Working smarter

Higher ground

I don’t talk much about training or learning these days.

Just because you train people doesn’t mean they learn.

Learning is higher ground than training, but learning is not enough to make sure the job gets done.

The goal is achieving the outcomes you seek. How you get there is immaterial. Sometimes it’s easier to add smarts to the workflow (performance support) than to stuff things into people’s heads. Moreover, people often fail to put what they learn into practice.

I have reframed how I help organizations get things done. It may or may not involve learning. I call it working smarter.

Impatient? Go here. If you like what you see, come back for an explanation.

Working smarter begins with a holistic view of performance. The bottom line is getting more done and doing it faster.

Working smarter involves trusting individuals to do what’s right and giving them the latitude to do it. Empowering people to take action rests on clearing obstacles out of the way and incorporating next practices into workflow. Motivation, respect, and aspirations play a role. It’s about cultivating a healthy learning ecology.

Everyone agrees that working smarter is a good thing. Next time the economy nose dives, can you imagine an executive calling for people to work dumber?

Working smarter is the key to sustainability and continuous improvement. The accelerating rate of change forces everyone in every organization to make a choice: learn while you work or become obsolete. Work and learning are two sides of the same coin. Imbed what we know about learning theory into how people work, and working smarter results.

Multi-disciplinary. In spades

Working smarter draws ideas from design thinking, network optimization, brain science, user experience design, learning theory, organizational development, social business, technology, collaboration, web 2.0 patterns, social psychology, value network analysis, anthropology, complexity theory, and more. Working smarter embraces the spirit of agile software, action learning, social networks, and parallel developments in many disciplines.

Keeping up with developments in all of these fields is daunting. New developments are spread all over the place. There’s no one-stop shop for news about working smarter. Important discoveries fall through the cracks. Most organizations take a piecemeal approach.

We all have our favorite sources on the web for keeping up. My must-reads include David Snowden on complexity, George Siemens on network learning, Jonah Lehrer on neuroscience, Steven Denning on management practice, Nancy White on building communities, Dan Pontefract on collaborative culture, and Ross Dawson on living networks. Of course, I also read the posts of Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Clark Quinn, and Charles Jennings; we five are always building upon one another’s thinking.

Less is more

My feed reader (I use Google Reader) tracks 160 blogs. That’s unwieldy. I broke them into groups. It was still like drinking from the fire hose. I whittled my essential reading down to three dozen sources. Keeping up with only those proved difficult.

When pressed for time, all I want to read are the most important posts. How to separate the wheat from the chaff? Social signals. Just show me what’s attracting the most attention. At long last, there’s now a way to find the most important, essential writing about working smarter.

Working Smarter Daily

Working Smarter Daily presents me with the crème de la crème every day. It pulls the best stuff to the top of the page. If I can only find time to read the essence of what interests me, this is where I go to get it.

Go to Bookmark it. Take a look around.

Jay the Curator

Working Smarter Daily displays the most relevant and interesting content from sites I choose.

That’s right: there’s no democracy at work in selecting the sources that feed the site. Jay decides. But everyone has a hand in selecting the content that is automagically drawn from those sources. That’s determined by social factors.

Jay the dictatorial curator favors:

  • individuals, not institutions.
  • depth, not breadth.
  • original ideas, not the 2.0 echo chamber.
  • inspirational thinking that I can build on.
  • most of the time, people I’ve met

Tony Karrer (more on Tony coming up) wondered if the “mostly people I’ve met” filter was too exclusionary. I don’t see it that way. I make a point of meeting the people who matter to me. Know someone who’s making a difference in working smarter? Introduce me. (And I don’t know four or five people in the curent bunch.) I’m open to your suggestions for whom should be heard here, whether I know them F2F or not.

Under the hood

Play around with the site.

  • Clicking on a name in the right column brings up that person’s greatest hits. Example: Andy McAfee
  • Clicking on a topic or tool brings up the most popular articles on it. Example: collaboration
  • Use the search to see what this crowd has said about a topic. Example: sharepoint
  • Click Change Edition up top and see what was hot last year or the year before. Example: 2006

This is both a smart aggregator for what’s hot in working smarter and also a research tool.

Working Smarter Daily in practice

Among the top four pointers in last Thursday’s edition was a post from Jane Hart about Twitter as a learning tool for surgeons. It pointed to this over-the-top clip YouTube clip from Gray’s Anatomy. Just what I needed to explain the potential of microblogs to a client. In eight minutes.

Yesterday I came upon a post from Ross Dawson that pointed me to just what I was looking for about implementing enterprise 2.0 networks in-house.

This evening I came upon Donald Clark’s wonderful diatribe about why teaching Latin in schools is so ridiculous. Good for reflection and a belly laugh.

Unlike my experience looking at general sources, I find an item or two every time I look at Working Smarter Daily. If we’re kindred spirits, maybe you will, too.

Have it your way

My friend Tony Karrer has been developing smart aggregators for some time now. You may be familiar with eLearning Learning and Nancy White’s Communities & Networks Connection. Last year, Tony and I used this technology to create a site called Informal Learning Flow. The software has evolved. Tony recently set up a company, Aggregage, to make the technology publicly available. I am encouraging companies to consider using private versions behind their firewalls for dynamic knowledge management. This kind of curation + social signals has the potential to become a primary means for professionals to filter content in their specialties.


Xyleme is sponsoring this experiment. Xyleme enables companies to free legacy information for distribution on mobile devices and modern information systems. Their philosophy of simplifying our complex world fits with what I’m trying to do with Working Smarter Daily. They generously chipped in enough money to get us going.

My colleagues at Internet Time Alliance helped write the Working Smarter Fieldbook with me. We talk working smarter every day. They turned me on to many of my favorite sources.