This Meet the Authors article is the third in a series of three, which will each feature an author of Learning Analytics: Using talent data to improve business outcomes.
I’m a total nerd. There’s a standing joke among some of my friends that no matter the topic of conversation, I’m likely to interject a fact or example from a study or article I’ve recently read. My vacation airplane travel magazine of choice is not People, it’s Smithsonian or The Economist. I like examining the facts from a variety of angles and figuring out the “so what” – because that’s really what matters, isn’t it?
- What books are on your nightstand?
I’m currently reading The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin and am planning to start The Righteous Mind by Johnathan Haidt. I’m fascinated by how the human brain works, where our perspectives originate, and the power of mindset and exposure to shape our lives.
- What’s the last great book you read?
Collapse by Jared Diamond, several years ago. Easter Island is now on my travel list. More recently, I really enjoyed Judgement of Paris by George M Taber, about the famous wine tasting that put California wines on the world scene.
- Which genres do you especially enjoy? And which do you avoid?
I’m almost exclusively a nonfiction reader. I enjoy books about history, psychology and anthropology, that explain how our minds work, how people work together effectively (or not), or that give me interesting new information. When I do read fiction, it really impacts me and my worldview so I avoid horror, thrillers, or anything too intense (reality is intense enough!).
- Describe your ideal reading experience?
Curled up on my couch with a warm blanket, mentally free of external demands, possibly with a glass of quality pinot noir (time of day dependent).
- What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of?
Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. It’s a children’s book that provides a satirical view on archaeology and modern life in the late 1970’s. Years ago when I taught 7th grade World History I used it to stimulate discussion about how we know what we know (or think we know) about ancient civilizations.
- What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I remember being really into Laura Ingalls Wilder books for several years of my childhood. I loved the characters and how they grew through the series.
- Have your reading tastes changed over time?
Not much since college. I’ve gone through phases, like Presidential History, but generally focus on books that help me learn and grow as a person.
- Which thought leaders in the field of learning or HR analytics, working today, do you admire most?
I have great respect for the pioneers like Dr. Jac Fitz-Enz, and I appreciate how Drs Jack and Patti Phillips have continued to expand the scope of their ROI methodology. In the HR and People Analytics space, I’ve been watching David Green and Trish Uhl, among others.
- What did you learn about yourself through the process of writing the second edition of Learning Analytics?
I had to confront my inner perfectionist. There is always a big disconnect between my inner monologue and what seems to appear on the page, at least at first, but I learned when to stop torturing both myself and the manuscript and leave it alone, then come back and try to read with a neutral eye, and/or to send it to my co-authors or a trusted advisor with an “I’m stuck – can you give me your honest perspective on this?”. Now I can better recognize where I am in the creative process and keep it moving.
- What do you think is the biggest disruptor on the horizon for HR and L&D organizations?
I don’t know if it’s quite “on the horizon” yet, but I hope that the new ISO30414 Human Capital Reporting Standards provide much-needed guidance to pull HR and L&D into the spotlight so that contributions related to talent management and talent development can be recognized and used to forecast current business strength and future business performance. When I worked in corporate Finance, I was responsible for submitting the final capital expenditure spend for inclusion in the annual report, which was used by analysts to benchmark my company against others and as one indicator of the health of the business. I look forward to the day when CEO’s forecast various Human Capital measures like turnover rate, leadership trust, and annual training spend during analyst calls and analysts hold them accountable to those forecasts. Accountability to a summary number naturally leads to closer attention paid to the operations underneath, which will be very disruptive to L&D and HR organizations who haven’t been at least experimenting with measurement and analytics by the time these standards begin to take hold. I really appreciate the work that Dave Vance, Jeff Higgins, and Amy Armitage are doing to raise awareness in this area.
- What do you hope that readers of Learning Analytics will take away?
I hope that readers will be inspired to take action toward building a culture of feedback and data-driven decision making in their organizations, starting where they are today and taking action to get toward their desired future state. The first section of the book will be helpful to those who are trying to make the case for measurement and analytics, the second section will be helpful to those who are trying to get the right processes off the ground to get started, and the third section will be helpful to those who have established a measurement strategy and process but want to evolve it to become more mature. I also strongly believe that L&D should be leading the HR analytics conversation, and that the principles and techniques in the book are very transferable to measuring and managing the effectiveness and impact of other talent processes. So I hope that more voices from L&D will be inspired to step forward into the analytics space.
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