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.
Mo-working is on the rise. More and more consultants and corporate types work at client sites or from home offices. The economic downturn and the trend toward outsourcing have created legions of free agents. Knowledge workers are no longer tethered to buildings.
Unless you like noise and sweet, overpriced coffee, Starbucks is not a workable substitute office. If a new baby just moved into your home office, good luck concentrating on work. Besides, lots of people enjoy the social aspects of work; for comaraderie, a friendly break room beats an empty kitchen.
This afternoon I met with someone who’s going with the trends rather than fighting them. Neil Goldberg is the founder of Gate3 Workclub. Imagine a workplace with sunlight streaming in, lots of conference rooms, modular office set-ups, a learning center, a cafe, oodles of Herman Miller furniture, T-1 access for all, a sunny rooftop, and lots of friendly people scurrying around, but no boss. That’s the Workclub.
Still undergoing some finishing touches, the club should be up and running within a month. I can imagine this set-up appealing to a wide range of the dispossessed. For example, if you’re getting your own business off the ground, Gate3 could be the address on your letterhead. More importantly, it’s where you’d talk to colleagues. I bet a barter system crops up, e.g. I know marketing and you understand taxation; let’s swap some expert advice.
Gate3 has a lot more appeal than the rent-an-office suites I’ve visited. Those seem to fill up with ersatz financial planners, multi-level marketing schemers, and other undesirables. The “offices” provided by outplacement firms are worse. (“Oh, boy, a chance to use the phone and hang out with the jobless.”) At Gate3, you can order a latte or have a massage. The ambiance is very California.
Gate3 is in the happening town of Emeryville, home of Pixar, Chiron, GBN, and innumerable artists’ lofts and software start-ups.
Will individuals pay the fees for something like this? I think so. We talked about implementing social networking software to enable Workclubbers to leverage one another’s contacts. Make the link, meet in the networking room at the Workclub. I wouldn’t be surprised if some corporations didn’t buy some memberships, too, for it would be a good way to keep workers who don’t enjoy working from home from bolting.
I’ve just started reading Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order. It’s a little slow getting started, and you have to get used to CA’s view that architects are applying their theory of the cosmos to inject life into buildings. Nonetheless, I’m confident Chris would like the Gate3 Workclub. It’s a beautiful idea in a tasteful yet functional building.
I’ll blog more about Gate3 after my next visit. Neil’s accepting applications now. If you call Gate3 (1.510.868.8180), tell them I sent you. I may want to hold some classes in the big room downstairs or perhaps take advantage of the usability lab.
“Make no little plans. They fail to stir the blood of men,” said architect Daniel Burnham. Indeed, life’s too short for mediocrity. When I hear someone say they wish their online learning were as effective as their instructor-led workshops, I wonder why they’re shooting so low. They should be aiming to make their technology-enabled learning much better than the passive classroom experience. Let’s face it, the classroom is often a mediocre learning environment.
Twenty years ago, Benjamin Bloom found that individually-tutored students performed as well as the top 2% of classroom students. Equalling this record in automated fashion has become eLearning’s Holy Grail. The Department of Defense has achieved it, but cost is rarely a constraint there. The Advanced Computer Tutoring Project at Carnegie Mellon University claims even higher performance gains among Pittsburgh high-school students studying math. Did the students like it? One swore at a teacher so she’d get kicked out of school for a couple of days — during which she learned geometry with her unrestricted time online.
Today I’ve seen the future, not once, but twice, and I can hardly wait to get there.
First, Robin Good whisked me away to visit his persistent meeting room on smartMeeting. I outfitted my avatar with natty blue sweater, gray slacks, and a beard, and joined Robin in his online space.
Slick, eh? We were talking VOIP. I could see his avatar hopping about.
Things weren’t perfect. I’m running an older machine, and my video card is less than this software’s looking for. Also, I lost contact with Robin while I was switching PCs. But I could see the potential and it is awesome.
Imagine having your own virtual space where you can call up presentations, briefings, video, and whiteboards for your guests. All with sound. Private or public. Works over a low-band connection.
I’ve lusted for something like this for some time. I can envision Emergent Learning Forum using it for small meetings and mentoring sessions. This is much more friendly than video conferencing. At long last, collaborative technology is becoming less geeky.
Keeping one’s demos and presentations at the ready 24/7 makes so much sense. Got a laptop? “Come into my parlor…”
You can stake out your own room on the web for a monthly rental payment. Software imitates life. Here’s my new room:
All of which raises the issue of what’s better to keep on the web and what’s better on your own (probably not adequately backed-up) hard drive. Your mobility and your attitude to being tethered to a single machine are major factors here. Operating systems slop back and forth from local to remote these days. Applications are promiscuous at this. Data is wherever you want it to be.
This was on my mind today when I talked with a tiny start-up that has the potential to save big companies big bucks on IT maintenance and upgrades, and to eventually open the door for small business to buy software capability by the month
That’s my desktop. (The background color pumps up my adenalin.) It’s remote. I can tap into it from anywhere. I don’t have to fiddle around with updates from the guys in Redmond. It’s always there, whenever and wherever I connect from. The apps run really fast. It feels like a screaming Pentium even when I’m jacking in with a pokey machine running Win 98. The host can afford to run on machines faster than I can dream of.
This evening I escaped the office while it was still light out and drove over to Tilden Park for a walk in the woods. Tromping alongside a little stream for 40 minutes was just enough time for me to listen to Doug Kaye interview Doc Searls on my tiny mp3 player.
Doc talked about the genesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto, how he got the name “Doc,” his early marketing career, and his most recent campaign, DIYIT or “Do It Yourself IT.”
The most visible action in the IT marketspace is what Doc calls “vendor sports.” These are the supply-side vendors like IBM or HP duking it out in full-color magazine ads.
The underappreciated part is the demand side, where programmers scratch their own itches. They most often use Open Source software but they’re not necessarily part of that culture, with its emphasis on licensing, development protocols, and so forth.
The DIY crowd just want to build things. The closest analogy is to the construction industry. They share a common language (“builds,””tools,””builders”). Linux is the DIYers’ lumber, a raw material for virtually any job. Neither software construction nor building houses locks you in to a particular supplier. The housebuilder doesn’t say, “We’re building this house on a Weyerhauser platform….”
Doc set up IT Garage as a home for DIYIT. He’d like it to grow and morph into a magazine (since it’s usally the other way around).
The fact that Open Source code is free delegates decision-making lower in the organization. You don’t need a purchase order — or official approval — to use it.
If you want to follow what’s going on in IT, I recommend downloading some of Doug Kaye’s marvellous IT Conversations.
Robin Good is the go-to guy for collaborative technology, so I was delighted to happen upon this post this morning.
Should your department be outsourced?
I’m not asking about development and I’m not necessarily talking about India. Accenture and IBM are aggressively seeking to run entire training departments. Boeing has outsources training to Intrepid. The outsourcing argument has financial merit. Wouldn’t you expect CFOs to be receptive?
Join Emergent Learning Forum this Thursday, July 22, from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at SRI in Menlo Park to discuss these issues. It promises to be an exciting program, featuring recent SRI research, the experience of Autodesk, and a presentation from outsourcer Intrepid Learning Solutions.
Threats, Opportunities and Challenges in Silicon Valley and Beyond>
Please sign up if you intend to join us. Do so at the Emergent Learning Forum website.
Did you hear the one about the fellow who outsourced his own job? He hired a chap in India to do his job for $12,000 a year. He spends 10% of his time giving instructions and checking the other guy’s work. He has done this three times now. He is holding down three $80,000/year jobs, clears $200,000 after expenses, and has 70% of his time free to relax on his yacht.
Yesterday afternoon and early evening, I attended the announcement of a partnership between Oracle and Macromedia at Oracle’s futuristic headquarters in Redwood Shores. I’ll be a little more reserved than usual in my reflections on the event because I like both these companies and because I was officially invited as a stringer for CLO magazine. Also, I know the people on both sides of this deal, both companies have been generous to Emergent Learning Forum, and I’ll undoubtedly be hitting both up for business in the future.
In a nutshell, the news is this: Compliance with AICC, IMS, and SCORM is no assurance of interoperability. The standards are subject to interpretation, and legal extensions can lead to one-off code. Macromedia is king of the mountain in web development tools; just about all of Oracle’s 300 LMS customers use Macromedia products. By having their engineers bang their heads together, the two firms will make it easier for shared customers to build, publish, and consume training. They’ll support best practices for learning content development and publishing with a Content Resource Center that’s free to all.
More than a hundred of us convened in Oracle’s conference center. I’d been here once before, when Oracle VP Chris Pirie hosted a meeting of Emergent Learning Forum last year. At the time, one of our members remarked, "Wow. This is really nice." His companion responded, "Yeah, well, this is a profitable company." Oracle is a class act. The opening speaker explained that this was once the site of Marine World, which is now esconced in Vallejo. The builders left the lake so the boss would have a place to walk. (Book title = The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison *God Doesn’t Think He’s Larry Ellison.)
"We’re going to have a raffle after the presentations. Someone is going to win some free software — PeopleSoft, Siebel, BEA… Of course, you may have to wait a while to receive your prizes."
Chris Pirie and Kevin Lynch gave a mercifully short presentation before yielding the floor to Josh Bersin, who led a panel of users in discussion. (Ever see Warren Beatty’s wonderful movie, Reds? Fantastic film. Anyway, the panel were the "witnesses".)
Cisco’s Peg Maddocks advised that for next generation eLearning, "Stop doing what you’re doing." After eight years of "free range learning" where everyone did their own thing, her team has chopped the 31,000 offerings on their LMS back to 4,000, and she figures half of those can go, too. In the early days, Cisco would pay $300,000 to $800,000 for a custom program on products that were changing monthly — and couldn’t be updated. Quick-and-dirty development is a better way to go.
Brocade’s Linda Moss is focused on customer learning. A mere handful of the audience are there yet. Linda has limited resources, so instructors have been recuited as developers and are now becoming web developers.
Mary Kay Russell, director of Enterprise eLearning for Kaiser Permanente, is using the 80/20 rule as she centralizes what started out as in-house, ad hoc page turners. Kaiser is implementing an automated medical record system. In the early nineties, I hawked clinical record software for a while. The various regions of Kaiser Permanente considered themselves separate companies. Mary Kay has her work cut out for her.
America West’s Tony Willis was the eLearning virgin on the panel. While the airline has 12,000 employees, just about all training has been instructor-led. They’re implementing eLearning first with the reservations group, then other airport personnel, and eventually hope to add in the "absentee workforce," i.e. pilots and flight attendants who may live just about anywhere. America West has been an Oracle customer, and that figured heavily in their choice of Oracle’s LMS. Tony’s caveat: Don’t oversell eLearning. His boss now thinks it’s a silver bullet and wants everything to go "e."
Genentech’s Harry Wittenberg has previous eLearning experience with IBM, Cisco, Apple, Chas Schwab, and…was it Andersen? Harry told lots of "blended" learning stories.
As with so many events, you really had to be there. How else could one savor the sushi, satay, stuffed mushrooms, and wine? As I said, Oracle is a class act. The reception had the feel of a college reunion. So many people I hadn’t seen for a year or two.
Is this technology partnership a big deal? It’s good for Oracle customers. I’m disappointed we don’t see more industry cooperation. Wouldn’t it be great if Macromedia had this sort of pact with IBM and Sun and Microsoft?
Given the skepticism that greets me when I talk with many people about blogs, I was delighted to come across this item from Buzz Machine:
People who are not acquainted with blogs don’t get it. Why would so many people want to keep on-line diaries and snapshots of their cats? Moreover, who has time to read this stuff?
Every medium has its amateurs and its pros. Some people are exciting to read; others are a snooze. When blogs are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad, they are awful.
Yesterday I read a post by Mena Trott, the former CEO of SixApart, about handing over the reins to an older guy. Outside the blogosphere, a news release on a transition of power would have been obscured by so many layers of corporate baffle-gab that you’d never know what was going on. Mena’s post was different. It was personal. It came from the heart. She writes:
So, for all you out there who’ve read up to this point, I hope that I have proven that it’s possible for a CEO to stop being CEO but still be content in a company. Additionally, I hope that this weblog influences others in my position to share their experiences.
Last night I met with a charming group of people at the monthly meeting of the Silicon Valley Chapter of ASTD. We discussed A Few Thoughts About Informal Learning. My pal Kathleen Hurson introduced me as the sort of person The Tipping Point calls a maven. In fact, she said super-maven. Finally I’ve found a title to put on my business card. Well, perhaps not.
each of us is at the center of the universe.
so is everyone else.
e. e. cummings
Yesterday morning I’d spoken with a hot-shot learning systems architect for the first time. She asked, “Aren’t you the guy who writes that website that’s really out there?” The day before that, friends had pointed me to a blog posting entitled Annoying Hype that began:
The author goes on to explain that I am blissfully ignorant, misleading people with Panglossian optimism, and that Web Services has nothing to do with the future of IT and learning.
I’ll readily admit to being a provocateur. Provocation is the way out of the box. And my belief in the positive psychology memes of David Cooperider and Marty Seligman compells me to describe what the world may become rather than to kvetch about what’s holding it back. In the spectrum of psychological comfort zones described by the classic technology-adoption curve, I’m obviously in the red zone: an enthusiast, early adopter, and wild-eyed visionary.
By definition, most people are on the opposite site of the gray vertical line some call “the chasm.”
It’s not that some are right and some are wrong. Both points of view are valid. In diversity there is strength. Different organizations need different mixes of attitudes. Here’s a koan for your contemplation:
More than once, people have described me as “out of the box,” generally in a tone that communicates WAY out of the box. Too far. Of course, I see this differently. The box in my head is simply bigger than theirs. To me, my thoughts are natural, obvious, and real.
People ask me how I find so much time to blog. I answer most of what I write on the blog is no more than sharing the reflections I used to keep to myself. Opening up my thinking to others invites feedback and suggestions which inform my direction.
The Johari Window is a 2×2 showing what I do and don’t know about myself in one direction, and what others do and don’t know about me in the other. It’s a neat way to visualize privacy and ignorance. I’m consciously trying to expand my “Arena,” i.e. what I and others know about Jay.
I suspect that most of our Arenas (what we share with others) are further left on the adoption curve than our Facades (what we keep to ourselves).
Last night several people asked what they could do today about my portrait of the future. They are living with overly rigid command-and-control organizations. Courses and classrooms are the tradition; informal learning and collaboration are suspect. Management knows that learning is somehow important but measures performance by counting butts in seats. I think this is a similar issue. Some of us envision the future; others maintain the present. To prosper, know thyself and know thy customers.
Here’s my presentation from ASTD International this year, Collaboration Supercharges Performance. The PowerPoint is nearly the same as yesterday evening’s, although different words popped out of my mouth in Washington.
I’ll reiterate the flow of things since you may want to pick and choose what to listen to.
|We began by looking at a universal model of everything.|
This led into a discussion of blogs, RSS, plogs, and customer education blogs.
Remember that major changes in direction are indicated as SHIFT GEARS.
|Next up: the scary part. We are drowning in information, the world grows ever more complex, time is speeding up, and everything is topsy-turvy. Rigid organizations won’t make it through this. Flexibility is prerequisite to survival.|
|Networks are the next step in computing, business organizations, and more. As internodal communication costs drop, networks replace hierarchies.|
|The age of collaborative learning is at hand.|
|Mentoring used to be tied to events. Collaboration can be omnipresent. We considered examples.
|We wrapped up with the evolving framework for Emergent Learning Forum.
Oh, yes, links. I promised the group last night links to several topics.
Emergent Learning Forum (next meeting is July 22, 4-7 pm at SRI in Menlo Park)
Internet Time Group on Blogs
Workflow Institute (conference in San Francisco October 11-13)
I can doodle, I can diagram, but I never learned to draw. At least, I can’t draw well. Trust me on this. It’s not learned helplessness. Drawing is absent from my genetically inherited mental macro library.
Actually, I lied when I said I never learned to draw. I should have said I never learned to draw without help. I just finished this portrait. It took about 10 minutes.
My performance support tool was a cool web-based application called Mr. Picassohead. (Try it.)
Check out the whole gallery.
Imagine having a console like this for doing your work. Zounds.
Steve Jobs reputably had a graphic on his office wall at NeXT that said that the least efficient means of transportion among mammals was a human walking. The most efficient? A human riding a bicycle.