Jerry Johnson, one of my instructors at business school, taught us facetious business maxims such as "There are always three things." As I've become grayer and wiser, I've found that Jerry's rules often held up well. There often are three things.
Jerry's universal, three-step model of everything has proved itself particularly useful.
Applied in a learning context, it's a reminder to pay attention to what comes before and after a focused learning experience. Pre-work, screening, and maybe a getting-to-know-you pizza party before, and follow-up sessions, an alumni support network, and recognition after, can turn a lackluster workshop into something inspirational.
Thoughtout most of my life, I've been in a hurry to complete the 1-2-3 and get on to the next project. The fourth letter of my Myers-Briggs is always a big "J," indicating that I value Closure. I thought of projects like phone calls: 1. Ring, 2. Talk, 3. Hang up.
On Tuesday I was chatting with a friend in the U.K. We were using Skype, a nifty combination of instant messaging and free VOIP phone calls. We had been talking about all manner of things for twenty or thirty minutes when a client call interrupted our conversation.
When my friend started to say good bye, I suggested we not think of it like that. We weren't terminating our conversation; we were merely putting it on hold. We'd pick up where we left on whenever Skype showed that we were both online and available. Recognizing our conversation as a flow of information rather that a discrete event let me keep it open. Our conversation is like my connection to the net. It's up 24x7 but frequently idle. It's not off, it's merely not in use. Our conversation is not over, it's merely on hold.
Tuesday night half a dozen of us went to see the interminably long screed against business called "The Corporation." This movie slams business very hard, saying that if the corporation is legally a person, it's a psychopathic one. Examples abound: Monsanto shutting down a (true) Fox news story, Bechtel trying to charge Bolivians for water, Kathy Lee and Nike employing child labor, a market research outfit counseling retailers to increase sales by teaching children how to nag, and IBM colluding with Nazis. Noam Chomsky tells us it doesn't have to be this way. Michael Moore cuts up and tells us the only thing the corporation cares about is the bottom line. Milton Friedman agrees.
This movie is anything but balanced. Corporations = bad, bad, bad. Nonetheless, it raises some fundamental questions. The corporation is heartless. It has no morals. It leaps borders, becoming more important than government. It pollutes the environment and suffers no consequences. It pledges allegiance to only its shareholders. Public companies are following the old 1-2-3 model:
How can we get corporations to focus on the longer term? How can we hold them accountable for damaging the earth? What would make corporations support sustainability?
Wednesday 6/16/04. 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Meeting Coordinator: Jay Cross, [email protected]
1. Post mortem on ASTD and TDF
2. Suggestions for fun places to meet
3. Whatever moves you
ThirstyBear Brewing Company
661 Howard Street (next to Chevy's on Third)
San Francisco, CA 94105
How to identify the group:
Jay will wear his name tag from TDF
This is an informal meeting.
The Thirsty Bear is the only combination tapas bar and microbrewery in the world. The tapas are quite good. You need not feel embarrassed if you are a non-drinker.
Once again, I'm at the PlaNetwork conference, sort of a loose confederation of people interested in sustainability, privacy, political activism, networking, and social justice. The location is wireless-enabled and these are my as-it-happens notes and observations. I'll come back to add photos later. (And indeed, it's Sunday morning and I'm adding pictures and commentary I missed when my battery died yesterday.)
The demilitarized Presidio, now part of the Golden Gate National Recretation Area, is a great place for an event like PlaNetwork. Aside from the guns-into-plowshares parallel inherent in a decommissioned 200 year old army post, The Presidio is another world, far from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco proper.
Collaboratory is becoming the core of the event, which organizer Jim Fournier sees as "applied network theory". The network islands are coming together. The electronic agenda is getting in sync with the human agenda, for I think of PlaNetwork as a sort of gathering of the tribes. Kindred spirits for the preservation of progressive values, sustainability, and defeating W.
We know we need to reinvent our social system. (I should tap Gail for advice for Emergent Learning Forum.) Our work is to tease out the synergy (this weekend and ever after). I hope so. Last year's participants vowed to keep the ball rolling but then dropped it.
This theme resonates with what Emergent Learning Forum is after: Fitness. "Through perturbing and nudging each other - each part seeking to optimize its own wel being -- the whoel is strengtehed. When taken together a complete 'answer' emerges that enables the whole parts to be at their 'fittest'."
A "patch" is an analogy drawn from ecology, as in a patch of grass in the prairie; in network theory: a a node or cluster , also a work group, project, company, affinity group, or community of practice.
The rules of engagement are: (1) converse, (2) share, (3) use what you get, and (4) optimize your own patch.
Blue Oxen is hosting the wiki that underlies the conference. They've also set up an IRC and linked to Living Diretory and Neosociety. Wikis confuse the daylights out of some people, even the techno-literate.
What is the value of an ename? A universal private address. Unspammable. A single identifier containing any information you want to share. It’s persistent and portable. Corollary to a personal name. The hard part is privacy and security. The most important thing is control.
I don't quite get it. A fellow describing the ename project alluded to a reported exchange between Isadora Duncan and a porter:
Jim Fournier “drove the Golden Spike” by setting up the first ename.
Jason Lefkowitz, e-Activism Manager, Oceana. "Worst Practices from Oceana." We're too early into this to call it best practices. Oceana is campaign-focused (ocean), international, and science-oriented. They fight individual campaigns.
Core principles: Respect your members' intelligence and you atract smart people. Engage with your members, and they will stay engaged with you. Keep your email short as possible. Don't waste their time. Use direct mail principles. The ultimate objective: to accrue and maintain a positive balance of trust.
Engage with your members. Show them your faces, let them hear your voices. Let them push you back. Encourage their independent efforts -- and give them tools to make those efforts more effective.
Be a storytellker. Go beyond the dry facts. Construct a narrative -- and give them the opportunity to be the hero. Close the circle -- tell them how the story ends. Tell them the end results.
Don Means is the senior political advisor to MeetUp.com. Built two years ago to enable communities of interest to meet in their local areas. Dean Campaign: 8,000 people were leaving their homes to go out for Dean. This changed the way people look at politics for evermore. The technoilogy gives people new avenutes to activism.
MeetUp encourages participation in our democracy, each in their own way. Five to six thousand people are Meeting Up for Bush. (More than that are Meeting Up to impeach Bush. [Applause.])
At one point, 1000 MeetUps for Dean met on a single Wednesday evening. 200,000 were signed up.
Business: Not forced, but venues may pay for listings. Partners who support a particular cause pay for pass-through checks. There is also a MeetUp plus.
Esther Dyson: The essence of MeetUp is that the users use MeetUp, not the corporation.
Esther: Where are RSS feeds, given that email is "broken?" It's not there yet... The non-techies need an explanation of RSS. Oceana has a loink to an RSS FAq. People don't hit the RSS button.
Large organizaitons often like email because of its push nature. They have a hard time letting go of
ppipes.org. Guy stands up in the audience. He's the inventor. "Just putting up feeds is really lame. It's screwing up -- I only wrote it weekend before last." Frustrated with email connections, the fellow created his own RSS feeds. Wow! Jason calls this "a warning shot."
Becky Bond, Working Assets. Activism from within a phone company. Get out the vote. In fact, encourage nonprofits such as Craig's List to link to the Get Out the Vote site by rewarding them for sign-ups.
Ruby Sinreich from Planned Parenthood of American. 1916. SaveROE.com. Separate sites for members. Affiliates key. National supports them.
(I just tried to post this on the PlaNetwork Wiki -- and received this error:
A problem occurred in a Python script.
[email protected] contains the description of this error.")
Continued in next post... Comment removal entry.
The Digital Storytelling Center offers a digital storytelling cookbook, examples, articles, and more. The cookbook gives a step-by-step recipe for telling your own stories. The touchstones to success are to keep in mind:
The only downside I see is a reliance on Adobe Premier to capture the show. Since I have a copy, that's not a problem for me, but it might hold others back. Abbe Don, who put together a great family story/scrapbook while a student intern at Apple, is putting together a simpler framework for assembling digital stories.
I definitely plan to do this.
Kingston, Ontario, was capital of Canada 1841-44. The older buildings are built of local limestone.
Limestone was so common, many buildings hide it behind red-brick veneer.
Gun emplacements protect the harbor where the St. Lawrence meets the Cataraqui River at the head of Lake Ontario.
J.P., Lynette, confused participant, and windblown Al
City Hall, the last locomotive built in town, hand in fire, and great place to eat
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
Authentic Happiness and positive psychology movement
If you missed the session, Horizon Live has made a recording available on the web.
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
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.
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:
Gordon Biersch Brewery
2 Harrison Street,
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
"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 Berkeley session:
Berkeley, April 1, 5:30-7:30 pm, LaVal's Pizza Northside
1834 Euclid Avenue, 510-843-5617
San Francisco, April 7, 5:30-7:30 pm, Gordon Biersch Brewery
2 Harrison Street, 415-243-8246
The main items on the agenda are (1) networking and (2) beer and (3) learning technology. After that, you might want to discuss how else you'd like to interact with Emergent Learning Forum.
I am pushing for 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.
Join me for a brew this week or next. Some learning just might emerge.
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. Remember the "strength of weak ties" concept that Alex Gault described at our February meeting on Social Software? Introduce someone who wouldn't show up at one of our meetings to join you.
In business, workers are taking responsibility once shouldered by managers and supervisors. In computing, fluid connections are replacing rigid routines. In our culture, individuals are wresting influence from yesterday's icons. Expect to see more:
Internet Time Group helps workers find challenge, leverage opportunities, produce beyond expectation, take pride in their work, and lead happy lives in this world turned upside down.
You know how you learn a new word, one you've never seen before, and all of a sudden you see it three times in the next week? We humans see what we're alert to. As I've been talking with people, reading the web, and taking in news the last 90 days, the concept of complexity has been the meme I see everywhere I turn.
Why has complexity become my recurring obsession? Perhaps because complexity challenges the bedrock of Isaac Newton, rationality, cause and effect, an ordered universe, and faith in logic. The worldview I believed in for the first fifty years of my life does not explain the world I live in today. Some things will never be figured out. Prayer does not assure salvation. Anything could happen. The world defies logic. Shit happens.
My mind works in parallel. Sometimes this is a gift, often it's a distraction. No matter how focused I am, my consciousness always drops down a few steps to look at micro-level underpinnings and hops up a step or two to perceive things in context.
Whir. My mind's going up a level here, to look at some implications of the post-newtonian worldview.
|"The In Crowd"
|"Faith of our Fathers"
Newton, Descartes, et alia
|Role of worker||Improv||Scripted|
By David C. Forman, Sage Learning Systems
Most training and educational professionals have focused their efforts on learning in individuals, not organizations. This is understandable because so much needs to be accomplished to improve the efficacy of schools and corporate training programs. Besides, the notion of organizational learning has been ambiguous, difficult to comprehend and unfamiliar. This orientation toward individual learning seemed appropriate, complete and right at the time; but now it may no longer be sufficient.
Many of the basic building blocks of today's learning solutions were developed more than fifty years ago when the world was barely entering the information age. ENIAC, the precursor to modern computers, was in the laboratory while Benjamin Bloom was developing taxonomies of knowing; and distinctions between teaching and learning objectives were debated. Major corporations were domestic, not global, in reach; and their competitive advantage was based on the size and scope of their fixed assets. The term human capital was probably considered an oxymoron for the day. The PC was several decades away. The Beatles had not been born.
The economy, world situation and avenues for value creation have changed dramatically. The competitive strength of companies and even countries is now tied not to physical resources but to the knowledge and skills of people. And these people do not work in isolation within companies; they work in teams, informal groups and in multiple roles. Human talent works better in teams (de Geus, 2004). In this changed environment, there needs to be a way to discuss cumulative learning among individuals in teams, communities and organizations. There needs to be more emphasis on organizational and not just individual learning.
The term "Organizational Learning" entered most people's consciousness in 1990 with the publication of Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline. Senge actually used the term "The Learning Organization," and the concept resonated with strategic thinkers and corporate leaders immediately. It made sense that there were different factors at work to make an "organization smart" and if these could be harnessed, the company could be stronger, more vital, and better able to adapt to change.
Senge defined the learning organization as the collective ability of a group to expand continuously its capacity to create the future. Most observers view organizational learning and the learning organization as virtually synonymous terms, with the former focusing more on process and the latter on structure. Huber (1991) extended the definition of organizational learning by identifying four necessary constructs: knowledge acquisition, information distribution, information interpretation, and organizational memory.
Organizational learning remained a relatively abstract concept for several years. The idea was compelling but few knew what to do about it. Then, several things started to happen. First, influential CEOs became very interested in optimizing the human capital and talent in their organizations. Led by champions such as Jack Welch, rhetoric turned into programs and core values that strengthened intangible human assets and led to stronger competitive market positions. These champions knew inherently that the keys to a dynamic, responsive, contemporary organization were not just workers or employees; but people who could think, work together, challenge each other, and innovate.
Workers today must be equipped not simply with technical know-how but also with
the ability to create, analyze, and transform information and to interact
effectively with others.
Chairman, Federal Reserve Board
Next, economists (and even accountants) began to provide more clarity and specifics on the definition, costs and the components of organizational value. Organizational value is comprised of financial assets, physical assets and intangible assets. It is now clear that in the 21stcentury economy, 80% of a company's market value is not determined by cash, buildings or equipment, but by intangible factors such as intellectual and human capital. Furthermore there is the "market to book" value of Fortune 500 companies which in 2001 reached a value of 6.0. This figure means that for every $6 of market value, only $1 represents financial and physical assets (Weatherly, 2003). These figures corroborate what top CEOs already understood. Wealth stems from great people.
Useful distinctions were made among different types of intangible capital (Weatherly, 2003). The term human capital is sometimes used as a synonym for intangible capital, but it is not as Table 1 demonstrates. Different authors may use other terms such as relational, customer and intellectual capital, but Weatherly's categories are logical, consistent and complete. It is also interesting to note that human capital is an asset that employees decide to share or not share with the organization (Davenport, 1999). Workers are not human capital; but human capital owners who decide when, how and where they will contribute it. This is a very important distinction that is often ignored by managers and executives.
Table 1: Types of Intangible Capital
Type of Intangible Capital
The collective knowledge, experience and attributes of employees that they choose to
invest in their workplace.
The codified knowledge that
resides within an organization
Methodologies and policies
The relationships within the organization to facilitate the
transfer of knowledge
The company's external relationships.
The last reason for increased visibility of organizational learning is the rise of enterprise-level knowledge management (KM) systems. Early implementations were often little more than a big repository of indexed documents that people could access. As the technology improved, these systems included connections to experts for those who needed their guidance; and collections of work products, proposals and research papers that could be accessed by employees facing similar situations. These systems have great potential for reducing mistakes, leveraging existing work and networks, and greatly contributing to organizational learning. Human and cultural factors, however, have often impeded the progress of knowledge management within organizations. For example, in some contexts, knowledge sharing is not rewarded or at least subtly discouraged. Despite these difficulties, the need for effective knowledge management--a key facilitator of organizational learning--continues to be a priority in global organizations.
Organizational learning is now in sharper focus. The first step in a renewed emphasis on organizational learning is to move beyond the general concept and develop a practical framework that can facilitate communication. This article presents a practical framework for the discussion of organizational learning, and it has its roots both in instructional design (ID) and organizational development (OD) practices.
The framework for organizational learning identifies factors that are necessary for an organization to continue to develop and grow its intangible capital. When these factors operate together and synergistically, a learning culture is created that perpetuates itself and nurtures continued growth throughout the enterprise. Organizational learning, then, becomes both additive and cumulative so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
At a macro level, this potential is best illustrated by the GE Corporation whose market value is billions of dollars greater than the sum of its various component businesses. This synergistic value is not achieved by accident, but rather by a concerted strategy to share knowledge in a boundaryless organization. Within an organization, the same standard applies: organizational learning should result in accumulated intangible capital that exceeds the sum of what individuals possess and contribute.
There are two levels to the framework. The first is the contribution level and this refers to what individuals, teams and groups do to develop new knowledge, processes, approaches and products. When successful, it is the outcome of work and jobs and the foundation of organizational learning; if it does not exist, the organization begins to become stale. The second is the multiplier level that expands and magnifies contributions throughout the organization to more people, faster and more effectively. It is this level that can lead to a sustaining and vibrant learning culture.
Each level is depicted in the following visual and then briefly described. The levels and their corresponding organizational capabilities are certainly not exhaustive and they can occur in varying sequences, but the framework is valuable because it provides a common language to discuss organizational learning. With a common language established, it is then possible to create programs and processes to develop these organizational capabilities, monitor their success, and make adjustments accordingly.
The Contribution Level represents the collective performance improvement of the organization. This is the essence of a learning organization: if improvement occurs, the organization learns and grows; if it doesn't, the organization stagnates, loses ground and repeats the same mistakes again and again. The main organizational capabilities of the contribution level are:
· Learn-- The collective knowledge, skills and know-how of people in the organization must continue to be nurtured and grown. To some, this might translate into more extensive training programs, but this is rarely the answer. Leading companies such as Qualcomm and Cisco understand that communication platforms play a vital role in refreshing knowledge and keeping people current and competent. Cross (2003) has recognized that informal as opposed to formal learning is four times more meaningful in providing know-how. Organizational learning opportunities must extend beyond formal training programs and include different informal and nontraditional ways in which people learn and grow.
· Collaborate-- People do not work in isolation. Project teams, matrixed- organizations and multiple job roles are common practices in today's organizations. To be successful in this environment, people need to work together, share information and exchange perspectives. If not, individual knowledge and know-how remains locked up and not accessible to the team and the larger organization. The organization starts to whither as collaboration breaks down and knowledge remains in the purview of individuals. Individuals, it must be remembered, have a choice of whether to invest their human capital in the organization.
· Leverage -- It is not enough to simply share past information and practices; improvements must be made to solve new problems. The ability of teams to synthesize, challenge and enhance past approaches is what establishes the basis for innovation. This is where collective information is interpreted, tested and transformed. Organizational growth, learning and value are now being formed. This capability has its roots in "double-loop" or generative learning (Argysis, 1977 and Senge, 1990).
· Innovate -- Organizational innovation occurs if: 1) the collective body of knowledge and know-how grows, 2) people work together 3) collective knowledge is enhanced and extended and 4) these lessons are applied to move the organization forward. If application does not occur, the organization remains essentially unchanged. Innovation can take a number of forms. It can result in breakthrough ideas, patents, products and methods or it can lead to more gradual improvements in quality, timeliness and cost effectiveness.
The Multiplier Level extends the impact and influence of the learning organization. If the contribution level supplies the substance of the organizational performance improvement, the multiplier level helps to provide its soul to a broader audience.. Without this level, organizational learning would be apparent for a period of time; but would not become ingrained and part of a perpetuating learning culture. The main organizational capabilities of the multiplier level are:
· Mentor - The mentor-mentee relationship can be a rich source of insights, guidance and practical wisdom. It is also a vehicle for both the mentor and mentee to pass on, enrich and extend improved organizational learning practices. Since these discussions usually occur outside the direct reporting and work environment, these lessons get passed along to other spheres of influence within the enterprise. As networks and social capital expand, mentoring becomes a way to enrich relationships and extend influence.
· Network-- Some people argue that social capital (know-who) is a more significant organizational asset than human capital (know-how), given how quickly knowledge and conditions change. The ability to expand social networks and relationships, both internally and externally, is vital to improving the visibility and credibility of organizational learning. It is also a key ingredient in gaining broader consensus and laying the foundation for a perpetuating learning culture.
· Inspire - Passion has its place. All learning, whether individual or organizational, encompasses change, and this is difficult to accomplish under any circumstance. Champions help to provide the motivation for change and also serve as role models to guide others. Inspiration is not only the key to implementing change but helping to establish a culture that values learning, growth and continuous improvement.
The contribution and multiplier levels work together to foster organizational learning. If the organizational capabilities in the contribution level exist and work together seamlessly, then the collective level of organizational learning rises. If the capabilities in the multiplier level are present, integrated and effective, then organizational learning's influence is extended and a learning culture begins to take hold.
The Organizational Context
Some organizations can grow organizational learning capabilities; others cannot overcome the considerable barriers, in spite of best intentions. The best collaboration, mentoring and networking programs, for example, will go nowhere unless the company actively and enthusiastically supports these initiatives. This commitment often comes from senior management, but because of global success stories such as Shell, Philips and GE, more and more CEOs are "signing on" to the value of maximizing the use, development and deployment of their talent.
There are three organizational factors that directly impact organizational learning. One makes organizational learning easier, one makes it possible and the other makes it expected. These three factors are:
· Systems -- Technology can both facilitate and amplify organizational learning. The amount of information, people and structural capital within organizations is immense and without some way to systematize these resources, they are difficult to access, let along share and leverage. Technology has usually been used for communication platforms (Intranets), training delivery (e-learning), collaboration (web meetings and business platforms) and knowledge management. Problems arise, however, when organizations expect technology alone to drive organizational learning. It can't and it hasn't, despite the power of these systems and what vendors suggest. Poorly constructed technical systems can also impede organizational learning.
· Culture --If organizational learning is inconsistent with the culture and values of the organization, it will whither. Examples of an inconsistent culture might be one that supports strict hierarchical relationships, cycles through a great many people, or values cost reduction above value creation. Just as the soft Ss in the McKinsey 7S framework (shared values, skills, staff and style) are more influential than hard factors such as structure and systems in the effectiveness of implementing strategy, culture is what makes organizational learning possible. If a company's culture initially supports the basic precepts of organizational learning; and then the organization develops learning capabilities and begins to demonstrate their value, learning can then become embedded and instilled as part of the ongoing company culture.
· Performance Management - The organization needs to craft job responsibilities, programs and objectives to ensure that organizational learning is expected, part of everyday activities, and rewarded. If this type of motivation and reinforcement is not present, then momentum wanes and companies fall out of alignment and revert to past practices. When employees are aligned and focused on organizational learning, then it can begin to achieve its unfulfilled potential.
If the talent of an organization is its most precious (and expensive) asset, there must be ways to discuss the continued development and expansion of these intangible assets. If we believe the rhetoric of the knowledge economy, we must at least be able to converse about a company's most prized possessions and its wealth. The models and frameworks from the training and education disciplines are not helpful because they focus on individual not organizational learning. Similarly, the evaluation and return on investment literature offers little guidance because it looks at particular programs and not learning that is additive and cumulative over time. In addition, these evaluation models are rather exclusively focused on cost reduction as opposed to value and knowledge creation.
The frameworks from strategists and organizational developers have proved to be not much more useful. They are either too abstract or too segmented. Many treatments, for example, focus on a piece of the puzzle such as knowledge management or collaboration, but not the power of an organization that grows, develops and continues to create more intangible capital..
The framework for organizational learning has been presented as a vehicle to begin the important discussion about practical ways in which the knowledge and wealth of an organization can grow. The framework's levels and organizational capabilities are taken from the nexus between instructional design and organizational development where learning becomes both meaningful to the individual and to the organization. Some training and HR professionals may not want to enter this new organizational learning arena because it is ill-defined, complex and high-stakes. It is safer to retreat to our specialties. But organizational learning has great promise precisely because it is so important, yet poorly understood. If we come out of our silos, we have a lot to contribute.
The rate at which organizations learn may become the only sustainable competitive advantage
Peter Senge, 1990
Argyis, C. "Double-loop learning in organizations." Harvard Business Review, 55(5), 115-125
Cross, J. "Informal learning: the other 80%." The Internet Time Group, 2003
Davenport, T. Human Capital: What It Is and Why People Invest It.? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1999
De Geus, A. "The nature of organizations." Hr.com online learning, 2004
Fitz-enz, J. ROI of Human Capital. New York, NY: AMACOM, 2000
Greenspan, A. In: The Human Capital Challenge. Alexandria, VA: ASTD, 2003
Huber, G. "Organizational learning: the contributing process and literatures." Organizational Science, 2.88:115
Senge, P. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York, NY: Doubleday/Currency, 1990
Weatherly, L. "Human capital: the elusive asset." SHRM Research Quarterly. 1, 2003
Weatherly, L. "The value of people." SHRM Research Quarterly. 3, 2003
For your listening pleasure, here's a seventeen-minute presentation on why the eLearning Forum is morphing into Emergent Learning Forum.
On Tuesday, January 27th, eLearning Forum became the Emergent Learning Forum.
Is the eLearning Forum abandoning eLearning? Heavens, no. eLearning needs a broader stage. We are trying to push eLearning out of its silo so it can conect with the outside world. We are intent on positioning Emergent Learning as a core business process.
When our group started meeting back in 1999, eLearning was an infant. Then, as now, our enthusiasts, volunteers all, saw themselves as pioneers, not homesteaders. We've always thought of "ourselves as innovators and provocateurs."
Baby has grown up. eLearning has reached adolescence. We elders have to let it get out of the house to make its own friends. The action is moving from eLearning itself to how eLearning relates with others. The excitement is in what comes next. It's evolving now. It's emergent. More on this theme at Emergent Learning Forum.
A personal catalyst for the change was recognizing that so many things that have my attention don't naturally come under the traditional definition of eLearning:
Social network analysis
JIT knowledge management
Learning as business process
RSS, search learning
Avatars & agents
Business inangibles metrics
If these techniques and technologies help people lead more productive and happy lives, and relate to learning, I don't intend to exclude them from discussion because they don't comfortably fit under the common definitions of eLearning.
This morning I called up the PowerPoint slides I used when announcing the Emergent Learning Forum earlier this week in Mountain View. Using Macromedia Breeze, I narrated the presentation, clicked to upload it to the web, and started to the kitchen for another cup of coffee.
The cord from my headset had caught in my belt. I realized this when my little Sony laptop came crashing down on the floor from it's 4' perch on my drafting table. "Oh, no!" I picked up the computer and various doodads attached to it and gently opened the cover. Low and behold, it's still uploading. I don't want to try this ever again, but it's comforting to know that you can bounce a Sony VAIO off the floor without obliterating it.
Written January 25, 2004
I've been learning about complexity -- the sort of complexity they dwell on at the Santa Fe Instittue, the realm of John Holland, Stuart Kauffman, Murray Gell-Mann, and their pals.
This isn't the first time my mind has rebelled at the Newtonian worldview. No, everything doesn't tick like a giant watch. While I continually fight self-denial about this, my mind is not a digital computer. There's no stored program inside executing if-then-else statements.
Logic alone will never describe the redwood outside my window, the color blue in the poster above my desk, or the pleasure I get from patting my dog Smoky's head in the morning. Lockstep logic? Cue Peggy Lee singing, "Is that all there is? Is that all there is?"
Taylor's book has sparked some memories that had been under wraps for some time. It took me back to a college classroom where Professor Walter Kaufman is engaging us in his views of "Hegel, Nietsche, and Existentialism." Professor Kaufman told us about scholars who surmised that humankind had taken a fork in the road of philosophy some time during the Golden Age of Greece. They poured over artefacts like the last remaining fragments of Heraclitus in hopes of seeing what was along the road not travelled.
Complexity is the answer. It's an alternative worldview. It coexists with Newtonian mechanics. It's also a place to put things we don't yet understand.
The mind always tries to take things too far. Neither complexity nor our conventional views are "all that there is." It's a both/and situation. Just as Taylor himself commits the fundamental error of eLearning -- that computers alone can be the teachers -- there's a temptation to postulate that complexity underlies everything. That flies in the face of our cultural tradition and lots of useful stuff that works in stable conditions. Acting as if everything were a complex system would probably land you in a straight-jacket in a padded room. No one else would "get it."
Last night I was criticizing Taylor's "automatic writing" as a cop-out, and here I am doing it myself. I have no outline. This is stream of consciousness, modified only a sentence in advance by my drive to share my findings, entertain you with my quirkiness, and retain some sense of grammar.
My apologies to Taylor for making fun of his book in my blog last night. I was missing the message. It worked for me. Might it work for you? That depends. I doubt that my mind could have wrapped itself around The Moment of Complexity without help from Walter Kaufman, Hazel Henderson, and The User Illusion.
The metaphor of complex adaptive systems helps me assilimilate some of the thoughts that have popped up on my internal radar this last year, among them:
Individual success in business is the result of what you know and who you know. (Yeah, I know it's more complicated than that, but it's late. Bear with me.)
What happens when you integrate aspects of eLearning, informal learning, collaboration, social networking, expertise location, and e-portfolios?
The Emergent Learning Forum (until last Tuesday, the eLearning Forum) is going to take up this topic in late February. If you can lay claim to expertise in both camps, i.e. eLearning and Social Software, please get in touch
Alex Gault and I want to pick your brain.
Learning = content + context
Context = what social software's all about