Prototype!

Once upon a time, every learning project was a big deal. If you wanted to go near a computer, you needed to draw up and elaborate business case, wait in line to do battle with the IT department, and get a lot of other people involved who were one or two steps away from the issues you were hoping to resolve.

Things have changed. You don’t have to be a techie to set up web-based applications. Web tools are easy enough to use that you can experiment with applications before committing to the whole enchilada. It takes only minutes to set up a blog, a wiki, or an online community. Most of the software and services you will use are free. If you’re a klutz, ask anyone under 20 to help you put it in place.

Put it out there; see if it works. Do it, try it, fix it. It takes so little to set up a prototype application that it justifies running lots of experiments before committing to one model. The way to succeed is to fail early and fail often.

One of my favorite social network examples was the result of two guys sitting on their back porch who realized lots of people could learn what was going on my listening to their conversation. Without asking permission, they set up a blog which became required daily reading for their fellow company commanders in Iraq.

You could go to wordpress.com this very minute and have a your own blog up and running in less time than it takes a drink a cup of coffee. What you write can be seen by the world — unless you want more privacy. You can click a box to deflect Google’s glaring gaze. You can restrict readership. You can select who can write. It’s easy.

Just do it!

It’s easy to say but if this is new, it’s out of your comfort zone. It’s not just you.

Luiz Algarra told me a story about trying to coax professionals to try blogging. He asked everyone to make a blog entry; no one did. He instructed them to take a sheet of paper and write out something interesting that had happened to them. Then he asked them to pass their papers to the next person and write a comment or observation on the bottom of each person’s paper. During a break, he posted all the papers on the wall. When people returned, he announced, “See? This is the blogosphere.” He asked them each to write an entry in their blog that evening. Guess what happened. No one did. They did not see the relevance of technology to their lives. They will lead sub-optimal professional lives.

The web is the way of the future; you might as well get on the train before it picks up more speed. Take a baby step. Go to wordpress.com. Open your blog. Write whatever’s on your mind. (No one else has to know.) Come back the next day, and do it again. Before you know it, you’ll have your sea legs.