Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

Shift Happens 4.0

Still wondering about the power of Internet, digital media, convergence and if you should be on the social media bandwagon? Here’s version 4.0 of Shift Happens series.

Also see Version 3.0, Version 2.0 and Version 1.0.

Do we Learn More from Successes or Failures?

Amit Garg asks whether we learn more from successes than failure. He mentions an article on Science Daily that suggests brain cells learn more from successes than failures. Well, at least that’s how monkeys learn based on a research by scientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory according to the article. Do read the interesting conversation ongoing on his blog post.

Do organizations learn from successes? Do they even attempt at learning from successes? I don’t think organizations and managers do a good job at learning from successes. And I am as guilty as anyone else of this. The whole management review governance structures are built around learning from mistakes and ignoring successes. We have goals and measure progress against these. If our goals are consistently being met, there’s hardly any time spent on reviews. However if the goals aren’t met, or a perhaps a project has gone bad, we spend inordinate amount of time doing root cause analysis and identifying corrective actions. Of course root cause analysis and identify corrective actions are absolutely required and we really can’t afford not to do these. We do need to prevent problems from recurring and look for ways to continuously improve the process. However we hardly spend any time in learning what we might be doing right when goals are met, or from projects that went well.

We celebrate successes but don’t necessarily attempt to learn from them formally as much as we attempt to learn from mistakes. Our former Creative Director would go sore screaming at managers including me, (not literally, don’t get me wrong now) on why we weren’t looking at the 9 projects that went well instead of trying to find out why 1 project went bad.

Why don’t we learn from successes? Could it because it is harder to learn from successes? Or perhaps successes are expected from each of us and we are just doing our job when we succeed. And if we are already doing our job well, what’s to learn?

It would be interesting to know if there are any formal methods of learning from successes, like there are for learning from failures. Any best practices from organizations out there?

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Commenting Made Easier

I have made commenting easier on my blog. Simply select the post you want to comment on by clicking the title of the post. Scroll to the bottom of the post and write your comment in the comment field. Select one of the profiles as your identity and post your comment. Simple!

I don’t have a defined and documented comment policy but will stay with common sense. No spam, no trolls, no hurting sentiments, etc. Anonymous comments are fine, though I personally would encourage you to at least leave your name.

You can do this on your Blogger. Select your blog from the dashboard and go to Settings. In the Comments tab, select the Comment form placement as Embedded below post.

How to be a Successful Technical Writer

Swaminathan Moothy of Society for Technical Communication (STC) invited me to speak at their regional conference in Chennai. I shared what I think is needed to be a successful writer. I spoke about skills companies are looking for in a technical writer, tips on how to manage technical writing projects, and career options for a technical writer.

It was quite a learning experience. The audience was a group of technical writers with varied experience and I got to learn new things. Here’s my presentation on being a successful technical writer.

Yammer Adds Outlook Plugin

I wrote in my experiences with micro-learning in corporate environment that one of the challenges to micro-learning environment is the competition it faces from email and IM. Well, Yammer has released a new Outlook plugin. The plugin adds a Yammer pane inside the Outlook window, integrating Yammer with one of the most used application in the enterprise. Looks like an interesting and enticing move. Will this help in micro-learning’s adoption? Wait and watch…

Agile Instructional Design Team Structures

I have been reading about agile development lately. One of the key components of agile development is team structuring. Typically in large organizations, content development teams are organized either as functional teams or as project teams with larger organizations typically having functional structures in place. Agile methodology suggests a more project structure. Teams work dedicatedly for the project, preferably located close to each other.

Having seen both functional team structures and project team structures, I believe both structures have their inherent strengths.

Advantage Project Teams

  • Projects can be completed faster. Decisions are taken faster since the complete team is working only on one project (or a few dedicated projects). There are fewer formal hand offs between functions and therefore fewer opportunities for communication gaps. There is lesser waiting time for functional resources to be available. There are fewer review/approval cycles for each function.
  • Project teams are generally more cohesive. There is better understanding between members of the project teams. The team is more aligned to the project. Functional teams are also cohesive but more towards the function than the project.

Advantage Functional Teams

  • Utilization is better in functional team structures. This is specially so in larger teams. Functional experts can move from project to project faster without having to wait for one project to complete. They don’t need to be idle while waiting for client feedback, SME inputs, or any anything like that. Number of people required in each function is better optimized and you have lesser redundancy in terms of people required.
  • Functional teams are more scalable. Critical skilled resources when available in a functional pool can be better utilized across the projects. Also training and development of new hires is probably easier in a functional team.
  • Provides individuals with growth opportunities in functional areas. This is more so in the Indian context. Typically growth is seen as change in designation, preferably when the designation has ‘Manager’ in it. Functional team structures provide more opportunities for individuals to be functional managers. Growth in project teams is fairly hierarchical. You need to become a project manager to ‘grow’.

Both team structures have their inherent strengths. The trick is to leverage the strengths of each team structure and see if best of both is possible. Which one you choose depends on many factors, like the size of the organization, skill level available, maturity of people, scalability required etc.

Whether you chose project team structure or functional team structure, in both cases there are some common things that are a must to have a successful team/project:

  • Common goal, vision
  • Frequent and open communication
  • Mutual respect for each function
  • Good project planning and tracking
  • Workflow tools (more so in larger projects)

Additional reading:

Now Featured on eLearningLearning.com

My post on blogs by learning professionals in India helped Tony Karrer identify some new blogs for his list of top blogs on workplace elearning. In the process, Learn and Lead is now a featured blog on Tony’s eLearningLearning.com site.

eLearning Learning is a content aggregation site that serves to bring all of your favorite eLearning blogs together into one site. It is a hub that pulls together content from various members of the eLearning world and make it more easily accessible to people who are searching and/or who want to stay up to date, but who don't use an RSS reader (or want someone to help filter).

The Future as Children See It

My soon-to-be-10-year-old son has been introduced to various ages of history thanks to a popular computer game. Out of curiosity, I asked him what ‘age’ we are currently in. According to him, we are currently in the “Touch age”. He is inspired by the iPhone and other touch screen phones he is exposed to. The next age according to him will be the “Talk age”. We will just need to talk to the machines and they will act on what we say. After that we will have the “Think age”. We will only need to think what we want, and machines will interpret our thoughts and act accordingly.

So there you are, that’s how children see the future. We have our work cut out for us.

eLearning Salaries in India - Part 2

Amit Garg of Upside Learning posted some interesting comments about the elearning salary survey on their company blog. He raises three important points:

  1. Salary ranges are very wide
  2. Does variable pay work?
  3. Recession has had a severe impact

You can see his full post here. Here’s what I responded.

1. Salary Ranges: In the survey, I asked respondents for total experience and relevant experience. As I mentioned in my post, I have considered relevant experience and this has led to some anomaly in data. However when I dig a little deeper into the data, there is indeed a very wide salary range for instructional designers. So while one person with total experience of 12-15 years gets between 3.5 and 5 lac, another person with similar total experience is in the range of 8-10 lac. One is at Manager level, which the other has listed himself/herself as instructional designer. Perhaps I need to include not just the function but also the level in the organization. Useful input for the next survey.

It is a little hard to conclude whether educational background impacted salary. Looking at the data, I personally felt that having more than just a bachelor’s degree led to higher salary but one could argue that data sample is not large enough to draw that conclusion.

2. Variable Pay: Different companies and individuals treat this differently. From my personal experience of having spoken with many people from different organizations, variable pay for junior levels is usually linked to either company performance or used more as a retention strategy (it is in most cases not paid monthly). When times are good, almost everyone gets the variable pay and when times are not good, companies have the flexibility of controlling their costs. Other than sales functions or senior level functions, I haven’t seen anyone “aggressively going after” the variable pay component.

3. Impact of recession: You are right, most people who had an increase of more than 10% were in lower salary range. However there were some in the higher salary range who listed their increases as more than 15%. These were in Project Management and Graphics/Media function. I am not sure if the increase was in the same job or did they switch jobs during the year. Another input for next survey I guess.

The sample size of respondents is still too small to draw any serious conclusions. However considering that I haven’t yet been able to find any other survey that focuses on elearning and content development salaries, I guess this will have to do for now.

eLearning and Content Development Salaries in India

The Unofficial Salary Survey for elearning and content development jobs in India is now closed. This year the survey received 104 valid responses. This is up from 54 last year and 10 the year before. NCR contributed with most respondents (25), followed closely by Chennai (23), Bangalore (18) and Pune (15). Mumbai (12), Hyderabad (8), Cochin (1), Surat (1) and Kolkatta (1) were the other cities. There were two responses from outside India which were not considered (the survey is for jobs in India).

Key highlights:

  • Instructional Designers (57) were most active on the survey, followed by Project management (22), Programmers (16) and Graphics/Media (9). Other roles that also participated in the survey but were not considered (for the want of numbers) were Sales and marketing (5), HR (1), QA (1) and operations (1).
  • Relevant experience was considered while analysis entries. However in some cases total experience was significantly more than the relevant experience and there may be skews on salary ranges, especially in project management function.
  • Salary ranges are too wide. Project managers seem to get paid more than other functions, looking at the visual patterns of the data.
  • Almost 60% of respondents have variable pay component as part of their salary. People with salary of more than Rs. 5 lac more likely (75%) to have variable pay. 45% of respondents with salary of less than Rs. 5 lac have variable pay.
  • The economy also has had an impact on elearning salaries in India. 34% did not get salary increase this year. 12.5% had a salary reduction. 33% had salary increase of less than 10%.
View the slide in Full Screen mode for better readability.

Unofficial eLearning Salary Survey 2009 - India

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

Creative Commons License This work by Manish Mohan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.