June 25, 2004

Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!

Researchers warn of infectious Web sites


It looks like the Internet is turning into a world wide minefield this morning.

MS issues warning on Web attacks, pushes XP SP2 beta

The warnings from the Redmond, Washington, company came as antivirus and computer security experts said Friday that an organized gang of Russian hackers were behind the attacks and were using the security holes in a coordinated, global attack to steal sensitive personal and financial information from customers of leading banking and e-commerce Web sites.

Major Internet Attack Under Way

Security experts say Russian hackers are using a sophisticated attack to compromise major E-commerce Web sites, which then infect visitors with hacker tools designed to steal passwords and financial data, and possibly spew spam.

Web browser flaw prompts warning

Users are being told to avoid using Internet Explorer until Microsoft patches a serious security hole in it. The loophole is being exploited to open a backdoor on a PC that could let criminals take control of a machine.

Warning: Widespread Internet Attack Possible

U.S. official sources, along with Internet security experts, are warning of a mysterious virus that can turn infected computers into spam-delivering zombies. The virus apparently has attacked thousands of servers that power popular Web sites already.

IIS 5 Web Server Compromises
US-CERT recommends that end-users disable JavaScript unless it is absolutely necessary. Users should be aware that any web site, even those that may be trusted by the user, may be affected by this activity and thus contain potentially malicious code.

Antivirus experts and the U.S. Homeland Security Department are warning of a mysterious virus that has attacked "thousands" of Web servers that power a number of popular Web sites, none of which the department has yet identified.

The threat of infection is so high because the code created to exploit the loophole has somehow been placed on many popular websites. Experts say the list of compromised sites involves banks, auction and price comparison firms and is growing fast.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 10, 2004

The Big Picture on ROI

Capitalworks' Jeff Kelley addressed this morning's meeting of the Learning Economics Group on the topic of Dimensions, Dynamics and Drivers of Learning: Optimizing Learning Value for Capital Effects. If you really want to get to Level 4 at the highest level, Jeff's your man.

Lucky for you, you can grab Jeff's PowerPoint presentation here.

Capitalworks' logic and findings are the best I know of. They inspired my understanding of informal learning and metrics. The Capitalworks material is so compact yet so eloquent that it's almost poetry. Let me amend that. It's poetry if you're conversant with the concepts of finance.

Jeff and his partners get it. Jeff contends that "Learning is the single greatest contributor in all enterprises to superior operating performance and robust value creation."

Capitalworks stalks Learning Effectiveness, defined as:

    The performance of an organization's applied learning portfolio in contributing to operating performance and value creation. Applied learning includes formal learning (training) and informal learning occurring naturally in social practice.

Why is learning vital?

  • Learning enables flows and exchanges of knowledge through diverse intra- and inter-enterprise interactions.
  • Learning transcends hierarchical constraints.
  • Learning connects demand drivers.
  • Learning accelerates systemic effects.

Learning is the great enabler of flows and exchanges of knowledge. With flow, you are primed. Everyone has workarounds. Workarounds are really positive. Learning transcends hierarchical constraints. Organizations are not optimized to connect demand drivers. In fact, we're living with obsolete, 19th century organizational structures created for an illiterate workforce long before the advent of computers. Jeff points out that "Optimizing dimensions, dynamics and drivers of learning are natural means of transforming costs of coordination in all enterprises and their ecosystems." Learning itself is the ultimate workaround.

Learning is one of our primary earning assets and we should manage it that way. Looking at the flows, here's the Value Creation Circulatory System:

It's nonlinear, continuous. Process orientation. Feedback loops are critical. A single measure doesn't get us there. (Emergence, emergence....)

What enables flow? Self-study contributed as much to job proficiency as instructor-led training programs. Own volition. Regard selves as professionals. Informal learning dynamics contributed 70-to-80% of operating performance. Cohesion of social practice contributed to learning effectiveness, with informal learning as an enabler. Conversations are the primary conduit:

Read this one twice if you need to; it's important. "We see contributions by learning, like other intangibles, through value drivers. They enable us to depict causal relationships in the interactions associated with transactions, decision flows, procedures and other normal activities. Value drivers interact in clusters and sets throughout organizational work practices."

Intangibles, which we had thought of the sauce, is what it takes to drive performance.

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."
Albert Szent-Györgyi


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April 11, 2004

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
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April 02, 2004

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.

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March 03, 2004

Rearranging the Cerebral Furniture

This morning's email contained the monthly update of Jane Knight's e-Learning Centre. I traipsed over to Jane's What's New page, and now, an hour later, my head is swimming in cool new stuff and even more that I feel compelled to read.

What caught my eye?

Many of those items left breadcrumbs to other interesting material but after three or four hops, I'd remind myself that I have to complete my taxes today and return to eLearning Centre.

I learn by recording new findings and insights on a blog or in my online journal. Categorizing factoids forces them to link into my wetware network. Selecting the right category is getting tougher and tougher, because my interests are expanding as I seek knowledge from a variety of disciplines. The old boundaries between fields are disintegrating.

In the last year, I've become intrigued by complex systems, social networking, contextual collaboration, content aggregation, value networks, realtime enterprise, business process modeling, the economic return from intangible assets, and more.

Earlier this week, I was giving a presentation at a conference. (I also learn by listening to myself; I don't know where some of this stuff comes from. Increasingly I simply channel my stream of consciousness, passing off the work of my subconscious mind as if it were something I'd consciously thought about.)

One of my points was a foundation of Sam's and my thinking at the Workflow Institute, namely that information of every sort is growing exponentially. The amount of information in businesses doubles every 18 months.

In the five years that have elapsed since I began writing about eLearning in 1998, the world has churned out as much information as in the entire previous history of civilization!!
Remember the Sorcerer's Apprentice in the movie Fantasia? No matter how many brooms are bailing, the water continues to rise. Imagine the water is information. No matter how efficient your FiloFax or DayTimer, no matter how many time management books you've read, and no matter how much multitasking you do, it's not going to be enough to keep you above the rising tide.

I like to look at problems from different levels. Is there a micro-level solution? If I go up a few notches, does a new pattern emerge? Have I been spending too much time immersed in the content, when I'd be better off tweaking the process?

A couple of things come to mind.

  1. A new personal taxonomy. I need to reconfigure my categories and their interconnections. I've been maintaining public pages on

      Building Community
      CSS, Semantic Mark-Up, and codes
      First Principles
      How People Learn
      Knowledge Management
      Learning Links
      Learning Standards
      Making It Work (Implementing)
      Metrics & ROI
      Social Software
      The eLearning Museum
      Visual Learning
      Workflow Learning

  2. ...and I've been using these categories to classify Internet Time Blog entries:

      Customer care
      Emergent Learning
      Just Jay
      Workflow-based eLearning

    I'll probably draw a concept map using these topics and categories as nodes. Then I'll be able to recognize what I've been missing.

  3. Collaboration. Since there's no way on earth I'm going to keep up to date with these subjects by trolling source documents, I will hone the quality of my editorial network.

    Perhaps I'll apply Rob Cross's notation for analyzing social links in business to people I learn from. Rate the editors, so to speak. Look out for echo effects, group think, frequency, freshness, disciplinary focus, etc.

Learning is work.

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

March 02, 2004

Ahead of his time

People have called Dave Winer by many names, names I can't repeat before the kids are safe in bed for the night.

Dave's an edgy guy. He's out there. Often he's a lightening rod. He can be obnoxious. To the chagrin of some of his critics, Dave is also brilliant.

Five years ago, Dave threw his energy, and there's a lot of it, behind an obscure protocol, XML, writing...

...XML, the emerging standard for information exchange and remote procedure calling over the Internet.

First, here's why we think XML is exciting.

  • The most important thing about XML is that it will give users choices. If Microsoft, for example, were to store all their Office files in an open and documented XML format then you could use any other XML-compatible tool, such as Frontier, to work on the files. This creates opportunities for new kinds of workflow, building on the tools that writers and designers prefer.

  • The web of HTML documents is good for what it is, simple display markup with links. But there are a lot of different, non-HTML user interfaces, such as spreadsheets and presentation programs, that are well understood and none of them are particularly relevant to HTML.

  • XML is a fresh start, taking the best ideas of the web (open file formats, cross-platform, low-techness) and bringing it to a broader range of software.

  • If XML achieves its promise, it should clean up text-based exchange formats, comma-delimited, tab-indented, etc.

  • And it presents an opportunity to flatten incompatibilies between wire protocols, Apple Events, COM, CORBA, etc.

  • But the key to all these things is compatibility, that's the big payoff for users.

Interoperability. As Dave would say, Coooooooooooool!

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 12, 2004

Personal Intellectual Capital

This article appears in the current issue of CLO magazine.

Personal Intellectual Capital

you are the most important person in the universe.
so is everyone else.

e. e. cummings

Ultimately, you're responsible for the life you lead. It's up to you to learn what you need to succeed. That makes you responsible for your own knowledge management, learning architecture, instructional design and evaluation.

Professionally, we design learning experiences to meet concrete objectives. We plan ahead to prepare for the future. We try to avoid reinventing the wheel. We build systems to leverage the knowledge we already possess. We gather feedback so we can do better next time.

Personally, we should do no less. Intellectual capital is what separates winners from losers, and I want the best I can get. My personal learning and knowledge management are too important to leave to chance. So are yours.

Choose your goals. For next month, the next year, the next decade and before you die. Think about what you must learn to achieve them.

Become aware of how you learn. Your brain hosts a continuous, internal conversation. If you don't like what you hear, change it.

You don't need to know something if you know where to find it. Set up your own knowledge repository. For 20 years, I've saved factoids, quotations and reference information on my computer. It's searchable. I couldn't do without it.

You are what you learn. List your inputs--magazines, Web sites, courses and colleagues. Will these inputs enable you to learn what you need to know? If not, change them.

Life is not a true-or-false test. Everything is relative. Recognizing that what once appeared black or white is actually a continuum of grays is healthy unlearning.

Deep learning takes reflection. Every time you learn something, make a connection to something you already know. After attending any event, I give myself time to look over my notes, to write and to draw mind maps. Friends who took 6 a.m. flights to get back to the office won't retain nearly as much as I will.

Hanging out with the same crowd all the time limits innovation and encourages groupthink. To learn new things, leave your comfort zone and sample new disciplines and cultures. Use the Web to read other countries' newspapers, other professions' journals and other people's blogs.

Imagine that your field of work is a spinning disk. Things at the center move very slowly. Innovation resides at the periphery, far from that slow, established core. The edge is where your work interacts with that of others. You've got to be edgy if you seek fresh perspective.

Be your own sports psychologist. Visualize achieving your goals. Then go for it!

The process of change sees to it that lots of what you've learned is obsolete, inappropriate or simply dead wrong. The world is riddled with complexity. Admitting that some of what you know is wrong makes room to learn new things.

To deepen understanding and plant something in memory, teach it to someone else.

Human nature values urgency over importance. If the phone rings while you're working on an important project, you answer it. You defer the important to tend to the trivial. Dumb move. Dedicate time each day for long-term thinking. Take time to learn. Remember the 80/20 rule! And don't forget to cut off the phone.

Level 1. Are you happy? Do you lead the life you want to lead?

Level 2. Can you demonstrate what you're learning? Is your learning sound?

Level 3. Are you progressing in ways that increase your economic value? Are you deepening relationships with family and friends? Are you growing spiritually?

Level 4. Are you doing your part to make the world a better place?

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

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Culture swings


Cycles. To everything there is a season.

The focus of our culture seems to swing from technology to people and back. From institutions to individuals. From central authority to decentralization. From top-down control to bottom-up.

Extreme swings toward technology and institutions were Taylor's Scientific Management, robber barons, Business Process Reengineering, and narrowly-defined eLearning (removing all the people to make it work.) The pensulum had swung far in the opposite direction when we had flower children, itinerant hippies, anti-war protests, and, more recently, the Open Source movement and the proliferation of blogs.

I recognize the main current crashes into a lot of rocks. Eddies go the opposite direction. We can have guards with machine guns rooting through everyone's suitcases at the airport at the same time the power of the 'net gives a louder and louder voice to the people.

In yesterday's presentation for Collaborative Learning 04, we asked "In business culture, where's the pendulum this year?"

And the group replied:

Emphasis on institutions 0

In the middle 60%

Emphasis on individuals 40%

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 25, 2003

Out of the box & into the cloud

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

Thank you, Josef Albers

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

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

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

December 21, 2003


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next day...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 16, 2003

Changes afoot chez moi

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

  • If you read Internet Time Blog via RSS, it's partly because I finally located the errors that were botching my XML output. Your aggregator may have tried to catch up on several months' stuff as if it were all new.

  • A dozen posts are attributable to my rearranging the furniture here on the blog. I'm not content to publish only daily entries (in, of course, reverse chronological order), because some things are timeless. Or at least they'll last longer than a couple of months. I don't want lose them in the archives.

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

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

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

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

November 27, 2003

W4 k-collector

A very cool tool that aggregates RSS feeds and parses them into categories. Roland Tanglao explains:

    Organisations do not only move thanks to the efforts of individuals working for them but also because they are acted upon by external forces. Most often markets, competitors, customers and government bodies. The better an organisation can understand and predict these external forces, the more chance it has of achieving it's goals.

    This is where RSS aggregators help, and where K-collector, which is a topics-based RSS aggregator, can make the difference.

    K-Collector is a server based RSS aggregator that automatically builds an onthology of posts organised by topics which are defined by the users. The topics as markers for points of interest around which K-Collector can cluster information. In particular it can be used to filter and categorize content coming via RSS from newspapers, magazines, web sites, weblogs, email, data bases and other sources.

    Besides, being tightly connected to a weblogging environment, the K-collector aggregator allows an organisation to leverage the most powerful information filter available: ourselves. Each of us has developed the skill to quickly detect relevant knwoledge in the huge flow of information that we receive every day. By using weblogs and aggregators, each person can contribute by highlighting this knowledge and share it instantly with others.

    This allow the organisation to be aware of the surrounding world and to take timely action when needed.

W4 k-collector would let me pick the concepts I want to follow, giving me a personalized news board.

It's easier just to experience W4 than to read a description of it.

(thx to Stephen Downes for the link)

Another cool thing: a Reverse Dictionary. Start with a definition, get a word.

And an IMRC - Information Management Glossary

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Serendipitous learning

The Japanese maples are the only trees showing fall colors in this speck of Mediterranean climate on the shores of San Francisco Bay. Our weather confuses the plants into blooming and shedding leaves one species at a time. Transitions are slower here than environments with more extreme seasonal patterns.

It's Thanksgiving morning, the wind is blowing leaves from those Japanese maples around the yard, and somewhere down below in the People's Republic of Berkeley, students or aging hippies are probably protesting Puritan brutality toward Native Americans at the first Thanksgiving. The pesky Europeans never paid for what they got! Who's the savage, the generous host or the ungrateful interloper? But I digress....

After taking a few photographs of leaves to get my priorities straight, I set out to do some shotgun learning. No, I'm not going after the squirrels, raccoons, and skunks that live in the back yard. Rather, I'm hopping onto the net to sift through items in some favorite hangouts just to see what's out there today. It's more edgy and less predictable than reading the New York Times.

I opened Stephen's Edu_RSS Feed. After a few items in German (too early in the morning for that) I came to a link mentioning The Web: Design for Active Learning. "This handbook will present the idea of interactivity as it applies to a cohesive design including high interface, content, and instructional design." This took me to the Carving Code blog, and that linked me to George Siemens'eLearngspace blog. Eventually I got to the original article, a piece by Katy Campbell, who's with Academic Technologies for Learning at the University of Alberta.

I got lucky. The Web: Design for Active Learning turned out to be exactly the puzzle piece I needed to add to my growing framework for Instructional Artistry.

You've heard it said that "You make your own luck." It's related to "Fortune favors the bold," Virgil's maxim that you've got to try hard to get anywhere. My pathway down the web was not entirely random, even though the result was unexpected.

For years I've maintained a list of links to favorite hangouts, the eLearning Jump Page. Stephen's Edu_RSS heads the list of Top eLearning Reference Sources. Stephen and I have met. We often read one another's work. I haven't met the author of Carving Code F2F, but I respect what I've read there in the past. I've been tracking George Siemens' work since his blog first appeared. George has addressed the eLearning Forum via Interwise. I'm delighted with the interview with me that George posted this time last year.

We who share our thoughts online, driven more by personal interest than commercial reward, are a loosely-knit Community of Practice. People ask where I find the time to blog. I explain that this is the way I think. It doesn't take much extra time to divert a few sentences into blog. That trail of words and images becomes a lure to people on paths that parallel mine.

I'm thankful to have a medium for starting conversations on things that interest me.

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

November 22, 2003

Learning works

A posting to Learning Circuits Blog last week stated that "Training doesn't work. Knowledge Management doesn't work. eLearning doesn't work."

Nonetheless, learning works. Workers in some organizations are learning to perform complex tasks in record time. If traditional training and KM and eLearning don't work, what do we call it when learning works? And who's in charge of that?

At eLearning Producer in San Francisco, Deloitte & Touche presented Creating an Integrated Blended Environment using Simulations, Coaching and Teamwork. Their challenge was to get 6,000 professionals up and running, individually and as teams, on a "methodology," i.e. procedures for a consulting engagement. Deloitte decided early on that the learning context would model the work context, involving teams, performance risks, peer interaction, and mentors. They gave a demo; it was quite engaging.

A primary element of the learning experience was a simulation of a project that was punctuated with decisions to make. After an introduction, all learning was learning by doing. Upon completion, the learners had experience applying the methodology, working with their team, using support services and help lines, and figuring out the best way to get the job done.

Notice that what's working for Deloitte bears scant resemblance to the standard definitions of eLearning. There's no course. You don't need an LMS. You learn with others. The boundary between learning and work is blurred. Deloitte hasn't developed a "program;" they call it an "environment."

In another eLearning Producer session, my friend Marc Rosenberg pointed out that we're learning all the time, not just in a classroom. Learning is formal and informal, explicit and tacit, trial and error, doing and observing, guided and unguided. Our sources are courses, instuctors, the web, experts, books, documents, friends, newspapers, and so on and so on. Sometimes it's appropriate to go after learning; other times it's better for learning to come to us. If you know where to find an answer, you may not need to learn it at all. Success comes from applying the right tools in the right proportions to accomplish the goal.

While Marc was making his eLearning Producer presentation, Conrad Gottfredson was in the next room, making much the same point. He bought a book in London, Learn Scuba Diving in a Weekend. Clearly a mismatch of medium and message. Rather than decry the weaknesses of eLearning, we must compensate for them so that the learning that needs to take place does take place. The toolkit must contain more than "class" and "online." As designers, we must match the learning modality (including animation, video, collaboration, e-labs, telephone, on-job coaching and the like) to the human requirements (rapport, perception, inspiration, prescription and so forth).

You've probably read my thoughts on this before. Give an instructional designer an eLearning hammer, and every analysis points to the need for more eLearning nails.

The new learning embraces such things as:

  • communities of practice
  • active collaboration
  • embedded support
  • simulation
  • informal learning
  • story-telling
  • dynamic portals
  • expert locators
  • social network analysis
  • learning on demand
  • give and take
  • learner control
  • co-creation
  • workflow integration
  • search
  • help desks
  • spontaneity, emergence
  • outsourced mentoring
  • games
  • keeping up
  • personal knowledge management

At the November eLearning Forum, we grappled with what to call ourselves. If eLearning doesn't embrace the items on the above list, we've got to dump the term. So what do we call ourselves? The Learning Forum is not compelling. Someone suggested the Distributed Learning Forum but many things on the list don't have to be distributed.

The Transformation Forum, The Community of Change, The Human Side of Enterprise, The Emergent Learning Network, The Know-How Group?
Part of the dilemma is that the basket of tools and techniques above has no home on the typical business organization structure. Responsibility shared by all forfeits responsibility by any. The effectiveness of our people is too important to hand over to the training department and too humanistic to give to the CIO. The chief learning officer was supposed to tackle this, but CLO has been much more successful as a magazine title than as a position with clout in organizations.

Help me out here.

What business are we in?

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 08, 2003

Peering into the crystal ball

At TechLearn, Mark Oehlert presented his findings on The Future of eLearning Models and the Language We Use to Describe Them. Mark calls it like he (and I) sees it. This is a perceptive, on-target summary of where eLearning is headed. Mark's key findings:

  • While a more expansive definition of e-learning has been much discussed, requirements are now emerging that seek to make real some of those ideas (e.g. performance support, augmented reality, on-demand personalized instruction).
  • While cultural change continues to be cited as one of the main hurdles to successful implementation of e-learning, no e-learning vendors seem to be packaging change management with their products.
  • M-learning continues to gain buzz and momentum
  • Economic models for selling e-learning will have to shift away from ‘catalog’ shopping to a service-oriented model.
  • Gaming and simulation are poised to make huge impacts in this market space.
  • Copyright and other legal issues pose potentially great problems for the future of e-learning.
  • The ‘course’, as a meaningful unit of instruction, may well be doomed.
  • The cell phone is almost universally considered a learning device.
  • A continuation of the move toward “pay as you go” could actually allow smaller shops to get up and competing by providing lower barriers to entry.
  • Globalization is forcing a hard focus on US-centric practices and content

Here's Mark's Power Point. The William Gibson quote is absolutely brilliant and will eventually show up on my Time page

Mark interviewed Stephen Downes at length. You must read his unexpurgated version to get the full flavor of the exchange. Stephen:

    We need to stop thinking of online content as analogous to things. That’s the beginning and the end of it. Even if the language of ‘things’ is more suited to both contemporary academic discourse and commercial discourse, the reality is that when you find yourself immersed on an online environment it becomes evident and apparent that online content is much more like a stream than a collection of objects. That’s why I use analogies like the electrical system or the water system, and not (as Elliott does) analogies like bookstores or warehouses.


    At this point in history we not only have much greater powers of communication and expression than ever before, we also have access to greater riches than ever before. But there is a sense that we are at a peak, and with shortages in raw materials looming, there is a retrenchment happening, a vigorous conflict over the control of ideas, over the control of resources, and in the end, over control of people.

Clearly Canadian, Stephen gives his view of cultural imperialism:

    is the worldwide export of American culture, usually draped in the clothing of values and ideals. Many writers have remarked on this and so I don't need to go into a lot of detail: this not merely the export of McDonalds and everything it represents (wage-labour, corporate subservience, fast food production, massive advertising, and more) and Mickey Mouse (Scrooge style capitalism, greed, individualism and more) but also the twin towers of individualism and capitalism (and yes, I did use the analogy deliberately). These are wrapped in a dressing of 'freedom' and 'democracy', but these values are viewed very differently in the rest of the world. Americans, of course, are free to hold to these values, but those that must see them impregnating every book, movie, television show, and learning material (and also the IMF, WTO, and more) exported from the U.S. into the educational fabric must offer some form of resistance.

    Most of the world is far more communually oriented than the United States, far more than most Americans realize, and the political and social agenda that is offered under the banners of 'freedom' and 'democracy' are perceived, even in modern industrial democracies as Canada, as undermining hard-won social and cultural values. This is not merely a cultural facade; it will not be addressed by merely 'localizing' materials; it runs deeply into the selection and presentation of learning. Renaming the 'French and Indian War' to the term everyone else in the world uses, 'The Seven Years War', isn't just relabeling, it is a change of context, of protagonists, of history. Rewriting the history of the War of 1812 to reflect what actually happened, an opportunistic (because of the Napoleonic wars) American invasion of Canada that was rebuffed by a rag-tag army of First Nations (ie., 'Indians') and militia volunteers, isn't just a case of rebranding.

The exchange between Mark and Stephen is a wonderful example of a new form of online learning: the email interview. Aside from baiting the U.S. right (Stephen would fit right in here in the People's Republic of Berkeley), Stephen makes some great observations -- and you must read them in his own words to grok the message.

    The learning environment merges with the work environment; each, in turn, an extension of the worker, who with a new capacity for empowerment and self-actualization increasingly enters relationships of mutual association with a corporate structure - it is a dynamic relationship, full of tacit assumptions and convenient fictions (the corporation promises security, which the employee knows is an outright lie; and conversely the employee promises loyalty, which the employer knows will last only as long as the good times do). Learning, then, becomes a tacit agreement between employee and employer, selected by the employee with an eye to personal empowerment and development, aided by the employer, with an eye to developing native talent in- house (if not, any more, specific skills).

Another gem is Daniel Schneider's Conception and implementation of rich pedagogical scenarios through collaborative portal sites, although as the title alone tips you off, this one's quite academic in tone. I have yet to make it through all 40 pages but the topic is intriguing:

    Often, one associates new rich and open pedagogies are with “learner-centered”. We believe that being “learner-centered” is not sufficient, since main-stream content-transmission- centered e-learning also rightly claims to be learner-centered, since students can look at contents and do exercises and tests at their own speed. Good learner-centered pedagogics may also be very teacher-centered, since the role of the teacher can become very complex and demanding. Let’s recall the three principle roles that we attribute to the teacher-designer of structured, but active, open and rich educational scenarios:
    • His role as a manger is to ensure productivity, i.e. that learners do things.
    • His role as a facilitator is the help them in their choices and to suggest resources and tools that will help them to solve problems and get tasks done.
    • His role as an orchestrator is to create “story-boards”, i.e. to break down projects into scenarios, and scenarios into phases. He also may decompose problems into manageable sub-problems or alternatively encourage and help students to do so themselves.

    It is very important to respect a principle of “harmony”, to find an equilibrium of different
    pedagogical strategies and tactics and not (and we insist on this) to be tempted by
    over-scripting. In our philosophy, a teacher should think of himself primarily as a “landscaper” who uses ICT to build places where learners can “sculpt” according to some rule and with as much help as appropriate. Because of their modular architecture, a well trained teacher can configure portals and its “tools” according to his own needs. He can also hunt down new modules. He can re-purpose tools, e.g. he could use quizzes which are normally used for assessment as discussion openers. He can also suggest to the increasing number of technical support people that can be found in the school system to develop new tools. Since this technology is focused on “orchestration” and not content delivery, we believe that it will spread in the nearer future with almost the same ease as web pages did, but it will bring new functionalities. Teachers should have control over their environment and they can share their experience within teacher portals using the same technology and both fit the C3MS philosophy.

    [C3MS = Community, Content and Collaboration Management Systems]

    Finally, C3MS may be a chance to promote the open and sharing “Internet
    Spirit” to education, which is threatened by the philosophy of the closed so-called “educational platforms”, e-learning systems or whatever are called today’s main stream systems sold without as much success as they claim to the educational system. According to
    our initial experience, and despite many difficulties - like administrative hurdles, the time
    it takes to accommodate new pedagogical strategies, the disputable ergonomics of some
    software that we will have to overcome - teachers who engaged themselves “love it” and
    their students too.

    (via EdTech Post)

    The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview by Clay Shirky.

      The W3C's Semantic Web project has been described in many ways over the last few years: an extension of the current web in which information is given well-defined meaning, a place where machines can analyze all the data on the Web, even a Web in which machine reasoning will be ubiquitous and devastatingly powerful. The problem with descriptions this general, however, is that they don't answer the obvious question: What is the Semantic Web good for?

      The simple answer is this: The Semantic Web is a machine for creating syllogisms. A syllogism is a form of logic, first described by Aristotle, where "...certain things being stated, something other than what is stated follows of necessity from their being so." [Organon]

      The canonical syllogism is:

      • Humans are mortal
      • Greeks are human
      • Therefore, Greeks are mortal

      with the third statement derived from the previous two.

      The Semantic Web specifies ways of exposing these kinds of assertions on the Web, so that third parties can combine them to discover things that are true but not specified directly. This is the promise of the Semantic Web -- it will improve all the areas of your life where you currently use syllogisms.

      Which is to say, almost nowhere.

    To which I say, damn, damn, damn. I drank the KoolAde when Tim Berners-Lee wrote about the Semantic Web in Scientific American. This was supposed to solve problems, not compound them.

      Despite their appealing simplicity, syllogisms don't work well in the real world, because most of the data we use is not amenable to such effortless recombination. As a result, the Semantic Web will not be very useful either.

      The people working on the Semantic Web greatly overestimate the value of deductive reasoning (a persistent theme in Artificial Intelligence projects generally.) The great popularizer of this error was Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes stories have done more damage to people's understanding of human intelligence than anyone other than Rene Descartes. Doyle has convinced generations of readers that what seriously smart people do when they think is to arrive at inevitable conclusions by linking antecedent facts. As Holmes famously put it "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

      This sentiment is attractive precisely because it describes a world simpler than our own. In the real world, we are usually operating with partial, inconclusive or context-sensitive information. When we have to make a decision based on this information, we guess, extrapolate, intuit, we do what we did last time, we do what we think our friends would do or what Jesus or Joan Jett would have done, we do all of those things and more, but we almost never use actual deductive logic.

    Shirky is great. Consider:

      ...the pattern for descriptions of the Semantic Web. First, take some well-known problem. Next, misconstrue it so that the hard part is made to seem trivial and the trivial part hard. Finally, congratulate yourself for solving the trivial part.

      ...After 50 years of work, the performance of machines designed to think about the world the way humans do has remained, to put it politely, sub-optimal. The Semantic Web sets out to address this by reversing the problem. Since it's hard to make machines think about the world, the new goal is to describe the world in ways that are easy for machines to think about.

      There is a list of technologies that are actually political philosophy masquerading as code, a list that includes Xanadu, Freenet, and now the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web's philosophical argument -- the world should make more sense than it does -- is hard to argue with. The Semantic Web, with its neat ontologies and its syllogistic logic, is a nice vision. However, like many visions that project future benefits but ignore present costs, it requires too much coordination and too much energy to effect in the real world, where deductive logic is less effective and shared worldview is harder to create than we often want to admit.

      Much of the proposed value of the Semantic Web is coming, but it is not coming because of the Semantic Web. The amount of meta-data we generate is increasing dramatically, and it is being exposed for consumption by machines as well as, or instead of, people. But it is being designed a bit at a time, out of self-interest and without regard for global ontology. It is also being adopted piecemeal, and it will bring with it with all the incompatibilities and complexities that implies. There are significant disadvantages to this process relative to the shining vision of the Semantic Web, but the big advantage of this bottom-up design and adoption is that it is actually working now.

    Bravo! Check his home page for more.

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October 28, 2003

A Controversial View of Meta-Learning

Imagine you are the Chief Learning Officer of a successful high-tech firm in SIlicon Valley. You hear about a new eLearning title, "Mavis Beacon Teaches Reading." It takes four hours to complete. It's self-instructional. It's delivered via the web. A learner can take it in small chunks. It guarantees to improve anyone's reading speed by 20%. It costs $39/person. Would you post this course on your corporate eLearning menu?

Of nearly fifty eLearning professionals presented with this question, not a one would put Mavis into their curriculum. Why? Some did not want to insult employees with something so basic. Others were 100% focused on improving business and customer service skills. Reading skills seem trivial in the grand scheme of things; there's so much everyone already has to learn.

Why wouldn't every CLO jump at an opportunity like this? I blame short-term thinking. If my time-horizon is only a week, investing four hours learning in order to save two hours is a losing deal. It's certainly not worth taking the risk that someone up top might brand me as expendable.

Expand the time-horizon to a year, and the economics become compelling. Today's knowledge worker spends at least two hours of every workday pouring over emails, memos, web pages, newspapers, brochures, journals, notes, presentations, and bulletins. That's five hundred hours a year! The reading course guarantees to save a hundred of those hours. At $40/hour per worker, fully loaded, that's $4,000 saved in the first year alone. A 100:1 payback!

Longer term, the value of improving a process becomes apparent. Process improvement is a gift that keeps on giving. But some people simply do not think this way. One person's process is another person's content. To envision a world of processes requires taking a broader perspective. It doesn't come naturally.

Chris Argyris has preached the benefits of "double-loop learning," i.e. improving the learning process, for decades. John Seely Brown told me he is investigating why double-loop learning has never caught on.

Doug Engelbart has dedicated half a century to augmenting human intelligence through process improvement and its derivatives. When I asked Doug what organization best exemplified his philosophy, he replied "None."

I blame schooling for discouraging systems thinking. Questioning the system is not in schooling's DNA. After all, schooling started with rabbis and priests explaining the word of God to illiterate believers. Critical thinking was blasphemy. Shut up and listen; this is God talking.

Two separate groups of college students were given a paper on urban sociology. The first group was told, "Read this. You'll be tested." The second group was told, "Read this. You'll be tested. And by the way, some of this material is quite controversial." The second group scored higher on the test. Why? Because uncertainty engages the mind.

School classes and corporate training would be more effective were learners initially told "This is our best thinking. It might be wrong. How do you see it?" That's a meta-learning tactic that would improve results without adding costs. You could preface all eLearning with a reminder that learners should look for ways to improve the content, drop thoughts in the electronic suggestion box, and that they organization is always on the lookout for ways to improve its service. Positioning a learning event as inquiry instead a recounting of someone else's truth puts a touch of humanity back into eLearning that's often sterile.

Getting the concept of meta-learning to take hold requires acceptance that nothing is set in stone. There are no givens. The world is uncertain. Everything is relative. People can learn to learn better by taking a long term view in which learning answers the inevitable query of "What's in it for me?"

Hungry for more of this? Check out the Meta-Learning Lab

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October 13, 2003

Somebody's looking over your shoulder

A chilling observation from today's New York Times:

    Jerry Brady, the chief technical officer of Guardent, a computer security firm, said, "You can assume that most hotel and airport lounge computers have had keystroke loggers installed at one time or another," whether because of commercial snoopware or key-loggers installed by viruses and worms.

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October 11, 2003


Oliver Sacks is amazing. I started riffing through the July 28 issue of The New Yorker while waiting for an appointment with my physician and landed on A Neurologist's Notebook, The Mind's Eye, What the blind see. Sacks begins:

    In his last letter, Goethe wrote, "The Ancients said that the animals are taught through their organs; let me add to this, so are men, but they have the advantage of teaching their organs in return."

Soon, Sacks is asking philosophical questions:

    To what extent are we -- our experiences, our reactions -- shaped, predetermined, by our brains, and to what extent do we shape our own brains? Does the mind run the brain or the brain the mind -- or, rather, to what extent does one run the other? To what extent are we the authors, the creators, of our own experiences?

Sacks fills the next eight pages with inquiries and stories about how the blind construct reality. The answer? In wildly different forms. Some become hypervisual, others go into "deep blindness," with no images at all. Not only that, the same is true of sighted people. Finally, Sacks concludes that answers are illusive.

    When I talk to people, blind or sighted, or when I try to think of my own internal representations, I find myself uncertain whether words, symbols, and images of various types are the primary tools of thought or whether there are forms of thought antecedent to all of these, forms of thought essentially amodal. Psychologists have sometimes spoken of "interlingua" or "mentalese," which they conceive to be the brain's own language, and Lev Vygotsky, the great Russian psychologist, used to speak of "thinking in pure meanings." I cannot decide wether this is nonsense or profound truth -- it is the sort of reef I end up on when I think about thinking.

And I sometimes end up a reefer myself when I contemplate the nature of learning. (Learning is simply adding to one's thinking, isn't it?)

    Imagination dissolves and transforms, unifies and creates, while drawing upon the "lower" powers of memory and association. It is by such imagination, such "vision," that we create or construct our individual worlds.

    At this level, one can no longer say of one's mental landscapes what is visual, what is auditory, what is image, what is language, what is intellectual, what is emotional -- they are all fused together and imbued with our own individual perspectives and values.

This echoes in my memory, for I've been jotting down "There is no theory of everything for learning" in my journals for the last few weeks without being able to take it much further. In learning, as in physics, everything is relative; every layer you peel off the onion reveals another onion. The closest we get to explanations is a set of probablities, tiny things whose existence is uncertain, and fever dreams about string and infinity.

Well, of course there are accidents. Aren't there?

The same issue of New Yorker concludes with a piece, "Strung Out," by Woody Allen. Woody writes:

    I am greatly relieved that the universe if finally explainable. I was beginning to think it was me. As it turns out, physics, like a grating relative, has all the answers. The big bang, black holes, and the primordial soup turn up every Tuesday in the Science section of the Times, and as a result my grasp of general relativity and quantum mechanics now equals Einstein's -- Einstein Moomjy, that is, the rug seller.

    The latest miracle of physics is string theory, which has been heralded as a T.O.E., or "Theory of Everything."

Woody and I are in sync.

    I awoke on Friday and because the universe is expanding it took me longer than usual to find my robe.

The concept that there's no Theory of Everything is liberating because it enables one to talk about the pieces without referencing the whole. It chucks the absolutes out the windown. It defeats extremism. It replaces this:

with this:

and, as Martha used to say, "It's a good thing."

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September 06, 2003

Personalized learning

Personalization is important

Did you ever read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People? Written in 1937, and still in print 15,000,000 copies later, How to… was the first people-skills book. “Deal with people so that they feel important and appreciated” is Carnegie’s timeless formula. “*Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

I contend that much of what passes for eLearning would benefit mightily from Carnegie’s advice.

Fifty years after Carnegie, Stan Davis coined the term mass customization to describe the ability to provide individualized services and goods with the efficiency of mass production. Mass customization was supposed to be one of the foundations of eLearning, but somehow it slipped through the cracks as vendors raced for quick fixes and quarterly revenue.

Up the revolution

Looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, I think first-generation eLearning ran off the tracks because investors thought the learning revolution would be a repeat of the industrial revolution. What VC wouldn’t fight for a piece of that action?

The industrial revolution succeeded because of the specialization of labor and the substitution of machines for labor; it took most of the people out of the equation. eLearning attempted to do the same thing. In the early days, eLearning was justified by the savings in instructor salaries and airplane tickets when learning migrated from the classroom to the desktop.

Of course, people aren’t bales of cotton and learning is social, so most of the early eLearning programs went down in flames.

Come into my store

Imagine if I operated a store that treated customers the way early eLearning treats learners. You bought an expensive item last week and come back into the store. No one acknowledges you or says hello. No one calls you by name. They’re already forgotten you were here before. They have no memory of your purchase. There isn’t much merchandise on the shelves and you’re not allowed to try anything on before you buy it. We never follow up. You want a personal shopper? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. That’s a good one.

Most eLearning is like this. Is it any wonder people don’t buy it?

Drop outs?

Lance Dublin and I interviewed dozens of companies while researching our book, Implementing eLearning. Why were so many people dropping out of eLearning? They told us:

  1. It was irrelvant to their jobs.
  2. They already knew the material.
  3. They hit roadblocks and had no one to turn to.
  4. The material was dull as dishwater.

If eLearning were personalized, these irritants would evaporate. (Well, perhaps not #4.)

Even my online bookstore remembers who I am and suggests new things for me to look at based on my previous selections and those of people like me. It’s always learning how to serve me better. It lets me go at my own pace, providing lots of directions so I’ll stay interested. I’ve yet to see an LMS that learns as well as Amazon does.

What others think

71 people responded to a short poll about the value of personalized learning. I’ll provide a summary here; I’ve posted the details on the web.

  1. Most respondents say personalization makes a difference or is very important. (But only 7% rate their own efforts better than so-so.)

  2. A solid majority think it important to avoid redundancy by automatically skipping over material the learner has already mastered. (But only half do it.)

  3. More than 90% think it’s important for learners to be able to annotate and highlight materials and “dogear” virtual pages. (But only 27% have implemented it.)

  4. Four out of five think it’s important for learners to be able to share notes, annotations, and content with other learners. (But only one in five do so.)

  5. Everyone thinks it important to tailor learning to the learner’s job requirement and competencies. (And 38% do it.)

  6. Everyone thinks collaboration with peers is important. (And 42% do it.)

  7. Most people deem it important to have a live mentor or learning coach to asnwer questions and help learners over rough spots. (But less than half do it.)

The bottom line

Most people think personalized learning is important. Less than half do anything about it. I sense lots of unrealized potential to be gained by “dealing with learners so that they will feel important and appreciated.”

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September 01, 2003

Leonardo's Laptop

I’m reading Leonardo’s Laptop by Ben Shneiderman. Ben was a fellow keynoter at the I-KNOW Conference in Graz earlier this year.

The big message is “Computing today is about what computers can do; the new computing will be about what people can do.”

Leonardo da Vinci excelled in science and art, as he detailed in the notebooks he always carried. Today he’d carry a tablet computer of some sort. The book looks at computing in learning, business, healthcare, and government, always asking What would Leonardo do?

The old computing was about mastering technology. Remember when people talked about how big their hard drives were or the clock speed of their processor chips? The new computing is about getting people together. We’ve gone from formulating database queries to participating in communities of practice. Teachers no longer teach; they guide. Sales people don’t sell; they form relationships. Shneiderman says “This Copernican shift is bringing concerns about users from the periphery to the center. The emerging focus is on what users want to do in their lives.”

I agree that “The new computing is about collaboration and empowerment—individually, organizationally, and societally,” but it’s also the way the world is starting to work. The computing is a reflection of the users rather than some new invention.

Great line: “The shift in attention is from AI to UI.” From artificial intelligence to user interface. The UI is “you” and “I.” The desired outcome is not a HAL 9000 that replaces man; it’s more like the old Outer Limits punchline: “To serve man.”

Shneiderman posits a universal creative process:


Then he sets up four tiers of relationships

SelfFamily and friendsColleaguesCitizens

He puts these into a grid: an activites and relationships table (ART). Seeing how the cells play out in learning, business, government, and medicine fill most of the rest of the text.

Family and friends

“Memorizing dates for Napolenon’s rule, names of the U.S. presidents, or rivers of Africa is less relevant in an age of ubiguqitous information. The new education accenturates critical thinking, analytical strategies, and working with people. This goals are tied to improving communication skills and creative problem solving.”

“The case for active learning was boldly stated in 1971 by the Canadian educator Wilard Wees in his aptly titled book Nobody Can Teach Anybody Anything:
bq.Whatever knowledge children gain they creat themselves;
whatever character they develop they create themselves.

“I’ve come to see that the sound of learning is not my voice lecturing but the buzz of team discussions during a collaborative exercise.”

“Asking a good question is one of the golden keys to learning. Educational psychologists talk about meta-cognitive skills: the capacity of students to reflect on what they know and what they don’t know.”

The old business was about making a profit; the new business is about making a profit.

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July 27, 2003

It's Alive

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

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

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

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

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

Code is code.

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

Create, connect, evolve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 22, 2003

Follow-up: Writing the Next Chapter of eLearning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on the nature of time

Jay's white paper on Informal Learning.

The Meta-Learning Lab

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

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

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July 21, 2003

Social software

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

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

Are You Ready for Social Software?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts exactly.

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

June 25, 2003

Bravo! QuickTopic Pro

For several years now, I've used Steve Yost's QuickTopic to coordinate discusssions and group activities. Setting up a discusssion is simplicity itself: it takes a minute or two. Instructions are in plain English. It's a well-honed application -- intuitive to use and unburdened with clutter. Did I mention that it's also free?

QuickTopic Pro was released a couple of days ago. For $49/year, the Pro version lets you customize the look & feel, and also upload pictures. That $49 lets me customize the dozen QuickTopic discusssions I'm running.

Take a look at my scribble space to see what I'm talking about.

The free version is still available. This is an exemplary marketing strategy: Try it; you'll like it.

Imagine using QuickTopic as an informal learning tool:

  1. Instant blog. Fast. Free.
  2. Community discussion space.
  3. Spot for sharing one's reflections.
  4. Free (albeit limited) website.

Help me think up more applications.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2003

May 23, 2003


Kevin Werbach is one smart cookie. His Anticipating a post-Web, post-PC world describes the passage from one generation of high-tech to the next. The web will always be important, but the innovators are moving on.

    What matters today is using all that connected power, and the standards-based software environment that rides on it, in productive ways. From enabling distributed work teams in companies to collaborate on projects to giving people rich interactive experiences that travel across different hardware and connections, these are tasks we could only think about tackling once the foundations were laid.

    Smart companies understand this change. IBM, you will notice, is no longer touting e-business, its code word for the Web. It has shifted its energy to next-generation developments such as Linux, grid computing and autonomic computing. Microsoft is pouring resources into post-PC and post-Web businesses, understanding that it must make significant long-term bets to prepare for the day when its traditional Windows cash cow disappears. Dell Computer is even going so far as to remove “Computer” from its name. Apple Computer is rapidly moving from an emphasis on easy Internet access to “digital lifestyle” offerings such as photo sharing and music downloads. And America Online, though struggling, knows that it needs to change from the company that gets you on the Web to the company that gets you beyond the Web.

    A human generational shift goes along with the technological change. When the Internet burst on the scene, it confronted a technology industry whose reference point was the transition from mainframe to PC, symbolized by the ascendance of Microsoft and downfall of IBM.

    Change is no longer measurable by one variable. It arrives in waves of interconnected developments whose relationship we only dimly discern.
    That’s what’s happening today. The technologies and concepts generating buzz at industry gatherings like PC Forum, O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference, and Supernova include social software, the semantic Web, Web logs, rich Internet applications, Web services, unlicensed wireless, grid computing, digital identity, broadband media. The more one looks at these developments, the more hidden connections appear. They are pieces of a larger whole, which we don’t yet have words to describe.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 19, 2003

Appreciative Inquiry

Last week I asked my friend Marcia Conner what I should be reading in my quest to deepen my knowledge of informal learning, social networking, and organizational change. She offered several names and one book: Appeciative Inquiry by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney.

The first thing I noticed about the book was its length: 30 5”x7” pages of text. About thirty cents a page. This better be good, I thought to myself.

It was.

Note: If you Google for “Appreciative Inquiry,” you’ll get some sites by followers of David Cooperrider who are pushing their own agendas. Better to go to the AI Commons site at Case Western Reserve, where Cooperrider teaches.

A recent entry:
Peter Drucker?s Advice for Us on the New Ai Project:
Business as an Agent of World Benefit

By David Cooperrider
Case Western Reserve University
March 23, 2003

In a cover story in Training, Ron Zemke interviewed Cooperrider:

    “The problem-solving paradigm may once have been the most effective approach for enhancing an organization’s performance,” says Cooperrider, “but it is out of sync with today’s reality” He ticks off a list of things that are wrong with the problem-solving approach to management and organizational change: It is painfully slow; it always asks people to look backward at yesterday’s failures and their causes; and it rarely results in a new vision. “Once we describe something as a problem,” he says, “we assume that we know what the ideal is - what should be - and we go in search of ways to close any ‘gaps’ - not to expand our knowledge or to build better ideals.”

    In human terms, he continues, problem-solving approaches are notorious for placing blame and generating defensiveness. “They sap your energy and tax your mind, and don’t advance the organization’s evolution beyond a slow crawl,” Cooperrider says.

The Appreciative Inquiry process consists of choosing an affirmative topic, discovering what gives the organization life, dreaming what might be — stories, designing what might be - the ideal, and “destiny” - sustainment. Stated that way, it just sort of sits on the page. Here’s one of the descriptions in the book:

    In AI, intervention gives way to imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis there is discovery, dream, and design. AI assumes that every living system has untapped, rich, and inspiring accounts of the positive. Link this “positive change core” directly to any change agenda, and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.

Picking the right, POSITIVE topic is vital because “inquiry and change are a simultaneous moment.” The traditional problem-solving paradigm focuses on problems and limits human potential.

It’s good that Case Western Reserve is located in Cleveland. There, AI is perceived as a “radically affirmative approach to change.” In Mill Valley or at Esalen, AI would probably be cast as merely the latest chapter in the human potential movement.

Appreciative Inquiry is for organizations what positive psychology is for individuals.

Martin Seligman’s positive psychology movement posits that we shouldn’t advise well people with what we’ve learned from the sick. AI tells us to look at what’s right rather than what’s wrong. And increasingly, I’m feeling that schools and training shoot themselves in the foot by beginning with the assumption that the learners are deficient rather than magnificent.

Cooperrider and Whitney close the book with these lovely words from Albert Einstein:

    There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 18, 2003


Imagine my surprise when a friend told me they’d seen a book that quoted me extensively. Huh? I’d never seen this book, even though it’s been out for the better part of a year. Here it is:

Online Learning Today
by Heather Shea-Schultz
and John Fogarty

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc

Lots of people have helped me in my career, and I like to balance my karma account by providing help to people who ask for advice or favors. When a guy I had not met called me a couple of years ago for help with a book he was writing on eLearning, I freely gave him an interview and permission to borrow material from the white papers on my site. I never heard from him again.

Having recently published my first book, I may be too touchy about these things, but I cannot imagine interviewing someone for a book (mentioning him by name on pp 46-48, 76-77, 78-79, 82, 165, and 169) and not sending him a complementary copy of the damned book!

Tonight I scanned the pages with my name on them. Rather than write yet another white paper on ROI, I‘m simply going to share Heather and John’s rendition of my thoughts on the matter. Sheesh.

ROI ain’t what it used to be, according to Jay Cross, resident guru and curmudgeon emeritus of the Internet Time Group. With the possible exception of Autodesk’s visionary Wayne Hodgins, no one else on the high seas of e-learning has Cross’s foresight or humor. With a prescience bordering on the clairvoyant, Cross is constantly sought out for his industry forecasts and insights.

As to ROI, Cross is typically irreverent: “ROI is a traditional financial measure, developed by DuPont, and once credited with making General Motors manageable. But it hasn’t kept pace with the times. The R is no longer the famous bottom line, and the I is more likely a subscription fee than a one-time payment.”

Cross insists that traditional ROI matrices are an anachronism when applied to online learning. Why? Because traditional ROI has no measuring stick to distinguish a good idea from a bad one, so excellent training hits the books at the same value as bad. The trend and emphasis is on understanding business strategy and goals and how training moves the organization along. Maybe the future is ROS, return on strategy.

Thus, Cross discourages e-learning proponents from trying to sell e-learning via ROI talk. “Consultants relentlessly drive home this message: `If you want to sell a big project internally, you’ve got to talk ROI … it’s the language senior managers understand … being fluent in ROI talk enables you to position an e-learning project as an investment rather than a cost … it’s the secret handshake that gets you into the inner circle of those who control budget dollars, et cetera and et cetera.’

“Well, it’s reality-check time,” Cross counters. “Talking the ROI talk won’t enable you to pass yourself off as an astute businessperson. You have the same chance of passing for French with a beret and Berlitz phrase book. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” Cross believes that executives making a significant business decision consider a wide range of factors and intricate potential trade-offs, such as these:

  • How risks must be weighed against rewards
  • How short-term aims need to be sorted from the long-term ones
  • That any undertaking must align with strategic initiatives
  • That scarce resources call for shrewd horse trading

But remember what Jay Cross said about ROI: it ain’t what it used to be. The old yardsticks no longer apply, and they can actually get in the way. As Cross posits, “Why measure incremental improvements when you’re seeking the Holy Grail?”

True, traditional financial analysis works in most business accounting, but it goes askew when measuring intellectual capital and other off-the-balance-sheet improvements. Making business decisions entails a wide range of factors and involves intricate trade-offs-it’s not all bottom-line dollars and cents.

Says Cross, “Unless your training (or e-learning) unit sells training for a fee-generating its own revenues-the returns on investment come from satisfying the needs of business unit managers.” He advises that linking e-learning results to business results is more useful than coming up with pseudo-ROI figures. “The only valid training ROI is business ROI.??

International Data Corporation (IDC) studied the buying behavior of corporate and IT training managers and concluded that ROI will no longer be measured in savings or reduced cost of training. Instead, attention will be directed to “measurable changes to business metrics resulting from training investments.” Those benefits will only emerge, however, if vendors focus on solid instructional design and engaging learning environments.

Thus, a senior manager’s appraisal of e-learning’s impact is often visceral (gut instinct), based on how satisfied he or she is with employee performance and how much of that improvement the manager can ascribe to e-learning. As Cross puts it, “Feelings win out because the assumptions used to create the (ROI) numbers can always be challenged. Projects that evoke the best feelings make the cut.”’

Why? Because managers own the problems that training solves-online or offline. They’re generally pragmatic, and their overriding interest is to get the job done now, if not sooner. The business unit manager is often e-learning’s primary sponsor-along with HR and IT. Moreover, the manager understands the goal of any training, since it is he or she who oversees the environment in which performance gaps occur. Thus, the first step in measuring e-learning’s impact on performance is eliciting the business manager’s answer to the classic query “What’s in it for me?”

When the learning is completed, assess the results according to benchmark measurements established with the unit manager. “Extrapolate behavior changes into measurable business,” counsels Jay Cross. “There’s no room for vagueness-and no backing away from visible quantitative evidence.” He also suggests that further interviewing and a review of business results may be useful.

Finally, Cross advises presenting any findings and a simple cost/benefit analysis to the business manager or training sponsor-not a full-blown “ROI.”

As Cross and others point out, present-day accounting is an anachronism when applied to e-learning. “Traditional accounting only recognizes physical entities,” Cross explains. “Intangibles are valued at zero. Vast areas of human productivity-ideas, abilities, experience, insight, esprit de corps, motivation-lie outside its vision field. It doesn’t recognize that people become more valuable over time.”

To many corporate executives today, Cross, the traditional concept of training ROI is obsolete. Business unit managers value time more than ROI. Major decisions are based on descriptive business cases, not pro forma budgets. Senior executives tend to be more interested in the top line (dynamic growth from new markets and innovation) than the bottom line (the accounting fiction of profits). Why? The answer, according to Cross, is simple:

“The ‘Net changes everything.”


Look to the learner. What are the real needs? What are the options available?

As Jay Cross points out, investment analysts seem to think that harvesting the rewards of e-learning is a breeze. “Simply convert your existing content to digital form, slap it onto the corporate intranet, and immediately save millions in travel, bricks and mortar, and instructor salaries while training all those IT workers everyone needs.” Alas, such is not the case. You’ve got to customize the learning for the learners.

Epilogue: What to Do Now?

One thing is certain-e-learning will evolve into something so simple, so eloquent yet all-pervasive and natural, that our grandchildren will wonder with dismay why we didn’t see it coming. We believe that Wayne Hodgins, Marcia Conner, Jay Cross, and a host of others in the field are correct when they say that we’re just watching this universe form. It will cool and coalesce to become so much a part of our everyday lives, we won’t even think of it as a separate facet of work or play. It’ll simply be how we do things.

As we said when we began, nothing is the same as before. Old technologies are changing; classroom walls are rearranging. As Jay Cross puts it so well, “The ‘Net changes everything.”

Or, the way we see it, the net of online learning that works is a net-net benefit for everyone, everywhere.

Correction: I am not a curmudgeon emeritus. A “curmudgeon” is a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man. (Thanks, John and Heather.) “Emeritus” is a fancy way of saying retired. (No, I’m still here.)

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 03, 2003

Culture in the Valley

Great article by Virginia Postrel on what makes Silicon Valley successful.

Last night and early this morning I was contemplating this very question and concluded it was silver mines in Nevada. Silver begat railroads that enriched Leland Stanford who endowed Stanford University that had a hand in the genesis of HP, Intel, Sun, Cisco, Varian, and scads more.

Virginia sees it as “Resilience vs. Anticipation. The West is resilient and can roll with the shocks. The East copes through anticipation, the static planning that assumes perfect foresight.”

    Everybody has theories about what makes Silicon Valley special, and most of the theories are right: It’s the density, the competition, the constant chatter about business plans over tables at Il Fornaio in Palo Alto. It’s the universities, Stanford and Berkeley, world-class research institutions that nonetheless nurture the practical. It’s the money, the greatest concentration of venture capital the world has ever seen. It’s the diversity, the immigrants from everywhere, the best and most brilliant spilling out of Oracle’s food pavilions to eat burgers, curry, and sushi in the California sun.

IN HIS 1988 BOOK, SEARCHING FOR SAFETY, the late UC-Berkeley political scientist Aaron Wildavsky laid out two alternatives for dealing with risk: anticipation, the static planning that aspires to perfect foresight, and resilience, the dynamic response that relies on having many margins of adjustment: “Anticipation is a mode of control by a central mind; efforts are made to predict and prevent potential dangers before damage is done. Forbidding the sale of certain medical drugs is an anticipatory measure. Resilience is the capacity to cope with unanticipated dangers after they have become manifest, learning to bounce back. An innovative biomedical industry that creates new drugs for new diseases is a resilient device. . . . Anticipation seeks to preserve stability: the less fluctuation, the better. Resilience accommodates variability; one may not do so well in good times but learn to persist in the bad.”

Here, then, is the basic difference between the valley and the Hub: Viewing the world as predictable and itself as the center of the universe, Boston has encouraged strategies of anticipation. People try to imagine everything that might go wrong and fix it in advance. But in Silicon Valley, there are no certainties. The future is open and subject to upheaval. Resilience is the strategy of choice. People do the best they can at the moment, deal with problems as they arise, and develop networks to help them out.

The positive side of anticipation is that it encourages imagination and deep thought, the stuff of intellectual life. And it is good at eliminating known risks. It can build confidence… But anticipation doesn’t work when the world changes rapidly, and in unexpected ways. It encourages two types of error: hubristic central planning and overcaution.

“On the East Coast,” says Mundy, “it;s the building of the thing that’s most important. And on the West Coast, the sharing of it is relatively more important. Getting things out to the light of day seems more important there.”

Nowadays it seems that every place wants to be like Silicon Valley—to discover its secrets and copy them. Here, then, is a secret that can be copied, even in places with lousy weather and stable ground: Don’t ask for answers in advance. Don’t try to create a life without surprises. Trust serendipity.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2003

ROI is toast. Use EVA instead.

Last year it became common knowledge among eLearning professionals that ROI (Return on Investment) is more than a number. It’s a metric that requires you to state projected costs and benefits explicitly. It forces you to evaluate whether you’re proposing a sound investment or a loser. It provides a standard of comparison to other demands on the company’s resources. It makes you think like a business decision-maker. Too bad it’s obsolete.

ROI has a fatal flaw - it assumes that the funds that make up the “I” are endlessly available. And free. In the real world, funds are limited. There’s only so much to go around. Cash comes with a price-tag - what it costs your company to borrow the money. Alternatively, the price of money (“cost of capital” to your CFO) approximates what you could get from investing the funds outside of the company (which you’d presumably do if you didn’t have better investments inside).

Your company’s cost of capital is related to how risky investors think it to loan you money, your bond or credit rating, and the availability of investment capital in the economy. Luckily, we don’t have to be picky about the specific number. Ask your CFO. Or use 10%. It’s not going to be that far off the mark, and it takes into account the reality that investment funds are neither free nor unlimited.

“Economic Value Added,” EVA for short, is a measure of ROI that takes the cost of funds into account. Unlike ROI, EVA is an amount, not a ratio. This keeps you focused on overall value. You won’t trade off a project with a 2000% ROI that only yields $10,000 in returns against a project with 30% ROI that nets $850,000.

EVA is not difficult to calculate. Assume you’re making the case for a new program that you expect to return $32,000 for your $200,000 investment in its first year. Your ROI would be 32,000/200,000 = 16%.

The EVA for this project deducts the cost of using the $200,000 ( x 10% = $20,000). Your EVA is based on your return less what you must pay for tying up the company’s capital, $32,000 - $20,000 = $12,000. Your EVA ratio is 12,000/200,000 = 6%.

“What’s in it for me?” you ask. Several things:

  1. By charging for the use of scarce capital, EVA may lead you to outsource activities that would otherwise tie up your resources. Let someone else bear the cost of capital for those.
  2. EVA recognizes that there’s no free ride. Projects don’t get funded because they have a hefty ROI. They get funded when they are the best use of funds available. No company can afford to pursue all its upside opportunities.
  3. EVA gets everyone thinking like owners. The carrying cost of excess inventory gripes the manager who’d like to use those funds for a new project.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2003

Food for Thought

February 5, 2003

Nano-bio-cogno-socio-info convergence: It’s information
that matters to science, and it’s people that matter to business
by Jim Spohrer, IBM

Jim Spohrer led a thought-provoking dialog (PowerPoint) at the February 5 meeting of EOE. I listened in by phone while looking at Jim's slides. Jim, one of the most self-effacing geniuses you'll ever encounter, told the group he was looking for help in shaping up some of his thinking. Instead of laying it on us (the old "death by PowerPoint"), Jim presented us with dozens of memes and asked us to help him connect the dots.

What follows is 90% Jim and 10% my dots.

Jim began by acknowledging the pioneers upon whose work we are all building.
(By the way, their seminal essays are all online.)

These visionaries saw people moving from a natural environment to an information-rich environment constructed by humans. Humanity once looked for food but now harvests information. Feed my body, feed my mind. Change? World population has mushroomed from 1 billion to 6 billion people in the last 200 years! Exponential progress coming from all corners.

Background: The National Science Foundation is funding Mike Roco, who wants to see more investigation into nanoscience, so he invited a group of people to brainstorm and think about the issue. The agenda expanded into the convergence of many disiciplines. He brought in Newt Gingrich, an inspiring motivational speaker, who encouraged everyone to think big. Lots of interesting ideas, but not organized. Jim spends his day thinking about science and business for IBM. To pay the bills, he looks at the near-term impact of things. These ideas entail big science and mammoth business implications. (IBM is now swallowing 30,000 PwC consultants, adding to the 140,000 they already had.)

Background reading: Report from last year's convergence conference. Heady stuff: Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science. Allow me to blythely summarize the underpinnings of the 450 page report as only one as ignorant as I can do.

In the past, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science were separate disciplines:

Now these areas are becoming connected. The NSF project and Jim's inquiry explore the impact of blurring the boundaries:

The project seeks to understand how we can channel this convergence to make
our planet a better place to live. We acknowledge the pioneers for helping us conceptualize such an audacious goal:

The concept of augmented reality has been around a while. In the early stages, you touched natural atoms, arranged by nature. Today you touch atoms that were brought here by design, this table, for example. There's a lot of information content there. Knowledge Value Revolution talks about this. What's the next stage? The information environment is exploding. Atoms take up space. All space has a history. We need to disembody information from the atoms so we can have a lot of it wherever we need it. That was the genesis of World Board. Next we'll be able to reach out and touch whatever we want. (Aren't we already there? Via hyperlinks.) "Let's put information in its place." To get to the next level, we have to get really good at thanking people. You gotta know where it came from and who built it.

The Science of nano-bio-cogno-socio-info convergence

The Question: Can we understand and control to suit our purposes the different
information encoding, processing, and replication processes across multiple

Natural Systems – Natural environment that people exist in

Information in Physical Systems (Matter & Energy Flows, Atoms Matter)

Information in Living Systems (Chemistry of Life, Molecules/Ecosys. Matter)

Information in Cognitive Systems (Brains, Neurons Matter)

Knowledge of the natural world and human made world

Human Made Systems – Human Made environment that people exist in

Information in Social Systems (Organizations, People Matter)

Information in Technology Systems (Tools, Machines Matter)

Implications: As we get closer to a more complete answer, we can expect to realize many interesting, new capabilities that happen between the different systems:

artificial cochlea and retina (technology to cognitive)

terra-form Mars (physical to living)

(If you're getting into this, I recommend downloading Jim's
slides rather than trying to decipher these screen grabs.)

How do we understand this? Why do we care?

Information is at the heart of everything. IBM epiphany: molecules are simply processors. These systems can interact, e.g. using digital tech to replicate retinas and cochleas, bringing sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. For Jim, bio and nano and info were once separate areas. Now they seem related. Cross-talk. (Reminds me of Nicholas Negroponte's dictum about "bits,
not atoms
." The heart of the matter is the bits.)

A Bit of Perspective

Jim: What's missing in this picture of evolution? What are the social steps? What's the natural evolution?

Giving people credit is the fundamental thing that makes the economy work. Joseph Schumpeter. Look at how political organizations have changed throughout history. We need to look at what's going on through prespectives other than than present-centric.

The outside/inside framework. Is this useful? How do we organize all these enhancements so we can describe what they are, and use them to look into the future? And to explain the past?

Utility Fog. " A collective of nanotechnological devices (see foglet) that link together into a a complex  network in the air, able to work together to exert force in any direction or transmit  information between each other. This would give users almost complete  control over their environment."

universal elements. self-powered. floating in the air. Cal - trying to create mechanical bumblebees. essentially you get Startrek. (This is now very speculative.) Transporters. You get covered by the utility fog and it crystallizes a remote body in Paris.

Three Sample Business Applications

Healthy: Our Bodies & Our Environment

  • Someday Personalized Pharmaceuticals (nano for sensors, delivery, design)

Wealthy: Our Material Goods (Sustainable, Cheaper, Stronger)

  • Someday On Demand Materials (nano for manufacturing materials)

Wise: Our Thinking and Perception (Access to Information)

  • Someday Learning Conversations (nano for compute performance, interface)

Good science leads to better business. Think about growing a computer. New materials as reported in Natonal Geographic.

What does this say of my role in the world?

Businesses are becoming adaptive organisms, says this IBM
White Paper

Digital information becomes a lingua franca that divorces form from substance. It's all just bits. More and more things are becoming connected, and almost everything seems connectible. Our only limitation is the paupacity of our imagination.

Where does this leave us? I conclude that "it's all one big thing."

If nano-tech enables us to reconfigure atoms, the building plans, then information is all that matters. Let information configure my food. "Computer, give me caviar and champagne." The ultimate convergence.

There's "no there here." Yet.

Alice B. Toklas, to Gertrude Stein on her deathbed: "What is the answer?"

Gertrude Stein's last words: "What is the question?"

I'm still noodling on this and will continue posting as the connections and
import of this become more clear.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2003


From Business Week Online, distance is dead for professional jobs. This is a golden opportunity for eLearning.

    It's globalization's next wave--and one of the biggest trends reshaping the global economy. The first wave started two decades ago with the exodus of jobs making shoes, cheap electronics, and toys to developing countries. After that, simple service work, like processing credit-card receipts, and mind-numbing digital toil, like writing software code, began fleeing high-cost countries.

    Now, all kinds of knowledge work can be done almost anywhere. "You will see an explosion of work going overseas," says Forrester Research Inc. analyst John C. McCarthy. He goes so far as to predict at least 3.3 million white-collar jobs and $136 billion in wages will shift from the U.S. to low-cost countries by 2015. Europe is joining the trend, too. British banks like HSBC Securities Inc. (HBC ) have huge back offices in China and India; French companies are using call centers in Mauritius; and German multinationals from Siemens (SI ) to roller-bearings maker INA-Schaeffler are hiring in Russia, the Baltics, and Eastern Europe.

    Even Wall Street jobs paying $80,000 and up are getting easier to transfer. Brokerages like Lehman Brothers Inc. (LEH ) and Bear, Stearns & Co. (BSC ), for example, are starting to use Indian financial analysts for number-crunching work. "A basic business tenet is that things go to the areas where there is the best cost of production," says Ann Livermore, head of services at Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ ), which has 3,300 software engineers in India. "Now you're going to see the same trends in services that happened in manufacturing."

It's one thing to put your sales force in EMEA. When you farm out core development, say hello to fat-pipe, continuous learning.

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January 09, 2003


John Graham gave a presentation and demo of Open Source Software for Education and Science at yesterday's meeting of the EOE. I was blown away.

John walked us through a free content management system he'd configured in Zope (more on Zope below; it's a framework for building web applications.) Not coded, but downloaded and installed. We saw an extensible, relational database system. Very flexible. Very cool. Topics can hold documents, images, blogs, webpages, syndicate feeds, etc., etc., etc. John edited images online, put in an ISBN and started a discussion on the book entry that popped up, and more.

    Question: Is there documentation? Answer: A lot of these products are only 2 to 3 days old.

    Question: What does this run on?
    Answer: It's truly interoperable. Linux, Solaris, Windows. As of last week, Zope enterprise objects enables you to replicate into Oracle and other databases.

I drew this graphic nearly two years ago. I think its time is almost here. There is no reason eLearning has to be exorbitantly expensive.

The Open Source movement is an amazing effort. I'm glad to see another example of an innovative, robust product coming out of the environment. I plan to devote some time to getting to know more about Zope and its Open Source brethren.

From The Zope Book

What Is Zope?
Zope is a framework for building web applications. A web application is a computer program that users access with a web browser over the Internet. You can also think of a web application as a dynamic web site that provides not only static information to users but lets them use dynamic tools to work with an application.

From a business perspective, there are three key ideas to understanding what Zope can do for you: powerful collaboration, simple content management, and web components.

Zope History
In 1996 Jim Fulton, the CTO of Zope Corporation and Python guru, was drafted to teach a class on CGI programming, despite not knowing much about the subject. Jim studied all of the existing documentation on CGI on his way to the class. On the way back from the class, Jim considered what he didn't like about traditional CGI based programming environments: its fragility, lack of object-orientation, and how it exposes web server details. From these initial musings, the core of Zope was written on the plane flight back from the class.

ZopeNewbies blog



Squishdot is a popular weblog, written in Zope

John Graham is an innovator in the technical field of broadband and wireless collaboration technologies. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Schooltone Alliance, and the director of Project LearningBird. John is one of the founding members of the Ohio Consortium for Advanced Communication Technology who operate NASA's Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) for educational events and research. John founded BroadWare Co. to provide solutions that address the demand for audio and video capabilities over the Internet. As the company's chief technologist, John is responsible for the technical vision of the company. Prior to launching BroadWare in 1996, John provided a variety of consulting services to a broad client base on corporate Internet and Intranet architecture and implementation. He spearheaded large consulting projects for Sun Microsystems and Access Media. John was the Technical Coordinator for the 24 Hours in Cyberspace project, the largest international event for interactive communications and publishing on the Internet and was technology advisor for the 3Com Planet Project in 2000, a global poll on a variety of subjects. Prior to his consulting work, John held positions as the Systems Engineer and Scientist for Park Scientific Instruments, where he collaborated on the design of scanning probe microscopes and traveled worldwide to speak on the subject. Graham participated in, managed or launched the following projects:

Scanning Probing Microscopy Industrial Associates Program Laboratory at the Arizona State University
Exploratorium 2002 Belize Bio-diversity Laboratory Visit.
Exploratorium CERN Anti-matter Decelerization Ring Robot Camera
Jet Propulsion Laboratories Deep Space Probe Network Robot Camera
Jet Propulsion Laboratories Marsyard Robot Camera
Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope Robot Camera
AAEM TelePresence Microscopy Site Materials MicroCharacterization Collaboratory
PlanetFest 1997 Mars Pathfinder Landing
PlanetFest 1999 Mars Polar Lander

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Buckminster Fuller

Yesterday Bonnie DeVarco gave a talk on Buckminster Fuller at the monthly meeting of the EOE.

Bucky Fuller! His name brings back a flood of memories, among them: The domes, of course. And buckyballs. And dymaxion houses. The dymaxion car. The globe without Mercatur's distortions. Five-hour lectures that people might understand a few days later. Spaceship earth.

In the sixties, Bucky was sufficiently renegade, eccentric, visionary and out of the mainstream that you had to read him.

For six years, Bonnie administered the Buckminister Fuller Archive, so she certainly knows the material. See, for example, her Invisible Architecture, The Nanoworld of Buckminster Fuller. Bonnie treated us to a concentrated dose of Bucky. Here are some tidbits:

    Characterizations of the man Leonardo da Vinci of the 20th Century Poet of Industrialization Engineer Saint Anti-academician “I Seem to be a Verb” I am a random element. I am a comprehensive anticipatory design scientist.

    His thinking
    Micro-incisive and macro-inclusive
    Nothing is static; everything is dynamic
    The importance of charting trends
    Being comprehensive rather than general
    The importance of thinking out loud
    The importance of INTUITION
    Dare to be naïve

    Among his paradigms
    Newtonian to Einsteinian universe
    Wired to wireless
    Ephemeralization of information
    Accelerating acceleration

Bucky's 1932 conning tower concept described what we today know as the web, an amazing vision for the man who pointed out that "When I was born in 1895, reality was everything you could see, smell, touch and hear. The world was thought to be absolutely self-evident. When I was three years old, the electron was discovered. That was the first invisible. It didn't get in any of the newspapers; (nobody thought that would be important!) Today 99.99% of everything that affects our lives cannot be detected by the human senses. We live in a world of invisibles."

The Dymaxion Map

Buckminster Fuller Institute
The R. Buckminster Fuller FAQ
Synergetics (full text). Synergetics = The study of the coordinates of Universe -- the Geometry of Thought.

A Fuller Explanation. The Synergetic Geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller

To play with a phrase from HP (remember them?), if Jay only knew what Jay once knew.

Until Bonnie's talk, I hadn't thought about Buckminster Fuller for twenty years. Now I've forgotten many of his lessons I didn't have a use for when I read them. Where's my lifeblog when I need it?

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December 14, 2002

If everybody had an ocean...

If everybody had an ocean
Across the U. S. A.
Then everybody'd be surfin'
Like Californi-a

Google is the leading eLearning tool for self-directed learners. I've learned more from Google than from two years at Harvard Business School. Friday night Sandeep Sood told me he'd learned more from Google than from U.C. Berkeley.

If Google's this important to you as well, keeping up with new directions at Google is part of learning to learn. Google never sleeps, so my advice is to sharpen your Google skills every six months or so. Not that skill-building led me back to Google today; I was there because Google's fun to explore.

Yesterday I couldn't find a link to Google's new set of pointers to merchandise and today Froogle pops up everywhere I turn. As I get into Christmas shopping, however, I need fewer choices, not "All the world's products in one place," so I wandered off.

And found Google Viewer. This new service converts your search results into slide show format. I put in "eLearning" and watched the first twenty pages go by, discovering three sources I had never visited before. Seeing the pages provides such a powerful snapshot compared to the standard text listing that I plan to visit this one over and over. Hmmm. I wonder if I can feed Google Viewer with a script to make it my site's default entry into Google. Viewer is on the page for Google Labs.

I couldn't resist leaving a note for the development team:

    Google:GoogleViewer :: Command line:GUI

    GoogleViewer opens new doors of perception for visual thinkers. I'm a visual learning fanatic, disappointed that our text-oriented education and training systems retard the progress of most right-brained people. I predict GoogleViewer will be wildly successful.

The main Google interface is so spartan that it's easy to overlook their ever-expanding services & tools page. The same goes for the list of features. As the year comes to a close, check out the Google Timeline.

P.S. Google WebQuotes led me to this description of my own site: eLearning at the Speed of Internet Time.

I must do this more often. I entered links:www.internettime.com for a little ego-boo and came across this review:

    internettime and elearningforum This guy's a genius....
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December 09, 2002

Nano-bio-info-cogno (NBIC) convergence

Interim paper from the National Science Foundation on info convergence. Says Jim Spohrer,

    The basic idea is that information is encoded in atomic systems, molecular biological systems (DNA, cells), digital computer systems (bits), and cognitive systems (neurons, brains, people). Social systems (memes) are another way in which information is encoded. As these separate sciences advance, more interactions are occuring between them. And, here is the big speculation thought, an understanding of how information is encoded and recoded into each of these systems may allow for rapid improvement in human performance.
    Perhaps the convergence is more than one hundred years away, since physicists since the late 1800's have been working to create a unified theory of the physical realm -- nevertheless, the speculations in this material (and most of this work is speculation) are good imagination-stretching exercises for thinking about how future generations may collaborate, interact with their world, learn, and evolve. Fascinating speculation, but not for the faint of heart, since much of this material from the National Science Foundation (NSF) reads more like science fiction than science fact.

Is my influence at work here? I told Jim I enjoyed reading his science fiction when the raw reports were coming out on the web a few months back.

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November 12, 2002


Ask Googlism.com what eLearning is and it will tell you:

    elearning is not knowledge management
    elearning is child's play
    elearning is live ·
    elearning is burgeoning
    elearning is focused on the individual learner
    elearning is the next big thing
    elearning is technology
    elearning is as varied as education itself

    elearning is used by organisations that need to re elearning is not important elearning is utilizing technology to increase the effectiveness and accessibility of learning elearning is critical to it's future health elearning is the key by melanie liew elearning is best defined as the category consisting of training and learning over the web elearning is instructional content delivered over the internet elearning is likely to be found in its potential to provide elearning is giving pharmaceutical companies faster elearning is easy and engaging elearning is the use of digital technologies to equip pharmaceutical company employees elearning is a way for individuals or groups to learn new knowledge and skills using computer network technologies elearning is learning that is supported by information and communication technologies elearning is not only changing how we learn elearning is a dynamic process that provides learners with real elearning is the delivery of instructional material in electronic formats elearning is a powerful learning system that makes knowledge and information accessible to you elearning is a elearning is internet based training and instruction elearning is quickly becoming the ?enterprise initiative of fashion elearning is likely to go and how quickly it may or may not get there that we talk about it our other venues and elearning is a unique web site specializing in online instructor elearning is also significant elearning is a hot new area that leverages internet technologies in the delivery of instruction elearning is today the most important area of research elearning is an emerging industry that utilizes high technology to provide learning elearning is often "self elearning is more than using technology for "just in time" training elearning is web elearning is an effective elearning is great elearning is a social reality elearning is being flaunted as a compelling new approach to quickly and effectively learn these necessary new elearning is teaching and learning via the use of digital resources elearning is going to change the world or at the very least our entire learning behavior elearning is modular elearning is cur elearning is based on branded educational content that is proven to be high quality elearning is not about a fresh start elearning is taking a lot of criticism at the moment and remaining focused on the learner is the key to avoiding ineffective elearning elearning is a key strategy that leading companies are using to stay ahead of their competition elearning is nothing like training elearning is the outcome of a demanding supply chain for knowledge ? some have called this multi elearning is elearning is firmly committed to the view that its credibility with its business partners elearning is underperforming elearning is dependent on having a web elearning is learning elearning is part of the learning process but it would be very foolish to ditch what you do in favour of a technology elearning is fairly thin on the ground elearning is growing elearning is growing as the world continues to re elearning is usually implemented over a network elearning is a cost elearning is pleased to announce the completion of a distribution agreement for its wbt manager™ learning management system with elearning is being embraced by schools elearning is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such other web elearning is a disruptive innovation elearning is not practical elearning is the convergence of learning and the internet elearning is fun and enjoyable elearning is a journey for every student to acquire the requisite skills and literacy in the digital world that awaits them elearning is a response to the scalability and cost issues of face elearning is the delivery of content via all electronic media elearning is motivating and enjoyable online learning offers more opportunities elearning is the delivery of learning and training using electronic media elearning is set to take off in europe elearning is not to repeat what has been done before elearning is itself not without its problems elearning is clear elearning is found to be a major part of the elearning is not necessarily easier than the traditional classroom learning elearning is flexible and convenient elearning is becoming an essential component to companies' overall business strategies to attract and retain employees
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November 06, 2002

A new kind of software

Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science is a mind-blowing book. Not that I've read it -- I'm perhaps 50 pages in, a mere grain in the sandbox of this monster tome. But already I've been overwhelmed as Wolfram explains that every scientist before him has gotten it all wrong, and his notions will revolutionize not only physics and chemistry, but economics, sociology, and psychology, too. (My marginal note to myself: Cojones.)

In a nutshell, Wolfram's thesis is that nature can't be described by a bunch of equations. In the real world, processes interact -- and each come away changed. Algorithms make a better worldmeme. Wolfram posits that just about anything can be explained by the interaction of a few simple programs.

If that's all there were to it, Wolfram might have a shot at surpassing Hawking's Brief History of Time for the least read popular book ever published. But today on Wolfram's web site, I happened upon The New Science Explorer.

The Explorer is software that lets you perform Wolfram's experiments as you read along. Wow! For $65, you can follow the original research. I ordered a copy immediately. Maybe when I retire to a desert island, I'll have time to work my way through all of Wolfram's work. This is the way science should be learned!

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October 19, 2002

Thinking about 2012

What should business be prepared to address in the next decade? The Global Business Network asked fifty well-known people and has shared selected quotes on their site. The whole lot will appear in What’s Next? Exploring the New Terrain for Business.

These quotes grabbed my attention:

    If you made a model of the ideal global economy, does it make the most sense to have only a few specialists make the things we need and have them ship those things to wherever they’re needed, or does it actually make more sense to have many local origins for those things? Kevin Kelly

    In China, they’re discovering that when you redecorate your bathroom and get ten pairs of platform shoes and a nose job, you’re still unhappy. Orville Schell

    The way to create healthy, vibrant economies and societies is through diversity. We know that scientifically. Any system that loses its diversity loses its resiliency and is more subject to sudden shocks and changes from which it can’t recover. The corporatization of the world is the loss of diversity—it’s forcing uniformity upon people. Paul Hawken

    That’s what this Cultural Revolution is about: How everything fits together than now appears disconnected. It’s the search for coherence in what is increasingly incoherent. We’re trying to get into the box. We are trying to create a new box. Thinking outside the box turns out to be so yesterday. Joel Garreau

    You can’t have part of the world where there’s a small, aging bubble of Western elites and then this massive, throbbing, younger, and increasingly impoverished group of people. Jaron Lanier

    The question is whether we’ll have a youth culture with old demographics. Youth culture, geezer bodies—does that work? Kevin Kelly

    I believe we are heading toward a single global culture. That’s a very scary thought to most people because they see that if they’re not part of the dominant culture, then their culture will be wiped out, their values will be wiped out, the things that are important to them will be wiped out. Yet, I think that it is absolutely inevitable. Danny Hillis

    There’s a perfect storm coming at the 100-nanometer level. Information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology are all converging on that scale. Stewart Brand

    Education is where medicine was about 100 years ago. A hundred years ago, most of medicine was empirical—somebody tried it and figured out whether it worked or not. Gradually, over the last century, medicine has become half scientific and half empirical. Over the next few decades, I suspect the same thing will happen with education. William Calvin

    If you get microbiologists drunk, or at least a few beers into them, it’s not rare for them to say they’ll have aging solved in 20 years. Robert Carlson

    I think by any rational standards you’d have to say that the proposition we call China is a mass of almost insoluble contradictions. I could be wrong, but 1.3 billion people trying to have a lifestyle like Orange County? Can you imagine just the environmental consequences of that? Orville Schell

    I think this may be a theme for the decade—that we’re going to take packages of things and unbundled them and reassemble the parts. It happens with cultures and biological organisms. It also happens with governments. Danny Hillis

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October 10, 2002

So much depends...

An Introduction
to the hard Semantic Web...
...in simple Haiku

A precious present,
Poetic semantic web
Everything flows.

from Stephen Downes

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October 03, 2002

Heinz Von Foerster

Heinz Von Foerster, one of the pioneers and co-founders of the field of cybernetics, died yesterday in his home on Rattlesnake Hill in Pescadero, CA. Converge magazine recently printed an interview with this wonderful man. Excerpts:

How do you assess someone else's knowledge? We generally think we have a solution to this question: We give tests. However tests don't test the students: Tests test tests. Let me say that again - tests test tests. Many students flunk tests because they are very bad "testees."

we need to completely transform the role of the teacher. The system considers the teacher to know everything and charges the teacher with filling empty brains with knowledge. This concept is idiotic. Consider the learning situation as a research situation. The teacher plays ignorant and poses a problem: How should we solve this problem? Can you help me? The students then interact with the teacher and with each other to explore, and find answers together. When students interact and help each other, astounding things happen.

Without interaction and feedback, there is no learning. I can share information, and technology and the Internet have enabled that, but understanding requires feedback. It is an essential element of cybernetics. Feedback lets you know whether what you have put out was heard as you intended. Remember, the hearer, not the speaker, determines the meaning of an utterance. You have to interact to be a good teacher. You can see in the eyes of a child whether they understand what you are saying. This feedback tells you whether you have made your point understood. It is up to the student, then, to do something

Do not think about the technology first - think about learning first.

You have to focus on the process. Dialogue is the beginning. If you listen, you come to an understanding.

Also see Ted Kahn's commemorative page at Design Worlds.

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January 01, 2001


Upcoming Presentations

Harvard Business School Alumni Association, San Francisco, CA, January 14, 2003, 7:00 pm

eLearning - Touchstone for Boosting Intellectual Capital or Boondoggle.com?

ASTD TechKnowledge,
Orlando, Florida, January 29, 2003

Jay and Lance
present Getting the Most from Your Training Investment

Manchester, U.K., March 18-19, 2003

Jay opens the event with a keynote on "Learning from America's eLearning Mistakes"

, San Diego, CA, May 18-22, 2003

'03, Industry meets Science
, Graz, Austria, July 2-
4 2003

Recent Presentations

Envisioning eLearning (streaming, Impatica)

Jay's presentation at Online Educa in Berlin, November 2002

Some Difficulties with ROI (streaming, Impatica)

Jay's presentation at Online Educa in Berlin, November 2002

Implementing eLearning
(Windows Media streaming video)

Jay and Lance's presentation at TechLearn 2002

The State of eLearning (streaming, Impatica)

Jay's lecture at SF State University.

eLearning is not Important (streaming, Icohere)

Jay's presentation for Collaborative Learning 2002, November 2002.

Check out the 3-minute demo.
Click here to request a 30-day free trial.

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