When you need help, especially with something business or technical you need it now and you need it fast. Over the years I had developed an expertise at finding exactly the right people resources I needed and those I could depend on. However, today it’s all changed. So are you learning how to learn in 2015?
This all came home to me in a big way when I was on the phone with AppleCare; Mark at AppleCare told me that he couldn’t possibly know everything considering the complexity of Apple products these days, which is why he was a frequent visitor at apple help communities, using it whenever he needed to fill in his knowledge gap to help customers. He strongly suggested I do the same.
I had come to this conclusion out of desperation but I had not really realized that this was now accepted as the new way to learn; learn from a community of peers and experts rather than from a person who would come to your office or house or be available by phone.
You can learn just about anything under the sun from a community online, and these are some I have joined and what I learned from them:
B & O
I recently engaged in the Bang and Olufson online community to find out how to set up a Beocom 6000 phone system, which I had purchased in 2000 and had not been used for 4 years. This was a big technical challenge for me and obviously for many others considering the pages of questions and answers on the help forum,
However, I was able to set up the system and trouble shoot one handset as having a broken speaker, find a replacement speaker in the UK and a full step by step how to of instructions (with images) on how to replace the speaker myself, all posted by a member of the community in Germany. No way, this was beyond me so back to the old way of finding a person resource to do this for me. Actually Brad at HVL Service Center in Vancouver, BC who had done work for me before was the ideal trusted vendor in my network, whom I searched online after I found his name in some archived 2008 files!
Adobe Creative Cloud
Sometimes the instructions in the communities are just too complex to follow! Though we have been using adobe products since 1990 their evolution have become so intricate and sophisticated and constantly evolving that it’s a challenge to implement the instructions when I find what I need in an online community.
I found what I thought I needed on fixed format ePub searching an indesign thread on the Adobe online help forum, however I couldn’t readily and quickly decipher the simple nuts and bolts of how to do the initial set up!
The point here is that we still occasionally need to do things the old way and find the people resource. Before finding an actual person resource we search for a manual, blog or YouTube video, which exactly addresses the issue we are having deciphering information provided in the forum. There are layers of search in learning how to learn!
When all else fails find a consultant. Great credentials, famous author a one-hour one on one and still our Sketchup issue was not resolved (well that was an issue of the person teaching who was teaching what he thought we should learn and not what we wanted to learn!) ~ this underlines the value of online forums when they work, you learn what you want to learn as a result of focused search.
We were stuck, we couldn’t move forward and it was obvious we were not connecting the dots… So we tried 2 more consultants, “one hour of your time please to solve a specific issue”. In the first 10 minutes of our two hour training session with Diane Dietrich she helped my design partner James identify the wrong assumption he had made about sketch up, and we were good to go. Making a wrong assumption is a block to effectively using a Q & A forum, so part of learning to learn this new way is to identify assumptions (wrong ones that is) when things don’t work out.
The assumption here was that layers in Sketch Up worked just like layers in Photoshop and from the number of people we asked, this was more than just our problem!
Green Building Adviser
This is a Q & A forum for Green Building Experts and beginners and is moderated by the very expert and articulate Martin Haliday. I have posted questions in this forum on and off for a year and received actionable answers from my questions and the questions/answers of others.
Recently I wanted to find out more about HRV systems (heat-recovery ventilator systems) and more important I needed one for a current project? I had no idea which manufacturer to check out and as the result of a post by Martin and a Q & A thread on the subject I contacted Zhender a Swiss manufacturer of systems that distributes in my area. Their sales rep was super helpful and the time expended to learn what I needed to know was comparatively little. Most important, the time I spent on the forum revealed the right questions I needed to ask the vendor.
Bengal Cat forum
I recently adopted a Bengal rescue cat so where to turn to find out about the breed and tips and suggestions on how to integrate a large astonishing beautiful cat into my home and introduce him to my senior Burmese cat. After a quick search focusing on several specific Bengal cat subjects I noticed I kept going back to the Bengal Cat forum, it was obviously the place to be, so I joined.
Access to the Bengal Cat forum has been invaluable in coming up to speed fast. I particularly found the thread on how to prepare for a Bengal cat very useful? I wish I had known about the 8’ climbing pole, before Tai Chi arrived, it would have saved the plummeting of books from the bookshelves on his second day! Taking in a rescue cat doesn’t allow you to be prepared of course, however I am now with the program and hope to avoid other disasters brought on by a cat breed that is obsessed with climbing!
Ferrari Chat is a social network that discusses more than luxury Italian cars, though you can learn more than you ever want to know about Ferraris on this forum.
My business partner James (who sometimes writes here) posted an interesting request from a friend of ours, about starting a company in a major US City that had 50% unemployment. Over 10M in funding is available provided it can be paid back in 7 years and provided that the company employed 200 steady full time employees at the end of two years.
This is an example of where the answers, ideas for a company, resources evolved over 24 hours and several pages of comments all from a smattering of very savvy individuals on the very niche social network, Ferrari chat
In forums like this you can find the answers already posted or you can ask the questions and engage others in the conversation in a question/answer thread that reveals the information you want and need to know.
Imagine crowd-sourcing the entire focus of your new company on a forum?
Peer Water Exchange
In this case the forum format is a proven decision-making collaborative platform, to fund and oversee thousands of grassroots water and sanitation projects worldwide efficiently, effectively, and transparently. It was built by social entrepreneur and humanitarian Rajesh Shah. About a year ago The Peer Water Exchange was absorbed into The Blue Planet Network where it continues under the umbrella of a larger charitable organization.
What I learned from being on both sides of the Peer Water Exchange review Q and A forum was:
1. As a non-profit seeking approval for funding, the questions posed by our peers took our Bank On Rain team through a learning experience journey, from which one could write a conclusive action and follow up plan for each project. We received approval for three rain harvesting projects in Sierra Leone.
2. I learned even more asking the questions as part of due diligence for funding; reviewing our peers in other water related non-profit organizations. It taught me to search out, by asking the right questions, the most relevant project details, just the way I did as an Angel investor.
The key is knowing what to search ~ that means stating your question, issue, request in the correct or best way so Google or any other search engine will spit out options you can use to go to the next step; head to a forum or community where your peers have had similar issues (and I just about always find that they have) and once there find the answers to your specific problem. Or start a new discussion thread and ask the questions you need answers for. This gives asking the right questions a whole new meaning as a skillset for the future!
We learned how to use a dictionary and encyclopedia in the old days, or how to ask a teacher or expert for help. Now the skill set is how to search and engage in an appropriate community to learn exactly what we need to know, and do this exactly when we need to know it.image Tai Chi ©CASUDI