Category Archives: DIY Learning

Real Learning

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
–George Bernard Shaw

 Aha! is becoming Real Learning.  The old name didn’t fit the book.


Aha! captures the spirit of “Oh, I see; that’s how you do it.” Cool.

Unfortunately, the term Aha! only focuses only on the magic moment of enlightenment. It doesn’t suggest the work that comes before (knowing your goals, tuning your networks) or what it takes to make learning stick (taking action and reflection).

As I worked with it, the term began to feel too close to the self-help snake oil that fills bookstore shelves. Creepy.

I am out to help people learn how to improve their lives by learning to learn and don’t want to be confused with the charlatans and their faith-healing promises. Real Learning is based on neuroscience and what’s proven successful, not the standard self-help bullshit.

Real Learning is what the book is  about. I’m not going to give you a sales pitch. (If that’s what you’re after, look here.) The book is a natural sequel to Informal Learning.  The earlier book talked about the importance of informal learning.  Real Learning explains how to do it .

Change is a pain at this point, but as Jack Welch said, it’s best to change before you have to.

15 essentials for successful learning

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.


While cleaning up my office this afternoon, I came up this list of essentials for effective informal learning I wrote a couple of years ago for the ASTD Handbook.

I don’t know if I’m in a rut or simply unwavering in my beliefs, but I was surprised to find that every one of these appears in nearly the same language in my new book. (I’d forgotten that I’d written the earlier list.)

  1. Most learning is self-directed. Give people the freedom to chart their course. Make sure resources are readily available and easy to find.
  2. Set high expectations, and people live up to them. Help people make sense of and prosper in the world and the workplace. Facilitate social networks that enable people to compare their situation with others.
  3. Conversations are the stem cells of learning. Foster open, frequent, frank conversations both virtually and in person. Praise courageous conversations.
  4. People learn by doing. Encourage experimentation.
  5. Ensure that managers and mentors understand the impact of stretch assignments. Learning is experiential, and stretch assignments give learners new experiences.
  6. Teach people the least they need know to tackle things on their own.
  7. Make it drop-dead simple to access people in the know, the lessons of experience, how-to information, and performance support.
  8. Learning is social. Encourage participation in communities. Make collaboration the norm. Narrate your work and share with others. Communities and guilds create and consume knowledge. If you don’t have a vibrant social network, create one.
  9. More than half of us work part of our time outside of the office. Ensure support is mobile.
  10. We want what we want, no more. Whenever possible, provide choices. Give employees the pieces to create personalized learning experiences.
  11. Learning is for everyone, not just novices and up-and-comers. You can’t expect to prosper without it. Make sure everyone’s covered.
  12. Learning takes reinforcement to stick. Seek feedback. Blog, tweet, and otherwise share your reflections. Revisiting what you learn fixes it in memory.
  13. Innovation is born of mashing up concepts from different disciplines. Encourage looking outside the box.
  14. Provide feeds for what’s going on in the team, the department, the company, the industry, and technical disciplines.
  15. People confuse learning with school. Build lessons on learning how to learn into the organization.


The list appears in ASTD Handbook: The Definitive Reference for Training & Development, 2nd edition.


New Book from Jay. Almost.

IMG_4604The draft of my new book, Aha!, 21 Ways to Work Smarter and Become Who You Are, is on sale for $12.

I don’t write books the way I used to. I have Lean Fever. Now I write the best I can rapidly and make it available for pioneering readers who provide feedback. Given enough iterations, this will be one fantastic book. I slipstream new content into the book continuously.

In Informal Learning, I told the story of a dog who would scatter his dinner all over the room so he’d have the thrill of hunting it down. If you’re that puppy, you might enjoy reading a book in progress.

My topic is learning for yourself. DIY learning. If you’re struggling to learn with social and informal learning, this book was made for you. Someone will say they didn’t see this: this book is in beta. It is unfinished. You’re welcome to provide suggestions. The book improves week by week.

Come to the Aha! website for more information, sample graphics, and a substantial excerpt. Or just spend your $12 and get a surprise.


Jay Changes Direction

fallsMy book Aha! Learn for Yourself challenges readers to consider where they’ve been in their careers and where they’re headed. I feel obligated to practice what I preach.

My career in the learning business is at a turning point. My history by type of learning is below. I have one foot in retirement now; I’ve been at this for nearly fifty years!

Reflection on Career by Decade

Sixties and into Seventies.

Student. AB Social Science, MBA. Army Officer, Mainframe computer salesman. Coder. Sales training. Lots (>1000) of case studies, now long forgotten. Lived abroad. Market research executive.


EDU. Discovered that learning was a field. Designed the first business curriculum for what became the University of Phoenix, the largest business school in the world. Worked with founder. Experienced power of having the rIght product for the market, in this case thirty-year-old business people. Learned to speak with audiences because I had to sell, sell, sell.

Eighties and nineties.

Formal Training. Sold instructional systems that taught a million bankers how to make decisions and sell bank services. More than half of the 100 largest banks in the U.S. became customers. Picture a young San Francisco start-up showing the way for Citi, Chase, BofA, and more. Don’t get me going about banks. Learned every aspect of the training business, from marketing to design to models to costs, from ISA to ISPI.

Entrepreneurial. Interspersed with this, spent seven years trying to make something of five under-financed start-ups (medical records, advertising sales training, massive overnight loans, corporate histories, and tracking software) that never made it over the first hump. My dreams are bigger than my abilities but now I have a better idea of what not to do.

1999-2003. Turn of the century.

impllearninge-Learning. I saw the web and fell in love. The web and knowledge were made for one another. I became a fanatic. First to use term eLearning on the web. Chief cheerleader for concept. CEO, eLearning Forum. Early conceptualizer. Wrote Implementing eLearning.


informalinformal learning. Thought leader and chief proponent of informal learning. Book (2008). Presentations worldwide. More than 50 articles. In ten years, took an object of derision and made it the #1 or #2 priority of virtually every Chief Learning Officer in America. Largely a labor of love, I’m proud to have called this one early and paved the way to accelerate its adoption and appreciation. It’s good business and great for people.

Happiness. And with it compassion, gratitude, fulfillment, authenticity, peace. Mindful people are incredibly productive. Vitally important.

Next up

DIY learning. It’s a confusing world out there. Millions of knowledge workers and their bosses can prosper by adopting modern practices for working smarter and remembering things. Improving their learning efficiency will provide billions of hours over the long term to redeploy on activities with a higher return.

We learning professionals have a bag of tricks most people have never been introduced to. I want to empower workers to be intuitive instructional designers as well as self-directed learners by sharing what we know. Project is taking shape at internettimealliance.netmegaphone



My professional interest is shifting to helping knowledge workers learn and flourish without training. There are millions of harried people out there who don’t appreciate that learning is a skill that you can get better at. It’s the underground passageway to success. I’d rather work with them directly.

Thinking about learning from the learner’s point of view is different from looking on it as a learning executive or instructional designer. Well, most knowledge workers don’t know they have an CLO and certainly never heard of instructional design.

Anyway, I am on the lookout for useful metaphors to propel the new book on DIY learning and intelligence.

Experiential learning is the biggest lever in the learning toolbox, so let’s start there.


Picture two territories, FamilarLand, where you already know everything and the Unfamiliar Territory which is loaded with people doing things you don’t know how to do.

The Unfamiliar Territory is where you can grow. Staying in FamilarLand all the time is stagnating. There’s no excitement when there are no surprises.

Since you have all your predetermined opinions, ways of doing things, and beliefs along for the ride, you’re happy when lazing around FamiliarLand. Many will be stuck in place there, non-learners who couldn’t keep up with the flow. They are slouches; we’ve got to hang out with the others.

Go-getters will continuously rewire their brains with dashing adventures in the Unknown Territory. With perseverance, they will grow into the roles they’re shooting for.

Increasing border crossings will boost organizational knowledge.

Is the metaphor of a journey from FamilarLand to the Unknown Territories and back a useful way to look at things?

DIY Learning

dogI’m writing a book on learning for oneself, without training. It’s for knowledge workers and bosses who have been told “You’re responsible for your own learning.” I imagine they feel like the dog who got on the bus. “What do I do now?”

Aha! is a book for people and small groups of colleagues who are taking their professional development into their own hands. No instructors, no classrooms. It’s DIY learning coupled with Modern Workplace Learning.

The first deliverable will be an inexpensive book, probably both an ebook (cheap and easy to distribute) and a paperback (works better for checklists and highlighting). Later, the text and patterns from the book may become a playlist of exercises and/or a deck of cards. If we achieve liftoff, I expect to continually improve the book with additional examples.

Currently, the book focuses on these patterns:


Are you interested in helping me change the world?

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” (Women okay, too). I need co-conspirators, advisors, editors, a coach, and other true believers. I could really use an intern with editing skills. And several hundred people who want to improve the way they learn.

The payoff will come from being in on the ground floor of something big: PULL learning on a scale rarely imagined, helping people leverage learning to work smarter. And, you get to work with (ahem!) the thought leader I’m reputed to be. Talk about Action Learning!

Please volunteer. Sign in at (Note: .net, not .com). Or call me at 510 323 7380.


Cheap books on learning worth the price

kindleunltdToday I paid my $9.99 and started devouring free books on Amazon Kindle Unlimited. I spend on average of $40 a month on hardcopy books, so this seems like a steal. Since I’m in the midst of writing a book on solo/DIY learning, I thought I might learn something from these freebies:

45 Elearning Tips and Tricks, by John Araiza. This is an instructional designer’s record of twelve years’ experience. Advice is for building courses. “Don’t buy photos until you get final approval.” “Use animation to spice up a course.” “remember that you are training adults.” “Become familiar with AICC and SCORM.” Not useful for solo learners.

Accelerated Learning. A How-To Guide on Becoming an Excellent Learner and Fast Reader. By Don Long. Brain training, speed reading, self hypnosis, mental clarity, the power of mind. Bummer. The book tells about speed reading, but doesn’t explain how to do it. (It ain’t that tough but usually wears off.) You might get his hypnosis directions to work; I have. At twenty pages, this is more a pamphlet than a book.

Effective Learning. Discover Accelerated Learning Strategies. Learn more, study less. Another pamphlet. 24 pages. Slight academic slant. Flimsy.

Think Smarter. Bulletproof tips to improve your thinking skills, make better choices and increase your overall intelligence. William Wyatt. Mainly aartn essay about thinking logically. About a hundred pages. Short on learning.

The Art of Learning: A Simple Handbook to Improve your Learning Techniques. By Laeticia L. How to study for school. English, Math, Science… Nothing about work.

Become a Super Learner. Learn Speed Reading and Advanced Memorization. By Levi, Goldentouch, and Goldentouch. Yawn. Those two techniques is all you get and the description of memorization is a little fuzzy. Otherwise, I guess super-learners don’t learn from people and events. The authors are quite taken with themselves.

Learning 300% Faster: 25 Learning Techniques. By Sebastian Archer. Not bad but focused 100% on learning explicit knowledge. Build good learning habits — he offers plenty.

All of these authors are stuck in the schooling paradigm: Improve your study skills, use memory tricks to pass tests, speed up your reading, take better notes. You’d think that all there is to learning is studying for the test.

They miss the most important learning: tacit knowledge. This is the savoir faire, know-how, life skills, and professionalism that can’t be told because it’s coded into your unconscious mind and shows itself only after battling with the conscious mind.

Explicit knowledge? That’s what an algorithm can figure out. Don’t make this your main job! Dealing with facts, figures, and logic will be delegated to robots. Soon. Slave wages ahead. That’s not what you’re after.

Tacit knowledge? That’s the intuition, judgments, and behavior that define who you are. It’s learning to become your true self and fulfill your destiny. This is the home of value creation and personal fulfillment.

Alas the largely self-published pamphlets on DIY learning tell you a little bit of how to prosper in school and next to nothing about how to get ahead in business and in life.

The most important learning is learning to be. That’s where I’m focusing my attention this year.