Friday, December 30, 2011

The Six 21st Century Skills You REALLY Need

Given the work that I do, I'm a sucker for skill lists. As our work worlds grow ever more complex and challenging, it seems that the skills themselves become more complex too.

Increasingly, though, I've begun to believe that these lists are distracting us from the real skills of success. While working with big data, operating in virtual teams and"cognitive load management"all sound great, I think there are far more fundamental skills we should be developing first.

My 21st Century Skills List

I think there are 6 fundamental skills we need to develop for success in this or any other century. I would also argue that we are not nearly as good at these skills as we think we are.

In no particular order, my 6 21st Century skills are:

  1. Self-Awareness

  2. Asking Questions

  3. Empathic Listening

  4. Authentic Conversation

  5. Reflection

  6. Seeking and working with multiple perspectives

Let's take a closer look.

1. Self-Awareness

We humans can be amazingly robotic. And by that I mean responding to commands and conditions without really questioning what we are doing or why we are doing it. This habit of going through life without really being aware of our own internal motivations, mental and emotional habits, assumptions and belief systems is remarkably common and remarkably damaging.

The first and most fundamental skill we need to develop is the ability to look inside to see how we respond to the external world. What are our values systems, assumptions and mental models? What strengths and gifts do we need to bring into the world? What are our habitual blind spots? What are our insecurities, vulnerabilities and sore points?

All of these aspects of ourselves, when they are unexamined and unacknowledged, contribute in major ways to our ability to function in the world. The more aware we are of our own mental and emotional processes, the more skilled we will be in all other areas.

2. Asking Questions

I agree with Seth Godin that as adults, it is often stunning how few questions we ask. I'm not sure why. Maybe we think we know the answers already. Or maybe we just lose our sense of curiosity and wonder about the world.

What I do know is that our ability to ask good questions is critical to success, not only professionally but in our personal lives as well. And it's a skill we have to cultivate and refine, because the questions we ask will frame the solutions we find.

We first need to re-learn the practice of questioning, period. Too often we accept what we are told, without going any further.

We also need to learn how to ask different kinds of questions--important questions, positive questions, reflective questions. We need to carefully cultivate and nurture our curiosity and use it to keep asking "why?," how?" and "what if?"

We need to look at how we ask questions, when we ask them and what kinds of questions we ask. Developing our ability to question, rather than to simply accept what is, is the foundation of growth and development. It is also at the heart of creativity and innovation.

3. Empathic Listening

Stephen Covey writes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that we should "first seek to understand." He calls this empathic listening and it is the most difficult form of listening for us to cultivate.  It is not waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can relate your story.  It is not listening to find places where you agree or disagree. It is something much deeper than that:
The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone; it's that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually.

Empathic listening involves much more than registering, reflecting, or even understanding the words that are said. Communications experts estimate, in fact, that only 10% of our communication is represented by the words we say. Another 30 percent is represented by our sounds, and 60% by our body language. In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also, and more importantly, listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel.

Raise your hand if you regularly engage in this form of listening. I know I don't, but that when I do, amazing things happen as a result. (See this excerpt for more on empathic listening)

4. Authentic Conversation

Creating the space for authentic, meaningful conversations is one of the most valuable skills we can develop. Last week I wrote about moving from being a hero to being a host and when I talk about authentic conversation, I mean our ability to act as a host and participant in deep, authentic discussions.

Conversations are how we learn and how we do our work. They are how we identify and solve problems and how we build collaboration and community. The capacity to create and hold the space for authentic discussion is under-valued and much needed in work and in our personal lives.

Self-awareness, questioning and empathic listening all contribute to our ability to engage in authentic, meaningful conversation. But there are other related skills and strategies we must employ.

Our ability to host and engage in authentic discussions is critical for success in and out of work.

5. Reflection

On one level, the ability to reflect on your actions and work could be considered part of self-awareness. However I see reflective practice as something related, but separate. Self-awareness is one thing we can develop through and as part of our reflective practices, but reflection also is a skill that can help us develop more technical expertise, too.

Reflection is both an internal, introspective process, as well as a social one. Reflection can happen alone or in groups. It can happen while we are in the midst of action, as well as after the fact.

Reflective practice helps us learn from experience and use our failures and mistakes as fodder for development, rather than for self-flagellation and blame. Reflective practitioners know what they don't know and can devise experiments and activities to help them continue developing.

The ability to adapt to ever-changing and more complex environments is directly related to our capacity to effectively reflect on what we do and how we do it.

6. Seeking and Working with Multiple Perspectives

Homophily--our human tendency to connect to people like ourselves--is both a blessing and a curse. It's important for us to find and connect to our tribes, yes. But we also benefit from our ability to seek out and work effectively with a diversity of perspectives and frames of reference. This is even more true in a global economy.

I've written before about combating homophily and even as I've become increasingly aware of the negative impact of connecting to only those people who share my perspectives, I still find it difficult to intentionally create space for working with multiple viewpoints. Like most people, I tend to see people who have a different worldview as being "others." I either want to convert them to my own viewpoint or ignore them, neither of which is beneficial.

As a 21st century skill, I think we have to look at not only how we listen to and engage with people who see the world differently, we also need to look at the strategies we use to find and connect with them in the first place. How intentional are we about diversifying our networks? How effective are we? And more importantly, how willing are we to be shaped and influenced by these differences?


From a career perspective, I think it is these 6 skills that offer the most "bang for your buck." They are the skills needed for success in all aspects of our lives (not just at work) and they are core to most other skillsets.

As I think about 2012 and how I want to develop myself, it is these core areas that I will focus on. What do think? How do these skills resonate with you? And what are you doing to develop them? 

This article was originally posted at

Health organizations not prepared for HIPAA audits

A new survey's report comes as federal authorities say they would expand enforcement of patient privacy and security requirements.

In July, the Dept. of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights made clear that it would start doing a better job at making sure entities covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act were taking the necessary steps to protect patient data and comply with patient privacy and security laws.

What have health care organizations been doing since then to prepare for the tighter enforcement? Not much, according to the results of a survey of more than 400 HIPAA compliance officers and health information management directors.

In November, HCPro, a health care regulation and compliance consultancy firm in Danvers, Mass., conducted a survey to gauge how prepared health care organizations are for a HIPAA audit. In a Dec. 2 blog post on the survey's findings, HCPro said it found that only 17% of those surveyed were fully prepared, and 70% said they were only "somewhat prepared." A full report on the survey's findings is scheduled to be published in January 2012.

These findings come just four months after the HHS Office for Civil Rights, the department tasked with enforcing HIPAA compliance, awarded a $9 million contract to the McLean, Va.-based consulting firm KPMG to create an audit program. It will verify that health care organizations, payers and business associates are prepared to meet strengthened HIPAA requirements that were laid out in the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. Part of KPMG's plan is to conduct random, on-site audits of 150 organizations by Dec. 31, 2012.

According to the contract, the site visits would include interviews with organization leaders such as chief information officers, privacy officers, legal counsel, health information management officers and medical records directors; an examination of the organization's physical features and operations, and its consistency in following policy; and observations of compliance with regulatory requirements.

Organization leaders told HCPro in its survey that they were not fully prepared for these audits for several reasons, including a lack of commitment to HIPAA compliance by senior management. One survey respondent, according to HCPro's blog posting, said most organizations say they don't have time to implement HIPAA regulations on a regular basis. "There needs to be an outside agency coming into the hospital and interviewing the employees on a regular basis," the respondent said.

Although the number of entities KPMG plans to audit is small compared with the number of HIPAA-covered entities in the U.S., any organization could be chosen, according to HHS. KPMG was instructed to audit a wide range of covered entities in terms of scope and size, and could include anyone from individual physicians to business associates.

Under the HIPAA Security Rules, organizations must complete a risk analysis and have policies in place detailing their approach to patient privacy and security and sanctions for those who do not comply. Experts say not only do organizations need to prepare those documents for the possibility of a random audit by KPMG, but the Office of Civil Rights also has the authority to conduct an audit based on complaints made by patients who feel their privacy was violated.

This article was originally posted at

Monday, December 26, 2011

Making Education Fun Through Game-Based Learning

Proponents say the nascent technology already is transforming the educational experience. Here’s how.

Like a lot of teachers, Lucas Gillispie had no problem with the textbook material he taught to his high school students. His biggest challenge during his seven years in the classroom was connecting with the teenagers in his classes.

His solution, it turned out, was right in front of him. Or, rather, on his own computer. “Video games were always a point of connection between me and my students,” Gillispie explains. “It was an easy topic of conversation — the spark that got things started for me at school.”

So when the game-loving teacher became the instructional technology coordinator for Pender County (N.C.) Schools three years ago, linking his two worlds in the curriculum seemed like a no-brainer. “I started looking at game-based learning [GBL] research,” he says, “and for ways to leverage video games in the classroom.” The district had already integrated technology, including interactive whiteboards, in its 16 schools, so energizing the elearning process via gaming wasn’t that radical an idea.

By May 2009, Gillispie was seeking buy-in from his district’s manage­ment team to give 15 Cape Fear Middle School ­students a chance to get ­together after school and play World of Warcraft (WOW), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) with more than 10 million ­subscribers. The idea was to link the game to things the ­students already were learning in their language arts classes. For example, one teacher related one of the students’ “quests” to The Hobbit, which they were reading and writing about in class. The team “understood the goal to reach disaffected kids,” he recalls. “They said, ‘We don’t ­understand the gaming jargon, but the focus is good for kids. Go for it.’ ”

Together with teachers and the school’s principal at the time, Edith Skipper, Gillispie identified students to invite and launched the program in fall 2009. Participants linked in to the game using school computers and quickly strengthened their language and problem-solving skills.

“We saw amazing things,” Gillispie says. “We had kids who increased their attendance and ­actually wanted to go to school so they wouldn’t miss the club [meeting]. We had kids with social communication issues improve through the program. The kids owned this project, and we encouraged them to set the direction.”

The program was so successful that at the end of the school year, the principal suggested expanding its reach. “She would come observe the students playing WOW and was amazed” by their enthusiasm, he says. “These were students who used to ‘check out’ in the classroom. She asked what we needed to do to take this to the next level and make it a part of the regular school day for more students.”

That summer, Gillispie and teacher Craig Lawson developed a curriculum to incorporate the game into eighth-grade language arts, reading and writing lessons at Cape Fear. Today, students play WOW every day.

Gillispie says the results have been just as remarkable, with ­students showing demonstrable ­improvement in these subject areas and in their leadership, teamwork, communications and citizenship skills. “I call it ninja teaching,” he explains. “Kids are learning, but they don’t realize they’re learning.”

97% Percentage of American children ages 12 to 17 who play video games SOURCE: Pew Internet & American Life Project

Embracing Gaming

Schools around the world are introducing computer-based GBL in the classroom, and for good reason: It’s a great way to engage students with something they participate in by choice during their downtime. “It’s a growing trend all across education,” says Larry Johnson, Ph.D., CEO of the New Media Consortium, which spearheads the annual Horizon Report: K–12 Edition. (In both 2010 and 2011, the report identified GBL as an emerging technology that will impact teaching and learning in the next two to three years.)

“Games are really ­effective for ­increasing the engagement level of lots of people,” Johnson explains. “We’re no longer ­thinking of games as something only kids do — we’re in our third generation of people who have grown up with these games.”

Quest to Learn, a New York City public school that’s based on the principles of game ­design and integration in the classroom, is one such example. “Each trimester, in each class, students are given a mission — a complex problem they can’t solve at that time,” Co-Director Arana Shapiro says of the 3-year-old school’s ­unconventional learning model, in which students play games to introduce and reinforce skills.

The designed quests that students embark upon are very sequenced, Shapiro continues, with each one giving them “a piece of information they need to solve the complex ­problem. Students ‘level up’ only ­after they complete each quest.”

The approach mirrors how many video games work, and is a natural way for educators to think, set and achieve goals for students who have grown up playing on their computers.

“The idea of play in learning has been around for a long time,” Shapiro says. “For some reason, it ends after early elementary school. What we’ve seen is that [GBL keeps] kids much more engaged than traditional ­learning. The ­content is the same; it’s a different vehicle to get them to the same place, and they get there with a deeper understanding.”

It’s not always easy, though. “We get push-back from people who think game play is too challenging or see it as entertainment, not education,” says Atsusi “2c” Hirumi, Ph.D., co-chair of the Instructional Design and Technology program at the University of Central Florida. “They worry that students may focus too much time on figuring out how to play and beat the game, rather than the educational content.”

But play is an ­important method for learning, Hirumi adds. “We play with objects and ­concepts to see how they work. If we mess up, it typically doesn’t hold serious ­consequences. Making failure fun is an ­important part of games and should also play a role in learning.”

There are other obstacles, though. One is cost: Game subscriptions are expensive. Teachers who don’t under­stand the technology’s learning benefits also can hinder its expansion.

Game On

Yet, GBL proponents remain hopeful about its future. Gillispie hopes to extend the curriculum he developed for Pender County middle schoolers to Heide Trask Senior High School, one of the district’s four high schools, this semester.

To maximize the benefits, gaming “needs to be embedded in everything we do,” he says. In Pender County, for example, students finish their quests and then journal about them during the school day. The teachers then grade or edit the journals and incorporate their comments into grammar and writing lessons.

“It’s fascinating to hear the kids excited about this,” Gillispie continues. “We have kids asking teachers if they’re going to take time over the weekend to put the next level up for them. We have kids logging in on Friday nights to finish their quests.”

Every once in a while, Gillispie is floored by the impact his efforts have had on students. “Our assistant superintendent recently got a phone call from one of our parents,” he says. “I thought the jig was up, ­because he said she had some ­concerns. But the concern was that her child is moving up to the high school next year and won’t have this program. She wanted to know what was going to keep him anchored and passionate about school. It broke my heart.”

Defining “Good” in Gaming

Acccording to research summarized by the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College, the best educational games share these five qualities:

  1. Continuous challenge: The game must present ­challenges that lead to other challenges to keep ­students hooked and moving forward.

  2. Interesting story line: This livens up the competition and makes players more motivated to succeed.

  3. Flexibility: Offering multiple ways to achieve each goal lets students work out their own strategies.

  4. Immediate, useful rewards: At the end of each ­challenge, successful players should be rewarded with new capabilities, a new area to explore or a new task. Such benefits are “surprisingly motivating,” experts say.

  5. Combining fun and realism: Good games incorporate fantasy with realistic qualities to keep kids engaged and thinking.

This article was originally posted at

Red Flags Rule Compliance: The Feds May Be The Least Of Your Concerns

After several false begins, the FTC has finally initiated enforcement of the Honest and Correct Credit Transactions Act’s, Crimson Red Flags Rule Compliance, and has placed the burden of policing identification theft activity squarely on the shoulders of both big and small businesses. However, the FTC could be the least of your issues if you happen to originate credit score for an identification thief as a result of attorneys across the country have been eagerly awaiting this dangerous and virtually inconceivable regulation. Your downside? Verifying the identification of your customer. If you don’t have required and accepted procedures in place to do so, it might cost you the whole lot you’ve got ever labored for. Your Required Crimson Flags Rule Policy & Program. First, your operation should develop and implement a Crimson Flags Rule Policy which should embody 4 required key elements in addition to other laws and points that must be addressed. To demonstrate the importance the FTC places on the Rule, your operation’s Board of Directors is required to approve your Crimson Flags Rule Policy and Program. For these operations with out a board, a committee of senior management should approve the preliminary Program and monitor it on an annual basis.

But don’t be misled! Simply downloading a “template” from the internet might presumably get you off the hook with the feds, nevertheless it in all probability will not suffice in litigation with an identification theft sufferer’s lawyer. Attorneys already view this regulation as a “cash cow”, and if one among your prospects points the finger at your organization as a result of somebody was using their identification unchallenged, relaxation assured the sufferer’s attorney will request your written Crimson Flags Rule Policy and documentation of required employees training. If you don’t have a Policy, or it is poorly written, the plaintiff will most likely allege a breach of responsibility to protect a shopper’s identification info, or in other phrases, “wilful non-compliance”, which is as bad as it sounds. Required Employees Compliance Training. The Rule additionally requires your operation to supply formal Crimson Flags Rule compliance training in your staff… and be capable to show it! If your thought of “training” is nothing more than permitting your employees to read your Policy, that faint odor of diesel gasoline you smell is from the bus about to run over you. Let’s be honest. The federal government is asking you to do the inconceivable to prevent identification theft. Your only protection, not if it occurs, but when it occurs, is that you have put forth a valid effort to prevent it from occurring.

Actually, virtually all compliance litigation, federal or civil, comes down to one basic question: “…did the business do the whole lot within cause to prevent this unlawful act from occurring, and if that’s the case, the place is the proof?” Any attorney price his pinstripes will tell you that there are two keys in a compliance litigation protection – periodic training and documentation. Your operation ought to prepare newly hired workers as part of their orientation, and all employees at the least every year, full with documentation, with a purpose to fend off the potential for huge fines, penalties and jury awards. The Identification Data Verification Process. The days of simply making a copy of a shopper’s driver’s license as a premise for identification verification are over. Throughout the Crimson Flags Rule, there are 26 listed potential pink flags dangers that designated institutions should contemplate when performing a lined transaction. In theory, if any of those flags exist within the identifying info introduced by an individual, what you are promoting should search outside third celebration sources to confirm the identification of the person. The problem is that virtually all of those potential pink flags are open to interpretation… in other phrases, a guess!

What one among your employees views as a pink flag, another employees member might not, and due to this fact your nicely-intentioned effort to grow to be compliant is undermined and may cost you. And if that is not enough to trigger you concern, there’s the potential for allegations of bias or discrimination if you happen to do not perform the same identification verification course of on every customer opening a new lined account. It isn’t exhausting to think about a plaintiff accusing what you are promoting of discrimination because you carried out an identification verification scan on them because of their ethnic heritage, and not on most Caucasians. Picture an identification theft sufferer’s attorney ripping through all your information within the discovery part of litigation like a kid attacking presents on Christmas morning. For what function, you ask? How about the fact that you carried out identification verification procedures on 80% of your minority candidates, but on 20% of the time for Caucasians. The smart thing is to take the guesswork out of trying to interpret pink flags in your customer’s identifying info by utilizing a compliant identification verification scan, and whereas we’re on this topic, it may not be wise to depend on the one included in your client’s credit score report.

The Rule requires identification verification from outside knowledge sources, or as the Rule states; “… cannot be from info contained in a shopper credit score report, or info typically contained in a wallet.” Authenticating Your Buyer’s Identification Through Challenge Questions. If you have not developed an involuntary twitch by now, this will put you over the edge. There’s a distinction between verifying the identifying info introduced by an individual, and really authenticating the identification of the individual presenting the information. For example, the person applying for a loan might in actual fact be an identification thief providing you with stolen information. The remedy is to concern “Challenge Questions” to authenticate that the individual is in actual fact whom they signify themselves to be. The questions ought to be framed in such a matter that only the individual whose identification is in question can answer, and in a well timed manner. And once more, in response to the Rule, these questions cannot be shaped from info contained in a shopper credit score report or info typically contained in a wallet, but from outside knowledge sources such as the SSN Verification Service, The SSN Demise Grasp File, state, federal, and international knowledge bases to verify DOB, all associated addresses, telephone number assignment, etc.

All of this might take a complete day for just one client, or maybe it is time to contemplate a compliant Identification Verification Service that additionally offers Challenge Questions. Both way, if you happen to concern Challenge Questions on one, it is best to do it on all to distance your self from allegations of bias and discrimination. Your Lender Relationship. The Crimson Flags Rule prices your lenders with the duty of ensuring your compliance with the Crimson Flags Rule, and beneath the Rule, they might do so by contract. This gives your lender the precise to inspect and audit your procedures at any time, and already Brokers across the country have been denied companies until they’re deemed by the lender to be compliant. Non-Compliance Fines And Penalties. The Federal Trade Commission has made it abundantly clear that compliance with the Crimson Flags Rule will not be merely a suggestion, and has indicated they may employ “rolling enforcement” to ensure this regulation will not be taken lightly. Assuming that “rolling enforcement” means unannounced investigations and audits, here is what you can sit up for in case you are discovered to be non-compliant:

  • Federal fines for non-compliance are up to $3,5000 per occurrence. In other phrases, if what you are promoting performs 1,000 non-compliant transactions in a year, the high-quality will be $3.5 million.

  • Your state attorney basic could possibly file class-motion fits beneath “unfair and deceptive acts and practices” theories which normally permit both actual and punitive damages.

  • You might be held accountable for actual losses of a sufferer ($92,893 average) if you can’t produce a substantial written Crimson Flags Rule Policy and documented proof of required employees training.

In Summary. It’s no secret the FTC intends to come down exhausting on non-compliant businesses in their rounds of “rolling enforcement”, but more importantly, non-public attorneys eagerly await your wilful non-compliance. The same proliferation of hi-tech software program to make businesses more efficient, can also be out there to the identification theft prison element to phony up driver’s licenses, tax data, utility bills, credit cards, etc., for the purpose of providing you with false identification information. It’s an inconceivable activity to prevent identification theft – you realize it, I do know it, and the federal government is aware of it, and your only protection is to place forth your finest effort to grow to be compliant, and once more, be capable to show it with documentation. Don’t make the mistake of pondering this regulation is impotent or will simply fade away.

The drumbeat from shoppers concerning identification theft grows louder every day, and surely more laws will observe together with the horror stories of these institutions discovered to be non-compliant. Make sure that one of those horror stories is not about you; the perfect chance for you to get it right is from the beginning. NOTE: The content material on this article will not be providing authorized advice and is intended as an preliminary resource guide only. Moreover, the content material will not be intended to answer specific questions or counsel suitability of motion in a selected case or circumstance. The author recommends the reader seek the advice of authorized counsel for guidance concerning this compliance issue.

This article was originally posted at

The Future of Moral Machines

A robot walks into a bar and says, “I’ll have a screwdriver.” A bad joke, indeed. But even less funny if the robot says “Give me what’s in your cash register.”

The fictional theme of robots turning against humans is older than the word itself, which first appeared in the title of Karel ńĆapek’s 1920 play about artificial factory workers rising against their human overlords. Just 22 years later, Isaac Asimov invented the “Three Laws of Robotics” to serve as a hierarchical ethical code for the robots in his stories: first, never harm a human being through action or inaction; second, obey human orders; last, protect oneself. From the first story in which the laws appeared, Asimov explored their inherent contradictions. Great fiction, but unworkable theory.
Machines are increasingly operating with minimal human oversight in the same physical spaces as we do.

¶The prospect of machines capable of following moral principles, let alone understanding them, seems as remote today as the word “robot” is old. Some technologists enthusiastically extrapolate from the observation that computing power doubles every 18 months to predict an imminent “technological singularity” in which a threshold for machines of superhuman intelligence will be suddenly surpassed. Many Singularitarians assume a lot, not the least of which is that intelligence is fundamentally a computational process. The techno-optimists among them also believe that such machines will be essentially friendly to human beings. I am skeptical about the Singularity, and even if “artificial intelligence” is not an oxymoron, “friendly A.I.” will require considerable scientific progress on a number of fronts.

The neuro- and cognitive sciences are presently in a state of rapid development in which alternatives to the metaphor of mind as computer have gained ground. Dynamical systems theory, network science, statistical learning theory, developmental psychobiology and molecular neuroscience all challenge some foundational assumptions of A.I., and the last 50 years of cognitive science more generally. These new approaches analyze and exploit the complex causal structure of physically embodied and environmentally embedded systems, at every level, from molecular to social. They demonstrate the inadequacy of highly abstract algorithms operating on discrete symbols with fixed meanings to capture the adaptive flexibility of intelligent behavior. But despite undermining the idea that the mind is fundamentally a digital computer, these approaches have improved our ability to use computers for more and more robust simulations of intelligent agents — simulations that will increasingly control machines occupying our cognitive niche. If you don’t believe me, ask Siri.

¶This is why, in my view, we need to think long and hard about machine morality. Many of my colleagues take the very idea of moral machines to be a kind of joke. Machines, they insist, do only what they are told to do. A bar-robbing robot would have to be instructed or constructed to do exactly that. On this view, morality is an issue only for creatures like us who can choose to do wrong. People are morally good only insofar as they must overcome the urge to do what is bad. We can be moral, they say, because we are free to choose our own paths.

There are big themes here: freedom of will, human spontaneity and creativity, and the role of reason in making good choices — not to mention the nature of morality itself. Fully human-level moral agency, and all the responsibilities that come with it, requires developments in artificial intelligence or artificial life that remain, for now, in the domain of science fiction. And yet…

Machines are increasingly operating with minimal human oversight in the same physical spaces as we do. Entrepreneurs are actively developing robots for home care of the elderly. Robotic vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers are already mass market items. Self-driving cars are not far behind. Mercedes is equipping its 2013 model S-Class cars with a system that can drive autonomously through city traffic at speeds up to 25 m.p.h. Google’s fleet of autonomous cars has logged about 200,000 miles without incident in California and Nevada, in conditions ranging from surface streets to freeways. By Google’s estimate, the cars have required intervention by a human co-pilot only about once every 1,000 miles and the goal is to reduce this rate to once in 1,000,000 miles. How long until the next bank robber will have an autonomous getaway vehicle?

This is autonomy in the engineer’s sense, not the philosopher’s. The cars won’t have a sense of free will, not even an illusory one. They may select their own routes through the city but, for the foreseeable future, they won’t choose their own paths in the grand journey from dealership to junkyard. We don’t want our cars leaving us to join the Peace Corps, nor will they any time soon. But as the layers of software pile up between us and our machines, they are becoming increasingly independent of our direct control. In military circles, the phrase “man on the loop” has come to replace “man in the loop,” indicating the diminishing role of human overseers in controlling drones and ground-based robots that operate hundreds or thousands of miles from base. These machines need to adjust to local conditions faster than can be signaled and processed by human tele-operators. And while no one is yet recommending that decisions to use lethal force should be handed over to software, the Department of Defense is sufficiently committed to the use of autonomous systems that it has sponsored engineers and philosophers to outline prospects (.pdf report, 108 pages) for ethical governance of battlefield machines.

Joke or not, the topic of machine morality is here to stay. Even modest amounts of engineered autonomy make it necessary to outline some modest goals for the design of artificial moral agents. Modest because we are not talking about guidance systems for the Terminator or other technology that does not yet exist. Necessary, because as machines with limited autonomy operate more often than before in open environments, it becomes increasingly important to design a kind of functional morality that is sensitive to ethically relevant features of those situations. Modest, again, because this functional morality is not about self-reflective moral agency — what one might call “full” moral agency — but simply about trying to make autonomous agents better at adjusting their actions to human norms. This can be done with technology that is already available or can be anticipated within the next 5 to 10 years.

The project of designing artificial moral agents provokes a wide variety of negative reactions, including that it is preposterous, horrendous, or trivial. My co-author Wendell Wallach and I have been accused of being, in our book “Moral Machines,” unimaginatively human-centered in our views about morality, of being excessively optimistic about technological solutions, and of putting too much emphasis on engineering the machines themselves rather than looking at the whole context in which machines operate.

In response to the charge of preposterousness, I am willing to double down. Far from being an exercise in science fiction, serious engagement with the project of designing artificial moral agents has the potential to revolutionize moral philosophy in the same way that philosophers’ engagement with science continuously revolutionizes human self-understanding. New insights can be gained from confronting the question of whether and how a control architecture for robots might utilize (or ignore) general principles recommended by major ethical theories. Perhaps ethical theory is to moral agents as physics is to outfielders — theoretical knowledge that isn’t necessary to play a good game. Such theoretical knowledge may still be useful after the fact to analyze and adjust future performance.

Even if success in building artificial moral agents will be hard to gauge, the effort may help to forestall inflexible, ethically-blind technologies from propagating. More concretely, if cars are smart enough to navigate through city traffic, they are certainly smart enough to detect how long they have been parked outside a bar (easily accessible through the marriage of G.P.S. and the Internet) and to ask you, the driver, to prove you’re not drunk before starting the engine so you can get home. For the near term (say, 5 to 10 years), a responsible human will still be needed to supervise these “intelligent” cars, so you had better be sober. Does this really require artificial morality, when one could simply put a breathalyzer between key and ignition? Such a dumb, inflexible system would have a kind of operational morality in which the engineer has decided that no car should be started by person with a certain blood alcohol level. But it would be ethically blind — incapable, for instance, of recognizing the difference between, on the one hand, a driver who needs the car simply to get home and, on the other hand, a driver who had a couple of drinks with dinner but needs the car because a 4-year old requiring urgent medical attention is in the back seat.

It is within our current capacities to build machines that are able to determine, based on real-time information about current traffic conditions and access to actuarial tables, how likely it is that this situation might lead to an accident. Of course, this only defers the ethical question of how to weigh the potential for harm that either option presents, but a well-designed system of human-machine interaction could allow for a manual override to be temporarily logged in a “black-box” similar to those used on airplanes. In case of an accident this would provide evidence that the person had taken responsibility. Just as we can envisage machines with increasing degrees of autonomy from human oversight, we can envisage machines whose controls involve increasing degrees of sensitivity to things that matter ethically. Not perfect machines, to be sure, but better.


Does this talk of artificial moral agents overreach, contributing to our own dehumanization, to the reduction of human autonomy, and to lowered barriers to warfare? If so, does it grease the slope to a horrendous, dystopian future? I am sensitive to the worries, but optimistic enough to think that this kind of techno-pessimism has, over the centuries, been oversold. Luddites have always come to seem quaint, except when they were dangerous. The challenge for philosophers and engineers alike is to figure out what should and can reasonably be done in the middle space that contains somewhat autonomous, partly ethically-sensitive machines. Some may think the exploration of this space is too dangerous to allow. Prohibitionists may succeed in some areas — robot arms control, anyone? — but they will not, I believe, be able to contain the spread of increasingly autonomous robots into homes, eldercare, and public spaces, not to mention the virtual spaces in which much software already operates without a human in the loop. We want machines that do chores and errands without our having to monitor them continuously. Retailers and banks depend on software controlling all manner of operations, from credit card purchases to inventory control, freeing humans to do other things that we don’t yet know how to construct machines to do.

Where’s the challenge, a software engineer might ask? Isn’t ethical governance for machines just problem-solving within constraints? If there’s fuzziness about the nature of those constraints, isn’t that a philosophical problem, not an engineering one? Besides, why look to human ethics to provide a gold standard for machines? My response is that if engineers leave it to philosophers to come up with theories that they can implement, they will have a long wait, but if philosophers leave it to engineers to implement something workable they will likely be disappointed by the outcome. The challenge is to reconcile these two rather different ways of approaching the world, to yield better understanding of how interactions among people and contexts enable us, sometimes, to steer a reasonable course through the competing demands of our moral niche. The different kinds of rigor provided by philosophers and engineers are both needed to inform the construction of machines that, when embedded in well-designed systems of human-machine interaction, produce morally reasonable decisions even in situations where Asimov’s laws would produce deadlock.

This essay is the subject of this week’s forum discussion among the humanists and scientists at On the Human, a project of the National Humanities Center.)

This article was originally posted at

Friday, December 23, 2011

Health organizations not prepared for HIPAA audits

A new survey's report comes as federal authorities say they would expand enforcement of patient privacy and security requirements.

In July, the Dept. of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights made clear that it would start doing a better job at making sure entities covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act were taking the necessary steps to protect patient data and comply with patient privacy and security laws.

What have health care organizations been doing since then to prepare for the tighter enforcement? Not much, according to the results of a survey of more than 400 HIPAA compliance officers and health information management directors.

In November, HCPro, a health care regulation and compliance consultancy firm in Danvers, Mass., conducted a survey to gauge how prepared health care organizations are for a HIPAA audit. In a Dec. 2 blog post on the survey's findings, HCPro said it found that only 17% of those surveyed were fully prepared, and 70% said they were only "somewhat prepared." A full report on the survey's findings is scheduled to be published in January 2012.

These findings come just four months after the HHS Office for Civil Rights, the department tasked with enforcing HIPAA compliance, awarded a $9 million contract to the McLean, Va.-based consulting firm KPMG to create an audit program. It will verify that health care organizations, payers and business associates are prepared to meet strengthened HIPAA requirements that were laid out in the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. Part of KPMG's plan is to conduct random, on-site audits of 150 organizations by Dec. 31, 2012.

According to the contract, the site visits would include interviews with organization leaders such as chief information officers, privacy officers, legal counsel, health information management officers and medical records directors; an examination of the organization's physical features and operations, and its consistency in following policy; and observations of compliance with regulatory requirements.

Organization leaders told HCPro in its survey that they were not fully prepared for these audits for several reasons, including a lack of commitment to HIPAA compliance by senior management. One survey respondent, according to HCPro's blog posting, said most organizations say they don't have time to implement HIPAA regulations on a regular basis. "There needs to be an outside agency coming into the hospital and interviewing the employees on a regular basis," the respondent said.

Although the number of entities KPMG plans to audit is small compared with the number of HIPAA-covered entities in the U.S., any organization could be chosen, according to HHS. KPMG was instructed to audit a wide range of covered entities in terms of scope and size, and could include anyone from individual physicians to business associates.

Under the HIPAA Security Compliance Rules, organizations must complete a risk analysis and have policies in place detailing their approach to patient privacy and security and sanctions for those who do not comply. Experts say not only do organizations need to prepare those documents for the possibility of a random audit by KPMG, but the Office of Civil Rights also has the authority to conduct an audit based on complaints made by patients who feel their privacy was violated.

Survey Says, People are Really into their iPads

According to a recent online survey done by Software Usability Research Laboratory, 83.65 percent of iPad users are satisfied with their tablet, with 62 percent rating user-friendliness as “excellent. No wonder Apple’s newest device has the top-selling tablet in the world for almost two years.

From the participants surveyed, there were more first generation iPad owners than there were iPad 2 owners. Fifty-two percent of participants said they only bring their iPad with them when they are traveling, while 21 percent bring it everywhere they go.

The percentage of users that hoard their precious tablet and those who share with at least one other person is almost split down the middle with 58 percent and 42 percent respectively.

On a daily basis, participants surveyed use the iPad to browse the web first and foremost with email reading close behind. According to this survey, people aren’t taking advantage of what amazing things Apple’s tablet has to offer.  Sixty-five to 85 percent of users said they never having created music, edited photos, chatted or taken pictures with their iPad.

Included with this survey were questions relating to participants preference for apps. The most like app was the Safari browser followed by Flipboard and Dropbox. When asked what apps they liked the least, respondents picked the iTunes app.
Users described the stock iTunes application as slow, complex, inferior to the desktop version, and lacking the ability to remove the application from the device.

Based on responses from a study done a year ago by the same company, Apple listens to its customers. In the previous survey, participants mentioned that the least liked feature of the first generation iPad was the lack of camery and multitasking ability. With the iPad 2, a camera was included and all iOS devices are now multitasking capable.


MGMA Calls for New Contingency Plan for HIPAA 5010 Transaction Standards

The Department of Health and Human Services should “immediately” issue an expanded contingency plan on the transition to the new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Version 5010 electronic transaction standards, since many practices and state Medicaid agencies are not ready for the transition, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) recommended Dec. 19.

According to the latest research from MGMA, many state Medicaid plans are unable to accept Version 5010 claims and “a significant number of practices” have not yet completed the software upgrades and health plan testing needed for the transition.

The new contingency measures should permit health plans to continue accepting HIPAA Version 4010 transactions and resolve Version 5010 claims that lack all the required data. Additionally, this contingency plan should last for a minimum of six months, MGMA said.

Currently, the compliance date for implementation of these standards is Jan. 1, 2012.

“We have been tracking the Version 5010 coordination between physician practices and their key trading partners throughout 2011 and it is clear that a significant number of these stakeholders are not ready to meet the January 1 compliance date,” Susan Turney, president and chief executive officer of MGMA, said in a statement. “Our main concern is that the failure to implement Version 5010 by the compliance date will impact payment to practices for the services they provide.”

“We oppose requiring the submission of a transition plan and timeline as a needless bureaucratic exercise that adds to the workload of the providers who have to produce them and the government employees who have to review them,” she said.

Implementation of Version 5010 is a prerequisite for using the updated International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10) Clinical Modification diagnosis and ICD-10-PCS inpatient procedure code set in electronic health care transactions effective Oct. 1, 2013.

On Nov. 14, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that it would not initiate enforcement of the new HIPAA transaction standards until March 31, 2012 (see previous article).
Additional MGMA Findings

According to findings from a survey conducted by MGMA and the American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE), 32 percent of study respondents reported that their organizations' practice management system software has been upgraded to the HIPAA Version 5010 standards and that internal testing was complete.

Nearly 25 percent of those respondents indicated that either their software has not yet been upgraded or that testing is not even scheduled, the release said.

Additionally, less than 18 percent of respondents to the survey said they have completed testing with their Medicaid plans, and 79 percent of study respondents indicated that testing with all major commercial health plans remains incomplete.

Overall, the study found that less than 14 percent of respondents rate their 5010 implementation status as fully complete.

NASA Challenges Students to Train Like Astronauts

Everybody knows that if you want to be an astronaut, you need to have top-notch math and science skills. But astronauts also need the strength and muscle coordination to navigate a zero-gravity environment, so even the best students can't cut it at NASA unless their bodies are in top shape, too. To help the next generation of students become physically and mentally prepared to be astronauts, NASA is taking a page out of First Lady Michelle Obama's fitness playbook and launching the Train Like an Astronaut project.

The program, which is developed by the same NASA scientists and fitness professionals that work with current astronauts, provides "structured, hands-on science activities" and connects "physical Earth-based needs to the requirements of exploring space." Each mission—"Do a Spacewalk," for example—contains a student-friendly "mission briefing, mission assignment, and mission purpose, plus vocabulary and related NASA facts," as well as information about proper nutrition. The missions and corresponding teachers' guides are downloadable in both English and Spanish, and are aligned with health and physical fitness education standards.

Charles Lloyd, NASA's human research program education and outreach manager, says one of NASA's goals is "to inspire our youth to stay in school and master professions in the sciences and engineering fields" so they can carry on the important work of space exploration. Let's hope Train Like an Astronaut catches on in schools so we can ensure there's a next generation of fit explorers.

This article was originally posted at

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This Year?s 10 Best TED Talks To Share With Students

In honor of the recent TED Live announcement, I thought it’d be a good idea to remind you why TED rocks. Below is just a small fraction of the amazing presentations put on by the folks over at TED. Each one of the presentations embedded below is perfect for sharing with students and showing in class*. Heck, assigning the viewing of these TED talks as homework isn’t a bad idea.

Do you use TED in the classroom? I’d love to hear about it if you did and I know the rest of the Edudemic community would too! Let everyone know about it in the comments.

*There are of course many more presentations but I picked these because I thought they resonated with me and would do the same with students.

Philip Zimbardo: The Demise of Guys?
Philip Zimbardo was the leader of the notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment — and an expert witness at Abu Ghraib. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo asks, “Why are boys struggling?” He shares some stats (lower graduation rates, greater worries about intimacy and relationships) and suggests a few reasons — and challenges the TED community to think about solutions.

Pavan Sukhdev: Put A Value On Nature!
A banker by training, Pavan Sukhdev runs the numbers on greening up — showing that green economies are an effective engine for creating jobs and creating wealth. Every day, we use materials from the earth without thinking, for free. But what if we had to pay for their true value: would it make us more careful about what we use and what we waste? Think of Pavan Sukhdev as nature’s banker — assessing the value of the Earth’s assets.

Annie Murphy Paul: What We Learn Before We’re Born
Pop quiz: When does learning begin? Answer: Before we are born. Science writer Annie Murphy Paul talks through new research that shows how much we learn in the womb — from the lilt of our native language to our soon-to-be-favorite foods. Annie Murphy Paul investigates how life in the womb shapes who we become.

Joe Sabia: The Technology of Storytelling
Joe Sabia investigates new ways to tell stories — meshing viral video and new display technologies with old-fashioned narrative. iPad storyteller Joe Sabia introduces us to Lothar Meggendorfer, who created a bold technology for storytelling: the pop-up book. Sabia shows how new technology has always helped us tell our own stories, from the walls of caves to his own onstage iPad.

Allan Jones: A Map of the Brain
As CEO of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Allan Jones leads an ambitious project to build an open, online, interactive atlas of the human brain. How can we begin to understand the way the brain works? The same way we begin to understand a city: by making a map. In this visually stunning talk, Allan Jones shows how his team is mapping which genes are turned on in each tiny region, and how it all connects up.

Yves Rossy: Fly With the Jetman
With a jet-powered wing attached to his body, Yves Rossy expands the possibilities of human flight. Strapped to a jet-powered wing, Yves Rossy is the Jetman — flying free, his body as the rudder, above the Swiss Alps and the Grand Canyon. After a powerful short film shows how it works, Rossy takes the TEDGlobal stage to share the experience and thrill of flying.

Ben Kacyra: Ancient Wonders Captured in 3D
Ben Kacyra uses state-of-the-art technology to preserve cultural heritage sites and let us in on their secrets in a way never before possible. Ancient monuments give us clues to astonishing past civilizations — but they’re under threat from pollution, war, neglect. Ben Kacyra, who invented a groundbreaking 3D scanning system, is using his invention to scan and preserve the world’s heritage in archival detail. (Watch to the end for a little demo.)

Jay Bradner: Open-Source Cancer Research
In his lab, Jay Bradner, a researcher at Harvard and Dana Farber in Boston, works on a breakthrough approach for subverting cancer .. and he’s giving the secret away. How does cancer know it’s cancer? At Jay Bradner’s lab, they found a molecule that might hold the answer, JQ1 — and instead of patenting JQ1, they published their findings and mailed samples to 40 other labs to work on. An inspiring look at the open-source future of medical research.

Todd Kuiken: A Prosthetic Arm That “Feels”
A doctor and engineer, Todd Kuiken builds new prosthetics that connect with the human nervous system. Yes: bionics. Physiatrist and engineer Todd Kuiken is building a prosthetic arm that connects with the human nervous system — improving motion, control and even feeling. Onstage, patient Amanda Kitts helps demonstrate this next-gen robotic arm.

Pamela Meyer: How to Spot a Liar
Pamela Meyer thinks we’re facing a pandemic of deception, but she’s arming people with tools that can help take back the truth. On any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times, and the clues to detect those lie can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, shows the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception — and she argues honesty is a value worth preserving.

Source: Edudemic

The learning cycle and the power of asynchronous learning activities

When grappling with the concept of learning I often talk about the importance of reflection.  However, another key concept is asynchronicity (I'm not entirely sure that's a word).  I've reflected on this previously withinAsynchronous = Time and Space Learning.  In that post I talked about how learning is more likely to occur when given time and space.  I wanted to tease this out a bit more in relation to learning itself.

Learning is hard, really hard.  It's a skill just to recognise when it's happening and cultivate it effectively.  Often, the pain associated with it is viewed negatively.  But the pain needs to gritted out because this is an important stage of the process.  Marilyn Taylor characterised learning as a continuous process of disorientation, exploration, reorientation and equilibrium (see p53 of this).  It's a cycle and the desired state is multiple loops through the cycle.  For every stage the flexibility, time and space offered by asynchronous learning activities is preferable to a purely synchronous involvement from formal education.  Of course, for synchronous learning events you always have the time afterwards to reflect.  But if you have a formal learning experience where everything is synchronous, the asynchronous times the learner has alone are not facilitated, not supported and without structured communication or collaboration when they need it the most.  You may be thinking "so what" but this is the point of formal education - to structure, facilitate and, in some senses, manufacture the learning.  When you structure in asynchronous learning activities through the various guises of learning technology tools and carefully facilitate such activities the stages of Taylor's cycle are given the best chance of being rowed through by the learner.  It's easy for learners to capsize in the first time they encourage the disorientation stage and they'll keep doing this every time they encounter it.  Pretty soon they shy away from the mental states associated with the learning cycle.

I think this has contributed to the a vast mass of humans who don't really know how to learn properly.  They grew up on a diet of synchronous learning and the difficult process of moving through the learning cycle wasn't supported in any way.  The tragedy is they carry it through their adult life and have trouble becoming lifelong learners thus inhibiting their potential.  I am still honing my learning skills but I keep trying and am able to support the process through various social media tool (like this one).  BTW, learning overall is great.  The "ah ha" moments are worth the pain.  It's a bit like going for a run but that metaphor can wait for another posting.

A couple of asterisks to this post.  There is, of course, a lot of literature out there on learning theories and models.  For this post, I chose one that describe a process I recognise.  Also, the statement: "there are vast mass of humans who don't really know how to learn" is based on anecdotal evidence.  I think I have a somewhat informed decision but would welcome insights from others on this.

This article was originally posted at

The 80/20 Rule for Learning Transfer

To ensure learning transfer requires learning leaders to make specific provisions before an event starts.

If 10 CLOs were asked how best to increase the value of learning, almost all would say the same thing: Increase the amount of learning transfer in the workplace. However, if the same CLOs were asked about their own learning transfer success, they likely will express disappointment.

The lack of learning transfer has been a long-standing issue in the learning community, and research on how to increase it is both complex and contradictory. If CLOs followed typical advice, they could add hundreds of components to their learning programs, put an undue burden on learners, managers and training professionals and more than double the investment they make in each skill development effort, not to mention ruin their budgets.

The Rule of Three: Practical and Effective
There is a less costly approach to increase the desired learning transfer. A focused and practical approach has emerged from extensive research conducted during the past several years. This research, 2009’s “Exploring Trends in Human Resource Development: Bridging the Research-Practice Gap” and 2010’s “Learning Transfer: What Organizations Are Doing To Drive Enhancing Learning Effectiveness,” was reported in Industrial and Commercial Training, Human Resource Development Review and other professional and research publications. It shows significant increases in the use of skills resulting from well-designed, efficient learning transfer activities. These activities, when analyzed to determine which had the greatest impact on improved performance, indicate actions organizations can take to increase the application of new learning on the job, deliver business results and improve ROI.

The research identified 11 core activities that create a meaningful increase in learning transfer. These activities meet the 80/20 rule: They represent the 20 percent of learning transfer activities that create 80 percent of the impact. Based on results from a wide variety of organizations, the research showed learning transfer can be increased by as much as 180 percent, with only modest cost increases.

To simplify research results, 11 factors were consolidated into three critical areas where organizations can improve learning transfer. If a learning initiative is designed to address these three elements, its impact can be significantly increased. The three elements are: learner readiness, design for transfer and organizational alignment.

Learner readiness: It would seem obvious that learners need to be prepared to learn if their learning experience is to be effective. Yet few organizations pay enough attention to motivation, enthusiasm and positive anticipation prior to a learning session. Learner readiness is about ensuring that learners see the relevance and payoffs of new skills and are confident they can use their learning on the job. The aforementioned research showed that addressing these elements can increase transfer by as much as 70 percent.

Autodesk, a 3D design, engineering and entertainment software company, provides an example. Its learning organization launched an initiative to increase consulting skills for its sales force. Among other actions, the company implemented a plan to prepare salespeople and technical specialists for learning.

To kick off the initiative, employees received an email with a link to a fast-paced, YouTube-like introduction to the upcoming learning event. The introduction provided an overview of the content, but also delivered a clear message about the potential impact of the new skills on participants’ sales success and the motivation necessary to fully engage in the learning. Following the introduction, participants completed a self-assessment based on their current strengths and greatest opportunities for improvement.

“The pre-work preparation created a foundation for success, letting the learners know that they had something to contribute as well as something to learn,” said Starr Hill-Bennett, Autodesk global program manager of worldwide sales and services training. “The results showed that when learners attended the core skills workshop, they were focused, motivated and ready to take advantage of their learning. Also, the up-front readiness component allowed us to move more quickly into skills and finish with an Autodesk-specific case study focused on application.”

Starting the learning experience before the planned sessions, and doing so in a way that engaged the learner’s interest and participation — specifically, the Autodesk training staff used technology to deliver the preparation activities to each individual’s desk — ensured learners had some “skin in the game” before they took part in the core learning program.

Design for transfer: Too often, learning and development staff members focus exclusively on the learning event and its objectives — the traditional concerns of instructional design. They pay little attention to opportunities to build in a variety of transfer elements such as structured follow-up activities, creation of specific action plans, or opportunities to practice behavioral models. Without these elements, performance outcomes can suffer.

Major Hammell, senior director of sales force effectiveness for Georgia-Pacific, said this shift from the traditional point of view to a focus on the expected business impact of a learning initiative is critical. “In the past we used the instructional design process to focus on what happened in the event — the learning objectives and activities. So, this time we turned it on its head and asked, ‘What will it take to achieve the performance outcomes we want?’”

The result of this design focus was sales training that emphasized not just the event — a workshop — but also actions to support use of the skills in the field. For example, the new sales skills were incorporated into a sales planning form that was implemented in Georgia-Pacific’s CRM system. Learners used the form to select a specific sales opportunity to which they would apply their new skills. Sales teams also practiced skills in a simulation and received feedback.

The workshop was followed by 12 weekly messages pushed out to learners and managers through an automated email system managed by the sales force effectiveness team. Each message included a review of a skill, tips for application and links to games and videos to further enhance interest. Importantly, the design included manager involvement. Sales directors also received materials and Web-based coaching on how to conduct a review “meeting in a box.”

“These activities really serve as immediate and ongoing reinforcement of the learning experience and significantly improve our efforts to enhance sales capability for the long term,” Hammell said.

The Georgia-Pacific experience illustrates the power of focusing design efforts on actual performance outcomes. Building in a variety of relevant activities before the event allows an audience to embrace and use new skills prior to attending the workshop. Continued reinforcement and application activities post-event ensured participants make the new learning part of their everyday job activities.

Organizational alignment: Most executives are busy, so learning leaders often experience challenges gaining executives’ and managers’ involvement. Yet organizational alignment is one of the most critical aspects to increase learning transfer. By securing executive sponsorship, engaging managers and encouraging peer support, the organization can create a learning culture. With such a culture in place, the aforementioned research indicates it is possible to increase learning transfer by more than 90 percent.

Work by the learning organization at Clean Harbors demonstrates how to achieve alignment. The hazardous waste disposal company and provider of environmental, energy and industrial services has been growing rapidly, and it found a need to merge cultures from new acquisitions and create a unified sales force.

To achieve this objective, the Clean Harbors learning organization initiated a project to provide all salespeople with a common set of skills and processes. Sarah Mitchell, vice president of the sales operations, said it was clear from the beginning that organizational alignment was critical to success. As a first step, the project team conducted interviews with executive stakeholders, focusing on critical success factors and identifying potential barriers to success. The results were used to craft a message for the field highlighting the initiative’s strategic importance.

The interviews were the key to gaining executive involvement in kicking off the workshops in person and winning commitment from front-line managers to provide coaching and support. Managers met with their salespeople before the workshop to set learning and performance goals, and many managers chose to participate in the workshop.

After the workshop, managers received weekly coaching tips and resources to support effective coaching. “Manager involvement was critical to our success,” Mitchell said. “Without them we would not have seen the level of improvement in sales that we experienced.”

The Clean Harbors team put forth extra effort up front, but providing the initial support and ongoing coaching and reinforcement needed to deliver real results paid off. The organizational alignment achieved was critical to delivering the expected performance outcomes.

Alcatel-Lucent, a telecommunications technology company, offers a final example. Becoming a single global organization and providing world-class customer service are high priorities for Alcatel-Lucent. Ensuring employees use their global effectiveness skills is a critical part of breaking down barriers.

To meet these needs, the company implemented a global effectiveness skills development program. When the skills development initiative was rolled out, it was enhanced with real-world job application activities, post-session reinforcement messages and practice role-plays to support learning transfer.

The program confirmed the importance of global awareness skills and the value of learning transfer activities. “With global awareness, our employees are more effective in cross-cultural business relationships, and the learning transfer activities helped employees use the skills more extensively,” said Parinaz Sekechi, a learning consultant for Alcatel-Lucent University.

Learning Transfer — So Worth It
Virtually every learning leader seeks to demonstrate the value of learning initiatives. Where number of participants was once seen as a measure of success, today there is greater demand to show solid ROI and business impact. Investing in learning transfer yields big returns.

The CLO should require that any major learning initiative include plans for learning transfer activities focusing on the three major areas: learner readiness, design for transfer and organizational alignment. The examples presented here did require additional time and effort, but the use of technology and successful recruitment of managers as coaches greatly reduces the time commitment by staff, while increasing the likelihood of success.

While long-term, large-scale strategic initiatives have a place, they often become so time-consuming and burdensome they never reach fruition. The cases discussed here offer examples of how organizations increased learning transfer on the job on a program-by-program basis. The outcomes these companies experienced show that a less-is-more approach can help zero in on actions that are quick, specific and easy to execute. By focusing on the 20 percent of actions that produce 80 percent of the returns, learning organizations can sustain a high level of effectiveness and business impact with every initiative they undertake.

Michael Leimbach is vice president of global research and design for Wilson Learning Worldwide, and Ed Emde is president for Wilson Learning Corp. They can be reached at

This article was originally posted at

Monday, December 12, 2011

5 tips for 11th hour HIPAA 5010 compliance

Like sand through an hourglass, time is trickling down to the HIPAA 5010 deadline. CMS recently granted the industry a grace period for transitioning to HIPAA 5010, but those grains of sand are dwindling ever faster, and there’s no time to lose for payers and providers still working toward compliance.

Even with the “enforcement-free” period, payers and providers who miss the original January 1, 2012 deadline aren’t off the hook. CMS plans to continue holding them responsible and will require them to provide evidence of their good-faith efforts to meet the federal mandate during the 90-day window.

This isn’t our first time running up against a HIPAA deadline. During the transition to HIPAA 4010, we saw many organizations develop contingency plans to operate beyond the deadline without achieving compliance. Unfortunately, many are still operating from contingency plans more than six years later. No deadlines were enforced back then, and as we approach the HIPAA 5010 deadline, CMS is working to counter the same attitude — as well as the same problem.

The big picture here is that HIPAA is crucial to administrative simplification, and continuing to accept long-running contingency plans as the status quo defeats the whole purpose and eliminates the value. The 90-day grace period for HIPAA 5010 shouldn’t be viewed as the latest example of an “always-provide-a-contingency-plan” mindset. Rather, with this extension, CMS has signaled it is in tune with the industry (more so now than with HIPAA 4010) and understands its current state of readiness to comply. As such, all of us should understand that CMS expects full HIPAA 5010 compliance by March 2012.

All of this implies that there’s a lot to accomplish in a short period of time for many payers and providers. Given the unimpressive number of HIPAA 5010 submitters, the meager volume of transactions currently taking place, and other testing data that reflects the industry's underwhelming efforts to date, it will be an uphill climb for some organizations. Many are still waiting on software upgrades — stuck in limbo and unable to progress toward the finish line. Whatever the holdup, compliance will require full cooperation between trading partners. Both internally and externally, it’s now an all-hands-on-deck effort to accomplish this task on time.

The following tips should help your organization make the most of the time that’s left:

1. Expand Your Use of Automation
Organizations that haven’t started internal testing should consider how best to automate both internal and external testing processes. By doing so, they will ensure consistent coverage across both types of testing and complete them in a shorter time span. Keep in mind, not every scenario can be tested, even with automation. Given time constraints, it’s vitally important to triage scenarios and prioritize those that will cause the greatest pain if not done correctly in production.

2. Conduct Concurrent Internal and External Testing
In an ideal world, it would be nice to complete internal testing prior to going outside the organization, but given time constraints, it’s no longer practical. Payers and providers should work together to allow internal and external testing to happen at the same time. The key to success is ongoing communication among teams during concurrent testing. Organizations will need to understand the root cause of each failure and identify whether the point of failure was due to internal or external issues.

3. Prioritize External Testing Based on Complexity
External testing is critical, but it can also be labor-intensive if you haven’t laid the right groundwork with internal testing. If you don’t have the luxury of completing internal testing before starting testing with trading partners, it’s a good idea to start with those who have simpler edits and easier issue resolution processes. That way, you can level-load your resources. While you’re still ironing out internal kinks, you can conduct external testing without overburdening your staff. If possible, wait to begin testing more complex trading partner relationships only once the majority of internal testing is complete. As time goes on, testing should become more of a “lather, rinse, repeat” model, rather than time-consuming efforts to troubleshoot and research appropriate issue resolution.

4. Establish a Business Readiness Plan and Triage Team
Very few healthcare organizations have unlimited time and resources available for HIPAA 5010 testing. Given those constraints, it’s reasonable to assume some issues will crop up in production, and organizations need to be prepared to handle them. Payers and providers should dedicate resources to handle these issues and have resolution processes in place prior to going live with 5010. The pain of mapping out the process after a problem rears its ugly head is immense, so take the time to figure it out beforehand. Part of the plan should also include a vendor warranty and support for a set period, so production problems aren’t treated with fast fixes that won’t resolve the underlying issue. Otherwise, the problems never go away, and they always cause more ongoing work for office staff.

5. Start Testing – Even if Things Aren’t Perfect
Testing is often an iterative process. That means even getting started in one area can yield benefits. For example, if a provider is still waiting for its practice management vendor to update their software, it could work with trading partners to get test response files; e.g., 835, 276, or 271. The team can evaluate the changes manually to identify issues and address them with the trading partner ahead of time. Time is of the essence here — and there is none to lose. Any testing that can be done now, should be done now, even if scenarios are not perfect and complete.

As the clock ticks closer to the 11th hour, it’s critical that the industry make a concentrated, collective effort toward successful HIPAA 5010 testing and transition. Even with a 90-day grace period, the entire industry — CMS, providers and payers — needs to collectively acknowledge that by dragging this process out any longer, we will continue to plod along in ruts of our own making. And we’ll continue to suffer from increasingly unbearable administrative burdens, making the concept of regulatory migration worthless.
HIPAA upgrades will not end with 5010. It’s in the best interests of both payers and providers to get all hands on deck and seize what’s left of the HIPAA 5010 transition timeline. After all, the transition to 6020 is just around the corner!

6 Apps for Creating Outlines on the iPad:

Capturing information quickly and efficiently in a classroom is an important skill. So much of what we do in the classroom needs to be documented either by you, the teacher or by the students. Apps that make this process quick and easy are therefore vital. Here are a quick list that might work in your classroom - some are quite expensive but they do offer a vastly different product depending on who will be the primary user.


Notability: $0.99

Notability 4.0 is the first truly integrated note-taking app for iPad. Standing on a framework that automatically links notes with audio recordings, Notability supports all of your note-taking needs -- handwriting, PDF annotation, word processing, and more work together seamlessly allowing you to create comprehensive, beautiful notes, quickly and simply. Auto Sync ensures your notes are backed up safely.


OminOutliner for iPad: $20.99 AU

OmniOutliner starts as a blank page. But as you collect, compose, and rearrange text, its powerful outlining features emerge to organize your ideas. Hierarchy, columns, styling, notes — use them all in concert or keep things simple, depending on the project at hand. From basic lists and tables to serious writing and data wrangling, OmniOutliner understands how to keep your work structured and tidy.

6iOutline for iPad: $0.99 AU

An outline editor is an essential tool. Point lists and numbered lists, which predate computers, are themselves essential tools. Being able to keep these lists on an iPad makes them cleaner, more useful, and easier to modify. iOutline is an outline editor for the iPad, in which you can build lists of single-line items. You can add sub-items and items at the same level of indentation.


Outliner for iPad: $5.49 AU

CarbonFin Outliner for iPad allows you to organize your thoughts, tasks, and projects. Easily create a todo list for today, or track an entire project anywhere you are. Share your outlines, edit them online, and collaborate with other Outliner users. Create outlines for structured notes, lists, tasks, tasks with subtasks, projects or search through all your outlines, or find text in the current outline.


Simple Outliner: FREE

Simple Outliner is an outline processor which can be operated easily. To pop up the menu, tap the bottom of the main screen. Edit an item by double tapping it. To show a note wipe the item left or delete or copy an item by wiping it right. To change an item into folder, double tap the dot at the left of it. To change the outline level of an item, shift it horizontally.


Circus Ponies Notebook: $31.99 AU

Ever wonder why note taking apps don't let you bold, underline, color text, or use multiple fonts? The answer is because it's HARD. Problem is, bold and other text styling are super important when taking notes. Sometimes you need to scribble, sometimes you want to add a diagram. It's a rare app that allows all three. Add to this the ability to sync your notes between your iPad and Mac via Dropbox.