July 30, 2003

Books I've enjoyed

Jay's Amazon reading suggestions

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2003


Most large companies distribute deadly-dull in-house newsletters. Deloitte Consulting is an exception. Their in-house newsletter, Cappuccino, is informative, witty, and fun to read. Here's a self-serving excerpt.

Social Software: Get Affiliated

Jon Warshawsky

If you wake up in the middle of the night thinking that your company code and employee number aren't helping you, it's because they weren't supposed to. But the rise of online communities based on self-affiliation may be putting technology on your side. Knowledge management and corporate learning may never be the same. So rest easy. Your editor gets affiliated with some experts to bring you the real story.


Social Software: Get Affiliated

by Jon Warshawsky

Hi, what's your company code?

Want to understand the emerging world of social software? Step one: forget everything you know about "business areas," "company codes" and all of those System-defined clusters of people designed by System engineers for the benefit of the System.

Forget top down. Think bottom up. While you may be part of sales organization 60 and training district 12, that turns out to have not much to do with how you learn or affiliate.

"Social software is based on supporting the desire of individuals to affiliate, their desire to be pulled into groups to achieve their personal goals," Stowe Boyd wrote in a recent article (Darwin magazine, May 2003). "Contrast that with the groupware approach to things where people are placed into groups defined organizationally or functionally."

When it comes to knowledge management and learning, "we may be witnessing the death throes of the command and control organization," according to Berkeley, California-based author and researcher Jay Cross. "The pendulum seems to be swinging from an institutional, top-down model to an individual, or bottom-up, model," he said.

While the technology is nothing spectacular, social software is one of the catalysts of the change. For those interested in how companies learn and share their smarts, it has begun already.

What is social software?

You've already determined that everyone who's proficient with software is a socially inept recluse who spends Friday nights at Frye's or Circuit City playing with fourth generation PDAs and cell phone cameras, so how did these words come together? While your conclusion has lost currency in the past decade - even arch-geek Bill Gates is married, and he's lost billions in the past few years - it's a fair question. The focus is on how software is used.

The cc: line in email, according to Boyd, could be considered the lowest form of using software for social networking. By definition, you've created a small community of recipients who are part of the communication stream. This is a basic level of affiliation. Significant? Consider whether you read the cc: line in email messages you received. Odds are that you do. While we tend to cc: more people than we ought to, this is a conscious decision to define a group of people for whom the topic is relevant.

Boyd defines social software more broadly as the sum of these categories:

  • Support for conversation online: Instant messaging, e-room, etc.

  • Support for social feedback: Think eBay, where buyers rate sellers for honesty, helpfulness and service level.

  • Support for social networks: Friendster is a recent example, but to some degree Amazon.com (for books and music, and probably doilies and leaf blowers) and Edmunds.com (for auto enthusiasts) are popular examples within this category.

None of these are startling or expensive technical achievements, but they connect and enroll users remarkably well. In many cases, it is easier to keep in communication with relevant business or other special interest contacts in these virtual communities than it is in real life.

The potential effect on learning and knowledge management is huge. If you accept that CD-ROMs and classrooms are poor substitutes for mentoring and real-time advice, social software starts to look more impressive. It's a way to gather all of the "go-to" people in one place, and to contact them fast. It's your network.

Learning, according to Cross, can be defined as optimizing the performance of your social network. You want to find information faster and cut out the less useful, or underperforming parts of your network. Social software makes this happen.

"Reputation has to factor into it," he added. The eBay model for feedback may be relevant beyond the online auction business.

A new attitude, or lack thereof

The technical bits of social software have been around for years, although new functions have made it more satisfactory for the average Web user. But the grim business climate of the past few years may have removed some of the obstacles to the bottom-up community-building process.

According to Cross, much of the "cowboy" attitude of the technology world has waned in the past few years. A happy side effect is that tech people may be more likely to value these communities now that they're not so keen on being millionaires next week through their own startup.

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:05 PM | Comments (1)

Invest time, don't save it!

Ten Tips for Saving Time

Googlize/Google Lies

I was trying to doublecheck the wording of an aphorism from Ernest Hemingway that I thought said "Never confuse activity with results." Google pointed me to Lou Gerstner instead, presumably because he mouthed the words more recently and IBM gets a lot more hits than a dead author. It pays to think of such things when querying Google.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Focused Performance

Doing some research on business blogs this morning, I tripped over this site and intend to do a lot more exploring.

This Focused Performance Weblog is a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective. TOC is noted for its applications in Project and Multi-Project Management (Critical Chain) and Operations Management (Drum-Buffer-Rope), as well as in Marketing, Strategic Planning and Change Management (TOC Thinking Processes).

This great graphic caught my attention:

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 27, 2003

It's Alive

It's Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business by Christopher Meyer & Stan Davis.

I'm a third of the way into this book and want to record a few ideas to plant them in my head before continuing on.

An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common sese, "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the twenty-first century--it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). Ray Kurzweil

If you can figure out how adaptation is embedded in biological systems, and then broaden this knowledge into a theory of general evolution, you can effectively apply the theory to many complex systems--including business.

How would a business measure successful adaptation? In biology, the metric is "fitness," measured as the relative ability of an organism to breed successfully in a given environment.

Code is code.

This is the same lesson as the bio-info-nano-cogno convergence that Jim Spohrer's paper referred to. Crack the code, and you make gains in multiple realms.

Create, connect, evolve.

Just as physics has core principles, so do adaptive systems. The basics involve:

  1. Agents. atoms, software, people, the DMUs
  2. Self-organization. autonomous order.
  3. Recombination. don't start from scratch; have sex instead
  4. Selective pressure. Fitness is judged by the environment.
  5. Adaptation. for better performance
  6. Co-evolution. When the frog evolves a sticky tongue, flies get Teflon feet. Competition and other players define the game
  7. Emergence. mix self-organization, recombination, selection, and co-evolution and you get an ecology--or an economy.

This is bottom up. The ecology arises from the atoms up. The past fifty years have shown conclusively that distributed decision-making does a better job of satisfying demand than a centralized approach. Nonetheless, many of our businesses retain a suprisingly "Soviet" management style, using approaches developed in an assembly-line era that have more in common with a top-down mentality than with a bottom-up one.

Of course, I'd suggest that it goes back to our original programming, the fact that humankind thinks with the default settings of the brains of cave dwellers.

"The molecular world is completely outside the normal common-sense range of thinking," says Alan Kay. It is this molecular sense that, over the next decade, will become our common understanding.

The connected economy is accelerating change, raising the bar for survival, and requiring a higher degree of adaptivenss from all of us. In particular, business needs to develop a new mental toolbox based on adaptive principles and an evolving economic and social environment. As stated recently in the journal Sicence, "Our quest to capture the system level laws governing cell biology in fact represents a search for the deeper patterns common to complex systems and networks in general."

Simulation is becoming a new scientific instrument, a "macroscope" allowing us to see the structure that dtermines the behavior of human-scale systems the way the microscope began to reveal the cell.

All forms of evolution arise from the interaction of independent agents follwoing a few simple rules. See "Boids". It's not a predictable world of command-and-control but, rather, a world of constant surprise and volatility, created by the interactions among low-level rules, acting form the bottom up. Translating sex into silicon, genetic algorithms allow us to redefine our objectives, replacing narrow individual "efficiency" with a boader concept of population "robustness"--the ability to cope with a volatile environment.

Often human programmers don't understand why a solution works, only that it does. Whether in vitro, in silico, or in vivo, what matters is what emerges, not the underlying mechanisms that got you there.

Is this more than warmed over Kevin Kelley and the hive mind? I think so. For one thing, Meyer and Davis provide oodles of examples. There's the goat injected with spider genes whose milk contains "BioSteel," a lightweight compound so strong the military plans to use it as armor. Lots of folks are running bio-like sims to study organizational behavior, stock market fluctuations, and traffic patterns.

The remainder of the book promises to deal with adaptive management. I'm looking forward to it.

Stan Davis has a thing for matrixes. He was once a fan of the matrix organization. His prior books have wonderful 3 x 4 tables that make things so clear. I love these, because I can glance at the matrix and have all the ideas behind it come flooding back. Guess what? We're going to look at some matrixes. (I hate the plural matrices.)

First of all, to everything there is a season. Note the scale on this graph: 250 years. The industrial era is history.

Today the life cycle of the information age has just peaked. It's all downhill from here. Over the next ten years, the molecular age will hit its growth phase.

Chris and Stan find a pattern in the lifecycles of economies.

They take the technology adoption cycle to a higher plane. Here's the tech version, describing both markets and the culture required to thrive in each.

Learn by Search & Replace. Make these substitutions...

    Visionaries = Scientists
    Pragmatists = Technologists
    Control = Business
    Collaboration = Organization

...and you get a predictive model. Wow.

Finally, here's what you can do about all this.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Great sources

I spent a few hours today updating the eLearning Jump Page.

There are more great resources out there than ever before. Voices with experience. Links to other disciplines. I'm a generalist, so I like to apply concepts from other fields. When I'm researching what's going on in eLearning, here are the places I often head to first:

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Economist jokes

    To an economist, real life is a special case.

    Q: Why did God create economists ?
    A: In order to make weather forecasters look good.

    Two economists meet on the street. One inquires, "How's your wife?" The other responds, "Relative to what?"

    I asked an economist for her phone number....and she gave me an estimate.

    Economists have forecasted 9 out of the last 5 recessions.

    "An economist is a person who confronted with a eight foot high wall, immediately assumes he is ten feet tall."

    A central banker walks into a pizzeria to order a pizza.
    When the pizza is done, he goes up to the counter get it. There a clerk asks him: "Should I cut it into six pieces or eight pieces?"
    The central banker replies: "I'm feeling rather hungry right now. You'd better cut it into eight pieces."

and there are more here.

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Dave Winer & Mark Pilgrim recently had a dust-up over the propriety of changing the words in a blog once it's been posted to the web. Mark accused Dave of changing the wording (and meaning) of what he wrote on DaveNet post-posting. Mark set up a bot to periodically take a peak at Dave's blog and post a before & after whenever changes were made. Dave thought this underhanded and a copyright violation to boot. Vowing to get Mark, when Dave handed out his new business cards to some people, he would say "See what it says there? Harvard LAW School. We've got a lot of lawyers on our side."

The Dave & Mark Show is over for now, but the issue remains. Trend-setter Rebecca Blood thinks it dishonorable to recall what you've published, aside from fixing typos. Her logic is that you don't know who's already read the initial version. She says bloggers should treat errors the way the press does: Don't change the original; post a retraction.

By and large, I do not agree. I think of my blog in several different ways. I use it to voice my opinons, as I'm doing now.

I also use the blog as a reference source. It's a content management system. Some of my pages, e.g. How People Learn or Glossary, are collections of five years or more of links and content. Naturally, I prune the dead links. And if I change my mind, I may rewrite a section entirely.

Do I need to highlight new or changed material?

No. That gets into "How old is old?"

My eLearning Jump Page has more than a hundred links. My original links page pre-dates every link on the same page. Does it make any sense to highlight the entire page as having changed?

So be forewarned: I may change this posting tomorrow or five minutes from now or a year hence. Few things are permanent in the digital age.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Gary Wolf, in the New York Times' review of Wired, a Romance:

Things happened quickly for Wired -- remember "Internet time"?

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 26, 2003

Blogging for Dummies II

The first time out, the URL in this posting only worked in selected browsers. I've fixed the link and am now offering a white paper on the topic of business blogging as well. Sorry for the confusion.

Take five minutes to discover the world of Blogging.

Cut on your sound and traipse to Blogs for Dummies

Send me a copy of the Internet Time paper on business blogs. (The paper will be ready in early August.)

Your name: and email:

Your company: and phone:

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Interoperability? Mais non.

Not too many other countries have an equivalent of the Academie Francaise, which hands doen edicts on proper language use, and instead prefer to let language evolve naturally. Not the French. France's Culture Ministry recently announced that the word "e-mail" will henceforth be stricken from proper and official French. The word to use is "courriel", a contraction of "courrier electronique" which is in widespread use among the colonists in Quebec. There's a minor rebellious ripple propagating through the French online community over this. The situation makes you wonder how the French are supposed to order tacos and pizzas. (from Napster)
Posted by Jay Cross at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Terminator 3

Yesterday I wanted to clear my head so I went down to the local movieplex to watch famous Grazer and potential future governor of California, Arnold Schwartzenegger. In case you've been wondering, Schwartzenegger is German for "black miner."

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley described a world where "feelies" had replaced movies. Terminator 3 is a step in that direction. The entire film is an adrenaline rush. Like The Fugitive, T3 is one long chase scene, with no chance for a breather. As the terminatrix chased the good guys' pickup and a dozen cop cars in a heavy-duty, super-wide construction crane, trashing cars and buildings and firetrucks in its path, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Not a minute passes without a horrendous car crash, automatic weapons fire, and an encounter with a menacing robot.

Feelies do take one's mind off day-to-day concerns.

Leaving my bungalow in Guatemala, I bid the housekeeper farewell with Hasta la Vista! Giggling, she replied "Hasta la Vista, Baby." The Terminator movies are a global cultural phenomenon, and I would have gone to see T3 just to hear the bots say "I'll be back."

This episode's bad guy is a gal. It's good to see Hollywood getting with the feminine agenda. Nonetheless, there are a few guy jokes, like the fembot checking her looks in a mirror or her rather erratic driving. Pulled over by a traffic cop, the terminatrix grows Pamela Anderson style boobs to distract his attention.
If you saw T1 or T2, you can imagine the major themes of T3. Robot gets blown up, run over my heavy equipment, decapitated, crushed, and reprogrammed but climbs out of the wreckage to scare the bejeezus out of you again. T3 throws in a new twist: the baddest of the bad guys is not a machine. It's "SkyNet." Software. The bots hatch a virus that invades the Internet, the television broadcasters, and the telephone grid. By the time it takes over the military command-and-control system, SkyNet rules the world. The good guys go to a bunker to blow up the central military computer. They find nothing. The bots have learned from Napster. Their network has no center. It routes around failure. Damn, but these machines are smart.
Should you see this movie? If you're into the Terminator series, Arnold, computer graphic animation, or roller-coaster style thrills, do it. So much action leaves scant time for characterization; this one won't win any best actor Oscars. Compared to the original Terminators, the plot's a bit thin. You might do better to go see Laura Croft.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2003

Blogs for Dummies


Take five minutes to discover the world of Blogging.

Cut on your sound and traipse to Blogs for Dummies
Send me a copy of the Internet Time paper on business blogs. (The paper will be ready in early August.)

Your name: and email address:

Your company: and phone number:

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:31 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 24, 2003


The alarm went off at 6:30 am this morning because I had to get to Oakland for Jury Duty by 8:00 am. Waiting with a hundred and fifty other citizens, I recalled the feedback from Tuesday's webinar. I have issues.

Better speakers than I have cautioned me not to take participant feedback too seriously. No matter what the speaker says, some people are going to report on how they felt when they got out of bed that morning, regardless of what was said. Do I take my friends' advice? Of course not.

If feedback can help my next presentation grab just one more individual, I'll dig through the numbers to glean what lessons I can. The only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience. Continuous improvement is simply one of my core beliefs.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the event and gratified by the feedback I received.

What was the feedback?

  • 82% of 146 respondents found the event valuable and would recommend it to their colleagues.

  • 76% said the length and pace of the event were appropriate for the material covered.

  • 97% found my voice intelligible and easy to understand.

    On average, most people say they were satisfied but not "strongly satisfied:"

    I was glad to see that replies about the “most important thing learned” are all over the map:

    • Additional resources IIIII IIII
    • Blended (har-har) III
    • Blogging is worth it IIIII III
    • Branding vs. commodity III
    • Collaboration IIII
    • EAI & realtime learning III
    • “Everything” and "the memes" IIIII
    • Future trends IIIII I
    • Hunt the elephant meme IIIII
    • Importance of informal learning IIII
    • Improving the core business IIIII
    • Meta-learning III
    • Networks & learning IIIII
    • Uncertainty engages the mind IIII
    • Got me thinking in new ways IIIII
    • Realizing I am not alone IIIII
    • Too many to mention IIII

    • Course description did not match the course content I
    • Too fluffy, not enough content I
    • Too little learning per se I

    The second open-ended question asked for additional comments about the presenter, the content, and suggestions for improvement. I’ll post all the replies. For years I attended conferences and never saw anyone else's evaluation. They are generaly not consistent.

    • A lot of good information, but presented so quickly. It might have been better to focus on one aspect.
    • Already go to InternetTime.com nearly every day.
    • Excellent presentation.
    • For next session give examples of current EAI: workflow based learning . Who is doing this, and where are they in the process? Best practices examples. THANKS!
    • Good job!
    • Good keep it up, rapid and interesting
    • Good speaker, would like more classes about topics covered and go into more details.
    • "great
    • up front, give instructions for people with old interface. why didn't i get newer one? this was confusing. took me a while to figure out how to write a note."
    • "Great and inspiring - maybe enough material (ideas) for two sessions. Thanks"
    • Great hour. Well spent!
    • great presentation
    • Great presentation, I'm looking forward to checking out the resources.
    • great presentation, thank you.
    • Great session. Love being able to dig deeper into topics covered.
    • Great speaker, Jay needs to come back and give us more!
    • GREAT!!
    • hard to use Interwise
    • He needed more time!
    • I expected a more interactive experience....would be interested in participating in a more interactive event. Please keep me posted...the technology is unbelievable.
    • i know interwise very well - great technology!
    • I would have preferred more questions and interaction. I thought there was going to be more audience participation throughout.
    • I would like a copy of the presentation material. Also, I would like information on how to complete a eLearning Implementation Action Plan.
    • I would suggest not insulting your participants. I'm a Microsoft employee. Jay's comment about my company did not impress. I also feel this was very, very basic information and really didn't give me any additional information, or ideas. Overall, very disappointing for me.
    • I was looking for new techniques not just information of this nature.
    • I'd like to hear a similar seminar on K12 elearning.
    • Interesting overview.
    • Interesting speaker and format.
    • It would be great to see a regular (monthly) session with Jay. 1 hour just scratches the surface on this topic.
    • Jay is always interesting.
    • Jay is, as always, excellent!!!!
    • Jay seems to be very talkive, except on the subject at hand. This was not what was expected when registering; more of a networking presentation for his interests.
    • Looking forward to the recorded availability. I missed the first 20 mins due to an electrical storm here in Orlando. Thks
    • Make this a little more concrete -- use actual course material.
    • More time needed, maybe another 15 minutes.
    • Need a bit more visual material to go with the spoken presentation. Make sure text is not too small. Some information was lost that way.
    • "Overall the content was great. A bit more info that would have been ""new"" would have been great. But he did give a different perspective. "
    • Thanks
    • Thanks once again :-)
    • Thanks so much!
    • the pace could be a bit slower for the volume of information shared - i like to take notes and provide myself reminders about things to go away with and check out - i didn't have enough time to do that
    • The presenter is obviously (IMHO) a brilliant, dedicated professional. I expect that his ideas will go far in re-defining elearning.
    • There was a problem with the voice volume. Loulou was inaudible at full volume settings while John needed to be turned down to the lowest volume but he was easily understood. I really missed all of Loulou.
    • This presentation was a nice look into the mind of Jay and his thoughts about eLearning.
    • It would have been great to dive down into any of the topics but I recognize that the time did not allow it.
    • "this was very entertaining, but seemed to just scratch the surface on a bunch of various subjects, versus going in depth on anything at all - sounds more like an intro to an absolute beginner; nice examples; good points, interesting way to link ideas..."
    • "Too much material at the given time. Still, it was great, very, very interesting."
    • "was hoping for more concrete ideas of the future direction of elearning
    • more specifics for immediate future"
    • Wasn't clear if there were other materials available besides the slides.
    • What is the next step? Where do I go to take Jay's ideas and putting them into the elephant hunt?
    • Would like to have some interim conclusions or "next steps" on this topic.

    At the Center for Creative Leadership, they teach that a negative comment has three times the impact of a positive one, so I sense some problems here. Trying not to be defensive, I’ll offer a few observations about my though process before our webinar together.

    Whenever one puts together a presentation, the Law of Raspberry Jam kicks in: The more you spread it, the thinner it gets. I purposely chose wide rather than deep for this presentation. My logic was that if you wanted more, you could take a look at the essays and links I posted at internettime.com.

    Interactivity is a similar trade-off: You can interact or you can present a lot of material but you can’t do both.

    My first cut at this presentation was to recount an almost stream-of-consciousness story of the birth and evolution of eLearning. After the dry run, we decided it didn’t address the topic squarely. I proposed chopping the whole thing into memes. Participants would select a meme by polling, and we’d go back and forth on it. We feared that I might get only a couple of ideas out before the discussion degenerated into free-for-all. So, as much as I like give-and-take, we had fifty minutes of my yap and twenty minutes of Q&A. I think this was probably the right mix.

    Going into this, we knew that we weren’t going to “write the next chapter of eLearning” in 90 minutes. I figured that at most, I could share a few new perspectives, provoke your thinking, and help you make wiser decisions. After all, I’m not writing the next chapter; all of us are. Let me tell you a secret: There aren’t any cookie-cutter solutions out there.

    We had a few conflicting goals entering the session. Some wanted specifics and how-to’s; I was more interested in raising the uncertainty that engages the mind. Some wanted answers; I focused on process.

    Finally, as to the comment that "Need a bit more visual material to go with the spoken presentation," sorry, sir, but you must have walked into the wrong room.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 07:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 23, 2003

Success in business

In an article entitled What Really Works in the current issue of Harvard Business Review, authors Nitin Nohria, William Joyce, and Bruce Roberson report that of the 160 companies they studied,

Without exception, companies that outperformed their industry peers excelled at what we call the four primary management practices—strategy, execution, culture, and structure. And they supplemented their great skill in those areas with a mastery of any two out of four secondary management practices—talent, innovation, leadership, and mergers and partnerships.

We learned, for example, that it doesn’t really matter if you implement ERP software or a CRM system; it matters very much, though, that whatever technology you choose to implement you execute it flawlessly. Similarly, it matters little whether you centralize or decentralize your business as long as you pay attention to simplifying the way your organization is structured. We call the winning combination the 4+2 formula for business success. A company that consistently follows this formula has better than a 90% chance of sustaining superior business performance.

The July issue also contains an article by Art Kleiner that asks, Are You In with the In Crowd? Reading Kleiner's article, I realized that every large organization I've ever worked with has its own "In Crowd" or "core group." That's good and it can be bad.

At the core of your company, there is a group of people who seem to call the shots. More precisely, all the shots seem to be called for their benefit. It’s as if the organization, beneath its formal statements of mission and purpose, has actually been set up to fulfill this group’s needs and priorities. Everything else that the organization does comes later: satisfying customers, creating wealth, delivering products or services, developing employees’ talents, returning investment to shareholders, and even insuring the company’s own survival. They are means to the end of keeping the core group happy.

The core group won’t be found on any formal organization chart. It exists in people’s minds and hearts—indeed, the root of the word “core” is probably the Latin word cor, for heart. It comprises the cluster (or clusters) of people whose perceived interests and needs are taken into account, consciously or not, as decisions are made throughout the organization. In most organizations, talking explicitly about this group is taboo; its existence is a dirty secret that contradicts the vital corporate premise that we all have a common stake in the company’s success. In fact, all employees do have a common stake in the company’s success, but the company has a greater stake in the success of some employees than of others.

This is all too true:

For a start, while corporations legally belong to shareholders, the psychological truth is that they will always belong to some inner group of managers.

What to do? Create a core group of exemplary leaders, not masters and toadies:

When core groups display independence, creativity, and power, the rest of the company follows. The same goes for when core groups take courageous stands; when they talk together openly and raise disputes for the sake of understanding them better; when they are diverse in their makeup and their thinking; when they forgo politicking, empire building, and exploitive behavior; and when they embody a sense of stewardship for the organization. Such behavior on the part of the company, in turn, creates value for shareholders, especially over the long term. But unless you are prepared to remove many of the members from the organization, these traits can’t be engineered into the core group. In most situations, core groups take on such traits when they realize they will be rewarded for them—in part by the approval of regulators, but primarily by the group’s own newfound ability to attract employees, customers, financiers, and shareholders.

For once, here's an alumni benefit of substantial benefit: I now receive HBR online. For free.

Culture is vital, in spite of the feelings of some managers that it's "soft" and hardly worthy of the sort of attention devoted to manufacturing or IT.

Winning companies... design and support a culture that encourages outstanding individual and team contributions, one that holds employees—not just managers—responsible for success. Winners don’t limit themselves to besting their immediate competitors. Once a company has overmatched its rivals in, say, the effectiveness of its logistics, it looks outside the industry. Employees may ask, for instance, “Why can’t we do it better than FedEx?” If the goal is unreachable, it still represents an opportunity for high-performing employees and managers: “If we can’t be the best at logistics, why not outsource it to a partner that can?”

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2003

Follow-up: Writing the Next Chapter of eLearning

Here are some of the links I promised in today's webinar. Within 24 hours I'll post the presentation (with narration) as well. If you have questions, post them as a comment below and I'll answer them here.

There's information on blogs here, although I also recommend you simply poke around on this blog and visit some of the others I showed:

Unlike many bloggers, I think it's okay to go back to add additional material. That's because I view blogs as nifty content management systems more than as diaries. For example, here's an excellent article on blogging from journalist/entrepreneur Jeff Jarvis.

Request your copy of the eLearning Implementation & Action Plan Template here.

The unexpurgated "director's cut" of Lance's and my book is here

Jay's notes on Living on the Faultline (core vs. context)

Thoughts on the nature of time

Jay's white paper on Informal Learning.

The Meta-Learning Lab

Information on Enterprise Application Integration and real-time learning is here and here.

My thoughts on the parallels between networking and learning first appeared here. This is a work in progress. If you'd like to be notified of new developments in this and the other topics I track, sign up here.

Sign up for:

Send a note to Jay

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2003

Social software

I've read a LOT on social software of late. As the pendulum of culture chic swings from the institution to the individual, it's natural that empowering the common participant is back in vogue. Not to trivialize it; this is important, and I'm glad to see it. This article is one of the more level-headed pieces on social software I've come across. (I wish I'd written it.)

This is from Darwin magazine, a good read and getting better.

Are You Ready for Social Software?

    It's the opposite of project-oriented collaboration tools that places people into groups. Social software supports the desire of individuals to be pulled into groups to achieve goals. And it's coming your way.


    Support for social feedback — which allows a group to rate the contributions of others, perhaps implicitly, leading to the creation of digital reputation. Digital reputation — also known as karma (from the Slashdot web community model) or whuffie (from Corey Doctorow's science fiction novel, Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom) — will turn out to be an area of great importance. Consider the lengths that eBay sellers go to to maintain a good reputation.

    Support for social networks — to explicitly create and manage a digital expression of people's personal relationships, and to help them build new relationships.

    Social Software: Bottom-up
    Social software is likely to come to mean the opposite of what groupware and other project- or organization-oriented collaboration tools were intended to be. Social software is based on supporting the desire of individuals to affiliate, their desire to be pulled into groups to achieve their personal goals. Contrast that with the groupware approach to things where people are placed into groups defined organizationally or functionally.

    One good metaphor is worth a thousand words, so I suggest the following: Social software works bottom-up. People sign up in the system (for example, by downloading an IM client and registering an ID there) and then they affiliate through personal choice and actions

    Traditional software approaches the relationship of people to groups from a top-down fashion. In the corporate setting, its hard to imagine a person existing without being specifically assigned membership to top-down groups: your team, your division, the budget committee and so on.

    Over time, more sophisticated social software will exploit second and third order information from such affiliations — friends of friends; digital reputation based on level of interaction, rating schemes and the like. And this new software will support David Weinberger's notion of enabling groups to form and self-organize rather than have structure or organization imposed. (Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! )

    Blogging is a good example of this dynamic, and perhaps is the primary irritant pushing us today to grope our way towards new terms and tools.

    Traditional groupware puts the group, the organization or the project first, and individuals second.

    Social software reflects the "juice" that arises from people's personal interactions. It's not about control, it's about co-evolution: people in personal contact, interacting towards their own ends, influencing each other. But there isn't a single clearly defined project, per se. It's a sprawling, tentacled world, where social dealings are inductive, going from the individual, to a group, to many groups and, finally, to the universe. Or at least the itty-bitty universe of all people using the Internet.

    Despite the wet blankets and the naysayers, we are witnessing the appearance of a new crop of inductive, bottom-up social software that lets individuals network in what may appear to be crude approximations of meatworld social systems, but which actually are a better way to form groups and work them.

My thoughts exactly.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 20, 2003

Get a better browser!

If you were looking at this page in any other browser, you'd see it faster

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 19, 2003

Blog allure

Last week Dave Winer asked me what tool I blogged with. "Movable Type, because I like the flexibility and the content management." He said I should use Manilla. I replied that all Manilla blogs looked alike to me. Dave claimed that was not at all true, that Manilla blogs are as varied in appearance at Movable Type's.

This afternoon I mounted a minor side-by-side comparison. I took the first nine MT blogs listed on weblogs.com this afternoon. Because I wasn't getting a lot of Manilla hits, I entered "Manilla blog" into Google and took the first nine hits that came up there. I eliminated utility blogs and one-entry blogs.

Which set of blogs do you find most varied?

Find out which is which on the next page.

The Manilla blogs are on top, the MT blogs on the bottom.


Posted by Jay Cross at 07:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 17, 2003

Workflow-based eLearning and the Bottom Line

Workflow-based eLearning™ and the Bottom Line

by Sam Adkins

Today I'm handing the blogging duties to my friend Sam Adkins. Sam is a leading eLearning business analyst and product researcher. He built the world’s first commercial online learning business (The Microsoft Online Institute), and he has specialized in electronic training for his entire career and prior to Microsoft worked for Authorware, United Airlines and AT&T. More recently, he wrote the 2003 series of reports entitled, “Simulation in the Enterprise: The Convergence of eLearning, Simulation and Enterprise Application Suites.”

Sam and I share a vision of the real-time enterprise where simulation and reality converge, and learning becomes a core business process. Today's entry ties workflow-based learning™ to the bottom line. Visit the Center to Enterprise eLearning Excellence for more information on this topic.


"Overall economic output is a function of the number of workers multiplied by hours per worker multiplied by productivity per hour. Assuming a shrinking workforce and a stable work week, productivity growth is the only lever for increasing economic output."

Kenneth Berryman, McKinsey Quarterly, May, 2003

The economic imperative to define and optimize precise workflows for particular workers is being driven by the need to increase productivity. As noted by Kenneth Berryman, in the presence of a finite work week and a shrinking workforce, productivity is the only metric that can be modified to increase profits. Optimizing the workflow is the only way to increase productivity. Workflow is not a passing trend.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity is “measured by comparing the amount of goods and services produced with the inputs which were used in production. Labor productivity is the ratio of the output of goods and services to the labor hours devoted to the production of that output.” The goal of all performance technology, particularly Workflow-based eLearning™, is to increase productivity.

Learning for its own sake is a predilection of the academic world. As the old adage goes, “education is broad, training is narrow”. Beyond education or training, Workflow-based eLearning is targeted directly on real-time productivity metrics.

To illustrate the fundamental difference between conventional training and Workflow-based eLearning, the metrics of Workforce Analytics are not couched in learning outcomes but rather in Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. Workflow-based products are targeted at workers and productivity, not students and learning.

There are five major ways that workflow Workflow-based eLearning optimizes productivity. It does this by:

§          Optimizing and automating task analysis.

§          Targeting the 80/20 performance ratios.

§          Capturing “informal” and organizational performance.

§          Reducing the lag time in business process flows

§          Increasing the workforce alignment with enterprise technology and strategy.

Due to the presence of bottom-up task modeling tools, it is now possible to rapidly optimize and automate the task analysis phase of any continuous performance improvement process. These tools are designed for process specialists and workers participating in the business process.

These Business Process Modeling (BPM) tools allow task analysis to be distributed across the enterprise. One key benefit of this distributed task analysis is the capture of so-called informal learning and organizational learning. They are exceptionally efficient at identifying the infamous 80/20 rules that emerge in any business process.

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of productivity problems are caused by just 20% of the performance behavior in the workflow. In contrast, 80% of productivity increases can be attributed to 20% of that performance behavior. BPM process modeling and simulation can readily identify both kinds of behavior. Behavior that reduces productivity can be removed and behavior that increases productivity can be enhanced.

Jay Cross and others have estimated that up to 90% of all workplace learning occurs in non-formal venues. All the customers that have adopted these new embedded performance technologies have commented that true organizational knowledge is being captured. The workarounds, the shortcuts and the complete avoidance of official procedure are captured when workers on the job model their own tasks in a process.

IBM has flipped the definition of formal and informal learning on end. They now define collaboration (or work) using workflow technologies as the formal learning process. Conversely, they redefine traditional classroom or conventional learning as informal. Hence collaboration management and workflow analytics are beginning to capture the 90% of learning that occurs in the context of the social work day.

In the U.S., over $65 billion is spent on formal workplace education and training. Less than 6-7% of that is now technology-based expenditures. The majority of that technology-based expenditure is in conventional elearning content that is modeled on formal training concepts, i.e. courseware. In other words, although intended to be “taken” in informal settings, the products are still completely formal by design. They still require a secondary and subsequent learning transfer to the job.

The irony is that this $65 billion is targeted on just 10% of the way people really learn in the workplace. The inefficiencies of that formal training are now being recognized. IBM’s Tony O’Driscoll cites a Robinson and Robinson study that claims, “less than 30 percent of what people learn is actually transferred to the job in a way that enhances performance”. There is no learning transfer phase in Workflow-based eLearning. Learning is coterminous with workflow.

Formal education and training is already being reduced by the use of these products. Customers of workflow-based performance technology all cite the reduction in the need for training once these technologies are deployed. Formal training is both seen as an expense and an “offline” secondary activity that decreases immediate productivity and increases lag time.

It is well known now that achieving productivity gains by streamlining processes is getting harder and harder to achieve. Smaller and smaller increments of improvement are garnered even with the most sophisticated automation technology. This has influenced vendors to focus more heavily on the lag time. Most BPM and workflow technologies achieve small gains in actual task output but they achieve large gains by reducing lag time.

According to the Ultimus, reducing lag time is the only way to significantly increase productivity. They claim that even if task time is reduced by 50% it will only have an overall impact of 5% on the actual process time. However, if the lag time is reduced by 50%, the overall process time is reduced by 45%.

Source: Ultimus, 2003

One of the primary ways they reduce lag time is by dramatically shrinking the training time needed to get up to speed on tasks. The other way lag time is reduced is by sophisticated task routing, workload balancing, exception handling and embedded task support.

According to Ultimus , it is believed that 90% of the time required to do work is “lag time”. Only 10% is actual task time. According to Ultimus, productivity application software reduces the task time and workflow automation and optimization software reduces the lag time.

As noted in the first two reports in this series, workforce alignment is a major productivity problem in the enterprise. Large studies by FranklinCovey and Gallup Management Journal have identified large segments of the workforce that misunderstand the business goals for their company. Many are unaware or are actively disinterested in the corporate strategy.

Corresponding again to the 80/20 phenomenon, about 20% are fully engaged and “on board” with the corporate vision. Likewise, about 20% are actively disengaged. All this is reflected in productivity metrics that are now being analyzed in executive dashboards. A new type of emotional assessment is now being deployed in the enterprise to mitigate this problem.

Reduction of Training Time Reduces Lag Time

The AWD/Knowledge Enabler is a task management modeling tool that “automatically guides a user through a series of pre-defined steps necessary to process an item of work—reducing keystrokes and training requirements”.

Teamplate’s customers routinely cite the dramatic reduction of developer training time and costs by virtue of using the Teamplate Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

All of these new workflow optimization products and task management tools are designed to reduce the need for training. The products from Ultimus , Lombardi , XStream , Knowledge Products , Teamplate , Knowledge Impact , Nobilis , and Hyperwave are examples of workflow-based products that enable the design, development and delivery of Workflow-based eLearning.

The DreamFactory technology is a tool used to create composite applications in the browser. Since granular business processes are “wrapped” as granular Web Services , they can be assembled, mixed and matched, and reassembled as work changes.

Any process wrapped or published as a Web Services has embedded code as well and tools that assemble Web Services into composite applications generate composite code as well. The rich client software from DreamFactory allows users to assemble Web Service-based business processes into composite applications.

Microsoft’s new InfoPath product is a very similar product but leverages the familiar Office interface instead of the browser. InfoPath allows users to assemble components from a wide variety of applications and was designed to be the front-end to all enterprise applications.

Workflow -based eLearning can be designed at the same time as the workflow itself is designed or added later as simulation and analysis tools discover performance gaps. It can also be designed on top of existing workflow diagrams. In that case, the performance nodes are clearly recognizable. The task analysis has already been done.

Workflow-based eLearning is created with the same tools that create workflow. The two most widely used stand-alone tools are Microsoft’s Visio and Corel’s iGrafx. Workflow diagrams created with these tools will clearly identify the discrete tasks that may or may not require intervention or remediation.

Up until very recently, workflows created with these stand-alone tools had to be imported into a Business Process Management or Workflow Management platform. Now Microsoft’s Visio 2003 has robust XML and Web Services support. Visio can be the front-end into business other applications or it can be embedded in other applications.

Visio has eight million users and now has native XML, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and BPM support. At a recent presentation highlighting the combined XML, SVG and BPM features of Visio 2003, Richard See, Lead Program Manager in Microsoft’s Visio Product Unit said, “SVG is used as the visual representation layer of a much richer XML data set exchanged between multiple applications in support of business process management (BPM). In this example, we will demonstrate the ease with which users can associate process information with shapes in the Visio diagram through a BPM solution running in Visio. This BPM information is then made available to other applications by mapping it to elements in a BPM schema/namespace carried in the SVG and associated with graphic SVG elements at the visualization level. This information can then be used by analysis and line of business applications”.

It should now be obvious that traditional application training or even business process training cannot meet the training needs of a worker who uses a composite interface comprised of several different functions from several different applications. Workflow is the only constant and now becomes the foundation and context for training. In that sense, workflow becomes the carrier wave of learning.

© 2003, Internet Time Group, Berkeley, California
Posted by Jay Cross at 09:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 16, 2003

Interesting stuff

Free clip art, sounds, templates, etc. from that company in Redmond.

Cascading Style Sheets 1 reference from W3C

CSS2 reference from W3C

How to build a web site without tables

Decisions: Making the right ones. Learning from the wrong ones

Ed Tech Dev, educational technology, learning sciences research, programming

Cmap free concept mapping tool

Engines for Education. I had lost track of this Roger Shank masterpiece when he departed Northwestern. If you haven't read it, do so.

CILT's Design Principles, from the school right down the hill from here

Association of Knowledgework

Business Integration Journal

Chris Lydon's blog has interviews with Dave Winer, David Weinberger, and others about the blogosphere.


Using Weblogs In The Classroom: ECOO 2003 Session

CETIS Glossary

Kevin Kruse's eLearning Glossary

Homepage of Ben Shneiderman

Finally, an alumni benefit of value, free HBR

David Bohm

Blog of COllective Intelligence

Archives of Dave Farber's Interesting People list

UMd Human Computer Interaction Lab

post-autistic economics review

Personalization Survey

- or -


Results of the survey

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2003

Emersonian blogging

Click Dave Winer to hear him talk with Chris Lydon about blogging.

Multitasking: I'm listening to the Lydon/Winer interview as I write this. I surfed over to Dave's site to grab the photo above. Just now I checked my email. While I was listening to Dave, I was reading an email from Dave. If you want, you can channel Dave through several orifices simultaneously.

Chris Lydon says blogging is Emersonian.

Dave and Chris are talking about blogging and campaigning. Read my blog, you're reading me. People come to know Howard Dean without meeting him in person. Or thinking they know him because Madison Avenue has drummed a few gazillion ad-bites into their skulls.

This broadens my speculation that learning = making good connections. A lucid blog adds another connection, one that is world-accessible 24/7.

So sayeth ur-blogger Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one if its members."

    "Trust thyself. Every heart vibrates to that iron string."

    "There is no outside, no inclosing wall, no circumference to us."

    "The mind is one. There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has be-fallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent."

    "Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss."

Lydon concludes, "The modern Emersonian is, in short, an ecstatic melancholic, an unquenchable optimist in a darkening world, aware that the big trick for grown-ups is to look unblinking at the torture and tyranny, the pandemic disease and progressive brutalization of people and the planet and know that is not the whole story and that this is no time to give up."

Later that evening in Palo Alto...

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 12, 2003

Coming to a PC near you....

Write eLearning's Next Chapter with Jay Cross
eLearning Forum Boston E-Learning Association Powered by Interwise
Join Jay Cross, CEO of eLearning Forum and Founder of Internet Time Group, in this interactive 1.5-hour online seminar as he discusses what happens next in the rollicking life of eLearning. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to engage with one of the most respected thought leaders in eLearning.

Topics include:
eLearning today: over-achiever or corpse?
Big winners: companies that have made millions through eLearning
Big losers: companies that have lost millions through eLearning
Collaboration: putting people back into the eLearning process
Workflow-based learning: real-time, inevitable, and no more courses
Blogs, wikis, and gonzo learning
Space is Limited So Register Now!
Posted by Jay Cross at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2003

Scott McCloud

Lots of people talk about getting out of the box. Cartoon philosopher Scott McCloud does it. He breaks free of the rigid format of comic books in wonderful ways. I was just rereading part of I Can't Stop Thinking. Great stuff. Freeform comics free the mind.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 08, 2003


I-KNOW 03 took place the first few days of July in the marvellous new conference center in Graz.

Graz is in eastern Austria, almost as far south as you can go without entering Slovenia.

Hear Jay's keynote presentation at I-KNOW 03

Photographs of Graz and Vienna

The conference center was perfect. Generous windows brought nature indoors.

At a multinational conference on knowledge management, everyone knows that social networking is important. We had plenty of breaks and delicious meals prepared by organic farmers and vintners from the region.
Scientist/professor/novelist/ and entrepreneur Hermann Maurer opened the general session.
Klaus Tochtermann described the mission, history, and structure of the Know Center, a practice-oriented research organization funded by both government and industry.

Ben Shneiderman gave an inspiring opening talk, drawing on themes from his recent book, Leonardo's Laptop.

"The old computing is about what computers can do; the New Computing is about what people can do." The major advances: GUI, web, music, IM, photoblogs.

It's time for science, art, engineering, and aesthetics to converge: Renaissance Man 2.0.

Jenny Preece, Keith Andrews, Ben Shneiderman, and I take a brief walk around the messeplatz.

At one point in my keynote presentation, I asked how many in the audience had blogs. Of the 250+ attendees, only three of us blogged!

Lilia Efimova, a Muscovite now with Telematica Instituut in The Netherlands, is a fellow believer in blogging. We had a tough time understanding why others just don't get it. People asked, "Isn't blogging sort of the same as SMS messaging?"

People said they didn't have time to blog, but it's not as if blogging crowds out other activities like, say, parasailing or watching television would. Blogging is part of my work routine; it makes public what I used to do just for myself.

The networking continued at an evening buffet followed by dancing to the music of Men in Black.

It's eye-opening to see people one day presenting theories of knowledge nodes and the next dancing their butts off and playing with the band.

The presentations are going up on the I-KNOW website, so I will not reinvent the wheel here.  
Posted by Jay Cross at 08:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack