December 31, 2003

Internet Time Outbound

Subscribers are receiving this as email right about now.

Sign up if you'd like to hear from us every month or two or maybe three.

Join our spam-free mailing list

  Internet Time Group

Carpe annum! January 31, 2003

  Happy New Year!

You signed up to receive sporadic email from Internet Time Group. This is person-to-person, how-Jay-really-feels sort of stuff. Forgive the typos and over-the-top language.

The Future

My predictions for 2004: Conflict in the Middle East, Taxes Rise, Time Flies, Entropy Increases, Shit Happens, Study finds "There's No Free Lunch," and consumers ask "What's in it for me?"

If you want to tackle something tougher, try looking at 2014. You need to divorce yourself from the present to get there. That's the role of scenario planning, a discipline for looking way out there.

The Edinburgh Scenarios focus on eLearning circa 2014. You're invited to take part. I'll be co-hosting a free webinar on the Edinburgh Scenarios the morning of January 20. eLearning Forum will take them as their January focus. I hope you'll share my enthusiasm for brainstorming the possibilities and shaping our vision of the future. Monitor for announcements and invitations. Since Scottish Enterprise is sponsoring the scenario project, some participants will win wool and whisky.

Metrics -- Does It Matter?

My eBook on measuring the value of eLearning has met with mixed reviews. A KM guru I truly respect wrote me, "I love this book! You have both the sizzle and the steak. Great style, great look, great content." Another industry leader emailed me, "Can't imagine anything I'd add or change ... for anyone looking for a real understanding of ROI, as well as various ways to calculate their return, this is the best A-Z guide I have read. And you hit the nail on the head ... it's ultimately about performance and the cost of improving performance." The only other comment I received was a consultant writing a book on performance evaluation who said, "I found it to be mostly a essay on various miscellaneous metrics topics, but it was not very useful. There was a lot on what shouldn't be done and the weaknesses of existing metrics, but not much on WHAT SHOULD BE DONE."

You can order Metrics for $25 and see for yourself.

How to Order...

Push and Pull

I enjoy reading the New York Times and the content it pushes at me. On the other hand, I prefer picking and choosing websites to catch up with rather than overloading my inbox with their email alerts. I go to sites that exert the strongest pull on me at the time. I asked a fellow at eLearning Producer how I could improve my blogs; he told me to add more push. Okay. (This is for you, my friend.)

I'll continue to send out sporadic emails, but if you want to keep up with my doings, or lots of blogs and news items, on your own schedule, you really need to get into RSS. Syndication. RSS ("Really Simple Syndication") lets you to sift though an amazing amount of information, only drilling down to detail when you are interested. A free program called BlogExpress shows me the headlines and a teaser from several dozen blogs I enjoy keeping up with. If I see something I like, I click for more. Bloglines, a free hosted service, tracks more obscure things for me. It alerts me to items that mention Workflow+Learning or Internet+TIme+Group. Take it from me, this is simple. Go to Edu_RSS to get a feel for what I'm talking about.


The 20/80 Rule

On Learning Circuits Blog last month, Sam Adkins posted an item entitled "We are the Problem. We are Selling Snake Oil," that declared that Training doesn't work, eLearning doesn't work, Blended leanring doesn't work, KM doesn't work." (Disclaimer: Sam and I are co-founders of the Workflow Institute.) Sam expected to start a debate, but instead he began a movement. His article was emailed far and wide. A record number of people responded on the Leanring Circuits blog. Few disagreed that learning and KM were out of touch with the requirements of business.

This lit up my cerebral panels. If Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crap") applies to learning, isn't it time to take out the garbage? If lectures, courses, shovelware, PowerPoints, and assorted chrome aren't doing the job, let's flush 'em down the toilet. We can simplify our lives and improve out reputations by eradicating exercises that are irrelevant, unclear, poorly packaged, dogmatic, boring, unsupported, or not engaging.

We would become champions of purposeful learning that works. I imagine we'd be promoting discovery learning: watching others, solving problems, creating one's own vision, picking things up from others, and taking time to reflect. Conversation, dialog, and debate are great teachers. We'd make learning part and parcel of figuring things out, from Googling an answer to being prompted by a smart system. Teaching others works because it requires reflection and making our own connections. Storytelling works because our internal storytellers create our own private versions that relate to what we already know and believe.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

Workflow Institute

Sam Adkins and I have opened the Workflow Institute to promote the understanding of real-time enterprise-level learning in industry and government. We're giving presentations, writing white papers, helping vendors educate their customers, and providing a news feed on the convergence of learning and enterprise applications.

We're experiencing some pushback from people who think Sam and I are calling for turning ALL training into some Orwellian nightmare. For example, Stephen Downes wrote, "Honestly, if it's all about productivity, I want to pack up my computer and take up a new line of work. These predictions by Sam S. Adkins of the Workflow Institute seem well grounded, but they miss the wonderment that defines real change. 'Enterprise Application Integration accelerates.' Yawn. 'Productivity gains from new mobile technology explode.' Sigh. Where's the motivation, the urgency? He could have written all his predictions in one line: online learning will continue to be commodified and co-opted. Is all this what people really want out of our great new internet?"

No, we're not saying Workflow Learning is all people want out of the Internet. We are predicting a new era in corporate training fostered by enterprise application integration, web services, contextual collaboration, and learning at the point of need. The motivation and urgency come from replacing lackluster, ineffective training programs with something more effective and less expensive. Our vision is new, so we're groping along with too many four-syllable words and three-letter acronyms. Yawn. Co-opted? C'mon. Sam and I are trying to share some good news, not commodify our life's work.

Rendezvous in Q1?

You'll find me at:

Parting Advice

If you value your privacy, please follow my example by running AdAware and Spybot to kill off the spyware villains installed on your computer when you weren't looking. (Download these from or And don't tap anything into a computer at a cybercafe or at a conference's free email stations: they're probably sending your every keystroke to some dubious character.

Change your passwords. Frequently. And don't be stupid. Somewhere this year I read about a scheme that could crack into the systems of most major corporations. Bait senior executives with a free, high-quality porn site. Most of those who sign up will use their single, all-purpose passwords. Use those passwords to access their corporate accounts. Could this happen to you?

All the best!

Jay Cross
Internet Time Group

email: [email protected]
voice: 1.510.528.3105

Forward email

This email was sent to [email protected], by Internet Time Group.
Update your profile |Instant removal with SafeUnsubscribe™ | Privacy Policy.

Powered by
Constant Contact

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 29, 2003

Koan Spam

This morning I received a mystifying email from China. The body reads:

    selector articulatory avocado stairway fought contributor honoraria lakehurst face edwardine robot profuse rifle macassar artillery mournful homebound nantucket contrariwise madison teleconference balletic choosy dire bayberry carve gustavus complementary conceit wastewater otter console parasite letterman compel crank harsh nauseum bromide leghorn disk anus schumacher superstition opalescent smart tango switzerland flail amputate saguaro fluorescent edible militate ilona cowpony micky eva

Anyone know what's going on here? Did I intercept a terrorist message in code?

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Fine art home page

I have to admit that I rather like this home page design I knocked out for Didaxis last year:

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 28, 2003

Business Process Change, 2

This is a continuation of my notes from Paul Harmon's Business Process Change.Business Process Change cover

Paul walks us through the notational schemes for modeling organizations, processes (where the top swimlane is always reserved for the customer), and activities. Why the differences? Because each is at a different level of detail, paralleling the Rummler-Brache model. (An excellent summary of the model appears on page 160.)

Harmon thinks that managers of the future should be as fluent with business processing modeling tools as today's managers are with spreadsheets and organization charts. Work gets done in processes. Managers are responsible to see that work gets done in the processes they manage. This involves planning processes and managing processes. Planning involves setting goals and expectations, estalishing plans and budget, providing resources and staff, and implementation. Controling has to do with monitoring the process, reinforcing success, diagnosing deviations, and taking necessary conrrective actions. Process measure derive from general measures of customer satisfaction with the outputs of a process. From these measures, we work backward to measure how each department might contribute to customer satisfaction.

Six Sigma has evolved into a systematic approach to process improvement.

Business Process Reengineering earned a bad reputation when people came to view it as a heartless tool for Chainsaw Al's, a euphemism for downsizing. The activity itself, drawing an ideal process on a blank sheet of peper is still a worthwhile thing to do. It's called for in major reorganizations, simplifying how things are accomplished, eliminating non-value-adds, and closing gaps and disconnects. Paul suggests a "business process redesign pattern" for each of these.

Paul credits Tom Davenport's Mission Critical: Realizng the Promise of Enterprise Systems with helping popularize packaged software apps for improving and integrating systems. SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle refer to their apps as "best processes," although by definition, there are average processes. When I read Davenport's book, I missed the point, thinking this was the way you'd want to do things no matter what; I didn't appreciate that any of this was new.

Installing ERP apps is backwards compared to the blank-sheet-of-paper idealism described earlier. You start with a solution and then modify your processes to accommodate the software. ERP software is not that simple to change; if you expect to make major changes, perhaps you shouldn't be considering ERP in the first place.

Chapter 13 gives a history of software development that I am not going to go into, save to say that these days lots of development is driven by models rather than coders.

Important development framework for enterprise software architecture was written by IBM's John Zachman in 1987. (See here.

I found this a very enlightening book, although I'll admit to leafing through the last 1/3 rather rapidly. No matter. This one will be on my reference shelf.

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Recycled Spam

What illegal shenanigans will those crafty spam artists think up next?

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 27, 2003

Metrics (excerpt)

Metrics: Measurements that Matter

These are excerpts from Metrics, an eBook available in the store.
Four years ago I attended a how-to-ROI presentation at a major eLearning event and found it so misleading that I began writing about how companies really evaluate project potential and after-the-fact results. Requests for my old articles and white papers still pour in.

Learning about ROI seems to be enjoying a renaissance in the training industry. Workshops and certificate programs abound. However, the courses I've looked at teach things that no business manager would buy. Here, let me tell you why I feel that way.

Metrics are broader than ROI

Metrics are measurements that matter. The Industrial Age is over. Measures that fail to account for intangibles are misleading.

Decision-makers use metrics to

  • choose the best course of action
  • supplement gut feel with a framework of logic
  • assess project failure or success
  • monitor progress
  • uncover ways to make improvements
  • divine ways to do better next time
  • focus attention on profitable activities

Metrics are in the eye of the beholder. They are not simply the application of a rote formula or accounting rule. They are subject to interpretation. This is what makes metrics worthy of discussion.

Training jargon doesn't play well in the executive suite, so you need to express yourself and position what you bring to the table in business terms.


If only I had $10 for every time I've heard training managers lament that they can't separate out the impact of the training from everything else that was going on. Some suggest that certain employees go untrained to provide a control group. (Forget it; the Hawthorne effect* would skew the results.)

*In a classic experiment in the 30s at Western Electric's Hawthorne Works, researchers found that workers were more productive when they cut the lights up. Also, when they cut the lights down! Conclusion: Workers are more productive if you pay attention to them. Placebos work.

Why would you want a control group anyway? Business is not precise. Deciding whether to invest in more training or increasing bonuses is not some physics experiment requiring 6-place accuracy. Consider John Wanamaker's regret, "I know only half my advertising is effective. If I only knew which half." Wanamaker didn't become a department store mogul by cutting his ads; he did what his gut told him to do.

Who decides whether an iffy investment, like Wanamaker's ads or your training program, is worthwhile? Your sponsor. The sponsor is the person who most strongly influences the decision on how to spend the money. The sponsor is your client. The sponsor decides what markers constitute proof.

The Performance Agreement

You've got to describe the linkage of your initiative and business results quantitatively, using assumptions your sponsor will buy into. You must be explicit about the what-if's. Do this in writing, as a "Performance Agreement" that:

  • Provides a shared understanding of the problem to be solved
  • Describes what you intend to provide in its solution
  • Estimates the expected increase in profit and the step to get there
  • Sets out a way to assess whether the goal was accomplished or not
  • Lays the foundation for solving the next problem

The Agreement also shows that you understand the business and that you're on the same page as your sponsor.

Fortune Favors the Bold

Before you get too far into metrics, ask yourself, "Does it matter?"

One of the few aspects of accounting that I like is The Principle of Materiality. This principle says that if it doesn't matter, don't worry about it.

For example, if Chevron-Texaco?s accountants uncover a $32,000 error in the sales department?s expense budget, they don't make Chevron-Texaco note the error in its annual report. Chevron rakes in $100 billion a year. $32,000 is a drop in the bucket; it's immaterial. Now then, if the accountants find a $32,000 discrepancy in your personal expense report, that's material. Send us a postcard from the slammer.

You can?t measure everything. Therefore, you should seek to measure important things. Let everything else coast. Don't fritter away time on the small stuff.

Time Matters

While training directors may have different objectives from CEOs, everyone in today's business world shares one need: they want it all now. Benefits you don't see for two years are hardly benefits at all. Given enough time, a million monkeys at a million terminals could develop your entire curriculum, with Flash animations and a repository of SCORM-compliant objects. Nobody's got time to wait.

An appropriate metric for most eLearning is time-to-proficiency. How long will it take until your people are performing competently? By competent, I mean able to meet or exceed the expectations of customers, be they internal or external to the organization.

Traditional ROI

ROI is often a mask for uncertainty or an attempt to quantify cost/benefit with accounting principles that don't count people as assets. The business return on eLearning investment should be so obvious that you can figure it out on the back of a napkin.

Traditionally, executives assume training has little or no impact on revenue, so they measure training benefits in terms of cost savings. This works against eLearning, where increases in top-line revenue generally exceed reduced expenses by a wide margin.

ROI is relative

ROI or cost/benefit analysis is relative, not some absolute value like the speed of light used to be. Where you stand depends upon where you sit. CEOs don't care about learning objects or LMS. Line managers focus on the performance of their unit, not the overall corporation. Training directors don't allocate resources to business transformation. One size does not fit all.

Beware of bad numbers

Present-day accounting is an anachronism. Invented half a millennium ago to maintain accurate shipping records, double-entry bookkeeping helped Venice dominate its part of the world. Formal accounting worked well when you could go out to the warehouse to count your assets. In the information age, it's an inappropriate yardstick for measuring anything. Most assets drive home every night.

In a nutshell, the basic problem is that accounting recognizes nothing but physical entities. Intangibles are valued at zero. Vast areas of human productivity -- ideas, abilities, experience, insight, esprit de corps, and motivation -- lie outside the auditor's field of vision.

The largest cost of all is foregone opportunity.

Again and again, I've found the largest overall cost of any corporate learning endeavor is the cost of people's time. I'm not talking about salaries and benefits; I refer to the value they would have created had they not been tied up in training. Opportunity cost per hour is not a fixed amount. A salesperson's time during working hours in peak buying season is worth much more than the same individual's time after closing time in non-peak season. eLearning often enables the employee to shift learning to those non-peak hours.

There's more.

I could go on for another ninety pages. In fact, I do just that in a newly published eBook titled Metrics.

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 25, 2003

Out of the box & into the cloud

Innovation is thinking outside of the box. Growth is accomplished by adapting to an ever larger set of boxes

Thank you, Josef Albers

Enlightened thinkers dump the confines of boxes altogether. Limits exist but they are hardly linear. You don’t even see the outer boundaries until you push up against them.

Give the steering wheel to the right brain. The idea space becomes amorphous. Innovations seem to appear out of nowhere.

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2003

Top Trends for 2004

Top Ten Trends for 2004

It's All About Productivity Now. Dramatic Productivity Gains from New Technology Dominate the Landscape.

By Sam S. Adkins, Senior Director of Technology Analysis, Workflow Institute

Customarily, the Workflow Institute distributes reports and updates only to members. This one's on us, to celebrate our debut. This is our abbreviated forecast. For the full version, go here

  1. 2004 will define XML and Web Services. Companies that have Web Services strategies now are well positioned to tap into the second wave. The first wave was dominated by integration. The second wave will be dominated by productivity gains achieved by using Web Services to automate tasks, save time and increase output with fewer resources. Medium-sized and small businesses will be able to afford the new services previously available only to enterprise companies.

  2. Enterprise Application Integration accelerates. EAI absorbs several distinct product categories. Knowledge Management gets completely absorbed as a technology by Enterprise Content Management and Enterprise Integration Management technology.

  3. Productivity gains from new mobile technology explode. Primarily in the healthcare and field service industries, the productivity gains using mobile technology will be dramatic. The initial productivity gains from initial deployments in 2003 have been impressive and have sparked a brush fire of adoption as customers adopt the technology to increase productivity and decrease costs. In the healthcare industry, the technology is eliminating a spectrum of medical errors such as diagnosis, medication and prescription errors.

  4. Real-time Managed Collaboration and Workflow Automation start to converge. The convergence of collaboration and workflow begins to dominate corporate and government business practices. Once highly unstructured and completely unmanaged, new collaboration technology will harness Instant Messaging, Web-conferencing and application sharing.

  5. The broad adoption phase of Workflow Learning begins. The early adopter concept phase is over. Workforce Optimization, Automated Performance Management, Workflow Learning and Workflow Analytics merge. Workflow automation dominates the Enterprise Application Integration conversation. The convergence of managed collaboration injects immediate productivity gains. Informal Learning dominated by real-time contextual Workflow Learning becomes the overwhelming focus of corporate workforce development initiatives.

  6. Simulation reaches adolescence and identity crisis phase. The proliferation of simulation technologies continues in several distinct technology sectors including business process management, workflow modeling, gaming, educational publishing, military training, product lifecycle management and business intelligence analytics. Cost-effective, low bandwidth virtual reality technologies will explode as massively distributed multi-player gaming grows exponentially across the planet. Interactive Flash and video on smartphones and tablet PCs become common.

  7. Social Network Analysis Technology is commandeered for productivity. Business2.0 identified Social Network Analysis as the technology of the year for 2003. In 2004, it will become apparent that the technology can be harnessed to improve productivity and cut costs. Automated expertise mining and presence awareness will converge with the technology. In this case, it won't be the technology itself that makes the difference. As an enabling technology it will provide expertise maps with live human experts lighting up the switchboard of the network. Human expertise will shine.

  8. The battle for the single business process interface intensifies. There is a fierce battle being fought by several major vendors now vying for the new single business process interface. Each sector and industry leader has a different approach. Enterprise Content Management vendors are advocating "content-based applications".

  9. Agent-based technologies dominate the entire spectrum of technology innovation. Intelligent and smart software will grow in prominence. It will be identified as the ONLY way to offset the Information Tsunami crisis that is approaching the business world. Self-healing networks, autonomous computing, predictive software, adaptive workflows, vigilant security software and self-assembly chip technology will become common.

  10. The Information Tsunami becomes the top business challenge driving technology innovation. Information is doubling every 18 months and the growth rate is accelerating. The wave cannot be stopped so it has to be conquered. Technology, particularly agent-based software, is the only alternative. Time will become the metric that dominates all automation technology.

For a more comprehensive version of our predictions, go here
Posted by Jay Cross at 02:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 21, 2003


Tonight I started reading Business Process Change: A Manager's Guide to Improving, Redesigning and Automating Processes, by Paul Harmon. Doesn't sould like a cliff-hanger, does it? It's kept me up way past bedtime.

I'm about 70 pages in, and so far it's great. Paul ties together TQM, Michael Porter, Business Process Re-engineering, Workflow, ERP, CASE, Six sigma, Business Process Redesign, and the net/eBusiness -- all steps leading to today's Business Process orientation. Systems thinking, flows, silos, value chains, alignment, process architecture, and the work of Geary Rummler: it's all here.

These concepts appeared after I'd graduated from B-School. I'm familiar with them all, but from journal articles or the Web or some process of osmosis from the New York Times. I had missed the connections. I'd also failed to appreciate:

    "There has been a basic shift in how strategic goals are aligned with managerial goals in the course of the last two decades. This shift has been a result of the emphasis on business processes and has been driven by the work of Porter and Geary Rummler, and many other business process gurus, who have all placed considerable emphasis on aligning corporate goals, business processes, and job objectives."

The Geary Rummler I remember from the 70s was a behavioralist. I never bought into the stimulus-response oversimplification of the Skinnerians, so I dismissed Rummler as just another bag of ISPI claptrap. Duh!

The chart below, from Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart, which Rummer wrote with Alan Brache in 1990, pried my eyes open. How had I missed their book? This little 3x3 table is profound.

A performance framework (Modified after a figure in Rummler and Brache, Improving Performance)
Goals & measures
Design & implementation
Organizational level
Organizational goals and measures of organizational success
Organizational design and implementation
Organizational management
Process level
Process goals and measures of process success
Process design and implementation
Process management
Activity or performance level
Activity goals and measures of activity success
Activity design and implementation
Activity management

Next day...

    Porter defines business strategy as "a broad formula for how a business is going to compete, what its goals should be, and what policies will be needed to carry out these goals."

Now we come to the business process architecture committee or planning committee, the group that should know what business processes support what goals. In theory, the strategy group feeds the planning group which in turn proposes changes in business process and IT infrastructure.

I have to wonder if this is real or pipe dream. Most of the organizations I've worked in were driven by personality, not logic. Thinking back to the banks, software companies, and high-tech hot-shots I've dealt with, I really don't know if they were doing something this logical when I wasn't looking or if this Business Process stuff is ahead of their curve. (Big company denizens, please comment.)

Turning to organizations, Paul notes that "An organization chart doesn't show the customers. Equally important, it doesn't show the products and services the company provides to customers, or where the resources needed to create the products and services come from in the first place." This is the silo problem. If you respect the lines on the org chart, you may optimize your unit at the expense of the whole. You win the battle but lose the war. If you've read me for a while, you've heard this before. Locals optimize their fiefdoms at the expense of the federation.

The antidote is "systems thinking," i.e. The Fifth Discipline, taking a broader perspective. Paul says "The alternative is to try to figure out how to assign strategic goals to departments without a clear idea of how the departments must work together to achieve the desired outcomes."

Next we come to notation. A process diagram is a workflow diagram with "swimlanes". Most often, suppliers on the left side, customers on the right, and a presumption that the chronogical flow is left to right. Processes have rounded corners, events and objects have square. Useful models incorporate drill-down, and this keeps the heavy forest from obliterating the trees.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 20, 2003


Authentic Happiness, Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.
    "A revolutionary perspective on psychology, Seligman’s Authentic Happiness is a beacon for human behavior in the new century. Laypersons and professionals alike will find this book enormously enriching. It summarizes a huge literature, it provides concrete self-assessment tools, and it speaks with a joyful voice about what it means to be fully alive." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Personality Factors | Four Stages of Group Development | DeBono's Six Thinking Hats | Transactional Analysis |




Warmth Reserved Outgoing
Reasoning Less Intelligent More Intelligent
Emotional Stability Affected by feelings Emotionally stable
Dominance Humble Assertive
Liveliness Sober Happy-go-lucky
Rule Consciousness Expedient Conscientious
Social Boldness Shy Venturesome
Sensitivity Tough-minded Tender-minded
Vigilance Trusting Suspicious
Abstractedness Practical Imaginative
Privateness Straightforward Shrewd
Apprehension Self-Assured Apprehensive
Openness to Change Conservative Experimenting
Self-Reliance Group-dependent Self-sufficient
Perfectionism Self-conflict Self-control
Tension Relaxed Tense


EXTRAVERSION Introverted, socially inhibited Extroverted, socially participative
ANXIETY Low anxiety, unperturbed Easily worried and generally tense
WILL Open minded, receptive to ideas Resolute and determined
INDEPENDENCE Accommodating and selfless Independent and persuasive
SELF CONTROL Free-thinking and impulsive Structured and inhibited


Stage 1: Forming

Individual behaviour is driven by a desire to be accepted by the others, and avoid controversy or conflict.  Serious issues and feelings are avoided, and people focus on being busy with routines, such as team organisation, who does what, when to meet, etc.  But individuals are also gathering information and impressions - about each other, and about the scope of the task and how to approach it.  This is a comfortable stage to be in, but the avoidance of conflict and threat means that not much actually gets done.

Stage 2: Storming

Individuals in the group can only remain nice to each other for so long, as important issues start to be addressed.  Some people's patience will break early, and minor confrontations will arise that are quickly dealt with or glossed over.  These may relate to the work of the group itself, or to roles and responsibilities within the group. Some will observe that it's good to be getting into the real issues, whilst others will wish to remain in the comfort and security of stage 1.  Depending on the culture of the organisation and individuals, the conflict will be more or less suppressed, but it'll be there, under the surface. To deal with the conflict, individuals may feel they are winning or losing battles, and will look for structural clarity and rules to prevent the conflict persisting.

Stage 3: Norming

As Stage 2 evolves, the "rules of engagement" for the group become established, and the scope of the group's tasks or responsibilities are clear and agreed.  Having had their arguments, they now understand each other better, and can appreciate each other's skills and experience.  Individuals listen to each other, appreciate and support each other, and are prepared to change pre-conceived views: they feel they're part of a cohesive, effective group.  However, individuals have had to work hard to attain this stage, and may resist any pressure to change - especially from the outside - for fear that the group will break up, or revert to a storm.

Stage 4: Performing

Not all groups reach this stage, characterised by a state of interdependence and flexibility. Everyone knows each other well enough to be able to work together, and trusts each other enough to allow independent activity.  Roles and responsibilities change according to need in an almost seamless way.  Group identity, loyalty and morale are all high, and everyone is equally task-orientated and people-orientated.  This high degree of comfort means that all the energy of the group can be directed towards the task(s) in hand.

Stage 5: Adjourning

This is about completion and disengagement, both from the tasks and the group members.  Individuals will be proud of having achieved much and glad to have been part of such an enjoyable group.  They need to recognise what they've done, and consciously move on.  Some authors describe stage 5 as "Deforming and Mourning", recognising the sense of loss felt by group members.


WHITE is neutral and objective, concerned with objective facts and figures
RED relates to anger and rage, so is concerned with emotions
BLACK is gloomy, and covers the negative - why things can't be done
YELLOW is sunny and positive, indicating hope and positive thinking
GREEN is abundant, fertile growth, indicating creativity and new ideas
BLUE is the sky above us, so is concerned with the control and organisation of the thinking process

Transactional Analysis


PARENT Critical Parent

makes rules and sets limits

disciplines, judges and criticises

Nurturing Parent

advises and guides

protects and nurtures


concerned with data and facts

considers options and estimates probabilities

makes unemotional decisions

plans and makes things happen

CHILD Free (Natural) Child

fun-loving and energetic

creative and spontaneous

Adapted Child

compliant and polite

rebellious and manipulative


... the "OK Corral"




"I wish I could do that as well as you do"




"Hey, we're making good progress now"




"Oh this is terrible - we'll never make it"




"You're not doing that right - let me show you"

People move around the grid depending on the situation, but have a preferred position that they tend to revert to.  This is strongly influenced by experiences and decisions in early life. 

"I'm OK, you're OK" people are in the 'get on with' position.  They're confident and happy about life and work, and interact by collaboration and mutual respect, even when they disagree.

I'm OK, you're not OK" people are in the 'get rid of' position.  They tend to get angry and hostile, and are smug and superior.  They belittle others, who they view as incompetent and untrustworthy, and are often competitive and power-hungry.

I'm not OK, you're OK" is the 'get away from' position.  These people feel sad, inadequate or even stupid in comparison to others.  They undervalue their skills and contribution and withdraw from problems.

I'm not OK, you're not OK" is the 'get nowhere' position.   These people feel confused or aimless.  They don't see the point of doing anything, and so usually don't bother.


The central concept of TA is that Transactions between people can be characterised by the Ego State of the two participants.  What's more, the Ego State adopted by the person who starts the transaction will affect the way the other person responds.

For example, Mr A says "what time will they arrive?", and Mr B replies "at 2pm."  This is a simple Adult to Adult transaction.

However, if Mr A adopts a Child state: "I'm worried that they might not arrive on time,"  that will tend to produce a Nurturing Parent response from Mr B: "Don't worry, we'll still have plenty of time to talk to them."


We all need and seek care, attention, love and recognition from others, and in TA, a stroke is defined as a unit of recognition.  With children, strokes are obviously sought and given: they show off their new toy, or misbehave to get attention, and know the adults will respond right on cue.  But grown-ups do the same: working hard, deliberately making mistakes, arriving late, or simply arriving home and sighing "what a day!"

Strokes can be positive or negative, and it's generally better to give a negative stroke than none at all (because that may be taken as negative anyway).  But in many business organisations, strokes are subject to a set of unwritten rules:

  1. don't give positive strokes freely;

  2. if you give positive strokes, make them conditional;

  3. don't ask for positive strokes - certainly not directly;

  4. most positive strokes are insincere ('plastic');

  5. never give a physical stroke - by touching someone;

  6. don't miss a chance to give a negative stroke.

The result is a cold, unfeeling environment where normal human emotions are generally suppressed.  Even in 'warm' organisations where it's OK to express feelings, strokes are still subject to certain norms - such as not giving them to people above you in the hierarchy.

In the absence of a free exchange of strokes, people manipulate others in order to get the strokes they crave, and start playing games.


The complexity of the TA model leaves it open to manipulation, or "Games".  You adopt a Child state because you want someone's help, or a Parent state to make them do something for you.  But often the games end up damaging the relationship, and the type of game someone plays is influenced by his or her life state.

Examples of games players are:

The Persecutor: "if it weren't for you",  "see what you made me do",  "yes, but".

The Rescuer: "I'm only trying to help", "what would you do without me?"

The Victim: "this always happens to me", "poor old me", "go on, kick me".

Left and Right

These notes go way back and some are dated. My main champion of the left/right brain thesis (below) has since recanted (see Robert Orstein, The Right Mind.)

left brain
(right side of body)
right brain
(left side of body)



logical, mathematical
linear, detailed
reading, writing, naming
perception of signicant order
complex motor sequences
artistic, symbolic
intuitive, creative
synthetic, Gestalt
facial recognition
simultaneous comprehension
perception of abstract patterns
recognition of complex figures

The User Illusion

In mid-1999, The User Illusion convinced me that conscious vs. unconscious is a more important split than left vs. right brain. "Inside us, in the person who carries consciousness around, cognitive and mental processes take place that are far richer than consciousness can know or describe. Our bodies contain a fellowship with a surrounding world that passes right through us, in through our mouths and out the other end, but is hidden from our consciousness." The nonconscious is largely in control but the conscious thinks it's in control. An amazing book. It will take me a while to propogate its concepts into the Jayhoo Way.

Don't worry. Be happy.

Relativity theory is deterministic, meaning that when given a specific set of conditions, precise outcomes are predictable. Quantum physics, on the other hand, is probabilistic, meaning that when observing a specific set of conditions, change enters into the picture, and predictions can be made only of probable outcomes. Current thinking is that both types of processing, programmed and learned, go on in the brain and similar compatibilities will occur in the marketplace (with today's and neural network computers.)

From a review of In Pursuit of Happiness: "the invisible foot," says Milton Friedman. "That's the law of unintended consequences."

Life is about happiness -- which people (when pressed) generally concur isn't a new BMW or an orgasm, but rather lasting and justified satisfaction with one's life as a whole. Happiness includes the self-respect that comes from accepting responsibility for one's life and earning one's way in the world. It flows from realizing your innate capacities by doing productive work and overcoming ever more challenging obstacles, impelled more by your own inner imperatives than by the mere need to make a living.

See Finding Flow

You might also look at my thoughts on taking your own advice

From Healthy Pleasures, by Ornstein and Sobel...

Happiness changes little even after delightful or devastating life changes.

Man's plight... Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy; happiness is the longing for repetition.

Happiness springs from how much of the time a person spends feeling good, not from the momentary peaks of ecstasy. Simple pleasures are more allied with happiness than are strong, momentary feelings.

When we are in a given mood, such as sadness, anger, or joy, we are more likely to recall other times when we were in a similar mood. This is probably why seemingly minor uplifts such as receiving flowers can "make your day." The mind tends to overgeneralize... Small changes in our current contents of mind have great future consequences.

Make it a weekly goal to think about positive current events and daily experiences as much as possible. Focus on what you have, not on what you lack. The good feelings are likely to spill over into a healthy, optimistic view of your future.

Expecting to be pleased, healthy people cultivate a set of positive illusions. They inflate their own importance and have an exaggerated belief in their ability to control their destiny. They believe that other people hold them in high regard. Human beings never directly perceive the outside world; most judgments are comparative.

When bad things happen, as they will, pessimists explain the causes in stable, global, internal terms.

We often bet our lives on the stories we tell ourselves about the world, but rarely hear them while they are being told. Try to listen carefully to your continuous internal monologue. If we know that our story of the world controls our life, we can choose to rewrite the unpleasant elements.

There is a direct link between good health and knowing what is going on around us, understanding how economic and social forces operate to affect one's life and in general understanding how things work.

Some people have censored so much of themselves for so long that they forget what it is they do feel and think.

from Multimind by Robert Ornstein

"Our illusion is that each of us is somehow unified, with a single coherent purpose and action. That we are consistent and single-minded is a built-in delusion." We do not hear or observe ourselves the way we experience others.

"I know my own mind." But we don't know it very well.

Some conflicts are nobody's fault -- not caused by the badness or madness of one person; it's between the people. linear cause and effect do not apply here. (generally, if something good comes from a relationship, i figure the contribution is mine; if it doesn't work, that's your fault. it's never my fault, i'm merely reacting.) actually, the problems are the product of the relationship. it's just as you can't reduce the properties of water to the properties of either hydrogen or of oxygen.

Ornstein and Erlich: Human culture shaped over a million years; man a sight animal. Focus is on the short-term, visual (mastodon coming); we miss the gradual, invisible (greenhouse effect).

Ernest Poser of McGill University in Montreal found in treating schizophrenic patients that randomly selected undergraduates produced more positive change than did psychiatrists and psychiatric social workers.

Robert Ornstein, The Mind Field

from Do What You Live, the Money will Follow

The more we see ourselves as courageous, even in the tiniest choices, the more self-respect we gain and the more distinctive we become. In addition, acting out our authentic desires and values quickly erases a history of holding back and self-abandonment.
Posted by Jay Cross at 11:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 16, 2003

Changes afoot chez moi

You may have noticed an usually heavy flurry of posts here at over the past week.

Cast your eye over to the right. See the new heading, Professional Interests? I prune, summarize, and rearrange my digital goodies in these topics. I'm always on the lookout for exemplars. These are my beliefs and my research area. (I long ago gave up on bookmarks. Too many machines, too many browsers, too linear for my taste.) At long last, I have this collection of words and pointers in undated reference pages indexed by Moveable Type and Google-searchable.

Forgive me if I've overloaded your modem-line. The peak season on this is over.

Please use the Professional Interests pages as a reference for interests we share. Supplement my choices with your comments.

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 14, 2003

Don't pass it along

At a think tank session at eLearning Producer last month, Will Thalheimer displayed this well-known graph...

      ...and then documented the fact that it is total fabrication. Fiction. The stuff of urban legend.

Will heads up Work-Learning Research. Here's what he's found on tattered history of this bogus graph.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

First Principles

How to get along in the world


Perception is reality. Mental expectations set real limits. Modern people have cro magnon brains. People are warm-blooded, omnivorous, sight-mammals. People like what they know; they don't know what they like. Be alert. Keep an open mind. Follow your heart. To every thing there is a cycle.


Everything flows. All things are connected. Less is more. Everything exists on numerous levels. Process is power. Virtually everything is on a continuum. It's shades of gray rather than black or white. Most things in life are beyond our control. In diversity is strength. Shit happens.


Decisions are a tradeoff of risk & reward. Does it matter? Invest time and resources wisely. When management treats time, space and no-matter as resources rather than as roadblocks, our methods of organization will no longer be lagging behind, at the end. --Future Perfect


In business, take Jack Welch's advice... How to behave Seek patterns I don't ask him ”What's the problem?" I say, "Tell me the story." That way, I find out what the problem really is. --Avram Goldberg

Structure follows strategy. (Strategy = plans and policies by which a company aims to gain advantages over its competitors.)

Drivel, BS, and caution signs

Time problems.

Accepting the wrong answer to the right problem. Evaluating with what's easy to measure rather than what's appropriate. Information is not instruction. Using my context to understand your situation. Confusing meaningless social noise with a message. A word is not the thing itself.

The Principle of Materiality

As Alan Watts titled a book, "Does it matter?" Contrary to what you may think, accountants don't strive to account for every penny. They strive to present a fair picture of an organization's financial condition, not to balance its checkbook. If your employer is auditing your expenses, a $300 discrepancy on your hotel bill is probably significant; it's "material." If Deloitte is auditing Exxon, a $5 million discrepancy in expense reimbursements is trivial -- it's a drop in the bucket that won't even show up on Exxon's financial statements. I interpret the Principle of Materiality as "Don't sweat the small stuff." Don't fixate on false accuracy. And if you're unsure whether or not something's material, change its value up or down to see if it makes a meaningful difference. Impress your friends by saying you're performing a "sensitivity analysis." And, never confuse activity with results.

Words to Live By

Time is all we have. Barnaby Conrad

There is no free lunch.

Perception is reality.

Be here now.

Become who you are! Nietsche

Perform every act as if it is all that matters.

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Chinese Proverb

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood. Daniel H. Burnham

Imagination rules the world. Napoleon

Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought. Henri Bergson

One person's constant is another person's variable.

One person's process is another person's content. Jay

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian. Harold Kushner

Never, Never, Never, Never give up. Winston Churchill

In my life I've experienced many terrible things, a few of which actually happened. Mark Twain

The word processor is mightier than the particle beam weapon. George Carlin

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. The Talmud, also Anais Nin

None of us really understands what's going on with all these numbers. David Stockman

Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got. Janis Joplin

If you think you can do a thing, or think you can't do a thing, you're right. Henry Ford

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. - From the tomb of Machiavelli

The truth will set you free - but first it will piss you off.

An invasion of armies can be resisted but not an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo

We look at the present through the rear-view mirror.

We march backwards into the future.Marshal McLuhan

Don't just learn the tricks of the trade. Learn the trade. James Bennis

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists. Eric Hoffer

It is best to learn as we go, not go as we have learned. Leslie Jeanne Sahler


Edward De Bono on


  1. Value simplicity highly.
  2. Strive for it.
  3. Understanding begets simplicity.
  4. Explore alternatives and possibilities.
  5. Challenge and discard vestiges.
  6. Always be ready to start over.
  7. Think conceptually.
  8. Break things into pieces.
  9. Trade off other values for simplicty.
  10. Know who you're making it simple for.


Early in life, I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change. Frank Lloyd Wright

My father was a contemptible man. I owe my success to not following in his footsteps. He was lazy; I work very hard. He frittered away his talent, and I nurtured mine. He was poor as a church mouse, and I'm worth $550 million." John Sperling, founder and CEO of Apollo Group


The real voyage of discovery, wrote Marcel Proust, "lies not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes."

To get a different view, go up to the balcony. Look at the big picture. Look down from a higher level to gain a broader perspective. Try to discern what’s really going on. Back away from the trees to see the forest.

The Law of Raspberry Jam

Formulated by consultant Gerald Weinberg, the Law of Raspberry Jam states "The more you spread it, the thinner it gets." Few things scale forever.

Focus on core

Focus on core; outsource everything else. Shareholder value (AKA market cap) is a function of sustained competitive advantage, and organizations achieve it by leveraging their core competencies. Everything else is context (overhead), and context is a needless distraction. Without careful management, context always gets in the way of core because it absorbs time, talent and management attention.

Sunk cost

Don't throw good money after bad.
Imagine you've sunk $100,000 into a project. Another $10,000 and it will be completed. But market conditions have changed and you'll only recoup $25,000.
A colleague discovers an open-source code that will generate the same $25,000 return for an investment of only $8,000 total.
Do you go for the first option and complete the $110,000 project?
Or do you abandon the $100,000 and go for the cheaper new alternative?
The rational businessperson chooses the second option. The $100,000 is a "sunk cost." It's water over the dam. You need to make decisions based on incremental costs and incremental rewards. Paying $8,000 to get $25,000 beats paying $10,000 to get $25,000 any time, anywhere.

Setting Personal Goals

"I shall pass through this world but once; any good things, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, or dumb animal, let me do it now. Let me not deter it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." --John Galsworthy

From a review of In Pursuit of Happiness: "the invisible foot," says Milton Friedman. That's the law of unintended consequences.

Martin Seligman: Life is about happiness -- which people (when pressed) generally concur isn't a new BMW or an orgasm, but rather lasting and justified satisfaction with one's life as a whole. Happiness includes the self-respect that comes from accepting responsibility for one's life and earning one's way in the world. It flows from realizing your innate capacities by doing productive work and overcoming ever more challenging obstacles, impelled more by your own inner imperatives than by the mere need to make a living.

From the Well: Conf: News On/Off the WELL Topic: 643 I should be telecommuting from Tahiti. Dawn on a beach of pure white sand and green sparkling seas....I catch the few fish I need for my daily fare and then walk naked down the beach to my grass hut with massive metal Linking up with the satellite, I quickly type in enough code to make my daily expenses. Length of my workday? Three minutes and thirty-seven seconds. I yawn as I turn off my battery-powered laptop and head for my hammock and a cool glass of fermented coconut milk.

Getting Things Done

Life in the Projects

Fast Company, May 1999, Tom Peters

 Distinguished project work is the future of work—for the simple reason that more than 90% of white-collar jobs are in jeopardy today. They are in the process of being transformed beyond identification—or completely eliminated. “WOW” projects add value and leave a legacy (and make you a star.)

 “Will we be bragging about this project five years from now? If the odds are low, what can we do right now to turn up the heat?” Draft people as if you’re an NBA general manager – get the hottest people you can. And pick projects like a venture capitalist: bet on cool people who have demonstrated their capacity to deliver cool projects.

 Point of the exercise is not to do a good job; it’s to use every project opportunity that you can get your hands on to create surprising new ways of looking at old problems.

Never accept a project as given. That’s someone else’s way of conceptualizing the project!

  1. everyone focuses on the tangibles but the intangibles (i.e. emotion) are what matters.
  2. embrace the confusion: “when we launched this project, we thought we knew what we were doing. Now we know that we don’t know what we’re doing—but the things that we’re confused about are much more important.”
  3. be your own firm within a firm.
  4. think diversity.
  5. project management is emotion management.


 Reengineering by Mike Hammer (See HBR '89). Managing, or administering, businesses doesn't work today. What a retched work--administer. It conjures up the image of a bureaucrat.

 The apotheosis of mid-20th-century administrator was Robert McNamara at Ford. McNamara didn't know anything about cars. He knew nothing about making cars, nothing about selling cars. He was a financial analyst. He had a deep, unspoken assumption that work didn't matter.

Reengineering means radically changing how we do our work. Work is the way in which we create value for customers, how we design, invent, and make products, how we sell them, how we serve customers. Reengineering means radically rethinking and redesigning those processes by which we create value and do work.

 Titles: I would rip out VP/marketing and replace it with "process owner of finding and keeping customers."

 In a reengineered company you have to leave behind this single-function mentality and wear more than one hat. You need to do whatever it takes to keep the customer coming back. Managers are not value-added. A customer never buys a product because of the caliber of management. Less is better. One of the goals is to minimize the necessary amount of management.

 If you are designing a business for a world of stable growth, then you want the Adam Smith, Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford model. Trouble is, stable growth does not characterize our environment today.

 "Folks, we're going on a journey. On this journey, we'll carry our wounded and shoot the dissenters."

 A worker is someone who cares about a task, about getting things done, and is basically working for the wage at the time. We don't need workers in our company. We need professionals. A professional is someone who focuses on the result, on the customers rather than on tasks. Professionals need coaches and leaders.


London: What do you think about all the talk today about "re- engineering the organization." One word I've heard you use is not "re- engineering" but "de-engineering."

Wheatley: Yes, I put that word out to the world. We really have to "de-engineer" our thinking, which means that we have to examine how mechanistically we are oriented -- even in our treatment of one another. This is especially true in corporations. We believe that we can best manage people by making assumptions more fitting to machines than people. So we assume that, like good machines, we have no desire, no heart, no spirit, no compassion, no real intelligence -- because machines don't have any of that. The great dream of machines is that if you give them a set of instructions, they will follow it.

I see the history of management as an effort to perfect the instructions that you hope someone will follow this time -- even though they have never followed directions in their whole life.

How is the world going to be different because you and I are working together?

A Simpler Way

  Author: Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers in A Simpler Way

There is a simpler way to organize human endeavor.
It requires a new way of being in the world.
It requires being in the world without fear.
Being in the world with play and creativity.
Seeking after what's possible.
Being willing to learn and be surprised.

This simpler way to organize human endeavor
requires a belief that the world is inherently orderly.
The world seeks organization.
It does not need us humans to organize it.

This simpler way summons forth what is best about us.
It asks us to understand human nature differently, more optimistically.
It identifies us as creative.
It acknowledges that we seek after meaning.
It asks us to be less serious, yet more purposeful, about our work and our lives.
It does not separate play from the nature of being.

The world of a simpler way is a world we already know.
We may not have seen it clearly,
but we have been living in it all our lives.
It is a world that is more welcoming,
more hospitable to our humanness.
Who we are and what is best about us can more easily flourish.

The world of a simpler way has a natural and spontaneous
tendency toward organization.
It seeks order.
Whatever chaos is present at the start,
when elements combine, systems of organization appear.
Life is attracted to order --
order gained through wandering explorations
into new relationships and new possibilities.

OLD ways die hard. Amid all the evidence that our world is radically changing, we cling to what has worked in the past. We still think of organizations in mechanistic terms, as collections of replaceable parts capable of being reengineered. We act as if even people were machines, redesigning their jobs as we would prepare an engineering diagram, expecting them to perform to specifications with machinelike obedience. Over the years, our ideas of leadership have supported this metaphoric myth. We sought prediction and control, and also charged leaders with providing everything that was absent from the machine: vision, inspiration, intelligence, and courage. They alone had to provide the energy and direction to move their rusting vehicles of organization into the future.

 Michael Crichton: In recent decades, many American companies have undergone a wrenching, painful restructuring to produce high-quality products. We all know what this requires: Flattening the corporate hierarchy. Moving critical information from the bottom up instead of the top down. Empowering workers. Changing the system, not just the focus of the corporation. And relentlessly driving toward a quality product. because improved quality demands a change in the corporate culture. A radical change.


the first constant in the job of management is to make human strength effective and human weaknesses irrelevant. That's the purpose of any organization, the one thing an organization does that individuals can't do better.

Managers are accountable for results, period. They are not being paid to be philosophers; they are not even being paid for their knowledge. They are paid for results.

 These are the factors stressed by GE in its new management process:

Dee Hock on Management and Organizations

Dee Hock on Management

An organization, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it. Ultimately what determines the organization's performance is the approach to management its leaders take. Some of Dee Hock's management principles, in his own words:

 PhD in Leadership, Short Course: Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don't do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.

 Associates: Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities.

 Employing Yourself: Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is idiotic to replicate your weakness. It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.

 Compensation: Money motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people. It can move the body and influence the mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit; that is reserved for belief, principle, and morality. As Napoleon observed, "No amount of money will induce someone to lay down their life, but they will gladly do so for a bit of yellow ribbon."

 Form and Substance: Substance is enduring, form is ephemeral. Failure to distinguish clearly between the two is ruinous. Success follows those adept at preserving the substance of the past by clothing it in the forms of the future. Preserve substance; modify form; know the difference. The closest thing to a law of nature in business is that form has an affinity for expense, while substance has an affinity for income.

Creativity: The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a room packed with archaic furniture. You must get the old furniture of what you know, think, and believe out before anything new can get in. Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.

 Leadership: Here is the very heart and soul of the matter. If you look to lead, invest at least 40% of your time managing yourself--your ethics, character, principles, purpose, motivation, and conduct. Invest at least 30% managing those with authority over you, and 15% managing your peers. Use the remainder to induce those you "work for" to understand and practice the theory. I use the terms "work for" advisedly, for if you don't understand that you should be working for your mislabeled "subordinates," you haven't understood anything. Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers, and free your people to do the same. All else is trivia.

Dee Hock on Organizations

Whenever Dee Hock talks to people about chaordic organizations, someone always wants to know, "Where's the plan? How do we implement it?" But that's the wrong question, he says, because an organization isn't a machine that can be built according to a blueprint.

 "All organizations are merely conceptual embodiments of a very old, very basic idea--the idea of community. They can be no more or less than the sum of the beliefs of the people drawn to them; of their character, judgments, acts, and efforts," Hock says. "An organization's success has enormously more to do with clarity of a shared purpose, common principles and strength of belief in them than to assets, expertise, operating ability, or management competence, important as they may be."

 The organization must be adaptable and responsive to changing conditions, while preserving overall cohesion and unity of purpose. This is the fundamental paradox facing businesses, governments, and societies alike, says Hock--not to mention living cells, brains, immune systems, ant colonies, and most of the rest of the natural world. Adaptability requires that the individual components of the system be in competition. And yet cohesion requires that those same individuals cooperate with each other, thereby giving up at least some of their freedom to compete.

Selling your ideas

Selling the value of a project to management takes more than talking like a businessperson. It requires thinking like a business person. In essence, if you’re not there already, you must become a business person. The overriding focus of business leaders is creating value for stakeholders. Stakeholders include owners, managers, workers, partners, and customers. The firm’s leaders are responsible for articulating a vision of how the organization will create value and specifying milestone objectives along the way there. Any businessperson worthy of the name can relate how his or her activities support those objectives and help fulfill the vision. You should be able to articulate how what you're doing establishes value in these areas. This is your "elevator pitch" and you should be able to giive it in your sleep. Analysis and Decision-making Techniques Here are techniques for business analysis and decision-making that we rely on continually. We suggest you run through them when making major decisions until they become second nature. Business leaders present themselves to the world as confident, authoritative, conservative, results-oriented, deliberate, and a bit staid. It’s best to leave your clown suit in the closet when you’re selling a concept to executives. Be concise. Hit the concepts described above as they apply to your project. When you’ve said your piece, ask for questions and sit down.
Posted by Jay Cross at 11:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why semantic mark-up

I'm slowly converting my blogs to XHTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Content and format will exist independently of one another. This makes for rapid "reskinning" of the sites, readability on PDAs and phones, and leaner code. That's not enough to get me to unlearn old HTML habits. (I may need aversion therapy to program new code snippets into my fingertips.)

My real motivations for complying with web standards are:

  1. Clean code. Some of the entries on this site still have mark-up from Netscape 1.1; there's probably some pre-Netscape Mosaic in there somewhere. I have tables nested in tables nested in tables. Lots of pages have the superfluous XML garbage that Word spews out. If you play web archeologist and dig down a few layers, you'll come upon "single-pixel gifs" for alignment and other anachronisms. This stuff takes too long to download. More importantly, it offends my sense of order.
  2. Consistent presentation. Until reading Zeldman, I'd forgotten how much time we designers used to waste creating workarounds for oddball browser behavior. XHTML and CSS are a path out of this mess. In the continuation section, I'll show how different browsers render this page.
  3. Spring cleaning. Yesterday's great ah-ha is today's commonplace. Some of my older writings appear prescient; many now seem naive. As long as I'm going to churn through old content, I plan to harvest the stuff of lasting value and dump the rest. Note the Research section to the right; that's where most of the good stuff will reside.

The front page of this site is a conventional set of tables. Here's what it looks like in the Opera browser:

Internet Explorer renders the same code like this, squeezing the heading into an odd layout:

Mozilla screws up the text alignment in the right column:

Life's too short to use programming tricks to accommodate browser variations. Here's my Workflow Learning Institute page, which is coded in XHTML, as rendered by three different browsers. They are identical.



Internet Explorer:

Rant alert. It really, really, really gets my goat that Microsoft, having illegally crushed Netscape, has abandoned Internet Explorer. Opera and Mozilla are easier to use, faster, and are laden with cool features. By contrast, IE is truly lame: no resizing of text, no tabbed windows, and klutzy controls. Having cut off its competitor's air supply, Microsoft has no motivation to improve its product, save that of satisfying its customers. Customer satisfaction doesn't seem to matter to Redmond. Message to Bill & Steve: We have long memories for crap like this. /rant.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

CSS, Semantic Mark-Up, and codes

CSS Smorgasbord II

CSS Smorgasbord I

A List Apart on CSS

webmonkey on CSS

Better Living Through XHTML

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:53 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thinking about Books


Disclosure: I am a bibliophile. No, make that book addict. My house is filled with overflowing bookcases. Books are my friends. I never leave home without one.

Nontheless, I am beginning to wonder if the nonfiction book isn't becoming an anachronism. The world flows; books are still.

A couple of weeks ago, I completed writing a 100-page document on the metrics of corporate learning. It's a file. I labeled it an "eBook." My promotional copy says, "I pulled together my thoughts on measuring results, added some how-to material, stole items from past white papers, listed the best sources I know, and packed 30,000 witty words into an eBook, named Metrics."

At least one in five buyers sends me a snail mail address so I can send them the book. How can I get the point across? I sense we need a new term for "living book." I never intend to print this book. Several reasons why:

December 11, 2003

24 hours

Seb Paquet writes Seb's Open Research, a blog with "pointers and thoughts on the evolution of knowledge sharing and scholarly communication." He wrote me from New Brunswick that he planned to be in San Francisco today and we decided to rendezvous.

Late Wednesday Seb sent me an email that he was going to a party in my neighborhood in Berkeley the next evening and perhaps we could meet there. So I put on my Santa suit, wandered over to Jerry Michalski's house (I thought he lived in Sausalito; he's actually a neighbor), and met an absolutely wonderful group of people, some of whom I knew through their blogs.

The story continues...

At the party, Gordon Moore (no, not that Gordon Moore), invited us to drop by the Internet Archive for lunch the next day. Seb was new to San Francisco, so this morning I led him on a whirlwind tour on the way to lunch. Among other things, we tangled with Union Square, the Post St. shops, Chinatown, North Beach, cable cars, the Marina, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Presidio, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Seal Rock, Great Beach, and Golden Gate Park.

The Internet Archive

It's a great contrast: a century-old, clapboard Army building housing an altruistic, hyper-high tech operation. Inside, Brewster Kahle and a dozen helpers create, maintain, and move forward the Internet Archive.

Brewster aims to capture and preserve all the books, magazines, television, the web, software, and music created by humankind, and to make it accessible to the entire world. He thinks of it as "making the free world work." It's a 25-year goal.

In addition to the Archive staff, clustered around the luncheon table were a chap from the National Library of Iceland, another from the National Library of Norway, two people from the Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders, a guy from SBC Global, a volunteer from Boston who is helping the Archive capture music, and others.

The Archive is moving its computers into a new data center. The fellows moving the PCs joked about carting around "100 Terabytes in a U-Haul." The Archive runs on a complex of nearly a thousand computers. Their typical computer includes four 250 gig hard drives, a terabyte in all, and costs about $1,400. They consume about $500 worth of electricity every month.

From the Archive's site:

Stewart Brand has written:

One amazing aspect of the Internet Archive is its reliance on volunteers. The fellow assembling the music archive does it as a labor of love. Today was the first time he had met Brewster or visited the Archive. Similarly, Project Gutenberg's Distributed Proofreaders spreads the task of proofreading amongst five hundred active volunteers. Some people check a page a day, others complete dozens, and some folks do this almost fullltime. Interested? They'd be glad to have you join in "preserving history one day at a time." Thus far, PGDP has proofed a million pages. They've posted 10,000 public domain books to Project Gutenberg. Charles Franks says they're tracking their target of proofing a million books in ten years. The strength of numbers at work--along with the genius of chopping the work up into small pieces....

Conversations with Jerry Michalski, Jerry's mom, Steve Larsen (Net Perceptions), Peter Merholz, Seb Paquet, the Archive people, and dozens of others have generated so many ideas and connections that my head feels about ready to pop. I'm going to have my morning coffee, browse through the New York Times, and let "the boys in the back room" process my neural firings.

Well, I find I have to get out a few thoughts.

I am filled with optimism that we can make the world a better place. Folks like Jerry and Brewster are going to help us do it.

Everything in the world is connected or becoming so. At present it's like the "Internet cloud." You don't see the lines of connection but you trust that they are there. I'm beginning to perceive something parallel, sort of "Reality Soup." I appreciate that everything (systems, people, places) is connected, I don't see most of the connections, but just realizing I'm in the soup simplifies my worldview.

Now, I'm going to go get that coffee.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ich bin ein Berliner

Peter Isackson attended Beverly Hill High, graduated from Oxford, and has lived in Paris for decades. He is president of Didaxis, a European culture consulting and instructional design firm. (Disclosure: I am on the Board of Didaxis.) Peter introduced me to Online Educa several years ago, and I've enjoyed presenting there. This year I couldn't make it back to Berlin, so I asked Peter to take notes. Peter is thorough. He sent 5,000 words. Because it's important that Americans understand the shifting European situation and vice-versa, I'm going to post Peter's entire report below.


about this time every year!

Report from Online Educa Berlin, Dec. 3 to 5, 2003

By Peter Isackson, Didaxis, Paris

Let me be brutal. Online Educa Berlin, which has just finished, is an interesting conference, offering a rich and diversified panorama of what people are actually doing with eLearning. But more than that, it’s now an essential one for those of us here in Europe and probably for a lot of others around the world. Though a long-standing member of the Advisory Committee, I have no vested interest in the event, and admit that this year, for the first time, I thought I could live without what had become a pre-Christmas ritual and duty. I agreed only at the last minute to chair one of the parallel sessions. And although I still think a number of significant (and less significant) things can be done to improve the overall quality and pertinence of the conference, if I’m to judge by the comments of the participants and my own renewed impressions, I have to congratulate the organizers on their impeccable performance.

Online Educa is an immensely successful conference, having grown from a level of participation of roughly 300 to the 1,428 who attended this year, which is already a whopping 300 more than a year ago. As a regular since its launch in 1995, for the first time I suffered from agoraphobia. Most of time, I truly and disconcertingly felt lost in the crowd, although it was the same environment (Berlin’s Intercontinental Hotel) where for years I had the feeling of being a member of a family, albeit a visibly growing one. I had the impression this time that some of the brothers and sisters had disappeared (which may be the result of fabulous success --- making such events superfluous for them -- or frustrating failure, making them unaffordable or inappropriate). But who were all these new cousins? One answer was given immediately by the organisation: the Dutch had replaced the Finns as the most populous delegation. But they weren’t alone. The invasion – unlike that of Iraq – was the result of a much wider coalition, with representatives from 68 countries.

Once a marginal event in a marginal field, Online Educa took on significance in its early years as a magnet for Europeans working in fields related to eLearning. It created its niche as an annual platform for largely informal and intellectual, non-commercial exchange among Europeans (principally) but served also as a link with the rest of the world, including the U.S. It catered to a deep need in Europe for colleagues in the same field but of different nationalities to mix, mingle and share. The initial sponsoring partners were the European telecom giants, especially Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom, who in 1995 hoped to pump prime the nascent telecommunications for education and training market (as a segment of the huge future e-commerce market) and at the same time were preparing a Franco-German marriage that never took place.

Online Educa’s spirit of open exchange among trainers, university staff and small producers of both eLearning content and tools produced a number of practical consequences, some of them to do with business, others with technology and yet others with pure pedagogy. In the period roughly from 1995 (its inception) to 1998 the presentations were largely dominated by announcements of what I prefer to call “pro-active eLearning policies” (quite often programs to be implemented locally with a varying degree of imminence) and speculation about or attempts to predict the future, i.e. “what we think it will be like when people starting using networked technology for training and how committed we are to achieving this”. Today, only the big IT vendors (Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Sun, who have taken over after the telecom providers’ vanishing act following the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2000) are left to paint the eternally rosy picture of what our future based on integrated enterprise systems will be like, a future that will be delivered thanks to the massive adoption of the technology they have developed to meet our present and future needs, which of course they’ve also taken the immense trouble to identity for us.

Standing room only for the plenary session

As a measure of how far we have come while things remain, in other respects, essentially the same, I remember that in 1995 the only significant commercial online training service being proposed was Berlitz for language learning (which has since been abandoned), whereas Microsoft was busy impressing a receptive public with its outstanding new platform for a virtual university, Blackbird, thanks to a seductive, graphic PowerPoint pitch with more bells and whistles than usual. Never heard of Blackbird? Nobody at Microsoft seems to remember it either. But at a time when Bill Gates was struggling to take a still ambiguous position on the emergence of the Web (“are browsers necessary, and if they are, how do we establish a monopoly?”), his company was occupying the terrain and scaring away the opposition with its educational vapourware delivered in the form of a PowerPoint presentation and well-placed press releases. Microsoft’s position as platinum sponsor this year of Online Educa is linked to its launch of another educational killer application, Class Server. In keeping with the trend to tone down of hype and reassure (rather than aggressively attack) markets, Class Server appears to be a real product, this time addressed principally to secondary schools, reflecting Microsoft’s strategy – already perfected in the street corner drug-dealing industry -- that it’s best to pull the new generations into the fold as early as possible.

The key themes in 2003

In the beginning of Online Educa, when eLearning was still a dream in the mind of the European Commissioner of Education and the World Wide Web was itself little more than a whimpering newborn, a serious confusion existed between distance learning defined as “telecommunications enabled education and training” and its offline cousins, CBT and multimedia. This confusion has only recently disappeared as the Internet has become democratised in Europe and the all-purpose notion of blended learning, with its miraculous healing powers, has been received as an article of faith amongst cutting edge educational theologians. While the background issues of organization and methods for universities and enterprises still attract the bulk of the presenters’ attention, several new themes have recently come to the fore and are likely to have more impact in the years to come. The ones that struck me this year were: flexibility, quality, culture and rich media.


This theme reflects a number of complementary strategic orientations and embraces notions such as change management, blended learning and contextually appropriate learning “in the face of changing learner requirements” (to quote Ashish Basu, president of NIIT, India). Basu claims to be describing “third generation” eLearning, somewhere beyond time and space, but not quite the Twilight Zone. This correlates strongly with the “just for me” principle announced with great fanfare already a year ago by IBM in its role of prophet of the future, always ready to push a catchy new slogan in the belief it will stimulate desire for a new generation of integrated enterprise solutions.

In practice, the concept as described by Ashish Basu seems slightly more human – and therefore possibly less efficient, but considerably more likely as a standard scenario -- than IBM’s vision of embedded learning that embraces both “just in time” and “just for me”… but also “just for everyone else in the team”, since my personal experience of data gathering and production, furthered by my instantly perfected presentation performance (formatting the raw data) is automatically fed back into the system. Richard Straub (IBM Europe) promises just such a perfectly calibrated solution to the hurried and harried sales consultant eager to convey instant, perfectly structured knowledge to his prospect in the interest of signing a major deal faster than the competition. (What happens when the competition buys into the same technology and catches up will only be answered at a future conference as IBM can be counted on to deliver another generation of tools for competitive advantage).

Richard Straub: the future according to IBM

Basu sees the flexibility and adaptability of the system in terms of strong and sophisticated development methodology complemented by what he calls a “layered help desk”, where actual people with different levels of qualification handle the inevitable demands on the system. These people will continue to be instrumental in ensuring that the content is not only just in time, but also dynamic, adapting to the unknown or at least unanticipated (because he quite rightly recognizes that we can never anticipate all the critical features of context). Another aspect of Basu’s pragmatism is reflected in his conviction that with the right methodology and philosophy, time to market (and therefore cost) can be significantly reduced. He didn’t fail to mention that this is particularly true when the production takes place in India!

The reasoning developed by both Basu and Straub reflects a new awareness that now seems pervasive: change, in the Heraclitan world of the information society, is the key to everything. The world and the economy aren’t just global; they’re dynamic. Flux rules. Here are a few examples of the kind of reasoning we hear:

The best news of all, according to Basu, is that dynamic content costs only a tenth of the price of stable content (CBT, WBT).


The concern with quality reflects the budding maturity of the field. The first wave of experimentation not only produced results that are a challenge to interpret, but has also come up flush against the critical problem of standards, linked in turn to the definition of the criteria to be used for the choice of tools. (The trend seems to be away from one size fits all to the notion of something for everyone, but probably not the same thing). As far as quality itself is concerned, we find ourselves once again in the world of speculation about future intentions and trends. One of the speakers (Claudio Dondi) describes a major, well-funded effort to define quality in eLearning and establish the essential criteria. He notes as the aim of the project -- with which SAP, Sun and Accenture are associated as well as European consultants and think tanks – “to establish a European eLearning Quality Forum” at some point in the future. These experts and consultants appear to be both humble and non-directive: they’re not going to tell us what to do but create a space in which we can discuss it. This is one way of recognizing that there are, as of yet, no visible landmarks. It’s worth remembering, however, that when navigating in uncharted territories characterized by a dearth of landmarks, there’s always the danger of hallucinating them. But with considerable humility, everyone seems to recognize we’re not even there yet.

This isn’t to say that a lot of detailed work hasn’t already been done and that we aren’t already in the phase of experimenting new ideas to see whether they may (or may not) apply. There were twelve presentations on the topic of quality, most of them outlining their approach to the question, which usually reflects the collaborative strategies shared among a number of committed partners. Europe is manifestly ready to fund projects on this theme because there’s the feeling that it may possibly have long term industrial and economic consequences. Getting people to agree on quality criteria (whether applicable or not to real situations) is one way of stimulating a new industry: the different actors can be expected to align their strategies on those criteria, which makes marketing and internal selling much easier. This of course introduces the complementary theme of standards, which curiously wasn’t given any prominent importance as a specific theme in this year’s conference.


The question of standards did make an appearance (curiously) within the realm of culture, a session officially dedicated to two complementary themes: localization and intercultural learning issues. Eric Duval, president of the Ariadne Foundation and technical editor of IEEE learning object metadata standards made some pertinent observations about the state of play in the realm of standards and the link with transcultural concerns.

Culture, like change, appears to have become something of a buzzword in the industry, and is used for various purposes and sometimes cross-purposes. The awareness of issues having to do with culture appeared throughout the conference, with the leadoff by one keynote speaker (Francesco Miggiani, Italy) who spoke on the theme of the Cultural Dimensions of Change, essentially summing up received wisdom on how to run eLearning as a change management project. Culture in this context was corporate culture but implicitly included notions of learning culture that a number of other speakers also developed, often in relation to trainer behavior, institutional behavior and plans to train trainers and initiate learners into new methodologies.

The localisation/intercultural session I ran focused on a range of questions from best practice in localisation (Alistair Kerr, Ireland) to cross-cultural collaborative experiences. The session raised a number of what I would call existential questions (i.e. sources of hidden anguish) related to globalisation and the status of cultures, generational behavior patterns and even peace on earth, good will to men. I expect many of these deeper questions to take on further importance over the coming years:

Rich media

A majority of the participants at Online Educa seem to be working on the production and implementation of eLearning. Those who are looking for ways of surpassing the current limits of eLearning tend to manifest an interest in vocal and visual media as a way of extending the scope and interest of what has been essentially an illustrated text-based medium. There is the realization that if learning output is confined to the text medium (supplemented by replies to multiple choice questions), the desired outcomes of learning (behavior, discourse and in some sense, being) will remain underdeveloped as well as being impossible to assess. It also means that eLearning will be confined to a class of people with a somewhat sophisticated level of literacy.

Rich media provides a means of diversifying the contents we provide, giving them more depth and making them more dynamic. Significantly, those who appear to be the most interested in its future see it as a way of diversifying learner output as well. It will empower learners and probably turn out to be instrumental in stimulating motivation.

Rich media has suddenly become a popular theme at Online Educa. It is quite naturally linked to the idea of mobile technology, possibly because companies such as Ericsson (who were present) are looking in that direction. Vendors such as Macromedia (a sponsor of Online Educa and publisher of Contribute) and Wimba (a supplier of user-friendly compressed and streamed audio for asynchronous and synchronous use) are beginning to have an impact on the marketplace, offering the means not only to author with a wider range of media, but also to allow learners to produce their own documents and communicate them back to the server with disconcerting ease.

In the session on culture the question of the impact of rich media was raised not only in the framework of the democratisation of eLearning (extending the possibilities of communication between cultures), but also as a factor of acceleration in the evolution of a global eLearning culture that accommodates the widest variety of national, regional and linguistic cultures. Related to this, of course, is the service it will render in language learning and sensitisation to a diversity of foreign languages (and their cultures).

Two other significant themes

In contrast to previous conferences, the 2003 conference revealed two other tendencies I consider to be significant: the engagement of traditional publishers and, for almost everyone, a certain clear-headed honesty and frankness that hasn’t always been the dominant feature in this business.


It’s remarkable to discover that an increasing number of European educational publishers in their specific national markets have moved towards a standard policy of complementing their hardcopy publications with an electronic supplement. This is moving increasingly towards sophisticated forms of eLearning and is beginning to have an impact on teachers, who suddenly find themselves with something to work with and build on. As a one-time multimedia publisher and partner of several established publishers, I’ve followed the trend in Europe over the last ten years and done my best to accelerate it (mostly in vain). The publishers have been coming to see what was going on for the past five years. Now they’ve begun to report back on what they’re actually doing and how they expect it to grow. It’s ironic that most of them remained observers as McGraw-Hill, Pearsons, Vivendi and a few others made the big speculative bets (hoping for a quasi-monopoly on a gold mine) and then as the big players pulled out, came forward to address a local (not a global) marketplace whose rules and habits they were more aware of. Their thorough engagement is also linked to the structure of European national educational marketplaces, which the global players will always having difficulty addressing.


Few speakers hesitated to point out the difficulties encountered and the challenges they face in pursuing their training, teaching, development and research. The purely optimistic, utopian discourse that has been so characteristic of the eLearning community is now reserved to the diehard “solution” vendors. In her keynote address, Brenda Gourley, Vice Chancellor of the UK’s Open University set the tone, by stating that all was not well in the state of eLearning.

Few people find themselves in a position to say, simply, “we’ve implemented it and it works”. It may well be the characteristic of a maturing marketplace that reports of difficulty and failure become far more interesting than success stories. Freud himself said that there were three impossible professions: pedagogy, politics and psychoanalysis (all beginning with a p). If someone actually found the silver bullet, perhaps we would all be so bored -- having nothing to say -- we would stop thinking about the issues altogether, ensuring that pedagogy would become a dead science, like astrology.

If the prevailing angst is any indication, that day seems a long way away. The honesty of the participants was both refreshing and stimulating. Even the World Bank (represented by Hans Fraeters), once a proud beacon of eLearning in a benighted world (some would say this is a replica of the Bank’s political and economic behavior in the world), demonstrated outstanding humility and a concentration on the very challenging issues for which no simple solution has yet been found. It made you believe that the world is a less grim place than certain powerful politicians seem intent on making it.

The question of language

There was another phenomenon that struck me, as an expert in the field of language and culture, a phenomenon which somehow seemed less apparent when the conference was still an intimate place. Few conferences exhibit the contrast and diversity of cultures present at Online Educa. Listening to speakers from more and more diverse horizons brought home to me the central paradox of the new global culture that uses English as its lingua franca. The paradox concerns the acceptance of the practical need to be fluent in English and the discouraging failure to cultivate elementary communication skills. The issue is very much a European issue, but it’s also a global one.

The most German (or Prussian!) of German cities, Berlin obviously speaks German. Its historical isolation after World War II meant that even West Berlin was less exposed to English than most of West Germany. From the beginning, Online Educa chose English, not as a second language, but as the unique language of the conference. This may explain why the French were so slow in coming: they tend to fear environments where their language isn’t put on an equal footing with others and where they might be expected at all times to flow with the English stream. (French representation has doubled in the last year, but is still well below the other major nations of Europe).

Online Educa demonstrates the vehicular role of English, but also highlights the dangers. Although English is the standard second language for 90% of the population who have a chance to study a foreign language and is recognized as the best way to get by from country to country, Europe as a whole still doesn’t possess a true English speaking culture. The reasons for this are probably both political and cultural. The British failed to impose their particular model, possibly because they’ve always been shy of Europe and even today regressively cling to English-speaking empires of the past (their own) or the future (that of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld). Eurospeak (a nebulous style of English prevalent at the European Commission in Brussels) is a curious mix of American and British models filtered through the phonological systems of each native language. Eurocrats (the officials who work for the Commission) spend 80% of their time speaking English and therefore are generally what one would call “fluent”. But theirs is a very odd form of fluency. Eurospeakers, almost as a duty, appear to make a conscious effort to convey their national origin through their accent, rather than adapting it to the range of styles available in the language. I can only speculate on the possible causes and see these two as primary:

  1. Rather than being seen as a barrier to optimal communication, accent is for most non-native English speaking Europeans a badge of national identity, as visible as the name badges they wear at a conference. This theory would correctly reflect the loose federalism of the European Union.
  2. Possibly because of a lack of cultural specificity (English being an international language, neither American, British, Australian, South African, etc.), there’s no positive model for rhetoric in English. Foreign speakers of International English have therefore implicitly created an all-purpose model: the fact-aligning monotone drone, with most of the phonemes and the little intonation that they dare to use borrowed from their mother tongue.

It’s difficult to imagine a greater obstacle to empathetic listening. In contrast, the native speakers use their rhetorical baggage to push their wares, develop their ideas and create an image of being more commercial.

I ended up asking myself, is the European neglect of communication skills a reflection of a conscious refusal of what’s perceived as American insincerity, the disingenuousness we associate with talented snake-oil vendors? Is it at the same time a refusal of the British style of sophisticated understatement that always seems to imply a form of cultural superiority, the arrogant heritage of the Empire? Or is it simply a reflection of the fact that most training and educational professionals see their profession as still concerned only with the transmission of knowledge, not of the culture (values, behavior, communion) in which knowledge is a mere technical component?

There is a movement towards stronger communication skills and it seems to me most of the presentations in the parallel sessions these days are more engaging than they were several years ago. The organisation has made a point of trying to ensure the quality of the speakers as communicators, however strong their scientific credentials may be. It’s a pity that, for political reasons, it hasn’t always been possible to do so with the keynote speakers, many of whom are chosen largely on the basis of their role as representatives of public bodies (national or European). Still, my feeling is that Europe and the rest of the world ought to make a serious effort in developing its own public rhetoric in international English, a rhetoric that need not be specifically beholden to either the U.S. or British models. Some excellent models for “non-national” English exist and, though diverse and variable, I believe they should be promoted.


In spite of a relatively slow start, eLearning may well have achieved a deeper commitment on the part of active professionals here in Europe than in the U.S., with a correspondingly higher degree of intellectual investment. This is counterbalanced by a significantly weaker effort in sales and marketing, complicated of course by the language problem. But that doesn’t explain everything. Most of the big suppliers and vendors are still American. They’re the ones with the massive promotional budgets. They were there in force, with no European companies in the same league. Online Educa’s sponsors over the past few years have been IBM, Sun and Cisco, and this year Microsoft took the lead position, possibly because the wise men of Redmond saw Online Educa as an opportunity to put Class Server on the map in Europe.

One reassuring element for me was what I might be tempted to call – speaking very subjectively -- the “redemption” of Online Educa, which I had begun to feel was in danger of selling its Faustian soul to its corporate sponsors, the ransom of its success and continued growth. The organisation has done an admirable job of reconciling the aggressive presence of the big name IT vendors with the moral and intellectual force wielded by the wide range of participants mostly from European institutions and enterprises, most of them engaged professionals. Indifferent to the vendors’ relentless marketing, the European worker bees have continued to build together and now buzz with an increasingly common – if, alas, still rather monotone – language full of hope and bonhomie, complemented by a certain professional intensity and a growing sense of commercial reality.

Left in the background were other more dramatic global questions that I know worried the organization earlier in the year, particularly related to the issue of European-U.S. cooperation, something that’s perceived as increasingly necessary for success in the transition towards a productive e-culture. Could this be a metaphor for the current global political predicament? If in politics the reconciliation of the U.S. and “old Europe” (essentially Germany and France) hasn’t yet been accomplished for reasons everyone has an opinion about, Online Educa demonstrates that there may well be a more solid ground for understanding and mutual achievement within the eLearning profession itself and across all continents. Let’s hope everyone can learn from it.

Peter Isackson

Paris, December 2003

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

eLearning Forum Season's Party

Menlo Park (SRI)
eLearning Forum Season's Party

You missed it!

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2003

Connections: The Impact of Schooling

December 2003 - Jay Cross

Your 16-year-old daughter says she’s going to take sex education at school and you’re relieved, but she tells you she plans to participate in sex training and you’re unnerved. Why? Because outside of education, you learn by doing things.

Small wonder that executives hear the word “learning,” think “schooling” and conclude “not enough payback.” Executives respond better to “execution.”

Everything is connected. Each of us is enmeshed in innumerable networks. You’re linked to telephone networks, satellite networks, cable feeds, power grids, ATM networks, the banking system, the Web, intranets, extranets and networks that are local, wide, wireless, secure, virtual and peer-to-peer.

Social networks interconnect us in families, circles of friends, neighborhood groups, professional associations, task teams, business webs, value nets, user groups, flash mobs, gangs, political groups, scout troops, bridge clubs, 12-step groups and alumni associations.

Human beings are networks. Scientists are still conceptualizing the human protocol stack, but they affirm that our personal neural intranets share a common topology with those of chimps and other animals. Once again, everything’s connected. Learning is a whole-body experience.

Moore’s Law doubles computing power every 18 months, bandwidth doubles twice as fast, and connections grow exponentially with each node. Interconnections beget complexity, so we have no concept of what’s ahead.

Six years ago, Intel CEO Craig Barrett said, “We’re racing down the highway at 150 mph, and we know there’s a brick wall up ahead, but we don’t know where.” We still don’t know where that wall is, but today the car would be hurtling along at 1,800 mph.

Change is racing along so fast that the old learn-in-advance methods are no longer sufficient. While network infrastructure is evolving exponentially, we humans have been poking along. Because of the slow pace of evolution, most human wetware is running obsolete code or struggling with a beta edition. We’ve got to reinvent ourselves and get back on the fast track.

In a world where we don’t know what’s coming next, what constitutes good learning? We’re in whitewater now, and smooth-water sailing rules no longer apply. In whitewater, successful learning means moving the boat downstream without being dumped, preferably with style. In life, successful learning means prospering with people and in networks that matter, preferably enjoying the relationships and knowledge.

Learning is that which enables you to participate successfully in life, at work and in the groups that matter to you. Learners go with the flow. Taking advantage of the double meaning of “network,” to learn is to optimize one’s networks.

The concept that learning is making good connections frees us to think about learning without the chimera of boring classrooms, irrelevant content and ineffective schooling. Instead, the network model lets us take a dispassionate look at our systems while examining nodes and connections, seeking interoperability, boosting the signal-to-noise ratio, building robust topologies, balancing the load and focusing on process improvement.

Does looking at learning as networking take humans out of the picture? Quite the opposite.

Most learning is informal; a network approach makes it easier, more productive and more memorable to meet, share and collaborate. Emotional intelligence promotes interoperability with others. Expert locators connect you to the person with the right answer. Imagine focusing the hive mind that emerges in massive multiplayer games on business. Smart systems will prescribe the apt way to demonstrate a procedure, help make a decision or provide a service, or transform an individual’s self-image. Networks will serve us instead of the other way around.

For tech networks, foundation meta-processing skills will foster the growth of self-determined learning. Personal knowledge management systems will store memories and facilitate rapid knowledge sharing across one’s network. Alter-ego agents will seek out and present us with a balance of normal alerts and fringy out-of-the-box wake-up calls.

It beats schooling.

Jay Cross is CEO of eLearningForum, founder of Internet Time Group and a fellow of For more information, e-mail Jay at [email protected]

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Day of Shopping and Surfing

360 degree views of Stonehenge. Absolutely stunning.

There's wonderful writing in the blogosphere if you have the pointers to find it. Caterina:

I can relate. I've given up on football, cube rootes, and Kant, too.

Today I participated in a demo of Breeze Live, Macromedia's new synchronous technology. Wow. Macromedia was having internal server problems, so Peter Ryce plugged his modem into a phone line and still managed to give a snappy performance.

I'll report back after I've tried Breeze Live. After all, this was just the demo. (Scroll to last item of the link.)

December 08, 2003


Fortune Favors the Bold: What We Must Do to Build a New and Lasting Global Prosperity by Lester C. Thurow

Calculated risks must be taken by bold people to accomplish substantial and sustainable growth, be it in a company or in society. History is filled with examples from cultures that were able to acquire new technologies and use them in productive ways. This suggests the need for chief knowledge officers who would provide a competitive advantage by helping organizations navigate the developing global knowledge-based economy. Those who leap sometimes lose, but those who do not leap always lose.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 04, 2003

Life and death simulations

This just arrived from Mark Rosenberg:

The Ultimate Video Game!

You won't see one of these at ASTD!

Unbelieveable realisim (and unbelieveably expensive)!

Jet trainer landing simulation…crashing is no problem!

You might want to visit Marc's site if you're not familiar with his work.

Slogan on I/ITSEC's homepage: "Enhancing Warfighter Performance Through Advanced Learning Technology."

(Don't tell my neighbors in Berkeley I'm visiting this. It's much more respectable to tour porn sites.)

from I/ITSEC's site:


Remember the Viet-Nam Rag? Country Joe lives right down the hill.

Gimme a F.....

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Monitor Group Thoughts

Serendipity! Ain't it grand?

I was just following up on an email from Jon Levy announcing that he's left HBS publishing to join Monitor Group. That rings a bell. Oh, sure, they're the guys who bought Global Business Network. I used to follow GBN's booklist suggestions religiously when Stewart Brand was choosing the tomes. It was so brilliant to send your customers books. Cheaper than brochures and so much more meaningful. Astute marketing.

This evening, I happened upon the Ideas section of Monitor's site. There's great stuff here. Click on the topics in the left column. I enjoyed reading Learning, Ecommerce, Management, Marketing, Strategy, and Technology.

Giving away ideas. It's akin to sending out books. It's the old "an informed customer is a better customer" strategy. Educating people to buy. Win-win-win. It will never go out of style.

Continuing my explorations, although I should either be in bed or vacuuming, I happened upon the current GBN Book Club site. Treasure Trove! A wonderful way to riff through ideas and pick what to explore more deeply.

When I attended college, back in the days when owning a typewriter made you high-tech, I was proud of my collection of time-saving paperback summaries like 100 American Plays or my mastery of the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, the touchstone for locating reviews of books assigned for reading, written at the time the books were published. It's so easy now, just mousing one's way through the great ideas. Kids, when I was your age, I used to walk five miles through the snow just to get to the school bus. Now the Internet dumps it in your lap. (Well, perhaps I'm exaggerating a little. About the snow and the miles. Maybe it was bicycling a mile on the asphalt to school. Whatever. It was more arduous than your childhood, I assure you.)

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brain dead learning

People who complain about having too much information miss the flip side: If you're looking for an example of something, you don't have to wait very long.

David Grebow and I were chatting this afternoon about Sam Adkins' post on the Learning Circuits blog, the one that starts out saying training doesn't work, eLearning doesn't work, and KM doesn't work.

I was comtemplating the 80% of training that misses the mark. At that moment, an example pops up on my screen. This one's so bad I recalled GEN Frank Anderson's advice at TechLearn, "If you're riding a dead horse, dismount."

As if by magic, a dead horse appeared:

What's wrong with this? Multiple choice is not a great way to teach history. The Shakespeare 'toon takes at least five times as long to ask a question as you'd spend to read it. The cuteness wears off in a minute or two. You need to download a 7.5 MB Flash ap just for the demo; imagine the length of a course! Only a complete fool would find this compelling; they'd learn more watching television.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mr. Picassohead

Years ago, Electronic Arts brought out a game called Pinball Construction Set. This was pre-Windows, and great visual experiences were rare. I spent countless hours dragging bumpers and rails to create my own personal pinball games. I'd play a while, then modify the game. It was a wonderful metaphor. Make-your-own-game. And then make it better.

Ruder Finn has just released a Picasso Construction Set called Mr. Picassohead, and it is great fun. Perhaps even better than Pinball Construction Set. A Flash ap, it's free and the learning curve is about five seconds. You simply must try this.

Here's my first Picassohead:

I bet I could develop a Technical Proposal Construction Set if I wanted to.

Thanks to Stephen Downes for the pointer.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 02, 2003


Overture is a recent Yahoo acquisition. Their new direct mail piece is headlined "Increased Sales Leads." I just received one addressed to:

Okay, so they confused a personal name with a company name. But I begin to question the validity of their algorithms when I received four more copies addressed to:

I guess I'd better get my sales leads elsewhere.

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 01, 2003

Living Networks

Ross Dawson and I shared a late lunch in rainy San Francisco this afternoon before he fled east to lead what sounds like a really cool workshop in New York on Thursday. If I were in New York, I'd head over to the W on Lex for this event in, well, a New York minute.

Ross is author of Living Networks and the session in New York puts the book into practice.

The Social Network Analysis meme is making the rounds. At the Dave Winer dinner in Berkeley a week back, I asked my table, "How many of you are not doing something with social network analysis?" Community, collaboration, and context are hot. But analysis is still just that. It sort of lies there, waiting for someone to pick it up.

So Ross is experimenting with Social Network ENHANCEMENT. Now that you have a map to experts and kindred spirits and so forth, what do you do with it? On Thursday, attendees will be wearing Meme Tags that chirp when you're in the proximity of someone with similar connections. How do they know? The Spoke network is feeding participant profiles into the tags. Chirp, chirp, chirp, hi, who do we know in common? And now that we've figured that out, let's play with some collaborative work tools.

Setting up the Workflow Learning Institute with Sam Adkins has me revisiting Vilfredo Pareto's 80/20 rule. The overpowering inefficiency that workflow learning goes after is the 80% of virtually any workflow cycle that is wasted on transfer time, slack, idle moments, distractions, looking things up, and so on.

Here's a cycle. Of anything. It's the time from starting one item until starting the next. Of manufacturing a widget, of making a sale, of processing a loan application, whatever. Time and time again, we find that only 10% to 20% of the time is spent on the real task, adding value. That's the green. The remainder is "other." It doesn't add value. What more do you need to know?

Peter Drucker tells us that "Knowledge worker productivity is the biggest of the 21st century management challenges...(it is the) only real competitive advantage in a global economy."

How can we knock some of the inefficiency and slack out of knowledge work? As I said earlier, I'd love to be able to attend Ross's session in New York.

More on this at Ross's website. I'm making Ross a member of the Internet Time Group ecosystem.

Naturally, Ross is also a blogger.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack