Douglas Crets


Giving Credibility to the Shadow Education System

Big Think Launches Online University

Ideas web site Big Think today launched an attempt at an online university. The e-learning platform is shot at trying to aggregate the world’s best thinkers and innovators on one platform to make learning in subject areas easy for anyone. Here’s a segment of their announcement, which they posted on their site and in an newsletter sent out this afternoon:

For the first time in more than three centuries, Harvard and Yale will concurrently offer the same course — and its primary “text” won’t be a book, but rather a video lecture series comprising the world’s greatest thinkers and leading scholars.

Students are already responding. At Yale, 145 students have already registered for Great Big Ideas, for a class limited in size to 18 – making it the third most popular course on campus even before its first day of class. (Intro Economics and Intro Psychology are #1 and #2).

Great Big Ideas delivers an undergraduate liberal arts education in 12 weeks. It’s a survey of twelve major fields delivered by their most important thinkers and practitioners, including former Big Think guests Leon BotsteinSteven PinkerMichio KakuLarry SummersDoug MeltonPaul Bloom and many others.

Each lecture explores the key questions in the field, lays out the methods for answering those inquiries and explains why the field matters.  It is an effective introduction to thinking differently, and a primer in the diverse modes of problem solving essential for success in the 21st century. And, while the company is partnering with major universities, they are also challenging the basis of their traditional models of education.

Pretty interesting that Harvard and Yale share the same course. This is disruptive thinking, and it borrows the brand and marketing halo of two major ivy league universities, giving Big Think a lot of credibility.

Which brings the question to the forefront: in an online world, is credibility or a degree more important? If I take most of my courses online from reputable sources, but don’t get a degree, am I just as viable a candidate for a job as someone who went to those schools but comes away from those programs with a much better human network than I do?

The future of scaling up this enterprise will be in enabling a special kind of networking ability for the “students” who use the platform. somewhere, someone is dreaming up a learning platform that is as much about great content as it is about networking. When you figure out the networking component, then you won’t need a Harvard or a Yale anymore. That’s the only reason they are number one and number two in anyone’s book.

Don’t think so?

Look what Larry Summers says about academics. Too focused on theory and not enough on what happens in the real world:


Filed under: Digital Learning, Influence, , , , ,

Shortcut: Getting Through to People Who Slow You Down

This is an interview with Brian Tolle, author of Shortcut: Getting Through to the People Who Slow You Down.


Douglas Crets: When one first opens your book, the immediate thinking might be that communication alone can solve all workplace problems, but it appears that it’s not just communication that helps the work environment. Can you explain why just talking things out with someone isn’t enough? A lot of built-in HR and internal consulting basically falls to this default “talk it out” setting.

Brian Tolle: Where I have seen increased awareness and application of these styles (talking things out) come up short in improving interpersonal relationships and teamwork is where there are conflicting priorities and/or values among the team members or between the two individuals. And because so much personal identity and emotions are tied up with one’s priorities and values, there are situations where a communication impasse remains. That’s when a higher order of “talking it out” is required and it usually involves some form of negotiation (see Fisher & Ury’s classic Getting to Yes for more on their “principled negotiation” as an example of the next order up of communication clarity). Without some version of negotiation, what I have seen is that, depending on the rigidity of each person’s stand, the only way to break the impasse is through the decision of someone in authority. It’s quick but not long lasting. The “agreement” reached usually falls apart fairly quickly from both parties.

What is the immediate and then long-term incentive for people to read your studies of how different workplace personalities interact and inhibit each other’s sense of progress? Will we make more money this way? Is it a pathway to more innovation? Career success?

So it’s the core question: What’s in it for me to invest in trying this stuff out? Here are the answers I share in my workshops:


  • Increased time efficiency (and decrease in related stress). How many of you have had the same conversation with the same person more than once? Not the best use of your time the third or fourth time around. How much stress is generated with each round of poor communication? Are you speaking their language from the very start?
  • Greater likelihood for innovation and creativity. Ideas get shared, explored, and considered when there are open lines of communication present. This includes both offering and soliciting ideas.
  • Decrease in “churning”, or that sense that one is working really hard and not making the commensurate progress.
  • Achieving results that stick. How many times do we think we got agreement in a meeting, only to find out later that the attendees are pursuing different agendas?


Speaking more broadly, what do you think it is about corporate culture or our culture in general that makes people feel comfortable with approaching work and solutions only through their own personality? I get the sense that the answer to this question is not as obvious as it appears.

What I have seen is that people, as individual contributors in organizations, are rewarded (praise, promotions, etc.) for getting things done and the way they get things done is their preferred way of doing things, which gets reinforced through these rewards. This is fine until they rise high enough in an organization where he/she needs to get things done through others and those others have a diversity of preferred ways of doing things. That’s when he/she needs some guide through the “mystery” of human communication.

Filed under: Influence, Work, , , , ,

The Right Way to Make Amends After #Security Failure — WordPress

I got this email this evening from WordPress. I wanted to show this as an example of the right way to handle a security issue with a site or a service. It’s very simple:

1. Information — What happened, why it happened

2. What was the result?

3. How was it fixed

4. What will happen going forward

5. Other things to do

6. And a little something for you, champ, for being a good sport about it.


And I include the almost entire email below to show you how they did it:

We recently found and fixed a mistake that we’d like to tell you about. Passwords on are saved in a way that makes them extremely secure, such that even our own employees are unable to see your actual password – the one you enter to login to your account. However, between July 2007 and April 2008, and September 2010 and July 2011, a mistake in one of our systems used to find and correct bugs on accidentally logged some users’ passwords in a less secure format during registration.

We’ve updated our systems to prevent passwords from being logged this way in the future, so this will not happen again. We don’t have any evidence that this data has been accessed maliciously or misused, but to be on the safe side we are resetting your password since your account is among those affected.

[personal information and link to security check redacted]

If the password you used when you registered on was one you use elsewhere, you should change it there, too. In the future, remember that it’s good practice to always use unique passwords for different services.

We are terribly sorry about this mistake. No one likes having to create new passwords and we’d like to include a 15% off coupon to say we’re sorry. The coupon can be used for a custom domain, a design upgrade, VideoPress, or a storage space increase. Just use the code below on any of the upgrades on the Store: [special code redacted]

That’s a little bit better than what happened to AirBnB recently when it was discovered that one of their customers had looted and ransacked a customer’s apartment he rented over a week. In that snafu, AirBnB let the tech media take too full of a control of the story, and then on the backend they tried unforgivingly to compromise the reporting and direct the story through, what looked to me like bribing. In the end, though, AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky stepped up to the plate and issued not one, but two apologetic emails to clients. And issued a $50,000 guarantee to subletters to give them some sense of security with the service.

They key is you want to do it right the first time. Tell the truth, get it out there quickly, and then do the work you love to do.

Filed under: Influence, Tech, Work, , , , ,

Michael Dortch Is a Good Man, So Take His Surveys

If you take his surveys, and you are one of the people who offer the most respondents (the person whose network has the most clicks on the survey), he will make a donation to a charity.

Here is the email he sent around this morning:

I’m launching some research that I think will be highly interesting and valuable to a broad audience, and I need your help. I’m hoping this e-mail will convince you to help me, so please read on!

I am conducting research focused on what I’m calling online experience optimization (OEO) – everything necessary to deliver the best possible online experience to colleagues, customers, partners and prospects.

OEO touches every aspect of every type and size of company that does business online or plans to do so. Business stakeholders include advertising, marketing, public relations, sales, internal and external support teams and business performance decision makers, among others. Technologies involved range from Web site construction and management tools to content management systems, analytics tools and support for “the mobile, social cloud.”

I intend to produce multiple deliverables based on the results of this OEO research. Some will be published by Constellation Research, where I’m a Vice President and Principal Analyst. Some will be published at, a site that provides expert and user-generated advice, comparisons and reviews focused on technology solutions for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). And some will find its way into analyses and blog posts at, and, of course,

So how can you help? To begin, I’ve prepared two brief surveys I’ve posted on SurveyMonkey. I’d appreciate it if you’d take them both, and then tell everyone you know about them. (Respondents can remain anonymous, but if they provide a name and a valid e-mail address, I’ll notify them personally as summary results become available, and enter them in a drawing for a free business or technology consultation with me!)

The first survey asks four basic questions business decision makers need to be able to answer to achieve OEO. The link to that survey: .

The other asks respondents which company do they think offers the best overall online experience, and how their own companies compare to that company. The link to that survey: .

As further inducement to you, I’ll make a donation to the favorite charity of the person or company who provides the most referred respondents to each or both. (Make sure your referrals tell me who referred them in the last question!)

I think OEO is going to be a “next big thing” in business and business technologies, and I’d greatly appreciate your help with my research, as well as any ideas, questions, connections or suggestions you’d care to share. Thanks so much for your time and your help!

Michael Dortch

Filed under: Influence, Tech, , , , ,

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