Category Archives: Management Innovation

Last days of the world’s fastest ocean liner


On its inaugural voyage in 1952, the sleek S.S. United States set the record for an Atlantic crossing (3 1/2 days) and more than sixty years later, the record still stands.

The United States was the Concorde of its day: high tech, expensive, and luxurious, the fastest way across the ocean. Made of lightweight aluminum with R&D funded by the Department of Defense (since the United States could be converted into the world’s fastest troop ship.)


In June 1958,  my father, a career Army officer, was transferred to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) just outside Paris. We were to travel on the S.S. United States!

Right before departure, a general officer decided to fly instead of sail, and we were upgraded to First Class. Another military brat and I landed our own cabin. We went to see the movie Run Silent Run Deep four times. Burt Lancaster was aboard but we never got to talk with him.

By the way, our household furniture traveled with us, in two humongous crates stored in the hold.


I learned to eat in the First Class dining room of the S.S. United States. Caviar, squab under glass, beef Wellington, tornedos Rossini, sorbet. The waiters encouraged me to order everything I might want to try. I took them up on it.

One evening we had just sat down to dinner when the ship rolled 20 degrees starboard. Every plate on the tables crashed to the floor. Half the guests left immediately. The crew installed ropes along the halls and stairways so you could cling when the ship lurched back and forth violently.  North Atlantic storms are vicious.

No one saw this coming. Today we’d get amber alerts on our smartphones before hitting the bad weather.


Photo from The New York Times, October 9, 2015

The S.S. United States sailed its last voyage in 1969.  Various groups have tried to save it but they’ve run out of money. The S.S. United States will either be moored in concrete or, more likely, cut into pieces and sold for scrap.

Given a choice of speed or luxury, people opted for speed, and airplanes wiped out transoceanic cruises.

This is but one more example of technology knocking the stuffing out of an entire category, wiping out the best performers at the same time as the worst. Remember typewriters?



50 suggestions for implementing 70-20-10

Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. implementing 70-20-10 is not simple. Sharing 50 suggestions on putting 70-20-10 to work has consumed five posts spread over two months. Today the series is complete. Here’s what you’ll find:

Post 1   Post 2   Post 3   Post 4   Post 5

Post 1 People learn their jobs by doing their jobs. Effective managers make stretch
assignments and coach their team members. Experience is the teacher, and managers shape their teammembers’ experiences. Knowledge work has evolved into keeping up and taking advantage of connections. We learn to do the job on the job. To stay ahead and create more value, you have to learn faster, better, smarter.

The Coherent OrganizationAs standalone companies realize that they’re really extended enterprises, co-learning with customers and stakeholders becomes important as everyone faces the future together. Players throughout the corporate ecosystem need to be operating on the same wave-length. This can only happen when we’re adapting to the future, i.e. learning, at the same pace.Internally, everyone needs to stay current.

These posts offer guidance to managers who want to make learning from experience and conversation more effective. Replacing today’s haphazard approaches with systematic, enlightened management accelerates the development of future workers and gets the entireorganization working smarter. The potential is great.

Among the organizations that have adopted the 70:20:10 approach are Nike, Dell, Goldman Sachs, Mars, Maersk, Nokia, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, L’Oréal, Adecco, Banner Health, Bank of America, National Australia Bank, Boston Scientific, American Express, Wrigley, Diageo, BAE Systems, ANZ Bank, Irish Life, HP, Freehills, Caterpillar, Barwon Water, CGU, Coles, Sony Ericsson, Standard Chartered, British Telecom, Westfield, Wal-Mart, Parsons Brinkerhoff, and Coca-Cola.

Charles Jennings made 70:20:10 a guiding philosophy of learning during his eight-year tenure as Chief Learning Officer at Reuters, the world’s largest information company. (Disclosure: Charles and I are colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance. He is the world authority on 70:20:10 and these posts draw heavily on his work.)

Post 2 The 70 percent: learning from experience. People learn by doing. We learn from experience and achieve mastery through practice. Experience is a difficult task master. We learn more from making a mistake than from getting it right the first time. That’s why wise managers throw team members into stretch assignments. It accelerates learning. Being ejected from one’s comfort zone is why some say that the only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience. Matching the most appropriately challenging experience to the developmental stage of the worker is the most powerful lever in the manager’s toolbox.

Charles Jennings reports that performance inevitably improves when managers ask their team members these three simple reflective questions:

  1. What are your reflections on what you’ve been doing since we last met.
  2. What would you do differently next time?
  3. What have you learned since we last met?

Post 3 The 20 percent: learning through others. Learning is social. People learn with and through others.

Conversations are the stem cells of learning. Effective managers encourage their team members to buddy up on projects, to shadow others and to participate in professional social networks. People learn more in an environment that encourages conversation, so make sure you’re fostering an environment where people talk to each other.

A Community of Practice (CoP) is a social network of people who identify with one another professionally (e.g. designers of logic chips) or have mutual interests (e.g. amateur photographers). Members of CoPs develop and share knowledge, values, recommendations and standards. An effective community of practice is like a beehive. It organizes itself, buzzes with activity and produces honey for the markets.

Post 4 Formal learning includes courses, workshops, seminars, online learning and certification training. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations aren’t using online learning to its full potential, and the results at those organizations reflect that. Learning expert Robert Brinkerhoff figures only about 15 percent of formal training lessons change behavior.12 This is a reflection of both formal learning creation and of the lack of focus on experiential and exposure learning. If what we learn is not reinforced with reflection and application, the lessons never make it into long-term memory.

Formal learning is typically conducted by an instructor. So why do we address it in a paper on managers? Because managers can make or break the success of formal learning programs. Research has found that the most important factor in translating formal learning into improved performance is the expectation set by managers before the training takes place13. Understanding the needs of the learners and following up after the event are also essential for formal learning success.

Post 5 You will need to become a champion for the new approach to developing talent. You must convince your sponsor that managers and supervisors are the linchpins to developing new talent. Without them, the company could find itself with nobody on the bench to take on future challenges. For your career, this lead role is high risk/high reward.

Managers have to learn how to develop their people. It doesn’t always come naturally, and managers can get too busy to pay much attention to it. Let them know you don’t expect them to train their people. Rather, they will set examples for their team; they will foster experiential learning by leading their team to tackle new challenges (the 70), by helping them reflect on the lessons of experience and by coaching them at every step (the 20), and by showing them how to get formal learning on the subject (the 10).

The Learning and Development Roundtable of the Corporate Leadership Council pinpointed three management practices that significantly improve performance.

  1. Setting clear expectations and explaining how performance will be measured.
  2. Providing stretch experiences that help their team members learn and develop.
  3. Taking time to reflect and help team members learn from experience.

Managers who set clear objectives and expectations and explain how they measure performance are much more likely to succeed. Their teams outperform their peers by 20%. That’s an extra day every week to get the job done (and engage in deep learning). Managers should make explicit why they’re assigning particular projects, what they expect people to learn and what sort of debrief will occur after the assignment.

The 70-20-10 model depends on L&D teaming up with managers to improve learning across the company, but often managers do not appreciate how vitally important they are in growing their people. This is the absolute, must-do secret to success to improving learning and development. Frontline managers must take this as the very definition of manager: someone who develops others by challenging them with assignments that stretch them to the point of flow17. This takes a can-do manager who knows how coaching creates mental models and habits, how motivation activates a chain of high-performance activities and what success habits their team members need to adopt.

Charles Jennings says that the role that managers play is far more important than that of Learning and Development or HR. Your role is to help managers learn that:

  • People learn from experience.
  • Managers shape the experience of the people on their team.
  • Experience coupled with reflection sticks lessons in memory.
  • Daily mid-course correction is much more powerful than after-the-fact reviews.
  • Every project they assign is a potential learning experience for their team members.


Can your team’s marriage be saved?

clo_logo_sm (1)Can This Marriage Be Saved?

by Jay Cross

Return to:


The National Institute of Mental Health spent millions of your tax dollars to build John and Julie Gottman a Love Lab. At the lab, personnel observed thousands of couples. They shot video, monitored heart rates, jitteriness and skin conductivity. They amassed recordings of 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.



Reinventing management, the Stoos movement

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:

Transcript from Hangout:

You invited people into the hangout.

Peter Isackson

9:49 AM

Hi Jay

You invited people into the hangout.

Loretta Donovan

10:37 Continue reading

World Stoos Day

Stoos (rhymes with close or dose) is a mountain village of 100 inhabitants at 1,300 metres in the center of Switzerland. People come to ski.



A year ago, twenty of us met on the mountaintop in Stoos to imagine management and business anew. Peter Stevens sent invitations:

Steve Denning, Jurgen Appelo, Franz Röösli and Peter Stevens are pleased to personally invite you to a spontaneous weekend Continue reading

Virtually free conference

I’m attending KM World virtually for the next two days. Presentations are being screened live. I’ll see recordings of part of this: the gun goes off at 5:45 am Pacific and I don’t do that for anybody.

The speaker line-up is great. JSB. David Weinberger. Dave Snowden. Awesome thinkers and explainers!

Here’s the program.

Back-channel: “Follow us before you get to the event at @kmworld and be sure to use #kmworld in your tweets from the conference. Several of our speakers list their Twitter accounts on our site so check them out here and be sure to follow any whose sessions you plan to attend. Be a part of the online conversation!”


I owe KMWorld a debt of gratitude. A dozen years ago I needed to get up to speed on business process automation, knowledge management, and workflow systems. I attended KM World in San Jose gratis and came away with great foundation knowledge. Half a dozen years later, I got Adobe to pay for a beer bash to enable top thinkers in learning (attending DevLearn) to cross-fertilize with the KM World speakers. At that time, we learned that different species do not mate. KM and Learning, peas in a pod, but they usually hang out with one another to this day. It’s genetic.

This time, I’m not attending to grok KM. Rather, I’m considering the next tsunami to hit business, namely, the recognition of emotion in the workplace. I want to see how Emotional Business will play in the framework of KM.

JSB, David Weinberger, and Dave Snowden are my heros. They each have a brilliant take on what’s going on in the world and express it with humor and enthusiasm. These guys always stray outside the lines and take you right to the edge. I’m sure I’ll pick up useful ways of looking at the world as I pursue my calling: building ways to help people thrive in the workplace.

Great, intimate professional gathering on talent management and learning

When people ask me what conferences they should attend, I tell them that small, intensive, participatory events work best for me. Most of these are invitation-only affairs. One exception, assuming you’re astute in talent management or corporate learning, is the annual Future of Talent Retreat.

This year will be the 8th Future of Talent Retreat. I’ve been to every one and will be attending this one in San Francisco, November 16-20.

Past attendees have included senior leaders and HR visionaries from Fortune 500, Global 100, and medium-sized companies from the United States, Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Dubai, and Singapore.

We have few presentations. Instead we engage in conversations and collaborative activities that will give you practical information to take back and use in your organization. We have great food, drink wonderful wine, and make long lasting friends.

This is a highly interactive, hands-on event where participants contribute and learn from each other as well as the faculty.

Management 3.0 from Jurgen Appelo

Jurgen Appelo plays with more models of how things ought to work than anyone I else I know. His book Management 3.0 presents, assesses, and sometimes interconnects with agile, people-oriented processes relentlessly. I’m a fan. See his blog. And this presentation:

Jurgen and I met at the Stoos gathering. I just bought his latest, How to Change the World, to read on vacation.
Here’s the Stoos bookshelf. This is about as close to a definition of the spirit of Stoos as you’re going to get.

WTF? Complexity.

Once upon a time, the world was predictable. Isaac Newton had convinced us that every action resulted in an opposite and equal reaction. Rene Descartes thought and therefore, was. People made long-term plans. Logic ruled.

Then we realized that everything is connected. Outcomes result from the interplay of complex adaptive systems. Butterfly effects, asymmetry, and self organization abound. What emerges next is anybody’s guess. It’s time to shed the delusion that we are in control. Logic is oversimplification.

What’s a person to do when complexity turns our clockwork universe on its head? In a increasingly volatile environment, rigidity is suicidal. But how can we be flexible without being wishy-washy?

My colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance agree that we need to embrace complexity, not hide from it. Harold Jarche writes, “Few are bored with complex challenges.  The more people who are engaged creatively, the more effective the organization will be and no, there isn’t a course you can take to address this.”

The undisputed authority in this field is Dave Snowden. In October, he’s leading a series of one-day executive seminars on Leading Through Complexity: A New Simplicity.

I’m going to attend the San Francisco event. Perhaps a bunch of us will head out to dinner afterward to review what’s we’ve learned. This stuff is important but it’s never easy!