Vol 45, Issue 1

September/October 2005

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STC Houston - Dateline Houston - September/October 2005

STKs: Innovative Thinking, Strategic Thinking, and Leadership

by Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.

On Saturday, August 20, 2005, STC Houston welcomed Linda Oestreich to town. Linda Oestreich is the 2nd Vice President of STC and the Manager of the technical publications group at Peregrine Systems, Inc., in San Diego, California. Linda presented three Share-the-Knowledge (STK) sessions, where participants learned to use both sides of their brains to become better writers and better leaders.

Innovate, Illuminate, Evaluate, Activate!

In the first session, Linda talked about creativity. During introductions, participants addressed whether or not they feel creative. This discussion informed us about each other in a different light from STC monthly meetings. Participants’ creative activities included helping design a training program for a company intranet, a previous life as an artist, and designing and teaching an online course while living in Nigeria.

We filled out worksheets that list some enhancements and barriers to creativity and then used a creativity matrix to determine where we are on the road to being an “active creative thinker who applies creativity successfully.” Linda encouraged all of us to keep the checklists and matrix visible at home or at work to remind us how to stay creative. Later in the morning, we worked on a Mindmapping exercise using large paper, crayons, and our artistic muscles to create colorful representations of a project we need to complete.

Commodity Writer to Strategic Thinker

After lunch, we moved on to the strategic part of the workshop. Linda adapted a presentation from Andrea Ames that addresses the job of the technical communicator now and where it may be headed. Using a matrix that charts leadership attributes and value to the customer, we learned about the roles technical communicators can play: commodity writer, communicator, profit maker, or strategic contributor. As we move up the matrix from commodity writer  to strategic contributor, we provide more value and greater leadership in our companies, which helps us stay valuable to the company. Linda offered the following tips for becoming a strategic thinker:

  • Know what’s core, key, and strategic to your field.
  • Know what’s beyond the core skills and knowledge.
  • Know what’s key in developing your product or what’s important in your industry.
  • Know what’s key in your business.

Know what companies believe are core, key, and strategic in employees. Linda also handed out a comprehensive checklist that technical communicators can use to expand their skills, add value, and influence strategy.

Leadership: What Does It Mean?

In the last session of the day, Linda talked to present and future leaders of STC Houston. Addressing leadership in general, Linda presented some of the myths of leadership and some leadership theories.

Linda addressed what she calls the “major key of leadership,” which is communication. Linda said that recognizing and practicing good nonspoken communication is important, especially in this global age. Think about it: Have you ever had an e-mail message misinterpreted or misinterpreted an e-mail message  from someone else? Linda gave the chapter leaders a couple of questions to consider:

  • What is our end product?
  • What is our measurement technique?

At the end of the session, we asked questions and discussed answers that pertain to our STC community.

Wrapping Up

To me, learning to exercise my creative muscle was the best part of the day. Too often, I find myself doing my jobs the same way I’ve always done them. With the techniques we learned—or relearned—on Saturday, I feel better equipped to help our STC community achieve greatness again this year!

Copyright © 2006 Houston Chapter, Society for Technical Communication
P.O. Box 42051, Houston, TX 77242-2051 | 713-706-3434