August 31, 2003

Tragedy of the uncommons

Some cyber-vandal has loosed a bot which posts the addresses of porno sites in the comments of blogs. This character hides behind a address and an IP allotted to the Tianjin province of China. A little sleuthing led me to the same trash posting on a site in Germany and a travel site. His IP is

Openness is a beautiful aspect of the net. I hope we don't have to put up the cyber equivalent of bars on our windows to keep out the thugs.

Anyone have thoughts on how to deal with blog graffiti?

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 30, 2003

Read the feeds

When I first heard people talking about syndication, my mind turned to criminals. G-Men. The Untouchables. The Syndicate. This is something else. On the web, syndication is a way to scan headlines and news stories selectively, and to see more at the push of a button if you are so inclined.

Until recently, setting up syndicatation (RSS, for short) was funky enough to turn off non-geek citizens. These days you download and install a free file from the web, tell it what you want to look at, and it will keep you informed of new items, stories, and blog entries from that point on.

Go to the BlogExpress site. Download and install .NET (if you haven't already) and the BlogExpress install file. Install.

You've probably noticed those little boxes on various sites. That's what BlogExpress feeds on.

Here's the main BlogExpress screen. It's like a simplified browser.

Here's how to subscribe to free content.

  1. Click on the two little guys on the left of BlogExpress's top icon bar.
  2. Then right-click on a and copy the link address.
  3. Copy the address into the space provided. Click "Check." Click "Okay."
  4. Repeat as often as you like. You're "subscribing" to these services.
Here are some samples to get you started:

Select one of your subscriptions. You can read what's there as you would in a browser. Click the green button up top to load the most recent items. Click the orange button when you've read them to clear out the "New" tags.

You're in business! This ten-minute exercise will cut your browsing time in half, if not more.

Not a blog person? Try these:

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2003

Cheezy book

Please Remove My 'Cheese'

Jon Warshawsky once again demonstrates that Deloitte has a sense of humor.

Hypothetical Publicist from Penguin Putnam: Mr. Warshawsky, we're delighted you've finally had a chance to review Who Moved My Cheese? You're the last person who had not read and benefited from this worldwide mega-bestseller on "An A-Mazing way to deal with change." We'd love a quote from Cappuccino to use on the next version of the book jacket.

JW: Well, I'll try to put a positive spin on this. Who Moved My Cheese? is beyond any shred of doubt the worst and most useless thing in print. It's trite, dull and insulting. So far this year, I can say with some confidence that I've learned more from Snapple bottle caps and Eminem album lyrics.

PP: (Laughs) Love that journalistic wit. Surely you appreciated the storytelling approach to explaining reactions to change? Makes you think, doesn't it? And what a quick read!

JW: There's absolutely no way that 10 million adults actually read about two mice named Sniff and Scurry and two really teeny tiny people named Hem and Haw living in a wee little maze with a disappearing wad of cheese. I'm embarrassed for the consulting profession. I hope my parents don't see this.

PP: 'Cheese' is all about metaphor, so it's even more sophisticated than it appears. Powerful metaphors drive this tale of universal struggle in the face of change. Even the names are ingenious.

JW: Well, you've got me there. Who would've thought Hem and Haw would have 'hemmed and hawed' before seeking the new cheese. And Sniff and Scurry were so perceptive -- and responsive.

PP: Exactly! Now you've got it. Sometimes people can't grasp the great truths in 'Cheese' without mulling them over. It's a quick read. A lot of people keep it on their desk or even front and center on their coffee table. Did I mention that it's a quick read?

JW: It took me a week and a half. I kept it in the bathroom.

PP: So, you keep a few quick-read business books in the loo?

JW: No, not usually.

PP: Well, the insights here have universal relevance. For example, 'Smell the cheese often so you know when it's getting old.' Brilliant, you've got to admit. Will you be giving this book to your colleagues as a practical roadmap to change? A lot of people do.

JW: With nearly 10 million people actively trying to give this book away, I'm having a hard time placing mine, to be honest.

PP: Exactly, it's a phenomenon. Covey's '7 Habits' was pretty good, but people just read it and kept it. 'Cheese' is one of those quick reads made for giving. I'm sure a lot of your Change colleagues at Deloitte have found their professional lives touched by 'Cheese.'

JW: Some have left for other careers, but most have put enough distance between themselves and 'Cheese' that our clients still take them seriously. Our bill rates are down, though. And we've all stopped ordering cheese on our sandwiches. It was making some people ill through association.

PP: Any practical bits from 'Cheese' that strike you as words to live by? A lot of people see bits of themselves in there. People report feeling enlightened. Any insights that resonated with you or constructs that you've transferred to the consulting front lines, so to speak?

JW: No.

PP: Well, all right then. Not all roses, but I'll rework a few of your perspectives -- some great stuff here for the dust jacket of the 48th printing. As a bonus we'll be sending the video, the cheerleading kit and the new Sniff and Scurry plush toys to you at the Cappuccino office. Did you know we've sold nearly one million plush toys?

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Souvenir of the march

Lest we forget: Things are a whole lot better now than they were 40 years ago.

Here's Martin Luther King's speech and its sources. I just re-read it. Took my breath away.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2003

The Future of Knowledge

The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks
by Verna Allee

"Why are you reading something called The Future of Knoweldge?" asked my wife. "You are supposed to be on vacation, remember?" I replied that I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and indeed I was.

Verna's concepts around knowledge and the way I think about learning are completely in sync, but Verna has pushed the envelope further than I have, expanding the arena to include sustaining the earth.

These are my notes. Most are direct quotes from the book although a few of my own thoughts are scrambled in, and sometimes I've shortened or rearranged the original. I encourage you to buy the book; at $20, it's cheap.

"There is really only one management question: What do we need to pay attention to in order to be successful?" Similarly, there is only one individual question: What do I need to pay attention to in order to be successful?

Awareness of how we create our shared social reality is the most important aspect of business life we will need to learn for a successful future. (So say Nonaka, Senge, Varela, de Geus, and others)

  • Businesses are evolving into the patterns of living systems. The meta-level learning that we are all engaged in is learning to work with network principles. Decision making and knowledge creation are not rational processes, but social processes.

  • Now it is as important for managers to work as deliberately to improve the quality of knowledge and learning as it is to improve the quality of products and services. Indeed, in this economy they are often one and the same.

  • Networks are the natural pattern of organization in living systems. They are the pattern of social systems and the natural pattern of business relationships as well.

  • Our present accounting methods were developed during the Renaissance, and most of our management practices come from bureaucratic and military models that have dominated management practice for decades. These vestiges of the old order are obsolete.

  • Decisions are moving from corporate headquarters out to individual business units. Business units in turn are distributing power and decision making to self-managed teams and profit centers. Workers who used to be tucked snug inside corporate walls are roaming the roads and working from home. The action is at the edges.

  Early industrial Industrial Age Knowledge Era
Management focus Plan, organize, control Vision, values, empowerment Emergence, integrity, relationships
Structured around Functions Processes Systems
Social structure Individual tasks Work & project teams Communities
Strategic resource Raw materials Financial capital Knowledge & intangibles
Worldview Descartes, Newton, mechanical Ford, Taylor, efficient, engineering Complexity, systems theory, living systems.

When something is truly complex, all the parts work together in such a way that the whole cannot be divided without losing its integrity--and the parts also lose their integrity when separated from the whole. When you cut a cow in half you don't get two cows. You get a mess.

Every conversation is an experiment in knowledge creation/testing ideas, trying out words and concepts, continuously creating and re-creating our experience of life itself. As people move beyond routine processes into more complex challenges, they rely heavily on their colleagues and friends as thinking partners.

Verna's value mapping process:

  • Intangibles: Human capital, external capital, structural capital; Values
  • Exchange analysis, impact analysis, value creation analysis
  • Holistic model puts people back in.

With too much structure organizations can't move. With too little, they disintegrate or fly apart. Companies that have learned to keep that edge--that fine balance between tight and loose?are at their most alive, creative, and adaptable. Systems adapt best if they are only partly connected.

A business school professor once instructed me, tongue in cheek, that "Everything comes in three's." Usually, this holds true. The first columns below are Verna's. I added Bloom and my shorthand for Bloom.

Learning tools Networks timeframe individual Bloom
Operational eLearning, newsfeeds, search technology Immediate Hands Psycho-motor
Tactical Community, stories, collaboration knowledge Soon Head Cognitive
Strategic Scenarios, system maps, dialog value Future Heart Affective

Check out Verna's site. And you thought "bookkeeping" was the only word with three double-letters in a row, didn't you? www.vern aa ll ee .com

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Against School

Against School, How public education cripples our kids and why
John Taylor Gatto
Harper's Magazine, September 2003 [not available online]

We live in tumultous times. The citizenry is not in open revolt, and we don't have guillotines in the streets, but take it from me, there's a revolution going on.

Consider: Intellectual capital is now worth more than plant and equipment. Industrial-age management no longer works. Networks are replacing hierarchy. Cycles are more frequent and more volatile. Cooperation edges out competition. Innovation trumps efficiency. Flexibility beats might. Everything's global.

The past no longer illuminates the future. Yesterday's solutions won't solve tomorrow's problems. We need fresh thinking. Zero-based philosophy. A new page. And that's why it is sensible to listen to dissidents.

John Taylor Gatto is an award-winning school teacher who decided that compulsory schooling is what's wrong with our nation's educational system. Tom Jefferson and Abe Lincoln did okay without it, as do millions of home-schoolers today.

Gatto has a marvellous, rabble-rousing website. Read his five-page lead essay in Harper's. You won't be able to resist going to his site for more.

    "Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn't seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren?t interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were."

    "...the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers."

    Woodrow Wilson, in 1909, said, "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."

Cloister the children, strip them of responsibility and independence, and they will never grow up.

Use this failed model as the blueprint for training adults, and they will never learn.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Personalized learning

Today several of us hosted an online conversation on the topic of personalized learning.

Click "There's more" below for the results of the pre-event survey.

If you're a prize winner, select the report you'd like to receive from the Center for Enterprise eLearning Excellence and email your choice to [email protected]

If you have questions about personalized learning, please enter them as a comment below.

When the recording of the event is available, I'll post the URL here.

Personalized Learning Survey




"Mass customization" was an early promise of eLearning. How important is personalization to learning outcomes?

Makes no difference  1.


Minimal importance  2. 1 1%
Mildly important  3. 13 18%
Makes a difference  4. 38 51%
Very important  5. 22 30%
  74 100%



[Software] How important is it to adapt to what the learner has already mastered? To avoid redundancy?

Not important  1.


  2. 2 3%
Important  3. 9 12%
  4. 23 31%
Very important  5. 40 54%
  74 100%



[Software] How important is it to enable the learner to make annotations, highlight text, and create bookmarks? To "dogear" pages to be able to find them again?

Not important  1.


  2. 5 7%
Important  3. 27 36%
  4. 17 23%
Very important  5. 24 32%
  74 100%



[Software] How important is it for learners to be able to share notes, annotations, and content excerpts with peers and fellow learners?

Not important  1.


  2. 15 21%
Important  3. 25 34%
  4. 16 22%
Very important  5. 14 19%
  73 100%



[Software] How important is it to prescribe and deliver content based on a worker's job requirements and competencies?

Not important  1.


  2. 0 0%
Important  3. 11 15%
  4. 19 26%
Very important  5. 43 59%
  73 100%



[Services] How important is it to supplement online content with online collaboration, i.e. the ability to study, experiment, and learn with peers?

Not important  1.


  2. 3 4%
Important  3. 27 37%
  4. 15 21%
Very important  5. 26 36%
  73 100%



[Services] How important is it to provide a live mentor or learning coach to answer questions and help learners over rough spots?

Not important  1.


  2. 10 14%
Important  3. 22 30%
  4. 20 27%
Very important  5. 19 26%
  73 100%



Which of the following are part of your organization's current eLearning environment?

Adapt to prior learning and proficiency


Take personal notes & annotations 17 27%
Share annotations & selected content 12 19%
Automatically tie to competencies & job requirements 24 39%
Provide mentors and learning coaches 26 42%
Facilitate peer-to-peer collaboration 26 42%
Posted by Jay Cross at 12:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 25, 2003


Uta, Austin, and I just returned from a weeklong vacation in Toronto. Cool city. More photos here; click thumbnails for larger photos.
Posted by Jay Cross at 10:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2003

Email bombs

Grrr. I'm connected to the net with my laptop and a modem today, so I'm more conscious of download speeds and hassles than usual. The SoBig worm arrived just as I was leaving on this trip, so I didn't have time to innoculate my computers. Hence I am using webmail (via Horde). I've been getting 150 virus-generated emails a day. Re: Wicked Screensaver, Re: Your Report, etc.

Email, until recently the easiest networking tool of all, has become a pain in the ass. Once a tool for everyone, now it requires a specialist to explain worms and viruses, Symantec vs. McAfee, updated definitions, disinfection, and why an email from Aunt Tilly may have been sent by a cyber-terrorist spoofing Aunt Tilly. In an instant, you could lose the photos of the grandkids, last year's income tax figures, and the beginning of the Great American Novel. Opening email has all the thrills of walking alone in a dark corner of Central Park at 3:00 am.

eLearning relies on email for scheduling, assignments, announcements, and peer networking. Once upon a time, email seemed more reliable than snail mail. No longer. If an incoming email makes it through my Spam filters, it can still get lost among the junk that still gets to my email box. What's the world to do? Return to copy machines and paper memos?

Maybe the "e" stands for "entropy."

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2003

Level 4, forever out of reach

Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them," e.g. if you think only in training terms, you'll never attain Level 4.

Other Einstein thoughts relevant to Training ROI:

  • Imagination is more important than knowledge.
  • A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem.
  • Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.
  • People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.
  • Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
  • The road to perdition has ever been accompanied by lip service to an ideal.
  • There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there.

Which brings me to a posting on ROInet by one Phil Rutherford, who wrote me, "Please feel free to re-post my mental wanderings. A lot of my current thinking is actually coming out of my PhD research coupled with nearly a decade of experience trying to get management more interested in the domain that trainers for so long have claimed for their own, but which is clearly belonging to managers. "

Take it away, Phil.

From: "Phil Rutherford" Date: Fri Aug 1, 2003 Subject: Re: [ROInet]

...I for one share your frustrations and hope I'm not being too bold in offering what I've found to be one solution.

You talk about the problem of transference between training and on-the-job performance, and this is something that I grappled with for many years until I realized that by training alone I didn't have a hope in Hades of influencing what they would do when they got back to work. The truth is that training was actually only a very minor part of my wider responsibility when it comes to bringing about change in the workplace, and done wrongly it actually worked against change. But more on that shortly.

In my opinion the heart of the problem with transferability centers on the fact that much of the training is not based on what the people need to be able to do on the job. In simple terms, what I have found is that trainers generally spend a great deal of time concentrating on what they are going to provide, and use this as the basis upon which their effectiveness is measured, and overlook what the customer wants to buy and what they will, at the end of the day, actually measure the trainer's effectiveness by.

For example, in a stationery store I might sell someone a pen but what the client is actually buying is a means for communicating. I can wax lyrical all day about the beauty of the pen but if all they need to buy is something to scribble their lotto numbers out with then I'm wasting my time. When it comes to measuring how effective I am at my job, or how well I'm meeting the client's needs, if I'm trying to justify my position by the beauty of my pens when in fact I'm being measured, by others, for how well I'm providing them with the means to communicate then we are never going to have an agreement on how well I'm doing. In fact, if the store is more akin to a supermarket then a specialty store, and customers can walk around picking out what they want and taking it to the cash register (exactly the way some training centers are run) then some are actually going to question whether or not I'm needed at all if all I can use to measure my effectiveness is the beauty of my pens.

In this day and age most people already know how to write and can do so using anything from a gold-plated Parker pen to a stick dipped in ground-up clay. So, rather than concentrating on trying to get people to write using our preferred writing tool we should move a bit further along the continuum and find out what they need to write and what they would need to do if what they wrote was wrong. Here we are moving into the world of what they intend to do with the skills/tools rather than the skills/tools themselves. Anyone can provide the skills/tools (sorry folks - the world is full of trainers/stationery store attendants), but not everyone can work at the next step in the continuum and help people apply them.

By way of example, I would venture to suggest that one of the main problems you had with your particular leadership program in SA (and it is fairly clear which one you're talking about) is that it is almost entirely theory based and trainer driven (ie, pedagogical). This fact that has been more than done to death on other lists so there's not much to be gained in denying this. Sure, it has been around for a while and has some very special videos, wallcharts and handouts, and is in fact a trainer's dream when it comes to running a nice little training program, but very little of it is based on what actually occurs in the workplace What you needed was a more practical and reality based model such as John Adair's Functional Approach which has been shown to work simply because it doesn't rely on theory. More importantly, such an approach actually relates to what happens in the workplace when people apply their leadership skills.

I'm not talking simply about coaching and mentoring here. I am, in fact, still wearing my trainer's hat. What I'm talking about is not teaching people what we want them to learn (usually 'cos it is easy for us) but teaching them how to learn for themselves what it is that they need to know, the issues they will face when learning what it is that they need to know, and how to overcome them. By teaching them to be more independent and effective on the job we are actually working alongside them at a point when our effectiveness is much clearer.

What helped for me was to separate training and learning. Training and learning in the training room happened when I told/showed people what to do and they learned to do it (the way I told/showed it). While I could successfully run a barrage of tests that proved they knew how to do 'it' in the training room, the real problem was they still needed to learn how to do 'it' back in the workplace. And so often I (and, I dare say, we) left them alone to figure this out for themselves.

Your mention of Skinner and the relationship between training and behaviorism reminded me of the research I've been conducting over the past ten years. I'm in my final year of a PhD and would like to share a couple of paragraphs from my thesis that demonstrate where my thinking now is:

"Most commentators (such as Somerville 2000:35, Smith 1998:143-147, Bowden & Masters 1993:20, Bowden undated:3, Merriam & Caffarella 1991:128, Bass & Ryterband 1979:46, Galloway 1976:80) agree that competency-based training is drawn predominantly from the behaviorist field and, when used to support off-the-job training and individual development it leans very heavily towards the behaviorist traditions. Such traditions include the classical or stimulus-response theories of Watson and Pavlov and the concept of instrumental or operant conditioning of Thorndike and Skinner.

On the other hand, there is considerable evidence (see for example Brantley 2000 and Brown 1998) that the application of competency-based training on-the-job and in the pursuit of work-related objectives is more closely aligned to the cognitive and developmental perspectives of Piaget and Dewey, the cultural and interactional aspects of Vigotsky and Bruner, and the mental models and schema of modern management systems theorists such as Senge and de Geus.

Other theories, according to Stacey (2001:41), go even further and suggest that such an approach centers on a constructivist teleology (i.e., knowledge as a cause of learning rather than as a result) in which knowledge and meaning are constructed and continually grow from the social interactions that take place at work. This, according to the theorists, is how learning occurs on the job and organizations grow as a result of it."

When we link pedagogical behaviorism to training we're generally talking about training that is aimed at achieving learning or training objectives (and usually off-the-job) and not organizational objectives. This is the training/learning that we (the trainers) drive. On the other hand, when we look at achieving organizational objectives (and this has got to include having people apply new skills and knowledge in order to develop and grow with the job) then we have got to think about workplace andragogy, in other words learning that is driven by the trainees - in the workplace and in line with their workplace needs.

I would suggest that much of your frustration comes from concentrating too much on the behaviorist approach to training rather than the constructivist approach to learning. After all, ROI is not so much about how well you have trained but about how well people have learned and, more importantly, do on the job.

Finally, we say that people don't apply any newfound skills and knowledge on their return to work because their attitude is wrong or because of a whole host of other reasons, and it is because of these reasons that we can't prove how effective we've been. I agree with your sentiments on accountability, but to me your example was a little like telling a parent telling a child that "We've spent $1000 on your teeth and here you are eating candy!" What I say is that we have been providing a service for people that they don't always need because we are concentrating on how to make our lives easier and not theirs. The problem is, they are the one's who measure our effectiveness so if we're not meeting their needs then it will be that much harder for them to accept that we can have any impact on them at all. (Yes, I agree with your suggestion that staff can provide evidence of the manager's competence. We just need to get right the criteria by which such competence is measured.)

Just a few thoughts.


Phil Rutherford

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

News Release

Enterprise Suites Will Absorb eLearning, Study Finds

Standalone eLearning Doesn?t Work in a Zero-latency Environment

Berkeley, California, August 20, 2003
Work and learning are rapidly converging, according to research released today by Internet Time Group.

"Enterprise technology is in the midst of an accelerating process of integration and convergence. Previously distinct product categories are being assimilated into integrated enterprise application suites. SAP, IBM, Oracle, Sun, Siebel and PeopleSoft all added eLearning to their suites in the last year."

So says Sam Adkins, author of "Simulation in the Enterprise," the 375-page roadmap to the next wave of eLearning released today.

Adkins foresees three watershed developments in learning:

  1. Migration away from courseware as a corporate performance improvement method
  2. Fusion of skills, knowledge and affective learning in workflow applications
  3. Integration of contextual collaboration and Web Services technologies with learning technology

"Courses are nearly dead. Real-time learning is starting to support getting the job done. Workers will learn what they need when they need it," says Jay Cross, Adkins? publisher and CEO of Internet Time Group. "This is not science fiction; it?s happening right now," he says."Standalone eLearning?s heyday is over."

This summer, Sam and Jay talked with an unlikely group of panelists in a session of the eLearning Forum. For the first time anywhere, the major enterprise vendors (e.g., PeopleSoft, Oracle, Sun, Siebel, SAP) and the top LMS vendors (e.g. Docent, Saba, Plateau, Click2Learn, etc.) came together under one roof to discuss the future of eLearning in the extended enterprise. The issue was not whether eLearning would be integrated into enterprise systems, but how soon; it wasn't whether LMS would become enmeshed in enterprise webs but how.

Author Sam Adkins is well-positioned to see the big picture. In his eight years at Microsoft, he worked with the leading research vendors in the industry. He forecast training channel trends and performed advanced product research on nascent developments with the potential to impact the elearning market. Previously, Sam built the world's first commercial online university, known as the Microsoft Online Institute.

Adkins' extensive new reports map the correspondences between enterprise technology, instructional simulation, learning design, Balanced Scorecard, Six Sigma and ISO9001:2000.

He describes why integrated business application suites are superior to point solutions. These suites contain not only eLearning but also business process management, business intelligence, content management and, increasingly, live collaboration.

Chief Learning Officers will see many new names popping up as specialty software companies demo new products that use simulation, workflow, and collaboration to improve human performance.

Content management vendors are buying collaboration companies. Enterprise vendors are bulking up by acquiring performance support, simulation and virtual classroom capabilities. Workflow by-products include interactive manuals, business process demonstrations, coaching inside applications, and even virtual workers and environments that collaborate in what is now called WorkSpace (what the military calls BattleSpace).

Structured knowledge management and expertise mining add Workflow-based eLearning, Workforce Analytics, and a range of new innovations to the mix.

The reports single out a select group of companies as "pioneers of innovation:" IBM, Sun, Oracle, SAP, Siebel, Microsoft, PeopleSoft, Knowledge Impact, Nobilis, VCampus, Element K, Teamplate, Ultimus, Lombardi, XStream, Knowledge Products, and Hyperwave. Standalone profiles of each highlight their extraordinary products and their likely role in the extended eLearning environment.

In today's economic climate, customers demand immediate, measurable and observable workforce improvement results (concepts familiar to both performance technologists and CFOs). As a result, says Sam, "Corporate learning is finally being recognized as a business process. It will be monitored, measured, and managed like any other business process."

"Level four and nothing but level four," says Jay. "Sam and I are canaries in the coal mine. We?re fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to glimpse the future. Our mission is to help bring it to fruition."

The two offer free white papers, articles, and an overview of their research at the newly established Center for Expertise Learning Excellence online at

An annual, single-reader subscription to the full Simulation in the Enterprise series is $750. Individual reports are available for $250.

About Internet Time Group

Internet Time Group helps organizations improve the performance of their people by speeding up their learning. Founder Jay Cross designed the University of Phoenix's first business degree program. He converted a startup into an Inc 500 winner, training a million professionals to make sound decisions and sell services. He is CEO of eLearning Forum, an 1800-member think tank and advocacy group, and author of Implementing eLearning.

Center for Excellence in Enterprise Learning

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Marc Rosenberg passed along this tidbit from the Arizona Republic:

Phoenix-based Corpedia Inc., which signed deals with management gurus Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, says its business leadership titles are a weak spot these days. The company also got stiffed for $50,000 when Enron Corp. signed a deal for ethics training and went bankrupt a week later, Chief Executive Officer Alex Bingham said.

The good news is that the legal fallout from Enron helped make Corpedia's compliance training programs the biggest part of its sales today, he said.

My email to the reporter:


Hi. I'm CEO of eLearning Forum, a 1800-member nonprofit eLearning advocacy organization.

You picked the wrong bright spot! Those ASTD statistics are several years out of date and do not reflect the current situation. Last week the CEO of ASTD resigned "to pursue other opportunities."

The really bright spots are under the radar, the in-house programs that don't show up in vendor stories and most industry surveys. Industry is not buying new stuff so much as they are applying what they already bought.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Lance & Jay Show

ASTD and WebEx are offering a passel of free seminars over the next few months. Only one will be led by the dynamic duo of Lance and Jay. Mark your calendars! Register now! You don't want to miss this one. See Jay and Lance as you've never seen them before, live from their Northern California habitat.

Wednesday, 10/08 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern

The first twenty registrants will receive a free copy of Implementing eLearning.

Click here to score your copy of the Implementing eLearning Action Plan Template.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

Blogs > newspapers


I read a lot of the New York Times' coverage of the largest blackout in our history but it lacks the impact of the photos and personal stories appearing in people's blogs.

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ten tips from Jane Knight

My friend Jane Knight is the founder of and driving force behind the e-Learning Centre.

    The e-Learning Centre Information site contains links to thousands of selected and reviewed e-learning articles, white papers, research reports; examples of e-learning solutions; vendors of e-learning content, technology and services; as well as  e-learning conferences, seminars, workshops and other e-learning events. The main focus is on adult e-learning, i.e. e-learning in the workplace, in Higher Education and in continuing professional development. The e-Learning Centre Services business offers a range of independent e-learning consultancy services to both Higher Education and corporates.

Remember the old Volkswagen commercial that pictured a Beetle cutting a path through virgin snow and asked "Have you ever wondered how the man who drives the snowplow gets to the snowplow?"

Well, if you've ever wondered where I go when I'm stuck for guidance on an eLearning topic, it's e-Learning Centre. Jane's site is my online learning thesaurus. I don't mean it's a book of words; I am referring back to the original meaning of thesaurus, "treasure house." She picks the crème de la crème. Here, for example, are ten things you must know about eLearning.

Top ten tips for implementing e-learning

by Jane Knight



E-learning is more than just e-training
Most training in organisations still takes place on a very formal basis using the traditional training object - the 'course'. However, it is now well recognised that something like 70% of learning actually takes place informally in organisations, i.e. not in the classroom nor working through an online course, but in everyday working life as employees carry out their jobs - finding out information, reading documents, talking to other colleagues etc. It is these kinds of informal learning activities that need to be supported and encouraged online. E-learning is therefore not just about e-training but also about information, communication, collaboration, performance support and knowledge sharing.



'Quick and dirty' works
Complex, sophisticated, interactive, instructional, multimedia e-learning costs money, takes a long time to build, and may well be out of date by the time it reaches the desktop. In many cases, a simpler solution is more useful since it allows you to respond more quickly and appropriately to a learning need. Consider the provision of just-in-time, bite-sized learning solutions, like an online presentation or job aid instead of an all-singing, all-dancing online course.



Communication and collaboration are the key
It must also not be forgotten that learning is a social activity, and that you can often provide a far more powerful and enduring learning experience through the use of online communities and networks and by encouraging collaboration between learners than you can by placing lots of content online. Make sure you provide opportunities for people to communicate, collaborate and share their knowledge.



The magic is in the mix
More formal learning solutions often work best when they combine a mix of online solutions with traditional, face-to-face activities to create a 'blended' solution. This can provide a more complete and varied learning experience for those who need to work through a learning programme over a period of time.



Learning should be driven by the needs of the individual
Find out what people need to learn for their jobs and how, where and when they want to learn it. Then build learning solutions that meet those needs. Encourage employees to become self-directed and self-sufficient learners - to take responsibility for their own learning - and to help drive the development of e-learning.



If you build it, they won't necessarily use it
Just because you've created some very engaging and compelling e-learning solutions, don't expect learners to come rushing to use them. You will need to overcome some of the organisational and personal barriers to learners' 'buy in' and 'take up' of e-learning. They need to see e-learning as something that truly benefits them and fits their way of learning.



E-learning needs to be tailored to the organisation
There is no magic formula for designing e-learning within an organisation; it will look different in each organisation. It should be tailored to the business objectives, the organisational culture, what employees want to learn and to the personal learning style. By addressing these factors, you will be able to create the most appropriate e-learning solutions for your organisation.



E-learning is a business solution
A well designed e-learning strategy needs to be firmly aligned with business objectives, e.g. increasing productivity or sales, or improving customer loyalty. Many organisations are still overly concerned with the numbers of people being trained, and whether employees have worked through every page of a course or passed all the tests. At the end of the day, it's not about how much employees have learnt, it's about how they¹ve applied their learning, and how the performance of the individual and ultimately the organisation has improved. E-learning, just like learning itself, is a means to an end, not the end itself.



Coordinate your e-learning efforts
HR, IT and the business units need to work together to create an effective e-learning environment. Many organisations have found that different parts of the business have been sold competing solutions by different vendors. There needs to be some central control over the selection of e-learning systems to ensure that purchasing decisions can be justified across the organisation.



Just do it!
Finally, many organisations are spending too long getting going with their e-learning plans. They want to know whether or not something is going to work before they engage in it. The best advice I can offer is: Start small, think big and have a planned approach - but just get started!


Editorial offices of eLearning Centre, Upper Swell, The Cotswolds
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Thoughts on a lazy Sunday

Before snoozing off into dreamland, I read a chapter of Bill Bryson's entertaining history of science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, every evening.

This explains why, when reading a splendid review of Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps in today's New York Times, I was thoroughly familiar with the story of a French longitude-measuring team that went through hell on earth trying to take precise readings in the Andes. (Beset by disease, angry natives, forbidding terrain, and foul weather for seven years, the two lead explorers refused to speak with one another for most of the expedition.) Their project had been commissioned by French polymath Jules Henri Poincare.

Poincare was immersed in measurements and maps, which led him to observe, in 1904, that distance is fixed but time is not. Time is sort of free-floating except in relation to other times. The very next year, Albert Einstein, who had been reviewing patent applications for all sorts of clocks and synchronizers, applied took this "time is relative" meme to simultaneity, which led him to conclude that time is relative to the speed of light.

From a cognitive point of view, it's interesting that neither Poincare nor Einstein came up with their insights out of thin air. If your job involves maps or clocks, it's only natural that you'd hypothesize about distance or time.

The review describes some characteristics of time in terms we can all understand (unlike most of the scientific writing on the subject):

After living intimately with time for a long . . . time, all we humans can say for sure about it is that change, assuming there is such a thing, cannot be described without it.

There are as many different times as there are cultures. Some reflect changes as natural as the seasons, as arbitrary as the week or as old as the year; others, like the times of narrative, change with the life of the mind. Still others were first imagined in the fertile final years of the 19th century -- like modern industry's time clocks and time studies and the railroads' convenient longitudinal time zones.

In this one sentence, the review captures the discovery and nature of Einstein's relativity:

In May 1905, on a hill from which he and his friend Michele Besso could see both the electrically synchronized clocks of Bern and the as yet uncoordinated clock in the tower of suburban Muri, Einstein realized in a flash that the only thing that would not change in empty space was a particular speed. Not a time, because time was undeterminable except in relation to another time, and not a rigid three-dimensional object or frame of reference either, because that would only be ''unchangeable'' in its own boundaries, but the unique speed of light in empty space, the top speed possible for the transmission of information about clock times and changes.

Time would always be relative to that speed, whatever change you used to describe it. It is, Einstein said, ''what you measure with a clock,'' but anything that can count more or less equal increments of any change is a clock too, including the earth and the stars. Change is not what you measure with time; time is what you measure with changes.

Some people have asked me why I write about so many different things on this blog. Others simply ask why.

Amigos, recording and reflecting is one way I learn things and stick them in memory. You've heard that if you really want to learn something, try teacking it to someone else? Well, you're here, aren't you?

Thanks for helping me learn more about time. And whatever else pops up today.

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August 15, 2003

KM and Learning: Separated at Birth?

Seventy people attended this morning's eLearning Forum to discuss the convergence, or lack of same, of Knowledge Management and eLearning, fifty of us in a conference room in Redwood Shores and the remainder participating via Interwise.

I kicked things off with a few observations:

  • The Glossary on my site defines knowledge management as "whatever you want it to be."
  • The director of a knowledge management institute in Europe told me he expected KM and eLearning to converge in three years. I suggested we start right now.
  • IBM's Larry Pruzak says the smokers standing outside an office are a great catalyst to grassroots KM: they come from all ranks and departments, and and are free to talk about whatever comes to mind.
  • "Information is not instruction," says Dr. David Merrill. So KM is not eLearning. So what? If it gets the job done, why does what we call it matter?
  • Why are KM and eLearning generally cast in adversarial rather than cooperative roles?

Several of us plan to write articles on what we heard today. Soon, notes and pictures will appear on eLearning Forum's website.

In the wrap-up, I contributed a new meme to the KM toolkit: Virtual Smokers. You don't have to ruin your lungs to talk with people in other departments and at other levels.

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August 13, 2003

Let's get personal

Take our brief survey on the value of personalization.

Four people will win a copy of one of Sam Adkins' reports on Workflow-Based Learning, a $250 value.

Winners will be announced during our online conversation on Personalized Learning midday on August 26. You are welcome to join us (it's free) but you need not be present to win.

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So long, Tina

Dear Colleagues:

This is to inform you that I will be resigning from ASTD to pursue other opportunities, effective November 1, 2003.

I leave with a sense of pride in what all of us, together, have accomplished these past few years. Most of all, I feel especially fortunate to have been associated with so many extraordinary individuals who are dedicated to this remarkable profession. I will miss the personal contact with all of you who have been both my colleagues and my inspiration.

I’ve had the good fortune to have met with many of you in locations around the world. What I saw was a community of people -- highly skilled, volunteering, reaching out, giving selflessly of themselves. If any group of people could be a model for the world, you are it. As I’ve said many times, you are truly special!

I want to thank you for all you’ve done and the support you’ve provided. It’s been a remarkable experience, a voyage of discovery, and one that I’ve enjoyed tremendously. It’s been a privilege to know you, to work with you, and to have shared this journey with you. I wish you all continued success.


Tina Sung

I couldn't find anything on Matt Drudge or National Inquirer Online. Anyone got the gossip on what this means?
Leave a comment.

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In today's New York Times, Maureen Dowd disses politicians who use blogs as PR tools rather than a means to communicate what they feel.

John Kerry has given more grist to critics who label him aloof and insincere by assigning staff members to write his cheesy blog. (It's like trying to prove you're a sportsman by making an aide go fishing for you.)

Even former candidates are weighing in. Gary Hart, who began his blog in March, doesn't bother to read other digital diarists. "If you're James Joyce," he said slyly, "you don't read other authors."

Now there's a man with a future in blogging.  

Imagine a W blog! It would be fantastical.


Via SEB, The day the blogging died.

And the three men I admire most,
Phil Wolff, Mark Pilgrim, and Steve Yost
Kept editing their final post
The day the blogging died
And they were singin'

Bye bye wiki necho or pie
Took my standard to a body
But the body had died And the good ol' boys
Drinking kool-aid and lies
Singing this'll be the way blogging dies.

Collaborative learning environments sourcebook is an interesting collection of advice on setting up your own community, including this pearl of wisdom:
    "Training, like psychology, is inherently pessimistic. Both fields are built on a core belief that people are deficient or dysfunctional." Jay Cross (2003). Informal Learning – the other 80%

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August 12, 2003

Internet Time Outbound

(This is the monthly push to subscribers to the Internet Time Outbound mail list.)

Circadian Blogging

The blogging community got into a snit about whether it's moral to edit blog entries after they've been posted to the net. One camp thinks this akin to time travelers altering the course of history when they've gone back in time; it's a no-no. The other team figures it's better to correct typos, meaning, and anything else the author feels like; updating is a-okay. I've concluded that in spite of daily entries, my blog is neither a diary nor a journal of record.

My blog includes reference pages. These are the former static topic pages on learning, design, psychology, and the other fields I track. My Metrics & ROI page was the first to get a makeover into a blog entry. Another dozen pages are in various stages of production. One neat aspect of taking these pages into blogform: Visitors can comment.

This Friday, eLearning Forum meets to grapple with the convergence of KM and eLearning. I'll be interviewing Verna Allee to lay the foundation for the meeting. Verna's is a KM luminary. She uses "value networks" to get to the heart of organizational matters in record time. Her recent book, The Future of Knowledge, is a must-read. Oracle is hosting the meeting. Join us if you can.

I have designed a cell phone for nonprogrammers and those with vision problems. Less is more.

You may have heard me rant about how early eLearning tried to take the people out of learning. On August 26, 11:00 a.m. PDT/ 2:00 p.m. EDT, I plan to vent on how to put them back in with my pals Sam Adkins and Ashwani Sirohi. Our webinar on Personalized Learning is free. Internet Time Group is co-sponsor. We plan to chat about:
  • eLearning vs. "me-learning"
  • State-of-the-art personalization techniques
  • Ideas about how to personalize your firm's eLearning
  • Key issues to consider when working with your eLearning providers
  • Assessing what personalization could be worth to you

What aspect of personalized learning would you like us to cover? Drop a note to [email protected]

What's your take on personalized learning? Take our mercifully brief survey. You might be one of four people to win a free copy of Sam Adkin's latest report.

If you want to join us, sign up here.

Want to hear a joke? It's the campaign for governor out here. Reality trumps fiction.

Blogging for Dummies, a four-minute introduction to blogging by yours truly.

I saved the best for last.

The first edition of Sam Adkins' research on Workflow-Based Learning is complete. Most of my day was consumed updating our Center for Enterprise eLearning site. This weekend I put together a 25-page synopsis of what this is all about. It's a free download. Friends are already grabbing copies to see if their company is listed in the index.

Next week the family is taking off for a week's vacation in Toronto. I haven't been there since 1973. If you have any suggestions, drop me a note.


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August 10, 2003

Circadian Blog Rhythms

Blogs generally cover what's happening now or what happened in the past few days. Stream of consciousness. They're diaries, although professional as well as personal diaries. Diary, dia, daily.

Carpe diem.
I enjoy writing daily. It lets me see what I'm thinking about. It's my virtual Hyde Park Corner, where I can stand on my soapbox and push whatever causes pop up on my radar. Unlike other forms of writing which are often constrained by lengthy introductions and context-setting, blog entries can seemingly come out of nowhere. It's okay for blog entries to be as speculative as brainstorming. This is what's spilling out of my head, and it requires no more justification than that.

Few things are mastered in a day. Achieving deep understanding of practically anything takes reflection. This requires looking back. Blogs have "archives," but most of them are by date, and that's little help when you're trying to tie together common themes. I found that I needed a personal knowledge management system. Nothing fancy -- just some blog pages that weren't going to scroll off into the ether.

Personal Knowledge Management
I've set up a dozen reference pages on my blog. For instance, I've got pages dedicated to Aritlces, Community, Conferences, Focus on core, Glossary, Hot Stuff, How People Learn, Implementing eLearning, Knowledge Management, etc.

Periodically I harvest daily blog-thoughts that have staying power and incorporate them into the reference pages. (Daily thought: Maybe I should call them reflection pages.) I'm beginning to put this at the top as I do updates:

This is an Internet Time Group reference page. The date above is merely a starting point. Periodically, I update this and similar pages with fresh opinions and resources.

This morning's update was the Metrics and ROI page.

How do other bloggers deal with this?

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August 08, 2003

Long term or short?

Darwin, August 1, 2003

Mastering the Training Balancing Act


COMPANIES NEED TO better balance the demands of short-term goals with employees' needs for long-term professional development. The challenge for businesses is to weigh their employees' needs for training to keep skills fresh while watching money spent on training walk out the door when the employee takes another job.

Although the lack of career development opportunities was high on the list of reasons people leave their jobs in one Gartner study, less than half of those companies offered adequate career development. In another study, only 28 percent of employees said they were satisfied with educational and job training programs, and 22 percent were satisfied with promotion policies. Only 28 percent of the companies had established formal career development processes.

We've deal with this one before. The article quotes a manager who laments:

"However, because employees are less loyal than in the past, we are finding that we are training people well who have no problem moving to a new company or industry with the skills we've trained them in. That is causing us to rethink how much training these new recruits get and how quickly we give them all we've got. We will train them well enough to do well and let them earn more training opportunities as rewards."

Letting people learn enough to do well sounds like a winner to me. Taken to extremes, however, it backfires. Bankers have told me about withholding training mainly to keep others from poaching their tellers. Geez. They could extend that to hiring, too. Only offer jobs to people so incompetent that nobody else would ever want them.

As to the article in Darwin, the companies discussed would be better served by making their organizations more enjoyable places to work. I bet there's a high correlation between poor career development plans, dysfunctional reward systems, inadequate job descriptions, unclear objectives, heavy-handed top-down control, and turnover.

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Election time follies

At least the other guys in this photo aren't going to say anything.

The race is heating up.

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KM Update

My Knowledge Management Reference page has been updated. The convergence of KM and eLearning (or lack of same) is the topic of the August 15 meeting of eLearning Forum which will be held at Oracle.

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More than a dozen years ago, author Stan Davis proclaimed that we were entering an era of "mass customization," where a custom version of a product would cost no more than the generic item. In the late nineties, "personalized eLearning" seemed to be right around the corner. Yet even today, I've felt that custom learning was like a mirage in the desert, always up ahead somewhere.

Sam Adkins, Ashwani Sirohi, and I were talking about the potential of personalized learning. Ashwani, whose day job is being Click2Learn's VP Product Marketing & Strategy, said a lot of what I was looking for already exists. Sam sees personalization as one of eight major factors in the rise of workflow-based learning. I said, "Show Me."

So on Tuesday, August 26th at 11:00 a.m. PDT/ 2:00 p.m. EDT, the three of us are going to share our thoughts on personalized learning. You can sign up for the webinar here. It's free. (Actually, Click2Learn has agreed to pick up the tab for the Placeware session.)

We plan to discuss:

  • eLearning vs. "me-learning"
  • State-of-the-art personalization techniques
  • Ideas about how to personalize your firm's eLearning
  • Key issues to consider when working with your eLearning providers
  • Assessing what personalization could be worth to you
  • Whatever you think is important

Take our short survey on personalization. Four people who take the survey will receive free copies of one of Sam's research reports.

Suggestions for us? Email them to [email protected].

If online conversations like this prove to be popular, we'll offer them on other topics.

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August 07, 2003

Web services

Two years ago, I heard Chris Thomas, chief e-strategist at Intel, give a presentation on Web Services at the Silicon Valley World Internet Center. The digerati nodded approvingly as Chris explained how Web Services were the coolest thing since rock and roll. Most of us had little idea what he was talking about.

Time flies. Web Services are going mainstream. They've become the key to interoperability across corporate applications. If you aren't familiar with XML, SOAP, and UDDI, you probably need to be. Check out our glossary. Ten years ago, only insiders talked about megahertz and gigabytes. Before long, taxi drivers will be talking about Web Services, so you might as well learn what's going on now.

Here's an overview of why Web Services are becoming important.

The Web Services Manifesto
By Sam S. Adkins

Why Web Services and XML matter.

"The intent is to leverage Web services to embed e-learning functionality into business applications such as CRM and ERP. With the foundation of an open architecture in place, the door is opening to Web services"and the related capability to surface e-learning as events within other applications. As e-learning platforms and content evolve toward open standards, the capability to surface learning seamlessly within the context of enterprise applications and business processes is almost within reach."

Finn Grřnbćk, IBM
Presentation at FLUID, April 2003
The Danish Association of Flexible Learning

The advent of Web Services has altered the learning technology landscape completely, and there"s no turning back. As Web Services proliferate and forever alter the landscape of enterprise technology, they also alter the landscape of learning technology, content, and services.

As Mark Resmer, CTO of eCollege stated, "Web Services are probably the most important technological step forward since the advent of the Web." Kendall Grant Clark concurred in a May 2003 article, "Much of the value of web services will come from their ability to be combined in novel, complex ways."

It"s these so-called novel and complex combinations that have changed learning technology forever. The radical change is the migration away from an emphasis on learning objects that learners must access to learning services that are experienced as contextual events in the real-time workflow.

Indeed, Web Services and XML matter to learning technology because they

  • alter the very foundation of the way productivity tools are conceptualized, designed, and built
  • assemble specific (not general) contextualized workflow, simulation, workflow-based e-learning, and collaboration objects simultaneously
  • allow process and subject matter experts"as opposed to IT staff"to assemble the workflow in a bottom-up fashion
  • alter the end-user interface and the way a user interacts with technology
  • provide personalized functionality"as well as content"to a user based on job-role
  • create shared multi-user contextual collaboration workspaces
  • generate dynamic workflows that change in real-time as users collaborate in workflows
  • provide real-time performance analysis and metrics at three primary levels: workflow, workforce, and workspace
  • provide, for the first time in the history of learning technology, the ability to combine all three dimensions of human learning (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective) in a real-time simultaneous experience.

This new primary learning experience is deeply fused with the real-time work experience. Consequently, it captures and integrates the various forms of the contextual on-the-job informal learning that account for 90 percent of how people really learn in the enterprise. This fusion of work and contextual informal learning is the result of Web Services.

It"s cost-effective and efficient, and has begun to cannibalize the budgets previously spent on classroom and courseware-based products"whether online or not. Referring to Web Services, vice president of development at Element K Paul Krause said, "While it provides an elegant solution for system integration and system collaboration, what it really comes down to is a simple and more cost-effective way for our customers to accomplish their e-learning goals."

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August 06, 2003

Eating our own dogfood

Throughout most of 2000, SmartForce was among my marketing clients. I wrote white papers, customer newsletters, and sales presentations on eLearning, and gathered market intelligence. SmartForce occupied the former NeXT headquarters on the Bay in Redwood City. Several times a week I'd struggle with the traffic on Highway 101 to make my way home in Berkeley.

In September or October of that year, a large sign sprouted up alongside 101, stating that Oracle had saved $1 billion by using its own products. Personally, I wondered how Oracle had been able to overlook this spare billion until now, given the nature of its business and its take-no-prisoners leader. Several SmartForce executives wondered what level of benefits we could claim from using our products. I took the challenge. The result appears on the next page.

eLearning boosts revenue by $10 million annually, slashes expenses by $4 million

November 2000

On October 19, 1999, two thousand employees of CBT Systems gathered in offices around the world to participate in a webcast from the firm"s headquarters. Unbeknownst to them, workers outside the offices were simultaneously hanging signs heralding the firm"s new name, SmartForce, the eLearning Company.

The new identify was the tip of the iceberg. The firm was reinventing itself as an e-Business. SmartForce had invested $50 million developing an eLearning ecosystem for the future. IDC recognized SmartForce as the world"s largest eLearning company.

Sales Issues

The salespeople of fourteen year-old CBT Systems were accustomed to selling the firm"s library of CD-ROM and LAN-based IT skills training programs to Fortune 2000 firms. Several hundred reps personally called on senior management, offering a value proposition of low cost, volume discount, fresh content, and single-source accountability. The firm recruited experienced veterans who had earned their spurs at IBM, Xerox, and other traditional bastions of high-performing sales professionals.

The reinvention of the old training company into an eLearning company turned the tables upside down for the sales force. Overnight, they had to switch from selling products to selling solutions. From delivering multimedia training run behind the firewall to providing round-the-clock Internet-based services on a hosted basis. Basic product categories were blown away. A real-time database of more than 20,000 learning objects replaced the former library. Personalized learning paths replaced courses. Like many a business reborn into the new economy, the sales people of SmartForce had to learn new products, new approaches, new presentations " an entire new industry " in order to share the eLearning vision with their customers.

Sales training before eLearning

Two years ago, it took a newly hired sales person nine months to a year to get fully up to speed. For one thing, the firm offered more than a thousand different training programs. Partnerships with Microsoft, Intel, Novell, Cisco, and other industry titans, enabled the company to often be first to market with training in new technologies, so the library of programs was forever growing.

Introductory new hire sales training was accomplished through two instructor-led workshops, eleven days in total, at the company headquarters in Redwood City, California. The sequence of workshops was conducted twice annually. All salespeople attend national, regional, and area meetings for new product introductions and renewal training.

With the sales force adding fifty new people a year, the instructor-led training was at capacity. Management wanted to accelerate growth of the sales force but expanding new-hire sales training would require adding both staff and facilities.

Also, sales managers were reluctant to take people out of the field for the sales meetings or training sessions because it interrupts the flow of business and cuts productivity.

Eating their own cooking

Senior management summed up the situation as,

  • "Our past track-record of 40% annual growth continues. Carrying out our mission requires more and more sales people. We need a sales development process that scales with our business."
  • "We must accelerate the development of new hires. It takes too long to make them fully productive."
  • "We must become more nimble in responding to changing market conditions."
  • "Sales people need to work with one another on global accounts, practicing new presentations, keeping up with the industry " with a torrent of new information."
  • "The major sales conferences are great for morale but don"t suffice for late-breaking news and coordination. We can no longer hold up announcements for the next meeting " which might be six months out."
  • "The instructor-led sessions overwhelm new hires, trying to stuff so much new information into their heads that it pours out of their ears."

Given these conditions, one would expect SmartForce to have adopted the obvious solution " eLearning " right off the bat. This didn"t happen. Creating the infrastructure to support eLearning at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Dell, Lucent, and other major customers was Job 1. Implementing eLearning internally was Job 2. Job 1 pushed Job 2 out of the picture until the middle of 2000.

eLearning for the sales force

The sales team at SmartForce is adopting eLearning incrementally. New product announcements, expert guidance, and presentations are provided in virtual classrooms. Web-based training modules teach skills that support sales " the Sales Force Automation system, mastering productivity software, even using the in-house email system. Custom modules are being rolled out in text, as instructional objects, and via virtual collaboration. All current reference information is online, covering everything from product specifications and pricing to competitive updates, case studies, presentations, white papers, success stories, delivery dates, press coverage, sales tips, to who-to-call phone lists.

Converting the bulk of what was formerly covered in workshops to computer-based delivery produces these results:

  • Eleven days of instructor-led new-hire training have been reduced to three.
  • Orientation sessions take place five times per year instead of two.
  • Bringing new hires up to speed is scalable, so it no longer constrains corporate growth.
  • Numerous regional and area sales meetings has been replaced with on-line conferencing.

More importantly, the adoption of eLearning has enabled SmartForce to become a fast-paced e-Business.

  • The time it takes for a sales person to reach competence has been cut from eight months to four.
  • The entire sales force has learned to sell solutions instead of point products.

Quantifying the benefits of eLearning

Note: Figures are annualized approximations.


  • Sales force new hires/year: 50
  • Size of existing sales force: 150
  • Quota per sales rep: $2,000,000
  • Annual revenue = $200 million
  • Travel, food, lodging = $1,000 per event + $150/day.
  • Sales days/year = 250.

Value of cutting new hire development from 8 months to 4 months, half a year.

  • Gain 6 months productivity per sales rep.
  • Revenue increase = 50 x 1/3 x 2,000,000 = $33,000,000
  • Reasonable proportion of revenue attributable to training = 1/3
  • Gain = $10,000,000

Eliminate five days travel associated with sales meetings.

  • Five days = 5/250 = 2% of sales time
  • 2% of annual revenue = $4,000,000

Reduced travel expense = immaterial

More effective sales force, better teamwork, shorter cycle time = incalculable.

Total benefit = $14,000,000+


It is not feasible to calculate ROI in this example because SmartForce had already built the eLearning infrastructure to host its sales training. The incremental cost of customization has been less than $100,000, and this is more than offset by the staff that SmartForce did not have to hire to increase its sales force development capacity.

That was then; this is now.

Eighteen months later, the press reported "In a merger of corporate e-learning firms, SmartForce is buying rival SkillSoft, of Nashua, N.H., in an all-stock deal." That's not exactly what happened. SkillSoft had acquired SmartForce. The Redwood City office closed; the Dublin Development Center downsized significantly; most of the SmartForce organization was dismembered.

I advice other companies these days, still writing white papers but also helping them gain a strategic toe-hold, making presentations and introductions, and championing the causes I believe in. SmartForce ran off the rails -- It's a complicated story -- but accelerating employee time-to-performance remains one of the biggest paybacks of any investment in corporate learning. Not for nothing my consultancy is named "Internet Time Group." Time is more important than money. Effective learning buys a lot of time.

More articles and rants
Posted by Jay Cross at 08:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ISPI Performance Express

If you've followed my work, you may have noticed that I am generally down on ISPI.

Perhaps it's just me. I'm a businessman. I am in this for results. Some people in the ISPI priesthood seem more enamoured of form than substance. My measure of success is accomplishment, not adherence to formulae. Maybe I spent too much time with a particularly doctrinaire bunch of ISPIers. I date back to when ISPI was NSPI. Did you know that NSPI originally stood for "National Association for Programmed Instruction"?

A title that drives me up the wall is Telling Ain't Training. Don't get me wrong. It's a best seller. People love it. It's the title that ruffles my feathers. So telling ain't training. So what? If telling gets the job done, that's fine with me. Telling works in the military. It works for the fire department. All of which brings me to an article in ISPI's Performance Express by Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps, the authors of Telling Ain't Training. I like it.

Improving Performance: Low Cost Solutions in a TIght Economy hits the bulls-eye. It opens with a reality check:

For the last three years, we have repeatedly heard that the economy will turn around “very soon.” Meanwhile, budgets grow tighter and every new training and performance support initiative is scrutinized with a magnifying glass in one hand and an ax in the other. Despite the austerity on the learning and performance support side, the pressure is still on to produce and maintain an increasingly productive workforce and prepare employees for new systems, regulations, and products.

The usual response, proposing to improve efficiency with technology, raises eyebrows. Stolovich and Weeks counsel us to make what's already working better. There's less risk and higher return. Though less fun than building new stuff, making do with what you have is the right message for today. Examples include:

  • Cleaning up performance expectations. Research in human performance identifies a lack of clarity of expectations to be the number one cause of inadequate performance.

  • Developing feedback systems. Inadequate feedback constitutes a close second to unclear expectations in causes of deficient performance.

  • Creating performance support systems. No matter how good the training, without adequate support mechanisms, acquired skills and knowledge tend to deteriorate.

  • Providing and aligning incentives and consequences. In a recent year-long, rigorous study, we discovered that incentives, especially tangible ones, can improve performance 13-40% (Stolovitch, Clark, & Condly, 2002).

  • Increasing motivation to perform. Motivation is critical in both learning and performance along with ability and prior knowledge.

  • Making sure mechanisms for training transfer are in place.

Tough times call for creative cost-cutting measures. Let’s get back to the fundamentals of performance improvement.

Practical advice like this encourages me to keep my ISPI membership active.

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Automated Instructional Design

According to a Reuter's story, McDonald's is testing a robot instructional designer at Hamburger University. The automaton was designed in Sweden and eliminates the need for human designers. The robot takes learning objects from an integrated repository and assembles them into personalized learning experiences. If the testing is successful, McDonald's may use the bots to develop their entire curriculum, fullfilling the prediction in last week's article that robots would begin displacing human knowledge workers.

Not really. Something was lost in translation. The real story said,

According to a Reuter's story, McDonald's is testing a robot burger flipping machine at their Romeoville, Illinois innovation store. The machine was designed in Sweden and eliminates the need for human burger flippers. The machine takes the burgers from an integrated freezer and cooks them on the grill. If the testing is successful, McDonald's may roll them out in more stores, fullfilling the prediction in last week's article that robots would begin displacing human unskilled labor.

Relayed from blog

The issue may be "when" rather than "if." If companies are comfortable outsourcing programming and instructional design to India, Eastern Europe, and Turkey, how long can it be until automated modeling wises up to our heuristic algorithms?

Never mind. It's probably the Terminator 3 meme kicking in again. The Age of Machines. Bill Joy's nightmare; Ray Kurzweil's dream. Besides, I just saw Seabiscuit, and I'm optimistic that the underdogs in our glum economy are soon going to charge to victory once more.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 02, 2003

User Unfriendly

The credit-card sized, user-friendly, minimalist phone is born

When I was growing up, shopping for toothpaste was a no-brainer: Grab a tube of Crest.

These days my drugstore in North Berkeley carries twenty-four kinds of Crest toothpaste. I'm familiar with the concepts of brand extension, competing for shelf-space, and even end-cap promotion, but this is absurd. I asked my wife to pick up a tube of toothpaste; she asked which type. I told her to pick the simplest one she could find, probably not the peroxide, baking soda, sensitive, tartar-fighting, cavity-protection, dual-action, multi-care whitening, cinammon gel, fresh citrus gel, extreme herbal mint, plus scope, or rejuvenating effects. Unfortunately, Proctor & Gamble doesn't make any Crest that's just plain toothpaste. Some idiot brand manager in Cincinnati has decided that you must pick your market segment before you buy your Crest.

Shopping for toothpaste is nothing compared to operating my new mobile phone.

My T306 comes with color display, contacts, downloadable games, exchangeable covers, e-mail , mobile chat, picture messaging, picture phonebook, predictive text input, polyphonic ring signals, start-up/shutdown shows, vibrating alert, high speed data (HSCSD, up to 28,8 kbps), MMS (Multimedia Messaging Services), WAP 2.0 and a downloadable User Manual that's a 1.5 MB file and 80 pages of instructions. The T306 also comes equipped with its own unique, funky programming language. Of course, like all miniaturized phones, the keys are too small to use unless your hands are the size of a baby's.

Want to try something scarier than the best roller coaster? Try to make a conference call on the T306 while barreling down the freeway at 80 MPH.

I have a message for the product design teams at Nokia and SONY: Less is more. Stop adding features and begin subtracting them. I'd rather have a phone that's easy to use than a phone that doubles as a game console. Let me show you:

The Internet Time Group Cardphone is the size of a credit card but has big, legible buttons. It has two functions: (1) making calls and (2) receiving calls.

The headset is tiny, wireless, and discrete.

The burnished titanium executive model has additional but optional voice-activated commands for things like dictation.

You program the Internet Time Group Cardphone from your computer, not using the keys and tiny phone screen on the phone. Most options can be set by clicking radio buttons on a one-page checklist. The Cardphone connects to the computer through the same wireless interface as the headset.

I appreciate how gizmos like the T306 are created. Competition breeds feature-creep. Also, the creators are geek engineers.

You've probably heard the story of the engineer who hears a faint voice while walking alongside a pond. Looking down, he sees a frog, who says, "Kiss me. I'm a princess." He puts the frog in his fannypack.

    "Why haven't you kissed me?" asks the frog.

    The engineer replies, "Look I'm an engineer at SONY. I program arcane features into mobile phones. I don't have time for a girlfriend, especially a princess. But a talking frog, that's kind of cool."

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Authenic Happiness (again)

Skip this posting if you've heard me rant about it before, but authentic happiness is so important it bears repeating. If you aren't authentically happy, you can and should do something about it. I did, and it makes me happy to share it with you.

The happiness I'm talking about is not the momentary rush of physical pleasure. Nor is it the product of drugs or sex or ecstatic religion. Rather, it's the satisfaction of doing what's right for you and for the world. That's what life's for.

Marty Seligman is a rare psychologist. He recognized that studying misfits and the mentally deranged wasn't going to explain much about staying mentally healthy. For that, you should study healthy people. From this insight, he founded the Positive Psychology movement. The story's in his book, along with the steps for achieving authentic happiness.

To be satisfied that you're doing the right thing, you have to know yourself. Most of us need some help with that. Seligman's free website offers 15 mercifully short questionnaires about your feelings and strengths. It also scores them.

For me, the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire had the most impact. This instrument confirmed things I already knew. I'm creative, original, curious about the world, and love to learn. What I didn't realize how extreme I was -- my scores on these items were among the highest ever recorded. (Remember, these are self-assessments, not objective measures.) I decided then and there that if those were so solidly my signature strengths, I had to live a life that let me express myself creatively, poke around finding things out, and feed my need to learn. No more bureaucracy for me.

Maybe you won't experience the marvellous awakening that I did, but then again, maybe you will. There's little to lose. Go to Seligman's site and click the shortcut to the Signature Strengths Questionnaire in the top left corner.

While I'm one of Marty Seligman's biggest fans, I do disagree with his prescription for clinical depression, described in a previous book, Learned Optmism. He makes a case for overcoming "learned helplessness" with logic and a bit of reprogramming.

I've been close enough to depression to know that talk and logic are not always enough. Sometimes severe depression is the result of bad chemistry in the brain. Talk alone doesn't work for people like William Styron or Mike Wallace. They take Zoloft every day to restore the serotonin balance in their brains.

It's a pity that Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Audrey Hepburn, Eugene O'Neill, Cole Porter, Spencer Tracy, and Judy Garland fought the debilitation of depression before medicine had come up with a cure. Needless, awful suffering. A sure-fire marker for depression is contemplating suicide. If you've considered suicide, even just toying with the idea, get to your doctor right away.

Hey, get happy, will you? :-)

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2003


I am reading Linked, The New Science of Networks, by Albert-László Barabási. I'm about halfway through and finding it more readable than The Six Degrees of Separation, that covered essentially the same material.

In the late sixties, Mark Granovetter, a grad student at Harvard, explored social networking by asking residents of Newton, Massachusetts, how they found their jobs. He was surprised to find that close friends played a much less important role than people who were only weakly connected socially. In fact, close friends were no help at all.

Think about it. You have a handful of really close friends, and you travel in the same circles and know most of the same information. Not much chance of finding something new in this small, tightly-knit crowd.

However, each of your friends has friends in other groups. These acquaintances are bathed in different streams of information.

And since each contact opens up bonds to another group of friends, the number of friends of friends and so forth grows extremely rapidly:

Granovetter's paper describing weak ties was rejected by American Sociological Review and languished for several years before being recognized as one of the most influential papers in modern sociology. It's the weak ties transmit new ideas from the outside world.

The weak ties hypothesis helped researchers see through the oversimplifications that had hamstrung their study of networks.

  • Networks (information networks as well as human networks) are not random. Clustering is common. The 80/20 rule applies. They follow Power Laws, not the normal distribution.
  • Not all nodes are created equal. Many have multiple connections. "Connectors" may have hundreds; they cross disciplines and are part of many circles (think Tipping Point).
  • Unlike the mathematician who starts with and studies a set numer of nodes, the real world contains growing networks that start small but grow rapidly, link-by-link.
  • I haven't gotten to it in the book, but of course, not all pipes are the same. Consider: bandwidth, reciprocity, social convention, trust, signal:noise, and reputation. Our representation of a network as a group of equivalent nodes connected by standard links now seems naive.

    Google came late to the party but soon proved that "first mover advantage" is a myth. Google was sticky. In network lingo, Google was fit, not unlike people in social networks who make every contact a lasting tie. "Beauty before age."

    Another grad student, Ginestra Bianconi, discovered that the web behaves according to some of the laws of quantum mechanics. Researchers had looked at network phenomena as a math problem or geometry exercise. No, it's more like a complex system. This means that sometimes it's winner take all (think of Microsoft in the software ecosystem). I don't think it's mere coincidence that grad students are making these discoveries rather than faculty members who've spent decades in the math department.

    Robustness is a measure of stability and survival under extreme conditions and Murphy's Law. A tightly interwoven system exhibits this fault-tolerance. You could wipe out 80% of the nodes on the Internet and it would continue to function.

    Network thinking is poised to invade all domains of human activity and most fields of human inquiry. It is mroe than another helpful perspective or tool. Networks are by their very nature the fabric of most complex systems, and nodes and links deeply infuse all strategies aimed at approaching our interlocked universe.

    The author ends with an analogy to Christo's wrapped Reichstag. Networking has been under a shroud too long. It's time to unwrap it.

    Yuck. I was looking for more. This reminds me of my undergraduate major, Sociology. I chose this social science because I thought I'd learn something scientific. To my disappointment, the field turned out to be primarily social. In fairness, I think the difficulty is that we simply don't know much abuot network behavior yet. The upside is that I feel that I have a shot at expanding our understanding of it.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 12:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack