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Tom Stewart
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Prepping for a conversation with Tom Stewart this morning, I spent a couple of hours going over my notes on Intellectual Capital and The Wealth of Knowledge. Both books are brilliant in describing the shift to the knowledge economy. These should be required reading for all executives. A few of the quotes I loved:

Intellectual capital is intellectual material--knowledge, information, intellectual property, experience--that can be put to use to create wealth. It is collective brainpower.

What's new? Simply this: Because knowledge has become the single most important factor of production, managing intellectual assets has become the single most important task of business.

"You cannot manage what you cannot measure" is one of the oldest cliches in management, and it's either false of meaningless. It's false in that companies have always managed things--people, morale, strategy, etc.--that are essentially unmeasured. It's meaningless in the sense that everything in business--including peole, morale, strategy, etc.--eventually shows up in someone's ledger of costs or revenues.

Stan Davis: Business people frequently confuse an organization with a business. Organizaitons are defined from the inside out: They are described bywho reports to whom, by departments and processes and matrices and perks. A business, on the other hand, is defined from the outside in, by markets, suppliers, customers, and competitors.

Now skill is mental, not manual. Knowledge workers are measured not by the tasks they perform but by the results they achieve.

The worker used to be one more interchangeable part. The man worked for the machine. Now the machine works for the man. Organizational intelligence--smart people working in smart ways--has moved from a supporting role to a starring one.

Accountants measure the form rather than the substance, "which is like the viticulturist paying more attention to the bottle than to the wine."

The human resources director may know how much the company spends on formal training, but doesn't know how much learning resulted from it.

Extreme Learning: Decision Games
Monday, March 28, 2005
by Jay Cross
CLO Magazine, April 2005

Sometimes failure is not an option. When a malevolent megalomaniac threatens to vaporize your empire, you send in your James Bond, not a raw recruit.

In business, when it’s vital to break into a complex new market, you send in a veteran who knows the territory to close the deal. You rely on an expert who has been there because he knows how to spot the signs and figure out what’s going on as if by second nature. Until recently, extensive experience was the only way to become an expert. It took decades to develop and hone one’s craft—you couldn’t teach it in a classroom. That’s about to change.

Several months ago, I talked with two knowledge management and research companies in Singapore: Straits Knowledge and Pebble Road. Straits Knowledge had earlier been commissioned to help small and medium businesses become experts in doing business in China. Now with Pebble Road they were developing wider applications for the methodology they used in that project.

Foreign businesspeople new to China have an extraordinarily difficult time learning to sense and respond to the culture’s complexities. They don’t need more information—they need to be able to read what’s going on so they will know how to use the information they’ve got. Until now, no one could figure out how to transfer the insight of experienced foreign entrepreneurs.

What separates novices from experts is the way they size things up. Experts assess a situation with less information than novices. In his new book, “Blink,” Malcolm Gladwell calls this capability “thin-slicing” or “rapid cognition.” Designers started by teasing out the “thin slices” that experts pay attention to when making rapid decisions. They elicited narratives from China hands, focusing them on context rather than conclusions. The narratives fell into six themes: strategy, environment, people, culture, law and fraud.

Next, the designers conducted extensive, confidential interviews with seasoned professionals. They asked them to imagine challenging but typical scenarios and to display them on a table using small figures and props to represent roles and relationships (situational context). The experts explained the relationships displayed (social context). They also played the scenarios forward and backward, answering questions such as “Let’s imagine it turns out well/badly—what would the situation look like then?” (teleological context).

The designers poured this content into six shell scenarios. They included representative businesses going into China (trading companies, manufacturing companies, service companies), the situational themes and a variety of geographic regions. Narrative techniques created by Dave Snowden’s Cynefin Centre helped transform the raw material into realistic stories. Methods borrowed from screenwriting brought the stories to life. The result was a “game pack” of scenarios, each containing dozens of unfolding vignettes.

A half-dozen or more novices can work though the scenarios collaboratively, making individual judgments along the way and learning from what their colleagues deem important. One game takes a moderately experienced group three hours or more to complete, but the game is best played with diverse levels of experience. Forcing the group to agree on their reading of the situation before moving on requires them to explain their divergences, which in itself provides a high level of complex, highly contextualized knowledge.

These decision games, as pioneered by decisionmaking expert Gary Klein, repeatedly test a person¹s judgment and knowledge while allowing them to engage with business colleagues in a complex and ambiguous environment. While they are learning about a particular domain, participants also gain insight into the perspectives, styles and capabilities of their colleagues.

Think about it: Exposing novices to multiple ways of seeing and sizing up situations is how expertise is built. Switching the focus from teaching content to challenging contexts intensifies learning. Participants become so involved, they don’t even break for coffee.

Organizations need more savvy, can-do experts to deal with an increasingly complex world. In fact, decision games are a preferred method of developing experts in the U.S. Marines. These high-impact methods also accelerate the decision-making capabilities of high-tech sales stars.

CLOs recognize that training the corporate SWAT team takes more than plain old vanilla training. Expect to see more programs for high-potential performers that use thin-slicing to build expertise—fast.

Jay Cross is CEO of Emergent Learning Forum, founder of Internet Time Group and a fellow of meta-learninglab.com.

Break on through to the other side....
Friday, March 25, 2005
I just bought a really hip suite of software for manipulating words, sounds, and images for just over $500, and the vendor sweetened the deal by throwing in a full-fledged computer to run it.

Yes, I could resist no longer. About 15 minutes ago, I ordered a MiniMac from J and R Electronics. I couldn't resist any longer.

The Apple mystique is a powerful draw. Apple fanatics define themselves with their computers much as Harley riders think they're the meanest, toughest thing on two wheels. It's almost as bad as BMW M-series drivers. If Apple brought out a car, people would camp out at dealerships for weeks in advance to earn the right to buy one. And you know what? I bet it would be one sexy car.

I'm in the midst of a fertile creative period right now, writing several hours a day, tripping over new insights one after another, enjoying great conversations, and gaining a clearer picture of how the world works. So I saved $10 or $15 by selecting UPS Ground Shipping. I'm certain I'll enjoy the Mac, but I don't need an immediate fix.

Transition: Emergent Learning Forum

Everything flows.

Organisms grow or die. Living things, be they people, animals, or organizations, replace worn-out cells through cell division. One cell splits to form two, each carrying the DNA that makes it special.

Emergent Learning Forum has matured to the point where we're splitting in two.

eLearning Forum will continue along the path of inquiry initiated six years ago at SRI. Eilif Trondsen will lead the eLearning Forum. Eilif plans to conduct monthly meetings on best practices and implementation, primarily in Silicon Valley.

Emergent Learning Forum will branch into online inquiries of edgier topics. Jay Cross will orchestrate Emergent Learning Forum. Jay expects to host topical events as issues arise, leveraging the power of the internet to serve a worldwide audience.

The two Forums will work closely with one another. After all, we share the same heritage. Jay and Eilif fully expect the two new entities to surpass their common parent in stature, membership, and impact.

Film at eleven.

Defrag or die
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Here's a brief white paper from Rummler-Brache on the importance of managing critical business processes as an integrated whole.
Fragmentation is a killer. Business fragmentation occurs when critical processes aren't managed as an integrated whole. Processes in a highly fragmented organization resemble a labyrinthine system of poorly joined plumbing, with pipes that leak time, money and customer value. Your first step is to adopt a simple, disciplined approach to defining, integrating and managing processes.
I love the metaphor. Defrag your critical processes or performance will grind to a halt. Unfortunately, a study on the Rummler-Brache site finds:
Only one in three U.S. businesses practices comprehensive "end-to-end" comprehensive business process management. A lack of a consistent methodology plus a shortage of management commitment are the primary roadblocks. Another shortcoming is the absence of solid performance metrics to measure business results and help steer the management of change.

Johnny Appleseed
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Johnny Appleseed is an American folk hero who supposedly walked the frontier two hundred years ago, clearing the land and planting apple trees out of the goodness of his heart and an occasional commission. That's why apple trees cover the American landscape. I identify with Johnny.

I never do just one thing at a time. (It's a sickness.) There's always a primary activity and other things tacked on. At this stage in life, I have convinced myself that I am living my beliefs and modeling my behavior for my peers and followers. One of the reasons I gave up Moveable Type for Blogger was that MT at the time was for geeks. If you didn't enjoy workarounds and add-ons and weird scripting code, you weren't going to fall in love with Moveable Type. Also, the folks at Blogger (under Google now) and Adaptive Path (great design!) made Blogger drop-dead simple to understand.

Johnny Appleseed doesn't want to stick around to explain fertilizing, watering, pruning, or writing Perl scripts, so going to Blogger was a no-brainer. It's free, for heaven's sake. (The page you're reading now is hosted free on Blogger.) I've turned hundreds of people on to blogging, but the last thing I want to deal with is arcane coding issues.

[If Flickr comes back from its "massage," I have some lovely drawings of Johnny Appleseed from Jacque Pratt's second graders that I want to share with you. Uh-oh. Thirty minutes later, Flckr reports that it has uploaded my images, but they are nowhere to be found. Back to FTP.]

This is a windy introduction to the announcement that I'm going to retool the sites for Internet Time Group, Workflow Institute, Meta-Learning Lab, Emergent Learning Forum, and the Internet Time KnowledgeBase, and I'm going to try to streamline things using only simple, free tools. Apple seeds. If I make it, I'll be back to explain. In the meanwhile, if there's something you'd like to see here, a new feature perhaps, drop me a line.


The next Bay Area Planetwork Monthly Networking Meeting is this Thursday night, March 24 from 6-10 pm, at the McBean Theatre in the Exploratorium, San Francisco.

Approximate schedule:

6pm - networking and light refreshments*
7pm - presentations by community members
8pm - networking and light refreshments
*A $10-20 donation to cover costs is greatly appreciated.

Presentations will include:

Jay Cross—Informal Learning

I am writing a book on informal learning, i.e. the stuff we don't learn in school. Happy to explore how this might benefit the PlaNetwork agenda.

R&B and Workflow Learning
Fierce winds knocked down a power line in Berkeley in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Smokey the canine alarm clock insisted that I get out of bed at 7:00 am even though the lights weren't back on. I lit a candle and stood at my drawing board mapping a simpler explanation of what workflow learning is all about. I thought myself a modern-day Abraham Lincoln, studying by flickering candelight and forced to heat my coffee water on the gas grill on the deck. Falling off the grid was like slipping into a sensory-deprivation tank. No interruptions.

Before long I was flipping through Rummler and Brache's Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart. Intuition told me it was time to dig into this book. No, despite the fact that it has been out for a decade, I hadn't read it before. My copy is from the library at the Haas School of Business.

What a wonderful book! This is a powerful tome, way ahead of its time: deep truth. Few of the concepts are new to me but now I know where they came from. The book is concentrated -- every sentence counts. Yet it is also clear, even when hitting the heavy parts of organizational design.

Rummler and Brache (hereafter, R & B) apply a systems view to improving performance in business organizations. They contend that most managers don't understand their own businesses. The managers may know their products and their customers, but they don't know the processes where raw material is converted into products nor how those products are sold or distributed. In fact, they often manage the organization chart (a verticle slice) instead of the business (which is the value chain flowing horizontally).

R & B present a 3x3 matrix with Performance Needs (Goals, Design, and Management) along one axis and Levels of Performance (Organization, Process, and Performer) along the other. The bulk of the book explores each cell, e.g. Organization Design or Process Management.

I know this framework from piecing ideas together from other sources such as Deming, Forrester, Geis, Gilbert, Hammer, Keen, Kepner-Tregoe, Mager, Porter, Senge, Wiener, and, lately, Business Process Management. What I hadn't seen was R&B's wonderful synthesis.

Back to workflow learning. People ask me about the difference between workflow learning and EPSS. A key aspect is that workflow learning connects more directly with R&B's process layer.
When we look beyond the functional boundries that make up the organization chart, we can see the work flow--how the work gets done. We contend that organizations produce their outputs through myriad cross-functional work processes, such as the new-product design process, the merchandising process, the production process, the sales process, the distribution process, and the billing process (to name a very few.) An organization is only as good as its processes.
The coming generation of IT, Web Services, enables organizations to connect performers directly to processes. The worker can monitor work at the process level as it happens. This used to involve huge delays, for example reading the report about how things looked last week. In the future, workers will get readouts of workflow status in near real time. This is revolutionary. The potential payoff is HUGE.

Study after study finds that among organizations that "manage the organization chart instead of the work," less than 20% of workers' and supervisors' time is spent adding value to work product. 80% of work time is wasted on waiting, inefficiencies, busywork, and window dressing.

R&B tell us, "The greatest opportunites for performance improvement often lie in the functional interfaces--those points at which the baton (for example, 'production specs') is being passed from one department to another...."
A primary contribution of a manager (at the second level or above) is to manage interfaces. The boxes already have managers; the senior manager adds value by managing the white space bwtween the boxes.
Workflow learning connects worker and dynamic value chain. I'm parsing earlier definitions of workflow learning into a core definition, principles of best practice, the organization as ecosystem, and the future IT environment. There's a pony in there somewhere. R&B have clarified my thinking.

I'll close with a couple of zingers from Improving Performance:
Silo culture forces managers to resolve lower-level issues, taking their time away from higher-priority customer and competitor concerns. Individual contributors, who could be resolving these issues, take less responsibility for results and perceive themselves as mere implementers and information providers.

- - - - -

Evaluating training in a vacuum is a waste of time. A training program may have well-stated learning outcomes, appropriate media, excellent materials, and effective instruction. However, if the training addresses the wrong performance area, is not reinforced by Consequences and Feedback, is not supported by a well-designed work process, or is not linked to the direction of the organization, it is not worth the investment. With typical methods of evaluation, a workshop could win awards for instructional design the same week tha the company files for Chapter 11 protection. Performance impact evaluation, by contrast, does not allow a course to look good without its also having a significant impact on the performance of the business.

Amazon: Improving Performance

To recap, here is the typical, functional way of getting things done:

The danger in this is that optimizing the parts (the functions) does not optimize the whole (the organization) because no one is responsible for the flow of value between functions. Hence, we should focus on optimizing the performance of a value chain that cuts across functions (and both starts and ends outside of the organization.)

I.e., go with the flow.

Innovations in eLearning Symposium June 7-8
Tuesday, March 22, 2005

George Mason University (GMU) in partnership with the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) and the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) is hosting a symposium on June 7-8, 2005 at the Fairfax, VA campus.

This event is ideal for: managers, learning officers, instructional and/or curriculum designers, learning consultants, instructors, researchers and training and development professionals from small to large size businesses, vocational schools, community colleges, colleges and universities, and government agencies and associations.

The symposium will cover the latest trends in e-Learning, knowledge management and workflow learning. Keynote speakers and presentations from experts in the field of e-Learning will share the cognitive tools, technology and best practices for the effective design, delivery and implementation of e-learning.

At the conference you'll find...

  • World-class speakers - You can look forward to our Keynote speakers Vice Admiral J. Kevin Moran, United States Navy, commander, Naval Education and Training Command. Dr. Etienne Wenger speaking on Learning in Communities: a Journey of the Self. And moi.

  • With more than 30 general sessions (five of them on workflow learning) to choose from, you're sure to find solutions to your e-Learning challenges.

  • Exhibits of the latest products and services.

  • You’ll enjoy Networking opportunities with your colleagues during breaks, lunches and at our opening night reception

Web Registration for this two day event is $150.00 prior to May 27, 2005 which includes parking, breaks, lunches and a reception on opening night. Fee is $175.00 at the conference site after May 27, 2005. (This is a steal.)

See the event website, program, and registration.

If you're in the DC area, please join us.

The Varieties of eLearning Experience
Monday, March 21, 2005

At the LearnFlex booth at eLearning Producer last week, CLO Gary Woodill showed me where he'd added workflow learning to his burgeoning list of eLearning modes. His presentation on Effective Management of Online Distributed Content lists and describes 40, count 'em - 40!, distinctive types of online learning.
1 Advising/Counseling Tools
2 Arts-based Experiential Tools
3 Automated Online Assessments
4 Blogging
5 Collaboration Tools
6 Communications Tools and Artifacts
7 Competency checklists and challenges
8 Complexity Modeling and Information Visualization
9 Computer Assisted Assessment CAA, Computer Based Assessment CBA
10 Data Mining Tools for Learning
11 Digital Galleries and Museums
12 Digital Libraries
13 Educational Portals
14 e-Learning Grids
15 e-Portfolios
16 Flash-based Educational Materials
17 Industrial Informatics
18 Integrated Electronic Problem-based Learning
19 Intelligent Search Engines with Dynamic Categorization

20 Interactive Instructional Programs
21 Learning Objects/Sharable Content Objects
22 Mobile Educational Content
23 “Modding” Modifying online games
24 Online Courses
25 Online Laboratories
26 Online Publishing
27 Parameterized Content and Quizzes
28 Peer-to-Peer Content
29 Playing Online Games/ Simulations/Scenarios
30 Podcasting
31 Rich Site Summary RSS
32 Semantic Web
33 Streaming Media – Audio and Video
34 Survey and Polling Results
35 Virtual Agents
36 Web Quests
37 Web Services
38 Webinars/Live Online Conferencing or Social Events
39 Wikis
40 Workflow Learning

Missing anything from your eLearning arsenal?

Yahoo is acquiring Flckr. Claims are that nothing will change in Flckr's open, free, approach. Uh huh. No ads? The check is in the mail. I'm from the government and I'm here to help you. I'll still respect you in the morning. Sob.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Steve buys into complexity theory. Think about it.

Glad I don't work there....
This is a real query to a well-known list-serv...
I've been asked to put together a 2-3 hour workshop on Blanchard's "One Minute Manager".

Any experience, resources, etc., you would be willing to share are greatly appreciated.
When Ken Blanchard told us last year that a private college was naming its business school after him, I imagined a curriculum of:
  • One Minute Manager
  • Raving Fans
  • Gung Ho!
  • High Five!
  • Customer Mania!
  • Full Steam Ahead!, and
  • Lead Like Jesus
This would be the equivalent of Father Guido Sarducci's "Five-Minute University."

Workflow Learning in a Nutshell
From MaxUse.

The Typical Approach: Learn First, Perform Later

The Learn First, Perform Later paradigm is plagued by long training times, performer confusion, frustration, mistakes and peer-to-peer interruptions due to requests for assistance—Performers can’t remember everything because real learning occurs on the job.

The Ideal Approach: Workflow Learning

Notice the clear advantages of workflow-driven learning—reduced learning time and overload, continuous on-the-job support, more accurate performance, and lower total cost of workforce support.

DISCLOSURE: MaxUse is a client of the Workflow Institute.

Timeline of Knowledge Representation
Saturday, March 19, 2005
The Timeline of Knowledge Representation by Jorn Barger

For a student of time, this is simply mind-blowing.


John Bateman's ontology portal...

IT timeline

Philip Greenspun's History of Computer Science

Columbia University Computing History

Here's the Internet Time Group page of timelines. Looking back, I see that I'd already included Barger's.

Workflow at Warp Speed
Friday, March 18, 2005
On Demand, In the Soup, and On the Path to Glory
by Jay Cross

Forbes magazine (March 14, 2005) throws cold water on IBM's On Demand computing strategy and grid computing in general, quoting a hardware-hawking competitor that "The utility computing model is bull. Hardly anybody is buying that way."

Forbes reports that IBM CEO Sam Palmisano is now pushing "business process transformation," and continues...
In addition to that, there is a market called "business process outsourcing." Instead of simply running computers, IBM hopes to operate entire parts of a company's business, such as personnel or accounting. Last year at a meeting with Wall Street analysts, Palmisano touted this kind of outsourcing as a $500 billion market of which IBM dreamt of someday getting 10%.
Is IBM smoking something? We think not. Sam is merely ahead of his time.

DISCLOSURE: IBM is a client of Internet Time Group. However, this rant is based entirely on publically available sources. It represents my viewpoint and mine alone.


Day Two

The second day of eLearning Producer I orchestrated a panel session entitled What Comes After eLearning: F-learning.


The day before I'd heard the statements "Courses are dead" and "Classes are dead" go unchallenged. Now we were going to experiment with "Presentations are dead." Presentations are "pre," i.e. prepared in advance, but conversations are "with," meaning they are co-created on the spot.

The room was full, the discussion lively, and viewpoints all over the map. Joining me a co-conspirators were pals Allison Rossett, Ellen Wagner, Clark Quinn, and David Holcolmbe. We must have set a record for the number of topics covered in a single session.

The audience wrote concerns or trends about the future of eLearning, and passed them in. The panelists kicked things off, and for the next hour we had a group conversation about where things are headed in the next three to four years. The audience wanted to know about mobile learning, games for learning (although half said games would never be allowed in their organization until the name was changed), the ability of humans to keep up with technical innovation, whether program quality is headed up or down, the role of simulations, and the impact of globalization.

P8230043 P8230050

Macromedia's Ellen Wagner made it clear that Asia is a world apart. Leapfrogging poles and wires, China is chock full of wireless telecom. Japanese kids are so wedded to their cell phones that when a battery goes dead they say, "I feel like I've lost half my brain." Korea has nearly ubiquitous broadband. Europe still has broadband deficiencies but the entire phone system is interoperable. And the U.S. is a quazy-quilt of competing standards, screwy phone service, and spotty wi-fi.

P8230046We debated whether the ability to Google endless factoids clogs the brain with trivia or permits time for developing reflection and critical thinking. We agreed that loose coupling will lead to flexible systems and, by extension, flexible organizations. We discussed whether learning itself needs to be redefined to include the augmentation fromm the net.

I'm not going to even try to describe the conclusions from this session: You had to be there. No one threw doctrinaire grenades into the discussion. The talking stick moved around the room swiftly. We ended the conversation three minutes before the final bell to leave time for individual reflection.

A session like this gets the cerebral gears turning.

From my vantage point, training professionals are opening up to fresh thinking.

Not that this is new, but the future holds:
  • Targeting business objectives, not training activity measures.
  • A renaissance of performance support, this time facilitated by agent-based software.
  • Content delivered in nuggets.
  • More coaching and mentoring, less class and instruction.
  • Competencies replaced by values.
  • More focus on groups, less on individuals.
  • Integration of customers, partners, subcontractors, suppliers into learning.
  • Sharing replaces hoarding.
  • Much less dependence on formal workshops and instructors.

Putting a Value on Learning

The title of my next presentation was Decision-Making Memes: Putting a Value on Learning. I explained that while I've been in the training business for nearly 30 years, before that I was a mainframe salesman, Army officer, and Harvard MBA student. I'm a business guy. I understand how business people make decisions. ROI doesn't have a heck of a lot to do with it.

I'm not going to recount the story here. Later I'll put it on the web in narrated form. For now, as promised, here's the slide deck I used in my presentation.

For more on this topic, visit the Metrics Page in the KnowledgeBase here.

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