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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Important Stuff

The web is a treasure house. It’s good karma to share the wealth. These pages contain fundamental, inspirational documents and presentations from the masters. And a few jokes. I hope you enjoy learning from them. I have. 

Yeah, yeah. The Important Stuff Page has migrated here


(Old page is below for posterity and clueless spiders.)


Complexity matters. Great presentation by Niels Flaeging

Organize for Complexity, part I+II – Special Edition Paper from Niels Pflaeging


A Day with Dave Snowden (complexity)

What if we trusted you?: Jerry Michalski at TEDxCopenhagen 2012

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual. (Full text). Chris Locke, Doc Searles, David Weinberger, Rick Levine. 1999. The most important book written in the last half of the 20th century. “The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery.” “A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.” Seth Godin: “If you don’t think you need this book to better understand your market, that’s your second mistake!”

Out of Control, The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World. Kevin Kelly.  1994. “The world of our own making has become so complicated that we must turn to the world of the born to understand how to manage it.””The central act of the coming era is to connect everything to everything.””Complexity must be grown from simple systems that already work.” Also New Rules New Economy. 1999. “The tricks of the intangible trade will become the tricks of your trade.””The aim of swarm power is superior performance in a turbulent environment.””To prosper, feed the web first.” Also, read We are the Web.
Learning in the Digital Age by John Seely Brown. “Learning is a remarkably social process. In truth, it occurs not as a response to teaching, but rather as a result of a social framework that fosters learning. To succeed in our struggle to build technology and new media to support learning, we must move far beyond the traditional view of teaching as delivery of information. Although information is a critical part of learning, it’s only one among many forces at work. It’s profoundly misleading and ineffective to separate information, theories, and principles from the activities and situations within which they are used. Knowledge is inextricably situated in the physical and social context of its acquisition and use.”


Blog Marathon: 50 Learning Theorists in 50 Days. 2012. Donald Clark. “In an effort to explain our predecessors, warts and all, this series of portraits will take look at the people who shaped learning theory and practice over the centuries. They have all played a role in shaping (some mis-shaping) the learning landscape. Our theorists are major thinkers who have reflected on the large-scale issues around learning and education. The practitioners have more direct relevance, as their advice is wholly relevant to the design of e-learning programmes. The format is simple. Over the next fifty days I will present fifty major shapers and movers in learning, theorists, practitioners and those directly relevant to e-learning.”


Ever Tried to Hit a Moving Target at Twenty Paces with a Colt .45? Charles Jennings. 2010. Don’t take a knife to a gunfight. The message here is that CLOs and their L&D teams need to get over trying to ‘prove’ their value, and focus instead on keeping their customers satisfied. The value of L&D will be determined by its stakeholders and customers, not by L&D itself. In any transaction or service the seller may set the price, but it’s always the customer who determined the value. L&D services are no exception to this rule.


State of the Internet Operating System. Tim O’Reilly. 2010. Ask yourself for a moment, what is the operating system of a Google or Bing search? What is the operating system of a mobile phone call? What is the operating system of maps and directions on your phone? What is the operating system of a tweet?

Learning in a Social Organization (LISO). 2012. From Jane Hart, an amazing, broad, curated collection of links to social, informal, non-training learning.

Where Social Learning Thrives. Marcia Conner and Steve LeBlanc. 2010. Social learning is not just the technology of social media, although it makes use of it. It is not merely the ability to express yourself in a group of opt-in friends. Social learning combines social media tools with a shift in the corporate culture, a shift that encourages ongoing knowledge transfer and connects people in ways that make learning a joy. Social learning thrives in a culture of service and wonder. It is inspired by leaders, enabled by technology and ignited by opportunities that have only recently unfolded.


The Story-Centered Curriculum. Roger Schank. 2007. In high school, this state of affairs is even stranger. In the “subject-centered” curriculum model in place at most schools, students move from subject to subject, spending 45 minutes a day at each. The subjects they are taught were decided upon by a curriculum committee in 1892 who were certainly not interested in, nor capable of, imagining the world we live in today. The school experience they created in no way mirrors what student lives will be like after graduation, nor does it take into account any modern theory of how students learn best. The experience is passive, fragmented, unmotivated, and generally dull. And, not surprisingly, it usually does not work. Drop out rates in high school are astoundingly high.


New Technology: the Threat to our Corporate Information


Knowing Knowledge. George Siemens. 2006. A profound explanation of knowledge in a fast-paced, complex, ever-changing, networked world. This is essence. It’s a new ball game.


Connectivism, a Learning Theory for the Digital Age. 2004. Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks. Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same. Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.


The Art of Powerful Questions. Eric Vogt, Juanita Brown, David Isaacs. 2003. “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper ques- tion, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” Einstein


The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Eric Raymond. 1999. Why and how open source works. Also see


The Jargon File AKA The New Hackers Dictionary. 1996. It will teach you the language.


Deschooling Society. Ivan Illich. 1971. “Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value…. In these essays, I will show that the institutionalization of values leads inevitably to physical pollution, social polarization, and psychological impotence: three dimensions in a process of global degradation and modernized misery.”


Experience & Education. 1938. John Dewey. The freedom of intelligence–the act of freely thinking, observing and judging–is the only freedom of enduring importance. Students must feel a sense of purpose in their learning to avoid mental slavery.

thought leaders


What is Web 2.0? Tim O’Reilly. “Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core.”


The Underground History of American Education. John Taylor Gatto. 2000. The Silent Spring of American education.


As We May Think. Vannevar Bush. 1945. “A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.”


Seven Principles of Learning, Institute for Research on Learning. “We are all natural lifelong learners. All of us, no exceptions. Learning is a natural part of being human. We all learn what enables us to participate in the communities of practice of which we wish to be a part.”


Engines for Education. Roger Schank and Chip Clearly. Dated but feisty hyperbook by endearing bad-boy Roger.


C-Level Perceptions of the Strategic Value of Learning Research Report.  Brenda Sugrue, ASTD; Tony O’Driscoll and Mary Kay Vona, IBM. “CXOs are less concerned than CLOs with quantitative metrics that show learning’s value contribution to business outcomes. CXOs are more concerned with qualitative alignment of learning investment with the changing needs of the business, and with the perceptions of employees and business leaders, than they are with data from ROI studies. 2. CLOs are more focused than CXOs on improving the performance of business units, through understanding business unit goals and performance gaps, and identifying learning and non-learning solutions to close those gaps.”


Cognitive Apprenticeship. Allan Collins, John Seely Brown, and Ann Holum. (1991). “In modern times, apprenticeship has largely been replaced by formal schooling, except in children’s learning of language, in some aspects of graduate education, and in on-the-job training. We propose an alternative model of instruction that is accessible within the framework of the typical American classroom. It is a model of instruction that goes back to apprenticeship but incorporates elements of schooling.”


The Semantic Web by Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler, and Ora Lassila. Scientific American, 2001. A new form of Web content that is meaningful to computers will unleash a revolution of new possibilities.The Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation. The first steps in weaving the Semantic Web into the structure of the existing Web are already under way. In the near future, these developments will usher in significant new functionality as machines become much better able to process and “understand” the data that they merely display at present.


What is informal learning? by Jay Cross. 2006. People acquire the skills they use at work informally — talking, observing others, trial-and-error, and simply working with people in the know. Formal training and workshops account for only 10% to 20% of what people learn at work. Most corporations over-invest in formal training while leaving the more natural, simple ways we learn to chance.


The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community by Calvin Andrus, CLO at the CIA, “The only way to meet the continuously unpredictable challenges ahead of us is to match them with continuously unpredictable changes of our own. We must transform the Intelligence Community into a community that dynamically reinvents itself by continuously learning and adapting as the national security environment changes.”


Storytelling: an old skill in a new context by Dave Snowden (1999). Why knowledge management should come from the bottom up.


Seeing Through the Net, I &


II. Alan Watts explaining systems thinking to IBM in the early 70s. Amazing audio.


How People Learn. John Bransford et alia. 16 bright people pin what’s known about learning in adults and children. Department of Education funding. Lucid, concise, the real deal. Caution: 1998.


Beyond the Command Line. Neal Stephenson.


Timeline of Learning Organization Concepts, Senge et alia

Ross Dawson’s


Web 2.0 Framework


eLearning 2.0, Stephen Downes


The State of Enterprise 2.0 Dion Hinchcliffe


The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On (2008), Stephen Downes


The Future of Online Learning (1998), Stephen Downes


Dialogue: A Proposal by David Bohm, Donald Factor, and Peter Garrett describes a method of inquiry where participants leave their egos at the door. This is subtle but powerful. Build on one another’s thinking. Deeply.


A Leader’s Framework for Decision-Making (2007), Dave Snowden and Mary Boone. HBR. In January 1993, a gunman murdered seven people in a fast-food restaurant in Palatine, a suburb of Chicago. In his dual roles as an administrative executive and spokesperson for the police department, Deputy Chief Walter Gasior suddenly had to cope with several different situations at once. He had to deal with the grieving families and a frightened community, help direct the operations of an extremely busy police department, and take questions from the media, which inundated the town with reporters and film crews. “There would literally be four people coming at me with logistics and media issues all at once,” he recalls. “And in the midst of all this, we still had a department that had to keep running on a routine basis.”


A Simple Home (1906) Charles Keeler. “A movement toward a simpler, a truer, a more vital art expression, is now taking place in California. It is a movement which involves painters and poets, composers and sculptors, and only lacks coordination to give it a significant influence upon modern life. One of the first steps in this movement, it seems to me, should be to introduce more widely the thought of the simple home -to emphasize the gospel of the simple life, to scatter broadcast the faith in simple beauty, to make prevalent the conviction that we must live art before we can create it.” See also


Bernard Maybeck: A Gothic Man in the Twentieth Century. william carlos williams recites


This is Just to Say Video

Dan Pink on motivation. Carrots and sticks don’t motivation conceptual workers.

Dave Snowden: How to organize a children’s party. Not only does Dave explain complex systems, he’ll keep you in stitches.


Doug Engelbart’s 1968 demo. Where collaboration by computer began. The debut of the mouse, hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface


Medieval Help Desk


EPIC 2014, media, 8:14


Heavy Metal Umlaut


Shift Happens


Did You Know? 2.0


Story of Stuff


Sugata Mitra’s


Online Educa 2007 opening keynote describes the The Hole in the Wall project. Impoverished children in remote Indian villages learn the web and more with no outside instruction. An amazing testament to the power of peer discovery and learning. Michael Wesch, digital anthropology


The Machine is Using Us, hypertext, 4:32


A Vision of Students Today, kids, 4:44


Education Can’t Be Linear, world, 4:27


Information R/evolution, search, 5:29 TED


Goodbye textbooks, hello, open-source learning, knowledge ecosystem, Richard Baranluk, 18:45


Do Schools Kill Creativity?, education, Sir Ken Robinson, 19:29


Stroke of Insight, inside the mind, Jane Bolte Taylor, 20:11


Do all languages have a common ancestor?, language, Murray Gell-Mann, 2:18


A life of fascinations, Nathan Myhrvold, 18:47


Tales of Passion, story, Isabelle Allende, 18:02


Photosynth, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, 7:41


“Memes and “temes”, cultural Darwinism, Susan Blackmore, 21:01


Why squatter cities are a good thing, Stuart Brand, 5:02


Why we do what we do, motivation, Tony Robbins, 21:54


Best of the TED talks


TED talks list Internet Time


Community TED talk topic


One-sided relationship (Advertising and consumer at lunch)
In Plain English

five-minute university
cognitive edge
medieval help desk