May 26, 2003

May 24, 2003

Laughter from the Spam

PageWhiz automates the process of making page-turners. (I am not making this up.)

    Page Whiz is an amazingly easy to use tool that creates 3D page turning digital catalogues, eBrochures, eBooks, manuals, photo albums, quizzes, surveys and more - in a digital web book format.

    Publishing on the web has never been so exciting! Finally a publishing solution which emulates real life like publications, page turns and more.

Check the demo. Choose "Open" when given the option. (Right-click the pages to modify and/or exit.)

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Yesterday I met with Pascal Kaplan and his son Soren, the principals of Icohere, an innovative on-line conferencing system. Armed with a ticket to the Collaborative Communities 2003 Conference, today I'm sampling the presentations and discussions that remain on the web after the real-time event is over.

Since I just returned from four days at a traditional conference, it's only natural that I compare the live experience to this dead one.

Icohere is providing the infrastructure for David Cooperrider?s Business as an Agent of World Benefit project, so that?s where I started, with a narrated PowerPoint style talk. I had latched onto Cooperrider's work last month. Cooperrider's approach, and his focus on sustainability, parallel the work of John Adams. Funny how things converge when you're having fun.

    Accelerating and pervasive global system change. We're in a transformational moment, a time of extremes. Last time this happened was the Renaissance.

    Key vision. Seeking a place for daily global dialogue on transformational cooperation. Leaders everywhere are thinking about the relationship of business and society. Business has the opportunity to be the new creative force on the planet.

    Can we articulate both the common ground and the higher ground. Stories of exemplars, a new societal learning process, anticipatory learning. Interviews with millions using the interview guide.

    To discover and unite the best in business with the call of our times of creating prosperous, inspired and sustainable societies.

    Appreciative Inquiry. A way to see the world anew. Deficit-based theory of change was common; it is a problem-solving approach with its root-cause analysis, brainstorming of solutions, and presentation of action plans. The view is that organizations are problems to be solved.

    Time for a new metaphor. Organizations are not problems to be solved. Organizations are centers of human relatedness, alive with infinite potential for innovation. Instead of What is wrong?, ask What is strong? Searching for the good, the possible, we found that human systems moved in the direction of our questions. What is the organization like when it is most alive? A remarkable energy for change begins to emerge.

    Research supports this view: placebo, Pygmalion effect, positive emotions, imbalanced inner dialogue.

September 2003 is the kickoff event for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, but you can get started right now if you want to take part. Telling transformative stories is part of the method; Icohere is the infrastructure that will collect, refine, and disseminate them.

Now I head over to the Conference Hall to hear David Coleman's keynote, The Evolution of Collaboration and On-Line Communities.

Well, I guess I won't hear David. He provided a presentation in Adobe Acrobat. Interesting stuff; I downloaded it to study more thoroughly later.

Richard McDermott is the next presenter. His topic is the Human Side of Virtual Communities. Soren has told me this is one I must check out.

Oops. I got lost there for a few minutes. For some reason, my default was set to show only the most recent posts. I could not find Richard's talk. Resetting to All fixed the problem.

Communities of Practice are a small part of a KM strategy. Some communities arise spontaneously. Other times, an organization purposely links opinion leaders in a strategic community. Sometimes it takes more: Centers of Excellence.

Let me show you what I'm looking at. I entered the Conference Hall and clicked on Day One Keynote Presentations. I chose one. And I ended up here:

Here's something I wish I'd had in San Diego: you can jump from slide to slide. I did this to skip over things I found boring and to re-listen to things I wanted to stick. Some speakers have the ability to condense a lot of learning into a few slides, and here are two examples:

My next stop was Verna Allee's presentation. Businesses are networks. Everything is networks. But networks are not all the same.

The dogs begin to bark. I click the Pause button, something else that would be nice to have at live events, a put-the-world-on-hold button, as in Nicholson Baker's book, The Fermata.

Verna's material is compelling, and it invites a lot of questions. In Icohere, Q&A discussions follow every presentation:

David Woolley on The Right Tool for the Job. Comments suggested that this is a great presentation. David gives a handy taxonomy of collaborative tools. It's all at his site if you're interested.

By picking and choosing judiciously, I spent just under three hours at the online conference site. I received several times as many lessons as I did from the live sessions at ASTD.

Recently readers of the Learning Circuits blog reported to me that they learn a lot more in the halls and over lunch at conferences than from the formal presentations. (It's that old informal learning once again.) That holds true for me.

Icohere provides an easily navigated collection of presentations and remarks but there's no hallway for informal face-to-face interaction. During the event, IM could take care of that.

This is friendly software.

Posted by Jay Cross at 03:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 23, 2003


Kevin Werbach is one smart cookie. His Anticipating a post-Web, post-PC world describes the passage from one generation of high-tech to the next. The web will always be important, but the innovators are moving on.

    What matters today is using all that connected power, and the standards-based software environment that rides on it, in productive ways. From enabling distributed work teams in companies to collaborate on projects to giving people rich interactive experiences that travel across different hardware and connections, these are tasks we could only think about tackling once the foundations were laid.

    Smart companies understand this change. IBM, you will notice, is no longer touting e-business, its code word for the Web. It has shifted its energy to next-generation developments such as Linux, grid computing and autonomic computing. Microsoft is pouring resources into post-PC and post-Web businesses, understanding that it must make significant long-term bets to prepare for the day when its traditional Windows cash cow disappears. Dell Computer is even going so far as to remove “Computer” from its name. Apple Computer is rapidly moving from an emphasis on easy Internet access to “digital lifestyle” offerings such as photo sharing and music downloads. And America Online, though struggling, knows that it needs to change from the company that gets you on the Web to the company that gets you beyond the Web.

    A human generational shift goes along with the technological change. When the Internet burst on the scene, it confronted a technology industry whose reference point was the transition from mainframe to PC, symbolized by the ascendance of Microsoft and downfall of IBM.

    Change is no longer measurable by one variable. It arrives in waves of interconnected developments whose relationship we only dimly discern.
    That’s what’s happening today. The technologies and concepts generating buzz at industry gatherings like PC Forum, O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference, and Supernova include social software, the semantic Web, Web logs, rich Internet applications, Web services, unlicensed wireless, grid computing, digital identity, broadband media. The more one looks at these developments, the more hidden connections appear. They are pieces of a larger whole, which we don’t yet have words to describe.

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May 22, 2003

ASTD Late Tuesday & Wednesday

Tuesday evening I attended a cocktail reception as one of the few gringos among dozens of Canadians. Canada is becoming a power in filling eLearning niches. David Bostwick, the Consul and Trade Commissioner told me a major part of his role is informing please about the Canada they don't know. For instance, few people realize that the U.S. imports more oil from Canada than from Saudi Arabia. I suggested he might get a consortium of companies to produce some eLearning about Canada; everybody wins.

My friend Al Bailey, CEO of Learning Designs (Mississauga, Ontario) invited me to dine with the group. We ended up discussing just about everything under the sun.

Speaking of sun, my half-hour soaking up rays at the lunch on the roof of the Convention Center with Ken Blanchard was turning me into a beet. A day later, my face is still red and warm to the touch.

Don't Wait For Instructions

Waiting for the airport shuttle, I took Margaret Wheatley's advice about reflection to heart. The affluence of the Western world enables many of us to invest our time as we choose. When people ask me what I do, I sometimes tell them that I write myself a new job description every morning.

It's as if we all walk a corridor lined with doorways. Behind each door lies opportunity. Sad to say, many people think the doors are locked and pass them by. Perception is reality. We hold on to vestigial patterns and assumptions long after they have outlasted their usefulness. This has been a concern of the Meta-Learning Lab.

The Conference has finished. The Learning goes on:

1. It ain't over ?til it's over.
2. It's never over.

Waiting for the Southwest flight back to Oakland, I noticed some people from the Canadian reception, Alex Pattakos and his wife Elaine Dundon. Elaine is author of Seeds of Innovation: Cultivating the Synergy That Fosters New Ideas. I hadn't thought about it before, but most of the books on innovation describe it as revolutionary. Gary Hamel, for example, focuses on developing innovative strategic plans; if they don't totally rattle the organization's cage, they don't qualify as innovation. Elaine and Alex take a more practical approach in their workshops in Santa Fe.

People at this year's ASTD conference seemed happier and more optimistic than last year in New Orleans. San Diego's a great spot for a conference. Smiling people open the Convention Center doors when you approach. The weather is wonderful. Hotels and restaurants are within walking distance. More than that, the war is over and people are looking forward to going back to work. Numerous marginal vendors have dropped out of the game, leaving the stronger firms to play the field.

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May 20, 2003

ASTD, Monday & Tuesday

Monday morning. Margaret Wheatley led an early-bird session on "Turning to One Another," suggesting we ask ourselves what we need to be for the world. Lots of people come to a conference like this to find time to pause, to reflect, and to heal. (We used to come for new ideas but you hardly need come to a conference for those.)

Take time for reflection.

Are you turning toward or turning away? Fear, anxiety, and conflict can lead one to focus on the negative and withdraw.

In meetings, listen for views that are different from yours. (Don't be argumentative, starting counter-arguments in your head.) Acceptance is relaxing.

In a South African classroom, at the end of the day, they reflect on what they have learned. At the end of the week, they do the same. Ditto at the end of the month. Meg asked the teacher where the practice originated. He did not understand. That is just the way you do things.

Take time for relationships.

Think of leaders not as commanders so much as hosts. Start where the energy is. It only takes a few people to make things happen.

Unfortunately I fell fast asleep for the last half of Meg's talk, in spite of sitting in the front row.

Tina Sung outlined ASTD's priorities going forward:
1. Link learning to business objectives.
2. Be a performance consultant, not a mere trainer.
3. eLearning continues to grow.
4. Leadership development and executive coaching are hot.
5. Pro diversity, not just oversees, but also using Gardner's multiple intelligences.

Major initiatives are:
1. Go international.
2. Focus on ROI. (For some reason, ROI is a specialty; I thought it was something everyone needed to embrace.
3. Competency. = credentials. Certificate programs. (Done with DDI.)
4. Best Practices awards.

Pat Crull, incoming president, heads up trainiing for ToysRUs

eLearning is becoming a profession of specialties: designers, programmers, authors, and more. I asked what ASTD was doing to attract these constituencies. Learning Circuits and Interest Groups. I suggested they consider changing the content of shows like this one.

On the Expo floor, I met up with Joe Flynn. Joe is the former General Manager of the eLearning and Telecom Group at Advanstar. He's the guy who negotiated Advanstar's purchase of TechLearn from Elliott Masie. Now Joe is CEO & Chairman of PeopleView, which provides real-time decision support for human capital management. Each application includes an interactive diagnostic and reporting tool that identifies and ranks opportunity for improvement in the workforce and link these to custom developed change management action plans.

Bill Lee notes that corporations are downsizing and outsourcing during the recession. He thinks the attractiveness of outsourcing (buy service when you need it) will make this a hard habit to break.

One of Bill's clients found that 64% of their people will be eligible for retirement in two years. The baby boom bulge has made it almost to the end of the population snake. Wise companies are instituting coaching and mentoring programs to transfer knowledge from the old generation to the new.

Karl Krayer sees the downside of eliminating command and control: confusion over team roles, relationships, and expectations. More than ever, every program must begin with objectives.

Click2Learn's Ashwami Sirohi and I spent the better part of the evening at a fabulous seafood place on Fifth Avenue talking about the learning industry, enterprise computing, and software packages. He foresees an eLearning world dominated by suites which bundle together an LMS, LCMS, virtual classroom, and performance management. That's a sound approach so long as we are plagued by a lack of interoperability, what I call "Plug and Blame."

Trading Places
In the publishing world, CLO magazine is becoming a monthly. Learning and Training (née eLearning) goes from monthly to every other month.

The official headcount at ASTD is 8,000. Last year's show in New Orleans drew 9,000. Given the continuing recession and the SARS epidemic, this is a good turnout.

Lance Dublin and I gave a 90-minute presentation to around 150 people this morning. At least 30 of these left when the sound system went bonkers, filling the room with white noise too loud to shout over.

Ken Blanchard hosted a luncheon for members of the press. In the old days, training was as much entertainment as results. Now results are what counts. In Ken?s world, this takes Raving Fan customers, Gung-Ho people, and being the investment of choice. Employees are ducks (bad) or eagles (good).

Ken told the story of showing up at the airport without any i.d. He ran into the bookstore and bought a copy of his book that features a picture of Ken with coach Don Shula. At security, the Southwest Airlines people not only accepted the book as identification but shouted out, "This guy knows Don Shula! Get him a seat in First Class." Southwest has no first class but it does have fun-loving employees.

Another airline's security people were ducks not eagles. Their response to the book as i.d. met with "Quack, quack, quack, not in the regulations, quack, quack, call my supervisor" and four handoffs before Ken could board the plane.

Ken's advice: Treat your people as important and you'll kill the competition.

This is a "virtuous circle," i.e. the process is self-reinforcing. I told Ken's tale to the Southwest employee who checked me in. She smiled and said "Just look at our uniforms." If you've flown on Southwest, you're aware that employees wear shorts, t-shirts, and pretty much whatever they feel like.

Tina shared a new meme that has a certain ring to it: Knowledge Productivity.

Look at those ribbons! A veteran of many ASTD campaigns.

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May 18, 2003

ASTD, Sunday

Sunday, May 18 San Diego
The Conference keynote opened with cliches that transported me back to the 80s:

  • Link your training plan to business objectives.
  • Become a Performance Consultant instead of a trainer.

Time for a cup of coffee. I returned for the keynote by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point. He presented the Cliff's Notes version of his book, which is okay since it's an exciting message, even if it's one I've heard and read before.

Social Power is often under the radar but it's what makes things work. Diagram the connections between people; it looks like the routes of an airline, lots of activity around the hubs.

Connectors are the human hubs. Most of us connect with about 35 people. Connectors link to one-hundred and twenty or more people.

Mavens are expert sources, for example the nerd who tells his acquaintances what technology to buy. Mavens exert incredible influence in buying decisions. They spark informal learning, but often that's not appreciated.

Paul Revere had social power; people listened when he said "The British are coming." William Dawes set off at the same time; no one paid him any attention. He was neither a connector nor a mavein.

Jennifer Homer, ASTD's charming PR chief, arranges interviews with keynoters for the press corps at these events every year.

The first was with Malcolm Gladwell. Noting that we'd talked before, I asked Malcolm if he'd stuck his finger in a lamp socket. What's with the big hair? He replied that his hair looked like this most of time. The short hair was an aberration.

Social Power is related to emotional intelligence but connectors and mavens are virtuosos of the art.

Can one change roles? Yes. More often, it's simpler to encourage the latent connectors and mavens to come out of the closet. Or to show people how to take advantage of the networks before them.

Because it's not easily quantified, social power is often considered second class compared to formal, explicit power. Women, when excluded from formal power, have used social power to great advantage.

I asked if anyone was suggesting what corporations could do to take advantage of social power. Malcolm mentioned rewarding active participants. It impacts how you arrange your office. My interpretation: Not many people have advanced from reporting on social networking to doing something about it.

Walking the halls, I reverted to Jay Cross, cyber-reporter, and began asking people what important trends they saw in training and development.

Rob Henderson, Custom Building Products, Seal Beach, brought up a point from the keynote that I'd missed: eLearning has reached the tipping point. It's no longer some off-the-wall flyer. Rob's wife is an airline executive who has seen air traffic to Asia drop 70% due to SARS. Virtual meetings are the order of the day. More and more, eLearning is used for knowledge transfer and face-to-face is used only for well-defined social events.

Business is good at Talentkeepers, because organizations are waking up to the huge costs associated with turnover. Craig Taylor points out that pay and benefits aren't sufficient motivators to keep people on the job. If they don't like the work environment or their relationship with their boss, people go somewhere else. Front-line leaders should be held accountable for turnover, not HR. They need to learn retention skills. Craig put the cost of a defection in a low-level job at $5,000 and in a high-level position, say an investment banker, at $100,000. I bet it's a lot more than that.

Haidee Allerton, editor of T+D magazine, noted how fast things are moving these days. She also senses a backlash against ineffective tech solutions.

Marc Rosenberg

Following the dot-com bubble, Marc Rosenberg is seeing a lot of new faces. Companies have cleaned house and are starting over. The new crowd is less starry-eyed; they ask good questions. While I may have found deja vu in this morning's keynote, it was new material for many in the audience who have yet to discover Robert Mager, Dana Gibbs Robinson, and other sources I consider gospel.

Lance Dublin

Lance Dublin attended a session where a variety of statistics on eLearning were presented. The problem? Everyone defines eLearning as they see fit. 80% dislike eLearning, but what do they dislike? Eight-hour online class experiences? Using Goodle to look up answers?


The dot-com razzle-dazzle fooled many of us into thinking that eLearning was the universal cure-all for training woes. Apply eLearning to your problems, cut costs, boost performance, and defy gravity. Now we're waking up from the dream. eLearnia's Brenda Sugrue and I talked about how corporations are going back to applying the right tool to get the job done. They're also moving away from self-paced instruction as a silver bullet, instead developing competency models and communities of practice.
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May 17, 2003

ASTD hits San Diego

ASTD started this evening with a brisk outdoor reception on the terrace of the Convention Center overlooking yachts bobbing up and down in the harbor.

Great, simple hors-d’oeuvres of baba ganoosh, hummus, tapenade, red pepper salad, and a sweet fig and onion preserve with pita, focaccia, and toast points to spread it on.

Brief chats with Tina Sung, Kevin Oakes, Pat Galaghan, Jane Massy, Pat Crull, and others, but saw almost no speakers. Hence, no juicy gossip yet, but I’ll see what I can scrape up tomorrow.

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May 15, 2003

Friday eLearning Forum


[Late Friday]. Well, that was embarrassing. I set up the webcam this morning at the Microsoft Campus, only to find that my images could not permeate their firewall. By this time, several people had emailed back that we needed to turn the camera to face the audience. Actually, they were looking at a blurry picture of my backyard, the last image uploaded on Thursday.

As a result of today’s session on Informal Learning, we’ve set up a Blog for members.

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May 14, 2003

Blogger Party

The Blogger Party
26Mix, San Francisco

May 13, 2004


Give me a half dozen mojitos, por favor


Jason, his wife Allison, and the back of some woman's head.

Unflattering portrait of Rebecca Blood. (Sorry, Rebecca.)

Peter Merholz.

Anil Dash

She told me her husband made it for her.

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I’ll be attending ASTD from midday Saturday until Wednesday afternoon.

Lance Dublin and I are speaking about management support and in-house promotion of eLearning on Tuesday, from 10:00 to 11:30 am.

You can leave messages for me in the Press Room. Or call me at 510 528 3105. I’m staying at the Comfort Inn Gaslamp.

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May 13, 2003

Avoid default thinking

In late April, I lunched with a remarkable man, John D. Adams. His book, Thinking Today As If Tomorrow Mattered: The Rise of a Sustainable Consciousness, resonated with my thinking about people?s orientation to time and my belief that most people are after a quick fix rather than realizing a vision. John?s work adds a dimension to the thinking of the Meta-Learning Lab. He reasons that we develop habits of thinking, a series of defaults that we are largely unaware of. He proposes that we consciously get out of autopilot mode, expand our comfort zones, and take control of keeping things in balance. This requires self-awareness and incremental change, both facilitated by asking appropriate questions.

Here's John's summary of people's orientation to time:

Attention focus

Time Orientation in Thinking





Focus: Immediate problem

Function: Administration

Liability: No big picture

Focus: Anticipation

Function Develop Strategy

Liability: Overlook immediate


Focus: New Approach

Function: Innovation

Liability: Duplicate effort

Focus: What We Want

Function: Define the Future

Liability: No Reality Testing

John proposes that versatility in consciousness is essential for on-going rapid individual learning and that the only sustainable consciousness is a learning consciousness.

I have plowed much of the same ground as John, but his crops bear more fruit. Having set up this framework, he shows how a person or organization can achieve a more balanced position. I'll come back to this in a later post.
Posted by Jay Cross at 11:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Normal?

BS from Fast Company's investment manager's puff piece on the New Normal (a euphemism for I get it and you don't.).

Old Normal

Internet Time

New Normal

Real Time

Measured in days, weeks, and dog years (for the business cycle). Absolutely everything was accelerated, from hiring to going public. Eighteen months was the magic number for major undertakings, from startup to ship, from funding to IPO. The bumper sticker was, "Stop for lunch and you are lunch." Says McNamee: "It was a kind of hormonal reaction. There was so much urgency that every standard -- for due diligence, leadership, recruiting, and investment -- was relaxed." "The New Normal," says McNamee, "is about real life -- and real time. Getting things right the first time is more important than getting things done quickly." That's the opposite of the late-'90s mantra, "Fail faster to succeed sooner." Everything -- whether it be building companies or hiring top talent -- takes longer in the New Normal. Even more important in the new time frame: Don't waste your own time. Dedicate it to what you truly enjoy doing.

More thought-provoking article in the same issue: Christopher Meyer describes companies as living organisms. Don't be wigged out by death; it's only natural. All living things eventually die. Moving on beats hanging on through artificial life support. Join the kids as they grow up.
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May 08, 2003


This white paper addresses how organizations, particularly business organizations, can get more done. Workers who know more get more accomplished. People who are well connected make greater contributions. Employees and partners with more capacity to learn are more versatile in adapting to future conditions. The people who create the most value are those who know the right people, the right stuff, and the right things to do.

It’s all a matter of learning, but it’s not the sort of learning that is the province of training departments, workshops, and classrooms. Most people in training programs learn only a little of the right stuff, are fuzzy about how to apply what they’ve learned, and never address who are the right people to know.

People learn to build the right network of associates and the right level of expertise through informal, sometimes even accidental, learning that flies beneath the corporate radar. Because organizations are oblivious to informal learning, they fail to invest in it. As a result, their execution is less than it might be.

Informal Learning - The Other 80% looks at what informal learning is and how to leverage it. It accompanies the May 16 meeting of the eLearning Forum at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus.

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May 06, 2003

In the Southwest

I’m on the road again, mixing business with pleasure in Cave Creek, Santa Fe, and Taos.

Dating back to 1100, the Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States.

Time slows down here. At the Pueblo, the word they use for “five minutes from now” is the same as the word for “tomorrow.”

You get a back to the land feeling out here. Animals everywhere. Hawks, eagles, buffalo, prairie dog, owls, kangaroo rat.

Now I’m in Arroyo Hondo, in the sixties the commune headquarters for the universe. New Buffalo, The Hog Farm, Lama, and numerous other groups smoked pot, raised vegetables, danced naked, and fell apart not long after being established.

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