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.
This morning I wandereded through the Abi Dhabi Mall, mostly closed since this is Friday, and Friday is the Muslim Sunday. The Rotana Beach Hotel is luxuriously appointed but the beach is a tiny strip of sand, overlooking an island that appears to be made of salt. The lobby (left in the photo) is domed.
This bulls-eye is an immense work under the dome, about 50′ over the center of the lobby.
Everything here is new. In fact, twenty-year old buildings are sometimes torn down to make way for new buildings. The present Abu Dhabi and the UAE were formed in 1971.
It is hot here. HOT. Travel books warn you not to come here in this season. Many Emiratis flee the city for homes in the hills during the hot, high-humidity months. On the flight in, I read in the International Herald-Trib that the temperature in Abu Dhabi was 115°, the hottest city listed. The rare times I go outside, I walk very slowly. My pal Curt Bonk is out running for an hour at this moment; I would die first.
42° = 108° 31° = 88°
Every Friday, his Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan invites a group to lunch at his place. Around noon today, a dozen of us presenters for the upcoming conference piled into a bus to the palace, where we joined several dozen others in the majlis, the ceremonial meeting space. The Sheikh arrived and shook hands with everyone in turn. I gave him a copy of Implementing eLearning and my forthcoming Informal History of eLearning. Shortly thereafter we filed into a banquet hall where tables were set with dozens of giant platters and a hundred smaller dishes containing tabouleh, fresh dates, hummos, sweet cakes, and more. The tradition is to set the table with more food than one can imaginably eat and give the leftovers to the poor.
My young friend here helpled me undertand what I was putting into my mouth. That’s camel with rice in front of us. Following the example of the gentlemen across the table, I tore off some meat with my right hand, keeping my left under the table.
The sheikh provided silverware, but most of us preferred to follow local custom. You grab a piece of meat and some rice, smoosh it together with your fingers, and pop it into your mouth. This complicates taking photographs, for you don’t wash off your hand until the conclusion of the meal.
Unlike the Moroccans, who wear a variety of styles and colors, the Emiratis stick to one sort of outfit.
Men wear an elegant, ankle-length white shirt called a dishdasha. (I want one of these!) Women wear a black, long-sleeved gown called a kandura; all cover their heads, most cover part of their faces, and a goodly number cover everything but their eyes.
This is a platter of goat. It was tender and falling off the bone. I had several helpings. Goat is a little gamier tasting than camel.
Waiters took our plates and returned with a portion of camel hump from the dish in front of His Excellency. The hump is the choicest part of the camel; it is tender and without fat.
This is another photo of the platter of goat, this time from directly overhead. Look about 3/4 of the way down, just right of center. Those are teeth. The white item below is the goat’s jaw. If you’re good at anatomy, you can probably pick out the outline of the entire head.
You may wonder why there are no women in these photos. It’s because none were invited. Lunch with the sheikh, like most social activities here, is a guy thing. At the Women’s College, I understand that distance-ed technology is often used by male instructors to teach a group of women in the next room.
I can’t say that I understand the sexual segregation here (not that I understand American Christianity either). Abu Dhabi is not a primitive place. Television, magazines, advertisements, and movies are jam-packed with scantily-clad, beautiful females. The women tourists are more discrete than in Southern France, but provocative none the less. How can this not overturn the fiction that socializing with the opposite sex is too tempting to handle?
After supper and a pleasant rendezvous with friends at the Meridien, just down the street, four of us trundled over to the Abu Dhabi Men’s College for Curt Bonk’s class with his grad students in Bloomington, Indiana. Since Indiana’s about eleven hours ahead of Abu Dhabi on the clock, our session went from 11:00 pm to 2:15 am our time. Paul Mace, Tayeb Kamali (director of the Men’s College), Vance Stevens, Stan Knight, Curt, and I conversed with the students over an ISDN line and PictureTel set-up. I’ll be back with photos and anecdotes but now I’m off to a late breakfast.
Capt. Bonk and sailor during The Perfect Storm
Bloomington on the left, Abh Dhabi on the right
Jay and Vance Stevens
I arrived in Abu Dhabi this evening. I left Berkeley at 8:00 am Wednesday, fly from SFO to Philly at 10:00 am, flew from Philly to London-Gatwick, and from London to Dubai. A private car took me and another speaker at e-Merging e-Learning on a 90-minute freeway ride past an incredible number of mosques and skycrapers. Thursday just became Friday here; back in Berkeley it’s still early Thursday afternoon.
The United Arab Emirates is the size of Austria. It’s on the Persian Gulf, above the straight of Hormuz, between Oman on the south and Qatar on the north. I think we flew over both Iran and Iraq to get here; I may be wrong about that. The indigenous Emiratis number less than a million, about the population of San Francisco. Expatriates from the UK, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, and a number of other countries make up the bulk of the population.
I vaguely remember when a group of small Arab states came together to form the U.A.E. about thirty years ago. Since then, this country (that sits atop 9.4% of the world’s proven oil reserves) has built an awe-inspiring collection of highways, highrise buildings, beautiful houses, irrigation systems, and more. The enlightened Sheikh Zayed constructed a gigantic port and oil accounts for less than half of the GNP. You simply have to see this place to believe it.
Wow! Access to our deepest capacity to sense and shape the future. Right up my alley. By inspiring authors, too.
Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers
Unfortunately, I’ll probably never find out how Peter and Joe predict the world may change, for they are asking $40 for the book, and that’s outside my price range for unknowns. I may still be smarting from giving up trying to get through The Fifth Discipline despite several attempts. Guess I’ll have to wait for the Presence Fieldbook.
You didn’t need a crystal ball to see this coming. Five years ago, business gurus showed us that profits come to organizations that focus on core and outsource the rest. Don’t do your own payroll; don’t take your own garbage to the landfill; don’t assemble your trucks; stick to the knitting. Outsource! (And I don’t mean “offshore” or “near-shore,” although that could be the choice.)
On Friday I talked with Chris, Sam, and Heather at Intrepid Learning Solutions. They are dropping the L-guide brand that got them started in order to pour all their energy into learning outsourcing. (They manage training for Boeing. See Brad and Heather’s presentation to Emergent Learning Forum last month to grok the dynamics of their business.) They’ve grown from 10 to 80 FTE by concentrating on outsourcing. Forming a long-term relationship takes a while: it requires the sort of trust that only experience can provide. You take baby steps (“out-tasking”) to begin with. As I mentioned to Sam, “You gotta date before you decide to get married.”
Emergent Learning Forum dedicated its July meeting to the topic. SRI Learning on Demand is issuing a report on it. Bersin & Associates’ latest report is titled The Economics of Outsourcing Training Technology and Operations. T+D will be publishing a series on outsourcing. ASTD says it will effect 50% of major training departments.
Accenture, IBM, and even my Workflow Institute talk about outsourcing learning as if it were already here. So far, I see more smoke than fire. The fire’s on the way; IT, call centers, HR, and finance are being outsourced. However, earlier this year, when I asked Accenture for the names of clients who’d outsourced all training to them, I only got one name: Avaya University.
All of which leads me to a release from KnowledgePool. “One of the best-known names in the training and development industry has chosen to focus on its core capability of providing outsourced learning services…. As part of its new focus, the company has launched an ‘outsourcing menu’ – a list of training functions and projects that it can manage on behalf of clients”
“Outsourcing is an attractive, low risk strategy that enables an organisation to increase capacity, reduce administration costs and accommodate fluctuating workloads,” said Rod Edwards, CEO. Low risk? This is the opposite of the message from Intrepid (start small, get to know one another) or Accenture (look for a business partner, not a vendor). One person’s outsourcing is another person’s out-tasking.
Since outsourcing is so hip, Internet Time Group is getting into the game. Need a report? A white paper? Advice? They are all on the menu here. Tell us what you need. We might be better at it that you are. We’ll in-source it for you.
Isn’t RSS wonderful? Actually, I should ask “Aren’t webfeeds wonderful?” because Amy Gahrain’s term describes what we get better than any TLA (three-letter acronym).
This morning, Bloglines led me to a refreshing and informative article by Stephen Downes in College Quarterly. I’m preparing for a conference where my audience will have more educators than business people, so I was scouring the literature when I came upon Stephen’s From Classrooms to Learning Environments: A Midrange Projection of E-Learning Technologies.
When a new technology appears on the scene, it starts out performing an old task in new ways. Hence, we had the “horseless carriage” before it evolved into the automobile.
Horse putting car
Stephen points out how the electronic classroom is evolving into something entirely different, the learning environment. The good aspects of the learning automobile, its radial tires and microprocessor controls for example, are shared, reusable content, syndication, and personalization. Just as the automobile no longer has a way to hook up the horses just in case, the learning environment often exists outside of the classroom.
The transition is not without risks, among them commodification, mistaking a part for the whole, and creating a 24×7 hell for learners. (In my shorthand, this is focusing on workflow while leaving out the flow.)
A few months ago I signed up to be emailed changes from a friends blogs via Bloglet. It seemed a good way for people to subscribe to changes if they prefer email notification to RSS. Also, Bloglet will enable me to alert people to changes on any of my blogs.
How’s about you sign up so I can test this sucker? After a couple of days, tell me if it’s been well behaved and whether it lived up to expectations.
THOMSON TO ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGENET
Acquisition Will Enhance Thomson NETg Enterprise Learning Offerings
STAMFORD, Conn., August 27, 2004 The Thomson Corporation (NYSE: TOC; TSX: TOC) and KnowledgeNet, Inc., a privately held company recognized as a leader in live e-learning, today announced that they have signed a definitive agreement under which Thomson will acquire KnowledgeNet and merge it with its enterprise learning business, Thomson NETg. Terms of the pending transaction were not disclosed.
“Thomson NETg and KnowledgeNet are a perfect fit,” said Thomas R. Graunke, chief executive officer and co-founder of KnowledgeNet. “Both companies have a long history of improving the effectiveness, accessibility and success of an array of training, development and learning programs. By merging our products, learning philosophies and industry expertise we are creating a compelling combination for all of our existing — and new — customers.”
The transaction, expected to close later this year, is subject to customary regulatory and closing conditions, including the expiration of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended.
My congratulations to Tom Graunke and the folks in Phoenix. I remember when KnowledgeNet was a pup. When they gave the remote demo (Placeware, if I remember correctly) that landed the Cisco account, I was in the next room working on another project. As they walked out of the room, the Cisco folks appeared quite impressed. The “no travel costs” argument was important back then.
A lesson for training professionals: Thompson doesn’t differentiate learning from information. Neither should you. Both provide value. Training is simply another delivery channel. If it solves the problem, go for it.
“The Thomson Corporation (Thomson) is a global provider integrated information solutions to business and professional customers. The Company generates revenues by supplying its customers with business-critical information from multiple Thomson and third-party databases, and further enhances the value of that information with analysis, insight and commentary. To enhance the speed and accessibility of information, Thomson increasingly delivers information and services electronically.”
KnowledgeNet will be merged into NETg. Joe Dougherty, current president of Thomson NETg, will lead the combined business.
This evening I attended a meeting of BayCHI (Computer Human Interface Group) in South Hall, the oldest building on the Berkeley campus. The topic: It’s More Than ROI: Defining the Business Value of User-Centered Design. Speakers from Leap Frog, World Savings, Adaptive Path, PeopleSoft, and Ask Jeeves spoke of measuring the value of interface design.
I’ve heard precisely the same conversation on the topic of training. How can we demonstrate our value to the business people? Aren’t some worthy activities inherently immeasurable? Why do we always get chopped when there’s an economic downturn?
Sather Tower is directly across from South Hall. It’s foggy tonight.
The difficulty of pinning a credible number on intangibles cropped up. You’d think that in an era where intangibles create half the value in business, more people would have figured this one out. It’s like not believing in microwaves or germs because you can’t see them.
Would any business person in their right mind voluntarily throw away good customer relationships, know-how, and brand reputation? Of course not. Because they have value. So it makes more sense to give them an approximate value rather than factor them into the equation at zero.