Tag Archives: time

The Other 90% of Learning

Serving enterprise customers

(This appears in the August 2012 CLO magazine. They changed the title on me.)

Knowledge workers learn three to four times as much from experience as from interaction with bosses, coaches, and mentors. They learn about twice as much from those conversations compared to structured courses and programs.

The shorthand label for this viewpoint is “70:20:10.” 70% experiential, 20% coaching, 10% formal. It’s a handy framework to keep in mind, particularly when someone mistakenly thinks all learning is formal. As Charles Handy has written, “Real learning is not what most of us grew up thinking it was.”

Like Moore’s Law that describes the exponential growth in the price/performance of chips, the 70:20:10 framework for learning is the result of observation, not something scientifically proven. Like Moore’s Law, it’s also an approximation — give or take a little depending on the context.

My partners and I at the Internet Time Alliance have talked with hundreds, if not thousands, of managers about workplace learning in general and 70:20:10 in specific. It resonates with them. They nod their heads in agreement that the numbers square with their experience.

This raises a question. Why do training departments and CLOs spend so much of their time and resources on the 10% when there is plenty to do to up the 90%? I think it’s a legacy from an earlier time.

Training was simpler when the world was predictable, progress was slow, and the task was teaching people how to do their jobs. Today’s world is a kaleidoscope, information is a tsunami, and workers face novel, complex situations every day. The only way to keep up is to work and learn with others.

In fact, learning is no longer separable from work. People need to learn on the job, not apart from it. They need to learn in real time, not a month before. What’s important is tacit knowledge, the know-how that’s taught by experience as opposed to the know-what that is written in books or a syllabus.

Training used to be for novices, aspiring managers & leaders, technicians, and certification for compliance. Today the rate of change makes us all novices at something. People whom we’ve habitually overlooked, those workers with know-how and experience, have to learn every day, too. We cannot continue to neglect them. From a talent management perspective, it’s no longer acceptable to overlook pre-hires and alumni either.

What can you do?

Increase the effectiveness of experiential learning (the 70%) by packing more varied experience into the workflow. Encourage experimentation, delegate stretch assignments, provide opportunities to apply new skills in real situations, involve people in challenging projects, and rotate assignments.

Increase the effectiveness of coaching (the 20%) by recognizing the vital role of managers and supervisors. They need to provide informal feedback and work debriefs. Encourage them to help people learn through membership in teams. Facilitate group discussions. Make them take responsibility for helping their people grow.

Increase the effectiveness of formal learning (the 10%) with immersive, interactive learning that applies directly to the job, by providing simulations and game-based learning, and by offering learning in digestible chunks via multiple convenient formats. Focus on improving the overall learning ecosystem. Support learning experiences in the workplace and concentrate on what it takes to meet organizational objectives rather than running workshops.

Learning is social. We learn more from our co-workers, our bosses, our customers, our partners, and our friends than from our teachers and books. Improve the ease of free-flowing conversation and you improve the quality of learning across the 70, the 20, and the 10.

Social software facilitates conversation. Chatter, Jive, Socialcast, Yammer, Podio, and other social networking systems simplify listening in and joining purposeful conversations. News always travels faster by the grapevine and now the grapevine is automated. Activity streams keep people informed in near real time. The organization’s cycle time speeds up. People can find other people in the know. Workers share discoveries and resources. Collaboration takes hold. Silos crumble.

This is not traditional training. It’s not solely HR. It’s about making the business better. It’s no longer just for our employees.

Successful corporations are becoming extended enterprises. The quality of what we deliver to customers depends on our entire business ecosystem, from resource extraction at the beginning of the supply chain to our ongoing relationships with customers.

Given that learning is the key to improving productivity, it’s in our interest to help suppliers, partners, distributors, and customers learn in optimal fashion, too.

We must invite them to learn with us and share in our experiences, benefit from our guidance, and share in what we know.

Organize for complexity: make work work again

Early this morning I was reflecting on how different today’s world is from the world I grew up in.

You see, I was born during World War II. Complexity had not been discovered. Computers had not been invented. Frederick Taylor was revered. It was a tidier world. Everything was logical. A simpler time.

Thirty years ago things began to get fuzzy. We realized that everything in the universe is connected to everything else. The future’s unpredictable. Networks rule. Shit happens.

We live in the midst of a phase change in how we humans understand the world. The dying embers of the Industrial Age are growing cold. The Network Era is very much alive. Connections matter; individuals are powerless without them. People aren’t tools; they’re what creates value. Control is illusory. Complexity rules.

Businesses that think it’s cautious go retreat back to basics discover that yesterday’s rules of thumb don’t work in today’s game.

This marvelous presentation by Niels Pflaeging explains what’s going on.

Check out BetaCodex for lots of similarly astute thinking.

Musing on Google’s Power Searching Course and marketing

Today I completed Google’s Power Searching Course. Do I know any more about search than I did ten days ago? Yes. Capitalization makes no difference but word order does. You can narrow a search by date. Google Earth has a lot more detail than I remember from previous visits. Also, I learned dozens of other little tricks that I’ll probably forget if I don’t put them to use in the next few days.

Previously I approached Google searches much like looking something up in an encyclopedia or dictionary. I’d check the term and leave it at that. After the course, I treat search more as an iterative process. A pre-search can inform the real search. Or after the first search, I can add to the query to zoom in on what I’m after. Search has become a process, not an event.

I spent three or four hours taking the course. Was this a good investment of my time? For me, yes. Research is a large part of my work, so I’ll be applying and building on what I’ve learned about search for years to come.

More, importantly for me, the Google course inspired me to contemplate how corporations can use co-learning to create more loyal customers.

Course design

The six 50-minute classes progress from simple searches to complex. Each class consists of four to six lessons. A lesson includes a video of Dan explaining a concept and an activity to practice and test understanding. There’s a midterm exam, a final, and an opportunity to ask and answer questions in two massive Google+ sessions.

Exemplary marketing

Coco Chanel said, “Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman.” The same is true in marketing.

The Google course is obviously marketing — they are teaching us to make better use of their product.

Moderator Dan’s low-key approach and the lack of flashy graphics makes the course feel authentic.

Instructor Dan Russell is never condescending. He doesn’t come across as a know-it-all. Dan’s just trying to help us out. He’s much more believable than an actor.

Dan is a very savvy subject matter expert. His LinkedIn profile shows that he began his career at Xerox PARC while finishing his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Rochester. He managed User Experience Research for Apple before going to work for Steve Jobs as head of Apple’s Knowledge Management Technologies Lab. He returned to PARC before becoming a Senior Research Science at IBM’s Almaden Research Center. Dan has been at Google for seven years and lists his job as  ”Uber Tech Lead.”

I complete the course with even more respect for Google. The depth of their search capability is amazing.

Wisely, Google is issuing certificates of completion. I wonder how often these are going to appear on job seeker’s resumes.

Google is following the prime marketing directive: create and keep the customer.

Google recognizes it ain’t over til it’s over. Alumni are encouraged to subscribe to Google’s blog and updates. Google recognizes the Lifetime Value of a Customer.

This has to be one of the least expensive marketing campaigns ever devised. The only tools required are a video cam and the free Google suite of applications. Other out-of-pocket costs are employee time to design and create the course, and a little more time tending the Google+ sessions and answering questions.

Everything is connected to everything else

The big lesson of the 21st century thus far is that everything is connected to everything else. It’s all one big network, folks.

No corporation is an island. (Everything’s a node.) A corporation and its connections form an extended enterprise.


For Us to prosper, we have to be on the same wave length as our connections in the extended enterprise. Since the environment of our enterprise is forever changing and learning is the way we adapt to change, we all need to be learning together. Otherwise, someone will be falling behind, and our combined performance will suffer.

I’m going to call learning with other players in the extended enterprise co-learning. If I were an instructional designer in a moribund training department, I’d polish up my resume and head over to marketing. Co-learning can differentiate services, increase product usage, strengthen customer relationships, and reduce the cost of hand-holding. It’s cheaper and more useful than advertising.

Were I that instructional designer, I’d tweak what Google did with the Power Searching Course. Almost all of our interaction was top-down delivery by Dan:

The Hangouts on Google+ were serial: I answer the question, you answer the question, hundreds of other people answer the same question. There’s no interaction and no camaraderie. Perhaps a future iteration of the course could encourage competition among ad hoc teams. Or at least a leader board that awards the most sophisticated search strategies:

The more connections, the better.






Power Searching with Google

Search is like driving a car. Most people think they’re in the top 10% of performers.

Google just opened enrollment for an online course, Power Searching with Google. I signed up for several reasons:

  1. I’m insanely curious and search the web many times a day. Becoming a better searcher will save me time.
  2. Customer learning is the new frontier. The knowledgable customer is a better customer. Moreover, co-learning forges deeper relationships. We trust companies we learn from.
  3. I wanted to see Google’s instructional design. As Picasso said, “Mediocre artists imitate; great artists steal.”
  4. Perhaps I’m in the top 10% of all drivers (although I doubt it), but I’m definitely not in the t0p 10% of all searchers.

I just completed the introduction and Class 1.

A Google scientist leads you through five lessons per class, each followed by a simple quiz which is graded on the spot. I’ve learned a number of tips and tricks: word order matters; capitalization doesn’t matter; filter image searches by color; use Command-F to pop up a text search of a page. The videos are three to six minutes long. The instructor is folksy.

Often the instructor shares the screen with an example.

This morning someone in a web discussion told me she was in the “Google MOOC” along with thousands of others. Turned out she was talking about this course. From the responses posted in the companion Google Group, I’d say about a thousand people have completed Class #1. If there are other discussions going on, I’m unaware of them. It’s early yet, but so far, this course is your standard one-to-many, linear learning experience. No way this is a MOOC. That said, I’m still with it and can’t complain.

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=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/A3oIiH7BLmg?rel=0″ 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=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/A3oIiH7BLmg?version=3&amp;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

IBM's last CEO before Lou Gerstner took the reins told employees, "I don't…

IBM's last CEO before Lou Gerstner took the reins told employees, "I don't want to see you engineers standing around the water cooler talking." He failed to realize that's how they learned to do their work. #time

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“Wasting Time”
DeskTime, a firm that automates time sheets, posted an absurd infographic yesterday. This snip made me chuckle: Most people I know think using the net makes them more productive. “Socializing with co-…

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"Wasting Time"

DeskTime, a firm that automates time sheets, posted an absurd infographic yesterday. This snip made me chuckle:

Most people I know think using the net makes them more productive. “Socializing with co-workers” is the primary way they learn things. Probably some of the long lunches and breaks occur because people learn more in coffee rooms and cafeterias than in classrooms. These are time-wasters?

As for the applications, my colleague Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for Learning 2011 has Twitter in the #1 slot and YouTube as #2. Unproductive? I don’t think so.

And email and Word are productive? Give me a break.

I would really, really hate to work for these guys.



Singularity University

Salim Ismael, founding executive director of Singularity University, joined a few dozen of us for lunch in Berkeley yesterday to discuss “Seeing the Next Disruptive Technology.”

Singularity University is neither a university nor about singularity. It’s not a university so much as what the founders hope universities will evolve into. Currently the main program involves 80 grad students who come from around the globe to attend a ten-week summer program. The first half is intensive exposure to a host of mind-blowing speakers on exponential technologies; the second is an incubator for dent-in-the-universe projects. Not only is SU not accredited; one of their sponsors, the Kauffman Foundation, said they’d withdraw funding if SU were to be accredited.

Singularity is the point where the collective intelligence of machines surpasses that of humans. When this happens, maybe as soon as 2045, a form of snowballing super-intelligence erupts with thoughts we humans won’t be able to fathom. My personal interpretation is that we hit the singularity when the pace of time has accelerated beyond our ability to comprehend. It’s the light show that crops up in the journey to the future in the movie 2001. It’s chaos.

Since SU’s goal is understanding rather than being swamped, I suggested to Salim that maybe it’s the Un-singularlity University. The folks at Kauffman Foundation call it an un-university. So maybe we’re dealing with the Un-singularity Un-university. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

The goal of Singularity University is to rewire students’ brains so they can escape the incremental thinking that bogs most of us down. Students learn not only about exponentially accelerating technologies such as DNA sequencing, communication, nanotech and AI, but about the interplay among them that will lead to “manifold intertwined technological revolutions.”

Here’s Ray Kurzweil, the popularizer of the concept of singularity and the “Law of Accelerating Returns:”
“This is the nature of exponential growth. Although technology grows in the exponential domain, we humans live in a linear world. So technological trends are not noticed as small levels of technological power are doubled. Then seemingly out of nowhere, a technology explodes into view. For example, when the Internet went from 20,000 to 80,000 nodes over a two year period during the 1980s, this progress remained hidden from the general public. A decade later, when it went from 20 million to 80 million nodes in the same amount of time, the impact was rather conspicuous.”

“As exponential growth continues to accelerate into the first half of the twenty-first century, it will appear to explode into infinity, at least from the limited and linear perspective of contemporary humans. The progress will ultimately become so fast that it will rupture our ability to follow it. It will literally get out of our control. The illusion that we have our hand “on the plug,” will be dispelled.”

Is your head spinning yet? Most of us don’t think in these terms. The University’s mandate is to find and create a new generation of leaders who can.

The main campus is at the old NASA Ames Research Center on Moffett Field in Mountain View. (Ironically, we set up one of the first groups to participate in what evolved into the University of Phoenix at NASA Ames more than thirty years ago.)

This summer 80 participants selected from 2,200 applicants will trek to Mountain View. Tuition for the ten-week program is $25,000. The goal is to assemble a student body that’s ⅓ female and ¼ from developing countries. Most students have multiple masters degrees or PhDs and are wildly tech-savvy. Google, Autodesk, Cisco, and others provide money for scholarships.

Salim has become SU’s Global Ambassador and is setting up SUs around the world; early results are looking good.

“Large companies can’t innovate,” Salim told us. Silos are comfortable. When innovation rears its head, the corporation’s immune system goes to work to eradicate it.