Project Aha!

Aha! is a set of practices I’m developing to help pull-workers learn to learn. I’m investigating what it takes for a learner to become self-sufficient, to both learn and design learning experiences. I’d like to make that easier.

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My bookshelves groan under more than 200 books on learning and development. (I’ve recycled many to get down to this.) They contain studies of learning from the frameworks of design, teaching, networks, tech, brain science, and positive psychology. How many books look at learning from the point of view of the learner? None that I know of. Nada. It’s time to design some self-help.

As corporations flatten and digitize, millions of people are being handed responsibility for their own learning, by plan or by default. Corporations that decentralize often leave people to sink or swim. Learning — that ultimate competitive advantage in a fast-changing world — is too important to leave to chance any longer. Besides, learning can be a fulfilling, nourishing aspect of work; folks need to know how to make the best of it.

As business grows ever more complex, fast, and confusing, the quality of learning must increase. Learning professionals know a lot about ideal conditions for learning and what blend of things works when. Rarely have they shared this wisdom with the greater enterprise community. Hence, there are a number of opportuities to tweak how people learn that can have profound changes in the level of “working smarter.” It’s virgin territory. Sharing the wisdom surrounding learning with the people who need it. It can be a game changer.

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Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just been told she’s responsible for her own learning. It’s like the dog that got on the bus: Now what do I do? I want to give her a helping hand and a few directions. (My monkey mind just whispered in my ear: Make it a comic book. Who knows.) I want this person to leverage networks, learn with the work team, and have a personal strategy for acquiring, interpreting, acting on, and storing knowledge.

People are becoming forced to act as their own instructional designers, plotting the best personal knowledge strategies and routines. This requires some of adult learning theory’s secret sauce, which we propose to boil down and include in our kit.

In 1978, I remember seeing my first copy of Training magazine and soon thereafter turning on to the work of instructional pioneers like Robert Mager, Gloria Gery, Malcolm Knowles, Joe Harless, and Ron Zemke. It was all new to me. I wasn’t aware there was an entire training industry. We didn’t deal with this when I went to Business School. Instructional design? Never heard of it. Nor have most business executives, and that’s an obstacle. They don’t yet understand the enormous impact of amping up learning in the workplace.

Before I saw that Training magazine, I’d been designing a large instructional system in the dark: I hadn’t been aware of the vast amount of evidence on learning the instructional design community had assembled. (I was a former computer salesman and Army officer.) I led a team that created 120 hours of interactive exercises to teach business and management skills. Design was 100% gut feel and watching what worked. Out of ignorance, I made a number of things less fun and more arduous than need be. That was a 1.0 curriculum, the adult students loved it, but I still feel negligent just knowing how much more it could have meant to them. A thousand people in the Bay Area took that course in the first 18 months; I’m sorry we could not have helped them learn more. Were I to do something like this again, I’d be able to take an enlightened approach. I want to share that how-to with workers everywhere.

The obscurity of Instructional Design outside of the L&D community compels me to provide a brief orientation to ID and a minimalist take on how to use it as part of building learn-to-learn skills.

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I plan to write an eBook on learning for learners. Later this may morph into a playlist of experiential exercises; that generally works a lot better than books. But I have to start by pinning down the subject matter and examples.

This will be a Lean Start-Up. I plan to hammer out version 1.0 of the book mercilessly and a little Gonzo. I’ll price it cheap. If learners, not training departments, buy it, I’ll add research, collect the best examples, take polls, spiff it up, and continuously refresh the book.

What’s with the Aha!? I needed a short name for this project. Aha! is the sound of enlightenment. It’s what I hope to hear from the people who learn to learn.

I am open to collaboration on this project. If you’ve got something that works or suggestions, let’s talk.

Who’s the best at helping their people learn?

Do you know of anybody who has tackled preparing independent learners to master complex subjects?

I’ve opened a community on Google+ for articles and discussion. In the spirit of Working Smarter, I intend to work out loud on Aha! Please join in the shouting.

 

 

 

 

 

How many pages of that new book did you read?

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According to Business Insider, readers of Capital in the Twenty-first Century made it through just 2.1% of the book on average, with the last highlighted section appearing on page 26.

Other results: Most people have gotten through only an eighth of “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, and only a fifth through “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis.

I’ve been searching for a statistic I used to quote. How many pages does the typical business reader read before quitting? I believe the answer was nine pages!

I cautioned an author recently that he better put his message in those first nine pages if he wants everyone to read it.

I’ve been thinking about writing the sequel to Informal Learning. Informal Learning 2.0? Maybe I should leave pages 10 through 300 blank, for taking notes.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about unfinished reading:

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Falling behind

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72% of eighteen Fortune 100 CLOs told me their people are not growing fast enough to keep up with the needs of the business. 

Granted, it’s impossible to predict the future needs of the business in this volatile world, it’s still troubling that most big-company CLOs don’t feel what they’re doing is adequate to prepare the workforce for the future. That’s the job, right?

If what you’re doing isn’t working, you need to do something else. Internet Time Alliance advises CLOs to shift learning out of the classroom and into the workplace, embrace pull learning, get managers on board, focus on business performance, and support continuous learning. It’s more than informal or social learning. I call the package Enterprise Learning.

Faced with the enormity of shifting the organization’s culture to pull, social, sharing, open, beta, fault-tolerant, collaborative, and reflective, many CLOs are dabbling with change rather than taking it on whole hog.

This reminds me of two stories.

Intel’s Craig Barrett said “We’re racing along the highway at 150 MPH and we know there’s a brick wall up ahead but we don’t know where.”

Napoleon told his generals to plant trees bordering each major road out of France to provide shade for marching troops. “But Emperor, it will take decades for the trees to grow to maturity.” Napoleon’s reply: “Better start today.”

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The Puzzler

Help me figure out what’s gone haywire with my Macs. My keyboard has gone wacko.

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Last night I cleaned the Bluetooth keyboard I use with my iMac. The batteries only had 18% juice left, so I replaced them. When I rebooted the iMac, I found I was missing the Space Bar, Delete key, and several individual letters. I figured I’d shorted something out with the cleaner. Luckily, I had a spare wired keyboard to use.

I plugged in the wired keyboard and it displayed the same symptoms! Missing letters, no space bar. The problem seemed to be the iMac, not the keyboards. I spent an hour with Apple on the phone. We were stymied because we couldn’t boot into Safe Mode. That takes a letter R and I no longer have one of those. I resigned myself to slogging into the Genius Bar for a fix.

I pulled an old MacBook out of storage to work with in the interim. I opened up Microsoft Word 98 and began entering text. No problem.

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I plugged in the wired keyboard. And the same damned thing happened again! No space bar, delete, R, S, etc.

It’s extremely unlikely that two keyboards would self-destruct at the same time. Similarly, I can’t imagine the iMac and the MacBook having exactly the same issue; their operating systems are generations apart. Keyboard logger? I don’t think so because the MacBook gave garbled text before I logged it into my network for the first time in a year.

I can’t come up with a logical explanation for this nor can I find any advice online.

Please drop me a line if you can figure this one out. I’ll be impressed.

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I’ve been depressed. You?

vangogh1I’ve been depressed. 

Telling you this will blow my chances of running for president, but what the hell: I have been clinically depressed for the last two years. It’s a form of going crazy. I lost interest in my work, stopped blogging and taking photos. I became a near-hermit. 

dogI want to share my experiences with you so that if the black dog visits you or one of your friends, you’ll recognize it for what it is and take appropriate action. No one deserves to go through life feeling shitty and that’s precisely what depression can do to you. Everything is gloomy. Nothing seems worthwhile. Yet this condition is treatable.

Before going on, let me explain that I am no longer depressed. Hallelujah! I have found my cure and have returned to my normal jovial set-point. Let’s grab a beer sometime.

How do you recognize depression? Lots of us are sad. Pollsters tell us more than half of all workers are disengaged. Many jobs are gone forever; PhDs are pouring the lattes at Starbucks. DoD is in an intractable war with Muslims. The maw between rich and poor widens daily. Technology has accelerated the business cycle into a frenzied pace few can maintain. There’s plenty of sadness to go around.

Depression is more than sadness, however. It doesn’t have a target. It’s irrational and self-destructive. When my last episode came on two years ago, I could sense pulling down the shades on optimism. I was slower, weaker, and lacked energy and the ability to focus. It was physical (the juices in my head) and mental (the belief-set that controls my interpretation of the world).

The acid test: Do you think of taking your life? If you think yes, go to the doctor. Get help. You’re depressed. Or maybe you have a suppressed anxiety disorder (I did.) These two often go hand in hand. Happily, both get better with the same treatment. You’ll recognize you’re getting better when suicide disappears as an option.

My neurologist will tell you that depression is a neurological condition. No amount of trying hard and talk therapy is going to change it, any more than they’ll heal broken bones. Here, take these blue pills and if that doesn’t work, we have some yellow ones. Of course, it makes sense to follow general principles of good health: get enough sleep and exercise.

My cognitive behavioral psychologist tells our therapy group that drugs are largely ineffective. This is psychological condition. Emotions are the products of thinking. Get your thinking straight and your feelings will follow. Let’s look at what’s really going on. Got that? Say it back to me.

Stanford’s David Burns is the author of Feeling Good and cognitive behavioral therapy’s leading advocate. Watch this video not only to understand Burns’ work but to cry your eyes out at the surprise ending.

A few months ago the cloud of doom lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer eternally bummed out. The depression was fading away. 

I dropped out of the therapy group which was beginning to wear on my nerves by this point anyway. Then the psychologist and I agreed I no longer needed his treatment.

My restoration to normalcy is the result of a lot of people, a lot of reading, and a lot of pushing the boulder up the hill. However, I attribute 95% of my change in mood to drugs.

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During an episode similar to this twenty years ago, Prozac did nothing for me but Zoloft restored me for years. Two years ago, I re-tried Zoloft but had grown immune to it.

The doctor and I dropped into a rhythm of taking a few weeks to build up to a proper dose of a drug, try it long enough to know it’s not working, then take a few more weeks to wean and clean out the system for the next round. Again and again and again.

In the last four years, I’ve been prescribed these drugs for depression and/or ADHD.

  • Wellbutrin
  • Straterra
  • Nuvigil
  • Zoloft
  • Effexor
  • Latuda
  • Abilify
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • Adderall
  • Provigil
  • Brintellix
  • Vibryd
  • L-Tyosin
  • Selegiline
  • Sertaline
  • Venlafxine

None of them did anything positive. Zilch! I was running low on hope after years of fruitless drug testing, but I remembered how Zoloft had once turned my life around.

“There’s one more drug to try,” said my neurologist. “It’s rarely used these days but it was actually the first anti-depressant. It can interact with your diet, for instance you can’t eat fermented foods. It’s called Monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAO-I.

Wikipedia reports:

Because of potentially lethal dietary and drug interactions, monoamine oxidase inhibitors have historically been reserved as a last line of treatment, used only when other classes of antidepressant drugs (for example selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants) have failed.[2] New research into MAOIs indicates that much of the concern over their dangerous dietary side effects stems from misconceptions and misinformation, and that despite proven effectiveness of this class of drugs, it is underutilized and misunderstood in the medical profession.[3] New research also questions the validity of the perceived severity of dietary reactions, which has historically been based on outdated research.[4]

The reason most of the restrictions on diet are bunk is that MAOIs can now be delivered with a patch, thus bypassing the liver. The current regulations were set for pills, not patches.

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Every evening I peel off the old patch, leaving a red mark behind for a day or two. I apply a new one to the other arm. Every morning I awake with a smile. This stuff works for me.

PatientsLikeMe has reports from people who have used these various drugs. What works wonders for one person sends the next screaming to the toilet.

My message for depression sufferers is to keep trying. The latest research recommends trying both drug and CBT treatment as well as community activity. See what works for you.

We who have wrestled the black dog seriously are sort of a secret society. Lots of people I’ve talked to begin with, “Yeah, when I was going through that….” All are open to helping one another. There’s camaraderie among people who have been there. Ask for advice. You’ll be surprised at how commonplace this is.

Enterprise Learning & Digital Transformation

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Enterprise Learning takes learning beyond the training department into the overall extended enterprise, the “Workscape.” It’s a breakout that’s happening throughout organizations as they embrace digital technology.

Enterprise Learning is the learning component of Digital Transformation, defined by Altimeter Group as:

The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.

Nine out of ten companies sampled by Altimeter are engaged in one or more digital transformation practices:

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These efforts are being championed by the Chief Marketing Officer, the CEO, and occasionally the CIO. The digital makeover has yet to reach HR. It’s time for that to change.

Erik Brynjolfsson, professor at MIT’s Center for eBusiness has identified seven practices of highly productive firms that have embraced digital transformation. They closely parallel the advice Internet Time Alliance gives to companies adopting an Enterprise Learning approach:

  • Converting traditional analog processes to digital processes.
  • Distributing decision rights and empowering line workers, through increased decentralization and delegation
  • Adopting a policy of free information access and communication
  • Offering strong performance-linked incentives
  • Maintaining corporate focus and communicating strategic goals
  • Recruiting and hiring top-quality employees and committing the necessary resources to the process.
  • Strong emphasis on the investment of “human capital”

L&D will do well to seek out and partner with those in their organization who champion digital transformation and are running active experiments. If the CEO and CMO are gung-ho, it may be beneficial to ride into the digital era on their coattails.

What do you think? Shouldn’t digital learning transformation, i.e. Enterprise Learning, ally with corporate digerati already implementing new initiatives?

 

Jon Kabat Zinn

I bailed out of the Wisdom 2.0 conference Main Stage events yesterday afternoon and missed the opportunity to see Jon Kabat Zinn, whom I only know from his books and tapes: Jon is a god. I revere him. He moves mountains. So I was elated to find this recording of his presentation this morning.

The Good: Jon takes us into meditation, overviews the global mindfulness phenomenon, gives a characteristic uplifting message and call to action, gets you in a mood to finally start meditating daily, challenges you to be present and know what you are doing. It’s enchanting.

The Bad:
It’s 41 minutes long. I am one of Jon’s true believers. I struggled to keep up with Jon’s mile-a-minute wisdom. You may want to sample. Cut him off every now and again for a breather. Here are my as of the moment notes. Good luck deciphering; think of it as meditation.
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Wisdom 2.0: Mindfulness and business

Wisdom 2.0 Conference, San Francisco, February 27 – March 1.w21

Billed as “the intersection of wisdom and technology,” the Wisdom 2.0 conference drew 2,500 people who spent $625 for two and a half days of secular Buddhism.

I am interested in the interaction of mindfulness and business. Mindfulness – the opposite of mindlessness – is a natural component of Working Smarterw2-2

I generally sit in the front row at conferences. You can see better and often get to schmooze with speakers. But this time I opted for…w2-11

…the bean bag chairs in front of the front row. I spent most of the main stage sessions on my back, Mac balanced on my knees.

w2-5When I got tired of the main sessions, I’d head to Inspiration Village.

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Part of the Village was set up as summer camp. Let’s play.

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In the hallway outside, four Tibetan monks made an elaborate sand mandala. w2-10

Jack Kornfeld seemed so authentic and emotion-laden, not what I expected from a meditation leader. “Quiet your mind.”

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Richard Davidson spoke on Well-being as a Skill. He reported on progress in neuroscience, a field that has come a long way in 20 years. What’s important?

  • neuroplasticity. need to intentionally cultivate it. take advantage to if.
  • genomics. epigenetics: how genes are expressed. can change this through experience. eights hours of practice is enough to change the brain. had thought brain was fixed.
  • bidirectional highway between mind and body. how alterations in the body will feedback back to the brain. data are clear. cultivating well being will change the brain in ways that change the body.
  • we come into the world with innate basic goodness. Animals demonstrate basic goodness as well.

Well being is a skill. You can get better at it.

47% go through life without thinking about what they’re doing.They report as unhappy.

Which kinds of people need which type of practice?

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Sherry Turkle, advocate of face-to-face communications, ironically the only person to use PowerPoint, had this unscientific view of artificial reality. The slide drew applause.

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Eileen Fisher advised us all to shut our eyes and take a deep breath. She rang finger cymbals to bring us back.16065114033_26cc9aa59b_z

Eileen has a daily practice. At age 64, she feels more energetic than twenty years ago. Her aim: to feel totally in my body.

Her employees take two days a year for spiritual retreats.

Blackrock, at $4.7 trillion and 12,000 employees, is the world’s largest asset manager. They’ve popularized meditation sessions 30 minutes, taking place in conference rooms around the world. Employees receive weekly emails with tips. Mindfulness is a topic at leadership off sites.

How do we bridge the gap between mindfulness and business?

Starbucks is the “perfect environment for exploring mindfulness.”

Their mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

(see mission statement)

100% said the campaign was very effective. Partners are hungry for mindfulness. Able to make it real, mesh authentically with others.

Barristas love it. It’s taking a life of its own. Bubbles up, organic.

16477779127_836797b6dc_zNeed a break? Visit the Meditation Studio.

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Flashing lights and booming noises didn’t help me meditate. For $249, you can try it for yourself.16498921319_1ce0164f4d_z

BuHaGirl, which appears to make yoga bangles, was a major sponsor and had an exotic tent set up in the Inspiration Village.16065117023_24fd67b993_z

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The Mandala nears completion.

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Googler Chang-Meng Tan

Born at Google and based on brain science, SIY uses the practices of mindfulness to train Emotional Intelligence skills, leading to resilience, positive mindset, and centered leadership. In the midst of complexity, it’s about finding the inner capacity to create, to thrive, to lead. And it’s surprisingly fun. Backed by some of the world’s leading experts in neuroscience and mindfulness, SIY is changing thousands of lives in over a dozen countries.

With that vision in mind, Meng connected with Daniel Goleman and Jon Kabat Zinn to develop a unique program for Google. He then assembled a team that included mindfulness teachers, business executives and scientists. The Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program was born and launched, refined and tested over four years at Google, where it is currently one of the most popular, impactful and highly rated programs focused on wellbeing and sustainable high-performance.
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Mindfulness in Business

“Once upon a time I was young….  I joined a startup called Google.”

Mindfulness day. Search Inside Yourself.

All leaders in the world are wise and compassionate, thus creating the conditions for world peace

Need to define wisdom + compassion.

Wisdom.

  • Clarity and insight to know what to do.
  • Calm mind. Leadership: the ability to think under fire.
  • Self-awareness. Seeing beyond self

Compassion.

  • Beautiful intentions (do no harm, ahimsa). Generosity.
  • Loving kindness. (The wish for others to be happy). Create inner joy. It’s born of kindness. 
  • Compassionate action.

All of these are born of mindfulness. Self as process.

Business at its best is about helping people.

The best leader makes the team shine. They practice wisdom, impersonate

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Video of the event is here.

Does mindfulness have a place in business? Not yet but it’s inevitable.

pendulumThe focus of business is shifting from Institutions to Individuals. Mindfulness helps individuals perform better — and be happier and more fulfilled.

Mindfulness shares many values with Working Smarter, digital transformation, social business, and Product Knowledge Mastery, for example openness, transparency, and self-determination.

Years ago, a professor named Herbert Benson wrote a book and a compelling article in Harvard Business Review on The Relaxation Response. He met with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Here’s the message: repeat a mantra; assume a passive attitude. A best seller in 1975, this Buddhism-without-the-Buddha book has faded from the scene but it leaves us a valuable lesson: putting the mantra in English makes the practice of meditation more acceptable to business people. (Benson’s medical school colleague had refused t meet with the maharishi.)

Mindfulness will go mainstream; it’s that essential a practice. I don’t think it’s going to win executive hearts and minds until we separate it from the Tibetan monks, BuDaGirl bracelets, and Patchouli oil.

Conference Board Presentation

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Introduction 4:25

In the next 40 minutes, I’ll share the Internet Time Alliance’s advice on implementing informal learning and Working Smarter in a large organization. Change is inevitable. Three out of four CLOs say what they’re doing now is inadequate to prepare people for the future.

Internet Time Alliance 4:21

When I say we, I’m talking about the Internet Time Alliance. We are first movers. We developed the world’s first online MBA program, the first software learning game, the first business curriculum for the University of Phoenix, and first use of the word eLearning. Now in its seventh year, the Alliance is a think tank and community of practice. Our clients learn ahead of the pack.

Power of Pull Learning 4:15

Experiential learning is three times more effective than traditional learning. Support Pull learning. Foster conversations – the “stem cells of learning.” People learn to do the job on the job. 

Enterprise Learning 5:52

The Workscape is the infrastructure for working smarter. It’s undergoing a transition from courses and information sources we design and control to setting up continuous learning processes like social networks and communities of practice. 702010 is an example of such a framework.

Stake Out Your Vision 6:29

You’ll need a clear plan to convince the organization to go along with the transition. Work and learning are merging — learning is becoming the work — so they much take place simultaneously. Don’t leave out suppliers, partners, customers, alumni., and your producers. Knowledge resides in networks.

Implementation 8:43

Start with your own organization. Plant lots of seeds. Don’t neglect the individual who needs to know what to do given freedom to act. Product Knowledge Mastery. Chefs as a community. Examples from Danone and Lego.

Resources 4:54

How to find this presentation, the Internet Time Alliance, the Informal Learning Center, and Jane’s 100 Tools list.

I am still chopping and editing the video, experimenting with editing inside YouTube. There’s some overlap; the actual presentation is shorter. Help me improve this. Leave a comment or ebetamail me at [email protected]

As the ultimate work out loud, I may make this into a free coaching piece to introduce the work of the Alliance.

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Be a humanist

An intimate group of Fortune 50 CLOs invited me to talk with them about how to make the most of informal learning. Jane, Charles, Clark, Harold and I chatted at length. We came up with twenty-four suggestions which I’ll soon walk the CLOs through.

One piece of advice stood out for me as the crux of it all.

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That’s my personal view. I haven’t asked my The Internet Time Alliance buddies.