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    Entries in Tools (3)



    As a parent of an 11 year old I have had the fun of building helping to build quite a few Lego sets over the years. Sets ranging from a few dozen pieces for the simplest small projects, to at least one set that consisted of over 2,000 pieces, and that I think took me about a month, working in small batches toLego Taj Mahal complete. A quick Google search masquerading as exhaustive research of the company history indicates the largest Lego set in terms of individual pieces to be the 2008 Taj Mahal set, an amazing likeness of the iconic building checking in at over 5,900 total pieces.

    Certainly for anyone that has spent time constructing and playing with Lego building sets over the years would attest to just how more evolved, detailed, and fantastic they have become, (insert the requisite 'Back in my day, we only had plain blocks and could build square houses' lament here). By continuously innovating and expanding the possibilities of what could be re-created and re-imagined with plastic blocks, Lego has carved a unique place in the toy industry, and by some accounts is now the 4th-largest toy manufacturer in the world. 

    But the really cool thing about Lego I think is not solely or even primarily the amazing sets like the Taj Mahal, the Tower Bridge, or the almost 4,000 piece Star Wars Death Star. It's the way that the company still recognizes and embraces the elegance and importance of the simple, classic, and foundational Lego brick. You know the one I am talking about right? A simple rectangular building brick, a little Lego version of the real world builder's 2x4, the simplest and yet most fundamental brick of them all. The kind of brick that form the basis for walls, towers, and really for anything that can be imagined by the builder.

    On the right is the image of the 1958 patent drawing for the Lego brick, (click on the image for a larger size), and while you might be thinking that the humble brick in the drawing has nothing at all to do with wonders like the Taj Mahal set, I think you might be wrong. Rather than me trying to explain why, let's get the Lego company's take on it - the following is directly from the Lego.com 'History' web page: Lego patent drawing - 1958

    The LEGO brick is our most important product. This is why we are proud to have been named twice – “Toy of the Century”. Our products have undergone extensive development over the years – but the foundation remains the traditional LEGO brick.

    The brick in its present form was launched in 1958. The interlocking principle with its tubes makes it unique, and offers unlimited building possibilities. It's just a matter of getting the imagination going – and letting a wealth of creative ideas emerge through play.

    The folks at Lego have realized that no matter how far they can push the creativity and design that goes into new building sets, the foundation that is the simple brick from 1958 is the source of it all. It makes Death Stars and Taj Mahals possible, but it also does more that that. The 5,900 piece Taj Mahal set is essentially designed to do one thing - to become a miniaturized, detailed, and accurate version of the actual Taj Mahal.

    But a pile of simple bricks, the foundation elements that Lego still sees as the most important part of their portfolio, well these are designed to become anything that the builder can imagine. And that is probably why over 60 years later, the 'system' no matter how much it has advanced, still works on a fundamental level. 

    When the core of a system is simple, essential, and 'right', well, almost anything is possible from there.


    Print Friendly

    At the closing session of HRevolution 2010 - 'Breaking out of the Echo Chamber', Laurie Ruettimann and Lance Haun offered a number of suggestions to more effectively spread the power and reach of social and new media, technology, and new ways of viewing networks and collaboration beyond the so-called 'echo chamber' of HR bloggers and social media enthusiasts.

    One of the specific recommendations was about sharing online content, specifically blogs and blog posts, with HR and other business leaders that are not aware of or inclined to be regular blog readers. In fact, Laurie specifically advised rather than simply forwarding links to interesting content, to cut and paste the actual content into the body of an email message, or even to printing a particularly good blog post to hand to your VP or CEO.

    I think that is actually pretty good advice, and recently I posted about a free service called Tabbloid that can help facilitate making online content from blogs more easily accessible and consumable for those non blog reading executives.  I really like Tabbloid, it delivers a nicely formatted PDF of a week's worth of posts to me every Sunday. But it still requires going to Tabbloid and doing a bit of configuration to get up and running.  Not a big deal, but additional every step in a technical process raises the barrier just a bit more.

    A potentially even simpler way to generate clean, printable content from a blog post or web page is from a site called Print Friendly - www.printfriendly.com. Print Friendly allows you to simply cut and paste a URL from a post or page into a dialog box, and with one click generate a PDF file that can be easily printed or shared via email. 

    There is even a Print Friendly button that can be embedded inside blog posts to provide readers with access to this simple capability. 



    Simply click on the little 'Print/PDF' button above and you will be taken to the Print Friendly version of this post.


    This service is simple, useful, free - and an incredibly easy way to help share that great blog post you just read with your boss, her boss, and even that crusty old-timer on your team that just can't be bothered to set up Google Reader or thinks Feedburner is some kind of gasoline additive.
    If you are a blogger, consider placing one of these little buttons on your posts to make it easier for your readers to distribute your content.
    If you do give this a try, let me know how it works for you, and if you have any other tools or tricks for sharing content 'outside of the echo chamber', please share them as well.
    Sorry in advance to all the trees that will have to go to support the thousands of folks that will want to print this post!




    Google Sidewiki for HR

    Since so many new tools and technologies emerge, seemingly every day, it can be hard for HR Professionals to keep up with all the new developments.  A question I get asked often is which of these flashy new tools might have real utility in the workplace, and which might better be considered as consumer oriented solutions.

    Sometimes a new tool or enhancement to an existing tool is created that on the surface does not have obvious workforce related implications, but with some thought, and perhaps creativity, can be leveraged in an effective way.

    One of these tools is the Google Sidewiki.  Introduced about two weeks ago, Sidewiki allows anyone that installs the latest version of Google Toolbar, the ability to add comments to any web page.

    Once installed, Sidewiki appears as a browser sidebar, where you can view, add, or comment on entries made about that web page.

    This video from Google gives a quick overview of the tool:

    Thinking about the potential HR and workforce uses of an 'always on' commenting and feedback tool for any web page:

    Candidate communication - Carry on discussions, offer links to more resources, and provide a bit more of a 'personal' experience to your corporate jobs pages. If nothing else, monitor the Sidewiki entries that may already be on your jobs pages.  It is not too far a reach to think that a disgruntled candidate may start using the Sidewiki capability to indicate any frustration or displeasure they have with the application process, or your company in general. If HR is the new marketing, then part of the duty is to keep an eye on what is being said about the brand.

    Employee feedback - Chances are your HR and Benefits related information sits on your employee intranet, changes only about once per year, and is read only on an 'have-to' basis by your employees. Sidewiki can be a mechanism to inject a bit of interaction and interest to normally dull pages and content. If you operate in the kind of environment where getting changes made to your HR intranet requires forms filled out in triplicate and taking the IT manager to lunch, then leveraging a free, and no-IT necessary tool like Sidewiki may make sense.

    Integration from 'static' web sites to social networks - Sidewiki can become a component of your integrated strategy in communicating your messages in social networks.  Sidewiki entries can be easily shared to Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger blogs, and help you achieve some consistency and reach in your message. In fact, as soon as this post is published, I will add a Sidewiki entry to the page and share it out on Twitter. If you see the Tweet and link to the entry, please let me know what you think of the tool and the process of sharing information in that manner.

    Impetus to add social elements to HR/Recruiting sites - The aspect of Sidewiki that HR and Communications departments have to understand, is that it in 'on' whether you want it to be or not.  Even if your 'Working Here' page does not have a forum, integrated chat room, or even a simply 'contact us' e-mail address, candidates, current employees, past employees, heck anyone can add Sidewiki entries to your page. Since Sidewiki entries are largely out of your control (Google decides what is offensive and what entries are the most relevant, not you), you may want to finally join the cool kids and incorporate more and better mechanisms to engage employees and candidates that you can control somewhat.

    To try out Google Sidewiki go to google.com/sidewiki to load the new Google Toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer that contains the new Sidewiki button.

    Can you see any other, perhaps more meaningful uses of Sidewiki for HR?