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.
I’m soundly convinced that Learning Platforms are crowding out Learning Programs. This is an inevitable part of moving from Stocks to Flows, from Push to Pull, from institutional control to personal freedom, and from rigid industrialism to flexible, more human work environments. Focus on improving the learning ecology rather than tackle one event at a time.
“Learning in advance” doesn’t work in a realtime world, so learning and work have converged. Learning is simply an aspect of getting the job done. Learning new things — sometimes by inventing them — is an obligation of corporate citizens. Most of this learning takes place in the workplace. The learning platform is the organization itself, not some separate entity.
I call these learning aspects of an organization its Workscape. A Workscape is a metaphorical space. The Workscape can include the water cooler, the Friday beer bust, the conversation nook at the office, wi-fi in the cafeteria, the enterprise culture, in-house communications, access to information, cultural norms around sharing and disclosure, tolerance for nonconformity, risk aversion, organizational structure, worker autonomy, and virtually any aspect of the company that can be tweaked to enable people to Work Smarter.
This afternoon I’ve been trying to come up with next practices for Workscapes in general. What are the design principles for optimal workscapes? What aspects of good learning should migrate into the Workscape. A starter list:
I’ll keep building the list but I’m hungry for more. I don’t want to get caught thinking small. What other aspects of sustaining the organization should be here?
Most of the value of organizations derives from Social Capital. (See my post Measure what’s important.) Were you able to deconstruct an organization into molecules of social capital, you’d have:
Thus far, my list deals with only human capital. Help me think through the role of the Workscape in leveraging relationship capital and structural capital as well.
A Google+ Hangout with Craig Wiggings, Charles Jennings, Enzo Silva, Pascal le Rudulier, Clark Quinn, and Jay Cross.
Join the Learning in Organizations Community on Google+
The Twenty-First Century Corporation
Businesses around the world are transforming into extended enterprise networks but their training departments are stuck in the previous century. In the pursuit of trying to ﬁx what’s broken, let’s imagine what ideal corporate learning would look like if we could start over from scratch.
In the 1800s and 1900s, successful companies ran like well-oiled machines. Workers were mere cogs in those machines. The people were interchangeable parts. Companies paid them to follow instructions and do the same thing over and over again.
Workers have since replaced machines as the primary means of creating value. Companies rely on them to solve problems, delight customers, and stay ahead of the game. They are what make a business go and grow. A company’s market value echoes the ingenuity, know-how and reputation of its people.
Twenty-ﬁrst century employees have to do complex, unpredictable work. They have to keep up with a torrent of new products and services, not just their own but also their competitors’. They have to stay sharp in a
world that’s going ever faster. They have to grapple with a barrage of new information and demands on their time. Continuous learning is the only way they can keep up. Their work has become learning, and learning is the bulk of their work.
And, on top of this, technology has connected the world, making it possible to connect with just about anyone, anytime, anywhere. The ease of sharing of information has lead to a cultural phenomenon, which relates to our topic at hand; people are used to being able to get the answers to their questions – to learn – of their own accord through
research and conversation. But this way of learning – autonomous searching and social collaboration – has not yet been reﬂected in corporate learning, demonstrating that corporate learning has fallen behind.
To keep things simple in our following exploration of how corporate learning needs to change, let’s call the industrial-age (old school) companies Hierarchical and the network-era (2012) companies Collaborative. Control in Hierarchical companies resides at the top. Orders and instructions are pushed down through the organization. Control in Collaborative companies is distributed throughout the organizations. Workers and supervisors have a large say in what they do and they pull in the resources they need for themselves.
So, imagine the training department just disappeared because our organization has shifted from Hierarchical to Collaborative, and learning has become everyone’s business.
Where should we focus to improve learning? It’s a matter of people and infrastructure. Those will be the topics of my next posts on this subject.
Three-minute video explains why old approaches to learning and development no longer work.
Participants at Educa are enthusiastic:
You can watch a longer version of the party video here. When did you last see this enthusiastic a group of learning professionals?
Six of the Business Educa track sessions in Berlin were streamed and recorded:
Tony O’Driscoll was up at 5:00 am to present his thoughts on learning in 3D from North Carolina. The Tech Staff do not recognize that Macs exist and did not have the right cable to bring in the Skype session. Here is my implementation hack. We could hear Tony clearly; seeing his face on the screen was a bit tough.
One of the joys of publishing an unbook instead of going the traditional route is putting together your own marketing campaign. We released The Working Smarter Fieldbook at the Irish Learning Showcase in Dublin.
This being Ireland, Guinness played a major role.
Several people who had read the 2009 and earlier 2010 editions of Work Smarter asked if they should read the new version. I told them yes. The Fieldbook is more than half new material. It’s 50% longer. It has many more ideas from Jane, Charles, Harold, Clark, and Jon. Readers tell me it’s a more practical book.
Co-author Jane Hart and I introduced the book at the formal Irish Learning Showcase. Interactive Services purchased books for everyone in attendance.
Co-author Charles Jennings joined me the next day for celebrations at the Guinness Storehouse.
Sharon Kaliouby hosted the third part of the release at Dublin’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head. (Click link for cool Celtic music.)
The young woman to my left added to the festivities.
Ireland is wonderful. The Internet Time Alliance will be back.
People tell me this is worth watching. You tell me. It’s 104 minutes long. Please skip around.
Let’s talk about how we see the world on these issues. Leave a comment below.
Sources of knowhow
My class at Harvard Business School has the distinction of being the last not allowed to bring portable calculators to exams. (A Bomar 4-function calculator cost $99, a sum that kept many of us from acquiring one.) I got through by doing discounted cash now with a slide rule.
Everyone has several calculators today. They are giveaways. There’s probably one in your phone. All of which makes it irrelevant to learn long division, how to take cube roots, or logarithms. Why bother? That’s yesterday’s knowledge.
Robert Kelley at Carnegie Mellon discovered that whereas in 1986 we carried 75% of what we need to know to do our jobs in our heads, by 2006 our brains contained only about 8-10% of what we needed to know.
The rest is stored in our “outboard brains” — our laptops or, increasingly, our smart phones.
Once I had to learn most of the things required to do my job; now I need to know where to retrieve them. I search or ask people when I need to know. If I have a good network of savvy colleagues, I can ask them for advice (“social search”). “I store knowledge in my friends.” (6)
Instructional designers once only designed instruction. Now they must assess the tradeoff of putting knowledge in the worker’s head (learning) or putting it in an outboard brain (performance support). Among the options available to them:
The subtle information that cannot be pinned down in simple sentences, for example, the emotions and nuances that make or break a sale, is tougher to transfer because “’wisdom can’t be told.” (7) People acquire this implicit knowledge through observing others, collaboration, and lengthy trial and error. Like blindfolded zen archery, mastery sometimes takes years. (8)
Or course, many times we have already learned a skill through experience. Today experiential learning can be accelerated through simulation, virtual worlds, and role play.
In the increasingly complex world we inhabit, we often confront novel situations. This requires innovation, a new way of doing things. Innovation is often the result of a mash-up of ideas, for example a rule of thumb from one discipline being applied in a new context
So far, we’ve addressed motivation and content. Longer term, there’s more to it than that. In addition to learning about things, we need to become professionals.
More on the way
7 Harvard professor Charles I. Gregg. 1970. http://www.aacu.orgipeerreviewlpr-wiOSlprwi05realitycheck.cfm
8 Herrigel, E and Suzuki, D. 1953. Zen and the Art of Archery