Category Archives: Just Jay

Notes from the Spargel Tour

The last two days, the GPS in our rental car has taken us on to obscure farm roads and “the long way around” time after time. We don’t know whether we should take advice from the GPS’s calm English voice or say to hell with it and follow the signs. We’ve traveled farm roads so narrow that we had to stop to let cars come the other way. The GPS will tell us it’s planning another route because of traffic conditions and then take us directly into roadblocks and construction projects. I fear it’s possessed.

mapDistances are so short in Europe compared to the United States. We left Lindau, the German island on Lake Constance, at 11:30 this morning. Fifteen minutes later, we were whizzing through Austria. And fifteen minutes after that we were in Switzerland, headed to Appenzell, our destination for a 1:00 lunch.

Asparagus is still on the menu even though we’re at the southern tip of Germany. spargelEveryplace seems to have a Spargelkarte, a special asparagus menu. A Spargelkarte typically offers asparagus soup, a pound of asparagus with hollendaise or butter, asparagus with a schnitzel or perhaps a fish filet or ham. Uta never tires of the stuff. A few stalks is about all I can handle at one sitting.

neuTomorrow we’re headed to Schwangau, home of crazy Kind Ludwig II’s castles. It’s schmaltzy and I’ve visited three or four times before, but I can’t resist something that looks so damned cool. Ludwig may have been nuts, but he left behind beautiful, iconic symbols.

Tyramine Diet

Ah, the joys of modern medicine.

I’ve begun taking a drug that requires me to restrict my diet severely. I’m not allowed to eat aged cheese, sausage, draft beer, sourdough bread, or anything else that contains significant amounts of tyramine, an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure.

Eating the forbidden fruit can cause severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, vomiting, a fast or slow heartbeat, tight chest pain, a lot of sweating, confusion, dilated pupils, and sensitivity to light. People have died after bingeing on cheese.

So many foods are restricted (sauerkraut, bacon, caviar, peanuts, vermouth!) that I need a way to remind myself of what to avoid. I hope visualization can prop up my memory.

If pictures aren’t your thing, here’s a good list from the National Headache Foundation. (Tyramine can cause migraine headaches in people who are sensitive to it.)

Foods to Avoid on a Tyramine-Restricted Diet

krautcaviar fish4 fish3 fish2 fish herring duckliver2 duckliver cornedbeef bacon hotdog sausage3 choucroute sausage2 sausage cheese5 cheese4 cheese3 cheese2 cheese







The following foods have limited amounts of tyramine. It’s okay to consume up to 1/2 a cup daily.












I assembled the list from Wikipedia and a dozen medical sites. None of the sites list all of these items. The list on the Mayo Clinic site is typical:

“Tyramine is naturally found in small amounts in protein-containing foods. As these foods age, the tyramine level increases. Some foods high in tyramine include:

  • Aged cheeses, such as aged cheddar and Swiss; blue cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola; and Camembert. Cheeses made from pasteurized milk are less likely to contain high levels of tyramine, including American cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, farm cheese and cream cheese.
  • Cured meats, which are meats treated with salt and nitrate or nitrite, such as dry-type summer sausages, pepperoni and salami.
  • Fermented cabbage, such as sauerkraut and kimchee.
  • Soy sauce, fish sauce and shrimp sauce.
  • Yeast-extract spreads, such as Marmite.
  • Improperly stored foods or spoiled foods.
  • Broad bean pods, such as fava beans.”

The amount of tyramine depends on how the food was processed and how old it is. Tyramine increases as a food ages. Pickled, smoked, fermented, or marinated meats are generally high in tyramine. Fresh produce is okay if you eat it within 48 hours of purchase. Nuts are never okay. A draft beer contains 25 times as much tyramine as a can of beer.






Would you recommend your L&D department?

Capturing L&D metrics too often entails asking the wrong people the wrong questions at the wrong time.

Line leaders are a CLO’s most important customers. They judge the trade-offs in spending that determine L&D’s fate in the budget process. They base their decisions on what training professionals call Level 4: Did the training impact the bottom line? Did it matter?

By and large, line leaders are not happy with L&D’s performance.

A survey of thousands of line leaders found that 77% were dissatisfied with the results of L&D. A mere 24% agreed that L&D was critical to business outcomes. Only 15% thought L&D effective at influencing talent strategy. 14% would recommend working with L&D; 52% would not; 34% were passive. (Statistics from 2011 Corporate Leadership Council, L&D Team Capabilities Survey)

If a line of business reported such shoddy scores, red flags would arise and heads would roll. A corporate SWAT team would tear into the problem. Was L&D operating this poorly or had it earned an undeservedly bad reputation? How can we put this train back on the track?

The way to succeed with line leaders is to involve them in the governance process. Acknowledge that they are L&D’s customers. Gain their support by planning with them. Monitor trends in their assessments of L&D. Use their feedback to make improvements.

What’s the appropriate yardstick for measuring the confidence and loyalty of line leader customers? I propose that CLOs adopt the Net Promoter Score® methodology developed by Fred Reichheld at Bain & Company and Satmatrix.

The Net Promoter Score® measures loyalty based on one question, “How likely are you to recommend our service to friends and colleagues?” Scoring is from 0 (Not likely at all) to 10 (Extremely likely). A open-ended question often follows to provide guidance for corrective action.

Here’s how it works: Survey your customers. Calculate the percentage of detractors (scores 0-6) and the percentage of promoters (scores 9-10). Your Net Promoter Score is the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors. Passives (scores 7-8) don’t count in the equation.

In a variety of industries, Net Promoter Score correlate directly with differences in growth rates among competitors. (Fred Reichheld, The One Number You Need to Grow, Harvard Business Review, December 2003).

Customer loyalty increases profitability. It’s less costly to keep a customer than to acquire a new one. Loyal customers who talk up a company lower the expense of gaining new customers. If you’re like me, when a company exceeds your expectations, you’re much more likely to come back.

Reichheld and his peers tracked more than 10,000 Net Promoter Scores at 400 companies. This one simply number explained the growth rates in industries as different as airlines, internet service provides, and car rental companies.

Now that we’ve determined who to ask (line leaders) and what to ask them (“Would you recommend…?), let’s turn to when to ask them.

My Internet service provider asks if I would recommend their service at the conclusion of every support call. Many online merchants ask the question immediately after taking an order. Airlines distribute questionnaires to people in flight.

CLOs should wait six months before asking the question. Unlike a product that will be delivered in two business days, it takes a while for lessons to sink in and/or to disappear due to the Forgetting Curve.

You may be wondering why Net Promoter Score hasn’t taken the world by storm. Reichheld thinks that maybe market research firms can’t find a way to make money administering something so simple.

Simplicity is the hallmark of the Net Promoter Score, so much so that it represents a phase change in how we regard metrics. Instead of being buried in quarterly reports read by few, the Net Promoter Score can become a management tool.

The prime directive of any organization is to create customers. The Net Promoter Score shows how the organization is doing in terms all managers and workers can understand. The score points to relationships that need improvement. Practitioners actively intervene to convert detractors into promoters. Insiders call this “closing the loop.” Some companies factor it into the calculation of incentive compensation.

As Reichheld says, “The path to sustainable, profitable growth begins with creating more promoters and fewer detractors and making your net-promoter number transparent throughout your organization. This number is the one number you need to grow. It’s that simple and that profound.”


This column appears in the April 2014 issue of Chief Learning Officer.


The Roman consul had his son beheaded for disobeying orders. The Amsterdam Admiralty commissioned the painting to hang in its headquarters. (It’s now in the Rijksmuseum.)

Rijks Museum

The painting carries two messages. First of all, insubordination will not be tolerated. Second, decisions must be impartial.

Be glad you live in the 21st Century, not in the 1660s.

Reflections from May trip to Italy, UK, and Netherlands


I just got home from two dozen days in Rome, (rent Vespa) Perugia, Passignano, Torre del Colle (Bevagna), (return Vespa) Foligno, Rome, London, Malvern, Winchester, Brighton, Amsterdam, Heerlen (Maastricht) in 24 days. Photos.

Brighton, Hastings

Two days of the trip were paid work: One day I keynoted the Learning Innovations and Quality Conference and participated in the launch of the International Council Continue reading

The Heinz Ketchup Case Study

heinz-largeMy midterm exam in Marketing Management at Harvard B-School was the Heinz Ketchup Case.

You, the student, had just been appointed brand manager (we called it product manager back then) for the iconic red condiment. The case included the demographics of buyers, the geographic spread of the market, and all manner of information about packaging options. Sales were steady and growing. The case asked the classic question, “What would you do?”

The school solution was: Do nothing. Don’t mess with a winner. Leave things as they are. If you suggested changing anything, you failed the test. You don’t walk into an established company with no experience or credibility and suggest they mess with the cash cow.

The brand managers and UI designers at Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and other consumer web services need to learn this lesson. No change for change’s sake. Don’t confuse the customer. We don’t want New Coke.

I’ve been on the web since the beginning, when you had to log in to Sir Tim’s NeXT machine at CERN to access the World Wide Web. I have blogged for more than a dozen years. I’ve shown thousands of people how to join the collective consciousness that is today’s net. I once knew how to get things done expeditiously.

Now I’m confused about some basic functions. While I was on the road for the last 24 days, Google+ donned a new skin. I lost a long post (by pushing the wrong button?). Ironically, I find G+’s search function confusing. WIIFM? I haven’t found anything in the changed appearance for me.

Then there’s Yahoo’s Flickr. I have been unable to upload portrait-mode photographs since the new look came in. Sometimes I can only upload two or three photos at a time. The uploader apparently can’t recognize some of my photos–they show as black and won’t upload. I’m on the lookout for something that will work for my 30,000 photos.

Facebook locked me out because someone in Wilmington, North Carolina, tried to access my account. I didn’t bother setting up a new password until just now. The garish new timeline page that greeted me was cluttered with marketing crap, boxes trying to get me to divulge my taste in movies, books, and television shows. I’m cutting off every option I can.

Whenever I visit Facebook, which is rare, I tiptoe around, fearful that I’ll fail to click one innocuous-looking little box and give Zuckerberg & Co. the email addresses of real friends or the right to repeat anything I write or say. I treat Facebook like quicksand and it’s troubling when the hazards have all moved to new locations.

Worst of all, changes like these are needlessly disruptive. We all have too many balls in the air right now to waste time rewiring our brains and fingers to punch buttons that have moved.

13 books on learning, people, organizations, corporate culture, and change

This morning I conducted a webinar on Making Learning Stick. Funny, isn’t it, that we invest so much to help people learn and so little to help them remember? Lots of what we learn goes down the drain before becoming converted to action.

To encourage participation, I gave away my favorite books for making the most of learning. It’s a biased list. All but three are by friends and colleagues. I like what I know.

This baker’s dozen have influenced my thinking enormously, sometimes by the act of writing them.

  1. Informal Learning by Jay Cross
  2. A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown
  3. Working Smarter Fieldbook by Jay Cross
  4. Implementing eLearning by Jay Cross
  5. Engaging Learners by Clark Quinn
  6. Social Learning Handbook by Jane Hart
  7. The New Social Learning by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner
  8. The Connected Company by Dave Gray
  9. Now You See It by Cathy Davidson
  10. Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
  11. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  12. The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management by Stephen Denning
  13. Designing mLearning by Clark Quinn

Nailed! How managers develop proficiency

Informal Learning and the Transfer of Learning: How Managers Develop Proficiency

“Our study suggested that managers learn mostly from informal learning, that proficiency is the product of informal learning, and that metacognitive knowledge and self-regulation skills moderate informal learning and the transfer process. In the light of these findings, companies should harness and leverage informal learning and cultivate the metacognitive abilities of managers, as opposed to increasing spending on formal training programs. By applying these strategies, companies may save money, develop more proficient managers, and gain a competitive advantage.”

Michael D. Enos, Marijke Thamm Kehrhahn, Alexandra Bell

Read those lines again. Think about how you develop managers. Stirring, isn’t it?

Too bad the article appeared ten years ago and didn’t make waves. (HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT QUARTERLY, vol. 14, no. 4, Winter 2003) 

Informal first!