April 29, 2004

Sonoma Dreaming

This week is the quiet before the storm, for May is chock-a-block with conferences, presentations, and writing porjects. I hate to tread the same ground twice, so I'm inventing lots of new content and fresh examples. Several years ago, my preparation would have included meticulously planning inputs and outputs, due dates and audience profiles, notes and journal entries, and a field of PostIt notes. In an unpredictable world, this old logic no longer applies.

After a charming lunch with a friend in Sonoma, I drove up the long, tree-lined driveway to the former home of General Mariano G. Vallejo (1808-1890), who, at the age of 30, was named comandante-general of California. His charming carpenter gothic home, built in 1850, is now a state park. I sat on a bench across from a one-room meditation cottage by a fountain in the side garden.

I inhaled a few deep breaths, tuned in to the babbling fountain, and gave my hand the freedom to scribble whatever came to mind. After a bit of pruning, I'd roughed out some changes in the world that can serve as the foundation of my upcoming presentations:

Schadenfreude continuation.

Fifteen years ago, a French chateau appeared in the southern section of Sonoma Valley known as Carneros. It's a knock-off ot the Taittinger family chateau in Champagne. The day's work nearly done, I felt compelled to stop.

I liked the Brut better than the pricier rose and the all-chardonnay Reve de Blancs-de-blancs. Alas, the bubbles disappeared from the Brut before I'd finished my half-glass sample.

Small world. The fellow who brought my wine sampler and I struck up a conversation. He conducts an online leadership program through a local college. Soon we were doing riffs on value-driver collaboration.

By now you may be wondering, "Has Jay totally lost it?" Maybe. But I think it's more the return of spring, bright sunshine, and flowers everywhere.

Here's where I'm investing my time these days, not in priority order:

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April 27, 2004

Upcoming Events

This Friday. Free.

Knowledge Roundtable 2004: e-Learning: From Practice to Profit

Wednesday, May 5th - Friday, May 7th
Radisson Harbourfront Hotel, Kingston, Ontario

Speakers: Dr. Maryam Alavi, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research, Emory University, Dr. Roberto H. Bamberger, Solutions Architect, Microsoft Corporation, Jay Cross, CEO, Emergent Learning Forum, Jacques Gaumond, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Technomedia Training Inc., Lynette Gillis, President, Learning Designs Online, Lucy Jacobus, Senior Manager, STRATX, Maxim Jean-Louis, President & CEO, Contact North/Contact Nord, Leslie Jefford, Learning Consultant, Bell Canada Enterprises Corporate Services, Sebastien Lamiaux, Consultant, STRATX, Richard Nantel, Director, brandon-hall.com, Jamie Rossiter, Director, E-Learning Program, CANARIE Inc., Patrick Sullivan, President, Workopolis, Trace Urdan, Principal and Senior Research Analyst, ThinkEquity Partners Inc.

Download e-Learning: From Practice to Profit Brochure
Register Online

I'll be talking about "Metrics, A Pragmatic and Contrarian View".
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April 26, 2004

Emergent Learning Forum: Simulations

This morning Emergent Learning Forum met at Genentech to talk about Simulations: The Reality and the Challenges. More than fifty people attended in person and a couple of dozen participated remotely via Macromedia Breeze. Altus Learning Systems recorded the entire event and will soon use their magic to slice and dice the video, sound, presentation slides, and simulations into a coherent play-by-play record, so I'm not going to dwell on content here.


ELF director Richard Clark put this meeting together and kept things on track (ably filling the role ELF calls "meeting coordinator.")

Why simulations? Richard said that like his mountaineering instructor had told him, "You learn everything twice."

What's a simulation? It's a representation of one system by another.






Next up, John Hathaway, Chief Learning Technologist for GeneEd, showed several simulations created to teach new hires the basics of the life sciences.

John identified "sim wins," the advantages delivered by each simulation. Among the sim wins were:

  • time compression
  • lower cost that using real equipment
  • giving learners a chance to explore
  • hands-on learning that sticks





Jonathan Kaye, who literally wrote the book on this topic (Flash MX for Interactive Simulation), joined us from Philadelphia via Macromedia Breeze.

Jonathan shared ideas on how to evaluate the results of simulations. These are key:

  • Choose worthy performance problems to begin with (per David Merrill)
  • Specify measureable performance objectives up front



Ottersurf Lab's Clark Quinn told us that learning should be "hard fun."

He showed us how learning and entertainment use the same methods to engage their audiences.

Clark walked us through the cognitive apprenticeship model and then showed us the "Full Monty," (He did this fully clothed.) which incorporates situated content, embedded examples, and guided reflection.




Jim Schuyler of Red7 wrapped up the presentations and knocked everyone's socks off with a description of the Multi-Modal Real Life Learning Games his team has been developing for sales training.

Jim went on to describe the ethics program he's putting together in conjunction with the Dalai Lama Foundation. The vision is to have thousands of adolescents reflect on ethical behavior through life-like scenarios delivered by cell phone, email, phone messages, and email. Stay tuned.






Genetech's facility proved excellent for networking and demos that took place throughout lunch.

As the name says, we are emergent. If you would like to take part in creating a global Emergent Learning Forum, please drop me a line.

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April 24, 2004


I spent several days this week in Atlanta.

Ali-Oli, a beautiful restaurant in Buckhead. Jet-laged Jay, enjoying a fine meal.

What a gorgious place to work. The dining room is built directly over the Chattahoochie River.

The Chattahoochie National Recreation Area provides access along the riverbanks. I sat a spell to read.

The swallows were brave enough to let me get close.

On impulse, I went to see Kill Bill 2. As I entered the darkened theatre, I was almost knocked out by the smell of fast food. The audience was seated at small tables and counters. I pulled up a chair to the counter. The guy on my right was digging into chicken barbecue; the folks to the left were gobbling a pile of French fries. Both had pitchers of beer.

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The Best Things in Life Are Free

Final Jeopardy: Its objective is to provide practical information about how to use eLearning. It’s free. 30,000 people read it every month in the course of 80,000 visits. Its archives boast 300 substantive articles and a 100 product reviews on eLearning. Its many contributors are an influential community of practice. Sites in 65 countries link to its glossary. It has never spent a dime on advertising.

What is it? You have thirty seconds to write down your answer.

It’s Learning Circuits, the online magazine “all about eLearning.” I remember talking with Tom Barron, the founding editor, in late 1999 when he and ASTD’s Pat Galagan were preparing to launch Learning Circuits. ASTD had been publishing a print magazine, Technical Training for years, but on-line delivery was the obvious wave of the future, and Pat decided it was time for ASTD to, ahem, eat its own cooking.

Last week I called Ryann Ellis and Eva Kaplan-Leiserson to find out what goes on behind the scenes and what might explain Learning Circuits’ stunning success. (Disclosure: Learning Circuits has published several of my articles, and I manage the Learning Circuits blog. I am a fan.)

My curiosity had been aroused when I read “You may be surprised to learn that Learning Circuits is produced by only two people.” Those two people are Ryann Ellis and Eva Kaplan-Leiserson. Ryann, now in her tenth year with ASTD, started with T+D magazine and worked on ASTD’s Web team before becoming Learning Circuits editor in February 2001. Eva joined T+D as associate editor four years ago when her dot-com melted down and spends about a third of her time on Learning Circuits. While not involved in day-to-day operations, Paul Harris built the often-quoted news area of Learning Circuits and recently handed the news chores to Ryann so he could start writing case studies. (An unbiased case study is hard to find.)

I asked Ryann and Eva what stories were their favorites. After their courteous assertion “Yours, of course,” they returned to reality and identified:

  • Sam Adkins is the most interesting. “He blows me away even though I only understand half of it.”
  • Clark Aldrich and Tom Barron wrote a powerful series on customer-focused eLearning early on, before others were thinking that way.
  • Paul Harris has written some great ones, for example his article on outsourcing last June.
  • In the Fundamentals series, Making Peace with eLearning was cool, suggesting yoga as a means to escape the inevitable frustrations of eLearning.
  • Also, though she was too gracious to bring it up, Eva’s two-part series on We-learning, has popped up all over the blogosphere.

Like all of us who survived the dot-com bubble, Learning Circuits has evolved with the times. For the first year, new stories appeared once a month, much like a print magazine. Now new material is added weekly. The site has been redesigned every year to improve navigation, accommodate new features, and keep a contemporary look. In early 2002, Learning Circuits was the first eLearning publication to publish a companion blog.

The content, mostly contributed by a loyal following of volunteers, is compelling. On the web, it’s rare when a reader stays more than five minutes; on Learning Circuits, the average stay is 15 minutes!

In late 2000, few people had a grasp of the terminology of eLearning, anything from asynchronous to zipfile, so Eva led a band of volunteers who created what is probably the best glossary of eLearning terms on the web.

From the outset, Learning Circuits has strived to be very practical with “Five things you need to do to set this up or buy that or include in your RFP.” If you have some practical wisdom to share, email it to Ryann; the readership is insatiable.

In addition to the articles, case studies, news, and glossary, Learning Circuits has:

  • The Learning Circuits blog kicked off in April 2002 with commentary from Peter Isackson, Tom Barron, Clark Quinn, Bill Horton, Kevin Wheeler, Margaret Driscoll, Allison Rossett, Richard Clark, and Jay Cross. This was before most people had ever heard the word blog.
  • Answer geeks. ASTD members-only service. The Best of Q&A appear later as a column.
  • Many readers are working on their second generation of eLearning. They are beyond the basics, so Learning Circuits just started running OpEd pieces that are more theoretical and reflective than its traditional how-to stories.
  • A couple of months back, ASTD opened up searchable discussion boards. They will be adding additional features like polling. Ryann and Eva report there’s “tons of activity.”
  • Product reviews and demos. Not just a link to a vendor webpage. Eva checks out what’s being offered to make certain it’s worth your time. Often vendors assemble a special package for Learning Circuits readers.
  • Quarterly Trends column. Coming soon. Eva’s working on it.

Learning Circuit’s objective is to provide practical information about how to use eLearning to everyone, not just ASTD members. Ryann and Eva are educating the market. They are making the world of eLearning a less scary place. By the way, in addition to soliciting and editing articles, Ryann also personally does the layout and coding for Learning Circuits.

I know what you’re thinking: What can I do to help Ryann and Eva progress with Learning Circuits? I’ll offer a few suggestions:

  • Since Learning Circuits lives by viral marketing, tell a friend.
  • Share your experience; send in a story to [email protected]
  • Drop a note to Pat Galaghan to tell her how much you appreciate Ryann & Eva's work on Learning Circuits.

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April 20, 2004

Metrics and Web Services

Today, somewhere over Texas, I was reading John Hagel's Out of the Box, a wonderful description of the power of Web Services. The "box" of the title is actually a series of boxes, and the "most insidious box of all ... is the box that we all create in terms of the mind-sets we bring to our businesses."

Web Services = overlaying legacy systems with interoperable Internet-style concepts to enable computers to understand one another without human intervention. The next step in the evolution of computing.

Business managers are stuck in their ruts. And largely unaware of it. Sweating bullets but not knowing why. Web Services are part of the way out.

I'm also in the midst of rewriting Metrics, and I found these lines of Hagel's so appropos that it stunned me:

    Broadly speaking, managers tend to be most comfortable with mechanistic mental models. Develop detailed blueprints, and then micromanage activities.

    The advocates of business process reengineering challenged conventional business practices, but at the end of the day, they remained firmly within a mechanistic mental model. Even the language they used shaped, and revealed, their outlook. Reengineering -- could one possibly choose a more mechanistic, top-down, deterministic view of business activities?

Hagel (and I hope he pronounces it "Hegel" and not "haggle") points out that when reegineering types talked about end-to-end, the end of the world was the wall of the enterprise silo. End-to-end didn't encompass raw materials at one end and customers at the other. We don't need no stinking value chain.

Web Services are captivating because they can be adopted for demonstrable short-term gains, all the while laying the foundation for radically more malleable business models.

All business executives understand financial leverage. Use somebody else's money alongside your own, and you grow faster. You don't leverage yourself to the hilt, for that's risky. But if you don't leverage yourself at all, that's foolish.

The flexibility brought on by Web Services creates the opportunity for operational leverage. If I want to grow my business, why shouldn't I have somebody else's assets alongside my own?

I flew across the country today to meet with a major client. They requested I book my travel through their travel department. American Express. Why? Because for my client, the travel business would be a diversion. It's not something they would ever get out-sized returns from. So they farm it out and have more assets to put behind their core operations.

When Web Services are widely adopted a couple of years hence, companies will be able to swap a lot more than travel administration under or out from under their umbrellas. Hagel suggests that the largest gains will be from transferring major business processes such as maintaining customer relationships, managing infrastructure, and creating & commercializing new products.

How does our engineering mind-set manager adapt to that? It's not the old scenario of "draw the blueprint and then manage activities to it". This is more like rewriting the blueprint whenever you see it's to your advantage to do so. We have a name for people who stick to their old plans when new plans would take them further; we call them losers.

Now I'm pondering three sorts of >strong>value that make business worth doing. You can measure the first without leaving the enterprise silo. This is value from operations. You boost value by increasing revenues or decreasing costs. You can increase revenue by selling more stuff or selling at higher prices, by selling more through agents and partners, by adding new products or by increasing prices. You can decrease costs by being more efficient, achieving higher quality/fewer rejects, and leveraging intangibles (such as customer loyalty, employee retention, effective work processes, team experience).

Shareholders are more interested in a second form of value, market capitalization, i.e. the value of the stock. Share prices are set by the market, based on investors' perceptions of the firm's earnings potential, discounted for risk and time. This in turn rests on competitive advantage as evidenced by innovation, patents, social capital, executive smarts, reputation, market position, confidence, and inspirational management. Market cap is only loosely coupled with profitability.

Hagel started me contemplating another sort of value that traverses an enterprise's traditional boundaries. Back to operational leverage. If my company's operations are interoperable with other companies', I can pick and choose what I want to focus on. If I'm truly interoperable, I can farm out just about any business process and use the capitalI would have spent there leveraging my primary business. Or I could consciously set out to capture the highest margin segments of my entire value chain.

A company whose IT is built on Web Standards by definition has more options to leverage operations than one saddled with proprietary systems. In time, the equity markets will pay a premium for such adaptability.

Three sources of corporate value are:

  1. value from how well the business has operated in the past
  2. value from investors' perceptions of how well the business will do in the future
  3. value from changing what the business does -- or having the flexibility to do so

This all sounded a lot more exciting when Hagel wrote about it, but he filled a book rather than a blog entry in the telling.

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April 19, 2004

OpEd: ROI vs. Metrics

Learning Circuits just published my article, ROI vs. Metrics, which I thought was just telling it like it is, but editor Ryann Ellis considered sufficiently controversial to make it the first OpEd piece they've ever run.

What's controversial with this?

ROI is often a mask for uncertainty or an attempt to quantify cost-benefit with accounting principles that don't count people as assets. I contend that the business return on an e-learning 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 e-learning, in which increases in top-line revenue generally exceed reduced expenses by a wide margin. Enter metrics.

I don't understand how anyone could disagree when I write

Present-day accounting is an anachronism. In a nutshell, the basic problem is that intangibles are valued at zero. Vast areas of human productivity--ideas, abilities, experience, insight, esprit de corps, and motivation--lie outside the the purist's field of vision.

A friend of mine read the article, came to this site, and plunked down $250 for the latest version of Metrics. If his $250 subscription to Metrics helps him justify his $500,000 eLearning budget, it's cheap at the price. If his newfound attitude improves his career options, that's icing on the cake.

The next version, Metrics 2.0, will be a great improvement, but it's not out yet. Here's a piece from the introduction:


Last year at TechLearn I promised to send several people my thoughts on measuring the value of learning investments. On the flight home, I assembled a batch of white papers, interviews, and articles I’d written over the past few years and was surprised to find I’d come up with 90 pages! This was more like a book than a sheaf of white papers.

Why had I written so much on learning metrics and ROI? Frustration. I’ve been in the training business for nearly thirty years, but before that I had been a systems analyst and market research director and I’d earned an MBA. I cut my teeth selling loan officer training to major banks. That requires real what's-in-it-for-me ROI. It pained me to go to conferences like TechLearn and Training and ASTD, only to hear the same worthless claptrap about Level 1 and Level 2 and ROI. Many of the “experts” got their expertise from textbooks rather than the real world. This made me angry. I wrote to expose the charlatans.

Metrics 1.0 & 1.1

Metrics 1.0 was little more than the white papers and articles put in a logical sequence. I slapped on a table of contents and inserted transitions. I sent copies to two dozen friends in the business for advice and comment.

I love books. Several rooms of my house are lined with bookcases. Last year I donated eight cartons of books to the library to clear some shelf space. Already, the gaps have filled in, and the shelves are packed. Nevertheless, I chose to make Metrics an eBook rather than a printed one. Our understanding of how to measure value is in flux; printed books become dated so quickly. I also figured that if I responded to readers’ questions and advice, the work would always be getting better. So Metrics 1.1 was issued as an eBook – and I promised purchasers they would receive the next version as well as this one.

Metrics 1.2 & 1.3

Metrics 1.2 was considerably tighter. I incorporated a mind map to introduce the subject and a simple flowchart for carrying out the full cycle of the Metrics process. I corrected glitches readers had pointed out. Version 1.3 was a minor upgrade, mainly error correction. Several readers pointed out weak spots in the manuscript. They wanted a more direct, forceful, organized presentation. They also asked me to spend less time trashing the current situation and more time on what to do next. To get Metrics into distribution, I offered it to charter subscribers for a mere $25.

Few readers actually gave much feedback but one individual made up for the silence of the rest. The GAP’s Dave Lee went beyond the call of duty. Dave’s background in publishing, experience in accounting, and current work in eLearning make him the ideal critic. Dave is a major influence on the improvements you’ll see in version 2.0. He offered suggestions on overall organization. He convinced me to take a more positive attitude, for example, telling me, “Jay, I’m not sure what accountant ran over your puppy when you were young, but you really don’t need the strawman of 'accountants are out to get us' to make your argument.”

Metrics 1.3 is the current version. People who purchase it will receive Metrics 2.0 when it is ready. The charter subscription period is over. The price of Metrics 1.3+2.0 is $250.

Metrics 2.0

Metrics 2.0 is a total reorganization and rewrite of the original material. It focuses on what to do and why in lieu of me bitching about the ramblings of false prophets. I’ve chopped superfluous material and added more explanatory text. I expect the final Metrics 2.0 to be ready in a couple of months.

People tell me they buy Metrics because they have an immediate need. They’re in budget trouble; their management just doesn’t get it; the big boss wants to see the numbers. In all likelihood they already know part of the material and have come to me to fill gaps or help them polish their approach. This latest version of Metrics begins with a roadmap of what’s to come. The map will guide you to the chapters that contain what you most need to know. I’ve relegated more philosophical issues to the back of the book.

Making the business case involves a lot more than doing the math. You have to understand the business. This takes credibility with managers outside of the training function. You must, as SumTotal president Kevin Oakes recently wrote in T+D (2004), “earn a seat at the table.” My goal is to help you get there and to be invited back again and again. It's probably a better job than the one you have now.

April 2004

More about Metrics
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e-Merging e-Learning

If you happen to be in Abu Dhabi in mid-September, drop by the e-Merging e-Learning Conference.

I'll be speaking, along with Curt Bonk, Richard Straub, and some interesting-sounding characters I have yet to meet. This will be my first trip to the Middle East. Any advice?

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

Loosely Coupled

You may have noticed a rather brusk halt at the end of last night's post. I fell asleep at my computer. Let me pick up the thread where I left off.

Loosely coupled objects are less cumbersome to deal with because you can throw them all willy nilly into a container and call them up when you want.

For example, I've owned PCs since PCs were invented. I have tens of thousands of documents. Some of my older documents are in folders in folders in folders ...and further down the chain.

Finding something in this maze was time-consuming because it involved snooping through folder after folder, then opening the document to see if it was really what I was looking for. Also, storing things required classifying them. My way of categorizing things changed. Folders were often clogged with old stuff, making it difficult to find the new.

Now I sweep files into a single pile. When I want something, I search for it with X1, a powerful hard-drive search tool that knows what I've got and finds what I want in seconds. It lets me peruse documents in Word, Acrobat, Excel, HTML, or hundreds of other formats.

When I want something, X1 provides it. Less structure gives me more control. The computer does most of the work. I no longer waste time on artificial structure. I wish I could do this with my paper files.

X1 offers a 15-day free trial.

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

Search me

Try a search on A9, an Amazon company. With some Google, some Alexa, and a bit of personal history under the hood. Go ahead an try it now. It will save you having to read a lot of magazine articles over the next several months.

We're only four days away from the 98th anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake, the one with Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald, the event we locals call "The Big One.".

Arrow marks The Hearst Building at 3rd & Market Sts.

For years, I worked in The Hearst Building, where Citizen Kane printed the San Francisco Examiner. In fact, I've ridden out several subsequent quakes there. But in 1906, the building was dynamited by the Army in a futile attempt to save the Palace Hotel, the grandest hotel west of the Mississippi, just down Market Street.

In earthquakes, rigid buildings crack; flexible buildings ride it through. Wooden houses hold up a lot better than brick ones. If you're expecting things to be shaken up, geologically or commercially, pick a structure that will roll with the punches. All of which brings me to a topic that I keep bumping into: loosely coupled.

Rigid structures can't adapt.

The next model of computing, Service-Orinted Architecture or "bottom-up" computing, relies on software "agents," little bots that interact with one another. Software agents carry markers that identify how they might work with one another and what they mean. It's a replay of the Semantic Web, the web of meaning. but this time around, it's inside the firewall. Smart software bots can carry out programs without a programmer. When a few agents change, they plug right back into the system. They adapt. It's not like the old days, when one hard-wired glitch could shut down the entire show. Because you can hot-swap software agents and let them seek their own connections, we say they are "loosely coupled."

Volatile times are pushing businesses to redefine themselves as collections of loosely-coupled webs of business processes. As in an earthquake or the next-generation computing environment, a foundation that gives when stressed and continues to function while new components are introduced adapts well to changing conditions.


People prefer loosely-coupled situations, too. I've given up on three-bullet points per page, arrogant PowerPoint presentations. It's insulting when someone tries to jam their dogma into your head without honoring your need to reflect. Whenever something smacks of "My way or the highway," I'm out the door with my thumb out. Don't try to handcuff me into your hardwired thinking. I go with the flow and strive to be maintain my adaptability.

Psychologist Robert Ornstein likens the human mind to "a band of simpletons." There's no grand master calling the shots from some command center deep inside the brain. More often, it's the drunken monkeys we call consciousness at work, and they gave up on control long ago. The monkeys are easily tricked or diverted, but they can bounce back as persistently as crab grass.

As my loosely coupled mind wandered around in this issue, I returned to A9 and entered "loosely coupled." I was delighted to find a familar site in the number two position: Australian Flexible Learning.

There's no longer "one best way." In this case, there are five.

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April 13, 2004


Exercise is not my favorite activity. I'd much rather sit at my desk and mind-meld with the net. Usually I need something besides my health to push me out the door to wander the hills of my neighborhood. Yesterday it was photographing spring colors as I walked. The day before, the dogs begged so hard, I couldn't let them down.

Spring in Berkeley (click for larger image)

Tonight I downloaded mp3 interviews with Tim O'Reilly, John Hagel, Steve MeConnell, Don Norman, and a bunch of other people I hold in high regard. Tomorrow I'll walk up Wildcat Peak while imbibing their words of wisdom.

Internet Surfing Finds

Entropy at MIT

Complexity Digest

Santa Fe Institute

New England Complex Systems Institute

The Complexity & Artificial Life Research Concept for Self-Organizing Systems

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Dessert at the Berkeley Bistro

Thanks to the sixty people who joined me this afternoon to taste some new things from the Berkeley Bistro (AKA our Horizon Live session on Emergent Learning.) Here's dessert.

Concept of Emergent Learning

Emergent Learning Forum

Authentic Happiness and positive psychology movement

What's learning?

Informal Learning

The "No one in charge" World

Tom Malone's book, The Future of Work

Workflow learning

Contact Jay

If you missed the session, Horizon Live has made a recording available on the web.

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April 12, 2004



Newsmap reflects what's on the Google News Aggregator. Just go there and browse around. You can choose the news from the US, UK, India, France, Germany, etc. You can pick World News, National, Tech, Business, etc. As you glide over the mosaic, the headlines appear as pop-ups.

It's fun to check out different culture's take on events, say comparing Italian health coverage to New Zealand's, or Indian's viewpoint of tech and the US's.

Imagine this technology coupled to Technorati and RSS. A new way to avoid info glut: "I only read the morning color bars."

Check the references if you're into the sort of thing. Ben Shneiderman's recemt;u updated Treemaps for space-constrained visualization of hierarchies is a great read.

From a pointer by Peter Merholz

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Join me online tomorrow, April 13th, at 3:00 pm Eastern, noon Pacific. We'll spend about an hour together.

Here are some of the items on the menu. If you have a special dietary request, email me. We will eat what you select rather than trying to swallow everything on the menu.

Register here. It's free.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2004


It's startling to discover the complexity of things right out there in the open. Take conversation. It's an extremely powerful tool and there's a lot more to it than mere words. Look at a transcript of a scintillating conversation and it may feel like you're reading the ramblings of a couple of loonies. Conversation is a gestalt of words, body language, facial expressions, intonation, rhythm, pace, accent, and mood, the whole profoundly shaped by the context that surrounds it. Trying to interpret a conversation from reading the words is like trying to identify a person by seeing nothing but a shadow of her face.

Stories are another example. They're always an interplay between the teller and the listener. When a story is a grabber, it's because the listener is co-creating his version of the story in his head. Steve Denning's book, The Springboard, got me to grok this basic truth. When I realized that I hadn't known jack-shit about how stories worked their magic, I opened up to give-and-take instead of laying it on the listener. I try to always leave a place for the other person to fit into the picture. I'm cautious about using PowerPoint, concerned that my slides be jumping off points for imagination rather than dogmatic, bullet-pointed preaching.

Here, enjoy these two insighful paragraphs from John Seely Brown.

An interview with John Seely Brown

February 10, 2003

Why storytelling? Well, the simplest answer to your question is that stories talk to the gut, while information talks to the mind. You can't talk a person through a change in religion or a change in a basic mental model. There has to be an emotional component in what you are doing. That is to say, you use a connotative component (what the thing means) rather than a denotative component (what it represents). First, you grab them in the gut and then you start to construct (or re-construct) a mental model. If you try to do this in an intellectual or abstract way, you find that it's very hard, if not impossible, to talk somebody into changing their mental models. But if you can get to them emotionally, either through rhetoric or dramatic means (not overly dramatic!), then you can create some scaffolding that effectively allows them to construct a new model for themselves. You provide the scaffolding and they construct something new. It doesn't seem to work if you just try to tell them what to think. They have to internalize it. They have to own it. So the question is: what are the techniques for creating scaffolding that facilitate the rich internalization and re-conceptualization and re-contextualization of their own thinking relative to the experience that you're providing them? Put more simply: how do you get them to live the idea?
All this points to something very interesting about the energy of groups. As they come together, over and over again, different points of view collide. Through that iteration we're grinding new lenses. This is where innovation happens. Our practices are morphing; they're producing new sets of distinctions and new ways to understand the world. It's a place of iteration. There are negotiations about practices - creative abrasions within and between communities that are trying to share something or come together.
Posted by Jay Cross at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Having played with several online social networking applications, I've decided Spoke is the one for me. It's business-strength, privacy-protecting, and it supplements your address book with information from the web. Plus, it's geared to business networking. Designed for sales people who protect their contact information with their lives, Spoke is not going to out you or your network.

When I first looked at Ryze, LinkedIn, Spoke, and some others, they all seemed about the same. After you load them up with contacts and start receiving requests to link, you begin to notice different features. Spoke is more protective of who's linked to who and also more proactive in grabbing related information from the net. In my admittedly small sample, I also sense a different sort of folks, Spoke being the more corporate crowd.

As I gear up for this, I'll leave a few best practices breadcrumbs for those who join the fun.

  • Unless you're a social networking software junkie, you're going to be better off if you pick one application rather than join them all. I'm already starting to live on Spoke when interacting with new people. It's becoming my poor-man's CRM.
  • Upload a photo. Profiles with photographs are warmer than the all-text versions. Photos make an impression. They're a necessary step in getting to know someone, and that's what this is all about. I wish Spoke provided a few more places where members could upload photos and such; pointers will have to suffice for now.
  • Similarly, if you want people to know something about you, don't leave "Professional Experience" and "Interests" blank. This is not like an old-fashioned resume (where the interviewers used to look for periods of unemployment). List what you feel like listing. And no more.
  • Populate your "Inner Circle" with the sort of friends that Malcom Gladwell calls connectors.
  • Go for diversity. Take advantage of the strength of weak ties.
  • Ease into things. The old adage "You only get one chance to make a first impression" applies. Don't invite the world to see your beta home page on one of these sites.

More to come. Probably. I'm just a learner here myself.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another summary

One more time.

I wanted to try the summarizer software out on something I was totally unfamiliar with, figuring that would be a better way to assess how much meaning I could grasp from a brief summary.

Here's something I have never read: the speeches of Jefferson Davis in 1858. (It's on Project Gutenburg.) I asked for a 250-word summary.

Key Words:

    constitution, government, country, union, power, fathers, democracy, United States, purposes, rights, community, Congress, common, politics, sentiment.

If one can inherit a sentiment, I may be said to have inherited this from my revolutionary father.

And if education can develop a sentiment in the heart and mind of man, surely mine has been such as would most develop feelings of attachment for the Union.

Whatever was necessary for domestic government, requisite in the social organization of each community, was retained by the States and the people thereof; and these it was made the duty of all to defend and maintain.

For the general affairs of our country, both foreign and domestic, we have a national executive and a national legislature.

Friends, fellow-citizens, and brethren in Democracy, he thanked them for the honor conferred by their invitation to be present at their deliberations, and expressed the pleasure he felt in standing in the midst of the Democracy of Maine--amidst so many manifestations of the important and gratifying fact that the Democratic is, in truth, a national party.

He did not fail to remember that the principles of the party declaring for the largest amount of personal liberty consistent with good government, and to the greatest possible extent of community and municipal independence, would render it in their view, as in his own, improper for him to speak of those subjects which were local in their character, and he would endeavor not so far to trespass upon their kindness as to refer to anything which bore such connection, direct or indirect--and he hoped that those of their opponents who, having the control of type, fancied themselves licensed to manufacture facts, would not hold them responsible for what he did not say.

I can get the gist.
Summarized by Copernic Summarizer
Posted by Jay Cross at 02:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blog Essence

Today I bought a copy of Copernic Summarizer for $60. I expect it to pay for itself in half an hour.

Copernic's description:
    This easy-to-use summarizing software dramatically increases your productivity and efficiency by creating concise summaries of any document or Web page so you spend considerably less time reading without missing any important information.

    Using sophisticated statistical and linguistic algorithms, it pinpoints the key concepts and extracts the most relevant sentences, resulting in a summary that is a shorter, condensed version of the original text.

I decided to put it through its paces. I exported several years of entries to Internet Time Blog and asked Copernic Summarizer to identify key concepts and give me a 1,000 word summary. I'm not going to know the result of this experiment until I read whatever is below. I'll leave any observations on the output in a Comment. If you're a frequent reader, please do the same.

internet time blog.txt
learning, jay cross, elearning, businessperson, managers, blogs, designing, community, technology, font, online, customization, div, networks.

A Shared RealityThe Internet is a network of many metaphors.

You found a page that's part of a listing of visual learning resources.

A CMS supports the creation, management, distribution, publishing, and discovery of content from cradle to grave.

SOAP makes it possible to use Web services for transactionssay, credit card authorization or checking inventory in real-time and placing an order.

The only valid metrics for corporate learning are business metrics.

Imagine telling your sales manager that the sales force was well prepared ("Levels 1 & 2") but simply hadn't sold anything ("Levels 3 & 4").

A customer blog enables a company to make announcements to its Web customers immediately.

Make it easy for the learner to buy (learn).

has a great and growing selection of links on communities of practice, who's doing what, and who the players are.

This myth has been virtually unchallenged for years, he says, and in a provocative and interesting essay called Progressive Politics, Electronic Individualism, and the Myth of Virtual Community, Lockard claims that it's nothing more than a bunch of hooey.

The development of friendship in this manner is I believe a very good alternative to traditional community, which, for all the "meaning" it bestows on life, is more often than not coercive, intolerant and closed-off.

Related pages: Community Implementation Knowledge management Virtual classroom Culture Motivation LCMS Metrics Organizations Visual Learning eLearning These are the absolute best sources of the bunch: elearningpost, f...

" These days they hear about a new opportunity over lunch and go to work for a competitor that afternoon.

What keeps people on board these days is the opportunity to develop, to build valued skills, to achieve certifications, and to add to their store of intellectual capital.

i´m a student and i want to make a paper about eLearning because i find very difficult for someone who do not have very good computer skills to follow a elearning course.

<p>I never allowed schooling to interfere with my education. --Mark Twain</p>

No such thing as a classroom, because learning happens in a variety of settings.

'What is eLearning?

A good online instructor wears many hats.

Distant students need to become more selective and focused in their learning in order to master new information.

Related pages: Community Implementation Knowledge management Virtual classroom Culture Motivation LCMS Metrics Organizations Visual Learning eLearning These are the absolute best sources of the bunch: elearningpost, f...

Tom Stewart has a wonderful line, The customer today can call the tune because he knows the score.

But the result will be a new kind of conversation.

If you disagree with a blogger you can tell him or her via comments and links and initiate a dialogue with the author and other readers.

There's a lot to be said for blogging, and three interesting, expressive bloggers do it well here, providing thoughtful, intriguing and diverse points of view about the phenomenon.

We should shamelessly but briefly blow our own horn a little here and point out that in some ways Netsurfer is a blog, and perhaps the oldest of them all.

Web designers</font> should know better.

Many of the people who design websites had a problem with this.

The skill of an expert is that of experiential cognition.

The operator having arranged and classified his books, papers, etc., seats himself for business at the writing table and realizes at once that he is master of the situation.

Thought history, groups of people often without conscious design, have successfully blended individual and collective effort to create something new and wonderful.

An important insight gained from some of the more recent projects in member companies of the Society for Organizational Learning has led to the distinction between two different sources or processes of organizational learning: one that is based on reflecting the experiences of the past (Type I) and a second source, one that is grounded in sensing and enacting emerging futures (Type II).

As marketers, we break the market into pieces ("segments") in order to identify and focus our attention on the significant few who produce most of the results.

Over time, profit and shareholder value are the same thing.

Great example of how visuals show relationships and get the mind's wheels to turning.

In the ensuing sibling division of labor, Dave is appointed unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher.

This was a mediocre commercial band that, in the mid-80's, decided to sue the incredibly awesome, fun and mellow rap group De La Soul for pirating a sample of the Turtles' music and using it on a De La Soul track.

On one wall in the departure area of the Guatemala City Aeropuerto hang clocks displaying the time in California, New York, Paris, etc.

Recordings of blood flow in the brain indicate that when a person visualizes something such as walking through his neighborhood, blood flow increases dramatically in the visual cortex, in parts of the brain that are working hard.

The more artificial an object is, the more arbitrary the restrictions are on its movements, the simpler the rules governing the play, the more powerful a game seems to become.

Literacy depends on linear, sequential, abstract and reductionist ways of thinking - the same as hunting and killing.

Images of any kind proscribed in first culture to worship written words.

With that behind me, I'm reading David Sibbet's classic <i>I See What You Mean!</i> It's a workbook for learning to do group graphics.

I intend to incorporate visuals in my consulting engagements from now on.

1. Learning by Teaching: If you have to explain something to someone else, then you have already learned to explain it to yourself.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer
Posted by Jay Cross at 01:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

wider than the sky

In late March, I commented on a review of Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman's new book, wider than the sky, the phenomenal gift of consciousness. The review got me fired up. "The brain is not a logically structured organ; these processes of connection resemble the processes of metaphor more than those of logic." That's my kind of science.

I ordered a copy from Amazon. "Highly readable," wrote Oliver Sachs on the back cover. "A good roadmap for the lay reader," said Francis Crick. said Amazon. I could hardly wait.

The first learnings:

Consciousness is a process, not a thing. (William James said it first.)

The human brain is the most complicated material object in the known universe. It weighs about three pounds. If the cortex were unfolded (it's gnarly), it would be the size of a table napkin. It contains 30 billion neurons and a billion synapses (connections).

There is one simple principle that governs how the brain works: it evolved; that is, it was not designed.

One of the most basic processes in higher brains is the ability to carry out perceptual categorization -- to "make sense" of the world.

Memory is the capacity to repeat or suppress a specific mental or physical act. It arises as a result of changes in synaptic efficacy (or synaptic strength) in circuits of neuronal groups. After such changes have occurred, they tend to favor the recruitment of certain of these circuits to yield re-enactment. (In other words, memories are not stored; they're made fresh every time.)

One extraordinary phenomenal feature of conscious experience is that normally it is all of a piece--it is unitary. Any experienced conscious moment simultaneously includes sensory intput, consequences of motor activity, imagery, emotions, fleeting memories, bodily sensations, and a peripheral fringe. In any ordinary circumstances it does not consist of "just this pencil with which I am writing," nor can I reduce it to that. Yet, at the same time, one unitary scene flows and transforms itself into another complex but also unitary scene.

The term quale referes to the particular experience of some property. (Plural of quale is qualia.) The experience of a conscious scene as unitary suggests the view that all conscious experiences are qualia. In this view, the separation of qualia into single, narrow feelings such as red, warm, and so forth, while thinkable and verbally describable, does not constitute a full recognition of the discriminations involved.

Degeneracy is the ability of structurally different elements of a system to perform the same function or yield the same output.

This degeneracy business confused me later on, when the sledding got heavy. For me, degenerate brings up images of grubby guys in the alley drinking sterno. In fact, at this point, I began to experience a phenomenon that I hadn't felt in several years. My eyes were scanning the pages but nothing was sticking in my head. I'd finish a page and have no idea what Edelman was talking about. Some sentences were so laden with five-syllable words that I simply gave up.

Edelman himself acknowledges that understanding his topic is not a slam-dunk.

I have stated in the Preface of this small book that my hope is to disenthrall those who believe that the subject of consciousness is exclusively metaphysical or necessarily mysterious. It is a Herculean task for consciousness studies to rid the stables of dualism, mysterianism, paranormal projections, and unnecesaary appeals to as yet poorly characterized properties at different material scales -- for example, quantum gravity. Some but not all of this task relates to the use of language. in this account, for example, I must answer to the accusation that I have sumitted to the paradoxes of epiphenonmenalism.

Okay, if you say so. Let's go on.

This functional cluster with its myriad of synamic reentrant interactions, occurring mainly, but not entirely, in the thalamocortical system, has been called the dynamic core. The dynamic core, with its millisecond-to-millisecond utilization of an extraordinary complex of neural circuits, is precisely the kind of complex neural organization necessary for the unitary yet differentiable properties of the conscious process. It has the reentrant structure capable of interrating or binding the activites of the various thalamic nuclei and the functionally segregated cortical regions to produce a unified scene.


A major portion of the basal ganglia, constituting input nuclei from the cortex, is the so-called striatum, which consists of the caudate nucleus and putamen. The remaining nuclei are the globus pallidus, the substantia nigra, and the subthalamic nucleus. The globus pallidus and one part of the substantia nigra make up the major output nuclei projecting to the thalamus. Their output may be looked upon in turn as the input to the dynamic thalamocortical core. In addition to the input to the striatum by the cerebral cortex, the intralaminar nuclei of the thalamus also project to the striatum....

I must have been out of the room when God passed out whichever collection of multiple intelligences is required to decipher this stuff.

Following a thirty-one page glossary and four pages of bibliographic references, the author concludes thusly:

If an insatiable reader wishes an even longer list of references, I refer him or her to David Chalmers's annotated complendium on the World Wide Web:


The exploding list of references speaks to the conclusion that the understanding of consciousness has a promising scientific future.

I arose from my bath. (That's where I do a lot of my reading.) I was frustrated.

  • Was it recognizing that in some areas, no matter how hard I concentrate, I'm just not equipped to receive the message? No, that's a lesson I learned long ago.

  • Was it because I'd paid 16 cents a page and jumped over half of them because they would have made about as much sense to me had they been written in Sanskrit? No, that's not it. You take chances. Sometimes they don't work out.

  • Was it disappointment in discovering that while Edelman has great scientific chops, he wasn't in the room when God handed out the good writing genes? Maybe a little.

When I reflect on it now, the philosophy of Don Norman cheers me on. My main takeaway from The Design of Everyday Things was that when something screws up, it's not necessarily your fault. You walk into the glass panel instead of the door next to it, that's the designer's fault, not yours. Edelman may have tried, but he didn't produce a book for the layman. wider than the sky is not a pop book like Robert Ornstein's The Psychology of Consciousness. (Most of Ornstein's readers probably got the message even though they were high as kites when reading.)

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

Free phone calls

Free phone calls

Robin Good and I just concluded a half-hour conversation. Robin was in Italy, I in California. The quality and timing were as good as if I were calling my neighbors. Since we were talking over the net instead of one the phone, our call, like so many things on the net, was free for the asking.

In fact, our Voice-over-IP (VoIP) connection was better than a standard phone call in several ways. First of all, before calling, I could check to see if Robin was available to talk. With this technology, you never need receive a busy signal. Second, during the call I asked for a URL. Robin keyed in it and it popped up on my screen; an instant messenger is always available during a call.

Robin and I used Skype (rhymes with "hype"), a free download that installs in a couple of minutes. Only one caveat: You must have a broadband connection for Skype to work. Robin finds Skype a breakthrough technology because of its simplicity, feature-set, and transmission quality. His review:

Why do we keep paying the phone companies for something we can get for free?

  1. We haven't reached critical mass. The more people who come on board, the more valuable the service.
  2. Old habits die hard. Twenty years ago, executives did not sit at computers because typing was woman's work.
  3. Ignorance.

Robin Good is Mr. Online Collaboration. He spends more than half his time online and probably knows more about online collaboration tools than anyone else on the planet. The Robin Good/Robin Hood connection is apt, for he shares lots of information on his sites: Kolabora and Master New Media.

If you're like me, a little fuzzy about the differences between all the collaborative software that's appearing on the market, you may want to attend Robin's free event Thursday, April 22. He tells me he'll pick several products, do a side-by-side comparison, open the discussion for lots of live questions/opinions, and conclude with a new form of survey. Should be fun. Admission is free to the live session; a recording will set you back thirty or forty bucks.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2004

Free webinar this Tuesday

Join me online this coming Tuesday, April 13th, at 3:00 pm Eastern, noon Pacific. We'll spend about an hour together.

The title of my chat is Emergent Learning. The sign-up page says I'll talk about about adaptive systems, social networking, contextual collaboration, content aggregation, value networks, real-time enterprise, business process modeling, and the economic return from intangible assets.

Frankly, I have yet to outline what I'm really going to talk about. (If you have suggestions/questions, email me. I will likely cover a dozen recent discoveries and insights, thereby increasing the odds of offering something to everyone.

Register here. It's free.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

Tonight! Emergent Learning Flashmob

Informal emergent learning this evening in San Francisco. 5:30 to 7:30 pm at Gordon Biersch Brewery. I'll wear a black conference badge holder for recognition purposes -- or look for the green tennis ball on the table.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

"This is business," said Michael Corleone

eLearning Benefits Realization: What It Takes To See Results

April 1, 2004

The Issue: Fewer than 20% of companies recently surveyed have the three critical elements necessary to ensure that their eLearning projects further the company’s top business transformation goals.

Training departments continue to struggle to prove the value of their massive investments in eLearning, but they have already lost the fight because if you are still trying to show the value, it’s already lost credibility in the eyes of chief executives. With 57% of companies rating themselves fair to poor in measuring IT costs and benefits, it’s no wonder that their leadership doesn’t see the link between IT spending and corporate goals. Past spending is a sunk cost; now’s the time to plan for the future

Are your proposed eLearning projects critical to changing the competitive posture of your company? Do they address a strategic goal of the company articulated by top management, or are they a random list of departmental requests? Do they just shave a few costs here and there--or worse, do they only address IT issues?

The most successful companies shared three key attributes:

    A clear corporate vision emphasizing consistency and cooperation among business units

    The value of a global eLearning implementation comes from taking advantage of common customers, suppliers, materials, and business processes around the world. Companies need to change their past practices and execute consistently across business units to see the benefit. Executive management at the most successful companies we spoke to articulate a few simple, easily understood transformational goals for the company; goals that changed the company’s competitive posture. These common goals permeate the case for each business and training project, establishing priorities and resolving differences of opinion. The CxOs saw eLearning as a change agent and emphasized a “One Company” approach to ensure cooperation among business units.

      One corollary: Decentralized companies and those that emphasized Profit & Loss (P&L) responsibility as their primary measurement of business units take longer to achieve and are half as likely to exceed their Return on Investment (ROI) expectations. Companies using a Balanced Scorecard to measure business unit leaders fared much better.

    A dedicated group harmonizing and improving business processes

    Getting business units to agree on common business processes is difficult for most training or eLearning project teams. Continuous improvement requires ongoing analysis in light of changing market conditions and a steady stream of improvement projects. We found 41% of companies with a dedicated process improvement group were highly satisfied with their eLearning projects, compared to 27% of those that did not.

    The best results, however, were reserved for companies in which the process improvement group was led by a senior executive, reporting to the C-level. Sometimes called Chief Process Improvement Officers (CPIOs), their seniority and access to top management gives them the clout to effect lasting change. The difference? 60% of this group is highly satisfied with their results.

    A central financial analyst presenting a credible and transparent accounting of the costs and the business value realized

    Executive management is skeptical of eLearning and its benefits because they are hard to find in the income statement and balance sheet. A few companies are solving this problem by appointing a dedicated financial analyst to bring rigor to benefits accounting. These analysts do the following:

    • Help establish the business case, metrics, and sources of benefits data for proposed projects
    • Measure the business benefit by project, business process, and organization, eliminating double counting by separate project teams
    • Report the results widely, giving executive visibility and creating some peer pressure for everyone to contribute
    How do you know it's working? Companies told us that a few quarters of credible benefits accounting changed the question from “Is eLearning giving value?” to “What new projects can we start to get more?” You now have the executive leadership and credibility to drive eLearning benefits to the next level.


Unless you are in one of a lucky minority of companies that has all three in place, you need to understand what can be accomplished and what will be difficult to achieve. To improve your success, consider the following:

  • Link the company’s stated goals to the business process changes required to achieve them and the role eLearning can play in facilitating and enforcing the change. This is the foundation for getting all of the elements in place. Lobby for permanent organizations to lead the ongoing change from the business and training side, emphasizing braining’s role in program management.
  • Establish the financial analyst position to track benefits long term. It can be in one of a number of organizations but must have consistency and credibility across projects and the years of improvement effort ahead.
  • If your management has no transformation vision and is focused on narrow cost cutting, consider redirecting your efforts to projects likely to be successful. Such companies in our study were far more likely to tackle safe projects, such as technical upgrades or small, quick payback departmental projects. They showed incremental value but never made a big difference in the bottom line.
Confession: I modified this artcle before posting it. I substituted "eLearning" for "ERP". Then I search-and-replaced "IT" with "training." Otherwise, it's precisely what appeared online. As learning becomes a core business process, it can draw upon models designed for other aspects of business, in this case for Information Technology.
Posted by Jay Cross at 05:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Knowledge Roundtable 2004: e-Learning

Knowledge Roundtable 2004: e-Learning: From Practice to Profit

Wednesday, May 5th - Friday, May 7th
Radisson Harbourfront Hotel, Kingston, Ontario


    Dr. Maryam Alavi, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research, Emory University
    Dr. Roberto H. Bamberger, Solutions Architect, Microsoft Corporation
    Jay Cross, CEO, Emergent Learning Forum
    Jacques Gaumond, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Technomedia Training Inc.
    Lynette Gillis, President, Learning Designs Online
    Lucy Jacobus, Senior Manager, STRATX
    Maxim Jean-Louis, President & CEO, Contact North/Contact Nord
    Leslie Jefford, Learning Consultant, Bell Canada Enterprises Corporate Services
    Sebastien Lamiaux, Consultant, STRATX
    Richard Nantel, Director, brandon-hall.com
    Jamie Rossiter, Director, E-Learning Program, CANARIE Inc.
    Patrick Sullivan, President, Workopolis
    Trace Urdan, Principal and Senior Research Analyst, ThinkEquity Partners Inc.

Download e-Learning: From Practice to Profit Brochure

Register Online

Jay Cross
May 7, 2004

Metrics are relative, not absolute. Find out why the only valid
metrics for corporate learning are business metrics. Figure out
what matters in your organization; then show the connection
between that and what you do. Kirkpatrick’s four levels are bunk.
Imagine telling your sales manager that the sales force was well
prepared (“Levels 1 & 2”) but simply hadn’t sold anything (“Levels
3 & 4”). Good luck in your next job.

Traditional accounting assigns intangibles a value of zero.
Hence, traditional ROI has little credibility with enlightened executives.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

The Schizophrenia of Blogging

Timing. It's all about timing. I'm rattled that some time-cop ripped off an hour of my time early this morning by declaring that clocks be set ahead. What is this nonsense about? I don't work by the clock anyway. Geez.

Timing pervades the way we blog. In fact, blogging suffers from multiple personality disorder induced by timeframe. Some of us think short-term, others think long-term, and most of us do a crappy job of trying to keep a foot in both camps. Is your blog near-sighted or far-sighted?

Some bloggers record current events. Others collect information for reference. The first is like publishing a daily newspaper or keeping a journal. The second is akin to maintaining an online reference book or content management system. The two personalities are at odds with one another.

The Blog as Journal. If my purpose is maintaining snapshots in time of current events as they seemed when I wrote them, I'd never change an item after the date it was written. I agree this is the way the New York Times, the "newspaper of record," should behave.

  • The Blog as Reference Book. If my objective is to provide my current view on a variety of topics, including those I wrote about last year, I'll be going back in to change items that have become dated, to supplement old entries with new insight, and to correct errors when I find them. Otherwise, readers might confuse obsolete opinions that what my current take on things.

    The Blog as Journal

    Putting new items at the top is a great concept. You start with "What's new." This is especially good when blog-reading is episodic. The reverse-chron order makes it easy to catch up. This is the good news.

    A downside is that most blogs scroll off into nowhere. At the end of the front page of the blog, there's a jarring change of format. Instead of continuing to scroll through entries, just tapping the ol' spacebar to see what's next, most blogs leave the reader with no place to go. There's not even an up-arrow labeled "Back to the top." This is analogous to reading a book and, at the end of the first chapter, instead of leading to the second chapter, you are confronted with the Index and have to figure out what comes next.

    The last line on the first page of Internet Time Blog reads "More! Click for Page Two." Page 1 displays the dozen most recent entires, page 2 the next twenty entries, and page 3 the following thirty entries.

    The Blog as Reference

    Unlike the news of the day up top, fundamentals don't change often. You refine these concepts, restate them, and supplement them with examples. They're worthy of revisiting. In fact, they're my personal encyclopedia and I refer back to them frequently when developing new concepts.

    I pigeon-hole this more lasting stuff into twenty topics. Examples are "Time", "How People Learn", and "First Principles." That last one has been evolving for decades. When something new grabs me, I may post it as a comment to the topic. Recently I added a quotation to the First Principles topic:

      "It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion." -- W.R. Inge

    Every now and again, depending on the volatility of the topic, I harvest the best individual posts and insert them into the topic pages.

    In addition to the topics, I categorize posts along similar lines, e.g. "Blogging", "Books", "Customer Care", "Collaboration", etc.


    Blogging is an immature form that has yet to evolve very far from its geeky roots. The structure of most blogs accommodates their writers more than their readers. It's time for bloggers to share their goals with their readers. Those golas should inform the way bloggers structure and maintain their blogs.

    I'll show some examples in the continuation below.

    P.S. These are some of my thoughts about public blogs. I'll take up confidential blogs in a subsequent post.

    Here's the home page of Internet Time Group. I moved the Blog into prime position when timeliness started to become more important on the web than permanence. Readership has grown from 300 visitors a day to several thousand. Fresh content attracts interest.

    My home page has three basic sections. Most of the time, the Blog is the only thing I touch; the other parts generate themselves. I often create new entries in wBloggar or EditPad because they're easier to use -- and less likely to crash and vaporize my input.

    The last line on the first few pages invites the read to continue reading.

    Topic pages summarize a score of more lasting reference subjects.

    Some topics rarely change.

    Others, like Articles, change at least once a month.

    As with any Blog, this is a perpetual work in progress.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 12:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
  • April 03, 2004

    You asked for it...

    Some of you like to be pushed rather than pulled. This one's for you. Put your email address in the box & you'll receive an email whenever we make a non-trivial posting here. Look in the right column or fill in the blank below.

    Subscribe to this Blog

    Enter your email address to subscribe. We vow never to share your information with anyone. No Spam.

    Subscribe Unsubscribe

    Posted by Jay Cross at 10:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Learning Emerges in San Francisco This Week

    San Francisco

    "Think globally. Act locally."

    The April meetings of Emergent Learning Forum are an experiment in decentralization. Instead of having just one major interaction each month, we're meeting around the Bay in informal gatherings. Please drop by our San Francisco session:

    Wednesday, April 7, 5:30-7:30 pm

    Gordon Biersch Brewery
    2 Harrison Street,
    San Francisco


    The main items on the agenda are (1) networking and (2) beer. After that, you might want to discuss how else you'd like to interact with Emergent Learning Forum.

    I envision informal meetings of kindred spirits around the globe, sort of Howard Dean flashmobs on steroids. Other events may be 100% online, bringing together experts from all corners in conversations made available for replay. We're working with Spoke to develop an Emergent Learning Forum member network and collaborative environment. Then we'll encourage local pub get-togethers anywhere there's interest.

    Join me for a brew this week. Emergent Learning Forum will buy the first round.

    Afraid of joining the wrong crowd? Come to the table with the green tennis ball on it!

    Also, please bring a colleague or a customer. Introduce someone who wouldn't have shown up at one of our half-day meetings to join you.


    Jay Cross, CEO
    Emergent Learning Forum

    Posted by Jay Cross at 04:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Collective Intelligence (2)

    George Por, in the Blog of Collective Intelligence, asks: How can a group of individual intelligences become truly collective intelligence? How can they escape into a more complex and capable collective intelligence, without sacrificing their autonomy?

    “Collective intelligence is a distributed capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and performance through collaboration and innovation."

    “These shared values, perceptions, meanings, semantic habits, cultural practices, ethics, and so on, I simply refer to as culture, or the intersubjective patterns in consciousness.” Ken Wilber

    What's necessary to foster this collective intelligence (CI)? George suggests it's

    • Shared learning agenda
    • Trusted relationships among members,
    • Frequent opportunities to participate in conversation

    Tugging in the other direction are these inhibiters:

    Ego and turf-battles
  • Conversations are not connected and facilitated for emergence
  • The community's knowledge ecosystem is week or poorly integrated
  • New technologies are not leveraged to balance the constraints imposed by cultural, geographic, hierarchical and other barriers.

    For this thinking to advance, you've got to share your take on things. Blog it. I'll give that a shot.

    Noosphere Evolution and Value Metabolism, An examination of the nature and behavior of the structures of consciousness and culture, by Steve McIntosh, is 55 pages on the worldview of Ken Wilber and the "value metabollism," which begins:

    This is an exciting time in the history of human knowledge. The last ten years have seen the emergence of a significant new understanding of the relationship between the material world, subjective consciousness, and human culture. The promise of this new view of the world is an integrated understanding of matter, mind, and spirit—a unified theory of all experience. The achievement of such a synthesis is really the greatest challenge of our age. If we can successfully unify the “three cultures” of art, science, and morality within a comprehensive framework, it will mark the beginning of a Second Enlightenment. The essential connections between the distinct realms of matter, mind, and spirit are now being revealed through the application of a new theory of evolution.

    During the 20th century, thinkers and pioneers such as Alfred North Whitehead,
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Jean Gebser, explored and discovered many of the evolutionary properties of consciousness and culture. But in our time, there is emerging a new understanding of the noosphere1 which has been achieved by combining the best of empirical science with the subtle insights of the world’s great wisdom traditions. This synthesis has created a powerful lens—like Galileo’s telescope—with which to view the interior dimensions of reality. This new understanding illuminates the structures of consciousness and culture that until now have only been approached dimly and by different paths without a common terminology or mutual recognition.

    The person most responsible for the emergence of this new view of the world is
    Ken Wilber.

    Sounds great, but not how I plan to spend the first Saturday morning of spring.

    Yesterday I began reading Gerald Edelman's take on consciousness. He's focused on individual consciousness. I'm interested more in group mind than individual consciousness, but I figure they're both complex systems, why not see how one viewpoint cross-fertilizes the other.

      In Berkeley, the Friends of Five Creeks is "daylighting" creeks that had been culverted to make way for residential subdivisions, railroads, and misguided lang use projects. The creeks have been flowing but people had been unable to see and enjoy them.

      What I'm doing today on the blog, a common activity for me, is "daylighting" the flow of thinking that's always happening in my head but, like the creeks, generally out of sight. Culverted thought.

    The material from George Por resonates with constructs I'm already happy with. Admittedly, this one stretches a few concepts:

    I'll admit that I have never read Wilber in the original. (His books are too thick.) However, if Ken can improve the fit of my evolvong worldview with the real world, I'm game.

    Here are some of the pieces floating around in my current inquiries.

    One common denominator among complex systems, and this may be Jay's brain inventing patterns as much as the reality other people see, is the demise of top-down in favor of lateral connections. Teams, not hierarchies. Experiences, not curriculum. Expertiment, not dogma.

    Imagine for a moment that the little guys in the graphic above are files, not people. The organization of my files has long resembled the "Past" organization. Instead of layers of people, I have layers of directories and files. Most files are at the end of a long chain. Over time, files change categories, e.g. prospects become customers, scribbles become articles, notes become printed reports. For years, I've manually moved the files around. This time-wasting activity leaves me with an electroniic filing system that's about as ratty as my paper files, which are located all over my office and downstairs cabinets and basement storage.

    This morning I was experimenting with X1, the new search tool that indexes your hard drive for rapid search. Given that I have three or four hard drives whirring away at any given time, a tool like this makes life much easier.

    I'm swapping the metaphor of file cabinet for that of informal organization. I'm going to give up on assuming I know where an item is going to end up in favor of stuffing enough unique naming or metadata into it that I can always retrieve it when I want. No more "Let me speak to your supervisor" crap when I want something.

    I've been calling the new form of organization "bottom-up," in contrast to "top-down." Bottom-up is actually a poor description of what I have in mind. It's closer to the mark to say horizontal rather than vertical. Or wavy instead of straight. Neural instead of hard-wired. Tacit rather than explicit. Flexible rather than rigid. Impromptu rather than pre-defined. Responsive rather than planned. Dynamic, not static. Ever changing, not tradition-bound. Evolving, not self-satisfied. It's as if...

    Back to collective intelligence

    George Por lit my fuse this morning. Using his blog entry as a starting point, I let whatever come to mind guide my thinking. I enjoy converting word-images into graphic representations. Dorking about in PaintShop and Visio gave me time to reflect on the concepts embodied in the flow of words. Had you asked me in the midst of this flow experience, I would have told you this was all my thinking, my interpretation of reality, and my fresh thoughts.

    As I was cleaning up graphic fragments and electonic Post-It notes from my screen, I noticed some images from a piece by John Seely Brown that I'd read some time in the last few days. (Research on the web can be another timeless flow experience for me.) Damned if he hadn't beat me to the punch on some of these thoughts by eight or nine years!

    Part of this collective intelligence meme is operating below our level of consciousness.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 01:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
  • April 02, 2004


    Concentrated wisdom from Serendip at Bryn Maur.

    I believe that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience, that the process and the goal of education are the same thing.

    I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.

    -- John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed

    The teacher is not only a communicator but a model. To communicate knowledge and to provide a model of competence, the teacher must be free to teach and learn

    -- Jerome Bruner, The Process of Education

    We think we learn from teachers, and we sometimes do. But the teachers are not always to be found in school, or in great laboratories. Sometimes what we learn depends on our own powers of insight. Moreover, our teachers may be hidden, even the greatest teacher.

    -- Loren Eiseley, "The Hidden Teacher" in The Star Thrower

    A manual? Give me a break! Let me get in there and muck around and try various things and see what happens.

    -- John Seely Brown, "Learning, Working, and Playing in the Digital Age"

    Posted by Jay Cross at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Emergent Learning

    Chief Learning Officer magazine, April 2004
    "Effectiveness" column by Jay Cross

    Not so long ago, e-learning was a utopian dream. Networked learning would educate the world. E-learning promoters saw themselves as innovators writing corporate history. Excitement filled the air.

    "Resilient organizations copy the architecture of the Internet"
    That future has arrived. Today a healthy percentage of learning in corporations is technology-assisted. At first we thought it was all about content, but context-free courseware failed for lack of human support. Pioneering online communities turned into ghost towns.

    Then we realized that e-learning is a bundle of capabilities, not a silver bullet. When e-learning technology supplements traditional learning, it usually saves time, money and drudgery. Properly implemented, e-learning is a powerful, cost-effective tool. No longer the “next big thing,” e-learning has hit the mainstream.

    Before the World Trade Center attack, the world was more predictable. Knowledge was power. Adaptability has now taken its place. Our requirements have changed. Corporations and government agencies are on permanent alert. Networks have taken the slack out of the system. Timing is the critical variable. The performance metrics for troops on a plane headed to a new hot spot and for systems engineers countering a new competitive threat are the same: How soon will they be ready to perform?

    "Learning has become a core business process."
    Top-down, command-and-control organizations can no longer keep pace. Flexible hyper-organizations are sprouting up in their place. Teams, in-house functions, outsource providers and customers are linked in fluid, ever-changing value networks.

    Resilient organizations copy the architecture of the Internet: lots of independent nodes with the ability to route around damage. People farthest from the center sense changes in the environment first, so managers wisely take control by giving control. Bottom-up organizations adjust to change as effortlessly as flocks of turning birds, while old structures are too rigid to change without sustaining damage.

    This is shaky ground for the traditional training-and-development world. Biologists and complexity theorists have seen it all before.

    Businesses are complex adaptive systems. In a complex system, independent pieces join together to form something entirely different and unexpected.

    "Emergence is the key characteristic of complex systems. It is the process by which simple entities self-organize to form something more complex."
    The best metaphor for a complex adaptive system is a living thing. Take a complex system apart, and you no longer have a complex system. As Verna Allee writes, “Cut a cow in half and you don’t have two cows. You have a mess.”

    In their book, “It’s Alive,” management theorists Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer make a compelling case that business entities are living, complex systems. Many nodes—brains—come together to form something new—the corporate body. As my friend David Grebow says, it even has a Corporate IQ and, according to author David Batestone, a Corporate Soul.

    Emergence is the key characteristic of complex systems. It is the process by which simple entities self-organize to form something more complex. Emergence is also what happened to that “utopian dream” of e-learning on the way to the future. Simple, old e-learning has combined with bottom-up self-organizing systems, network effects and today’s environment to morph into emergent learning.

    Emergent learning implies adaptation to the environment, timeliness, flexibility and space for co-creation. It is the future. We haven’t figured it out yet. Or, from the perspective of complexity science, it hasn’t figured itself out yet.

    Why do I suggest abandoning a word like e-learning? A new term refocuses our thinking on the future. We’ve got to cultivate emergent learning. Emergent learning encourages experiment and innovation; e-learning fosters incrementalism and complacency.

    Learning has become a core business process. Emergent learning enables us to push beyond the confines of e-learning to explore combinations with informal learning, storytelling, social network analysis, appreciative inquiry, workflow learning, conversation, contextual collaboration, organic KM, simulation, dynamic portals, expert location and blogs.

    I foresee exciting times ahead.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 07:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Self competition?

    Someone explain this to me.

    I just went to Amazon to buy a friend a book. Amazon was asking $19.25 for the hardcover edition, not bad since I'd paid $27 when the book came out. However, next to the Amazon price were the words "42 used & new from $5.99." I ended up buying a new copy of the book from a dealer in Jersey for $9.75.

    Is Amazon raking enough commission back from the merchant I used to justify forgoing its take on a direct sale? Or is this to keep people who sell discount books from nibbling into Amazon's market share?

    Posted by Jay Cross at 06:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Ideas new and old

    The seductive appeal of new ideas doesn't make old ones obsolete. Reading through a presentation by Transform Partners, I came upon these aphorisms from a 95 year-old Viennese who remembers walking with familiy friend Sigmund Freud as a nmall boy. Back in 1964, the year Ford brought out the Mustang, IBM announced System/360, and Valdez was rocked by the largest earthquake ever to hit North America, this fellow wrote:

    Neither results nor resources exist inside the business. Both exist outside.

    Results are obtained by exploiting opportunites, not by solving problems.

    Resources, to produce results, must be allocated to opportunities.

    The customer is the business.

    Peter F. Drucker
    Managing for Results

    I don't mean to imply new ideas can't improve the world. Transform Partners offers these guiding principles to transform operating performance.

    Manage to value, not hierarchy.

    Increase productive interactions.

    Connect demand drivers.

    Accelerate systemic effects.

    Reduce costs of coordinatoin.

    Design for living system fitness, adpatation, and agility.

    Convert stocks of investment in cost drivers to productive value flows.

    Optimize operating performance through leading indicators and leading practices.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 02:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    April 01, 2004

    Even amateurs play this game

    Quiz: How many errors can you spot in this unsolicited email?

    Dear Jay,

    ________ is a 5 year old custom content development and Education
    Organization with presence in over 5 countries of the globe. We provide
    training solutions to individuals, organizations,colleges, universities,
    and the Government. 6?

    With strength in Instructional design,Content Research and Development,
    Design & Development of Learning Technologies & Tools, we offer
    organizations end to end learning solutions for all your custom content
    and training needs. But who punctuates your courseware?

    We are enclosing in this mail details of a proposition which we would like
    to discuss with your organization. We would like to partner with
    __________ to offer solutions to your partners in Custom content
    development. There is no enclousre.

    We would welcome any further queries you may have in this direction and
    looking forward to a discussion. I can hardly wait.

    Best Regards

    _______, the global eLearning consultancy
    Sr. Manager, Business Development
    Chennai 600 004

    Please take note:

    1. If you are not the intended recipient of this message, please let us
    know immediately. Kindly refrain from disclosing, copying, or using the
    information in any way. You heard the man. Don't share any of this valuable form letter.

    2. As an anti-virus measure, our mail server rejects the following
    attachments: *.com; *.exe; *.bat; *.eml; *.mp3; *.dot; *.vb; *.vbs; *.vbe.
    If you need to send us an attachment of this type, please contact Tock at

    Thank you!

    Posted by Jay Cross at 12:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack