Digital Natives (Probably Not You)

Marc Prensky has a great article in Strategy + Business on why oldsters (i.e. >25) must listen to the newer generation.

    Why do I call these young computer enthusiasts and organizational activists “digital natives”? Think about the extraordinary cumulative digital experiences of each of these future leaders: an average of close to 10,000 hours playing video games; more than 200,000 e-mails and instant messages sent and received; nearly 10,000 hours of talking, playing games, and using data on cell phones; more than 20,000 hours spent watching TV; almost 500,000 commercials seen — all before they finished college. At most, they’ve logged only 5,000 hours of book reading.

    This generation is better than any before at absorbing information and making decisions quickly, as well as at multitasking and parallel processing. In contrast, people age 30 or older are “digital immigrants” because they can never be as fluent in technology as a native who was born into it. You can see it in the digital immigrants’ “accent” — whether it is printing out e-mails or typing with fingers rather than thumbs. Have you ever noticed that digital natives, unlike digital immigrants, don’t talk about “information overload”? Rather, they crave more information.

Marc doesn’t call for top execs to hand over the reins to a generation with no business experience. (Marc and I went to the same b-school. At about the same time.) But he is compelling about the need to understand where the new generation is coming from and taking advantage of what they bring to us.


Listen up! Firefox is a better browser than Microsoft Internet Explorer. It’s faster, sleeker, configurable, and is moving ahead. It’s drop-dead simple to install. A new version came out yesterday. It’s invulnerable to most of the security threats Microsoft issues with increasing frequency. I can hardly abide the web without the convenience of Firefox’s tabbed (multi-window) browsing.

Why switch to Firefox?

Because I frequently help start-ups and new companies test their products and find their place in the market, I try out lots of immature software. A word to developers: get compatible with Firefox/Mozilla/Gecko. When I talk with influentials, reviewers, mavens, and thought leaders, few of them use IE any more. So while your logs may show that 90% of your web visitors use IE, at least half of the people you really want to reach are probably among the 10% coming in with some other browser.

I’ve never coded for a living nor am I anti-capitalist, so I’m not against Microsoft just because they’re big or aggressive or occasionally manipulative. However, Microsoft’s actions in the browser market make my blood boil. Convicted of cutting off Netscape’s air supply, Microsoft has since played the stereotypical monopolist role. Milk the cash cow. Make minimal improvements. By not being vigilant, MS has opened the doors for hacker-vandals to eviscerate its customers. “It’s not my department,” said Werner von Gates.

What are they smoking in Redmond? They figure a person will forget losing her hard drive as a result of MS sloth or disregard? Wake up and smell the coffee, Microsoft. Given the lifetime value of a customer relationship, it’s time to set the IE train back on the tracks. Somebody make it better.

In the meanwhile, download Firefox. You be bettah off.

Of course, there are always downsides. Firefox renders HTML in compliance with W3C guidelines, so some funky code aberrations in MS will look funny in Firefox. A much larger problem is that some sites are coded to work only with MS Internet Explorer. Usually, these are newbies. I blow most of them off as clueless, but keep a copy of IE on the hard drive in case there’s something I simply must see. In other words, I treat it like RealPlayer, which I avoid like the plague simply because experience has taught me that Real Networks experiences hang around like an STD.

Download Firefox now.

JEDlet Journal

September 14, 2004 Vol. 3, Issue 9
JEDlets are informative, interactive, and entertaining online tutorials
for today’s busy learners.
Reader Reward Challenge

Thanks to all who wrote in regarding who coined the term “e-learning”? Enjoy your complimentary JEDlets.

We are pleased to have its originator, Jay Cross, enlighten us on its evolution.

“I used the word early on and now many attribute the term ‘e-learning’ to me. At the time, e-commerce and e-business were quite the buzz, so the leap to e-learning was an obvious step.” Visit Jay’s blog at

In this challenge, we ask you to coin your own term. Invent a word to explain the combination of e-learning and traditional classroom instruction. Be creative! All entrants receive complimentary JEDlet gift certificates. Submit entries to [email protected]


A character in Carl Hiaasen’s new novel, Skinny Dip, refers to Alzheimer’s as old-timer’s disease. This got me thinking about short-timer’s disease, the phenomenon of people taking stupid shortcuts because they don’t expect to be around long enough to suffer the consequences.

In Adu Dhabi, Mario Garcia, ceo of Garcia Media, described a machine in the Frankfurt Airport where, for €3, you can print out the daily newspaper of your choice. He also countered the charge that kids don’t read by pointing out that 14-year olds are reading 700-page Harry Potter books.

John Hedberg talks of getting from passive learning to engaging learning by fostering initiative, self-motivation, experimentation, spontaneous collaboration, and peer coaching. Transer…translate…transcend.

Do you want to live dangerously? My main computer, a SONY VAIO running XP, has developed a habit that’s jangling my nerves. Several times a day, with no warning, it totally freezes up. I tried to do a System Restore to a happier time, but something had cut off the Restore feature. I fear I’ll have to take the hard disk down to bare metal. God knows how long reloading zillions of patches and shareware programs will take. Perhaps you’d like to trade?

Intel’s Martin Curley has some great, alliterative metaphors: from Digital Divide to Digital Dividends. From Bland to Blend.

Today's Gulf News

September 13, 2004

News | Education
Online learning will soon become education of future
By Shireena Al Nowais
Staff Reporter

Abu Dhabi

E-learning is the future of education. Soon, students will be able to take their lessons at home, in a coffee shop or at the mall. They can learn anytime and anywhere. All they will need is a computer and an internet connection.

Already, every student at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and Zayed University (ZU) is carrying a portable computer.

They log on to their computers and read their lessons and do their assignments in the cafeteria or the library.

A large number of people who do not have the time or money to travel are registering for online courses being offered by some of the most prestigious universities and educational institutions in the world.

What is e-learning? Jay Cross, CEO of the Emergent Learning Forum and the man who came up with the term e-learning said: “Now a days, the word e-learning is whatever anybody says it is. At first, it used to be whatever you learn from a computer, but that is not consistent anymore. So, e-learning means many things.

“At first people used to say, it’s not the e that’s important, it the learning. I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s the doing that’s important. It’s networking, it’s management and it’s learning how to deal with computers.”

Recently, HCT held its third annual e-learning, e-merging conference under the patronage of Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and HCT chancellor.

This year’s conference was held under the theme “Ensuring quality in e-learning” and focused on quality assurance, design standards and accreditation in online education.

The e-learning guidebook, released during the conference said: “The concept of e-learning is based on the delivery of learning by using technology as the delivery platform. The guiding principle is education anytime and anywhere.”

A strong supporter of e-learning, Shaikh Nahyan told Gulf News: “E-learning will shape the future. Technology has become an integral part in utilising education. Many countries around the globe are offering programmes online.

“Through e-learning, you can educate yourself at your own time and your own pace. You don’t have to leave your country to pursue your education anymore and it is cheaper for people who can’t afford to study abroad.”

Dr Curtis J Bonk, professor of educational psychology and instructional systems technology at Indiana University, said: “Our world as we know it, has changed forever. So, we should see what needs to be changed and what needs to stay the same. E-learning is exploding and most universities have incorporated e-learning and others are trying to map every course online.”

Bonk said there were a number of misconceptions surrounding e-learning.

“College instructors need to think differently now and not use the same lecturing methods,” he said.

Another myth, he said, is that schools and universities cannot afford the technology and that online learning is easy.

“Online learning is much more difficult than traditional learning because students have to be mature, independent learners.”

There are also those who are sceptical about e-learning, Najat Rochdi, regional coordinator of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for the UNDP, said: ” I say yes to e-learning and yes to technology, but for what purpose and what kind of society?”

“Technology should complement society, but where does the Arab society stand in all this. The UAE is pioneering in technological advances, but this is not the reality with many other Arab countries. More than 850 million people in developing countries are excluded from a wide range of information and knowledge. The poor in developing countries remain much isolated. We should try to come back to reality.”

Hassa Al Gurair, a graduate of ZU’s executive master of business administration programme, said: “During our two years of study, we were able to collaborate on projects from different corners of the globe and only met on the days of the presentations. We were thus able to benefit from the expertise and experience of our professors even though they were on another continent.”

“Technology should complement society… More than 850 million in developing countries are excluded from a wide range of information and knowledge.

The Business Singularity (2)

Networks are defined by the quality of their connections. The measure of network success is its rate of error-free throughput. The successful business has high bandwidth and connections so good that value flows without friction.

The successful software environment is one that connects so well with business, workers and other computers that no one notices it’s there.

The successful worker is one so synchronized with the challenges of work that he enters a psychological state of flow while optimizing the flow of work under changing conditions.

Happily for us, when connections are working properly, we don’t need to see them. Take, for example, the Internet cloud. As far as the user is concerned, she has a direct connection to the site on her screen. In reality, the image she sees is probably the result of information being bounced through a variety of pipes both near and far. Reality doesn’t matter if the metaphor is sufficiently compelling.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, Heraclitus of Ephesus told us, “Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.” Right on, Ephesus!

Having witnessed its power, business is beginning to mimic the internet.

Workflow Learning is but one aspect of a work cloud. As far as the worker is concerned, he is looking at the flow of work, making mid-course corrections, taking care of exceptions, communicating with colleagues, and learning how to improve performance. He doesn’t take courses so much as drink from a stream of learning experiences flowing by.

The future of corporate learning is all business.

Still more to come

Because I consider this an important concept, I’m posting it here as well as at the Workflow Institute.

The Business SIngularity

Extrapolating from the phenomenal growth of computer networks and their power to transmit information, Jacques Vallée noted that at some point all existing information would become available instantaneously everywhere. This is the “information singularity”.

The point to remember, however, is that abstract, non-material variables, such as intelligence, information, or innovation, aren’t subjected to the same “limits to growth” which characterize the exhaustion of finite resources. Such variables could conceivably reach values which for all practical purposes may be called “infinite”.

The Socio-technological Singularity, Principia Cybernetica Web

Increasing Returns. As the number of connections between people and things add up, the consequences of those connections multiply out even faster, so that initial successes aren’t self-limiting, but self-feeding.

Feed the Web First. As networks entangle all commerce, a firm’s primary focus shifts from maximizing the firm’s value to maximizing the network’s value. Unless the net survives, the firm perishes.

No Harmony, All Flux. As turbulence and instability become the norm in business, the most effective survival stance is a constant but highly selective disruption that we call innovation.

Relationship Tech. As the soft trumps the hard, the most powerful technologies are those that enhance, amplify, extend, augment, distill, recall, expand, and develop soft relationships of all types.

Come Together

Business is morphing into flexible, self-organizing components that operate in real time. Software is becoming interoperable, open, ubiquitous, and transparent. Workers are learning in small chunks delivered to individualized screens presented at the time of need. Learning is being transformed into a core business process measured by Key Performance Indicators. Taken together, these changes create a new kind of business environment, a Business Singularity.

Business organizations are evolving into networks. What happens inside the corporate walls is nowhere near as important as the overall flow of value from raw material to customer. Internal boundaries are obstacles to be overcome. Networks shared among suppliers, partners, and customers integrate the business into a commercial ecosystem that is, no surprise, a larger network. The real-time enterprise is being born.

Business software is evolving from client/server to networks. The network really is the computer. The internet is the new model of IT architecture. Open networks that can talk with one another are far more valuable than yesterday’s proprietary, isolated fortresses. As on the net, enterprise software evolves with changing conditions, routes around damage, and reaches out to form new connections. Software is beginning to serve business instead of demanding that business contort itself to software’s demands.

People are networks enmeshed in networks with one another. Our bodies are networks. Our minds are neural networks with built-in firewalls and filters. We network with one another. Outboard memory in the form of PDAs and personal data stores supplement human wetware. The biggest factor in individual success is the quality our social networks. You’re as effective as your connections.

In any thriving network, tentacles reach out to snare new members like ivy climbing a wall, because the more active members, the greater the value of the network. Growth begets growth until a tipping point is reached. Then expansion becomes explosive. The rewards of membership become so high that connecting becomes irresistable. In 1930, your business could live without a telephone; in 2004, it can not.

We are about to witness a spectacular convergence of people and businesses. Networks are connecting to networks.

Workers and their work are becoming synchronous and inseparable. Colleagues and customers collaborate seamlessly. Transparent software obliterates the business/IT divide. Organizations focus on what they do best, outsourcing everything else to the greater commercial ecosystem, sort of a global eBay for business activities. Network efficiencies eradicate the largest drag on corporate performance: slack. The pace of business trends toward instantaneity.

The way people improve their performance in this Business Singularity is called Workflow Learning. It is what corporate learning will become three to five years hence. It takes place in a virtual workplace where workers interact, learn, and control the process of creating value in real time.

More to come

Au revoir Abu Dhabi

I just arrived back in Berkeley after a 17 hour flight. Pleasant reflections of Abu Dhabi appear and fade. My body has no idea what time it is.

One mega-memory is the magnificent food I’ve eaten this week. Not just the banquets, either. The Rotana Beach Hotel puts out a buffet to die for.

Fresh fruit at breakfast

Arab appetizers (click for larger photo)

Salad bar

Salmon, sushi, calamari, mussels

Air-dried beef, calamari, octopus salad, tabouleh, mini-pitas

Le dessert

The locals say Abu Dhabi is where the money is.
Buildings like these are everywhere.
Out on the end of the corniche, a
mind-bogglingly large new complex is
going up. The price-tag: $1 billion.
(By contrast, Dubai is where people make money.)

Here’s the Abu Dhabi Mall, Beach Rotana Hotel,
Coop, and office tower. The hotels
here can break even at 20% occupancy.
That’s what happens when you buy a
place in an all-cash deal.

The centers of some of the glitzy blocks
house stores and quarters for Southeast Asians.

The Emiratis often live in tasteful
modern houses surrounded by high walls.