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.
Full house (10) for today’s Hangout on Air. I don’t know how many watched on YouTube.
We had a good discussion of the Stoos Movement and combining agile with management. Or replacing management with agile.
Slides from Hangout:
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Is your organization ready?
How ready are you to tackle Big L Learning? Where does your organization fit on the progression from Hierarchical Organization to Collaborative Organization?
You can take this survey online. We’ll report the aggregate results in a couple of weeks.
Our employees can access the entire Internet from their desktops. ☐ yes ☐ no
Our people are learning and growing fast enough to keep up with the future. ☐ yes ☐ no
Anyone can set up an online meeting at our company. ☐ yes ☐ no
We take time to reflect on our experience. ☐ yes ☐ no
We distribute information through podcasts, blogs, or videos. ☐ yes ☐ no
It’s easy to contribute to a blog or wiki. ☐ yes ☐ no
My team talks about the trends that drive our business. ☐ yes ☐ no
Relationships between departments are collaborative and effective. ☐ yes ☐ no
We learn something from every interaction with a customer. ☐ yes ☐ no
If you checked fewer than five ”yes” boxes, your organization is trailing the mainstream.
Assessing the cost/benefit of experiential learning is like asking for a cost/benefit of your telephone connections. You can’t live without it. As one pundit put it, “The ROI of social networking is being in business a few years from now.”
Among the potential benefits of providing a world-class learning function to workers and throughout the extended enterprise are:
Your CFO will point out that these are intangibles. She’s right. But most of the value of companies is intangible. In the two decades of the 20th century, the value of the S&P 500 companies flipped from 80% tangibles to 80% intangibles.
Stock price reflects the value investors put on know-how, brand, track record, and the likelihood that the company will continue to create value in the future. All of these depend on the quality of the workforce and its relationships, and those in turn depend on people’s ability to learn and grow.
To keep things simple, we began by dividing the world into two types of businesses. We call industrial-age (old school) companies
Hierarchical and network-era (2012) companies Collaborative.
1. Control in Hierarchical companies resides at the top. Orders and instructions are pushed down through the organization.
Hierarchical organizations train employees. Hierarchical organizations micromanage: they tell people what to learn.
2. Control in Collaborative companies is distributed throughout the organization. Workers and supervisors have a large say
in what they do. Collaborative organizations help everyone in the extended enterprise learn: contractors, temps, partners, consultants — and customers.
Collaborative organizations give managers and workers the freedom to choose how they learn to do the work. This experiential learning is deeper and more long-lasting than classes.
What if our company has shifted from Hierarchical to Collaborative? Learning would become everyone’s business. We looked at likely changes. We asked what would give us the biggest bang in a Collaborative Organization if we didn’t even have a training department.
A good way to assess the adequacy of the technology you’re going to rely on is to look at capabilities on the consumer web. Facebook
has taught hundreds of millions of people about social networking. Ask net-savvy younger workers how they would like to learn new
skills, and they bring will up the features they enjoy outside of work.
It’s not just about the technology, so we examined also some of the human aspects of implementation, including the rationale for different sorts of social networks.
That concludes this series of posts. Here are the four posts:
Hats off to Citrix for sponsoring this research.
Technological infrastructure for social learning
Work and learning are converging, and as this change happens, the infrastructure of the old corporate learning must go – things like traditional one-size-fit-all in-person training seminars. In its place enters social and informal learning hubs like on-demand content, live online discussions, wikis and forums, and searchable content archives. The great news is that social and informal learning don’t require new systems because learning can take place on the same “platform” as the existing social network, if a company already has one.
The primary thing to bear in mind, says MIT’s Andy McAfee (McAfee), is INATT. That’s short for a phrase that kept coming up in conversation when he was writing Enterprise 2.0. It’s short for “It’s Not About The Technology.” People come first.
But you can’t do without the technology either. Social networks are the ideal platform for the new corporate learning, so let’s briefly examine how they support corporate learning.
Early personal computing was based on corporate computing. Conventions like ASCII, programming languages, Internet protocol, and encryption were developed for corporate mainframe computers and only later adopted for personal computers. That situation has flip-flopped. Innovations in applications and user-interface design are born on the consumer side and migrate to the enterprise.
Forbes named Salesforce.com the world’s most innovative company. Where did that innovation come from? Salesforce.com says cloud-based Customer Relationship Management application borrowed heavily from Amazon. Salesforce.com’s social network application was inspired by Facebook. Salesforce.com’s Chatter began its life as in-house Twitter. As the web turns social, Salesforce.com has changed its mission to “leading the shift to the Social Enterprise,” and that’s where it’s proving its forward-thinking nature.
So how do you find the right social platform to enhance your corporate training program? When an organization is improving its workscape, looking at consumer applications is a good way to think about what’s required in the corporate space. Ask net-savvy younger workers how they would like to learn new skills, and they bring up the features they enjoy outside of work:
Minimum viable workscape
What we’re talking about is a social work hub where every employee and external partner can come to collaborate, share information, get information and provide updates and ask questions. When it comes time to build your new collaborative and social learning center, some of those consumer applications are simple to replicate in-house. Others are not. You probably can’t afford, and definitely don’t need, to create your own Facebook or Google behind your firewall. There are lots of applications you can implement at reasonable cost. Be skeptical if your collaborative infrastructure doesn’t include these minimal functions:
Profiles – so each employee can personally connect to the network. Profile should contain photo, position, location, email address, expertise (tagged so it’s searchable). Nice-to-haves include how to reach you (noting whether you’re online now), reporting chain (boss, boss’s boss, etc.), link to your blog and bookmarks, people in your network, links to documents you frequently share, members of your network.
Workspaces – to break up the organization’s activity into relevant, digestible feeds for each individual and feeds. Workspaces are networks within the organization that are created by employees to gather a team or group in a specific area. For example, new hires that are brought on at the same time, may create a workspace where they can ask each other questions and share information that they find out.
Activity stream – for monitoring the organization pulse in real time, sharing what you’re doing, being referred to useful information, asking for help, accelerating the flow of news and information, and keeping up with change. Activity streams should be available for the company at large and for workspaces.
Wikis or notes – for writing collaboratively, eliminating multiple versions of documents, sharing information with a relevant group, eliminating unnecessary email, and sharing responsibility for updates and error correction.
Integrated virtual meetings – to make it easy to meet online, because there needs to be room in your learning program for group discussion and application. Minimum feature set: shared screen, text chat, video conferencing streams.
Mobile access – Half of America’s workforce works away from the office at least sometimes. Smart phones are surpassing PCs for connecting to networks for access and participation. People post more Tweets via phone than via computers. Google designs its apps for mobile before porting them to PCs. What does all of this mean? Your new social workscape needs to be mobile so people can collaborate from anywhere.
Putting a learning platform in place
When it’s time to put a learning platform in place, it’s a good idea to make a company wide commitment to your new philosophy on learning. Here’s an example from a company I recently worked with:
Changing behavior requires continual reinforcement, so be ready to tackle the concern and resistance that some people may have toward becoming a more collaborative organization.
A great way to embrace your new collaborative nature while helping people adapt to it, is to host all-hands virtual meetings to share your process toward becoming a collaborative organization. Make your employees a part of the evolution; keep them in the loop.
Networks are not only the environment of learning; they’re also the place where problems are solved, discoveries are made, and new knowledge is created.
Workers are members of multiple, interconnected networks.
Everyone has personal face-to-face networks: the friends, neighbors, colleagues, and acquaintances we talk with. Most people have electronic personal networks, too: Facebook, discussions groups, and a variety of followers and followed comrades. We rely on our networks to help us learn what’s going on in our worlds. The collaborative organization may replicate those personal connections through social work platforms with customizable workspaces. Each workspace is for a group of connected people – teams, departments, project contributors, and so on.
Communities are networks of people who share common interests and identify themselves as cohorts. A community may be a group of professionals (e.g. chefs or chip designers) or people with shared passions (e.g. model railroaders and cyclists) or co-workers from different work teams (e.g. the United Way Committee or neighborhood watch). Communities share knowledge (“Here’s a great recipe for crayfish with foie gras”), help one another (“There’s an opening for a sous-chef at the Fish Trap in Key West”), validate best practices (“Use coddled eggs in Caesar salad to avoid salmonella”), and develop apprentices into professionals (“My salad chef is ready to become a pastry chef”). Communities can exist internally (the United Way Committee) or externally (the chefs). Innovation in Silicon Valley is enhanced when competitors share trade secrets because allegiance to their professional community (“We’re chip designers”) is strong than to their employer (“I work for AMD.”)
Many companies enable workers to establish a personal node in the company’s social platform. This is where your individual profile enables people to find you, know what your good at, and share things you may be interested in. Many workers narrate their work on individual blogs. Transparency builds trust.
Most information work is carried out by project teams. When team members are unable to meet in the same physical space, they rely on networks to collaborate on getting projects done. Team members who work together, learn together. In time, team members develop strong social ties, trust emerges, and they co-create new knowledge and innovation. Experience is the best teacher and work teams are where it happens.
Project Teams have a job to do; communities come together to cooperate and share for the good of the group. Project teams inevitably need to acquire knowledge from outside their small circle. Their individual members are often members of several communities, which they tap for knowledge and guidance. A smart organization supports its internal teams and encourages its people to take part in external teams.
Many progressive companies have set up social work platforms that connect all employees to an activity feed that lists activities and pointers from all over the company. Social workspaces are the ultimate silo busters, enabling everyone to be on the same page, accelerating the organization’s cycle time, and letting “the company know what the company knows.”
A Note About Internet Access
Many companies signal their lack of trust in their employees by denying them access to the greatest assembly of knowledge in the history of humanity, the Internet. To be consistent, they should probably take away their telephones (They might make long distance calls to China!) and pencils (They might waste time playing tic-tac-toe). Bad apples are going to do bad things with or without the Internet, but by hoarding access to the web, you’re not only punishing your good apples, but also hindering their ability to learn.
For many people today, working without the net is equivalent to working blindfolded. When companies deny access to the net, employees route around them with smartphones and tablets that bypass corporate IT. The price of criminalizing access to the net is lower morale, the message that it’s okay to break rules (wink, wink), and to give up on hiring the best and the brightest (who will work somewhere they are trusted to act like responsible citizens). Companies should encourage workers to connect to the outside world, for that’s where the customers are.
The Internet is an essential library of information for today’s workforce. David Weinberger points out that the web has changed the nature of knowledge itself. Knowledge that was once limited to what you could print on a page is now connected to all manner of evidence, counter-claims, elaboration, and interpretations.
The basic idea is that the properties of knowledge that we’ve taken for granted at least in the West for, oh, 2,500 years are not actually properties of knowledge. They’re properties of knowledge when its medium is paper. And when you remove the paper and put things online, it takes on the properties of its new medium—of the Internet. Importantly, knowledge in a network includes differences and disagreements in a way that traditional knowledge is uncomfortable with. Everything is unsettled, everything is argued about, and very few things are ever totally resolved on the Net.
There’s a word for companies that deny workers access to the riches of the Internet. That word is stupid.
The next post in this series will address readiness for and benefits of collaborative learning.
Join me online for Office Hours every Tuesday morning at 10:00 am Pacific. Here.
All topics are game although I’m particularly interested in social business, informal learning, positive psychology, organizational change, and prospering in the Network Era. My professional goal is creating happier, more productive workplaces.
We’ll meet in a Hangout on Google+. I am very impressed with what Google has put together. If you haven’t experimented with Hangouts, do yourself a favor; sign up now. It’s free. It’s a powerful learning technology.
Up to ten people can converse in a Hangout. They can share screens, edit Google docs, look at SlideShare presentations, see each other on video, and text chat. With Google On-Air, sessions can be broadcast live; broadcast sessions are automatically saved on YouTube. Google+ plays on iPhones and Android devices. This is disruptive technology.
Everything flows. I’m fond of saying that everything’s beta, but my weekly Office Hours Hangouts are not beta; they’re alpha. If you’re an early adopter or enthusiast, please drop by on Tuesday.
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)
Khan Academy is popping up everywhere! Sal Khan’s videos have helped millions of students learn algebra, biology, finance, and more. Singlehandedly, Sal Khan has done more to shake up the traditional notion of schooling than anyone since Horace Mann. Everybody’s thinking about how to flip the equation. Provide the content before class — and use class time to figure out what it means. Brilliant.
But what happens when you’re a kid, before you’re ready to tackle algebra and finance? That’s when you turn to eLearning for Kids.
Established eight years ago by my friend Nick Van Dam, eLearning for Kids serves up free lessons to millions of kids aged five to twelve. Take a look at the courses.
eLearning for Kids is run by volunteers and funded with contributions. If you want to donate to a good cause, assured that your money’s going to do some good without being scalped by (ahem) “management fees,” make a contribution to eLearning for Kids.
A synopsis of my remarks to Emerging Directions in Global Education 2011, Delhi, India
For the first 60 seconds, we listened to Yoyo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G as the flowers unfolded.
As time speeds up, we perceive that what once appeared rigid is actually fluid.
Progress is unfolding at an unprecedented rate. More happens in one of your minutes than in one of your grandfather’s hours. More information has been created in the three days I have been in Delhi than in the sweep of human history from the dawn of civilization until 2004. Futurists tell us the 21st century will not contain a mere one hundred 20th century style years but tens of thousands of them.
As the years speed by, we can appreciate that educational systems that once appeared rigid are actually fluid. We can nurture them to grow this way or that. We can “flip” them, that is, reconfigure the pieces. I’ll suggest that we can, and should, rearrange the components of schooling to democratize learning.
By democratize, I don’t mean giving students the vote. Rather, democratizing learning means giving students the knowledge and permission to realize their full potential. Democratization gives students a voice in their own learning.
Be forewarned: I am an alien in your midst. I am an American, a Californian, with scant knowledge of India. My specialty is corporate learning, not higher education. And I tend to live in 2016, not the present.
Nonetheless, I’d like to share a few stories with you. Perhaps they can serve as catalysts as you consider how to reshape India’s educational systems and policies to meet the demands of the future.
Hewlett Packard Engineers
Let me tell you a story that predates the internet. In 1974, a group of Hewlett Packard engineers who had been watching lectures on electrical engineering on the Stanford Instructional Television Network were reassigned to an HP facility in Santa Rosa, California, two hours to the north and out of television broadcasting range. An instructor, Jim Gibbons, sent videotapes of the lectures to Santa Rosa. It didn’t work; the engineers weren’t learning. Accompanying the tapes with a graduate assistant didn’t work either.
Next the engineers tried something that did work. Whenever anyone did not understand a concept in a lecture, he would raise his hand. This stopped the tape. Most of the time, someone else in the group had the answer. They proceeded this way, learning without a teacher, until the end of the semester. Then Jim Gibbons carted the engineers to the Stanford campus to take the final exam.
Mind you, these engineers lacked the test scores to become Stanford students, yet they scored significantly higher grades on the exam than the resident students. Why? I think it’s because they took charge of their own learning. They learned from one another, in the course of conversation. Furthermore, they were learning in order to become better engineers, not to earn a credential.
The HP engineers had flipped the educational process. They did away with face-to-face lectures. They set their own pace and answered their own questions. They took charge of the way they learned. In other words, they democratized their learning.
Western corporations are broken. Workers hate their jobs; customers complain of lousy service; investors receive meager returns. There has to be a better way.
In January 2012, two dozen authors, managers, and agile software developers met on a mountain top in Stoos, Switzerland, to try to reverse the situation. How could the practice of management be updated to work in a complex, unpredictable world?
The organization-as-machine, the model that served us from the dawn of the industrial age until the beginning of the 21st century, leads to a quest for efficiency. That works in stable, unchanging times, but it’s a formula for disaster amid incessant, disruptive change. The living network is a better model for today. Organizations need to conceptualize themselves as networks of individuals and teams who perpetually strive to create more value for customers.
This flips the corporation into an organization that respects people for their contributions rather than seeing them as cogs in the machine. The new order democratizes the workplace.
In America and Europe, the corporate learning function is dead or dying. A 2011 study by the Corporate Leadership Council reported that 76% of managers are dissatisfied with their corporate training function; 85% deem training ineffective; and a mere 14% would recommend training to their fellow managers. Workers and managers learn their work though conversation, collaboration, and on-the-job experience. My colleague Jane Hart calls this “learning without training.”
Enlightened corporations trust their people to pull in the resources they need. They’ve flipped corporate learning by putting the learners in charge of defining the curriculum. These corporations concentrate on building self-sustaining learning ecosystems, what I’ve called workscapes, instead of individual programs.
Education in India
India needs to train 500 million people in the next ten years. Some have proposed building thousands of new schools and challenges. Yet if the building program began in earnest tomorrow, there still wouldn’t be enough time to build the required classrooms — some six times what India has today.
What would those schools teach? The half-life of a professional skill is down to five years and is shrinking fast. It makes no sense to train people on skills that will become obsolete in short order. I’ll suggest that people need to learn meta-skills, such things as:
India has neither time nor resources to prepare teachers to transfer these skills to hundreds of millions of people. The answer? Flip Indian education. Delegate the delivery of content to electronic means, and focus teachers on coaching, leading discussions, helping people over hurdles, and relating lessons to real life. Also, teach students and workers to help teach themselves.
The time is ripe for India to democratize education, to help students to think for themselves and realize their potential.
A couple of days after my talk, nine of us piled into a van to visit the Taj Mahal.
Hour after hour, we honked and careened our way through chaotic traffic. We passed numerous private schools and academies. Mostly, we saw tens of thousands of abjectly poor people passing the time of day in hole in the wall kitchens and shops, wandering around in rubble, or defecating in fields. I wondered what comes first, educating the millions or giving them toilets.
By 2030, India’s population will outnumber China’s. The people we talked with at EDGE are entrepreneurial and optimistic. They are accustomed to thinking things over on an enormous scale. Never before in human history has a democracy of 1.3 billion people tried to reform education. Such transformation is mind-boggling.
Where is this headed, I wondered. By this time, our discussions about educational systems were over. I tossed about in bed in anticipation of an early morning flight home and reflecting on India.
What change does India want to see? Do we expect education to flatten a highly stratified society? Will the boys and girls playing in the dirt lead more productive, fulfilling lives because they can read and write? Will they have the patience to put up with the conservatism and cronyism of the Government of India? How will India create the jobs to challenge their young minds? Might not educating the masses be akin to showing the people of the former Soviet Union the riches of the west on television?
The more I learn about India, the less I understand India. I wish my new friends and their country well. They face the largest challenge I have ever seen.
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