Don’t Kill Your Audience with a Deck of Death

welcome

Today’s Topic

“Hi. I’m your expert instructor here to teach you how to be an expert almost as good as me. Next slide.”

agenda

“So you can see here all that we are going to cover over our period of training. I’m sure you will notice that I have done all I reasonably can to remove any fun we might have learning this material because I did it all on my slide deck. Next slide.”

LEARNING GOALS

“I made sure to include some learning goals because everyone expects them, but we really are not going to talk about anything like this; don’t worry, it is all in the slide deck because I am such an expert on this topic. Next slide.”

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Anyone still awake, or have you all succumb to the slide deck of death? To often, out-of-town experts are hired to train people whose only real expertise lies in preparing really cool slide decks. There is more to training however than a wiz-bang slide show, especially if the topic is mostly information known to the students. Slides have become the go-to choice for training because they provide consistency across a variety of training presentations regardless of the ability of the instructor or the knowledge of the students. There are other forms of media available for instructors to communicate ideas and guide discussions. Learning to use them well improves your presentation.

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These two forms of media are often overlooked for a variety of reasons including poor penmanship, artistic ability of the trainer, and lack of standardization over multiple presentations. The biggest reason is a lack of imagination. Several years ago I learned a little trick to improve my drawing ability in Richard Neil’s book, Police Instructor. Neil suggests creating an image in your favorite graphics program them projecting it onto your paper. Using a #2 pencil, lightly trace the lines. When you reach the point in your presentation to introduce the sketch, grab your marker and draw away while you talk to your students. You end up with the same image from class to class and impress your students with both your knowledge and artistic ability.

I used this secret in an instructor development class I was teaching to explain the training cycle. I asked one of the students to step up to the easel and sketch out a diagram of the cycle while I talked about it. He was a bit apprehensive until he was close enough to the board to see the lines. The class was equally impressed with mine and the student’s knowledge of the cycle, and the secret, once it was revealed. Two lessons in one, how to improve your use of media and improve your understanding of the training cycle, a grand slam!

It may not be possible to recreate a fancy drawing or diagram on a white board in the same way, but for basic imagery it is a great tool. Create lists revealing one point at a time so students are not overwhelmed with information. Alternate colors so students can track lines easier. Practice so your writing is recognizable to others. Simple diagrams that are well thought out ahead of time are easy to draw on a white board with lines and arrows to make connections with thoughts that are expressed in text. Try it out in your next class; you might be surprised how it catches your students attention.

POSTERS

Posters seem like they have gone the way of the dodo bird. They are a great tool to ensure continuity from class to class. They work even when the projector bulb doesn’t. Use dry erase markers to high light important words or ideas on laminated posters.  This technique helps make connections between ideas.

You can create posters using a professional service, or in your living room using markers. Boil down your ideas down to the most essential elements to reduce the number of them. Too many posters end up being nothing more than a low tech slide deck that you have to lug around. The more you have, the heavier they are!

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Too many people use boxed PEs they like from other classes. Using the general format and adapting it to meet your needs however allows you to end up with a product unique to yourmarshmallowtower-marktighe class that is designed specifically to meet your training objectives. Good practical exercises are copied by instructors because designing them is tough work. The first time you have a student build a pasta tower to the ceiling and perches his or her marshmallow at the top, you realize it is better to use your own ideas to reinforce your learning points.

Good exercises challenge students to apply the lessons you teach. They make students think critically about using new skills in familiar situations. They provide students the confidence to adapt your lessons in their every day life, changing their habits and behaviors, and that’s what training is supposed to be about, changing behaviors.

VIDEO CLIPS

Video Clips are great to introduce problems, demonstrate your point, show how to complete an activity, or as part of a practical exercise. Too often trainers use videos as the basis for their entire training, instead of supporting their training and learning points. There are plenty of good videos available on any of the video host web sites. If you are using video for an educational purpose then it should spur discussions and questions about topics related to your learning goals. If not, then it is entertainment and you may have problems with copyright laws. If your video does all the teaching, then students are unlikely to see you as the expert you profess to be.

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Next slide please.  Slide decks have become an important part of the training landscape. Slide decks are not going away soon. Trainers communicate better using other forms of media instead of only using slides. Other forms of media require trainers to think about the points they want students to learn. Each media offers opportunities to engage students, keeping their attention to improve learning outcomes. Posters, chart paper, white boards, practical exercises, and video clips each offer instructors opportunities to break away from the slide deck and improve learning. Each form of media has pros and cons. Use a variety of media in your training to break up the boredom of the slide deck and show your students you really are an expert.

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Photo Credits

Author except the marshmallow tower.  Marshmallow tower by Mark Tighe under Creative Commons Attribution license from flickr.com:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/mjtmail/14113827338/in/photolist-o2yZKQ-8W4FUQ-8W1CxZ-nvc49E-9NDbrG-9NDcWb-9NDdLs-9NApRH-9NAur2-9NAmLB-9NAnBt-jeQaVE-9NAtKa-9NAsga-9NAsXc-9NDhzm-9NAorP-Hsu3i-bDzKGQ-dc4jeH-8xac39-BMSG49-BXt5Le-8Ur9Rp-rV2Uwa/

A Call to Action

bullhornspeaker-firefightersdaughter-CalltoActio

I recently listened to a short piece on my local public radio station from the TED Hour (http://www.npr.org/2015/02/06/379184277/what-s-the-antidote-to-political-apathy). The speaker talked about getting people to the polls and ways to overcome apathetic voters. As I listened, a light bulb appeared over my head about a way to improve training. If trainers expect students to change behaviors based on their training, they need to issue a call to action to participants. A call to action ensures students leave knowing how to change their behavior, possess excitement to change, and where to find help when they run into road blocks.

In this TED talk, the speaker noted in an unscientific study he conducted that in local publications, the editors would include information about how to contact a local charity, the hours of a new eatery, or the phone number to the box office of a show they reviewed. The reader knows how to learn more. When the local periodicals ran political pieces they often present information in a fair and balance way. They explained the issues about the topic. They did not include information about websites, phone numbers for involved organizations, or other information to make the reader take action on that subject.

Often trainers and leaders behave the same way. They call for changes. They show people one way to do something that works in the classroom. They may even provide some sort of high energy event that fires up the students and employees so they feel motivated. When they return to their cubical, they stumble on road blocks and because the trainer or leader provided no information about where seek help, the change they and their proteges hope for starves on the vine.

The fix is easy. After providing students their call to action, provide resources to use for follow up. When students return to their offices and run into a roadblock, they know where to find more information to help overcome the road block and successfully implement the desired change.

Provision of follow up resources requires more than a short bibliography at the end of your note-taking guide or a sheet tucked into the back of a participant folder. The trainer should call attention to the resources. He should provide screen shoots of the websites. He should point out email addresses and phone numbers of people who are willing to help. He should also provide a short sales pitch for each of the follow up resources provLearningSailing-John-ModsOK-croppedided so the student understands help really is there.

Many trainers already provide such information and calls to action for their students. Adapt a page from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone by sending out a group email reminding students to look up a website, read an attached file, or how to find a book.  They are more likely to click on a link and incorporate what you taught them after leaving your class.

At they end of your next training, issue a call to action for change. Motivate students to implement what they have learned. Sell them on the resources available to help them over hurdles. When you issue a call to action, change will happen.

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Photo credits:  Both photos downloaded from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license and modified to fit the space here.

Speaker photo by firefightersdaughter.  Sail boat photo by John, yes, just John.

Respect & Forgiving Misteaks

Leaders in learning organizations demonstrate two critical qualities: respect and forgiveness. Most people learning new skills make mistakes. People stop creating in organizations lacking tolerance for honest mistakes. Respect instills confidence for people to try new things. They their first attempts result in failure, yet respect acts as a safety net encouraging more attempts. As workers gain courage and skill, eventually succeed. Respect allows forgiveness; forgiveness spins the safety net of success.

spilled.milk-elycefellzForgiveness is often seen as a weak, outward display directed at those who offend us. Unlike respect, viewed as strong, outward behaviors directed towards others, forgiveness is a strong, inward action directed towards ourselves. Holding grudges does little to change someone’s behavior. Instead, grudges harm the holder, preventing him from developing better relationships.

Years ago two people worked together in difficult circumstances. The leader treated him well and thought he earned the other’s respect. One day the leader became aware his previous employee blamed him for many things that occurred on the job. The employee held that hatred for years. The employee’s hatred of the leaders offenses did nothing to harm the leader who was unaware of his offenses. The hate attacked the employee everyday, preventing him from achieving greater successes in life. The leader moved on in life, building new and better relationships and increasing his successes. The leader was was hurt after learning of the grudge because he believed he did the best I could do at that time with his skills, knowledge, and abilities. He reached out seeking forgiveness from his former employee bur received no response. I suspect the employee still blames his former boss for many of the bad things that occurred during the time they worked together. The boss offended and was offended by others during that time. He carried grudges against some people for a while. He forgave some people and some people forgave him. One day the boss met one of those who offended him and realized they were clueless he was angry with them. He noticed the person moved on and felt no pain from his lack of forgiveness. In a period of reflection the leader realized forgiveness was not about the other person, but rather about him. Once he learned to forgive, life improved.

No matter how hard we try, offending others is inevitable. Often we do not realize our faux-pas and therefore see no reason to say, “I’m sorry.” For those who do not understand forgiveness carry their hate while the offender remains blissfully ignorant of their mistake. Forgiveness is a vital part of respect because acting respectfully to those we hate is hard. Forgiving requires releasing hatred.

Without respect, others lose confidence, fail to grown, or learn new skills. It is equally difficult to hold a grudge against someone we respect. Leadership is about influence. There are plenty of examples of leaders applying influence motivated by hate. History views those leaders as failures. People who learn to lead from a positive influence motivated by respect gain more power permitting even greater influence and success.

Many of the problems facing our nation and the world revolve around forgiveness and respect. Examples of extreme grudges include mass police murders in Baton Rouge, people protesting police violence coming under fire in Dallas as officers protect the crowd, terrorism in France, a military coup-d’etat in Turkey, Islamic extremism in the Middle East, Muslim against Muslim, Christian verses Christian, Jew fighting Jew, and each against the other because of hate and disrespect.

Violence is not an answer for past slights, insults, past violence, or perceived disrespects. Jim Collins talks about the fly-wheel effect in his book Good to Great. Acts of violence begin a downward spin of of the violence fly-wheel; every additional act increasing the fly-wheel’s momentum. Forgiveness acts as a break on the violence fly-wheel.

Treating followers respectfully creates a positive position for the leader to gain increased influence. Good leaders recognizes everyone makes mistakes. Instead of being offended by a follower’s error, a good leader forgives, respectfully corrects, and allows the person to try again. This cycle allows growth and improves the organization. Grudges hold back offended parties. Offended parties may seek to retaliate through acts of violence. Recognizing most people do not intend to offend us with their actions allow us to forgive. Forgiveness stops grudges and restores peace. Respect is the greatest gift we offer others; forgiveness is the greatest give we give ourselves.


Photo from elycefellz on flickr.com  Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Voice: Feathery Touch vs. Booming Motors

onceuponatimeiattendedapresentationgivenbyareallysmartpersonwhospokesofast,butrathersoftlylikehewastryingtosayeverythinghehadtosayinonebreathsohecouldquicklycompletehispresentation, breath, andgospendtherestofhisallotedtimedrinkingcoffewiththosewhocametohearhimspeak.

During my instructor deImagevelopment classes, I teach a segment on the importance of using your voice. Trying to write a wimpy presenters fast pace, low volume and even monotone speech is more difficult than demonstrating it for a class. There are many reasons people use poor vocal skills while presenting such as lack of confidence in front of others, inexperience as a presenter and contempt for the topic. The opposite is also true. Speaking at a rapid pace in a loud volume continuously sounds like you are recording a commercial for the latest monster truck rally. Three cliches come to mind when considering the use of one’s voice during a presentation. The first is “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. The second, “Variety is the spice of life.” The final, “Silence is Golden.”

Slow is Smooth; Smooth is Fast

Speaking slower during a presentation allows you to select the best words to express your ideas the first time. Students understand what you say better. A slower pace allows students time to hear what you said and think about how it relates to them so they can effectively incorporate that information into their behavior. But what about the fast part? Great question! If your students understand what you said the first time, have time to reflect upon its meaning and ask necessary follow-up questions you only have to state the point once. No need to repeat what students all ready know. Fewer repetitions allow time discussing information unfamiliar to students. Result; better learning, and fewer remedial trainings.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Changing your pace, volume and tone of voice helps keep students attention. Turn up the volume to clue students of important information they may see again, say on a test. Use a fast pace to sound like the voice over announcer on TV reading the legal disclaimer for a predatory loan suggests important information has been provided and is available to reference later. A soft whisper tells students you are sharing a well guarded trade secret. Now they belong to an inner circle of trust. Certain patterns may suggest transition from one topic to the next. An effective phrase a friend uses is, “ALL righty, then…” his clue to the class the discussion is changing.

Silence is Golden

Silence seems the reverse of what a trainer should do while standing before a group of students. Periods of silence encourage participation. Ask a question and wait for someone to answer. Make a controversial statement and allow a student to challenge your position. Student participation always improves training.

ImageNext time you find yourself in front of a class or giving a presentation remember and use these three rules. Silence is only bad because you do not know what to say next. Use it to encourage student interaction. Silence is golden. Using a slower pace allows information to sink in like a slow steady rain. Students absorb the information the first time allowing the class to progress faster. Slow is smooth; smooth is fast. Changing up pace, volume and tone signals students about important information, topic changes and help keep their attention. Variations in vocal qualities keep things interesting. Variety is the spice of life. During your next introduction, let the class know, YOOUU ARRRRRE REEEADDY TO RUUMMMBBBLLLLLLLEEEEE?!?!?!?!?!?!?


 

Photo Credits

Both pictures from Flickr.com used under Creative Commons Attribution License

Nick Chill

Mitchell James

Oh No! Mandatory Training!

Mandatory refresher training…the bane of every instructor. Frequently the trainer is provided a lesson plan and a slide deck, a period of time to fill and appropriate training facilities (maybe). The instructor is expected to stand before the group of experienced students and present the material determined by management as essential. The result one to four hours of heavy eyelids, sore bottoms and the sending and receiving of text messages on mobile devices by distracted employees who fail to pay attention. They learn nothing. You can improve the situation by recognizing that the occupants of the room possess hundreds of collective hours of experience; many more qualified to teach than you. Developing methods to engage, entertain and focus students during mandatory training separates the run-of-the mill instructor from the master trainer. Nothing that follows is new, but I challenge you to adopt one or two of these ideas for your next refresher training and take your first step down the road to become a master trainer.M.CoghlanGpDisc

Facilitation is a training process that focuses on the student rather than the instructor. Generally facilitate means to make easier, to promote or to serve as a catalyst (Google 2014). An instructor who engages in facilitation recognizes the expertise of the students and develops a learning environment that permits those with various experiences on a given topic to share what they know allowing the rest of the students to assimilate those experiences into new ideas on their own. This process allows the students to come to conclusions on their own.

Instructors are reluctant to conduct facilitated discussions for fearing accusations they did not follow the program of instruction required by management. A well thought out training event covers all the points required by management. The difference between an interesting, facilitated training event and being buried by slides is how the material is presented. The traditional, well-known, boring method of lecturing while showing a slide deck echoing everything the presenter says only ensures the required material has been presented. It does nothing to demonstrate knowledge transfer, but does provide coverage for the tushy if ever called to task for providing training on a given topic. A facilitated training however requires student participation during a guided discussion about the same points made in a lecture. In order to participate effectively, instructors must possess complete understand the topic, and students should have some knowledge.

Preparation for and conduct of a facilitated training event requires greater preparation and execution time. To prepare for a facilitated discussion,

  • Review and understand key learning points of the lesson,
  • Convert learning points into discussion points,
  • Prepare questions to requiring discussions to answer, and
  • Prepare to guide student discussion by infusing information and making corrections,
  • During the conduct of class,
  • Ask students questions that require thought and development of opinions,
  • Ask students what they think of points made by others during the discussion,
  • Require students to justify opinions based on facts or prior learning,
  • Ask students if they agree or disagree with other students points and explain why or not.

As the class demonstrates understanding of each point, the instructor segues into the next discussion point by either asking a pre-planned question, or taking advantage of a point raised by a student. Ensuring many students participate. Use the following formula to include all students:

  • ask the question,
  • pause to wait for students to think about the answer,
  • call on a student to answer.

When attempting to pull in the quieter students, it is important to ensure to ask them something there is no wrong answer. By doing so, you allow them to participate without loosing face. As the discussion moves along, show the required slides and let them speak for them selves allowing students to integrate the information from the slides into what they learned in the discussion.

A quality facilitated discussion during mandatory training improves student participation. Increased participation improves information retention. Increased participation permits the same idea to be expressed more than one way improving understanding by less experienced students. Engaged students are less likely to allow their minds to drift and learn more. Students pay attention when they know anyone can be called upon to answer questions. The slide deck re-enforces points made by the students.

Using a facilitated discussion during mandatory in-service training allows for management and instructors to cover important learning points. A good guided discussion covers all required points by allowing students to express their knowledge of the topic and identifies areas requiring more discussion or information. With more discussion the same idea is expressed in different words increases understanding of the concept. Students become responsible for their learning, more engaged in the process and focused on the class. For your next training event, implement some of these ideas to generate a guided discussion on one or more points. You may be surprised at what YOU learn in the class you are teaching.

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References

Google Search Results “define facilitate” https://www.google.com/search?q=define+facilitate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb retrieved 4/26/14

U.S. Army. 157-ABIC-3.0 / Army Basic Instructor Course (ABIC) (2011) Army Training Support Center, Ft Eustis, Va

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Photo Credit:  Michael Coghlan.  flickr.com CC license

Leaders Training Future Leaders

ImageAll trainers are leaders because they influence people in their organizations to accomplish the mission. The flip side to that thought is that all leaders are trainers. In too many organizations however leaders are selected based upon their ability to accomplish tasks more than their ability to influence others and too many organizations fail to train their highest performers to become leaders. Possession of influence is more important to a leader than possessing an ability to complete a task skillfully. Learning how to engage others to influence them to perform is more important skill for leaders than the task to be performed. Teaching the leaders to teach becomes that challenge for the middle and senior leaders of organizations, one that is poorly executed. Consistent leader training and development is critical to any organization’s long term success. Four simple, repeatable steps separate are the foundation of an enduring leadership training program. Those steps are telling, demonstrating, practicing and correcting.

Telling. The quickest way to transfer information is to tell the other person. When sending a message you want the receiver to remember ensure the receiver has a method of recording the information, whether it is a notebook, a voice recorder or a note on their device. Unrecorded information is sure to be forgotten. When someone writes, they remember better in the future and create a record for future reference when the teacher is absent. During the review of the lesson, the teach can have the student read back the notes ensuring all important details were discussed.

Demonstrating. You demonstrate the task. In this blog, demonstration is listed as the second step, but in practice, it is the first. When others work for you, you demonstrate leadership for them daily. When you take time to counsel the new leader, you demonstrate the importance of counseling. Your methods become the lesson as the techniques and practices you expect them to employ in their leadership role. Counseling is just one area, but the example crosses many such topical areas.

Practicing. At first you may be inclined to linger. This may not always work well. For the same reasons it may not be practical for your trainee to sit in on a counseling session with a fellow employee with a family problem, it probably is just as likely you should not sit in on similar situations unless you are invited. The senior leader has other duties. If she spends all her time overseeing one new supervisor, she ignores other areas of responsibility. It is not unreasonable to follow up by asking to see documentation of a process or to check progress of employees. This lets both the employee and their supervisor know you are paying attention to important aspects of their work and lives.

Correcting. Do this as close as possible to the performance of the activity. Often in performance oriented training we ofter students feedback in the form of an after action review within a few minutes of completing the activity. There is no reason to not apply the same practice. If you are invited to observe a process improvement meeting, plan on five or ten minutes after the meeting to review the supervisor’s performance.

When you have completed all the steps, repeat them until the leader performs them nearly perfectly. As they improve, you allow them to tell you how they can improve their performance instead of providing feed back from you. As you do so, you prepare them for increasing levels of leadership and improve the organization.

Good leaders are also trainers. They set the standard by telling, They live the standard through demonstration. They allow others to try to practice and correct mistakes so success is achieved. These steps train and develop leaders follows the same model. Tell them what the expectations are, demonstrate the way you expect them to behave, allow them to perform, make corrections and repeat. Leaders who practice these steps increase their sphere of influence, allow others to see he uses power to make the organization better, has concern for the future of the group and its people and is willing to e what he knows. Observers recognize the spark and passion of the leader doing the training and the overall success of the organization. Take the first step today with your young leaders.

Photo Credit:  tanakawho from flickr.com creative commons license

Disruptive Students

Recently I was demonstrating the proper technique to accomplish a defensive tactic according to the organization that certified me to teach. During the demonstration, I talk through each step working slowly so that the students see the hold and understand the correct form. I have selected one of the students in class as an assistant. As I talk through the steps, the student pulls his hand out of my grip and laughs. I can only believe it is because he showed the teacher that his tactic doesn’t work, but his resistance is outside the parameters for application of this maneuver. I attempt to use this as a teaching moment explaining to the class that this is only one way to confront a potential adversary and is intended for use on one who appears compliant and follows directions. I start over. The demonstrator pulls away again. Repeat one more time. Now it is obvious my student is disrupting the class and interfering with the learning. Instructors and teachers often have to deal with disruptive students in a classroom environment. Strategies for dealing with these students are widely available in text books, journals, and internet sites. No one talks about the disruptive student in the practical exercise environment. Over the years I have had many disruptive students in practical activities session who have challenged me, my skills and my techniques. How the instructor handles the disruptive student establishes his future credibility. Handled well and students learn the instructor is knowledgeable and respectful and gains the attention and respect of the class. Handled poorly and the students learn the instructor is self-centered, egotistical and is just as likely to treat them with contempt if they fail to live up to his standards resulting in lack of attention or respect.

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Attempting to address the misbehavior based on your perception of the student’s motivation you attract attention to the misbehavior and away from the lesson. Redirect the attention of all the students to the task at hand by acknowledging the slight and explain that this portion of the lesson is limited to the topic you are introducing. Use this as an opportunity to explain that there is more than one way to accomplish the task and this application has limitations that do not invalidate its use in the correct situation.

Keep your cool. I learned this rule the hard way. Anger about the student’s behavior manifests as a personal attack. Too often the anger results in the demonstration being completed at 100% force without proper preparation resulting in personal injury or property damage. Instead, stay calm, redirect the students attention, explain the parameters for the skill you are teaching and continue the lesson. A successful method is to change demonstrators.

Explain to the class as one instructor I watched. The instructor introduced information that was contrary to prior learning in another course. The instructor replied to the effect, “What I am teaching is a way to accomplish this task. It is not the only way.” Often when doing hands on work it is impossible to teach students the best options for every situation because the “What ifs” pile up in a hurry. Using the “A way” response validates the student’s position while maintaining your credibility.

Hands on training is an effective method to ensure students develop skills required to complete certain tasks. Unlike the lecture where the instructor controls the flow of information, during performance oriented training, students will often share what they know about the topic from prior experiences. Sometimes this is helpful, but often is is disruptive. Effectively keeping the class on topic builds your credibility as an instructor and subject matter expert. Validate the students point of view if valid in some cases if there is more than one way. Delineate the conditions for the task you are training. Keeping control of your emotions shows you are an expert deserving their continued attention and trust. When you follow these steps, you ensure students receive quality, consistent information, develop skills to accomplish the task in the given conditions to performance standards and increase the probability they will complete the task appropriately in a stress filled field environment.

Photo Credit:  U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Lily Daniels under Creative Commons License Share-alike and Attribution, Commander U.S. Navy 7th Fleet

2/1/14 I just posted a companion slide deck on SlideShare.  Check it out at http://www.slideshare.net/ChrisStCyr1/disruptedpractice