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Taxonomy of learning & Jazz

Years ago in agency life I was in a pitch for a piece of inter-galactically large business. It brought together people from all seven continents. Rehearsals, refine, rehearsals, updates. A super slick pitch. Everyone knew their bit to the nearest minute. Our pitch proposition – “We are jazz not classical – we can ad-lib, flex around your needs as a client” …. The client loved it – so much so that 20 minutes into the 2 hour pitch they said “Great – we get it. Lets try and do it now. How do we reach small business owners? – 5 groups of 5. We can catch up again in 45 minutes and see how we all got on”. The true horror of Jazz had emerged.

What was fantastic was the client (no surprise – a tech business) realised that doing would be a far better way of finding out about us than us describing…. and they called it.

How do we learn, especially when things keep changing? The key is to “do” as quickly as possible

Not being afraid of the unknown. Not trying to create the perfect answer. Having the confidence to realise that there is no perfect answer will get you most of the way there and at that point you will be in the unknown again but moving firmly forwards.

So onto a favourite chap of mine, Benjamin Bloom. A mid century psychologist who held a belief that learning was not so much about content – but how we matched what we wanted to learn and do with how we learnt it. I like to think Benjamin would have let out a cheer in that pitch and probably referred to this as Mastery Learning.

In a nutshell he broke things into 5 states each one being a higher order that builds on the previous. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.

Blooms Taxonomy

1. Describe -Describe, tell, list, find name, what is it?

2. Understand – Explain, discuss, demonstrate, interpret

3. Apply – Use, complete, solve

4. Analyse – Recognise trends, identify issues

5. Evaluate – Judge, defend, choose, select

6. Create – Modify, use old concepts to create the new

The exciting stage is when people to start to move up to phase 3 – Doing. Its a word that comes up time and time again when people talk about success in changing markets. If one can move between apply and analyse and back to apply seamlessly, you’re really starting to change culture and approach.

Doing is tough, it takes time. Its not necessarily the most comfortable thing. As we all know it is far easier to sit round a table describing our worlds to each other. It is when we “do” that we really get the “Ahhhhhh – I see”. The challenge for many businesses is how they get people to apply the knowledge, the things we read about, the people we talk to – see if it works – not be worried if it doesn’t at first, but at least start to get up on your feet.


The Desert Island Challenge

You are sitting at your desk and are told you are on training next week. Survival skills. Really? You go, you listen, you may drift a little. You may have a meeting with a customer which you prioritise, which means you miss the session altogether and hope (or not) to go on the next one.

Let’s wind back. All company meeting, big boss is giving a state of the nation and then announces something. You are all going to be sent individually to a desert island. You are going to need to be self sufficient. Some of you may find the going too much (think Hunger Games for the suited …) but he is going to arrange some survival skills training for you. Provide you the skills you need. Do you attend your survival skills training? Listen? Try to understand?

The point being some training really sticks and starts to create the expected behaviour change and some just becomes a nice day out of the office?

For the latter the most common issue is lack of challenge. Training in itself is not some strategic objective for a business but a tool to realise some other goal. Building skills to achieve something that is difficult at present. The key is “Achieve Something”.

Henderson Kite

So what’s a good challenge? What would it look like?

1. Exciting

2. Litte bit uncomfortable

3. Valuable to the business

4. Have a timescale on it

5. Come from the top


“You are going to have to present back to the board in the new year on the future of interactive technology and how it will affect us? – We’ll make sure you get the training on the interactive tech side”

“Within a month I need everyone to update their clients and customers on programmatic and data and what we are doing. There is some training scheduled for those who would like to know what we are doing in that space”

“The Big Cheese wants us to be more open with our customers and involve them in how we get to the answer. He wants ideas and models for how this could work by next month. He’s given you a training budget of £10,000 for you and a team of 5 – you choose team and what training you need”

Support without challenge is the day out training, challenge without support is just a very stressful and lonely place. When the two circles cross – you can really feel the excitement and energy.


Is NFC the final link in the chain

NFC of Near Field Communication seems to be the word of the moment. In essence its the technology that allows 2 devices to swap information – payment, data over a small physical distance. From ticketing with an Oyster card through to quick payment with your phone its pretty cool and simple technology. The phone play is where it starts to heat up. At present the new Google Nexus 2 phone has got the technology, but Apple are still holding back. A mistake I thought, but was corrected by someone recently with “Apple don’t make mistakes, Google do”.

Since the web really launched, it has been direct response clients that have really ruled the roost, they made Google famous, responsible for underwriting most of the technology that runs the web and drove the whole ability to pay and transact online. The FMCG market and small ticket retailers have been very much left behind and a little confused. Its tough to sell beer online.

Online DR has been the darling of the web for a long time. It wasn’t just a marketing tool for many, it was a full end to end business from initial touch to sale and service at the other end. Many of these businesses chuckled quite happily at retailers with shops, seeing the ball and chain of legacy.

But NFC seems to be the final link in the chain. We have seen the claiming back of technology by the people through the rise of social and now as smart phones continue to blur the edges of small computers and big phones, the good old fashioned outlet seems to be coming back into fashion. Not only location based services like Gowalla or Foursquare, but the ability now to really start to link into purchase and “on the move” behaviour.

For a long time brands haven’t really leveraged their non cash assets or realised them as a marketing tool. On pack, instore, at event all suddenly seem very exciting and very relevant, all we needed was to wire them up, which is where NFC will come into its own. Bricks and mortar coming back into fashion and if anything being the competitive edge (perhaps this is why the second word of the moment is the “Pop Up Shop”).

I suspect Google will make it work and Apple will inspire us with it. Exciting times ahead.


Business model canvas

Looking at how digital technology can truly integrate into an organisation, one model that I came across was the business canvas which has been developed by the guys at Business Model Hub – a community and rattle bag of what appears to be some very smart and open people.

The model maps out key organisational components – value on the right and operational efficiency on the left. Money in vs money out. Value proposition in the middle. Great.

Couple of things came out. Firstly how does or could digital add value or efficiency into each area. Starting on the right.

Customer segments

Who are our current customer segments. Normally we define them by how we reach them. Young men who eat 4 bags of crisps, like to go out with their mates and are thinking about buying a car, are invariably distilled down to 18-24 year old men as that’s the only size brush you have to paint with. With digital we can get into community areas, passion groups … and reach them.As Clay Shirky said

“Tools that provide simple ways of creating groups lead to new groups, […] and not just more groups but more kinds of groups.”

Customer Relationships

What is the nature of your relationship with your customer? Just sell to them? Ask them? Involve them? Meet them afterwards and talk to their friends


This is really where most head resource gets used and most money spent. Which are the usual channels to reach our usual customers, So fairly easy, how are you using (getting excited about) digital to reach your customers.

I won’t go the whole way across the canvas, but you get the idea. How are we engaging our resource? assets? people? Suppliers?

As you go through the exercise you realise that where digital technology really comes into it own is to start to facilitate and link boxes, that don’t historically get linked. Using suppliers as a channel? Customers as a resource? New relationships through how we change activities? but some great work comes out when you link them up (I’m a huge fan of arrows and turning them round and thinking – “What would that look like” show this perfectly when they look at how the canvas can describe emerging models.

.. but its the organisational effect that is very exciting. How do you decentralise digital thinking? How do you get your people and customers empowered and involved? That’s where the opportunity of mapping out really helps.

The first 10minutes of this great video from Best Buy nails the point of how if done well, technology really starts to break down the inter-departmental boxes.

1. Getting customers to review your advertising

2. Suppliers to act as a route to market

3. Your team to develop your product

Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson in conversation with Peter Hirshberg at Google Zeitgeist from peter hirshberg on Vimeo.

This isn’t new, but what I thought was great was that it gave a framework to engage an organisation and to map out value and actions. Planned brilliance vs an occasional cry of “Ureka” coming from the ghetto.

As always any feedback would be more than welcome.


The power of visualisation and wiring diagrams

I found this great presentation on new business models, which makes fantastic reading.

The thing that really hit the button was how Board of Innovation visualised each model.  I am a great fan of this and often refer to it as “wiring up” an idea.

Most organisations have been challenged at some point by the fluidity of digital and how tough it is to keep in one place. For many this is the wonder, for some this becomes the organisational nightmare. Trying to get your head round where it goes, could go and vitally should go is half the battle.

Wiring Diagrams – its not a new concept but it works. (paper, pen and 20 spare minutes required)

1. Put your idea at the centre and give it a name

2. Write in the box a description of the basic idea /content / desired interaction

3. Arrows in where people will come from. Go broad and wild !! Look at existing bought, owned and earned activity. Everything from on pack to in store, at event as well your whole comms plan

4. Arrows out to where people will go to. How can the idea get out of the box and where will it go and spread. See above for going wild…

5. Turn the arrows around to point in different directions and ask the question “How would that work”

6. Put people numbers on your arrows and costs if they apply

You’ll probably be somewhere wild and extreme at this point, but with a common sense edit you quickly come up with how your idea lives and breathes and actually something very robust.

More importantly everyone involves gets it very quickly and becomes excited by the movement created by technology vs putting it in the too hard basket.