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Jay Cross helps people work and live smarter. Jay is the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning. He wrote the book on it. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix.

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Workscaping, part 1 of n


posted on
April 20th, 2010
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Today CLO magazine’s Deanne Hartley interviewed me for an upcoming story about micro-learning. Is it a fad? No. Is it new? No. People naturally learn in small chunks. The only thing new is the label.

On the way home from the Swiss eLearning Conference, my mind was racing after three days of talking with interesting people and spreading the informal learning gospel. I jotted down ideas until my battery ran out. Now I have a 14-page paper. I plan to post it in short installments. Not quite micro-learning, but a step in that direction. Maybe then you’ll read some of it. In time, the words will migrate into the Working Smarter unbook.

Workscaping

Introducing Workscapes

Working smarter is the key to sustainability and perpetual improvement. Knowledge work and learning to work smarter are becoming indistinguishable. The accelerating rate of change in business forces everyone in every organization to make a choice: learn while you work or become obsolete.

The infrastructure for working smarter is called a workscape. Itʼs not a separate function so much as another way of looking at how we organize work. Workscaping helps people grow so that their organizations may prosper. Workscapes are pervasive. They are certainly not lodged in a training department. In fact, they make the training department obsolete.

Organizations must stop thinking of learning as something separate from work. The further we get into the Knowledge Age, the greater the convergence of working and learning. In many cases, they are already one and the same. Both must keep workers abreast of an onslaught of change and mountains of information.

Workers in a workscape learn by solving problems, coming up with fresh thinking, and collaborating with colleagues. They donʼt learn about these things; they learn by doing them. Deep learning is experiential.

The workscape is the part of an organization where learning and development becomes never-ending processes rather than one-time events. A workscape is a learning ecology. The workscaping viewpoint helps knowledge workers become more effective professionally and fulfilled personally. A sound workscape environment empowers workers to be all that they can be.

Workscapes match flows of know-how with workers solving problems and getting things done. They are the aspect of workplace infrastructure that provide multiple means of solving problems, tapping collective wisdom, and collaborating with others

Workscapes are not a new structure but rather a holistic way of looking at and reformulating existing business infrastructure. They use the same networks and social media as the business itself.

Technology is never the most important part of this. Foremost are people, their motivations, emotions, attitudes, roles, their enthusiasm or lack thereof, and their innate desire to excel. Technology, be it web 2.0 or instructional design, social psychology, marketing, or intelligent systems, only supports what weʼre helping people to accomplish.

Got the idea? Okay, Iʼm going to stop putting workscape in italics. Think of it as an inevitable part of the evolution of every organization.

Making progress requires know-how and the motivation.. We’ll take up motivation in the next installment.


In a course on Learning about Learning at SpacedEd, people are taking away a lot from the comments as well as from the questions on the main path. If you agree or disagree with what I’m saying, please leave a comment.
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