Monthly Archives: August 2009

August Informal Learning Hot List

Informal Learning takes place in the context of work and life. Learnscaping — taking a systems view of learning in an organization — necessarily addresses a broad array of topics and disciplines. Hence, the articles and posts from Informal Learning Flow aren’t confined to what you’ll find in training magazines and learning conferences.

August 1, 2009 to August 30, 2009

Featured Sources

The following are the top items from featured sources based on social signals.

  1. Blog – Five Futuristic Interfaces on Display at SIGGRAPHTechnology Review Feed – Tech Review Top Stories, August 3, 2009
  2. How I use social mediaFull Circle, August 4, 2009
  3. Five Challenges Social Media Will Bring to, August 14, 2009
  4. Big Data and Real-time Structured Data AnalyticsOReilly Radar, August 13, 2009
  5. Defining the Big ShiftEdge Perspectives with John Hagel, August 2, 2009
  6. 16 Apps That Make Sharing Large Files A SnapTechCrunch, August 8, 2009
  7. 10 Ways to Archive Your TweetsReadWriteWeb, August 11, 2009
  8. Can You Be Too PerfectScientific American, August 5, 2009
  9. Happiness is not universalMind Hacks, August 10, 2009
  10. Announcing the hibernation of (from the blogs-deserve-a-sabbatical-too department)Lessig Blog, August 20, 2009
  11. Blogging – Still Good For You and For OrganizationsWirearchy, August 22, 2009
  12. User driven service bingoDoc Searls Weblog, August 10, 2009
  13. How to Design an iPhone App in 48 HoursAdaptive Path, August 4, 2009
  14. Twenty-One Top Twitter Tips News , August 1, 2009
  15. How to Build a Web Site from Scratch with No Experience [Feature] Lifehacker, August 13, 2009
  16. Lego hops off the Cluetrain onto the tracks in front of it, wondering what that increasingly loud sound could beJoho the Blog, August 13, 2009
  17. Informal Learning 2.0Internet Time, August 7, 2009
  18. Stand There And Do Nothingedublogs, August 16, 2009
  19. Endangered languages, endangered documentationThe Long Now Blog, August 4, 2009
  20. Dumb Money or Dumb Coverage?Half an Hour, August 3, 2009
  21. Social Networks and Security[email protected], August 18, 2009
  22. NPR – On the Tipping Point?Robert Paterson’s Weblog, August 18, 2009
  23. Workshop reportCognitive Edge, August 4, 2009
  24. Shifting from push to pullInformal Learning, August 3, 2009
  25. ChirpsLockergnome Blog Network, August 27, 2009
  26. Rant against PowerPointWorkplace Learning Today, August 27, 2009
  27. It does not matter if no one reads your blog!Gurteen Knowledge-Log, August 24, 2009
  28. OpenEd 09 is getting all artsy and stuff…Abject Learning, August 5, 2009
  29. Social networking on intranetselearningpost, August 4, 2009
  30. World Science Festival- Bobby McFerrinSkys Blog @ The Dalai Lama Foundation, August 1, 2009
  31. Bring Your Own DialtoneFast Company, August 27, 2009

Other Sources

The following are the top items based on social signals.

  1. 5 places to learn how to touch type – for free, August 14, 2009
  2. The Performance Environment, August 17, 2009
  3. Four C’s of digital media, August 13, 2009
  4. Critical Thinking, August 6, 2009
  5. Smart Phones: What Comes Next, August 16, 2009
  6. Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009 – August Update, August 8, 2009
  7. Social Networking on Intranets (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox), August 3, 2009
  8. Work 2.0, August 16, 2009
  9. State of learning management systems in higher education, August 26, 2009
  10. Kill the curriculum?, August 27, 2009
  11. Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day: Some free online courses about e-learning, August 10, 2009
  12. What It Means to Be Human: Being Covalent Instead of Ambivalent About Community, August 13, 2009
  13. The marginalized training function, August 5, 2009
  14. Future Knowledge Ecosystems: The Next Twenty Years of Technology-Led Economic Development, August 7, 2009
  15. Harold Jarche is Wicked Smart and We Need to Talk about Curriculum, August 24, 2009
  16. 12 best places to get free images for your site, August 13, 2009
  17. Ten Things I Learned From My Dad This Week, August 11, 2009
  18. Role of an online community manager, August 27, 2009
  19. Letting networks do what they do well., August 25, 2009

Hot Topics

Company (1215)

  1. Other Companies Should Have To Read This Internal Netflix Presentation, August 5, 2009
  2. How to Align Employee and Company Interests, August 4, 2009
  3. How Can Tech Companies Make Customer Service Scale?, August 13, 2009
  4. TechStars Incubator Hatches 10 New Companies, August 6, 2009

network (949)

  1. Communities, networks and what sits in between, August 6, 2009
  2. Learn How to Work a Crowd [Networking] , August 9, 2009
  3. Your “Real” Friends are Your Online Friends (or so Says Gen Y), August 10, 2009
  4. Forget the Business Card. Just Google Me, August 10, 2009

Tips (261)

  1. Make Firefox Faster by Vacuuming Your Database [Firefox Tip] , August 24, 2009
  2. Four Tips for Building Accountability, August 19, 2009
  3. Twenty-One Top Twitter Tips , August 1, 2009
  4. How to Use Facebook: 5 Tips For Better Social Networking, August 18, 2009

Google (549)

  1. UN and Google Create Climate Change Mapping Resources, August 4, 2009
  2. Forget the Business Card. Just Google Me, August 10, 2009
  3. Google Adds Tools to Web Developer Suite, August 10, 2009
  4. Google Books Offers Creative Commons Licensing, August 13, 2009

Blog (712)

  1. Blog – Five Futuristic Interfaces on Display at SIGGRAPH, August 3, 2009
  2. Blog – Basketball And The Theory of Networks, August 16, 2009
  3. Blog – New Measure of Human Brain Processing Speed , August 24, 2009
  4. Blog – How Dragon Kings Could Trump Black Swans, August 3, 2009

Who's in charge here?


I’m reading Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide and enjoying it immensely.

Deciding is not what you thought. It’s not a rational process.

Scientists equipped with fMRI gear are discovering that emotion and social relations are bedrock.

This article by Marilyn Bunting in the Guardian draws these conclusions from recent books that peer into our brains:

First, we have much underestimated the social nature of the brain: how primed it is to recognise, interpret and respond all the time to the input of others and how that lays down patterns which govern our behaviour. We are herd-like animals who show a strong tendency to conform with group norms; what makes our brains so much bigger than other primates is this remarkable capacity for social skills such as empathy, co-operation and fairness. Instead of the old metaphor of individuals as discrete entities like billiard balls, we need to think instead of them as nodes in a relationship network.

The second area of astonishing discoveries is in the plasticity of the brain. We talk of “hardwiring” (computers have generated many misleading metaphors for the brain) but in fact, the brain can be changed. Parts of the brain can learn entirely new tricks. Neural pathways are not fixed, and even much of the damage done by deprivation in childhood can be repaired with the right circumstances of example, support and determination. We can shape our own brains to create new habits that we might have thought we were not capable of.

Instead of pointing out that “Learning is social,” perhaps we should simply say that “People are social.”

The Engelbart Hypothesis

I just finished reading The Engelbart Hypothesis by Valerie Landau and Eileen Clegg. ($20 on Amazon.)

While Doug Engelbart is best known as the inventor of the mouse, the man is responsible for so much more. Doug conceptualized social networking more than 50 years ago! He described using connections to boost collective intelligence before computer networks existed. One of the first two nodes of the internet ended in his office at SRI.

You’ve probably heard the tale about Steve Jobs lifting the Mac’s windows, icons, and mouse from Xerox PARC; PARC got them from Doug Engelbart. For Doug, the hardware and software were merely a means to an end: harnessing the power of collaboration to augment the intelligence of humankind.

Every problem facing humanity on a global scale is complex, and so, the solutions to those problems are also complex. Solutions themselves often bring on new unforeseen problems. Models for prolem-solving do not address the needed complexity. The solutions are too big for any one individual or any one discipline.

This is the heart of what I’ve called Learnscapes.

The culture, training, organizations, tools, artifacts and physical infrastructure all determine the capability of any individual or group to perform.

Valerie and Eileen talked with Doug for several years to tease out his amazing story. They’ve succeeded in capturing Doug’s thoughts in 140 pages of simple, accessible language and graphics. If you want to know where Web 2.0 came from, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Ignite, a five-minute presentation

Just as you can put a lot of information into a 140-character Tweet, you can convey many thoughts in a five-minute Ignite talk. Micro-content is on the way.



If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? Around the world geeks have been putting together Ignite nights to show their answers.

Ignite was started in Seattle in 2006 by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis. Since then 100s of 5 minute talks have been given across the world. There are thriving Ignite communities in Seattle, Portland, Paris, and NYC.

On Friday, I gave my first Ignite presentation on stage to an audience of 300 at Gnomedex in Seattle. We’re thinking of using the format in the corporate learning track at Online Educa in Berlin later this year, and I needed to see how it felt.

Gnomedex 09

The five-minute limitation makes you choose your words carefully. It turns out that less is more. People lose attention after listening to a speaker for nine to ten minutes. Might as well pack the message right up front rather than drone on.

My topic was the nature of time. Afterward, a fellow came who had judged presentations by a group of physicists on the same topic told me I presented more information in five minutes than the scientists covered in a hour.

This YouTube recording is slightly out of sync. (Sorry.)

Ten five-minute talks are better than one fifty-minute talk.

Viva Micro-content!

Gnomedex 09

Believe it or not, social media version

The latest entry in the Did You Know? sweepstakes presents 30 amazing stats about social media in four minutes.

A few of stats are overstated, e.g.

# By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers….96% of them have joined a social network. [It’s 96% of those online…]

# Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity search topic on the Web

Nonetheless, this compilations from Socialnomics makes a compelling case that social media is a total game-changer.

Thanks to Mashable for the pointer.

Informal Learning 2.0


Effectiveness – Jay Cross

Published in Chief Learning Officer, August 2009

Informal Learning 2.0

Jay Cross

In the world of business, the era of networks is crowding out the Industrial Age. Network connections are replacing rigidity with flexibility, penetrating internal boundaries and silos and obliterating the walls that have separated businesses from their customers.

Networks reduce transfer costs to zero, enabling companies to focus on what they do best while outsourcing what others can do better. Networks also speed things up, often at a terrifying rate, making the corporate world unpredictable. In sum, networks are ushering in new ways of doing business. Corporate approaches to learning have to change, as well.

Until the shift from industrial to network dominance, corporations could compensate for crummy learning by hiring experienced people and managing ingenious command-and-control structures. Like the U.S. Navy, many old-style organizations were “built by geniuses so they could be run by idiots.” [Correction: this should say Like the ship in The Caine Mutiny rather than Like the U.S. Navy.] Such an approach fails in the face of rampant change. Organizations that don’t learn can’t keep up. It’s learn or die.

Some cutting-edge corporations are adopting a new bundle of practices — let’s call them informal learning 2.0 — in order to improve operating efficiency by:

• Slashing time to performance.
• Increasing customer loyalty though learning.
• Replacing bureaucracy through self-service.
• Developing more informed marketing partners.
• Improving learning along the supply chain.

At the same time, the informal learning 2.0 approach sets the stage for broad cultural changes that strengthen the organization for the long term by enabling it to:

• Maintain flexibility in the face of incessant change.
• Respond rapidly to competitive threats.
• Put innovation on everyone’s to-do list.
• Enable workers to be all that they can be.
• Establish frameworks for continuous improvement.

In a networked corporation, there is scant difference between knowledge work and learning. Workers become problem solvers and innovators instead of cogs in the machine. Their objective is ingenuity, not conformity. Business success depends on them working together rather than as individuals. Collaboration rules. They work and learn in what I call a “learnscape.”

Learnscapes are the factory floor of knowledge organizations. The “scape” part underscores the need to deal at the level of the learning environment or ecology. The old focus on events such as workshops won’t cut it in the ever-changing swirl produced by networks. The “learn” part highlights the importance of baking the principles of sound learning into that environment rather than leaving it to chance.

A modern learning ecology embraces departments and disciplines that were once considered separate functions: training, independent study, collaboration, knowledge management, corporate communications, organizational development, communities of practice, leadership development, expertise location and social media. The corporation’s values, standards and investments define the structure of the ecology within which people are granted the freedom to act.

Corporations can create superior learnscapes by injecting practices that foster optimal learning: drip-feeding, interaction, ease of access, timely reinforcement, peer coaching, respect for reflection, setting standards, cognitive apprenticeship and so on.
Learning is formal when someone other than the learner sets curriculum. Typically, it’s an event, on a schedule and completion is generally recognized with a symbol, such as a grade, gold star, certificate or check mark in a learning management system. Formal learning is pushed on learners.

By contrast, informal learners usually set their own learning objectives. They learn when they feel a need to know. The proof of their learning is their ability to do something they could not do before. Informal learning often is a pastiche of small chunks of observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation. Learners are pulled to informal learning.
Industrial-age training required flocks of instructional designers to develop training programs and instructors to deliver them. In a networked learning environment, self-service learning replaces many programs, so fewer instructors are required. The pull approach provides more bang for the buck, enabling corporations to get more results while simultaneously cutting costs.

Developing and nurturing learnscapes is not just something to keep a chief learning officer occupied. It’s a top executive responsibility. It’s the ultimate key performance indicator.

Isn’t it time to get everyone in the corporation involved in learning?

Shhh… Jay attends "secretive" event



Business Week tells you “what went on at the clandestine affair.”

This year’s motley bunch included an assorted portfolio of designers; businesspeople, investors and MBA graduates; a tech systems architect who was also a former Navy Seal; and a tai chi master. The mean age was in the high 30s, with several people over 60 and a few in their mid-20s. “Despite coming from different backgrounds, we’re all risk takers We don’t fit in normal places so we make positions for ourselves,” says Dila, 45, who also has a PhD in philosophy.

You must know someone in the so-called club to get invited—conference organizers change annually and the event is not promoted. Planners capped attendance at 50 people and there is no intent to let in more. The fee: $850.

Hey now! I was there and I have video to prove it:

I asked a bunch of people “How can we improve learning in organizations?” This is a boiled-down version.

The first cut was an hour long. I made a gaffe in chopping things back to ten minutes: no women appear in the final version although plenty were in attendance. I’ve asked myself if this were some latent sexism or simply the luck of the draw, and frankly, I can’t explain how that happened.

The event was invitation-only but hardly secretive, as more than 500 photos on Flickr will attest.

Shifting from push to pull



The world of business is shifting from push to pull.

In a delightful post on his Edge Perspectives, John Hagel unpacks what this means.

From knowledge stocks to knowledge flows.

From knowledge transfer to knowledge creation.

From explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge.

From transactions to relationships.

From zero sum to positive sum mindsets.

From push programs to pull platforms.

From stable environments to dynamic environments.


What can I say? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

togetherLearn‘s thinking is remarkably congruent with John’s.


As the author of Learnscaping, I particularly applaud this sentiment.

If institutions viewed their primary rationale as fostering scalable peer learning, they could create learningscapes* that would help individuals develop their talent much more rapidly than these individuals ever could on their own.

Related: The Big Shift Blog at Harvard Business Publishing
2007, the Year of Pull
Push and Pull

*FYI, I recently discovered that John Seely Brown was talking about learningscapes years before I started writing about Learnscapes in 2004. Great minds… and all that.

Shifting biggly

The world of business is shifting from push to pull. In a delightful post on Edge Perspectives, John Hagel unpacks what this means.

From knowledge stocks to knowledge flows.

From knowledge transfer to knowledge creation.

From explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge.

From transactions to relationships.

From zero sum to positive sum mindsets.

From push programs to pull platforms.

From stable environments to dynamic environments.

If institutions viewed their primary rationale as fostering scalable peer learning, they could create learningscapes that would help individuals develop their talent much more rapidly than these individuals ever could on their own.