4 years at Affirm – the LinkedIn post – punched up by…. ChatGPT

I asked ChatGPT to punch up my LinkedIn post

I just completed 4 years at my company. I want to write a really good LinkedIn post celebrating this milestone – here’s my draft – This weekend I was reflecting on my 4 years at Affirm. This has been the most fulfilling job I have held in my career at a company whose mission I truly believe in and where I have felt that if I operated with integrity & gave my best, I could influence its culture, and contribute to its success. Thank you Affirm and Affirmers for making this experience both fun and fulfilling. I will be forever grateful.

Here’s what ChatGPT wrote for me:

As I sit here, reflecting on my four years at Affirm, I am filled with gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities, challenges, and growth that this journey has brought me. From day one, I knew that I was joining a company with a mission that aligned with my values, and I am proud to have contributed to making that mission a reality.

Throughout these four years, I have had the privilege of working alongside some of the most talented and inspiring individuals in the industry. Affirmers have welcomed me with open arms, challenged me to be my best, and supported me through both triumphs and tribulations. I am forever grateful for the relationships I have built here and the lifelong connections that will undoubtedly endure.

As I move forward, I take with me the valuable lessons and experiences that Affirm has given me. I am confident that the skills I have developed here will serve me well in my future endeavors. Thank you, Affirm, for an incredible four years – I cannot wait to see what the future holds!

I ended up editing out the last paragraph because parts of it made it sound I was leaving the company.

What do you think? Was ChatGPT able to make my post better?

How People React to Crises

A crisis is a sudden, unexpected event that causes a great deal of disruption and distress. People can react to crises in a variety of ways, and there is no one right way to cope with a crisis. Some people may become overwhelmed and unable to function, while others may be able to stay calm and focused. Some people may withdraw from others, while others may reach out for support.

There are seven main personas of people on the Internet during a crisis:

  1. The Watcher: This person is constantly monitoring the news and social media for updates on the crisis. They are often the first to share information with others, and they may also be the first to offer help or support.
  2. The Connector: This person is always looking for ways to connect people during a crisis. They may start a Facebook group or a Twitter chat, or they may simply reach out to friends and family to offer support.
  3. The Activist: This person is passionate about making a difference during a crisis. They may volunteer their time, donate money, or even travel to the affected area to help out.
  4. The Educator: This person is always looking for ways to educate others about the crisis. They may write blog posts, create videos, or even give presentations.
  5. The Counselor: This person is always available to listen and offer support to those who are struggling during a crisis. They may provide emotional support, financial assistance, or even legal advice.
  6. The Humorist: This person uses humor to cope with the stress of a crisis. They may post funny memes or jokes, or they may even make light of the situation in their own writing or videos.
  7. The Skeptic: This person is always questioning the information they see about the crisis. They may be suspicious of news reports or social media posts, and they may even doubt the severity of the situation.

It is important to remember that everyone reacts to crises differently. These personas are just a few examples of the many different ways people may respond to a crisis.

If you are struggling to cope with a crisis, there are many resources available to help you. You can reach out to a friend, family member, or mental health professional for support. You can also find information and resources online or in your local community.

How people use the internet during a crisis

During a crisis, people tend to use the internet in various ways, depending on their personality, goals, and circumstances. Here are 7 personas that people may exhibit on the internet during a crisis:

  1. The Information Seeker
  • Constantly searching for information about the crisis
  • Stays informed about the latest developments
  • Joins online forums and communities to exchange information with others

Example: A person who frequently checks news websites and social media for updates about the COVID-19 pandemic, joins online groups dedicated to discussing the latest scientific research on the virus, and regularly participates in online discussions with medical professionals to stay informed about the latest developments.

  1. The Activist
  • Passionate about the crisis and wants to make a difference
  • Uses the internet to spread awareness and campaign for change
  • Engages in online activism to make their voice heard

Example: An individual who uses social media platforms to raise awareness about environmental issues, organize protests against the government’s policies, and sign online petitions that advocate for change.

  1. The Empathizer
  • Deeply affected by the crisis and wants to show support for others
  • Connects with others online to offer words of encouragement, sympathy, and hope
  • Shares uplifting stories and positive messages to help others cope with the crisis

Example: A person who uses social media platforms to connect with others who have lost loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shares stories of hope and resilience to inspire others, and offers words of encouragement and support to those struggling with mental health issues.

  1. The Critic
  • Skeptical about the crisis and wants to challenge the official narrative
  • Shares alternative viewpoints and criticizes those in power
  • Engages in online debates and discussions to challenge prevailing opinions

Example: An individual who questions the official government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, criticizes the effectiveness of lockdowns and mask mandates, and advocates for more transparency and accountability from public health officials.

  1. The Escapist
  • Wants to escape from the stress and anxiety of the crisis
  • Uses the internet to distract themselves, seek entertainment, and engage in leisure activities
  • Uses social media to connect with friends and family members and share funny memes and videos to lighten the mood

Example: A person who spends hours watching funny videos on YouTube, playing online games, and browsing social media to take their mind off the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and connect with friends and family members.

  • Sees the crisis as an opportunity to create new business ventures
  • Uses the internet to research new business models and reach out to potential customers
  • Promotes their products or services online and uses social media to build their brand and attract followers

Example: An individual who starts a new online business selling masks and other protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic, uses social media platforms to promote their products, and attracts customers through targeted advertising and online marketing campaigns.

  1. The Helper
  • Wants to make a difference in their communities and help those in need
  • Uses the internet to find volunteer opportunities and connect with others who share their values
  • Raises awareness about the needs of their community and mobilizes support for their cause

Example: A person who volunteers at a local food bank during the COVID-19 pandemic, uses social media to raise awareness about the growing issue of food insecurity, and mobilizes support from others to donate food and money to those in need.

In times of crisis, people turn to the internet for information, connection, and support. The seven personas I’ve outlined – The Information Seeker, The Activist, The Empathizer, The Critic, The Escapist, The Entrepreneur, and The Helper – represent just some of the ways that individuals use the internet to navigate difficult times. Whether it’s through sharing uplifting stories, engaging in online activism, or starting a new business venture, each persona plays a unique role in shaping the way we respond to crisis and adapt to change. By understanding these personas, we can gain a deeper insight into how people use the internet during times of crisis and build a more resilient, connected, and supportive online community.

A working list of guiding principles for leading through a crisis

The past few weeks have been unprecedented for all of us. At Affirm, we’ve been very busy trying to help our customers, merchants and our employees during this crisis. While there have been other crises I have dealt with at work, this far exceeds any of the previous ones. One of the things I am trying to articulate is what does it take to be a good leader, manager, boss during such a crisis.

Here’s a working list of guiding principles I’ve come up with:

  1. People come first: Always prioritize your team member’s needs around their safety and health over the business’s needs. Say this to them often, listen to their concerns and act accordingly.
  2. Be compassionate: Crises energize some people and for others, it can be stressful, sometimes to the point of inaction. Recognize the folks who’ve risen to the occasion and help those who are struggling.
  3. Focus on what matters: During a crisis, leaders get pulled in different directions. So defining your focus and energy becomes even more critical. Make sure you are focusing on initiatives where you add value to the business. Don’t be in there just because you can get more face time with other leaders.
  4. Divide work equitably: Don’t immediately assume that all your team members are equally busy during a crisis. Evaluate what’s on each team member’s plate and try to be equitable in assigning work to each of them.
  5. Asking for discretionary effort: Feel comfortable asking for people to go above and beyond. You are doing this and it is only fair that others do so. We are all in it together.
  6. Create space for feedback: You might have said this ad nauseam to your team – give me feedback, feel comfortable to disagree, etc. In a crisis more than ever you need to create space and opportunity to do exactly that. It will help you avoid blind spots, consider all angles and help you make decisions faster.

Got guiding principles or tips of your own? Share them in the comments below.

This post first appeared on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/working-list-guiding-principles-leading-through-crisis-mukerji/

Looking beyond style – Separating good instructional design from bad instructional design


Last morning, I was waiting by the sidelines as my 5-year old daughter was at her Bear Cub Gymnastics class at the Golden Bears Recreation Center. At this gym you can see some future star gymnasts hard at work perfecting their skills and routines. About half hour into my daughter’s class, they cleared the center of the gym and a few girls between the age of 9 and 13 started their warm-ups. One of the things they did was the standing backflip or back tuck. And watching them I looked towards another parent and before I could say it – she said: “I wish I could do that.”

Later in the evening back in the comfort of my couch and wanting to kill some time, I was surfing YouTube and searched for “How to do a backflip.” Among the top search results was this video:

The video was pretty well made by YouTube vlogging standards, and the guy in the video clearly knew what he was doing. He used a few devices that would help a person learn this move – repetition, breakdowns of steps, slow-motion etc. In spite of this, I felt he made it look too easy and consequently too hard for a novice like me to even conceive trying to learn how to do one.  

Due to YouTube’s brilliant autoplay feature, I kept viewing other backflip tutorials done by other YouTube users including Howcast. And then I came across this video from UrbanNinja Fitness&Sports by “Kai.”

I loved how Kai breaks down all the drills that would prepare you for doing a back flip. In fact, right at the beginning he says this: ” …if you can’t do this one… you should go home and do some push-ups and sit-ups..” – nicely done, Kai – way to clearly explain the pre-requisites for this tutorial (I need to start here :-0) . He then goes on to show a progression of drills that would help you prepare yourself to do a standing backflip – a seemingly impossible feat for a novice. While a number of videos I saw were slicker, shorter or more entertaining, this one really took me step by step to a point where having perfected all the drills, one could possibly think of attempting a standing backflip.

And this is what good instructional design is – helping learners understand what steps they need to do to gain proficiency or mastery in performing a skill or task. Breaking down how a pro does something is often NOT a good way to help a novice learn. One has to go back to what pre-requisite knowledge, skills or abilities does one need to possess in order to perform the task.

OK- Gotta go know – time to do some push-ups and sit-ups….

Rethinking Learning Management Systems

In my decade long career in technology-enabled learning, I have spent a lot of time using, managing or implementing learning management systems (LMS). I first used them as a student – we used Blackboard at Grad School and then at each of the companies I worked at – GreenPoint (Docent & SumTotal), Bechtel Corporation(SumTotal & SuccessFactors) and now at LinkedIn (Cornerstone On Demand). At some point right after Grad school, I even designed an online course on how to use a feature in an LMS (Plateau) (Now that just doesn’t sound right- a course on the LMS on how to use an LMS!)

Everyone in corporate education complains about their LMS – in fact my favorite quote about LMSs is from someone I met years back who said he selected the LMS for his company because he hated this particular LMS the least and liked the people representing this vendor the most. But I know this is harsh particularly for all the smart people I have met who work for these LMS companies.

So what’s going on here?

In my opinion, the issue with most of these systems (and many other enterprise systems like CRM, ERP etc.) is that they eventually become so feature rich (ok- so bloated) that often these complex features designed to serve a few, start impacting the very basic features that every user needs to use these systems. Very simple transactions that users perform effortlessly elsewhere, in other content consumption platforms like Websites, Blogs, or YouTube, become mired in complexity in an LMS. A few examples – multiple steps to launch online courses (which after all that effort typically load in a pop-up window that the users browser suppresses.), the inability to launch content on mobile browsers from an email deep link or completing a course evaluation right after taking a learning event. The ‘friction’ in these experiences is not solely the fault of LMS vendors who design these systems – requirements from compliance training and certification organizations dominate how these systems are designed (features such as five-step training approvals and sign-off requirements). These requirements seem to consume most of the time that product teams at LMS companies spend their time on.

But I believe the tide is turning – in the past 2 years, I have attended two conferences hosted by two large LMS vendors and I am heartened by the focus on user experience & user interface design during their CEO keynotes and product demos. Of course these vendors are not starting from scratch so they have to craft an elegant user experience over a system that is already being used by millions of users and a software stack that was written years back. But as these vendors do these makeovers and as new entrants come to this already crowded market, I’d like to propose a simple conceptual framework to think about these systems:

Be Invisible and Frictionless
LMSs should be invisible – users should be able to get to the content they need to get to gain proficiency or mastery without encountering any friction – login windows, register buttons, pop-ups – Is their team intranet or the product they are using the most natural setting for them to need training – let them launch content from that location. Let them launch a webinar directly from the confirmation email or the calendar invite.

Be Visible and add Value
LMS should be visible only when they add value – Course landing pages that explain why users need to take the courses they’ve been assigned (MOOCs do a really good job with this), how much progress have they made towards completing an assigned curriculum, what are others saying about the course or what other courses should they take if they indicated that they liked the one they just completed. Even well-designed easy-to-print transcripts that they can print and mail to their licensure organization.

I am eager to hear what others (particularly those who like me spend a good portion of their time managing an LMS) think of this framework – what features would you want to make invisible or how would you improve a feature that’s currently visible? So chime in – Maybe a few product managers from your ‘favorite’ LMS vendor are reading this post!

There’s a lesson here for IDs…

I laughed out loud at this video. I am sure I have done this to some courses I’ve developed. I’ve certainly received slide decks from SMEs that are similar to the final design of the package.

p.s. This is an old internal video created by Microsoft’s own packaging team as a humorous look at branding and packaging issues for marketers.

via MacRumors


Boots On The Ground: Introducing A Community of Practice at Bechtel

My colleague Paul and I wrote an article for the Learning Solutions Magazine about building a community of practice at our company. Here’s a summary:

In this article, the authors, members of the Global Learning and Development team at Bechtel, a global engineering and construction firm, give a detailed account of building an online community of practice geared to help field professionals share knowledge and insights gained at the project sites with each other. A key point they attempt to make in this article is that with the right game plan, it IS possible to start and nurture informal learning communities even in organizations where management has not explicitly embraced the value of social learning and networking.

Find the full article here. (eLearning Guild membership required.)

Six Word Summaries

I really enjoyed this Sebastian Wernicke TEDx Talk about how he approached the task of summarizing each TEDTalk to six words.

Now wouldn’t it be fun to summarize every piece of content we consume in to six word summaries.  Or how about starting with summarizing all the content you create…online courses, white papers, even e-mails? It also might be interesting to ask each learner to create their own summaries of each courses and posting them for all learners to see.

Instructional design advice from Orwell

My colleague Paul Drexler, a man of many many talents, has been working on improving some eLearning courses and shared some sage advice from Orwell via e-mail.

“I’ve been struggling to organize my thoughts on making these courses better.  This morning an essay came to me which brilliantly describes and sums up some of these thoughts.  I refer to Politics and the English Languagean essay by George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984.  I read this my college Freshman year and it made a deep and lasting impression.  If we followed Orwell’s suggestions alone we would greatly improve our courses.”

If you want just  the take away points, read Orwell’s summary below:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.