Monterey Car Week

Thursday morning we arrived at Ocean Avenue in Carmel just in time to catch the arrival of the cars in the Tour d’Elegance. These cars, that would participate in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, had driven from Monterey to Big Sur and back through Carmel where they park for a couple of hours to enable people to gawk. 

Carmel Tour d'Elegance

Carmel Tour d'Elegance

This fantastic array of cars included antiques such as Mercer, Stutz, Pope, Auburn, HIspano-Suiza, ancient Rolls-Royces, lots of Ferraris, blower Bentleys, Cunningham LeMans cars, Jags, Porsche Spyders, Alfa-Romeo race cars, and more. I walked among these beauties, talking with the occasional owner who wasn’t having lunch provided by the city of Carmel.

Carmel Tour d'Elegance

Carmel Tour d'Elegance

Carmel Tour d'EleganceI’d visited the event before. Six years ago we rented a cottage in Carmel for the month of August that was only five blocks from the Tour route. Things have changed. This year’s Tour was overwhelmed with people. Too many of them. Weaving one’s way among the cars felt like being in the crowd leaving the stadium after a popular baseball game. The Concours de Carmel, two days earlier, is less crowded and lasts all day.  Concours d'Elegance

The streets of Carmel, well, they’re really lanes, are a show in themselves. Every other car is a Maserati, Lambo, or custom Porsche. Ferraris are so commonplace you get tired of them. I was sitting in a wine bar yesterday. Up pulled two McLarens, one  chartreuse right down to its wheels, the other an eye-popping neon lime green. To the front and read were custom Ferraris.

Across the street, I talked with the owner of a Lambo Countach, his third Lamborghini. He’s driven the Countach 165 but usually tools along at 120. “Feels like 60 in a regular car,” he told me.

Carmel Tour d'EleganceThat evening we tried to get into the Baja Cantina, a Mexican restaurant covered floor to ceiling in automotive memorabilia. Thousands of other people had the same idea. They parked on the highway up to a 1/4 mile away. The wait time for a table was three hours. The patio had a live band and shoulder-to-shoulder car enthusiasts. We bailed and had a great dinner at Cafe Rustica in Carmel Valley.  Monterey Car WeekEvery year sees new events. The Concorso Italiano and the Ferrari meet-up at the Barnyard Shopping Center are old timers. There’s also a fancy invitation-only show at the airport, The Motorsports Gathering at the Quail, Legends of the Autobahn, a Porsche-only show, and my favorite, the Concours deLemons, a show dedicated to automotive failures and oddities (Pinto with license plate Ka-boom!) Throw in half a dozen major auto auctions and countless private events.

This is the largest gathering of exotic cars in the world. People are talkative during Car Week. All share the lingua franca of automobiles. I’m generally reserved, but I talked with more than 100 folks in four days.

Friday we drove to Laguna Seca Raceway for the Rolex Motorsports antique car races. We walked into the paddocks, where six lanes of cars were being prepped to race. A couple of Bugatti 47s drove by, almost clipping us, on their way to the track. Then minutes later, we saw them racing. Laguna Seca  Laguna SecaThe noise made by a Ford muscle car or a Lola is unbelievably loud, especially if it sneaks up behind you and revs the motor instead of honking the horn to get you out of the way. I took out my hearing aids but the roar was still one of the loudest things I’ve heard in my life.   Watching race cars from the 50s and 60s is a gas, made even more pleasant by the margaritas and beer that are for sale on both side of the track. We came home dusty and sunburned; the races are fun but one day (of three) was enough. RetroAuto

RetroAutoSaturday we drove along the 17 Mile Drive (free if you’re doing something related to Car Week) to the Inn at Spanish Bay. I picked up my Pebble Beach tickets at Will Call. The Inn is host to the free Retro Auto show, a group of vendors selling books, posters, models, car literature, neon signs, and event clothing. Out front was a beautiful custom Delahay and a gigantic Bentley convertible. The driver started up the Bentley for me to hear. He drives it daily. He gets 6 to 9 miles per gallon “but I’ve got a 50 gallon tank,” he said. Laguna Seca

Laguna SecaI registered to bid in the Rick Cole auction, one of two remaining auctions with free admission. Convince them you’re a potential buyer and you get a pass. On the second floor of the Marriott was a showroom containing a beautiful red Maserati race car from the late 50s, a 300SL, a Delahay, numerous Ferraris and Lambos, comfortable seating, and an open bar.

We didn’t make it to the other freebie, the Mecum Auction at the Monterrey Hyatt, where you can wander among hundreds of cars ready to go on the block.

Sunday I put on my blue seersucker suit and a flashy yellow tie and boarded a shuttle bus from Carmel to Pebble Beach for the capstone event, the Concours d’Elegance. Twenty thousand people joined me there on the 18th hole green of the Pebble Beach golf course. We’d each paid $300 to ogle two hundred incomparable cars. Concours d'Elegance Jay Leno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sterling Moss were in attendance but I didn’t see them. The weather was perfect, as it had been for our entire stay (this area is notorious for morning fog but we had none of it for four full days.)   Concours d'EleganceI began with the Duponts. I had never heard of the marque, so I asked a well-dressed fellow in a blue blazer and straw hat what the story was. Turns out I was talking with Peter Dupont. He explained that the cars were manufactured in Philadelphia at the beginning of the century. He owns three of them. Custom bodied, usually with a hood ornament of Lalique crystal. Amazing cars. Up next, a row of Dusenbergs and then historic cars from an Italian body maker. After a while, I came to a dozen Ferraris that had competed in the original Tour d’Elegance three decades ago; they all looked brand new. Monterey Car Week

Concours d'EleganceOn it went, past a half-dozen SS coupes (SS became Jaguar when the Nazis came to power with their SS, the Schutzstaffel.Schutzstaffel_SS.svg).  Invictas (I’d never heard of them.) The 300 SLR Mercedes in which Sterling Moss won the Mille Miglia in 1955. A gigantic Renault that was a gift to the president of Bolivia from the president of France; the fellow I was talking with brought it from La Paz. Three Cunningham LeMans cars. A Stutz Bearcat.  A Fiat Abarth that came in third in the competition that afternoon. A Moon. A gaggle of Alfa race cars. A rank of vintage Rolls Royces. So many cars, any one of which would draw a crowd under normal circumstances. Concours d'Elegance

Concours d'Elegance

Concours d'Elegance

Concours d'EleganceI bought a plastic flute of Moët Imperial for $25 to whet my whistle and went back to revisit my favorite cars. It was sunny and warm and after three hours, I was totally carred out. I walked out past the temporary exhibit halls of KIA, Tesla, Lexus, and Cadillac and caught the shuttle back to Carmel.

That evening, Uta and I headed back to the Baja Cantina, parked next to a gigantic Rolls from Ontario, and got a seat immediately. We pigged out on Mexican food and margaritas.

When we got rolling Monday morning, the party was over. No more traffic jams in which half the vehicles were Italian exotics. Everyone had packed up and left. Car Week 2015 was over.

Photographs of the cars are at

We drove back to San Francisco via Highway 1 past fields of Brussels sprouts, artichokes, peas, strawberries and pumpkins. Ended up in Sebastopol to pick up the dogs and headed home. Monterey Car Week

Monterey Car Week

Imagining the internet. It’s what futurists do.

The 2014 Survey: Impacts of AI and robotics by 2025

A very good read. Opinions from all the hot shots. VInt Cerf, Jerry Michalski, Ben Schneiderman, Hal Varian, Howard Rheingold, Tiffany Shlain, Stowe Boyd, JP Rangaswami, John Markoff, danah boyd, Doc Searles, and more.

My contribution was chopped to three sentences:

Jay Cross, chief scientist at Internet Time Group, responded, “The nature of work will change. Heaven only knows what comes after the service economy but it won’t be mass unemployment. Perhaps finally people will only need to work a few hours a day.”


Free form for self assessment and career development


Goals provide the motivation for self-directed learning. Writing down career goals makes it more likely you will attain them.

Participants in The Aha! Project asked for a structured way to go about self-assessment and goal-setting.

We developed this Learning Plan template to lead them through the process. Feel free to use it. If you have feedback, we’ll be glad to hear it.form

Learning Plan Template in pdf  |  Learning Plan Template in MS Word

Conferences can be better, a whole lot better


The conference business is booming yet every participant has some major gripe about the way conferences are run. We all think we know better. It goes with the territory.

In the beginning of the year, I looked into the future of conferences. Would they go the way of record stores and newspapers?

I concluded that:

Flipping conference presentations can vastly improve learning outcomes.

Community First! Events should focus on nurturing the L&D community of practice before content.

Many Next Practices for conferences (I’ve listed 30) are not difficult to implement.

Asked what brings them to events, nearly everyone replies “face to face.” People attend events to be with other people, to rub shoulders with colleagues from other organizations and with industry spokespeople and gurus. The cliché is that you learn more in the hallways than in the classrooms. As in the workplace, informal learning at conferences has more impact than formal learning.

The Flipped Conference session differs from the Flipped Classroom in that content delivery takes place at the conference, not before. However, presentation time is greatly condensed and is delivered in a 10-minute Ignite session up front. As with the Flipped Classroom, the bulk of face-to-face time is spent on discussion and contextualizing the lessons


The traditional building block of formal learning at conferences is a session. A typical breakout session is 45 minutes to an hour long. The session leader chooses the topic and presents a point of view (there’s a reason they call it PowerPoint) for the bulk of the session. This is an overdose of content. Most people’s attention wanders after ten or fifteen minutes. The bulk of the message falls on deaf ears.

After ten to fifteen minutes, we tune out the message. Between minute 15 and minute 50, I might as well be asleep. That’s 35 wasted minutes.

Flipping the session allocates a majority of the time to participatory events.


Next Practices for L&D Conferences

Here is a dog’s breakfast of suggestions for improving the effectiveness of conferences.

Before the Event

Provide a generic ROI proposal for attending to send to the boss, saving people the time of working out the value to be extracted from the event.

See who’s coming and set up appointments in advance.

Participants should have expectations and set explicit objectives for the event.

During the event

Encourage social networking. Announce a Twitter hashtag and encourage people to Tweet. It’s a great way to tap into the pulse of an event and to find what’s going on.

During sessions, use Twitter to gather questions and make comments. Tweeting among participants spark reflection about what’s gong on. Perhaps make the Twitter feed visible on a separate screen in presentation rooms.

After the conference

Visit the backchannel to attend a conference virtually, get to know people before the event, or catch what you did not have time to visit.

Get rid of happy sheets. One’s reaction immediately after an event says nothing about their long-term gain.

Conference goal: co-learning. Taking the message back home. Make this mandatory. Conference ends with plan for distributing ideas back to home organization and team.


Business is good. Attendance at the events I examined (eLearning Guild, Masie, Training, ATD, Learning & Technology, Educa) is rising.

John Seely Brown says every business model will be disrupted. Nonetheless, my gut tells me that L&D Conferences are here to stay for at least the next five years and perhaps infinitum.

The 20-page research report is here.

Two types of knowledge


Explicit Knowledge

#1 is explicit knowledge. By definition, explicit knowledge can be captured in words. It’s the facts. Answers on Jeopardy. Tree/false tests.

Retention of explicit knowledge is easily measured and graded and for that reason it’s where tests focus, over-simplified or not. We grade recent recall, but people have forgotten 90% of what they learned before they have the opportunity to apply it.

A wide variety of jobs rely on the look-up, transfer, and interpretation of explicit knowledge. They are being replaced by algorithms. This is not where you’ll create value in the future; that takes a human touch. Don’t get into a battle with robots; they’re always faster.

Some people (managers, consultants, teachers) mistakenly think that learning explicit knowledge is all there is to it because facts are the focus of schooling. A Silicon Valley engineer once told me that tacit knowledge was simply “the stuff we haven’t figured out how to put into words or an algorithm.” The poor fellow didn’t appreciate the richness of life or the fact that somethings are too awesome or complex to ever be reduced to words.

Tacit Knowledge

#2 is tacit knowledge. It’s about really doing it. It’s what separates a chef from a home cook following recipes. Tacit knowledge can’t be captured in a book. It calls forth judgments, emotions, and complexities that you only absorb through experience. Tacit knowledge doesn’t simply inform you, it makes you a better person.

The basic difference is that explicit knowledge adds to what you know. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, transforms your identity. For example, you can know a lot about cooking but until you have tacit knowledge, you can’t call yourself a chef. It’s learning to know versus learning to be.

Take the phase “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” It’s untrue. People manage what they can’t measure all the time. The higher you go in a hierarchy, the more likely you have to make decisions on the basis of incomplete information. You have to make judgment calls. You have to trust your gut feel because there are no measurements to go on. We reward senior managers highly because they have the confidence and wisdom to wing it when logic and explicit knowledge don’t provide the answers.

New York Times columnist David Brooks talks of two different sorts of personal virtues. There’s “resumé knowledge” what you know, primarily explicit knowledge. More important is “eulogy knowledge” what you’d like said at your funeral, and it’s primarily tacit. Brooks concludes “wonderful people are made, not born — the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.” It doesn’t get more tacit than that.

The Right Stuff

Aha! focuses on acquiring tacit knowledge from experience and conversation. It accentuates what makes us human. Challenge. Variety. Growth. Relationship-building. Judgment. Complexity. Human skills. This is where value is created. Expanding your experience is the way to get there. 

Change your work to include what you want to know and become. Whatever it takes in your organization, do something about it. Don’t let yourself stagnate. What’s good for you and good for them? Aha! shows you how to get there.

Get your copy of Aha! (in beta) for $2.99 here.

The role of tacit and explicit knowledge in the workplace by Elizabeth A. Smith

Don’t Smoke

Don’t Smoke.

A friend confided she’s taken up smoking again.

Whoa! Full stop! Nicotine is a mind-altering trickster. It will kill you. Painfully. The short-term buzz is not worth the long-term consequences.

I gave it up 30 years ago after 20 years of Luckies, Camels, Gaulois, and worse. Here’s my Journal‘s notice of the day I quit.

Don’t smoke.

Serendipity, Push Learning in action

Bank branch in Scotland. Staff Training



“Learning is the work.” You shouldn’t stop work for training. It’s better to integrate the two. Work as you learn.  Learn as you work.

This is “Push” training, studying what someone else tells you to learn.

I didn’t notice the Push sign on the door until after taking the photo.

In the reflection, you can see me taking the shot.

Future of Education 2020 Summit

mastheadcollegesiloAt a Stanford education conference this morning, speakers made presentation after presentation without once involving the audience, not even asking for questions. For the first couple of hours there was zero audience participation. Finally, following a panel session, we were invited to stand at a microphone if we had questions. Naturally, I was first in line.

I explained that I came to this event as an outsider. I am not an academic. In fact, my corporate title is “Chief Unlearning Officer.” A speaker had mentioned silos, referring to departments at schools. I said I felt like I was in a college silo. It’s as if the world outside didn’t exist.

Take STEM (Science, tech, engineering, math). All of these folks are vitally interested in STEM. After all, that’s what the Gates Foundation, the NSF, and the other benefactors are paying them hundreds of millions to produce. I said I don’t get it. The shelf life of STEM knowledge is about the same as for French mustard, several years. After that, the mustard begins to smell funny and the STEM knowledge is obsolete.

I didn’t mention my suspicion that STEM dumbs down education. It’s explicit knowledge. Life’s grand lessons are largely tacit. Besides, isn’t STEM often the algorithmic knowledge that robots are going to being doing in a few years? When that happens, lots of STEM grads may find themselves in the position of John Henry, the steel-drivin’ man. Nobody here was talking about liberal arts and continuing the culture.

Consider the role of STEM education in someone’s career arc. A career is a marathon. College teaches people to run the first 100 yards. Running the rest of the race is the individual’s problem.

“But we are working with industry,” replied the panel. Oh yeah? People have been touting big data as the ultimate quality control and planning tool in education. Are any of you looking at big data on people outside your walls? Correlating education with what happens after graduation? No; it’s a closed system.

Big data can help Arizona State University refine their algebra course to near perfection, but unless they go off campus to look at the world of work, no data will tell them whether algebra is worth studying at all. (I love Roger Schank’s putdown of the quadratic equation. When’s the last time you had to solve for AX2 + BX +C = 0?)

How’s the water?

It was troubling to hear one person after another lecture about learning more about how people learn whlle violating most of the principles we already know. Aside from the Push format, problems included no hashtag, no Tweeting, no backchannel, no power outlets, inoperable wi-fi (for me, at least), slow wi-fi at the podium cut several presentations short, weak visuals overall, and no encouragement to network online (although many probably already know one another). I don’t know how someone as astute at Peter Norvig could sit through an entire day of this stuff.

A few highlights. The president of Capella talked of converting their curriculum to competencies. Competencies can be counted up after the fact to give credit for courses. I suggested he wasn’t going for enough. Who needs courses? He wisely pointed out that accrediting bodies have a fixed mindset on this one.

Arizona State has put an entire first year curriculum on line. For free. Pass a course, no matter how many tries it takes, and you can pay a fee for credits. He sees no reason the entire four years shouldn’t go online this way. (And the guy from Capella suggested that as in the UK, we could probably have three-year bachelor degrees without losing that much.)

True to form, the LMS vendor supporting the show twisted the definition of “informal learning” so it could claim to have some:


What’s informal about purpose-built content? Most people probably missed this because next up was a hip-hop singer who claimed to be a customer of the LMS (he lists his tracks there). Naturally, he had put together a song for us. As he began his incomprehensible lyric, the batteries on my hearing aids ran out and I bailed out from the event.

The other attendees seemed quite satisfied, even impressed. “Brilliant presentations.” I guess events like this are de rigueur.

The Stanford campus is beautiful, the weather cooperated perfectly, and nobody was keeping score.


Through the Workscape Looking Glass

Your Workscape is everything in your organization except the training department. It’s where work is done and where people hone the skills they need to add value. It’s the biggest frame of the big picture. It’s relationships and culture and secret sauce. It’s the organization as organism. To prosper, you need to nurture it, plant seeds, pamper the ground. It’s your job to help the system thrive.

Learning Ecosystem, Learning Ecology, and Learnscape mean the same thing as Workscape. I don’t use the word learn with executives, who inevitably think back to the awfulness of school and close their ears. “Let’s talk about performance.” 


The Workscape is a systems-eye view of the workplace. Everything is connected. Rather than try to control nature, we do what it takes to keep the environment thriving.

In the same vein, I talk about Working Smarter instead of informal learning, social learning, and so forth. Some people denigrate informal learning but nobody’s against Working Smarter.

Your organization already has a workscape where people are learning to work smarter. That’s where all the informal and social learning we hear about is taking place. The problem is that the learning processes are haphazard, often a paving of the cow paths. Many employees and stakeholders miss out—and stumble. Most companies’ systems fail to get the job done. Our Workscape ecologies are entering a do-or-die phase like global warming. Management is demanding that the workforce be more effective. “What got us here will not get us there.” We must nurture the Workscape or face corporate meltdown.

Global warming signals in Workscapes

clarkWe hear that if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” yet most corporate learning and development is broken. 77% of the senior managers surveyed by the Corporate Leadership Council reported they were dissatisfied with L&D. 76% said L&D was not critical to business outcomes. Only 14% would recommend working with L&D. Clark Quinn’s recent book, Revolutionizing Learning and Development, slams L&D, which should be named Performance and Development, for seriously underperforming.    

Time is speeding up. More happens in a day than your grandmother experienced in a week. Keeping sharp and up to date is now a continuing part of everyone’s job. Corporate learning must expand from focusing on the classroom, which provides at best 10% of learning, to the entire organization  where learning while doing is the rule. Training a novice may lead to  productivity gains in the future. Helping an experienced person impacts the bottom line immediately. Little wonder that the training department is underperforming: they only touch a minority of employees, most of them newcomers.

transformationAs many as four out of five large multinationals report they are undergoing a digital transformation. It goes by many names, from Enterprise 2.0 to Radical Management or simply Going Paperless. Altimeter Group defines digital transformation as: “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”* The digital transformation of workplace learning involves moving from the limited training department to the holistic Workscape framework view of the world.

The input may be establishing social learning networks; the output is improvement in the business overall.

Scope of the habitat

Put on your ecologist hat. Let’s examine the diversity of species among those people in your Workscape drawing paychecks:

Novices and newbies have been the main focus of training. This includes new hire on-boarding and provision of basic and technical skills (we’re all novices at something). This minority uses a disproportionate share of the training department’s resources and mindshare.

Experienced producers bring home the bacon yet training departments overlook them. Training departments have single-shot solutions: courses. Courses are rarely appropriate for experienced workers. Many old hands will not tolerate them nor learn from them if they do. They know that experience is a better teacher. Tuning the learning environment to make systemic changes for this underserved population has fantastic upside potential, perhaps enough to get CLOs a real seat at table in the C-Suite.

Top performers are the 20% of the team that generate 80% of the results. A 1% improvement at this level makes waves. This species needs special handling, sometimes including personal service.

Compliance is a red herring that people point to when discussing how deep “training” goes into the organization. However, compliance is not learning. Sure, it’s required, but no body’s expecting much performance improvement in the area, particularly in its present primitive form.

Alumni are an overlooked opportunity in many organizations. IBM invested in keeping former IBMers abreast of what was going on back at Big Blue. The alumni connected over social media and saw demos in Second Life. The result? An on-going flow of leads from true-believers and those who contract with IBM.

Subspecies. L&D has traditionally focused on the needs of employees on the payroll exclusively, disregarding the fact that partners, customers, subcontractors, temps, service agencies, outsourcers, suppliers, and others are equally part of the value chain. Take the Workscape view. Let’s go up to a balcony overlooking a model of your business. Look at the flow of business. You can see that the product is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. Think carefully about who you want to be co-learning with.


The Workscape should address the needs of learners throughout the extended enterprise.

Theoretically, your Workscape — the realm where you’ll be wielding your influence on performance and learning — could stretch way beyond your firewall to include nearly everyone the organization interacts with. Imagine how much cooperation will improve if they all read from the same page.

Reading the temperature

The climate for Workscapes is changing, forcing a re-think of how things are connected.

Decision-making is migrating from institution to individual, from training to pull learning, and shifts “power to the people.” This is how digital transformation works: digital democracy first. Digital citizens exploit connections and take power. Making the shift is an enormous change management task.

Informal, experiential work is three times more effective than formal, top-down training. Experiential earning is migrating into the workflow at a very fast rate. Spread the footprint of the Workscape to the optimal size.

Workscapes are complex and unpredictable, in perpetual beta. Experiments are cheap. Plant lots (hundreds, thousands) of Workscape experiments and nurture those that catch on. Watch out for monoculture (using only one solution) and the echo effect (making judgments from a narrow spectrum of reality).

Nurturing the Workscape requires competencies such as business problem analysis, collaboration experts, community managers, and moxie. I foresee learning process SWAT teams attacking connection gaps. You don’t have these people on board now.

Forget about the traditional way you’ve trained people. Unlearn your assumptions about courses and top-down learning. Break with the present by looking ahead five years. Start with a blank piece of paper. Take a Workscape perspective. Assess the organizational benefits of:

  • embedding learning in work, covering a much larger audience
  • setting up learning as a continuous activity, not an event
  • leveraging self-sustaining processes instead of one-time courses
  • pinpointing high-return activities such as manager coaching
  • embracing social and experiential learning
  • changing the learning philosophy from push to pull
  • employing business metrics to gauge success
  • canvasing the organization for opportunities instead of waiting for requests
  • focusing on overall business outcomes
  • building self-sufficient teams
  • extending the Workscape to cover partners, customers, and outsourced services
  • making learning a driver with business impact

The learning conservationist toolkit

L&D’s collaboration experts and SWAT teams are digital MacGyvers who weave techniques like these into Workscapes:

Make Management responsible for development

  • Issue stretch assignments to grow staff
  • Mentors, coaching
  • Action learning

Personal Learning Network

  • Collaboration and cooperation
  • Friends and colleagues provide answers
  • Peer learning

Performance support

  • Job aids, bookmarks,
  • FAQs, aggregation, curation

Access to information

  • Wiki, inhouse YouTube, internet
  • Self-study catalog, portals

Enterprise social network

  • Activity stream keeps one up to date
  • Platform for conversation
  • Opportunity to share knowledge

Communities of Practice

  • Professional growth
  • Knowledge repository
  • Create knowledge


  • Individual publishing (Learn out loud!)
  • Follow thinking of others

Social learning

  • Make conversation easy
  • Collaboration


  • DIY

Performance feedback

  • Is it working? How can we do better?


  • Learning in tiny bites

Instead of taking requests, the traditional role of training departments, learning conservationists actively seek out opportunities where learning will have the most impact.

One group of L&D special agents posted this set of beliefs to explain how it worked to its internal clients:

  • We are open and transparent.
  • We narrate our work. Need to share.
  • We support continuous learning, not events.
  • We value conversation as a learning vehicle.
  • We drink our own champagne (or mimosas).
  • Business success is our bottom line.
  • We are not a training organization.
  • We value time for self-development and reflection.
  • We establish business metrics for every engagement and report back publicly on outcomes.


Changing the physical environment can improve learning.

The staff will use any tool available to improve learning, right down to moving the furniture. A computer manufacturer discovered that its chip designers learned from overhearing conversations among their peers. They replaced a cube farm with comfortable sofas, rolling white boards, and espresso machines — and watched the production of innovative ideas skyrocket.

Environmental impact report

In a 2011 book, A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown described the kind of learning necessary in this new environment as “whitewater learning”—the ability to acquire useful knowledge and skills while at the same time practicing them in an environment that is constantly evolving and presenting new challenges. They argue that our learning environments need to match the speed and degree of change happening in the world around us.**

The emancipation of both nature and the human imagination depends first on the capacity to ‘unsay’ the world and, second, on the ability to image it differently so that wonder might be brought into appearance.***

Over a hundred CLOs told us what they were currently doing was insufficient to prepare them to deal with the future needs of the business. Obviously it’s time to do something different.

Our People Growing Fast Enough

One way to accelerate people’s development is to optimize learning by looking at the organization as an organic, unpredictable, complex system. It’s time to fix the big picture by working on the level of the Workscape.


*Digital transformation by any other name, Jason Bloomberg in Forbes

**Aspen Institute, The Learning Ecosystem

*** James Corner, “Ecology and Landscape as Agents of Creativity,” in Ecological design and planning, George F. Thompson and Frederick R. Steiner, editors, (New York: John Wiley, 1997), p.99. quoted in Design Education and Innovation Ecotones by Ann Pendleton-Julian


Research funded by Litmos