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.
I love this TechCruch article from salesforce.com’s Mark Benioff.
The future of our industry now looks totally different than the past. It looks like a sheet of paper, and it’s called the iPad. It’s not about typing or clicking; it’s about touching. It’s not about text, or even animation, it’s about video. It’s not about a local disk, or even a desktop, it’s about the cloud. It’s not about pulling information; it’s about push. It’s not about repurposing old software, it’s about writing everything from scratch (because you want to take advantage of the awesome potential of the new computers and the new cloud—and because you have to reach this pinnacle). Finally, the industry is fun again.
Last week I gave presentations to more than 60 CIOs in various meetings throughout America’s heartland. My message to them: We are moving from Cloud 1 to Cloud 2, and the iPad is the accelerator. Many of them haven’t even made it to Cloud 1—some are still on mainframes. They are working on MVS/CICS, or Lotus Notes, and they have never heard of Cocoa, or even that there is now HTML 5. This is unacceptable. The next generation is here. The iPad that shows us what now is really possible—and that we all need to go faster. Unfortunately, some CIOs would rather retire than go faster.
Cloud 1 ————————————->Cloud 2
Location Unknown————————->Location Known
What’s most exciting is that this fundamental transformation—cloud + social + iPad—will inspire a new generation of wildly innovative new apps that will change entire industries.
Student-centered learning, that is, putting students first, is in stark contrast to existing establishment/teacher-centred lecturing and careerism. Student-centered learning is focused on the student’s needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles with the teacher as a facilitator of learning. This classroom teaching method acknowledges student voice as central to the learning experience for every learner. Teacher-centered learning has the teacher at its centre in an active role and students in a passive, receptive role. Student-centered learning requires students to be active, responsible participants in their own learning.
Traditionally, teachers direct the learning process and students assume a receptive role in their education. With the advent of progressive education in the 19th century, and the influence of psychologists, educators have largely replaced traditional curriculum approaches with “hands-on” activities and “group work”, which the child determines on his own what he wants to do in class. Key amongst these changes is the premise that students actively construct their own learning. Theorists like John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky whose collective work focused on how students learn is primarily responsible for the move to student-centered learning. Carl Rogers’ ideas about the formation of the individual also contributed to student-centered learning. Student centered-learning means reversing the traditional teacher-centered understanding of the learning process and putting students at the centre of the learning process. Maria Montessori was also an influence in center-based learning, where preschool children learn through play.
A person interested in becoming rich might seek out books or classes on ecomomics, investment, great financiers, banking, etc. Such an individual would perceive (and learn) any information provided on this subject in a much different fashion than a person who is assigned a reading or class.
1. Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is relevant to the personal interests of the student
2. Learning which is threatening to the self (e.g., new attitudes or perspectives) are more easily assimilated when external threats are at a minimum
3. Learning proceeds faster when the threat to the self is low
4. Self-initiated learning is the most lasting and pervasive.
Also not in common with Freud is that Rogers’ theory is particularly simple — elegant even! The entire theory is built on a single “force of life” he calls the actualizing tendency. It can be defined as the built-in motivation present in every life-form to develop its potentials to the fullest extent possible. We’re not just talking about survival: Rogers believes that all creatures strive to make the very best of their existence. If they fail to do so, it is not for a lack of desire.
Next month I’m leading a four-hour learning experience for 350 managers on the twin topics of informal learning and social networks.
Do you believe meshing delivery format with a student’s learning style improves the quality of the learning?
For an indictment of learning styles as irrelevant to learning, see: Psychological Science in the Public Interest.
Learning Styles and Pedagogy, the definitive report from the UK
Thanks to Donald Clark’s Plan B for pointing me to this one.
Alexander used to live in my neighborhood. I wrote up a little presentation on his Pepto-Bismol colored house. Neighbors complained his house was so ugly it lowered the value of each house nearby by $15,000.
When Uta and I moved into our current house 17 years ago, Alexander was completing the house across the street. A rag-tag group of students put together this concrete monstrosity.
Here’s the view from my front deck:
Alexander’s The Nature of Order and his website tout my neighbor’s house as an example of a successful owner-designed home. The owners loath him. For example, with our first rainstorm, water blew right through the walls into their daughter’s bedroom.
During construction, Alexander had asked, “What sort of windows would you like?” The owners didn’t understand the economics of custom-shaped windows until it cost them $30,000 to replace them with windows that didn’t leak. The project went over budget; last time I visited, there were still bare wires in the kitchen where fixtures were supposed to go.
Close of Part 1 of 2
Learning is woven into the fabric of every modern business. It’s the way we adapt to change. Learning is the lifeblood of commerce, and it’s every corporate citizen’s job to make it better. It’s time to invite customers to join the party.
Learning and social networks and customer communications and partner relations and marketing and sales aren’t islands. They’re all facets of the same thing: the corporate commons of work and learning. Some astute companies are exploring how a social learning community can remove barriers separating customer and corporation. It’s all about learning conversations.
The Cluetrain Manifesto is one of the most important business books of the late 20th century. Its primary message is that markets are conversations. That conversation must be authentic; you can’t fake it. Its language is “natural, open, direct, funny and often shocking.” Honest conversation builds lasting customer relationships.
Conversations also are the most effective learning technology ever invented. Learning is social. Most of what you learn, you learn from and with other people. You do so in the give-and-take of conversation. While it’s a book about business, not learning,The Cluetrain Manifesto presciently challenges its readers to “imagine a world where everyone was constantly learning, a world where what you wondered was more interesting than what you know, and curiosity counted for more than certain knowledge.”
Making a lesson stick takes more than a talking-head video, no matter how compelling the speaker. That’s why this community site challenges participants to specify their goals, set up milestones and receive reminders. There’s a personal learning journal for keeping track of progress, there’s a forum for asking questions and sharing opinions, and there’s a community that enables members to learn with one another. The entire site was designed with learning in mind.
When thousands of people join a community, its conveners need metrics to assess progress and chart their next steps. Web-based analytics are easily baked into online communities such as this, and Google now provides a service that enables a Web site to compare itself to its peers.
Most people who visit a social networking site never go beyond the opening page. Yet, the promise of learning and community motivates six out of seven visitors to the Covey site to continue on to other pages. Visitors to the average community site stay for two minutes, whereas members of the Covey community remain for nearly 15 minutes. Only one in seven visitors to a typical community site are back for a second time, but two out of three Covey visitors are repeats. People hate to be taught, but they love to learn.
Combining learning and marketing is win-win. Here’s why:
1. Informed customers are better customers. They know the goods. They trust the brand. They buy more.
2. Learning relationships are two-way. Customer-learners keep coming back. Familiarity breeds loyalty. Participants bring in their friends.
3. Analytics inform marketing decisions. Administrators monitor changes in customer interests and behavior. They have a channel for direct feedback and suggestions from the marketplace.
You can set up an online social learning community without waiting in line for IT to help. The Covey community runs on a turnkey platform. Cut it on, and you’re good to go. Isn’t it time to include customers in your organization’s learning plans?
Here’s an overview of informal learning. It’s several years old, but with the recent interest in informal learning and squabbling about how best to define it, I figured it’s worth a re-run.
WORKERS LEARN MORE in the coffee room than in the classroom. They discover how to do their jobs through informal learning: talking, observing others, trial-and-error, and simply working with people in the know. Formal learning—classes and workshops—is the source of only 10 to 20 percent of what people learn at work. Corporations overinvest in formal training programs while neglecting natural, simpler informal processes.
More happens in a minute today than in one of your great grandmother’s minutes. Not only is more and more activity packed into every minute, the rate of change itself is increasing. Measured by the atomic clock, the twenty-first century will contain a hundred years. Measured by how much will happen in the twenty-first century, we will experience twenty thousand current years (Kurzweil, The singularity is near: When humans transcend biology.). Change itself is accelerating. People are anxious. The future is unpredictable. Companies are run by sound bites. People plan; God laughs. The traditional mode of training employees is obsolete.
Learning is that which enables you to participate successfully in life, at work, and in the groups that matter to you. Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs. Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route. The rider can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or go to the bathroom. Learning is adaptation. Taking advantage of the double meaning of the word network, to learn is to optimize the quality of one’s networks.
Executives don’t want learning; they want execution. They want the job done. They want performance. Informal learning is a profit strategy. Companies are applying it to:
• Increase sales by making product knowledge instantly searchable
• Improve knowledge worker productivity
• Transform an organization from near-bankruptcy to record profits
• Generate fresh ideas and increase innovation
• Reduce stress, absenteeism, and health care costs
• Invest development resources where they will have the most impact
• Increase professionalism and professional growth
• Cut costs and improve responsiveness with self-service learning
Knowledge workers demand respect and expect to be treated fairly. They thrive when given the freedom to decide how they will do what they’re asked to do. They rise or fall to meet expectations.
Training managers have complained for years that senior managers don’t understand the value of training. Lots of formal learning programs do not work. Maybe the executives do understand the value of formal training. They’ve determined that in its present form, it’s not worth much.
Tragically, many firms have mistaken measuring activity for measuring results. Training directors measure participant satisfaction, the ability to pass tests, and demonstrations. They don’t measure business results because they don’t own the yardstick by which business results are measured.
Training is something that’s pushed on you; someone else is in charge. Learning is something you choose to do, whether you’re being trained or not. You’re in charge. Many knowledge workers will tell you, “I love to learn but I hate to be trained.”
Formal learning takes place in classrooms; informal learning happens in learnscapes, that is, a learning ecology. It’s learning without borders.
Critics say that it’s impossible to formalize informal learning and therefore informal learning is unmanageable. In fact, I don’t want an executive managing learning; that’s the worker’s responsibility. What I want to do is optimize learning outcomes. Optimization means removing obstacles, seeding communities, increasing bandwidth, encouraging conversation, and so forth.
Reinventing the wheel, looking for information in the wrong places, and answering questions from peers consume two-thirds of the average knowledge worker’s day. Slashing this waste provides a lot more time to devote to improving the business, reducing payroll, or, more likely, a bit of both.
Knowledge management is no longer the intellectual high ground it once was, by and large because it didn’t work. Knowledge lives in people’s heads, not in mere words. You can no more capture true knowledge in a repository than you can trap lightning in a box.
The informal organization is how most business gets done, yet executives miss it because they can’t see it. Mapping social networks make the pattern clear.
It’s not who you know that’s important; it’s who those others know.
Learning is a skill, like playing golf. The more you practice, the better your performance is, but if golfers followed the pattern of businesspeople learning, they would arrive for a match without ever having thought about the game or touched a club.
Many traditional training departments concentrate almost all of their energy on providing training to novices. That’s like providing kindergarten classes to high school students to save money. In truth, the more mature learners, typically the top performers, are simply going to skip it entirely or become disgruntled.
Intuition is often more effective than logic because it calls on whole-body intelligence. It is born of relationships and patterns. It draws on the power of the unconscious mind to sort through meaningful experience as well as the immediate situation.
If something improves the overall value of the ecosystem and the welfare of the individual worker, I’m in favor of it. This includes helping workers build personal strengths and overcome personal obstacles.
If your basic mental systems are out of whack, you may be working extra hard just to cope.
It should come as no surprise that workers don’t like training. Most training is built atop the pessimistic assumption that trainees are deficient, and training is the cure for what’s broken. Everybody wins if the starting point is, “Be all that you can be.”
You may have the best thoughts in the world, but if you don’t communicate them effectively, they won’t help you or anyone else. I’m thinking about how you converse, tell stories, speak in public, and write.
If you’re not happy, you should do something about it.
We humans are sight mammals. We learn almost twice as well from images and words as from words alone. Visual language engages both hemispheres of the brain. Pictures translate across cultures, education levels, and age groups. Yet the majority of the content of corporate learning is text. Schools spend years on verbal literacy but only hours on visual literacy. It’s high time for us to open our eyes to the possibilities.
Graphics are not fluff. Consider how they can improve informal learning throughout your organization. Graphics work wonders when you need to:
• Bring deeper understanding to complex subject matter.
• Share results of dynamic meetings with others.
• Help the team see the big picture and focus attention.
• Improve the decision-making process.
Conversations both create and transmit knowledge. Frequent and open conversation increases innovation and learning. Schooling planted a false notion in our heads that real learning is something you do on your own. In fact, we learn things from other people. People love to talk. Bringing them together brings excitement.
People spend most of their time at work or at home. Work is a demanding, pressure-packed, rats-in-the-maze race with the clock to get the job done. Home is a comfortable, private space for sharing time with family and individual interests. Neither work nor home, a World Café is a neutral spot where people come together to offer hospitality, enjoy comradeship, welcome diverse perspectives, and have meaningful conversations.
Business conversations at Pfizer no longer consist of knee-jerk emotional responses, because people have a means of critiquing the quality of their conversations. They ask, “Is the information valid? Are we making an informed choice? Are we exercising mutual control over the conversation?”
Unless you are a hermit, you are a member of several communities of practice, although you may not have thought of it that way.
For a long time, I maintained that communities were organic. Like truffles, they sort of sprouted up on their own, where they wanted, and the most you could do was to nurture them by providing time and space for them to meet. Times have changed. A quarter of the world’s truffles are cultivated on a plantation in Spain.
As fast and easy as it is to search Google, Cisco sales engineers can pinpoint just the knowledge they’re looking for. They query the in-house repository of VoDs, and the system takes them down to the exact sentences or slides of interest.
LEGO hobbyists are a community of practice. Subgroups create building standards that enable them to create large displays quickly.
It has become trite to point out that the e of eLearning doesn’t matter and that it’s the learning that counts. I don’t think the learning counts for much either. What’s important is the doing that results from learning. Executives don’t care about learning; they care about execution.
In 2001, training directors turned their attention to return on investment. Unfortunately, instead of learning cost-benefit analysis, people who wanted to speak the language of business studied accounting. Created long before knowledge work was invented, accounting values intangibles such as human capital at zero and counts training as an expense instead of an investment.
Consider how we managed to end up with a VCR in every classroom. Was it because teachers wanted to show nature documentaries? Hardly. Massive demand by America’s seemingly endless thirst for pornography drove the unit price to $100. Smart phones, voice recognition, and virtual reality are learning tools, but learning won’t drive their development. Courses are dead.
The Internet changed everything. In 1996, there were 16 million Internet users; in 2006 they number more than 1 billion. Google is the largest learning provider, answering thousands of inquiries every second.
Recently, I hosted a series of unworkshops on learning with blogs, wikis, and Web 2.0 tools. Why the un? To crush the old paradigm of workshop leader spoon-feeding participants.
Imagine having an in-house learning and information environment as rich as the Internet. You’d have blogs, search, syndication, podcasts, mash-ups, and more. You’d also have a platform just about everyone already knows how to use. CGI, a large Canadian services company is doing precisely that.
To grok is to understand profoundly through intuition or empathy. Learning without training is alive and well. BP employees in vital positions grok their roles in an extremely complex organization digesting several mega-mergers.
Business meetings used to come in one flavor: dull. New approaches are creating meetings that people enjoy, often organized in scant time, and at minimal cost. These meetings are not events; there’s typically activity before and after. If something is working well, why not share it with everyone? And why not keep it alive as long as you can? Successful gatherings are those where everyone participates.
There were no presentations at BAR Camp, no PowerPoints, no better-than-thou, no podium, and no positions carved in stone. Instead of presentations, campers had conversations. We were equals, co-discovering new ways to look at things. We sat in circles. No one was in charge because we were all in charge.
Management must assign enterprise-level accountability for learning. Unless you are blessed with a rare, sensitive executive management team, you must address governance or scrap plans of getting the benefits you’ve been reading about.
Natural learning requires an attitude of surrender and acceptance. Informal learning is unbounded. It enables us to find a voice to take its place alongside other parts of who we are as humans. We need all of who we are to be fully engaged, outside and with inner realms to meld with larger wisdom in the world.
As work and learning become one, good learning and good work become synonymous.
Don’t start with problems. Beginning with problems starts you off on the wrong path. You may solve the problem but miss a fantastic opportunity that was yours for the taking
celebrate your corporate culture
just do it with somebody