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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Travel Cuts? Boost Training and Collaboration Online

Hosting employee training can be an expensive proposition. Funding for travel and accommodations is often a significant part of the training budget. But we tend to approve the allocation of those travel-related funds because providing learners with the ability to collaborate during learning is such a key component of ensuring that learning sticks.

Online training is an attractive — and realistic — option because the need to travel (and spend money on that travel) is removed or reduced. Learners can engage in online training anytime, anywhere and on the device of choice. And with the features of the modern learning management system and the wide range of affordable and accessible technologies available, there is absolutely no reason that social, collaborative learning cannot be an integral part of the online training experience, too.

Weave Collaborative Learning Into Online Training

So, how do you incorporate that collaboration, communication and conversation that is so critical to the learning experience into online training programs? Be creative and weave in human-to-human touch points into online training — before, during and after the training program itself.

Consider the following ideas for creating those collaborative human-to-human touch points in online training.

1. Surveys and quizzes. Send pre-course surveys or quizzes...

How Americans Lost Track of One Founding Father's Definition of Success

When he retired from the printing business at the age of 42, Benjamin Franklin set his sights on becoming what he called a “Man of Leisure.” To modern ears, that title might suggest Franklin aimed to spend his autumn years sleeping in or stopping by the tavern, but to colonial contemporaries, it would have intimated aristocratic pretension. A “Man of Leisure” was typically a member of the landed elite, someone who spent his days fox hunting and affecting boredom. He didn’t have to work for a living, and, frankly, he wouldn’t dream of doing so.

Having worked as a successful shopkeeper with a keen eye for investments, Franklin had earned his leisure, but rather than cultivate the fine arts of indolence, retirement, he said, was “time for doing something useful.” Hence, the many activities of Franklin’s retirement: scientist, statesman, and sage, as well as one-man civic society for the city of Philadelphia. His post-employment accomplishments earned him the sobriquet of “The First American” in his own lifetime, and yet, for succeeding generations, the endeavor that was considered his most “useful” was the working life he left behind when he embarked on a life of leisure.

Franklin was...

How Much Sympathy Do Overwhelmed White-Collar Workers Deserve?

Over the past few decades, workers without college degrees have not only seen jobs disappear and wages stagnate—the jobs that remain have, all too often, gotten worse. Constant surveillance is common; schedules are erratic; escalating performance quotas exact faster work. But these trends, often thought to be confined to front-line workers, have creeped up corporate hierarchies, affecting managers and executives. That’s prompted a new controversy: Are white-collar workers victims of exploitation, or merely whining?

A devastating report on the work culture at Amazon’s headquarters recently reignited the debate. The New York Times’s August exposé, based on dozens of interviews, portrayed a firm with all the regimentation and rigidity of military boot camp, minus the esprit de corps. Workers routinely cried at their desks. Rather than being comforted or accommodated, sick employees were dumped into Orwellianly named “Performance Improvement Plans” that simply hastened their eventual departures. Faced with a comprehensive employee-ranking system, cabals of managers agreed to praise one another while talking down the performance of others. Amazon’s “collaborative feedback tool” encouraged a Panopticon of vicious feedback—and similar software may be coming to many more firms.

The Times story spurred predictable, justified outrage. No company...

6 Leadership Lessons From USAID

Of all the places I've worked in my life — and that includes the most demanding environments in the private sector — the U.S. Agency for International Development taught me how to be a leader. 

When I started working there, I'd spent seven years as a communicator in a large, well-funded, "command and control" law enforcement hierarchy. We didn't race to get things done; it was not unheard of to take several months to write an article.

USAID — located in the same building, oddly — was the polar opposite. Small, underfunded, constantly under siege, chaotic. Populated by government employees surrounded, supported and often challenged by an enormous swirling complicated web of partners.

You might think that such a tiny little place, with its tiny funding, would be more of a symbolic contributor to our nation's charitable values than anything else. Or, cynically, wonder out loud at their usefulness for PR. Perhaps even whether, as the Ben Affleck movie about the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis (Argo) speculated, the well-meaning "English teachers" are used as convenient spies.

All of that makes for an interesting conversation. But for me, as a student of leadership, management and organizational development, it belongs at...

7 New Books to Read This Fall

Here’s a preview of the exciting new books on work and psychology. Instead of just spouting their opinions, these authors bring us real data:

1. Presence by Amy Cuddy (December 29)

Building on her wildly popular TED talk about power posing, Cuddy explains how we can achieve greater success and sincerity by changing the way we carry ourselves. It’s a captivating, charming read on harnessing confidence and poise.

2. Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter (September 29)

As the first woman to direct policy planning at the U.S. State Department, Slaughter ignited a national conversation with her Atlantic piece on why women still can’t have it all. Now, she boldly examines how individuals and policymakers can create equality for men and women—at work and at home.

3. Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner (September 29)

One of the giants of behavioral science reveals how to improve at predicting the future. Find out how a farmer does a better job anticipating major world events than political and intelligence experts, and how we can all become smarter and wiser.

4. Friend and Foe by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer(September 29)

A fascinating look at cooperation and...