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Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Steve Kabachia

Ask an ICOMer – Steve Kabachia

Whether we like it or not, learning results in change, and I’ve seen a lot of accidental change as a student and educator. However, when I stumbled upon a place called ICOM Productions, I fell into a place where the first step is to target the desired change. Only then, did they begin designing the instruction and, ultimately, building meaningful e-learning.

I found that exciting and interesting, but more than a little daunting. Sure, I’ve identified curriculum outcomes, developed lessons and assessments, planned courses and lessons, evaluated progress, nurtured change. But, I’d never relied on an entire team of young, creative, energetic experts to bring my instructional design to life. And, I’d only ever designed course explicitly for another person once in my life, and that was for a semester of home-cooked lunches. At ICOM, I would have to let go of my courses and allow them to grow and then thrive outside of my immediate control in array of learning environments both near and far. Frankly, the thought of freely giving over control – of development, of creation, of implementation – terrified me.

Fear, though, can be an excellent motivator.

In my role at ICOM, I collaborate with an incredible array of talented people, and work with truly inspiring and driven clients in at least a dozen industries.  Together, we explore the limitations of e-learning and push these boundaries higher up Bloom’s Taxonomy in order to elicit higher level thinking from our learners. Along the way, they’ve helped me identify the gaps in my own knowledge of learning and education, in technology, as well as industry, and supported my attempts to fill those gaps. From the beginning, being surrounded by passionate and supportive learners has allowed me to explore new paths along a life of learning.

While only in my second year at ICOM, I’ve been witness to and a part of defining our own learning goals. As a result, I feel an enormous sense of privilege to be entrusted with opportunities to drive innovative models of learning that create new  environments for learning, deliver material and ideas to engage and challenge learners in ever evolving ways, and build our own capacity for driving learning in a variety of settings. But, it all starts with defining what our learning can be.

To strive for a defined change, that is Learning for a Change.

Steve Kabachia is the Instructional Design and Project Management Team Lead at ICOM Productions in Calgary, AB


Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Ben Ainsworth

Ask an ICOMer – Ben Ainsworth

What does learning for a change mean to me?

This may be a bad time to ask me this question. I am still in school and will be writing the Chartered Accountancy Uniform Final Exam in September. These days, learning means long nights in the university library after a full work day. It means cramming my head full of procedures and principles. It means two solid months of study during the most beautiful time of year and turning your friends down 90% of the time whenever they call to do things. At times, learning seems inversely correlated to fun.

But these are just short term sacrifices.

The skills I learn will provide me with a foundation upon which I will add more and more knowledge throughout my life. These skills will change the way I approach complex situations and help me to recommend the best course of action. This hard work will enable me to provide expertise to a company with a product that truly makes a difference.

And that is exactly what ICOM does. Through a variety of mediums, ICOM has managed to find new and exciting ways to enable people to learn. It can be highly interactive and pleasing to the eye. People are able to absorb ICOM’s brand of e-learning and build upon their own knowledge foundations, using it to change the way they perform tasks, approach different situations, and avoid dangerous hazards. ICOM has shown that learning doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive. It has also shown that e-learning can be cost effective.

In many circumstances, e-learning is the most cost effective method of training available. An example of this would be our latest work in virtual reality. Commissioned by one of our oil sands clients, an employee can now walk around an exact copy of their mine site and equipment without even setting foot outdoors. They can check for issues and familiarize themselves with incredibly expensive equipment that can be incredibly dangerous when used incorrectly.

This ensures that the employee knows what they are doing and what hazards to look out for long before they ever step foot on a busy work site. It also means you are not tying up valuable equipment to perform training in the middle of a busy worksite. This saves on vehicle down-time and decreases the possibility of accidents in the workplace.

It is expensive for companies to maintain in-house training departments with salaried employees and high administrative costs. ICOM provides a scalable, comprehensive learning management system that can track an employee’s progress, identify weaknesses, and be accessed from anywhere. Our courses can be updated at any time as new processes, advances in technology, or changes to the company occur.

Learning should be stimulating, interactive, and modify your behavior. It should be cost effective for a company to institute and monitor. ICOM’s products are able to satisfy all of these requirements. I love working for a company that produces an excellent product and has fun doing it. The e-learning industry is on the rise, and ICOM is leading the way.

Ben Ainsworth is an Accountant with ICOM Productions and is based in Calgary, AB


Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Ryan Jones

Ask an ICOMer – Ryan Jones

Learning for a change can be interpreted many different ways, in fact that is what I love about it. Everyone has an instant vision when they hear it.  If, at first,  you think of finally learning the material you’re interested in, you would be right, but learning can also be about making a positive change.  There is no wrong interpretation of what has become our slogan and rallying point at ICOM. The reason learning for a change is so powerful is that it can mean something different to everyone and still have a common theme, positivity.

Every time I look at a new project I don’t think about what we have done, instead I can be heard saying “You know what would be awesome…” whether it is learning a fluid simulation program, setting up a custom video camera mount or creating a virtual reality environment, the goal is always the same.

Half of the software programs I used in school are either completely new versions or have been discontinued years ago.  What I really learned in school was how to learn.  ICOM has a culture that allows people like me to learn and push the limits every time we take on a new challenge, in fact it is encouraged.

After 15 years with ICOM Productions I am still Learning for a Change.

Ryan Jones is Director of Technical Development & User Experience at ICOM Productions and is based in Calgary, AB


Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Cole Jordan

Ask an ICOMer – Cole Jordan

In my 30 years of being alive, I have observed that people are traditionally afraid of change. I believe that resistance to change results in a lack of growth. Fear of change is understandable, but it is important to push past this fear. At ICOM, “learning for a change” is an investment in growth which is very often facilitated by change. I know that because of the ever-changing dynamics at ICOM, I have grown and learned a great deal.

During my time at ICOM, I have had 6 job roles and 9 different managers. I’ve moved from graphic designer, to content manager, and from software integration and metric development, to process optimization.  I have worked with 163 companies in 14 different industries on at least 18 different types of projects, all with varying levels of difficulty. If I was to calculate all the different permutations and combinations for all these factors, it would mean that at the very least, I would be put in a new and different situation every day. In other words, something changes at ICOM on a daily basis and I need to learn from it. I need to be continuously adjusting and adapting. In my opinion, it is not only important, but necessary to learn from change; change is inevitable and we need to be ready for it. More than this, we need to be invigorated by it.

An example of a daily change for myself would be this blog post I’m writing at this very moment…I don’t like writing, which is a big part of why I went into design to begin with. The only time I put pen to paper is to write emcee scripts, or to compare the play of my dodge-ball team to that of a llama. Normally, my musings are just a series of run on sentences about things I find hilarious and despite the best efforts of some of ICOM’s great writers, the magic of composing a grammatically correct sentence still seems to elude me. The mechanics don’t make sense to me.  But here I am. New skills need to be quickly learned, or to be quickly borrowed from my much more talented wife.

Having been at ICOM for more than 7 years, and despite the challenges and uncertainty that come with change, I can still say I want to be here and keep learning every day.

Cole Jordan is an Operations Manager at ICOM Productions and lives in Calgary, AB


Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Holly Lee

Ask an ICOMer – Holly Lee

For many years, I’ve connected meaningful work and a meaningful life to helping people find a path where they felt they mattered.  Call me an optimist or idealist if you like, but I believe somehow, we all should make a difference for someone.  Until we recognize the impact, we should aspire to it. When it happens, rinse and repeat.

Five years ago this September, Greg Surbey told me in my interview, that ICOM believed in Learning for a change: it was the foundation of ICOM’s values and work. I’m certain I listened politely and was too nervous to tell him I already knew what he was talking about. Not only did I believe learning could impact great change in emotions, ideas, perceptions, and behaviours, but I’d already watched it happen, over and over, in schools, in the small Saskatchewan community where I lived, in learn-to-run clinics and beyond. . .

I knew I was where I was meant to be the first day I stepped into a classroom; being a teacher was intimidating, overwhelming, exhausting yet, completely invigorating! Standing in front of students or working with colleagues, I felt an overwhelming pressure to be better than I was the day before.  The moments we made an impact left their mark; even more vivid were the ones when we didn’t.  I recognize our best may not be enough some days and neither is the system in which I work, but, as always, I choose to be more inspired than jaded.  Learning, and many of the people in its construction, makes me hopeful.  Hearing a similar optimism and vigour in Greg’s voice is what brought me through ICOM’s door. Change isn’t easy, but it is possible and it is worth the time to do it.

I’m that same idealist now that I was years ago, at least most of the time. At ICOM, I’m well-known as an ENFJ on the Meyers Briggs personality scale. If we are talking about what a learner needs to know, do and feel, I’m mostly interested in the last one. I’d live and teach in Blooms’ Affective domain all day long if I could. Have no fear, I’m competent in getting the rest figured out, but if I’m being honest, I’m obviously keen on what matters to people and how people matter.

During a round of internal Leadership Essentials training last fall, ICOMers expressed interest in re-defining what matters to our people and our business, and how we quantify success in our product, process, and relationships with our clients and each other. A group of peers created three statements to summarize what would become known as the ICOM Experience:

Collaboration: We foster inclusion and value relationships.

Support: We celebrate achievements and invest in greatness. 

Accountability: We expect excellence and pursue it together.

Part of my current role now involves connecting with clients on their ICOM Experience and how they see these values in action on projects with our team members. ICOMers wanted to know what we were doing well for our clients and how we could improve. Thus began Client Touchpoints, a series of calls multiple times throughout the project, from someone removed from the day-to-day details, to document client satisfaction and engagement, our efficacy and any suggestions for process improvements.

We believe that the work we produce is some of the best in the world. Our clients tell us regularly that they recognize our strong commitment to doing quality work, project after project.  In speaking with over 25 of our clients in the last eight weeks, all of them have identified themselves as being satisfied or extremely satisfied with their experience with ICOM and our products at various stages. We are as passionate about providing a quality experience as we are creating an excellent product.

Break down technical language to make it more accessible to all stakeholders.

Continue to lead meetings with direction and expertise.

Consider how to engage stakeholders who may be unfamiliar with a creative process.

Outline key roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders at the outset.

In the short time since implementing the beginnings of the ICOM Experience, our clients’ timely feedback, positive praise, and constructive criticism such as these suggestions are pushing us. We are working to both maintain effective practices and modify behaviour and processes, improving their ICOM Experience in current and future projects.

The opportunity to take the ICOM Experience forward was an interesting prospect in my current situation. Each morning, I sit at a desk about 3500 kms from the rest of the ICOM team in Calgary.  When I reflect on my last year and a half, as a remote ICOMer, I can tell you our culture and the ICOM Experience are more than a ping pong table or a beer on Friday. While those aspects are part of the picture, they are neither what I could experience from a distance nor the heartbeat of ICOM. Instead, I see:

Google chats to say, “Have a great weekend!” just as people would if they could walk by my office.

Once foreign and clunky, meetings on a screen or video conference are now just part of how we work.

The fierce concern and care from individuals for others; the fight people have for each other.

I no longer stand in a classroom.  Some days I’m still overwhelmed and exhausted.  However, I remain invigorated by the possibility of who we are and we can become. Thanks to the people who answer my video calls, chats, or AtTask notifications every day, I know I matter and make a difference, even from a room in a house in Alaska. My passion for the ICOM Experience and our internal “learning for a change” is for them.

We know we have work to do, not only for our clients, but also for our employees. Fortunate to have experienced rapid growth in the last few years, we recognize and witness the impacts and challenges expansion brings. Making statements about what the ICOM Experience is or should be are of no value if there aren’t any actions behind them. We are hard at work, continuing to evolve the organizational culture and subcultures on which we have prided ourselves. We are focused on learning the changes we need to make to stay rooted in our collaboration and support of each other. As much as we are accountable to our clients, our employees also expect excellence and push us to pursue it, for and with them. Change isn’t easy, but it is possible.

Holly Lee is the Director | Project Management, Process & Resourcing at ICOM Productions and is based in Anchorage, Alaska 


Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Steven Harder

Ask an ICOMer – Steven Harder

I’m writing this over an open can of Stagg chili, Dick Tracy style. At least Dick had the good sense to heat it up. It’s Sunday, they said it was going to rain today, but the clouds are saying otherwise. It’s quiet around the office, peaceful. I tend to get reflective on working-weekends, so what better time for an article like this? I didn’t come into the office just for the blog post, of course; there’s other work to do, I just knew that if I didn’t get some me-time I wouldn’t get to write and rewrite it, as I tend to like to do.

There’s usually only two things that keep me up at night. Work and personal interests. The first one is self explanatory, the other, you could call them hobbies, but they’re more like latent odysseys. Rabbit holes I had no idea I’d be going down until I was inspired to do so.

For me, learning goes hand in hand with inspiration. If there’s very little inspiration, I’m not going to make nearly as much effort to learn. I often find myself distracted, rather than focusing on a single path or point of view. The moment I have something figured out, there’s usually a decision point. It needs to be pushed further – or dropped all together and I move on. Inspiration is what keeps me attached to one thing longer than another. To know more, to emulate, to create. This tends to lead to some pretty tangential connections, but I usually bring it back around in the end.

There are a lot of little things I find easy to affix excessive meaning to, which, in a pinch, are handy to have in my back pocket for wordy postings such as this. I could go on about how I was inspired up until about 3am last Thursday, building a rudimentary analogue synthesizer out of cheap integrated circuits. Do you know what the 3 elements of sound are? Pitch, timbre and volume. Now you know. I was also somewhat tempted to dig up my old college essay where I compared Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to the Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall, but I’ll save that for another time. I could riff off a stand-out line from the film adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell: “a system where all the parts react the same way is a system with a fatal flaw.” Nice and profound, yes, but doesn’t really fit the theme. So, I’m going to go start with a bit about bees and then follow up with schema learning and see how that turns out.

During a recent dig, a brief stint where I was interested in beekeeping, author and bee farmer Michael Bush waxed eloquent over a few stingers that stuck with me (pun absolutely intended). Namely that learning isn’t about facts, it’s about relationships. Understanding how everything is connected goes beyond memorizing individual facts. I tend to agree. Unfortunately I also found out that beekeeping in Canada is not a very lucrative endeavor without some serious effort, so don’t be expecting any Harder’s Jarred Honey any time soon.

I’ve always enjoyed “schema” learning. In case you’re not interested in the things that I am, and have no idea what that is, schema is an organized pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them (thanks, Wikipedia). Turns out Immanuel Kant was pretty big on it too. Again, it’s the relationships that are key here. While it may not be for everyone (schema learning is rooted in personal experience, experiences shared by a particular group or society, etc.) I still find it fascinating both psychologically and philosophically to apply schemas to everyday things.

The first time I’d heard of schema learning was from ludological enthusiast, Ryan Sterm. He enacted it with a simple example, listing a vague series of statements such as “sort everything, make sure you have soap, loading too much will damage the equipment”. These have little to no meaning on their own, and only slightly more meaning once combined, but the moment he mentions that he’s doing laundry, everything clicks. You get the relationship between everything, it’s so common you might as well of just started with doing laundry in the first place.

Establish that your audience has existing knowledge and you have an immense foundation to work with. From there, it comes down to identifying differences, knowing your audience and speaking their language. It’s a good exercise to apply schemas to specific groups of learners. For example, “probability of harm” versus “severity of harm” clicks with an HSE engineer as a risk matrix. Conversely, if you’re going to teach a similar topic to someone brand new to risk assessment, you’re going to approach that differently. Perhaps schema learning isn’t going to work at all. On one side, you don’t want to dumb things down too much, on the other, you don’t want to go over their heads.

Okay, let’s tie this back to online learning (finally). Presenting content to your audience, once you’ve actually made the effort to get to know them as learners, goes a long way. In the faceless world of computer based training, it’s not enough to hook the learner, you have to keep them interested and show that you respect them in order to evoke meaningful change. Tailoring the tone and self-awareness of the content to something that will resonate with the intended audience will take the content past basic knowledge and into understanding. Be that with a schema or some other method completely.

In this case, you’re my audience, as broad as you are. Am I succeeding or failing you? How do you feel right now? As someone in the field of online education I rarely receive feedback from the learner. Look me up, we’ll chat about the elements of sound.

I’ll also be the first to tell you that It’s difficult to create meaningful adult learning in an online environment outside of basic knowledge, compliance and skills training. Depending on your approach, you might be inspiring people to learn, but it’s also just as likely that you’re confusing them, insulting them, or worst of all, boring them.

It’s an important balance, which is why we spend a lot of time asking the staple Know/Feel/Do, questions up front when starting a new project. Client inclusion and collaboration is very important at this stage. If an employee understands the relationships between the content being presenting and how that affects the goals of the company, now we’re making progress. Further, if you can manage to tether their interests and values to those relationships, you can start looking at benefits beyond covering your assets in a compliance crisis, I’m talking the good stuff like buy-in and retention. People are more likely to learn, really deeply learn, when inspired to do so.

Just an opinion from a guy who likes bees.

Steven Harder is the Content Design Manager at ICOM Productions and is based in Calgary, AB


Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Aaron Gregory

Ask an ICOMer – Aaron Gregory

It’s finally here. Real life. It’s starting now. My finals are done and my last project is submitted. I have graduated University. The hatchback of my 91’ Volkswagen golf is packed with everything that I own. With the back bumper to the pavement I set off; let’s hope she makes it through the Rocky Mountains in beautiful British Columbia to Vancouver, where I hope to become a ‘successful designer at one of the many advertising or marketing agencies’. I’m nervous, but hopeful that I can find a job.

I arrive in Vancouver with… zero job leads (thank you internship coordinators at University of Lethbridge). I bang on every door I can find and hand out as many resume’s as possible; after 4 months of searching, I have received a lot of positive feedback on my portfolio, but regrettably nothing else. I am tired of hearing “your stuff looks great, sorry we’re not hiring” or “sorry, we need someone with at least 2 years of experience” so with my dreams sufficiently crushed, I load up my car and set off back to Wild Rose Country.

With 14 long hours ahead of me to figure out what I’m going to do next, I am completely out of ideas within the first hour. I have gone through what I think are all the possibilities and next steps in my head. I have driven myself crazy. What am I going to do with a B.F.A. in New Media that can’t get me work? I’m definitely going to have to go back to school, maybe a trade?! And then it happens. I get a phone call. Someone from ICOM Productions has heard about my stuff, and wants me to come in for an interview! I ask some very brief questions during the phone call: “What is ICOM Productions? An e-learning company? Wait, what is e-Learning?”

After settling in to my parent’s unfinished basement, I head to my interview at ICOM Productions in downtown Calgary. My initial feeling after walking through the big glass doors is one of surprise; a ping pong table, pool table, foosball table, big screen TV’s, music playing. It was something anyone looking for a job would dream of.

During my interview, they ask me many questions about myself, my university experience, and about me personally – It felt like they wanted to get to know me, and what I’m about. They briefly talk about my portfolio, but that certainly wasn’t the main topic of conversation. I have a bunch of questions for them as well as I try to understand what the company actually does.

I started as a content designer in September of 2007, and since then my career here has been one of excitement, opportunity, and change. I’ve been able to create my own career path, and do the things that I am most passionate about.

Career achievements aside, most importantly, I have impacted the lives of thousands of individuals that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to if I was just another ‘successful designer at one of the many advertising or marketing agencies’. Before working at ICOM I had a shallow view on the creative industry. I didn’t know companies like ICOM even exist and it showed me there’s more to being an artist than just flashy marketing campaigns and clever TV adverts.

I am not an expert on learning, nor am I trained in education; we have many talented people at ICOM for that. But what my team can really do is bring that learning to life, and make it an engaging, memorable, and a life changing experience.

I have worked on projects that I couldn’t imagine on that drive home from Vancouver; an interactive coloring book teaching kids about firearm safety, many projects ensuring people across the world work safely at the dangerous jobs they do every day, a food safety course for the deaf and hard of hearing, a National campaign helping homeless LGBTQ youth find a voice, and so much more. The products we build are important, they change the world and save lives, and I couldn’t be more proud that I am a part of that.

Aaron Gregory is the Art Director at ICOM Productions and is based in Calgary, AB


Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Heather Hudak

Ask an ICOMer – Heather Hudak

If you had asked me when I graduated high school if I ever saw myself working in education, I would have laughed at you. Now, I can’t imagine working in any other industry.

I had so many preconceived notions of what it meant to be an educator, and I didn’t see myself fitting that mould. I’m an artist, afterall. So how did my attitude toward education change so much? Well, you might say I learned to love it, and it changed me. I also loved the changes I could influence by helping others learn. Let me tell you my story.

When I was 19, I applied to law school. That’s what all straight-A students with a penchant for the Arts are supposed to do, right? I thought so, anyway. In fact, I had counted on it since I was nine years old.

Well, all those years of planning came crashing down one morning when my mom asked me over breakfast if I thought becoming a lawyer would make me happy. At the time, I thought it would. But my mom encouraged me to think about the gift I had been given as a writer. So I decided to take my mom’s advice.

When I started out as a writer, I had pie in the sky dreams of becoming the next great novelist. I was going to write a literary phenomenon and achieve critical acclaim. But that’s not quite how life works. Instead, I became a journalist. And, it wasn’t long before I became known as the “schoolboard” reporter, attending just about every type of school-related activity or event imaginable and learning what it takes to inspire others on a daily basis. At the time I didn’t know it, but this was step one on my road to becoming an educator.

A few years later, I took a position in educational publishing at one of Canada’s leading independent publishers. From researching curriculum and aligning it to my creative vision to developing rubrics and writing prototypes, creating educational materials was fun and rewarding. I didn’t expect to, but I loved every minute of the job. Still, I resisted that love for a long time. Simply put, I still didn’t see myself as an educator.

The turning point was the first time I received fan mail from one of my readers. It was in the form of a handwritten letter–squiggly, coloured pencil on looseleaf–from an eight-year old boy who had read a book I wrote on space and now aspired to become an astronaut. I couldn’t believe I had inspired someone to dream so big. I did that. Me!

The letters started coming more frequently, and I could clearly see how the work I was doing was empowering others. I was helping people learn about things that would change their lives. And I wanted more of it. I wanted to be a part of an industry that was leading that change. It’s that notion that brought me to ICOM.

The idea of “learning for a change” resonated loudly with me–how could it not? Through my years of on-the-job learning, I had changed. When I thought about what was really important to me in my career, aside from simply being able to write. There was a very obvious answer: helping others learn in an inspiring way and having my own opportunities to learn.

In my role as Director of Operations, I help others learn in their roles at ICOM by empowering them with the tools they need to do their jobs well. And, with our clients, I have a similar opportunity to help influence change within their organizations by fusing my instructional design and writing skills into the materials we build.

But perhaps more importantly, every day I learn from the amazing people who surround me. I work with so many talented people–both within the ICOM organization and beyond our doors–who inspire me to learn and grow. I work on world-class projects with people who are experts in their field, gleaning knowledge I can use to be a better educator and tell engaging stories as I continue on this twisting and evolving journey that has become my career.

I came about this career path in a very nontraditional way, but the fact remains: I simply love helping others learn in an inspiring way that changes their lives. When I began this journey as a writer, I could have never seen myself here, but now, I can’t imagine myself anyplace else. ICOM–with all its opportunities for learning and educating–like home to me.

Heather Hudak is the Director of Operations at ICOM Productions and is based in Calgary, AB


Permalink to Ask an ICOMer – Gerald Thompson

Ask an ICOMer – Gerald Thompson

Easily distracted. Too many extracurricular activities. Doodles on assignments. A pleasure to have in class.
While my grades were always good, these comments were the real measure of every report card. And as you might notice here, it wasn’t always the result I desired.

My teachers had a love/hate relationship with me. They could see I didn’t always embrace the system, and wasn’t always fully invested in the work they put in front of me.

Mostly, I was just bored and did what came naturally in response to that. While I knew a bit of focus and drive could help me leverage my abilities, it wasn’t any fun. I wanted to enjoy myself while exploring new things. In the end, most of my teachers said I’d just have to grow up and get a job.

So I did. In fact, I got about 20 of them. For 18 years, it seemed regardless of the job I held, once I had it figured out, the job lost its magic. Jobs always got boring. I lasted various durations, but the theme never changed. Cleaning cages at a veterinary clinic? Challenge mastered and abandoned in 2 months. Bike repair? 2 years. Firefighting? 3 years. Driving tour busses? 5 summers.

Following the completion of university, I worked in public and private sector education for 7 years, in three different placements. But all three became predictable.

When I started at ICOM, I committed to 2 years. The boss didn’t ask me to do this, but I thought if I didn’t, I’d probably leave after one year. Turns out I was wrong. Now that I’m in my eighth year, I realize ICOM may be many things…but it will never be predictable.
The variety of our clients’ business needs will never cease to amaze me. I could never have foreseen building programs as specialized as Web Application Development Security and ICS Compliant Road Blocking Protocols…in the same month. I know these opportunities will continue at ICOM. Our clients are among the most successful and proactive companies in the world, and I’m certain there will always be something new around the corner. Selfishly, I stick around because I get to keep learning.

I also stick around because of the inclusive culture. Even though I’m engaged at work, I still have some unconventional traits that would potentially result in some interesting report card comments. But at ICOM, these quirks have been embraced as strengths.

My role as Director of Products and Innovation requires me to be “Easily Distracted” when I’m faced with the norm. I’m expected to gather new ideas and evolve our offerings.

We work by building relationships with one another, too, and my “extracurricular activities” with co-workers are not seen as a detractor from my work.

Also, doodling happens to be a core requirement, and I couldn’t do my job without it.

So it’s a good fit for me. I’m never in trouble for doing what comes naturally.

And, yes, I’m still a pleasure to have in class.

Gerald Thompson is the Director of Products and Innovation at ICOM Productions and is based in Calgary, AB


Permalink to Kevin’s Perspective: Social Learning

Kevin’s Perspective: Social Learning

My degree is half environmental education and half business so it’s natural that I look at the world through this lens. Business in its finest form acts like a biological organism. An organism is made up of many individual cells that work together as one. Heart cells, for example, beat individually and when joined with other heart cells will synchronize and beat as one. So why has nature created a many as one model?

Information in a changing environment is important and many cells can capture information and share it with more diversity and speed than a single unit can. Every cell has a purpose, such as the heart cell that connects with a larger purpose of the organism as a whole. In a business, information comes from the front line, or the people that are talking to the customer. The front line, in ICOM’s case is the sales team. Our sales team has conversations that reveal important information about the customers problems that they need ICOM’s help solving.

In a living thing information is shared by all the cells or individuals in real time. In a business we refer to this sharing as social learning. We share this information in conversations and chat throughout the day. Social learning is more than information, its information that has been filtered by a contributing individual. For example, a sales person might speak to a customer that voices a business problem in the context of learning. If the sales person can socially share the problem with the rest of the company, then many individuals can think about a solution vs only one sales person trying to solve a problem. Social learning is fast and important and at ICOM we have been learning socially since we started using Groove in 2004 and sharing in the infamously named space “Dog Poo Garden”. Since then, we have evolved and are using Google Apps to post, chat, email, create videos, blogs, etc, as well as share important information. As we consider the results of our sharing I have two main questions:

1. How do we share and categorize the important problems we are trying to solve as a company?

2. How do we share answers?

This is not a learning problem; rather, it is a key problem for every business in the world. This is why it is so important for every individual to understand the purpose of the company so they can contribute. Job performance classically has been managed through the carrot and the stick model. The carrot will be placed at the end of the company’s desired outcome and the stick will manage any under performance. The problem with that model is that it assumes the leadership knows the direction and desired outcomes at all times and it assumes a top down model. In a changing environment information and engagement are much more important and there is an alternative way to manage performance. Having a clear purpose and allowing individuals to authentically connect and contribute to that purpose through engagement. The lines between work and our personal lives have blurred and we want to have an authentic connection to our job – meaning we need to believe in the purpose of the company if we are going to share a part of our finite life with that company.

At ICOM, we have worked hard to retain our culture as we grow, in fact we were recognized by Waterstone Human Capital, this past year as one of the 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures in Canada. We have also remained flat in our organizational structure and transparent about our purpose – to help companies get better through custom learning solutions. In his book, Flat Army, Dan Pontefract from Telus talks about creating a connected and engaged organization and we put into practice many of the strategies he speaks about. In fact, we have been using social learning for over 10 years and now our challenge is to get clear about the problems we are trying to solve as an organization and solve them socially as many diverse individuals, passionate about a single purpose.

Kevin Jones is Vice President & Managing Partner at ICOM Productions and is based in Vancouver, BC

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