted to reluctance in letting go of traditional learning because of the advantages of bringing together a group of people to explore, question and interact. "I've always felt that a well-facilitated program with engaged individuals interacting face to face could not be replaced." While Janice and I both believe these face-to-face meetings remain valuable, she has changed her "see" when it comes to online learning. This TED talk is a SEE changer.
  • Hop over to Coursera and browse through 536 courses from over 107 partners.
  • Stop in at the friendly, easy Khan Academy and get started on learning something new at the click of your mouse. American Civics anyone?
  • Let the charismatic Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, explain his affirming vision in this recent TED talk; he's out to change the world of learning in every corner of the world...for free!  
  • And, finally, let me leave you with what provocateur blogger Ryna Point sees in store for us and how we learn from MOOCs. With the bark off, it's the good, the bad and the ugly of where we're going. 

Happy MOOCing!


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