How Tos on Sources of Insight



“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” — Chinese Proverb

I’ve added a new feature to Sources of Insight.  It’s “How Tos.”  On my menu bar, you’ll see a link that says “How Tos.”   It’s a direct link to my new How Tos page.

As the name implies, “How Tos” show you “How To” get something done.  They are step-by-step articles that help you accomplish a task.  They are actually a very powerful way to share and scale expertise.  They are one of the fastest ways I know how to share know-how.   At Microsoft, I’ve used “How Tos” for years to help developers grow their skills and learn new areas very quickly.

Turning Insight into Action
The true value of content is both the value of the problem solved, as well as the impact on the user.  The real beauty of a “How To” is that it’s not content that you read … it’s content that you “do.”  I think of it as executable content.  It’s probably the single-best way that I know how to turn insight into action.

One of my favorite things to do is to turn some of the great books of the world, into actionable insights.  I mentor a lot of people inside and outside Microsoft, and one of the things I do is point people to exactly the books they need to help them for whatever problem they are in.  (I have an extensive library and go through many books on a regular basis … here are my evolving book lists at a glance.)  The challenge sometimes, is helping the people I mentor turn the books into actionable things they can do.  I help them by creating step-by-step “How Tos” they can start with, to test ideas or techniques for their particular situation.

The How Tos Page
My How Tos page is a simple map of the “How Tos” that I have on Sources of Insight.  The “How Tos” are organized by categories, and each “How To” article starts with “How To” in the title.  I’ll be adding to my “How To” collection.  I also went back and revamped some of my posts to make them more actionable.   Here is a snapshot of my “How To” page:


Example How Tos
Here are some example of step-by-step How Tos:

  1. How To Use the PMI Technique to Improve Your Thinking
  2. How To Boost Self-Esteem
  3. How To Decide with Criteria and Weight

Next Steps
Take the How To page for a test drive and let me know what you think.  One thing I can say is that it’s an incredible experience when you find a “How” To that maps to a problem you’re facing or a skill you want to learn, and the “How To” empowers you to take action and build a new skill.

As I said, I’ll be adding to my “How Tos” collection and your feedback will help me shape the path forward.


  1. Hi JD,

    Nice move. “How to” articles are great way that teach everyone how to do something and people like them. I like the Chinese proverb by the way. Thanks for sharing

  2. Brilliant idea JD. You have now have a logically formated vault, showcasing the solutions to help others. I love it!

  3. Hi JD .. having had a quick squizz over and having seen Seth’s post of today … an added How to – could be:

    “There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It’s hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.”

    This was his last sentence .. seems like a good How to .. to add.

    I am looking forward to getting stuck in to your Agile Results and your advice as here .. these how tos should definitely help us ..

    Thanks for your guidance … Hilary

    PS – glad Vered highlighted the Chinese proverb .. it is so true isn’t it?! Thanks ..

  4. @ Alik — Thank you. The best is yet to come.

    @ Karl — Thank you. Well put, it’s a directory to solutions.

    @ Vered — Thank you. It’s one of my favorite sayings.

    @ Dia — Thank you. I agree. “How Tos” have proven themselves time and again.

    @ Jk — Thank you. I really like your vault metaphor — perfect.

    @ Hilary — Beautiful — I like that. Yes, “How To Manage Yourself” would be a great “How To.” yes, that Chinese proverb rings ever so true.

  5. Great new feature. I love seeing a personal development blog add a site map. It will be interesting to see what new categories appear as you fill these up over time.

  6. J. D. This is an amazing array of “how tos”. I have looked into my crystal ball and predict it will be one of the most popular pages on your blog!

  7. Hi JD .. I was going to email this to you – but I can’t see it .. and no worries!

    This is an amazing TED talk .. music, success, Mandela, Leadership, death .. actually it’s using music … (& if you do a TED list)

    Hope you enjoy – cheers Hilary

    PS I subscribe to Keith’s blog .. he does some really good public speaking posts .. something I need to get into in 2011 .. sadly he’s near Birmingham .. not my neck of the woods!

  8. J.D. What a cool and great idea. It is so true that there is often a disconnect between what we know and then translating that into our everyday actions (Ironically enough, I just did a video post on this same topic … I must have been reading your mind 🙂 ). I do think that this How-To section of your blog is powerful because it allows us to translated great knowledge into action. I am on my way to check it out.

  9. @ David — Thank you. I focus mostly on mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships and fun, but I might widen the umbrella.

    @ Sandra — Thank you. I like your crystal ball and I think it’s on to something.

    @ Hilary — I moved my contact form to the upper right. I’m stiff shuffling things around, trying to keep my menu clean and sparse, while making things easy to find (it’s always a trade-off 😉

    That is an incredible video and it reminded me how a leader can set the stage for fun and inspiration. I love the measure of how many shining eyes you create around you.

    Keith’s great.

    @ Sibyl — Thank you. My minds an open book, but I think you got the Cliffs notes. I find How Tos are a very effective way to turn ideas into results. It’s a blue ocean opportunity.

  10. hi jd… this is a smart addition to your site. “How-to” creates a quick connect for people who want to find answers to their “Why’s”…
    It’s great that you continually churn out ways to reach the broader mass of people…:)

  11. @ Riza — Thank you. I’m hoping this really helps share some expert know-how.

    @ Jonathan — Thank you. Sounds like I need to write a “how to” for that 😉

  12. Absolutely fabulous. You have a staggering amount of quality content on that page! Your site in general is so easily navigated and this makes it even easier to find what you’re looking for! Great job 🙂

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