Lisa: 00:00 Hello, you’re listening to the Super Power U Podcast. This is Episode #7.
VO: 00:10 Welcome to the Super Power U Podcast where we reveal the mental models and tactical skills needed to activate your Inner Superhero. And here’s your host, Lisa Betts-LaCroix.
Lisa: 00:20 Hello my lovelies. Welcome back to the Super Power U Podcast. I’m thrilled you’re here with me again today and I’m super excited to bring you my guest today, Tiago Forte. If you’ve been following along the last few weeks, you know that this episode has been a long time coming, but finally here we are with Tiago. Tiago is someone I met a number of years ago when he came to present at a Quantified Self Silicon Valley Meet-up that I hosted. He did a great job then and I’m thrilled to have reconnected with him for this conversation. He’s a writer, a speaker, a teacher, and he’s a researcher and he is absolutely obsessed with the future of work, which you’ll hear in our conversation. In his previous life, he worked in micro-finance. He also served in the Peace Corps and consulted for large companies on Product Development. I really enjoyed hearing about the impact and the inspirational role Tiago’s father played in his life. In particular, I found it encouraging and liberating to think that creativity and productivity can co-exist. I tend to be someone who loves organization and productivity, but considers myself to be somewhat challenged in that regard, so it was inspiring to hear that Tiago’s father set an example for him of combining two seemingly divergent ideas that being creativity…and effectiveness and productivity. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Tiago….let’s jump right on in.
Lisa: 02:07 Tiago, Hello! Thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast.
Tiago: 02:10 Thank you, Lisa. I’m really happy to be here.
Lisa: 02:11 We go back a long way even though we don’t see each other very often. The first time we met was at the Evernote Quantified Self Silicon Valley Meet-up that I used to run. And you did an amazing presentation on David Allen’s process Getting Things Done with Evernote. I’ll make sure to point to it in the show notes. I think it’s up somewhere still.
Tiago: 02:11 It is.
Lisa: 02:31 And then I was thrilled to hear not very long ago that after that you were a guest on David Allen’s podcast.
Tiago: 02:37 That’s true. Yeah. I think over a year later someone must have sent it to him and I got a message on twitter asking me to come on his podcast and he interviewed me for his “In Conversation” podcast.
Lisa: 02:48 I really loved how he was so intrigued and impressed with how you distilled his material.
Tiago: 02:55 Yes, I want to remind you, you probably don’t remember, but helped me quite a bit with that talk. So you get some credit as well.
Lisa: 02:55 That’s right!
Tiago: 03:05 Yeah. I’ve spoken at a few Meet-ups and you’re the only one that has done that… gotten on a call with me for about an hour, hour and a half to just really in that case, simplify and shorten the talk to be more impactful, which it definitely was. So yeah, you were pretty pivotal to that whole process. And, and it’s true. I really took GTD from a different angle, which was measuring it. I said, let’s measure this process and see if it’s actually improving things and what I found is not only does it improve productivity, but that the process of using GTD makes measurement itself possible. You can’t really measure something until you’re doing it in a systematic way. So it’s like kind of from two angles, GTD made improving productivity much more tangible and much more visible.
Lisa: 03:05 Basically marrying GTD with Quantified Self.
Tiago: 03:05 Exactly, and now with Evernote, it’s like a three-part thing.
Lisa: 03:52 Fantastic. Well, how about this, could we start with you giving a bit of an introduction?
Tiago: 03:56 Absolutely. My company is called Forte Labs. We’re a loose confederation of contractors, consultants, designers, software engineers that work on projects related to our mission, which is to transform people’s productivity. We’re not really interested in marginal incremental improvement, you know, a little better time management here, slightly better to-do lists there. We’re going after really huge paradigm shifts in how people even conceive of what productivity means. And we do that through a wide variety of different media. We do corporate trainings, we do live workshops, events at conferences, at co-working spaces, startup incubators. We have a series of now three online courses, the third of which is kind of like an online boot camp on different aspects of productivity. We have a paid membership program which is attached to the blog, called Praxis. We do phone coaching, we do really a wide variety of things all focused on changing how people work.
Lisa: 04:56 Now, the focus of this podcast is the idea of superpowers. And so I’m wondering if you were always oriented toward systematization and being productive and being organized?
Tiago: 05:06 No, I don’t think I was. In fact, as a kid I wasn’t known as a daydreamer, as a procrastinator. I was very lazy. I was very into video games. I wouldn’t say I was at all, you know, even for a kid, particularly productive. Um, I liked collecting things, I’d collect baseball cards even though I didn’t play baseball and Star Wars cards. But I kind of feel like with productivity I’m scratching my own itch. David Allen often says, you teach what you need. And I think it’s true because if you don’t need it, that means it comes naturally. And if it comes naturally, you don’t appreciate how how special it is.
Lisa: 05:43 If it comes naturally, sometimes don’t even know that exists because you’re immersed in it, right?
Tiago: 05:48 Yeah, I love that you picked the idea of Superpowers as your theme because it’s something I think a lot about. And my definition of a superpower when trying to help people identify theirs is “the thing that you do that to you feels effortless and natural and fun, that to everyone else looks like you’re walking up a vertical wall”.
Lisa: 06:05 Ah, that’s beautiful. I love that. Often we need to ask other people for insight into what those skills are. Because when it comes that effortlessly, we often don’t even think of it as a thing.
Tiago: 06:19 I have a theory about this. The human mind works on, on scarcity. We value what is scarce. And the flip side of that is, when something is abundant, we don’t value it. If gold and diamonds were just strewn around the ground everywhere we would be like, oh, those pesky diamonds and gold. They would have no value. If you apply that to our own skills, the skills that you have in abundance, you undervalue them precisely because they’re abundant. And the flip side is also true, which is just as bad. It’s like the thing you don’t have is the very thing you think you need. “If I just had that one thing, then everything would be perfect. Everything will be great”. But it’s not actually that you need that one thing. It’s just that you overvalued it thing because you don’t have it.
Lisa: 06:57 OK, so given that so much is constantly changing in our world, and in how we think, and given the fact that we can adapt our mindset, how does our thinking about ourselves and the way we work…I mean really everything. What are the implications for the future as you see it?
Tiago: 07:15 I think the way it work is going is we’re all becoming essentially artists, like everything we do needs to be creative. If your job can be specified, if it can be written down and described in a job description, it’s either already been automated or it’s going to be automated very soon. We all need to be creative, even if we’re a back-end process engineer, you’ve got to find a way to do that creatively. And, and actually –I kind of feel like this is one of my, um, what do you call them, unfair advantages– is growing up with a dad who was a full-time artist…a full-time artist raising four kids in California. Which meant that he had these two constraints. One was his work was creative and inspirational. It was his passion…he’s been an artist since he was five years old. It’s all he’s ever done. And on the other side, having to pay the rent and having to put the kids through school and having to be responsible. And so he kind of developed this dual lifestyle that I have adopted, which is like creativity on one side and systems and practical techniques on the other…kind of balancing the two.
Lisa: 08:15 It’s interesting that you would say that because when I think about a full-time artist, I certainly don’t think about practicality or systematization, but it sounds like what you’re saying is that out of need, he had to be practical.
Tiago: 08:25 He did. He even had a name for it. He would them “my strategies”, you know. So you have all these little strategies from very small things like, you know, always carrying a notebook because as a dad of four kids he was running around all over town all the time. He had to be able to capture insights at anytime, in any place, from any source.
Lisa: 08:43 OK. So in terms of really specifically, how did either your father, or how do you, create a system for capturing written information in a notebook or otherwise into larger framework?
Tiago: 08:56 This is a great question and it really is a system. Bringing that to all knowledge workers is what I do in my course, Building a Second Brain… How do you get to the humble, you know, moleskin, leather-bound notebook…but bringing those notes into a system where those insights and ideas get captured, they get organized and then most importantly, they get retrieved and recycled into your actual projects. It’s funny because this course is a course on note-taking, but I don’t talk about notes, like the actual act of taking notes very much and it’s a course that uses Evernote as the example program, but I don’t teach you how to use Evernote! So it was like what? What? What is the course? What is it? So, it kind of stems from this thing I’ve noticed with Evernote in particular, and it’s true, this is true of all productivity apps actually. I’m sure your listeners have had this experience of downloading an app and then just being like, well, how do I use it? There is an industry, the software training industry that’s meant to address this, but those tutorials or the Getting Started guides put out by the companies themselves, they focused on just the features: here’s how you share a note, here’s how you create a note, here’s how you create a notebook and that’s important, but like, what is the overarching mental model or framework for not just what this one app does, but how it fits into a larger ecosystem of all your different apps working together.
Lisa: 10:13 It’s really interesting. When I first discovered Evernote, I kind of fell in love with it. But I had exactly the experience you’re talking about which was I wasn’t sure how to use it because it felt so huge and with so much possibility. I was limited by my own thinking about how to use it.
Tiago: 10:33 Exactly. That problem exists to different extents for different apps. Google docs, it’s a little more straight forward. They kind of borrowed the the model of Microsoft word. But to a certain extent, you as a user actually have to make some design decisions about how to use the app, how it fits into your workflow, what are the use cases, which features you use, right? Because every additional feature you use adds some friction. It adds some cognitive overhead and you have to then pay that cognitive overhead every single time you use that tool.
Lisa: 11:01 So it sounds like you’re suggesting that the tools can only be fully utilized if we change how we’re thinking about the information we’re trying to capture with them.
Tiago: 11:11 It’s just a series of distinctions. So one of the earliest is: Actionable Vs Reference systems, so you can think of it like actionable and non-actionable. This alone is a really powerful distinction. You have actionable systems…the things you use to get things done. This is your to-do list. This is your task manager. This is your calendar. It’s really like the ground floor, day-to-day, hour-to-hour, what you’re using. And then, in your non-actionable stuff you have different tools. You have organizational systems. You have note-taking apps like Evernote. You have cloud storage. Every piece of information, every open loop, every single thing you read and do and consume is either actionable or not actionable. But the thing is, actionable is more important! Your reference systems should be, they must be subordinated to your actionable systems. What good is it to have the perfect note-taking and organizational file structure if you’re not getting anything done?
Lisa: 12:01 Absolutely.
Tiago: 12:03 It’s much better to get things done and then have as a second priority, your reference systems. And so this brings up some interesting issues, where the perfect system is the one you stick to! It’s not the one that’s most aesthetically pleasing. It’s not the one that follows cognitive science principles perfectly. It’s not the one that looks good. It’s like, no, it’s the one that you’ll actually maintain.
Lisa: 12:23 Yeah, pretty simple. If you use it, then it works. If it works, then it’s good.
Tiago: 12:28 Exactly. Every time I screen share my Evernote or sit down with people and show it to them, they’re always shocked by how messy it is. I don’t even bother titling notes very much because every single little bit of administrative or overhead work, you know, titling things, tagging things, reorganizing, resorting… I have to question every single thing and whether it’s worth it. So much of it would be interesting, would be cool; I might even enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth it.
Lisa: 12:57 So your newest course is all about building a personal knowledge management process or what you refer to as a PKM system. The course is called “Building a Second Brain”, right? I’m wondering what the relationship is between that course and David Allen’s Getting Things Done System…
Tiago: 13:13 GTD is the actionable side and Second Brain is the reference side.
Lisa: 13:17 Ah, OK. Well, then my next question would probably be like, why does that matter? Since you just said that the actionable part is the important part.
Tiago: 13:24 Yeah, that’s a very good question. The reason it’s more important is it’s what you need to do now, like today, tomorrow. What goes into your PKM system, you know, if you don’t capture it today, tomorrow, next week, next month, no big deal. But years from now…PKM you’re investing for the long-term. You’re incubating ideas that you have no idea when or how they’re going to come to fruition. But when they do, you’re going to be drawing on your best thinking, not just in the moment, but over a huge span of time.
Lisa: 13:51 Got It. OK, so what would you say is the biggest obstacle or the biggest challenge people face to really have a revolution in how they experience effective productivity?
Tiago: 14:00 I think the fundamental challenge is really their paradigm. You know, whether you call it an attitude or a mindset or a lens or perspective. It goes by different names…the context in which people think of their work. So there’s a series of paradigm shifts that are required, I think, to move from a really old traditional way of working to the new way. And the very first –and this is why I do a live workshop on design thinking every quarter in San Francisco, because design thinking is that paradigm shift –it’s the shift in thinking that tells you productivity is not something given. It’s not something fixed. You know, the way things have always been done. Productivity is something that can be designed. It can be tweaked. It can be tuned. It can be customized to make yourself not only more productive, which is great…but happier, healthier, more balanced.
Lisa: 14:47 So what would you say is the mental model at it’s most basic level?
Tiago: 14:53 The basic mental model is to shift our thinking from being consumers –like work is something we receive, it’s just given to us– to being creators; to being designers. You can redesign your work processes; You can redesign your work environment. Every aspect of what we call work was invented by someone at some point in time. There was design, which means we can change it. So, I’m trying to really get people to take on the role or the hat of a designer…a designer of their own work
Lisa: 15:23 That makes a lot of sense to how I personally have experienced learning and how I experience change and growth, which is that you have to get in there and roll up your sleeves and interact with the content. Uh, I think in its simplest form, that’s why people go to the idea of taking notes, right? That we actually interact with the material in a way that we claim it, own it. That we get into a relationship with creation and design with it.
Tiago: 15:46 Absolutely, and that’s an example, with notes, that I’m extremely engaged in these days with my course on Digital note taking. It’s essentially: notes are not something passive you just put it on a page and never look at again. They actually represent a stream of experiences and learnings and insights that you’re having every single day in work and out of work that if you capture and organize and make use of that stream of experiences and learnings, you’ll be able to turn that into just an unimaginable variety of new ideas or new projects or even new products and services and business.
Lisa: 16:19 So in terms of specific tactics, what do you teach the participants in your course and how can I, or how can my listeners start if they want to see a revolution in the way they experienced productivity or in their information systems.
Tiago: 16:36 What I encourage people to do is to start by consuming less. We have this sort of force-feeding mentality with information. I think in our knowledge economy where it’s like, oh, how many books did you read this year? How many online articles on Pocket can I get through? How many online courses can I complete as if quantity is the same as quality. It’s not. And so to consume less, just to dial it down a little bit…and to use that time and that energy to not just consume notes and not just write down notes, but to actually interact with them. Kind of like you were saying. And so really what I teach is a whole series of techniques for doing that. Everything from ways of summarizing your notes –summarizing aa piece of information is a really great way of interacting with it. It includes ways of highlighting; You wouldn’t believe how many interesting ways there are of highlighting to facilitate information retrieval. It includes ways of drawing: drawing diagrams; making table of contents; making graphics; and includes recycling that information into your own words. So writing blog posts about it, writing stories, tweeting it, posting it on Facebook. Essentially it’s thinking of ourselves as artists and the notes as art.
Lisa: 17:48 Is there a connection between your experience growing up being raised by an artist father and how you think about?
Tiago: 17:55 I think my dad and his work has definitely been the biggest influence on everything I’m doing now. He was always taking notes so you have these little notebooks that he would sketch people and scenes and shapes or little pieces of plants or trees. He saw he was making use of every moment to be creative and productive. Not thinking like, oh, I can only be creative when I’m in my studio with the door closed and the music on like, no, that’s not how life is designed. We want to be engaged with life all the time and not isolating ourselves in a cave, but what that requires is finding ways to make use of every little pocket of time available.
Lisa: 18:31 So that’s awesome and seeing the tye-in to productivity. But the thing I’m really fascinated by, and really enjoying is that your father, as you describe him, is a very different picture to our stereotypical notion of what an artist is. I think there’s this trope in our culture of the artist as disorganized, messy, sporadic –it’s kind of a deep trope– and I love the idea that a lot of your dad’s creativity and what you’ve had modeled for you, is that creativity can come out of the process of having structures.
Tiago: 19:00 Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I think that there’s something incredibly powerful about making a living from your art. Really the best thing I did for my creativity was becoming a freelancer about five years ago because suddenly writing, drawing, music –well less so music, but, they became not just things I did on the weekend for fun, but something that had constraints. Something that had a goal and something that I was accountable to someone to. Or at least accountable to my landlord to pay the rent. Another example is about a year ago, I started charging for my blog, which everyone told me and they still tell me, is the craziest thing ever. You should make your blog free. That’s, you know, that’s how you build your audience. But what I found is the commitment to publish twice a month –which is not even that often, not that difficult of a publishing schedule, but the accountability that I have, you know, people paying money every month to read these blog posts means that I can’t do what I did in the past, which was take weeks or months in some cases to write a post, perfecting every little thing, getting every little thing just right. I have to ship early and often just to meet the demands of my customers and then I get feedback which I can then turn into a follow-up post that’s even just that much better. So I would say yeah, constraints and accountability are not just a compatible with creativity. They’re actually essential.
Lisa: 20:14 It seems to me that that synergy between structure and organization and order and creativity and expression and making things really is your sweet spot. It seems like it that keeps showing up. Can you talk about how explicit or how conscious or how intentional that is for you?
Tiago: 20:34 Yes. Yes. I think you’re right. It has shown up again and again and I think it has to do with, well, I mean, it’s definitely something I got from my dad. He was a professional artist who in college studied mathematics. Truly a renaissance man. Just so organized and so creative. So open-minded and yet also frugal with his money. So abundant in his artistic creation and yet also minimalist. He was such a minimalist! So that dual mode of thinking is definitely something I probably inherited from him. But I think one reason I sort of bring that to the surface a lot, on purpose these days, is this maybe is one of the most important mental models that I want to break… this idea that we just fit into a category. People have this idea of themselves. It comes up again and again in my conversations with them.
Tiago: 21:23 Like I am creative, I am good at organizing. Or I’m NOT good at organizing. It’s like something happened in the past that they put themselves in this category on what is usually very flimsy evidence. And then they live into that as if it’s just a fact about themselves that can never be changed. And so what I see my job, at least one of my jobs, is to design a series of experiments, of safe experiments that people feel comfortable and confident to engage in, and to perform on themselves in their lives, knowing that I’m there to lead them by the hand and to help them and to support them. And the goal of this series of experiments, not a goal like reach this objective– the goal is just to change their own conception of themselves. To change the narrative that they’re living in that often keeps them from certain opportunities or certain skills.
Lisa: 22:11 The way you’re describing that sounds like what I associate to a traditional Life and Business Coaching model, but your specialty is focused on Productivity. What’s the connection between those two?
Tiago: 22:23 That’s a very, very intuitive question. What you just described as has been my last year; this hard turn from Content production, which I still continue to do, but I’m slowly ramping down. And the past year, year-and-a-half has been really a very heavy investment in coaching –in both coaching for myself, me hiring and working with coaches to work on what I’m working on, which then has enabled me to be a coach to others. And actually just in the past two months I’ve trained my first batch of six, what I’m calling Implementation Coaches, so they’re coaches in the sense that they’re leading you through with customized, personalized process and implementation in the sense that they’re actually building something with you– which is a productivity system, a systematic way for you to get things done. So you’re right. I am really diving deep into coaching, which is not at all natural for me. My thinking, as you know, tends to be more abstract. Coaching requires thinking very on the court, very tangibly. I tend to be long-winded and like to talk a lot. Coaching requires listening. I tend to be more head-in-the-clouds intellectual. Coaching requires being very, very present, right there in the moment. So it’s definitely been a tremendous personal growth experience for me and I think for the people I’ve been working with. And it’s important because the bottleneck in people’s productivity and generally in their creativity is not knowledge– which is a funny thing for me to say as my main course these days is on knowledge management– but it’s not that one bit of information…if I just knew that one factor, that one technique then I would be unleashed. The bottleneck is self-awareness. There’s kind of self-management and self-regulation and their willingness really to engage with their emotions, with their relationships, with their communities. It’s this more intuitive and embodied side that I think is the absolute bottleneck in performance, which is why I’m diving deep into it these days.
Lisa: 24:19 Wow, interesting. A couple of things come to mind. First one is that it seems like a perfectly intuitive choice on your part to stretch yourself in the direction that you want to grow.
Tiago: 24:33 Yeah, it’s a good rule of thumb; move towards what makes you uncomfortable.
Lisa: 24:34 Exactly. And then the other thing that strikes me is the fact that content, it has progressively in the last five to 10 years become really, really not that important. And as you already pointed out, often too abundant. It’s almost like we have too much content. It used to be education was built around providing content to people and now our issue is what we do with that content and how we interact with it that is most important. And that you’re building structures around.
Tiago: 25:07 Yeah, absolutely. You could decrease your information consumption by 50% and increase your actual application or using that knowledge by five percent; I think that would be a good trade.
Lisa: 25:14 Raising my kids, a lot of times I saw them consuming too much…whether it was consuming media content or playing video games or online games. I developed this point of reference for them which was balancing three C’s and the three C’s are Consumption, Creation, and Contribution. So if you are consuming, consuming, consuming, you’re reading, you’re watching TV, you’re watching online shows, your playing video games…then maybe look to “where can I be creative in my day, where can I create something?” And then when you’re balanced in those two areas, then ask where can you contribute? So I think that maybe that fits into some of what you’re describing.
Tiago: 25:50 Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, consumption is comfortable. You get to lay back on your couch or whatever and watch or listen or read, which is just not, it’s not the same as actually standing up, going outside or talking to someone. Or working on a project where you have something at stake; You have skin in the game.
Lisa: 26:06 Exactly. OK, so let’s hear about your Knowledge Management program because I’ve had a bit of exposure to it and it’s fascinating, but I’d love to hear it distilled for my listeners.
Tiago: 26:19 Absolutely. So Building a Second Brain is the name of my course. It’s sort of an online boot camp taking place on specific dates. It’s like a 30-day sprint where from day one to day 30 we go through quite a number of different techniques on knowledge management. And knowledge management, and specifically personal knowledge management! So I’m more focused on an individual’s knowledge before we move on to team knowledge or organizational knowledge management. It’s a simple process of capturing what you know from any source, whether you read it in a book, whether it’s a random thought that occurs to you walking down the street…or something interesting you’ve heard in a conversation or an interesting scene from a movie or a screenshot of a webpage that you liked the design and you don’t even know why. We really look at in the course of the dozens of sources of potential ideas and insights that we have exposure to just in the normal course of our day. The first pillar actually is Capture. You’ve got to save stuff in some tangible form outside of your head for it to then become useful to you.
Lisa: 27:19 OK, I can definitely see how Evernote fits into that because it’s great for capturing.
Tiago: 27:22 Exactly. So the category of apps that I really advocate for this process is note-taking apps because they’re different from like Microsoft Word or Google docs in that they’re really optimized for quick capture. It’s so much faster and easier to capture something in say Evernote or Onenote or…there’s a few options. Bear is a new up-and-coming one. So yeah, Evernote is the reference app that I use to show how these things work. But it’s not limited to Evernote. And that’s the first of three pillars. After you start capturing things, the other two pillars really followed very naturally. The second pillar is Organize. I actually take people through a very straightforward process of organizing, not in extreme detail. We’re spending all this time finding the exact right tag and the right label and the right category…but just in a very simple four-part system based on 1) your projects 2) your responsibilities 3) your topics of interest and then 4) archives for past projects. Getting just to a very minimal level of organization where you know where to look for things without going overboard into this crazy complex organizational system. And the third pillar is Sharing. Kind of what we were talking about, you know, not just hoarding knowledge like your little pot of gold under your bed, but actually very actively and continuously outputting into the public. Whether that’s sharing something that you took notes on with a coworker so that they can benefit from it too, to publishing a blog post all the way to potentially turning it into a new product or new service or a new course or some other sort of bigger thing. So those are really the three simple pillars: Capture, Organizing, Share which we go through in the course. And it’s a bootcamp, which means that I’m actually giving you real time feedback on how it’s working.
Lisa: 29:01 I love it. OK. Did you ever read the book, “Love is the Killer APP” by Tim Sanders?
Tiago: 29:06 No, I haven’t heard of that.
Lisa: 29:07 Some of what you’re talking about, he advocated in that book. When you’re reading books you put notes in them in a very specific indexing system at the beginning of the book. And the idea was also that once you captured information or distilled it or highlighted it with his step-by-step process, then you had a book to lend to someone else because another big piece, another big theme was Community and sharing. Just a short sideline on books… You mentioned that your Knowledge Management Process is a 30-day sprint. Have you been influenced by the scrum process?
Tiago: 29:41 Very much so. I’ve been hugely inspired by scrum and the agile movement more broadly….also by design sprints and hackathons, which are that idea applied to design and coding respectively. But yeah, really, it comes from some work experiences I’ve had where a small extremely dedicated team with firm time constraints and a very clear goal who trust each other and who know how to work together, can accomplish more in a very short amount of time, then we have any reason to think is possible. Really, I feel like I’ve seen miracles! And so this is also contrasted with what I view as the failure of the self-paced course model. I’ve done self-paced courses, they’ve been successful. I’ve taken many of them, but both the completion rates and the application rates of self-paced courses are so abysmal that I really think we need to find a new mental model actually, a new business model and a new mental model. So I’ve been trying out this essentially month-long sprint in the form of a course. And it’s been tremendously successful. We’ve had 270 people do it over the past year in four month-long rounds and now we’re ready to turn it into different formats now that the ideas are validated. We’re going to do a self-paced course that also has a coaching component for accountability. I’m going to be writing a book. I’m going to be offering different formats so that as many people as possible can be exposed to Knowledge Management.
Lisa: 31:03 So since the whole knowledge economy is such a huge thing, and I know that many people are looking at course creation and content management and presentation… Can you say a little bit more about what the structure of those 200+ people are, how are you interacting with them and how are they getting community out of the structure that you created?
Tiago: 31:23 Yes, absolutely. So over the 30 days we have two 90 minute sessions and it’s the flipped classroom model where instead of lecturing in class and then assigning homework to do on your own, I am having them watch pre-recorded lectures. There’s nine units and each unit is around 15 minutes. So they have a very minimal amount of passive watching to do during the week. And then in the two live sessions we come together on a video conferencing program called Zoom…and the participants are from all around the world. So we have people getting up at three in the morning in Europe. We have people on the east and west coast of the United States and we have people in Asia. And we work through the implications. You know, they often come with their challenges and their obstacles, which me and my team of coaches can address because we’ve been using this in our day to day work for a long time. They come with new ideas. Very often they have new implementations or new applications that I never even thought of that are completely novel, especially since we have people of every conceivable background and profession. And then it’s essentially a combination of Q&A, coaching, live exercises, and then we do break out rooms. Zoom has a feature where you can divide people into smaller virtual rooms where they work on different problems and solve different questions and then I bring them all back and we have a big group discussion. So it’s really just like any collaborative project, except we have a learning objective which is to implement personal knowledge management in our working lives– and we’re doing it in the context of a course with exercises, coaching, evaluations….and you mentioned the community. The town square of the course is an online forum. It’s not a facebook group. It’s not a slack channel. It’s an actual dedicated website where people post their questions and often they answer each other’s questions. They can post screenshots and that’s actually been a surprisingly amazing resource as people can collaborate even if they can’t be on the call at the same time.
Lisa: 33:14 I just love how learning is changing. It’s been changing so much, but it continues to change at such rapid-fire pace that I don’t think we’re going to recognize the structures of coursework as it evolves. So who was the course for? Who are the participants?
Tiago: 33:29 It’s really hard to say because there’s been software developers; we had a cancer researcher from one of the high profile hospitals; we’ve had corporate pilots; we’ve had executive coaches; we’ve had content marketers. I mean, really everything you can imagine…students as young as high school; people who are retired and looking for their second act. It’s funny when you really get to knowledge and “what do you know” and “how can you make use of it” that crosses every boundary. It’s not exclusive to one profession or one type of work. One goal I do have–I think the tech industry and tech-savvy people have been kind of predominant so far. That’s partly a result of of just who I am and the audiences that I have interacted with…The one goal, and maybe you could help me with this actually, is to reach new audiences. To really diversify…have more women, have more people of color, have the differently-abled, people in other countries, people in professions that maybe are not tech-savvy. Every one of those groups I’m really committed to reaching and to involving in what we’re doing because we need as many diverse eyes on this problem –the problem of how to manage knowledge– as we can possibly get.
Lisa: 34:39 To that end, could you describe how someone say someone like me would possibly benefit?
Tiago: 34:46 I think that your striking right at the heart of the issue, which is all that the examples in the case studies I use are techie examples and I’m trying to shift that because really I use Evernote for everything. So I’m working on an in-depth case study right now on using Evernote and Knowledge Management for meal-planning. You know, you have to be organized and you have to be efficient. Of course, you also need to not spend too much money. You need it to be fun and novel, right? Like you can’t eat the same thing for every meal. It’s this complex, multi-dimensional problem that also is pivotal. I mean that has influences on your health, your energy levels, your productivity, has an influence on the health of your family, the health of the people around you, on the environment. I mean, I just listened to a Tim Ferris podcast yesterday with this environmentalist who was talking about if we just focused on our food…what we ate, what we wasted and how we cooked, it would have a bigger impact on the environment than any diesel trucks or cars. And I thought, wow, what a simple personal knowledge problem. The problem of meal planning! That if we could just help people solve it a little bit easier it could have such an impact on our lives and the planet and our families.
Lisa: 35:54 That’s fantastic. That’s a great example and I just love how when we solve one problem and we find an application that works in one area, it doesn’t take that much creativity, even though it is a challenge and we have to stretch ourselves…but there is usually a bridge to another topic, area or domain. And that’s what I’m all about, too is…where are the bridges between domains?
Tiago: 36:14 Yes, exactly, and I need help. So anyone from your audience who’s willing to help me with this diversity problem I’m tackling or you think there’s an application to your field, please reach out.
Lisa: 36:23 Fantastic. So that’s a perfect segue into talking a little bit about how people can follow you and how we can reach you.
Tiago: 36:29 Yes. The home base is my website, Fortelabs.co (co not com) and there you’ll find links to everything else. I’m also on twitter, very actively @fortelabs. I’m less so on Facebook and Linkedin, but you can find me there as well. And yeah, I’d love to hear your audience’s impressions of this conversation, what questions they might have, what challenges and problems they foresee that they might be able to to help me identify and yeah, I’d just love to engage with them.
Lisa: 37:01 Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time. And there were so many things I didn’t get to ask you, I think we might have to do this again. So thanks so much.
Tiago: 37:01 Thank you. Lisa. It was a pleasure.
Lisa: 37:11 So there you have it. That’s our show for today. If you’d like to connect with Tiago, please do reach out and contact him through twitter or through his website. Consider taking one of his online classes and I might even see you there. Please do subscribe to our podcast and if you’ve enjoyed anything in the episode today, please pass it on if you know someone who you think would get something out of it. The way we get more views and more listeners is if you give us a review on iTunes and I’m always thrilled and happy to hear feedback from you. So if you have information, ideas, suggestions for guests, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please like our Facebook page at Super Power U. Show notes with links can be found at www.lisabl.com/7 and join us again next week. So bye for now, my lovelies. Have a great, great week.
VO: 38:15 Thank you for listening to the Super Power U Podcast. Please subscribe to the show on iTunes and get more information at LisaBL.com.
the show notes, which you can find at LisaBL.com/7. Please do leave us a review on iTunes, subscribe and come back next week. I’ve got another great episode planned and I look forward to seeing you then.
VO: 44:27 Thank you for listening to this podcast. Please subscribe to the show on iTunes and get more information at LisaBL.com.
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