Category Archives: Management Innovation

How Managers Learn

On YouTube, Peter Casebow and I continue our conversation, talking about learning and performance, and how informal learning works.

Learning and Performance 5:06

Informal Learning and Performance 5:39

How Managers Learn – In Their Own Words

Jay Cross & Peter Casebow video 1 -Intro
Jay and Peter introduce themselves, the internet time alliance and GoodPractice

Jay and Peter discuss the GoodPractice survey ‘How Manger’s Learn’ and what organisations can do to help managers.
Jay Cross and Peter Casebow video 3 – Learning & Performance
Jay and Peter discuss learning and performance
Jay Cross and Peter Casebow video 4 – informal learning
Jay and Peter discuss informal learning, formalising informal learning and performance

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

LearnTrends 2009: Balance, web 2.0, Internet Time Alliance, DAU

George Siemens began the day by challenging us to see the world as a set of trade-offs. What’s the optimal balance point?

Asking people to jot ideas on the white board, the line that divides presenter from audience began to blur. We’re all audience; we all presenters; it shifts back and forth. Few things are black or white; most are shades of gray. As George said, it’s nutty for only one person to do the talking among a group of 125 people. Group scribbling on the white board proved a catalyst to discussion. I think it’s like taking notes: you don’t have to re-read the notes to end up with stronger memories.

Next up Deb Schwartz (Altimeter Group) and Jerry Michalski (Sociate) talked about the challenges and opportunities we confront with enterprise 2.0. As with all of our presentations this week, you had to be there. Recordings or this and all the other sessions will be available by the end of the day. Here’s the chat stream from Deb and Jerry’s presentation.


Internet Time Alliance took the stage to reflect on the overall event and to field questions. We had a rollicking good time — and I think the audience was with us.

The six of us began by recounting why we came together to form Internet Time Alliance. I preach collaboration — but found myself working in isolation. I was already turning to others for help: Jane Hart for social learning and tools, Jon Husband for KM and competencies, Harold Jarche for open source and design, Charles Jennings for the major CLO’s view, and Clark Quinn for learning theory, m-learning, and serious games. We started Internet Time Alliance in order to learn from one another.

Audience questions guided what we talked about today. We had the requisite PowerPoints at the ready but we ended up showing them in random order as questions arose.


Next we brought our customers into the loop. Six heads are better than one; seven or eight are better than that. Our engagements often begin with an organization presenting a question. Could we point out pitfalls in a new plan? Which supplier would we trust? How would we roll out knowledge in their organization? We help refine the question and then hash out solutions and observations as a group. We come back with recommendations and models. This is our loss-leader proposition. For as little as $1000, we return with consensus advice from six of the leading thinkers in organizational learning. Here’s what we’ve been pondering lately.

My conclusion from this event is that not only is learning the work, it’s also the most important work.

Defense Acquisition University‘s Chris Hardy told part of his organization’s incredible success story. Look at these volumes:


Chris also cautioned us against going off half-cocked:


You can learn more about the DAU story from Leading a Learning Revolution, a book by Chris and DAU Chief Executive Frank Anderson.

At one point, Chris showed a slide saying 20% of learning is formal; 80% is informal. He said he’d found no proof, only one person citing another. During his talk, I pulled together this page on the source of the 80 and the 20.

Social Learning Gets Real

I always do my best work while asleep and now that I’ve slept two nights since DevLearn, here’s what I’m thinking.


The last item begs explanation. In the past, we’ve focused on individuals but work is performed by groups. Hence, I expect us to start helping groups learn to perform instead of individuals.





Related posts:

What is informal learning?

Excerpt from Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance

My thanks to Mark Oelhert (our counselor at Social Learning Camp) for helping me sharpen my focus.

Whose learning are you responsible for?


CLO Magazine, October 2009

Whose Learning Are You Responsible For?

by Jay Cross


Last month I conducted several workshops to inject informal and social learning practices into hidebound organizations that were anxious to ramp up to the future. I encouraged them to address the needs of people who had traditionally been left out of the corporate training agenda.

In the old days, corporate training departments focused solely on workers on the payroll. Most of the effort went into getting novices up to speed and grooming fast-trackers as future leaders. Training departments largely overlooked improving the skills of seasoned employees, despite the fact that these were the people whose efforts were paying the bills.

This myopia is the result of looking at training as a cure for cluelessness rather than the route to ever-greater levels of performance. The logic went, “If it’s broken, fix it,” but don’t waste time converting adequate performers into stars. The world’s become too competitive to let this neglect continue.

Any organization that is committed to working smarter needs to assess the impact of helping employees learn at every step in their career cycle. What’s it worth, for example, to offer learning opportunities to potential recruits before they come on board? These “pre-hires” can become familiar with the company before signing on. This cuts costly hiring mistakes that hurt both the organization and the new hire.


Seasoned employees are not going to flock to classes and workshops; they have work to do. But making it easier through collaboration, self-service learning and skill bites helps sharp people become sharper. Making a producer just a little bit more productive yields greater rewards than anything you can do with novices.

Old hands may have known it all in yesterday’s world, but they can only remain productive by keeping up with changes. Furthermore, a company that doesn’t tap its community elders as coaches, mentors and guides is missing an important trick. IBM and other corporations generate leads and harvest insider knowledge by keeping former employees in the community — and, therefore, in the loop.

Increasingly, organizations are sustained by people who are not on the payroll. These are contract workers and individuals called in for a particular project. They are temps, specialists, consultants and service providers. Perhaps they work for an outsource provider.

However, these workers are not exempt from needing to know what’s going on and continuously getting better at what they do. It’s the logic of the supply chain: Since inefficient links get passed along to the customer, companies must optimize the performance of the chain. That means improving the brainpower of everyone who works for the company — not just those who receive paychecks.


The Cluetrain Manifesto, a set of 95 principles for businesses operating in the newly connected workplace, just turned 10 years old. Here’s the clue: Markets are conversations. Doc Searls, co-author of the manifesto, amended that to “markets are relationships.” Exactly. Companies can’t exist in isolation. Value has moved from the nodes to the connections. No business can survive without good ties to a healthy ecosystem.

And that applies to customer relationships as well. Take me, for example. I recently purchased a snazzy video camera. The manual appears to have been written for rocket scientists. The companion Web site is simply a PDF of the manual. Ugh.

Developing an amazing piece of machinery like this camera must cost millions. For just $100,000 more, the company could have set up a discussion site for customers to swap information, opened a customer hot line, hired an English grad student to write a coherent self-study manual, gotten feedback for new product development and provided a list of links to useful sites for new HD video camera owners. And to attract prospective buyers, they could have opened up lessons for all would-be videographers.

If I were greeted with useful resources such as those, I would be much more likely to buy from the same supplier again. As it is now, I have learned nothing from the camera makers, they have learned nothing from me, and we have no relationship at all.

Shouldn’t chief learning officers shoulder the responsibility for learning by everyone in the extended enterprise?

Take the six-question CLO/togetherLearn Survey


    Click here to answer six straight-forward questions about learning in your organization.

In Become a Chief Meta-Learning Officer, published in the May issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine, Clark Quinn and I wrote “The scope of the chief learning officer’s job is mushrooming. CLOs will neither prosper, nor even survive, if they fail to take responsibility for the overall learning process in their organizations. Here’s why, and what to do about it.”

Well, are you doing it or not? Are you following the path we prescribe? Find out without reading our article.

Simply answer these six questions about your organization. It will take  a few minutes at most. Your replies are anonymous. Save a snapshot of your responses so you can compare things with the overall results we’ll share here in about a month.

Here’s where to go: Chief Learning Officer / togetherLearn joint survey.

If you are a sole practitioner or consultant, please don’t take the survey. This one is for organizations. Leave a comment or wait for the results.

If you’re like me, you’re probably reluctant to take part in a survey if you don’t know what’s coming. Here are the questions. You’ll know whether taking part is in your interest.



Now take the survey. Thanks.

When Knowledge Management Hurts

Wonderful short article in Harvard Business Publishing by Freek Vermuelen describes how top-down informationbases actually get in the way of doing business.

The advice to derive from this research? Shut down your expensive document databases; they tend to do more harm than good. They are a nuisance, impossible to navigate, and you can’t really store anything meaningful in them anyway, since real knowledge is quite impossible to put onto a piece of paper. Yet, do maintain your systems that help people identify and contact experts in your firm, because that can be beneficial, at least for people who lack experience. Therefore, make sure to only give your rookies the password.

Lately, I’ve been thinking we’re ready to pull down the silos housing, respectively, Training, CLO, KM, OD, and Corporate Communications. Often, marketing would be lumped in, too.

Strategically re-configuring the CLO+KM+OD+Com function needs to bolster the worthwhile functions and shut down the unworthy ones. KM seems poised for a slowdown, the weakest sister in the CLO+KM+OD+Com Learnscape.

The culture of social learning

Understanding Corporate Twitter
, a post from an employee of EMC, got me thinking about the role of corporate culture in implementing the social learning platforms I’ve been calling learnscapes.

Traditional training programs are a reflection of their designers, authors, and instructors. Social learning platforms are more a reflection of the people who use them, sprinkled with a corporate culture and the ability to make good connections.

We have an extended core of “social people” at EMC.  They participate vigorously on the internal social platform.  They tend to blog proficiently inside and outside of the company.  You’ll see them leaving comments on other people’s blogs and comments.  Wherever you go, you’ll generally find the same EMCers participating and engaging.

They’re out there in force — representing themselves and EMC quite well, thank you!

And so, when Twitter (or whatever) comes along, there’s really no need for us to do anything.  The EMC social people find out about the service, set up shop, and do what they normally do — engage in discussion.

Shouldn’t that be at the heart of any corporate social media strategy?  To find, encourage and enlarge your internal group of proficient “social people”?  So that — regardless of the platform or context — they’re out there representing your company well?

Thus, improving the effectiveness of social learning rests in part on finding, encouraging and enlarging your internal group of proficient social learners. Traditional instructional design overlooks these natural supporters of peer-to-peer, collaborative learning at its peril.

Human networks at Cisco


Yesterday I spent the day at Cisco talking with old friends and new about what Fast Company recently described as an “unprecedented forward-looking strategy to unleash what it’s calling a ‘human network effect’ both on and off the Cisco campus.” Despite the over-the-top hype, the new approach is very real. Key business initiatives are managed by councils and boards. Leaderless groups receive support from facilitators. The exercise is not optional: this is the way things are done for projects and nearly thirty top-level priorities.

Major transformations take time, even in a go-go outfit like Cisco. Managers were already accustomed to sharing information to get the job done. However, it’s still a little sticky when you get to the middle level of the organization, where people have to support the new way of doing things while still performing their old jobs. Collaboration figures in everyone’s job description, but people are use different definitions to describe it. All-in-all, I give Cisco high marks for innovation and consider the company’s structure an exemplar for others to follow.

That said, many companies would not be successful taking Cisco’s leaderless, social approach. Cisco people are driven, dedicated, and intensely curious. Motivation is not a big issue, because Cisco hires only gung-ho people to begin with.

In six hours of conversation, we talked about all manner of things, some overlapping and some not, so I’m going to share the links and follow-up I promised various folks right here:

    The Meteoric Rise of Social Media. Social media: terrible name for “let’s get together.” Yes, folks, this is important. Social media — Facebook, Twitter, and other things you thought were for kids — are the way to stay connected and keep up with the world. They create “ambient awareness,” the feeling that you’re close to someone even when you are not.

    Enterprise Twitter. A corporate Twitter network puts power in the hands of the troops, and that’s threatening to an old-timey officer corps. Not that this will stop young workers from bringing it into the workplace with them.

    Activity Streams are going to be wildly important for social learning. Few people have time to traipse around looking into all the nooks and crannies where a netizen or company is streaming content. The thought leaders in the activity streams space are thinking about standards for interoperability, how people can grant access to their feeds selectively, stream searching, de-duping, and security concerns. Last week, Google, Facebook, Nokia, Yahoo!, MySpace, Comcast, and other players huddled around a conference table in the offices of Six Apart in San Francisco to discuss activity streams.

    Action Notebook, Digital habitats: stewarding technology for communities by Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, and John D. Smith refines the role of technology steward, an essential supporting role in digital communities.

    Seminal documents by Ivan Illich, George Siemens, Steven Downes, Eric Raymond, Tim O’Reilly, and others provide the foundation for a lot of my thinking.

    The two books I’m taking on my upcoming trip to the Continent are:

    Informal by Cecil Balmond. “Balmond is one of the most important structural engineers working in architecture today. His structural thinking differs from that of other engineers in his field in its completely new conception of the engineer’s contribution to architecture. The plasticity of architectural plans is enhanced through a decisive development of their structural designs. The borderline between structure and architecture thus becomes increasingly blurred. This process is explained in detail in Informal by reference to eight exemplary projects. Balmond elucidates the theoretical basis of his engineering solutions and his sketches transcend purely technical illustration–they are the key to his approach. Informal invites readers to rethink their understanding of the relationship between architecture and engineering.” (I figure this will be good preparation for touring the Guggenheim in Bilbao.)

    Driving Results Through Social Networks by Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas. I’m looking forward to this one, because Rob Cross is one of the few people to look at the quality of connections in human networks, not just volume. “Driving Results Through Social Networks shows executives and managers how to obtain substantial performance and innovation impact by better leveraging these traditionally invisible assets. For the past decade, Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas have worked closely with executives from over a hundred top-level companies and government agencies. In this groundbreaking book, they describe in-depth how these leaders are using network thinking to increase revenues, lower costs, and accelerate innovation.”

    Learning Irregulars is in formation. We are committed to making the world a better place by accelerating innovation in organizational learning. We are open, inquisitive, non-profit, impatient, and feisty.

    Luis Suarez is the IBMer who is documenting his efforts to give up work email. Visiting Luis’s blog right now, I note that there’s a new “Did you know?” video out. This lacks the punch of the original but is a fantastic eye-opener nonetheless.

    The end of email: discover new ways to stay in touch is one of many articles explaining how an investment bank eliminated most internal email and improved quality of work life by replacing email with a shared wiki.

    Tools for Social Capitalists links technologies to learning needs. This version is a couple of years old but still has legs.

    Connectivism, a learning theory for the digital age (2004) is an overview of George Siemens’ work that locates knowledge not in our heads, but in a shared space among us all. George’s thoughts on this are so right-on that rather than explain them to people, I simply say “What he said.”

    • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
    • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
    • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
    • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
    • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
    • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
    • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
    • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

    New hires balked at the lack of social space at Cisco.
    One outcome was collaboration nooks like this one.

    Every company needs collaboration spaces. This one
    is in an open area alongside a massive coffee room.

    It was an exhilarating day.

Innovating in the Great Disruption

From Harvard B-School Publishing

In 2009, managers will realize that they are no longer dealing with a crisis; they are dealing with a condition. In the Great Disruption, companies simply can’t anticipate that today’s competitive advantage will last for more than a few years. Former Intel Chairman Andy Grove anticipated this more than a decade ago when he wrote, “Only the paranoid survive.”

While companies might want to return to the corporate equivalent of comfort food–cost-cutting and a focus on the core business–the Great Disruption won’t allow it.

This sounds like good advice for all of us in the business world:

# Placing a premium on progress. While more and more companies recognize the name of the game is transformation, the tolerance for blind experimentation has never been lower. Innovators will need to continue to find creative, cheap ways to bring their ideas forward. Fortunately, they can tap into a plethora of powerful tools to facilitate rapid learning.

# Mastering paradox. Leaders in most Fortune 500 companies grew up in an era where they could succeed largely by exploiting their existing business. Today’s leaders need to master both exploitation and exploration. They need to develop the ability to rely on precise data in their core business and intuition and judgment when they are creating new growth businesses. They have to live the old F. Scott Fitzgerald mantra, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the same mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”