Webinars: Technology and the Business of Learning

by Beth McAuley

Published at 2010-10-14

Like so many of us, I watched the most remarkable rescue of the Chilean miners over the past few days. I am awed and inspired by this engineering feat and by the community – both locally and internationally – that came together to execute the plan. In addition to the engineering, there was the technology that brought the action to our computer and television screens. I would say this is the first time in our history that we, as spectators, were a virtual part of a live dramatic rescue.
While not quite as incredible as watching each miner climb into a capsule 625 metres (2,050 feet) underground and then re-emerging on the surface, I have recently discovered another amazing and exciting technology: the world of webinars. I know this technology has been in use for some time and perhaps I am a bit behind schedule in “tuning in.” But now that I am, I am taking full advantage of it.
Digital Book World: Rethinking Contracts and Copyrights
On September 28 I sat in on my first-ever webinar, hosted by Digital Book World. I listened to a very informative panel discussion about the complexities of revising contracts in today’s ever-changing publishing world.
The panel was hosted by Emily Williams, co-chair of the BISG Rights Subcommittee. The panellists wereJason Allen Ashlock, co-founding principal and manager of Movable Type Literary Group; Devereaux Chatillon, media and commercial litigator with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP; Jim Hanas, author of Why They Cried; and Richard Nash, founder of Cursor.
Four key questions were debated. Are e-books a primary or subsidiary right? What are viable alternatives to life-of-copyright contracts? How can publishers fully exploit “a fairly broad basket of rights”? Are such deals in an author’s best interests?
There was much argument over who should control which right and for how long. There was even the suggestion that the age of copyright may be coming to an end as more and more authors self-publish and control their own rights! 
In the final analysis, though, it seems that contracts will continue to evolve and adapt. As they do, two key considerations will remain: how to protect the publisher who has invested time and resources in the development and publishing of the work, and how to give the author as many rights as possible so she/he can take full advantage of the all digital options and possibilities.
Harvard Business Review: How to Make the Best Decisions for the Bottom Line
The second webinar I attended was held on October 5. It was hosted by Sarah Cliffe, executive editor of the Harvard Business Review,and featured Michael Mankins, a partner at Bain & Company and author of Decide & Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization. Michael first reviewed the evolution of the business matrix, which shifted from the “command and control” model of the 1950s in which decisions came from the top, to the much more complex model of a networked enterprise in today’s business world where just about everyone participates.
In today’s matrix, the emphasis has to be on cutting through the complexity in order to make effective decisions. Often, decisions have to be made quickly and precisely.  To help clarify decision accountability and to assign clear roles for making these key decisions, Michael described an approach known as RAPID®.
RAPID® helps businesses identify the key players and what their roles are: who should recommend the decision and why; who has to agree to the recommendation before it can move forward; who performs the actions needed to implement the decision; whose input is needed to determine the proposal’s feasibility; and who brings the decision to closure and follows through on its implementation.
Other points discussed included making the decisions that matter the most to our organizations, involving employees and equipping them with the skills to participate in the process, and building leadership and culture within our organizations so that all of our decisions are delivered with clarity and energy.
After each webinar, I received an email follow-up from Digital Book World and from Harvard Business Review. I was thanked for participating and asked for feedback. HBR even sent an overview of the seminar outlining the key points in a PDF.
Taking time out of my work schedule to keep up to date about copyright issues and business management was well worth it. I can’t wait for my next webinar.