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Useful Things
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
CLO magazine, June 2005 - Jay Cross

CLOs face so many decisions, weigh so many priorities and have to keep up with so many new things every day that they can use all the help they can get. The New Yorker once published a cartoon titled “Useful Things.” Pictured were a paperclip, a nail file, a Swiss Army knife and $10,000 in cash. This month, I’ll update the list and share a few things that may lift a little of the burden from the CLO’s shoulders.

Atomic Radio-Controlled Clock: For $30, you can get a clock that’s accurate within one second of the official time because it’s synched with the U.S. Atomic Clock in Fort Collins, Colo. No more questions about when the webinar is supposed to start. A person wearing a wristwatch knows what time it is. A person wearing two watches does not. Get one of these and you’ll always know exactly what time it is.

Thumb Drive: These cool gizmos, about the size of the Swiss Army key-chain knife, combine 128 MB of nonvolatile Flash memory and a USB connector to plug into your computer. Most have a lanyard so you can wear them around your neck. They cost $50 to $100, although I’ve received several as giveaways. One of these babies holds the equivalent of 80 first-generation 3.5-inch floppies. You can easily pocket presentations, reading to catch up on, passwords for arcane applications and more.

Fiskars: You probably grew up with klutzy scissors that were as likely to bend a piece of paper as to cut it. These are scissors that work.

Sharpie Permanent Marker: Clear, dark, writes on anything. I use them to label training CDs. Great for autographs. The Pro model will write on concrete. They come in 49 colors.

Quotations: The first 100 percent-free item on our list. Quotations enable you to reflect on universal truths. This is intellectual property you can make your own. Feel free to add these to your collection:

  • They are able because they think they are able. – Virgil
  • Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood. – Daniel H. Burnham
  • Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought. – Henri Bergson
  • Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian. – Harold Kushner
  • The word processor is mightier than the particle beam weapon. – George Carlin

Mind Maps: “Don’t take notes; make notes,” said Tony Buzan, the inventor of mind-mapping. Mind maps—simple diagrams that connect concepts with lines—enable you to show relationships and think holistically. Use them to organize projects, index reports and explain thorny concepts. With a little practice, you’ll be mind-mapping subjects faster than you could outline them, and people will be able to grasp what you’re doing, too. Download free trial software from www.mindjet.com and give it a whirl. Show your workers how to mind-map, and they will retain more.

QuickTopic: Create a private discussion space on the Web in less than a minute, for free. What’s not to like? Use QuickTopic to coordinate an event or a learning rollout. Think Yahoo Groups without the bureaucracy and advertising.

Personal Home Page: Get a home on the Web. When someone asks me for my phone number or directions to my house, the URL of my blog, my background or my newsletters—whatever it is, I send them to www.jaycross.com. You will never eliminate all repetitious requests, but you can knock out a lot of them.

Blog: Go to blogger.com and sign up for a free blog. You don’t have to use it as a diary, a confessional or a soapbox. You can even keep it a secret. But you’ll gain a place to stash information on the Web. I maintain blogs for things I want to share, for special-interest groups and for research findings. Keeping a “plog,” or project log, is an effective informal coordination tool.

Amazon: Not just for ordering books, but also for deciding whether a book is worth reading at all. I routinely perform triage on books that sound interesting. Only about 20 percent are ordered or picked up from the library.

$10,000 in cash: Still useful. Some things never change.

Jay Cross is CEO of Emergent LearningForum, founder of Internet Time Group and a fellow of meta-learninglab.com.


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