Category Archives: Making sound decisions

Benchmarking Online Learning




Fascinating data.

63% lack of time for self-study
40% can’t find what they need
41% find current online learning not relevant to their need
28% lack of somewhere appropriate to study
26% find learning content uninspiring
25% technology issues such as low bandwidth
22% learning objectives are not clear

This is one of thousands of findings from benchmarking studies drawing on the experiences of more than 3,500 L&D professionals and 16,000 learners.

91% team collaboration
81% manager support
73% web search
83% conversations / meetings
67% support from mentor / coach / buddy
64% formal education course55% internal company documents
52% internal networks / communities
50% mobile
49% live online learning
47% self-paced e-learning

Twelve years ago, my friend Laura Overton (we worked at SmartForce together) founded Towards Maturity to benchmark learning across organizations. 

Benchmarking is the process of comparing business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and/or best practices from other industries. Benchmarking provides an opportunity to:

Review your progress and approach
Compare your results and approach with others – both your peers and the top performers in the field
Act on the findings to improve your performance

The Towards Maturity Benchmark is the only free, independent and confidential formal benchmark available to learning and development professionals.

75% want to be able to do their job faster and better
51% like to learn just for personal development
50% want to be eligible for promotion
47% want to obtain professional certification
41% want to be enabled to earn more money
39% want to keep up with new technology
35% want to achieve/maintain a higher certification level
35% want to increase productivity
22% want to pass an assessment
10% want to compete against colleagues for a high score

Benchmarking provides independent evidence that can helps organizations:

Set a baseline today to help demonstrate progress tomorrow
Increase staff engagement and results
Learn from common mistakes rather than making them
Justify an investment or proposal for change
Apply industry best practice relevant to your organization
Set ‘SMART’ targets in your business plan
Motivate your team to become industry leaders
Provide an external perspective to get stakeholders engaged with new ways of learning

Towards Maturity’s work to-date has focused on Europe, but the firm is going global. If you want to explore the topic of benchmarking, I suggest you speak with Laura at:

  • DevLearn, 28-30 September, Las Vegas
  • Learning@Work, 27-28 October, Sydney
  • LEARNTech Asia, 2-5 November, Singapore
  • Online Educa Berlin, 2-4 December, Berlin


Contact Laura Overton at [email protected] for more information. Say hi for me.

Disclosure: Laura and I are planning a joint session at Online Educa that ties together the findings of benchmarks and the competencies addressed in my new book.

Free Jay webinar. Win a great book.


Join me for an hour on the last day of April to explore how to make learning stick. Register. I’ve unearthed some exciting material about how people convert learning to action in the workplace — how to make it stick.

You folks know so much about how to increase the productivity of learning. Something old, something new, something small, something larger… for the most part, you Continue reading

Innovation + Quality


Learning Innovations and Quality Conference: “The Future of Digital Resources”

LINQ is the only European conference to cover both Learning Innovations and Learning Quality.

I will deliver the opening keynote on Friday, May 17th, at the Global Headquarters of United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome.



Butterfly people

The performance of workers used to have bounds. The fastest bricklayer was maybe 20% faster than the average bricklayer.

In conceptual work, the sky’s the limit. A superstar may generate $50 million in value while the average employee brings in a meager $50 thousand.

Several things are going on here. For one, rates of production are no longer limited by physical factors. A bricklayer can only lay so many bricks per hour before his heart gives out. There’s no such limit on ideas. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, thought up Google when they were in graduate school; it was a $100 billion idea.

In today’s complex world, small events often make giant impacts.  A popular example is “the butterfly effect.” A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, and the reverberation helps create a tornado in Texas.

Back to Google. They have found that a great hire, a super-engineer, will generate two hundred times the value of her middle-of-the-road peer. Recalling the butterfly effect, let’s call the super-engineer a “butterfly person.”

What proportion of your organization’s development resources should be invested in butterfly people?


I am pleased to note that I have been named a founding member of the Editorial Advisory Board of HRExaminer. Check out our weekly magazine for a brilliant take on talent management and HR.
Here’s a self-serving article from HRExaminer – written before I joined the Advisory Board.

Jay Cross is a champion of informal learning, web 2.0, and systems thinking. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix.

Do you remember the first time a boss implored you to work smarter and not harder? Unfortunately, the next thing you heard was probably something akin to “know what I mean?”.

No, as a matter of fact we don’t always know what working smarter means.

Jay’s new un-book Working Smarter (available in on-demand paperback or PDF download) examines how to boost an organization’s collective brainpower. You’ll find an excerpt of his book below that might strike a chord with you in the ongoing conversation that we’re having here at on the effective and perceived value of HR.

Cross mashes up his considerable experience in training, business consulting and web 2.0 thinking to put forth a straight forward book designed for managers who want a natural way to improve performance – without the typical management consulting crapola. When Cross does delve into charts, models and mind maps you can rest assured he does so with an aim to clarify, not to earn his business book writing chops. While I’m not done with the book yet I will say what stands out to me so far; Cross does a nice job of balancing the theoretical with the practical – and that’s really useful to us as people who want fresh ideas we can use to improve our team’s results.

I hope you try the book – I’m finding it a worthwhile investment of time. Don’t forget that you can buy the online copy, save some money, kill one less tree and convert the PDF into an online book reader for your iPhone, Android phone and many others.

– Julian Seery Gude, HRExaminer Collaborator and Editorial Advisory Board Member.

Article continues here.

The current edition of Working Smarter dates from January 2010. Paperback copies cost $16; downloads are $10. (Buy here.)

I think of un-books as more of a subscription that a purchase. A major update is in the works. More than half will be new material. It’s a collaborative effort. Publication is a month or more in the future.  The price has not been set as yet. I suggest you buy both, but if you’re only buying one, I suggest you wait a while.

Making business decisions: the hand and the heart

Inside Learning Technologies is an important magazine in the U.K. (Isn’t it odd that while the net spans the globe, learning magazines remain confined to their home countries?)

For the current issue, I wrote an article entitled Making Business Decision: the Hand and the Heart. This is the sequel to last month’s Speaking the Language of Business.

Hats off to Donald Taylor, a big cheese at the Learning Technologies Conference and chair of the Learning & Skills Group

Donald excerpted and edited sections of my book-in-progress, What Would Andrew Do?, to create both articles.

Value Networks

In yestserday’s New York Times, Gretchen Morgenstern explained one reason Why All Earnings Are Not Equal. Corporate managers have lots of elbow room as to whether an item is an expense or an investment, and some push the limits of discretion.

More puzzling to me is why businesses are not permitted to account for social capital (such as know-how, relationships, and talent) which makes up more than half of their value. Hey, financiers, this emperor has no clothes!

Verna Allee is the only person I’m aware of who has a viable solution for describing and monitoring the role of intangibles in value creation.

Verna sees organizations as value networks. A value network is a web of relationships that generates economic value and other benefits through complex dynamic exchanges between two or more individuals, groups, or organizations. Any organization or group of organizations engaged in both tangible and intangible exchanges can be viewed as a value network, whether private industry, government, or public sector.

Rather than counting accounting’s funny-money, Verna directly tracks the flow of value through the organization’s circuitry. Her Value Network Analysis is the missing link that unites the formal organization, business process modeling, asset management, and social networks.

Let me take another run at what Verna does: She evaluates an entity as a living system. Every living system is a self-renewing network. Its structure is its best description. The focus is on the people, who are the nodes in the network. Verna connects the nodes with arrows (for direction) and labels (describing exchanges of matter, energy, and ideas between the nodes). Each node is linked to a scorecard that tallies the value of its exchanges. She uses the system map to spot bottlenecks and relationships that need improvement; managers need to focus on the white space between the nodes.

Emerge, converge, and know.I captured a few minutes of Verna leading a workshop on Value Networks last fall:

Might Value Networks be the appropriate measurement system for optimizing Wirearchy?

Related links:
Value Networks Library
Open Value Networks

Contents of the informal cloud book


Work Smarter:
Informal Learning Enters the Cloud



ADDIE, 22, 23, 102, 106

Allen Interactions, 106

Andrew McAfee, 121

ASTD, 56, 66, 120, 183

B.F. Skinner, 66

balcony, 73, 106, 107

Baruch Lev, 81

Berkeley, 187, 192

beta, 5, 19, 68, 112, 115, 116, 117, 134, 167

Beyond Bullet Points, 154, 155

blogosphere, 120

Brandon Hall, 191

CapGemini, 84, 85

cards, 70, 148, 163, 164, 165

CGI Systems, 27

Charles Jennings, 55, 186

Chief Learning Officer, 71, 78, 107, 192

Chief Learning Officer magazine, 192

China, 145

Christopher Alexander, 26

Cisco, 77, 79, 86, 129, 151, 152, 153, 187

Clark Quinn, 71, 186

Clay Shirky, 14, 185

Cliff Atkinson, 154

Close the Training Department, 76

Clueless, 3

Cluetrain Manifesto, 69, 141, 184

collaboration, 3, 4, 10, 15, 24, 29, 46, 50, 52, 54, 74, 76, 82, 83, 87, 88, 89, 90, 93, 94, 101, 103, 121, 122, 124, 137, 138, 139, 140, 161, 163, 172, 188

Complexity, 19, 67, 77, 176

convergence, 4, 114

Conversation, 130, 143

Corporate culture, 76

Courses, 168, 169, 191

Cozumel, 187, 191

Craft, 120

Cynefin, 67, 146

Dan Pink, 76, 185

Dave Snowden, 67, 146

David Frenkel, 63

dog food, 105

e-learning, 93, 147, 170, 171, 172

eLearning, 28, 55, 58, 97, 105, 106, 107, 124, 168, 170, 172, 177, 187, 191

Elliott Masie, 139

Emergent Learning, 170

ePSS, 63, 64

era of networks, 13, 72

F.W. Taylor, 82

Ford Motor Co., 85

formal learning, 27, 33, 41, 100, 104, 105, 127

Frederick Taylor, 66

GE, 66

Gloria Gery, 148, 184

Golden Age of Training, 66, 72

Google, 20, 68, 79, 81, 89, 91, 92, 93, 97, 98, 113, 115, 116, 120, 124, 130, 131, 142, 152

Hans Monderman, 108

Harold Jarche, 65, 180, 186

Harold Stolovitch & Erica Keeps, 61

Hermann Ebbinghaus, 59

holistic, 32

IBM, 24, 119, 120, 187, 188

Implementing eLearning, 183, 187

improv, 148

industrial age, 10, 13, 66, 72, 79, 82, 122, 125

Informal Learning, 2, 6, 33, 41, 97, 98, 103, 104, 126, 127, 129, 179, 183, 187

innovation, 3, 17, 22, 26, 33, 67, 70, 72, 75, 76, 87, 122, 126, 130, 158, 159, 161, 172, 175, 178, 190

intangible, 17, 79, 123, 125, 131

intangibles, 18, 79, 81, 83, 87, 124, 125, 131, 132

Intel, 27, 119, 166

Internet Inside, 155, 157

Internet Time Alliance, 4, 6, 54, 55, 65, 71, 78, 79, 87, 95, 98, 186

Internet Time Group, 99, 179, 185, 187, 191, 192

James Macanufo, 33

Jane Hart, 87, 99, 186

Jay Cross, 65, 71, 78, 98, 187, 192

John Chambers, 86, 151

Jon Husband, 69, 78, 79, 186

Karl von Clausewisz, 29

knowledge acquisition, 61

Learning Light, 192

learning mixer, 104, 105

learning to learn, 106, 135

Learnscape, 23

learnscapes, 24, 25, 26, 99

Malcolm Gladwell, 145, 185

Marshall McLuhan, 68

Me-learning, 113

Meta-learning, 106, 126

Microsoft, 24, 90, 93, 115, 119, 151, 154, 155

Napoleon, 126

NCR, 66

Networks, 15, 82, 83, 114, 124, 135, 167, 170, 175, 178, 183, 190, 192

patterns, 26, 27, 60, 68, 70, 72, 125, 174, 182

Peter Drucker, 16, 30, 116

Peter Henschell, 126

Podcasting, 153

Princeton, 187, 188

Process Improvement, 78

responsibility, 29, 71, 108, 109, 110, 124, 134

Rob Cross, 144

ROI, 29, 31, 78, 79, 80, 81, 83, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132

ROII, 79, 83, 84, 85, 86

Sales, 49, 129, 164

SAP, 27, 119

SmartForce, 191

social software, 120, 121, 122

Steve Denning, 153

Stuart Henshall, 83

Sun Microsystems, 28

sustainability, 72, 75

T. Rowe Price, 27

the Well, 189, 190

Thomas Stewart, 81

Top performers, 101

U.S. Army, 28

unbook, 5, 99

Unconferences, 159, 160, 161

University of Phoenix, 181, 187, 189

Valdis Krebs, 84

Web 2.0, 30, 74, 105, 116, 120, 121, 156, 159, 169, 172, 173, 179

wiki, 11, 27, 89, 90, 93, 96, 139, 160, 161, 162, 163, 170, 179

Wikipedia, 89, 120, 159, 162

William Shakespeare, 147

Wirearchy, 69, 79

XPLANE | The visual thinking company, 33

Who's in charge here?


I’m reading Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide and enjoying it immensely.

Deciding is not what you thought. It’s not a rational process.

Scientists equipped with fMRI gear are discovering that emotion and social relations are bedrock.

This article by Marilyn Bunting in the Guardian draws these conclusions from recent books that peer into our brains:

First, we have much underestimated the social nature of the brain: how primed it is to recognise, interpret and respond all the time to the input of others and how that lays down patterns which govern our behaviour. We are herd-like animals who show a strong tendency to conform with group norms; what makes our brains so much bigger than other primates is this remarkable capacity for social skills such as empathy, co-operation and fairness. Instead of the old metaphor of individuals as discrete entities like billiard balls, we need to think instead of them as nodes in a relationship network.

The second area of astonishing discoveries is in the plasticity of the brain. We talk of “hardwiring” (computers have generated many misleading metaphors for the brain) but in fact, the brain can be changed. Parts of the brain can learn entirely new tricks. Neural pathways are not fixed, and even much of the damage done by deprivation in childhood can be repaired with the right circumstances of example, support and determination. We can shape our own brains to create new habits that we might have thought we were not capable of.

Instead of pointing out that “Learning is social,” perhaps we should simply say that “People are social.”