Category Archives: Time

Make the minimum viable video

An experiment

This morning Twitter got me thinking about the ideal size of chunks of learning. If you can learn from 140-character Tweets, how much can you compress a video? Where’s the ideal tradeoff of time versus meaning? I’m preparing to lead a personalized workshop on informal learning, and I don’t want to waste people’s time. I decided to do an experiment in distilling video to its essence.


Take 29 seconds to watch this clip of Phil Zimbardo talking about how busy we think we are.


Kids look at time differently than we do. Here’s 70 seconds on why — and why current methods of schooling are destined to fail.


Are you really busy? As this final 62-second clip explains, your answer depends on your time perspective.


You just spent about 3 minutes of watching video and reading a few sentences.

You learned something, right? Not bad for 3 minutes.

Furthermore, those 3 minutes are a preview for the full 10-minute version, probably enough to get you hooked if you’re interested in things like this.

How to downsize video

It’s not difficult to chop a YouTube video into small chunks. (I figured this out only last night.)

YouTube’s embed code for the full video is:

<iframe src=”″ frameborder=”0″ width=”640″ height=”360″></iframe>

To show only a chunk, add “version3″ and the start & ending times in seconds from the very beginning, thus:

<iframe src=”;start=485&amp;end=516″ frameborder=”0″ width=”640″ height=”360”></iframe>

Alternatively, on the YouTube site, click “Edit” and “Enhancements.” That will also enable you to tweak brightness, saturation, contrast, and more.

On Time

Time is a big deal for me. I am on a quest to help myself and others make better use of it. I don’t call it the Internet Time Group for nothing.

I read Phil Zimbardo’s book, The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life.

Let me save you some time: the book’s not that well written. 90% of the message is covering in the 10-minute video on YouTube.


Flipping learning is big in education. It will be big in corporate learning. Let’s not blow it.

How do you flip learning?

Khan Academy is the poster child for flipped learning. Sal Khan has produced more than 3,000 short videos on a variety of topics. Students watch the videos before coming to class. In the classroom, they sort out what they’ve learned and do what used to be called homework. Millions of students are learning this way. Recently, Stanford professors offered a couple of courses in this fashion and were surprised when a third of a million people enrolled.

Flipping makes a ton a sense. The learner can watch the mini-lectures when it’s convenient to do so. The learner controls the pace by pausing, replaying, or fast-forwarding. In all likelihood, the presentation by the enthusiastic Salmaan Khan or a popular Stanford prof is going to be more engaging than your local school teacher or grad student teaching assistant. The video can provide content in small, digestible pieces. Once it’s in the can, the video can be replayed again and again. And of course, video delivered online scales without an increase in cost.

More important for learning outcomes, the time spent in class can be put to more productive use. Learners convene to get answers to questions, discuss examples, put what they’ve learned in context, debate, explore, and extend their knowledge. Instead of passively listening to an instructor, they actively engage the material. Instructors, freed of the need to mouth the words of lessons, focus on helping learners understand things and coaching individuals. These activities can take place online, and people can learn from one another in virtual communities and support groups.

Flipping Stanford

In a Science Times essay, “Death Knell for the Lecture: Technology as a Passport to Personalized Education,” Daphne Koller described how Stanford University has flipped traditional courses:

At Stanford, we recently placed three computer science courses online, using a similar format. Remarkably, in the first four weeks, 300,000 students registered for these courses, with millions of video views and hundreds of thousands of submitted assignments.

What can we learn from these successes? First, we see that video content is engaging to students — many of whom grew up on YouTube — and easy for instructors to produce.

Second, presenting content in short, bite-size chunks, rather than monolithic hourlong lectures, is better suited to students’ attention spans, and provides the flexibility to tailor instruction to individual students. Those with less preparation can dwell longer on background material without feeling uncomfortable about how they might be perceived by classmates or the instructor.

Conversely, students with an aptitude for the topic can move ahead rapidly, avoiding boredom and disengagement. In short, everyone has access to a personalized experience that resembles individual tutoring.

Watching passively is not enough. Engagement through exercises and assessments is a critical component of learning. These exercises are designed not just to evaluate the student’s learning, but also, more important, to enhance understanding by prompting recall and placing ideas in context.

Moreover, testing allows students to move ahead when they master a concept, rather than when they have spent a stipulated amount of time staring at the teacher who is explaining it.

An article in Wired, The Stanford Educational Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever, describes the wildly popular course on artificial intelligence taught by Stanford professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig:

Does it make any sense that school is generally a place where people come together to sit and listen to the person at the front of the room?  It generally doesn’t make the most sense to get a group of people together to sit and stare.  What if instead, educators spent class time doing and homework time for the watching of lessons/lectures.  The other benefit of this is that these can be viewed and reviewed anytime/anywhere.  The result is a lively bustling classroom where students can spend their time learning, talking, doing.

I fear that flipping learning in corporations may meet the same nasty fate as eLearning.

In the early days, 1999-2000, many of us believed that eLearning was the forefront of a renaissance in learning. Not only could people learn at their own pace, whenever they wanted, they’d also be able to ask questions, learn with peers, join communities, access job aids, contact mentors, and create personal learning paths. Workers could attend virtual classes without leaving the workplace. Software would create personalized learning experiences by assembling custom configurations of learning objects.

The eLearning dream didn’t last long. Companies proved more interested in reducing instructor head-count and facilities costs than in improving learning outcomes.  Training departments put PowerPoint presentations on their intranets and acted as if people could learn from them. Vendors put deadly-dull page-turner courses online and called it eLearning.

When times were tough, training departments slashed budgets by replacing face-to-face instruction with online reading. They failed to follow through with the discussions, practice, social processing, and reinforcement that makes lessons stick. It didn’t work. Most eLearning is ineffective drudgery.

That’s my nightmare about flipping learning in the corporation, that organizations will once again confuse exposure to content with learning. It’s great to replace lectures with video clips — IF you retain the opportunity for people to ask questions, interact with the material, practice what they’ve learned, collaborate with others, and periodically refresh their memories. This takes a sound learning ecosystem, a workscape.

Dan Pink thinks we should flip not only schooling but also publishing, the movie business, human resources, and office space. I agree. Business has changed. There’s hardly any business model left that couldn’t benefit from a flip. Break the processes into pieces and see if there’s not a better way to put them back together.


Learning in the 21st Century Workplace

We are moving from the information age (an age of knowledge workers) to the conceptual age (an age of conceptual workers). 

Work-life was much simpler in the last century. Information work entailed following instructions and procedures, and logical analysis. Today’s concept work is improvisation. Learning leaders must deal with situations that aren’t in the rule book. Concept work relies on pattern recognition, tacit knowledge and the wisdom born of experience. You can’t pick this up in a classroom or workshop. Continue reading

Time is all we have

Effectiveness – Jay Cross
Published April 2008
Time Is All We Have

Networks arise when isolated entities link to one another. Improvements in communications technology (e.g., the invention of language, writing, printing, mass communication, computer networks) encourage connections. The denser its linkages, the shorter a network’s cycle time. Speed begets speed.

The connections that knit us together make us interdependent. Because other members of the network impact what you do, you lose even the illusion of control. The future becomes unpredictable.

Factory workers once were paid for what they produced. In a mechanized system, the slowest worker produced only slightly less than the fastest. If workers produced one widget an hour, paying by the hour was equivalent to paying by the widget. It also was simpler to measure. Managers became accustomed to equating time with production.

For the knowledge worker, time on the job often is unrelated to output. Google’s recruiters figure that an exemplary engineer can create 200 times more value than an average engineer. Only a fool would think it fair to pay each by the hour.

Visualize the workflow of a physical job: produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce.

Now visualize the workflow of a creative knowledge worker: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, flash of brilliance, nothing, nothing, nothing.

That single moment of brilliance may be more valuable than years of production. The flash occurs in Internet time. A year of Internet time is roughly equivalent to seven years of calendar time. The term came into being because in its first year, Netscape was said to accomplish what had taken others at least seven years. (The firm has since imploded at an accelerated pace as well.) Internet time is a generalization, like a New York minute, the idea being that it’s faster than regular time.

A businessperson with a watch knows what time it is, but a businessperson with two watches does not. Most managers tell time with Industrial Age watches, acting as if Internet time does not exist and missing the prospects it offers.

Opportunities abound because the world now moves on ideas instead of things. Value has migrated from tangible assets you could see and touch to intangible assets such as ideas, relationships, patterns and reputation. Twenty-five years ago, intangible assets accounted for less than a third of the valuation of U.S. companies. Ten years later, more than 80 percent of that value was intangible.

In the world of intangibles, quality trumps quantity. You can build a relationship or develop an idea in a fraction of the time it took to build a factory. Furthermore, some efforts yield outsized rewards. As in nature, for every action, there may be an unequal and totally unexpected reaction. The butterfly that flaps its wings in the Amazon is perhaps the catalyst for Hurricane Katrina. An algorithm might give birth to the 17th most valuable company on the Fortune 500.

Chief learning officers consider themselves enlightened if they provide workers with a month of training per year. This would have been generous when the pace of business allowed for three-martini lunches and the nature of work rarely changed. Today, everyone is busy nearly every waking moment, they figure things out on their own, and they deal with increasingly complex situations. Routine tasks crowd out reflection and innovation.

Today’s managers have scenarios and possibilities, not single-track plans. This calls for new models. Some creative workers would produce more value were they required to dedicate 11 months of the year to learning and one month to innovation and decision making. Meta-learning and flexible infrastructure are becoming more important than individual topics. “Learning to be” will supplant “learning to know.”

At the dawn of the network age, managers enjoyed the luxury of annual planning. They communicated the firm’s goals to the training department, which in turn translated those goals into workshops, learning management systems and so forth. Back then, the past resembled the future closely enough that driving by the rearview mirror was feasible. Today’s rapid changes require very responsive driving skills. The road is being built a little of the way ahead, and it could take a turn we don’t expect.

Related: Internet Time’s page on Time

Time Is Money

Chief Learning Officer, April 2010

Time Matters

The sooner workers are productive, the larger their contribution to the organization. This makes time-to-performance, the amount of time required to begin performing at target levels, a vital metric. Here’s an example.

At the end of the last century, Sun Microsystems was a high-flier in the workstation business. Sun was bringing 120 new salespeople a month to a one-week immersion course in Santa Clara. The new hires went through briefings on equipment, applications, competition, Sun, and more. Undoubtedly, most of this gusher of information pouring in one ear and out the other. Fifteen months later, the graduates were selling at quota: $5 million/year.

Sun’s most vigorous competitors in the workstation market, IBM and Hewlett Packard, were training new sales reps for eight and six weeks respectively. Couldn’t Sun provide at least one more week of sales training? asked a maverick in Sun’s sales training apparatus. No, replied the managers of the sales force. They said they needed the new people in the field. Otherwise, revenue would drop.

The maverick, let’s call him Jerry, promised not to take the new recruits out of the field but asked if he could have the budget it would have taken to keep them in Santa Clara an additional week? The sales managers okayed the request, and Jerry set to work assembling a supplemental, non-residential sales training experience.

Instead of coming to Santa Clara cold, new hires would henceforth take eLearning to get up to speed on hardware and specs. Passing a pre-test was the ticket of admission to the on-site program at corporate headquarters.

Since they had already mastered the explicit aspects of the job, the week in Santa Clara was refocused on a case study that got the recruits working together with the same people they would need to coordinate with when in the field. More time was set aside for motivational meetings with such enthusiasts as CEO and founder Scott McNealy and hard-charging President Ed Zander.

The recruits also learned the ins and outs of Sun’s brand new sales information system and were certified as trainers on the new system. The newbies became the go-to people for experienced salespeople in their branch offices who needed to use the system. Veteran sales people had little choice but to interact with the new hires.

The program was a success. Nine months were shaved off the time-to-performance. New hires were selling at quota level in six months instead of fifteen!

The financial impact was astounding. Consider: 120 new hires/month = 1,440 new hires a year who on average were selling at $5 million/year nine months (3/4 of a year) earlier than before.

1440 sales people x 3/4 year x $5 million = $3.5 billion in incremental revenue.

Jerry ran up to Ed Zander in the parking lot to excitedly report that the new program was bringing in more that $3 billion in new sales.

Zander looked Jerry in the eye and said “No.” He explained that Sun’s equipment was the best on the market, Sun was hiring better people than IBM and HP, and besides, Zander himself was getting people charged up.

“Would you credit me with 1% of the increase?” asked Jerry. Zander said he’d attribute perhaps 3% of the revenue increase to the new program.

Not bad, said Jerry. That’s $100 million in new sales (3% x $3.5 billion).

A few lessons from this parable:

  • The returns on decreasing time-to-performance can be so huge that even the crudest measure of ROI is often enough to demonstrate merit.
  • Time-to-performance is a metric a business executive can understand and believe in.
  • Time-to-performance provides a better goal for instructional designers than merely attaining competence.
  • Performance takes motivation, comfort, and sometimes courage as well as knowledge. The time-to-performance metric takes this into account.

Executives want execution, not learning. They want action, not knowledge. It’s unacceptable for a worker to know something but do nothing. Action is what counts.

The sooner workers are productive, the more profitable their enterprise. This makes time-to-performance, the amount of time required to begin performing at target levels, a vital metric.

Training Technology in Action Awards Ceremony


Bryan Chapman and Julie Groshens presided over Training magaine’s Technology in Action Awards Ceremony.

Brian Chapman

Julie Groshens

Here’s an interview with a guy at DoD who qualifies for one of my Slam-Dunk-ROI awards. They cut delivery cost from $300/learning to $4! The cost for developing a course-hour of instruction fell from $34,000 to $10,000. In year one, the program saved the U.S. Joint Forces Command > $50 million! Wow!

Find more videos like this on Internet Time

Some friends and I drifted into the awards ceremony last night after dinner, attracted by the promise of complimentary vino. Once in the room, I realized that I had been one of the judges for this competition. (It’s easy to forget stuff like this when you do it for free). In fact, I was the only judge who showed up. Also, the folks I voted for didn’t win. I don’t plan to volunteer for this one again.

Sounds of Training 2007, take two

The Soundbites of Training 2007
(second attempt)



Nanocasts are mini-podcasts are

  • one to four minutes in length
  • impromptui, not reheased
  • cut to the chase

These are from Training 2007.


My recorder is a Casio Exilim camera. It’s an amazing gizmo. Tiny. Thin. And can record an hour of video.

Nanocast with Frank Russell, GEO Learning

GeoLearning picked up the tab for Roger McGuinn.  

Nanocast with Bjorn Brillhardt, Enspire Learning

Bjorn’s on the right. I’ve watched him grow Enspire from five guys working out of a house to a 50+ employee simulation powerhouse.

Nanocast with Howard Siebel, Veotag

Nanocast with Tony O’Driscoll, IBM

Altus Learning Systems


O’Driscoll Castle. I couldn’t find a good photo of Tony.

Nanocast with Harvey Singh, Instancy

Training Growth Strategies, April 24-25, Cary, North Carolina

He looks better in person.

Do you think there’s a future for Nanocasting? Leave a comment.

You can learn to be a star performer

What differentiates star performers from their run-of-the-mill colleagues? It’s not smarts, creativity, or ambition.

Carnegie Mellon’s Robert E. Kelley spent ten years looking for the differences and found that stars are made, not born.

A nebbish can evolve into a star. What distinguishes stars are the strategies they use to do their work and to work effectively with others — strategies that allow them to double their productivity improvement rates while working less.

Continue reading