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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Who needs to learn in the extended enterprise?

posted on
May 17th, 2012

Reforming training departments is a swell idea but that’s not the prize. CLOs have already pared costs to the bone. Besides, the upside lays with improving the way experienced workers perform and that’s a population training departments generally don’t touch.

Everyone in the enterprise must be learning all the time, not just novices.

Embracing employees throughout the career lifecycle is only the starting point.

In the last century, corporations focused almost exclusively on learning inside the firewall. Employees received training; temps, part-timers, outsourcers, and most partners did not. Today’s workers are less likely to be employees.

Corporations are evolving into hubs of full time employees who coordinate the activities of teams of freelancers, contract service providers, and distribution partners. Monolithic, everything-under-one-roof are not agile enough to keep up in an era of perpetual, rapid change.

To serve the organization, all of these people need to participate in the organization’s learning networks. This requires a new spirit of openness, a re-definition of what constitutes a “company secret.” After all, who’s going to make a better partner, a freelance team that knows us (like our advertising agency) or a group that knows nothing about our values and processes (like the temps we brought in this morning.) As the hub-and-spoke organizational form becomes the norm, learning networks need to open up to non-employees.

Those networks should extend to future workers as well. People who want to join an organization — as full-timers or as contractors — could get up to speed before coming to work.

The traditional wall between corporations and customers is crumbling. In Cluetrain fashion, customers are talking directly with employees. Increased competition, a bewildering array of choices, and the conversion from manufacturing to service as the creator of value, is putting customers in charge of organizations.

Customer satisfaction is the new bottom line, yet few organizations hold anyone responsible for helping customers learn.

Social network software forges the connections among everyone in extended enterprise.It’s the backbone for collaboration, sharing knowledge, and informal learning.

The convergence of working and learning means we’ll be learning by doing. One hopes that will get us out of this situation:

(Sample of 200 CLOs, 2009)




  • Ara Ohanian - June 12, 2012 at 1:47 am -

    Jay you are quite right that tinkering with training department will not prepare organizations for the way we will be working in the future. Or even the way we increasingly work today. The combination of the crumbling of walls surrounding organizations and the increased speed of business change means official infrastructures simply don’t cut it. Charles Jennings highlights this in his white paper News Ways of Learning Inside and Beyond the Organization – when he points out the need to shift from traditional HR- driven learning to business-led learning. If we can shift that mind-set the right systems and infrastructures will follow. Here’s a link to Charles’ paper

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