Thursday, November 03, 2005
Yesterday I flew home from Elliott Masie's unconference, Learning 2005, and my body's still on East Coast time. It's 6:30 in the morning here in Berkeley. The world around me is still. Smokey the wonderdog and I are the only ones up, and he's just wandered over to lie on the central heating grate.
My mind is on fire with ideas. Snippets and flashes of Orlando are still in turmoil in my head, seeking connections with life's stored patterns. The mind's post-processing is one reason that evaluation sheets completed immediately upon the close of a session are meaningless. You don't know what will last until patterns have sunk it and connected to your worldview, and experience has determined which ones are keepers.
I can already tell that I learned a whale of a lot at Learning 2005, more from the participants than from the on-stage talent. For the last month, I've been stewing about whether one can take advantage of informal learning one step at a time or whether the transition requires a sea change in our thinking. I've been of two minds on this.
On the one hand, organizations can profit immediately from applying the techniques described in Informal Learning. Building a great informal learnscape increases revenue and innovation while diminishing cost and bureaucracy.
On the other hand, a piecemeal approach will never spark organizational transformation. Getting the most out of a broader definition of learning requires unlearning the vestiges of the way we're accustomed to interpreting the world.
Throughout Learning 2005, I saw people struggling to force-fit new ideas into old frameworks. How can I add some informal learning to our formal learning? How can I measure informal learning with my LMS? How can I insure that they learn what they need to? Can't our competency management system run things? “Incrementalism is the enemy of innovation,” said Nicholas Negroponte. You can't retrofit all the new innovations to last year's model.
Events are to learning as snapshots are to world travel. People have left the hotel Coronado but ideas and relationships that began there continue on. The memes of the event are propagating. Participants are trying new concepts on for size back home. An on-line scrapbook of photos and presentation highlights perpetuates memories and continues to spark new ideas. Learning 2005 is a process, the time in Orlando was the middle, and traces of it will always remain.
Learning 2005 is part of a larger whole. You can't remove the Coronado or the greasy food at the Pepper Market or Elliott or you, the participant, or the mental baggage you brought with you and have the same deal. It's all one bucket of stew. In spite of forewarning, some people thought they had signed up for just another conference. Their three-day experience bore little resemblance to mine. Many were uncomfortable with the flexibility, the alternatives, and the margin for confusion, compared to their expectations. Some griped about anything unconventional but I sense the poor folks always drink from a half-empty glass.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as are effectiveness, value, enthusiasm, brilliance, opportunity, and the softness of the pillows. I became a different person at Learning 2005, and I hope to wake up a new person every day. This morning I am a revolutionary. To learn is to be. Change requires a new way of being in the world.
Learning 2006. Extreme makeover. Join the instructional designer witness protection program. Be all that you can be. Do your part to make the universe all that it can be, too.
A hour later.
We revolutionaries get no respect. While my chats on informal learning have generally drawn rave reviews, I just got a note from ASTD that they don't want to hear it.
November 2, 2005
Dear Jay Cross:
Thank you for submitting a proposal to present at the 2006 ASTD International Conference & Exposition scheduled for May 7-10, 2006, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept the following proposal:
Proposal Title: Informal Learning for Free-Range Learners and Frustrated Training Executives
Track: Performance Improvement
Format: Concurrent Session
If you submitted more than one proposal, you will receive an individual email notification for each proposal.
As you can imagine, we receive many more proposals than we can accommodate. The competition is stiff and it is difficult to choose from so many outstanding entries. The Program Advisory Committee is composed of individuals from the field who carefully review each proposal. ASTD Education staff also review each proposal to ensure that we accomplish ASTD’s primary goal to create a conference program that meets the needs of our audience and provides a balance and diversity of topics, speaker credentials, and issues.
You may have received an email on September 30 advising you that ASTD was considering one of your proposals pending confirmation of speaker availability and session space at the Dallas Convention Center. Unfortunately, due to space constraints we were not able to accommodate all proposals under consideration. If there are session cancellations, we will look first at proposals already submitted to find an appropriate substitute and we may be in contact with you to fill such a vacancy.
We certainly appreciate your time and interest in submitting this proposal and hope that you will join us at the Conference. The learning and growth that occur at an ASTD Conference go well beyond the educational sessions, and we invite you to contribute to the informal peer exchange and learning that take place outside of the structured presentations.
We also hope that you will consider submitting again for the 2007 Conference. The “Call for Presentations” for 2007 will be posted on the ASTD Website, www.astd.org, in April 2006.
Thank you, again, for considering our Conference and we look forward to seeing you in Dallas.
Chair, Program Advisory Committee
Manager, Conference Programming
Of course, maybe they'd seen Will Thalheimer's remark that "Although sometimes I find Jay's ideas completely nuts, I like his work because it pushes against our old boundaries and forces us to rethink what we're doing. Jay is a collector of ideas and inspirations. In fact, his talk got me thinking about informal learning and how to make sense of what it is and what it can do for us." If it takes acting nutty to help people open themselves to new ideas, I'll throw a fit for them.