Welcome to my blog

This space is dedicated to my thoughts on Learning & Development, Organizational Health, dispute resolution, eLearning, Leadership & Tech. It includes my own thoughts, as well as posts from my heroes, mentors, and other sources of inspiration. For more info about me, please visit: http://www.matbeecher.com


Copy Cat or Reverse Engineering?

I recently completed 12 of 12 AWS Cloud Quest scenario/lab-based exercises. It was a lot of fun for me, both from a cloud/technical learning perspective and also from an eLearning design perspective.

I enjoyed the Solutions Center UX/UI so much, that I decided to reverse engineer the experience using Articulate Storyline. It’s still a work in progress, but dang what a fun exercise. I really enjoy trying to re-create work I see online: eLearning, flat graphics, websites, etc. It’s a good way to keep learning, cultivate creativity, and challenge myself to keep trying new things.


For obvious reasons, and to utilize my cloud computing knowledge. I of course decided to host this sample using an AWS S3 Bucket 🙂


Note: I didn’t actually include any technical videos in the video concepts section, but rather a live performance of a friend’s band I live-streamed during the pandemic.

#articulatestoryline #aws #elearningdesign

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It

by Laura Delizonna


The highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety — the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and…“There’s no team without trust,” says Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google. He knows the results of the tech giant’s massive two-year study on team performance, which revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behavior that lead to market breakthroughs.Ancient evolutionary adaptations explain why psychological safety is both fragile and vital to success in uncertain, interdependent environments. The brain processes a provocation by a boss, competitive coworker, or dismissive subordinate as a life-or-death threat. The amygdala, the alarm bell in the brain, ignites the fight-or-flight response, hijacking higher brain centers. This “act first, think later” brain structure shuts down perspective and analytical reasoning. Quite literally, just when we need it most, we lose our minds. While that fight-or-flight reaction may save us in life-or-death situations, it handicaps the strategic thinking needed in today’s workplace.

Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina has found that positive emotions like trust, curiosity, confidence, and inspiration broaden the mind and help us build psychological, social, and physical resources. We become more open-minded, resilient, motivated, and persistent when we feel safe. Humor increases, as does solution-finding and divergent thinking — the cognitive process underlying creativity.When the workplace feels challenging but not threatening, teams can sustain the broaden-and-build mode. Oxytocin levels in our brains rise, eliciting trust and trust-making behavior. This is a huge factor in team success, as Santagata attests: “In Google’s fast-paced, highly demanding environment, our success hinges on the ability to take risks and be vulnerable in front of peers.”So how can you increase psychological safety on your own team? Try replicating the steps that Santagata took with his:

1. Approach conflict as a collaborator, not an adversary. We humans hate losing even more than we love winning. A perceived loss triggers attempts to reestablish fairness through competition, criticism, or disengagement, which is a form of workplace-learned helplessness. Santagata knows that true success is a win-win outcome, so when conflicts come up, he avoids triggering a fight-or-flight reaction by asking, “How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?”

2. Speak human to human. Underlying every team’s who-did-what confrontation are universal needs such as respect, competence, social status, and autonomy. Recognizing these deeper needs naturally elicits trust and promotes positive language and behaviors. Santagata reminded his team that even in the most contentious negotiations, the other party is just like them and aims to walk away happy. He led them through a reflection called “Just Like Me,” which asks you to consider: This person has beliefs, perspectives, and opinions, just like me. This person has hopes, anxieties, and vulnerabilities, just like me. This person has friends, family, and perhaps children who love them, just like me. This person wants to feel respected, appreciated, and competent, just like me. This person wishes for peace, joy, and happiness, just like me.

3. Anticipate reactions and plan countermoves. “Thinking through in advance how your audience will react to your messaging helps ensure your content will be heard, versus your audience hearing an attack on their identity or ego,” explains Santagata. Skillfully confront difficult conversations head-on by preparing for likely reactions. For example, you may need to gather concrete evidence to counter defensiveness when discussing hot-button issues. Santagata asks himself, “If I position my point in this manner, what are the possible objections, and how would I respond to those counterarguments?” He says, “Looking at the discussion from this third-party perspective exposes weaknesses in my positions and encourages me to rethink my argument.” Specifically, he asks: What are my main points? What are three ways my listeners are likely to respond? How will I respond to each of those scenarios?

4. Replace blame with curiosity. If team members sense that you’re trying to blame them for something, you become their saber-toothed tiger. John Gottman’s research at the University of Washington shows that blame and criticism reliably escalate conflict, leading to defensiveness and — eventually — to disengagement. The alternative to blame is curiosity. If you believe you already know what the other person is thinking, then you’re not ready to have a conversation. Instead, adopt a learning mindset, knowing you don’t have all the facts. Here’s how: State the problematic behavior or outcome as an observation, and use factual, neutral language. For example, “In the past two months there’s been a noticeable drop in your participation during meetings and progress appears to be slowing on your project.” Engage them in an exploration. For example, “I imagine there are multiple factors at play. Perhaps we could uncover what they are together?” Ask for solutions. The people who are responsible for creating a problem often hold the keys to solving it. That’s why a positive outcome typically depends on their input and buy-in. Ask directly, “What do you think needs to happen here?” Or, “What would be your ideal scenario?” Another question leading to solutions is: “How could I support you?”

5. Ask for feedback on delivery. Asking for feedback on how you delivered your message disarms your opponent, illuminates blind spots in communication skills, and models fallibility, which increases trust in leaders. Santagata closes difficult conversations with these questions:What worked and what didn’t work in my delivery?How did it feel to hear this message?How could I have presented it more effectively?For example, Santagata asked about his delivery after giving his senior manager tough feedback. His manager replied, “This could have felt like a punch in the stomach, but you presented reasonable evidence and that made me want to hear more. You were also eager to discuss the challenges I had, which led to solutions.”

6. Measure psychological safety. Santagata periodically asks his team how safe they feel and what could enhance their feeling of safety. In addition, his team routinely takes surveys on psychological safety and other team dynamics. Some teams at Google include questions such as, “How confident are you that you won’t receive retaliation or criticism if you admit an error or make a mistake?” If you create this sense of psychological safety on your own team starting now, you can expect to see higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It

The Important Benefits of Getting to Know Your Core Values

By: Mat Beecher

Both organizations and individuals benefit greatly from knowing and living up to their core values. When we know what our core values are, and live up to them in the things that we do, we show integrity. Integrity is what lives at the intersection of core values and actions.

Integrity is not a value

Unfortunately, it takes time and commitment to peel back the various layers of the onion to uncover our core values. Core values are elusive. So where to begin? And why? Let me start with the why. Have you ever applied for a job and been miserable? If you haven’t good for you. But if you have experienced such a situation, think back. Why didn’t you like the job? Could it be that your core values didn’t align with the core values of the organization?

The answer? Maybe. The challenge being if both the organization and you are unaware of your core values, it’s quite difficult get yourselves aligned. If only one party knows their core values, alignment is still difficult, because you have to know your values in order to align them. The absolute worst situation is when one or both parties project X, Y, and Z as being their core values, but not living up to them. For when do not live up to our presented core values, we cannot claim to have integrity. And where there is a lack of integrity, there is often strife.

So where to begin? How can we identify our core values? Start by doing a search for core values + word list. There is no shortage of such lists online, so find one that resonates with you, print it, and find yourself a pen. Or, here’s an example with a bonus exercise. It’s time for some good old-fashioned crossing off and circling. Begin by circling the words that resonate with you and crossing off any terms that just aren’t you. If you get stuck, ask yourself questions like “are there any qualities other people possess that you can’t stand?” Cross it off. “What traits do you admire in other people?” Circle them. “If you had to describe yourself in 15 words or less, what would they be?” The goal is to narrow down the list and from there, to keep on whittling.

If you find that you have trouble narrowing down your list even further, it may help to ask your friends, family, and colleagues to circle and cross-off words they feel do or do not describe you. To do so requires you to be both courageous and vulnerable, but the benefits of such bravery are almost always helpful in your journey of self-discovery. It can be quite difficult looking inward. Our own biases, the Dunning-Kruger Effect, the innate human ability to be our own biggest critic, are just a few of the cognitive obstacles we may face as we seek to discover our own core values and relying on the insights and wisdom of others may just be the key to learning more about ourselves.

After you get the list narrowed down, group similar words into value buckets. Then, try to label each bucket with an overarching term, or simply pick the value term from each bucket that best resonates with you and use that for your bucket title.

Another tool to consider is the Johari Window. Similar to using a list of value terms, the Johari Window is an exercise that uses a list of adjectives to describe yourself or another in an effort to compare your viewpoint against theirs. The purpose of the exercise is to identify 4 areas about ourselves: The Arena (known to you and them), the Façade (what you claim but they don’t see), our Blind Spots (what they see, but we do not), and the Hidden (traits unknown).

Johari Window

Taking a deeper dive into the Johari Window from the lens of self-discovery and personal growth, the goal is to shrink our Blind Spot(s) and Façade. We shrink our Blind Spot by asking for and receiving feedback more often, and we shrink our façade by knowing our core values, sharing them with others, and living up to them each and every day. In other words, we show others our integrity by behaving in ways that align with our values.

As we begin to learn more about and share our core values, we begin to grow The Arena. In doing so, we not only cast light on the shadows of our Façade and Blind Spots, but we also begin to narrow in on the Hidden area of ourselves. The unknown. The elusive, inner-core of our being. The heart of the onion. The very core. Here, we come upon that which remains after unpeeling layer upon layer of ourselves. It isn’t easy, and like peeling an onion, may result in a few tears. But it’s worth it in the end.

So why not give it a try? Stop saying you value or have integrity. Instead, discover your core, tell the world around you what you value, and then live up to being your authentic self. Show the world how much integrity you have.

So what about uncovering organizational values? We’ll save that for another time. Thanks for being here, and for being you.

Remember, if IT Matters to me, I hope IT matters to you. And please do share any thoughts or feedback.

Psychological Safety Meets Toxic Positivity

By: Mat Beecher

Way back in 1990, psychological safety was defined by William Kahn as, “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.” Near the beginning of the 21st century (and to the present), Amy Edmondson helped bring psychological safety into the forefront of leadership and organization development conversations around the world. Her research and body of works ties together the relationship between teams that exhibit high performance with teams that have high psychological safety. Most recently, in 2020, Dr. Timothy Clark published a book entitled The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety where he puts forth a framework of “safety phases” and defines psychological safety as “a condition in which human beings feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn, (3) safe to contribute, and (4) safe to challenge the status quo – all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way.”

How I see it is to have psychological safety is to be free. It is a state of mind where one can be themselves; their true self, their most innovative self, their absolute best, or even their absolute worst. And that’s okay, because we all have bad days. We’re not always at our best. The key difference is that in a psychologically safe environment, we aren’t ridiculed when we aren’t at our very best, where in non-safe environments, people are ridiculed for their bad days, and only praised when they are at their very best. Dr. Clark suggests that a psychologically safe environment is one that encourages intellectual friction, not interpersonal friction.

When only high-performance is praised, morale suffers and fear cultures thrive. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, let me explain. If we know that only our best ideas will receive praise, we will hesitate to put forth ideas that we don’t deem to be our very best. Add to that the idea that individuals are most often our own biggest critic, and suddenly, nobody is willing to put forth their ideas because (mentally) they’ve deemed them not to be their very best. And taking this a step further, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the impact of power dynamics, privilege, dominant/non-dominant cultural, etc. For some, it is very easy to speak up and have their ‘great ideas’ heard. These people usually feel safe, not because of a healthy, psychologically safe environment, but because of privilege and entitlement. The goal is to create a space where all voices are heard, thus all ideas are considered, not just the voices and ideas of the most privileged people in the room.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t praise high performers or peoples’ very best ideas, I’m suggesting it is dangerous to only recognize success, and not praise effort. Sure, effort may not “win the proverbial race” but when a world-class athlete doesn’t win the gold, can we not still be inspired by their performance? Can we not learn something from their not-quite-gold-medal-worthy performance? Can we not study mistakes that were made and see them not as mistakes, but rather opportunities to learn and improve?

So often, companies look to focus (only) on the positive. They ignore failures or sweep them under the rug and move on. What they do not realize is that this positive-focused culture, this blind optimism, may be damaging the morale of individuals and teams, resulting in a negative impact on organizational health. When we focus solely on the positive, we may inadvertently suppress minority opinions and the voice of dissent.

Healthy organizations tend to focus on a culture of learning. One where great ideas and great effort are praised. One where ‘bad ideas’ or ‘mistakes’ don’t really exist, because each of the aforementioned is nothing more than an opportunity to learn. It is from our mistakes that lessons are born, and it is from lessons that we obtain the knowledge we need in order to succeed. Therefore, I recommend organizations strive to build their culture around learning and psychologically safety. Create a space where people and teams feel safe enough to share their ideas, even the bad ones, so that they can learn from each other and grow.

Think back on the last meeting you had. Based upon leadership in the room and power dynamics, what behaviors did you see in play? We’re people being drawn out and encouraged to participate and share or were people and ideas being shut down and silenced? Were leaders inspiring confidence or inducing fear? Did you feel encouraged or discouraged? What about your team mates? How do you think they felt in the room?

4 Types of Training Videos for Learning

Better Videos, Better Learning

Videos are an excellent way for Learning & Development professionals to create focused micro-learning. Keeping videos short and to the point allows for easier [future] edits and maintaining user attention. Make sure the videos you create are stored in a convenient place and well-organized to ensure that your learners can access the information quickly and easily. Don’t forget to track the number of hits and time spent viewed, so you can measure the success of your training videos and prove to your executive why you need that dedicated studio.

Source: 4 Types of Training Videos for Learning

4 Must Have Features of Best Corporate Training Videos and 5 Examples

Great advice, and a fun animated ‘video’ example of putting their advice into action. This article isn’t just about video, but more so learner retention, how to design training to meet the ‘mental’ capacity of learners, and how to reinforce classroom training with eLearning, videos, and podcasts.

Source: 4 Must Have Features of Best Corporate Training Videos and 5 Examples

The Path to Effective Assessments in Corporate Training | eLearning Blog

At heart, learning is action and reflection, and instruction is designed action and guided reflection. As instructional designers, we should be creating learning experiences that are a series of problems supplemented with resources to guide performance and then feedback to refine understanding.  Such problem-solving, when evaluated (whether scaffolded with feedback or not, but why would […]

Source: The Path to Effective Assessments in Corporate Training | eLearning Blog

When You’re Full, You’re Full

Cathy Moore is brilliant and it seems nearly every post she puts out is spot on and to the point. I can never get enough and wholeheartedly agree with her mission to save the world from boring training. In this post, she touches upon an age-old problem in the learning environment, trying to cram too much information into one ‘sitting.’ A good rule of thumb, if you want your training to have an impact, you need it to be memorable. Anyways, I’ll never put it as eloquently as Ms. Moore, so read on until you’ve had enough.

“You need to eat more!” she says, heaping your plate until it rivals Mount Everest. “Eat! Eat!” We all know the stereotype. Unfortunately, we can find ourselves turning into that stereotype when we feed information to people. “You have to know this!” we say, filling the screen to bursting. “And this! And this!” In scenario-design…

via Scenario mistakes to avoid #2: “Eat! Eat! You need to eat!” — Cathy Moore