This Meet the Authors article is the second in a series of three, which will each feature an author of Learning Analytics: Using talent data to improve business outcomes.
“I love thinking about strategic problems and creating models to describe them. Strategy, however, is not enough on its own. I have to see the strategy translated into specific tactics and how it will influence the work, the people, and the technology we use to enable it. I get frustrated when I see a compelling strategy and no meat behind it to make it executable. I love data because it’s the glue between the strategy and the tactics. It tells us if we have the right strategy and/or if we made it happen through our actions.”
- What books are on your nightstand?
My nightstand is virtual rather than physical, preferring to read electronically, highlight meaningful passages, and revisit them later. I have several books on my “to read” list including “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown (for the next Explorance book club read), “The Algebra of Happiness” by Scott Galloway, “Arguing with Zombies,” by Paul Krugman and “The Nickel Boys,” by Colson Whitehead that I am reading at the moment.
- What are the last great books you’ve read?
I love reading fiction by authors whose writing takes my breath away. After years of languishing on my electronic nightstand, I finally read “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood and was captivated by the beauty in her language and storytelling. Another book I read last year was “A Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes that explores our faulty memories and how they color our views of the past.
- Which genres do you especially enjoy? And which do you avoid?
I consider my reading tastes to be eclectic. I gravitate to fiction but read a lot of non-fiction including books about business practices (good and bad) and books that cause me to reflect about my own behaviors and feelings. The only genre that doesn’t excite me is science fiction, but even so, I’ve read two or three Sci-Fi “adjacent” books recently.
- Describe your ideal reading experience.
In bed, at night after everyone is asleep and my computer is safely tucked in for the night (meaning, turned off and not beckoning me). My favorite reading time is between 11 pm and midnight (which sometimes extends to 1am if I’m really engrossed).
- What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of?
“City of Thieves” by David Benioff has over 2,000 Amazon reviews, but even so, it feels like a hidden gem. I can only describe this novel as perfect in terms of plot, characters, and language. You might recognize Mr. Benioff’s name: he was the co-creator and showrunner of “Game of Thrones.”
- What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
Because I read electronically, most people don’t buy me books anymore. However, my younger daughter gave me “Becoming” by Michelle Obama in hardcover shortly after its release. Her story was inspiring, and I have prominently displayed the book on my office bookshelf.
- What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I was an avid reader and my parents often said (with a touch of pride in their voices) that I always had “my nose in a book.” I don’t have any favorites from my childhood but rediscovered wonderful children’s book when my daughters were young. I read aloud books I had missed or long forgotten such as “The Secret Garden” and the complete set of “Little House on the Prairie”.
- Have your reading tastes changed over time?
My reading tastes have changed because I have purposefully expanded and experimented with my reading. At the beginning of each year, I create my reading list by selecting categories such as: a book with two perspectives, a book with an unreliable narrator, a book set in my hometown, an epistolary novel, or a book published in the 18th century. When you develop your reading list using funky categories, you are more likely to look beyond the best seller lists.
- Which thought leaders in the field of learning or HR analytics, working today do you admire most?
Jac Fitz-enz was an early pioneer followed by Jack and Patti Phillips, John Boudreau, Dave Vance, and John Doerr. Tom Davenport, who wrote “Competing on Analytics” has been an important champion of enhancing data literacy and building analytics competency.
- What did you learn about yourself through the process of writing the second edition of Learning Analytics?
Writing requires you to have a clear picture of the point you want to make, organize those points into a logical flow, explain your main ideas and then illustrate them with examples or graphics. At first, I found this process challenging and a little painful to get my thoughts down ‘on paper.’ The more I wrote, however, the more I enjoyed the process and the opportunity to take disparate ideas and organize them into a model or framework that I could describe to others. I was delighted how gratifying the process became.
- What do you think is the biggest disruptor on the horizon for HR and L&D organizations?
One disrupter that is already here but will continue to have a substantial impact, is the democratization of content creation. This trend has disrupted L&D’s ability to control or even guide what, when and how learners learn. Content is everywhere: on YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. We can consume an entire course on Udemy or Coursera or just grab the 10 minutes we need to complete a task. It feels like the internet has become a shadow L&D function that gets more pervasive and attractive with each passing year. For HR, AI and chatbots are disrupting and helping to streamline and improve recruiting, onboarding, and learning.
- What do you hope that readers of Learning Analytics will take away?
I want readers of our book to get excited about the field of learning analytics and adopt the approaches we suggest. I also want readers to realize that they don’t need a PhD in statistics to grasp the concepts and apply them to their work.
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