Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard

Taking notes in long hand might sound a bit old school, in fact some of us were probably pretty good at it when we were in school. These days we probably go into a meeting with our tablet or laptop booted up and type away a summary of a meeting or update bullet points on a spreadsheet or email. If we have been put through a barrage of PowerPoint we may just request a copy of the presentation and use that as our notes. Scribbling notes on a foolscap page is literally a lifetime ago. That is not a good thing.

Several studies have looked at how note taking impacts on how we understand and retain information. One recent study by Princeton University looked specifically at how note taking using a laptop compared with long hand. The laptop note takers scored poorly and were associated with impaired learning and a reduced grasp of conceptual issues, when compared to their long hand counterparts. The shallower processing involved when we just retype what we hear compared to the more complex processing it takes to physically sketch and write notes is suspected to be at play here, or as psychologists call it, Levels of Processing Theory.

If you are hiring someone who will be customer facing, a business analyst or integration specialist, ask about how they take notes. A good note taker will be able to describe their own style, be that their own methods they have developed over the years, mind maps or something more formal (the Cornell Method).

Good note taking requires someone who can identify key words, is organised and can get into the flow of what is being discussed. These are all key skills if you are hiring someone to capture customer requirements, understand a business process or detail what was committed to in meetings.

If you do hire an analyst and are wondering how they are getting on, take a look at their notes. It could be a window into how organised and up to speed they are in their project work. As part of staff induction, splash out on a good pen and fancy jotter. It is not just a perk, it also reinforces the importance of note taking, by hand. If someone asks you for a copy of the presentation you just gave, you can assume they will recall very little of what was discussed. That may or may not be a good thing.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

If you’re happy and you know it.....

So what did you get up to this weekend? If you went to a concert and go every now and again, you may feel better about life. A study from researchers at Victoria’s Deakin University surveyed 1,000 Australians and found that those who attended any sort of communal musical experience, be that a festival or just a night out dancing reported higher levels of satisfaction with their lives.

This is probably no surprise. Most cultures have a tradition of people meeting up and belting out a few tunes, from the Cheile House in Ireland, to Jamming Sessions in more modern times, to singing at Sunday Service, to rhythmic rituals in ancient or indigenous cultures. Shared communal musical experiences have always been with us and according to Deakin University for good reason - our emotional well-being.

However, in recent times, musical experience has become much more personalized. We have our own playlists on Spotify, shuffle our MP3 collections or stream our favorite artists on YouTube. There is less of a shared musical experience and more of a niche  individual one. That is not all bad, it reflects our choice and preferences.

Many organisations which look at staff well-being have devised appreciation days, team building events and other initiatives to motivate and create a buzz. There has been a move away from the once common company or department night out.

You are now more likely to lift a work colleague over a wall on a team building day than you are to show them a near perfect Moon Walk routine on the dance floor. According to the people at Deakin University, we may need to swing the pendulum back a little and have a few more nights out, be that to concerts or just a night on the tiles, and do so regularly.

If for all kinds of logistical reasons, company nights out are hard to organise, create a scheme where your department regularly has subsidized concert tickets or allow staff to leave early / come in late to make attending events feasible. This could work both ways, staff get a perk and organisations get a workforce that is more satisfied with life.

As artists find it harder to get revenues from singles or album sales (because of the aforementioned Spotify), more and more are now touring. There has never been a better time for live music. Encourage people to leave the playlists at home, pack their dancing shoes or air guitar and enjoy their music.