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.
Dating back 25,000 years, Australia’s Aborigines are the world’s longest-lived culture, despite the harsh conditions of the Australian Continent. By dedicating more than half of their resources to intangibles such as learning, relationships, and the technology of eco-farming, the Aborigines created a society without war, crime, poverty, or taxes. You have to learn a lot just to survive.
Karl-Erik Sveiby and Tex Skulthorpe, the inventor of “social capital” and a master Aborigine artist respectively, give a wonderful and artistic assessment of the Aborigines’ knowledge management practices in their book Treading Lightly: the Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People (2006).
Here is their description of how young men left their villages at the age of 12, not to return for fourteen years. Their “Walkabouts” lasted longer than your grad school.
At the age of around twelve a young man would, together with his contemporaries, embark on a long learning journey that would forever change him. It would take fourteen to sixteen years before he returned to his own country.
The young man understood some of the language of each community, because his easily teaching was from the women who had married into his community. He could therefore show respect when he went into each different community. But he still had much to lear, including the fact that communication is more than words; a people also show respect in the way they speak. To show respect he would, for instance, not look the members of one particular community in the face when he talk.
It was essential to know the whole of everything and he learned that the valuable knowledge is hidden with in and cannot be see-only with patience will it be revealed. Surface knowledge has only limited value.
When the man finally returned to his home community, he still had to perform three more ceremonies taking up to six months in total, before he was considered an adult man with the ability to take on his role for his community. And now he could finally marry.
The women were considered to mature into responsible adults at a much younger age. Hence the women did not need to travel widely to learn. The girls learned about the neighboring habits from the women in the community. Because the women married and went to live with men in other communities, knowledge from all the surrounding groups was brought into each community.
Fast-forward to today. Social network effects, denser connections, Taylorism implodes, everything’s connected, the faster and faster it goes, volatility sets records in virtually everything, nothing is certain, the future is a random walk. The world is zany.
I look at things from way up high and from deep down in the weeds. I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on. I know some of the puzzle pieces well but I don’t have a clue what the picture will be. It’s time to slow down and reflect. I am months behind in my reading. Maybe I’m experiencing a solo singularity. I want to take a couple of months to learn “the languages” of each of my communities. If anybody asks, reply,
I intend to learn in public, here at internettime.com, my personal blog
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