Category Archives: Learn For Yourself

Learning is a lot more than schooling

Quickly, now, “What word or words pop into your head if I say Learning?”

This was the barrier that kept me from starting the Real Learning Revolution a few nights back. The L-word. Schools brainwashed us so thoroughly that everyone’s immediate association is learning = schooling.

That’s got to stop, for schooling is an increasingly obsolete exercise in rote learning and the world is getting way too complicated to rely on schools and school models (think instructors, courses, schedules, tests, lectures) as the pinnacle learning.


Pssst!: Grades are meaningless outside of the schooling framework. You grubbed for grades, maybe took chances cheating, stayed up half the night, and heavens knows what else in high school and college. Yet grades are totally irrelevant in real life. C students are no happier or wealthier or successful than A students or F students. Can you imagine any other human enterprise getting away with such a bogus measurement system?

Most of us have a sinking feeling when we hear the word “schooling.” In our guts, we know there are better, less demeaning, more personalized ways to learn things.

Even smart people have blinders on. Everybody agrees that learning is important. That’s one of the mantras. But it’s sort of like school… Didn’t work that well. Was coercive, too. Most courses are Fascist. And they turn people off to the most important variable in their lives: their ability to learn, adapt, improve, and prosper.

There’s good learning and there’s poor learning. A lot of school involves poor learning. Obsolete requirements. Antique pedagogy. Would that the world were populated with Montesoris.

How can we break through the stereotype of schooling so we may recognize social, informal, experiential learning for the powerhouse it is.?

I’ve tried writing about performance improvement without the L-word and it was tedious.

Gazing at Nature Improves Performance

HBR, September 2015

Gazing at Nature Makes You More Productive

The research: University of Melbourne researchers Kate Lee, Kathryn Williams, Leisa Sargent, Nicholas Williams, and Katherine Johnson gave 150 subjects a menial task that involved hitting specific keystrokes when certain numbers flashed on a computer screen. After five minutes the subjects were given a 40-second break, and an image of a rooftop surrounded by tall buildings appeared on their screens. Half the subjects saw a plain concrete roof; the others saw a roof covered with a green, flowering meadow. Both groups then resumed the task. After the break, concentration levels fell by 8% among the people who saw the concrete roof, whose performance grew less consistent. But among those who saw the green roof, concentration levels rose by 6% and performance held steady.


The view from Internet Time Lab:





Free form for self assessment and career development


Goals provide the motivation for self-directed learning. Writing down career goals makes it more likely you will attain them.

Participants in The Aha! Project asked for a structured way to go about self-assessment and goal-setting.

We developed this Learning Plan template to lead them through the process. Feel free to use it. If you have feedback, we’ll be glad to hear it.form

Learning Plan Template in pdf  |  Learning Plan Template in MS Word


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?

Why Content Curation Should be in Your Skillset

girlCuration can boost your profit and help your people grow. It can save millions, reduce frustration, and boost the velocity of information in your organization. It starts in a gallery.

You expect the curator of an art gallery to know the collection and to:

  • search out the best items
  • select for the collection
  • authenticate and preserve items
  • add interpretation, descriptions, and meaning
  • publicize viewings

Picture a digital curator in your company. They have the same job but instead of paintings, deal with digital artifacts such as:

  • blog posts and Tweets
  • articles
  • meeting summaries
  • presentations
  • competitive analysis
  • video
  • conversations
  • images
  • infographics
  • TED talks
  • sales pitches

Curating these items — selecting, organizing, evaluating, and sharing them widely — multiplies an organization’s return on information many times over. It makes sense to recruit curators from within; the primary job prerequisite is a burning curiosity.

Instead of satisfying art lovers, corporate curation saves enormous amounts of time, keeps teams on the same page, and equips everyone with the latest insights. In a minute I’ll give you the story of a company that saved over fifty million dollars with a low-budget curation program. And, as Clay Shirky has said: “Curation comes up when people realize that it isn’t just about information seeking, it’s also about synchronizing a community.”

Curation helps individuals keep professional skills sharp, improve critical thinking, earn professional recognition, build reputation, grow personal networks, and “work out loud.” Anyone can be a curator; it’s a great way to learn. Curation helps workers help their peers as they help themselves..

An example: How Jay Cross Curates Content

Here’s an example of a no-cost, one-person curation project. It’s one of mine.

When I started studying the future of conferences, I began with research. I set up a Google Search for daily news on the topic. I opened a free account on the curation platform and put in search terms and authorities to listen to.  I scoured the web and paid particular attention to curation champions like Robin Good and Howard Rheingold.

Every day I would sift through a hundred or more items suggested by my social networks or the search engines. Perhaps one item in fifty seemed worth commenting on. Sorting through posts made me think critically and see patterns. It’s an excellent way to get a bead on a subject.

I voiced my opinion on nearly every item. Wise interpretation is what adds value to the content. The human touch is required. In my case, the review of thousands of items taught me a whale of a lot about the future of conferences. In order to write my opinion, I needed to pin down and say why this item made any difference. Like the pitch of the docent in front of  a painting in the gallery, I sold an item — or panned it — and tried to win you to my way of seeing things.

When I select an item, it shows up immediately on my site:


Jay’s site on the future of conferences

…and gets reposted to my Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter feeds. All on automatic.

Curation shows off your repertoire or interests. Four out of the five conference owners I spoke with over the next two weeks told me they’d heard about my work on the future of conferences and were excited to talk. Google for “Future of Conferences” and my work comes up #2. (Marketing departments love curation.)

The basic process I followed is the standard for curation.

  1. Research the field. Find and pour over the feeds. Scour.
  2. Make sense out of the item, explain why it matters. Grok.
  3. Publish on social sites, blog, mail list, and social media. Share.

That’s all there is to it.

IDEA: Entering new markets? Recruit someone to curate news to share with everyone on the team.

IDEA: Entire team researching a subject? Curate the topic collaboratively.

IDEA: New person joining the team? Curate a topic to gain exposure and build reputation.

We used to be inthralled with the idea that everyone now had a personal printing press. Curation tools make it easy for any of us to be publishers of glossy online magazines!

That’s the exhilaration that comes with curation. Imagine the web as millions of pages. To make your magazine, you tear out any of those pages you fancy, explain why they matter, and push the button. Bingo! You’ve shared a link to the content and your take on it.

Several companies offer inexpensive or free curation tools. The best known are,, Pinterest enables you to curate photos. Diigo facilitates curating bookmarks; here are my Diigo pointerson the topic of Curation.


Jay’s Pinterest Page on Conferences

Millions Saved 

A multinational software and e-business consulting firm (If I told you the name, I’d have to shoot you) set up dozens of communities of a hundred or so like-minded professionals. Admission is invitation-only; the communities are like guilds.

Groups formed around topics such as Java, enterprise architecture, banking, insurance, dot-net and businessintelligence. Management made sure each community had at least one person planting seeds.

Each community elected trusted authorities to spot developments and research worth sharing with the group. Colleagues fed them leads from the field so they wouldn’t miss any important developments. Two topics per week were chosen for curation. The curators feared tackling more topics would wear out their welcome.

Since engineers are generally lousy writers, the firm hired professional authors to interview the authorities and write a couple of posts with links every week. Removing the noise of mediocre posts increases the fidelity of results. Applying one person’s time at the front end saves the time of hundreds at the receiving end.

The initial attempt to offer the curated news as RSS feeds and on blogs bombed. Workers will not tolerate breaking out of their workflow. Curated items began arriving by email and everyone was delighted.

Before the community news program, engineers or scientists spent 10% of their time sifting through lots of dead ends and time wasters, and perhaps still not catching the most important news.

About 4,000 people belong to communities. If the curation program cuts everyone’s research time from 10% to 5%, and the average engineer bills $300,000/year, that’s $60 million in additional billing capacity.

Personal Knowledge Mastery

The most sophisticated approach to individual and small-group curation is Personal Knowledge Mastery, a concept pioneered by Harold Jarche. (Disclaimer: Harold is chairman of Internet Time Alliance, the think tank with which I am affiliated.)

Harold’s workshops teach the mechanics of curation but take it to a higher plane. Harold’s PKM is a set of individually constructed processes to help each of us make sense of our world and work more efficiently. Continuously seeking, sense-making, and sharing become the process of work, not some activity on the side. This takes place on the local team level, in communities of practice, and on the internet at large.

PKM provides a framework for becoming knowledgeable. Sometimes it becomes an organizational priority. Says Harold,

PKM may be an individual activity but it is social as well. It is the process by which we can connect what we learn outside the organization with what need to do inside. Research shows that work teams that need to share complex knowledge need tighter social bonds. Work teams often share a unique language or vocabulary. However, they can become myopic and may lack a diversity of opinions. Social networks, on the other hand, encourage diversity and can sow the seeds of innovation. But it is almost impossible to get work done in social networks due to their lack of structure. PKM is the active process of connecting the innovative ideas that can arise in our social networks with the deadline-driven work inside organizations.

Just Do It

You may well be a curator already, posting items to Twitter, your blog, FAQs, or a wiki. When you look at the entire curation process top-to-bottom, you’re likely to find ways to do it with more impact.

Curation enriches the commons by saving people time in finding what they need. It’s also a marvelous means of professional development. The question is if you’re not curating, why not?

Curate your gallery of corporate and personal knowledge as part of your own personal development plan.

Research for this post sponsored by Litmos.

Ten years after

atdplusThose who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, so I’ll reflect on the old days a dozen years ago when we were sorting out the ground rules for eLearning.

In 2002, ASTD and I introduced a blog, Learning Circuits Blog, about eLearning and networking. I was an early and frequent contributor. For a simple blog, we went far. At ATD, Ryann Ellis was the under-appreciated editor who held it together for years. <Kudos!> Learning Circuits was ASTD’s first foray into modern learning.

It’s amazing to look back. In 2000, ASTD executives assured me you couldn’t charge for online instruction. Live conferencing and lecture, maybe, but not for mere content delivery or interactive learning. People were still debating whether online learning “worked.” Many were skeptics. Two years later we launched the Learning Circuits Blog. We were web and network enthusiasts; that’s how we got here.

Ryann wrote: This isn’t the first time ASTD has revamped the LC Blog into a more serviceable offering. Excited about the new communication tool, we actually started our first blog somewhat ambitiously in 2002 as an experiment lead by informal learning guru Jay Cross and Learning Circuits editor Ryann Ellis. After a few years of misfires and restarts, Jay helped us relaunch the blog as we now know it on January 5, 2005, with a post laying down ground rules for a group-generated blog. In short, the rules were, no self-promotional posts, no personal attacks, and keep it brief—all good advice to heed today, no matter the platform.

Indeed, over the years, the blog has seen several incarnations and a parade of learning technology thought leaders contributing content, including Clark Aldrich, Karl Kapp, Donald Clark, Dave Lee, Clark Quinn, Clive Shepherd, Harold Jarche, and most notably Tony Karrer, who was at the helm for nearly four years. We thank them and everyone else who shared their ideas, expertise, and dedication to the field. [And have no fear: For those looking for an older post, the LC Blog will remain live with all its content intact.]

For a few years, the Learning Circuits Blog was our learning community’s early substitute for Twitter. The vocal folks built their online reputations there. Tony Karrer and Dave Gray figured heavily in making the LC Blog go. Forgive my feeble memory for blanking on the other contributors.

ASTD revamped its IT system several years ago, breaking thousands of links irrevocably, sending lots of my content down the rathole. Bad move. Links were severed. Thank goodness Goggle has a different mindset: keep everything. Since we set up the Learning Circuits blog on Blogger, it’s there to this day.

Here’s the last (2008) Learning Circuits Blog. Or 2006.

Stroll back in time. Not much new, is there? You could use some of this stuff in Sunday’s sermon and no one would recognize they’d heard it before.

lc blog



Summarizing Learn for Yourself



I just copied a rough draft of my new book, Learn For Yourself, into a free summarizer. In a few seconds, it reduced my 116-page manuscript to 10 items


It’s all a matter of learning, but it’s not the sort of learning that is the province of training departments, workshops, and classrooms.

You are learning to learn how to become the person you wrote the obit for.

It’s learning to know versus learning to be.

Most of what we learn, we learn by interacting with others.

Sharing is an act of learning and can be considered your responsibility for the greater social learning contract.

Know-who (social networking skills, locating the key people and communities where competencies, knowledge, and practice reside and who can add the greatest value to one’s learning and work) Two students working on one computer learn more than both would learn if working individually.

Learners can give more than they take by sharing what they learned and how they learned it with others.

We call this phenomenon the new culture of learning, and it is grounded in a very simple question: What happens to learning when we move from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change?”

While the summary skips over the primary content, fifty ways to learn better and work smarter, it catches the spirit of the book rather well.

When I’m deciding whether reading a lengthy article is worth my time, I’ll sometimes dump it in a summarizer to figure out if it’s worthwhile to read further.




Here’s a summary of the Working Smarter Fieldbook:



While learning is ascendant, training is in decline, for workers are embracing self-service learning; they learn in the context of work, not at some training class divorced from work.

Not only does it confirm the significant frequency of informal learning, it demonstrates that informal learning shows up in many ways: e-Learning, traditional book study, social learning, and experience.” The use of social media in learning is is often referred to as “social learning”, but as has been demonstrated this has a much wider meaning than simply using social media for training – “social training” – but also for social (workflow/informal) learning where workers can share information and knowledge with others in networks and communities as well as adopting a new collaborative approach to working.

Note, this does not mean building lots more learning content nor implementing a traditional “command and control” (social) learning (management) system where everyone’s learning is tracked, monitored and managed, but rather providing an open,and enabling environment for individuals and groups to support their own learning and performance needs.

Any system that claims to “manage informal learning” is a learning management system, since once you start to “manage informal learning” it becomes “formal learning” as in a LMS the learning of the learners is still under the control of the organization.

In order to reinvent formal learning ALSO requires a re-thinking of the existing provision of formal learning, but to go further and to transform learning requires a complete NEW mindset in understanding the role of “learning” in an organization, – and to appreciate that, as my colleague, Harold Jarche in the Internet Time Alliance says “learning=working; working=learning”.

The shift from training (we tell you what to learn) to learning (you decide what to learn) increases the scope of the director’s job from classes, workshops, and tests to the broad array of networks, communities, meta-learning, and learning culture.

However, if the mindset has stretched beyond event-based learning to where most learning occurs for workers, which is in the workplace at the point-of-need, where process-based learning serves best and where learning through doing and learning as part of the work process happens, then ID takes on a whole new dimension.

We’ve looked at blogs, wikis, FAQs, instant messaging, crowdsourcing, sharing ideas, discussion among colleagues, discussion with experts, discussion with customers, learning on demand, chat, prediction markets, outsourcing innovation, communities of practice, subject matter networks, collaboration, expertise location, video learning, podcasts, coaching, use-generated content, experiential learning, mentoring, and peer-to-peer learning.

[Traditional] To gain knowledge or information of; to ascertain by inquiry, study, or investigation; to acquire understanding of, or skill; as, to learn the way; to learn a lesson; to learn dancing; to learn to skate; to learn the violin; to learn the truth about something.


Finally, here’s a summary of Informal Learning. When a book is loaded with content, it’s impossible for the Summarizer to boil it down to 10 items.

CONCEPTS examines the incredible acceleration of time, a working definition of informal learning, how informal learning benefits organizations, and why learning ecosystems will crowd out training programs.

Back in California, Peter and I met at the Institute for Research on Learning to talk further about informal learning, communities of practice, anthropological research, and learning as engagement.

CONCEPTS examines the incredible acceleration of time, a working definition of informal learning, how informal learning benefits organizations, and why learning ecosystems will crowd out training programs.

…..The emergent way of learning is more likely to involve community, storytelling, simulation, dynamic learning portals, social network analysis, expertise location, presence awareness, workflow integration, search technology, help desks, spontaneity, personal knowledge management, mobile learning, and co-creation.

We aim to create a learnscape where workers can easily find the people and information they need, learning is fluid and new ideas flow freely, corporate citizens live and work by the organization’s values, people know the best way to get things done, workers spend more time creating value than handling exceptions, and everyone finds their work challenging and fulfilling.

“One way to utilize spacing is to change the definition of a learning event to include the connotation that learning takes place over time real learning doesn’t unusually occur in one-time events.” …..In the chapter on Informal Learning, I likened formal learning with riding on a bus and informal learning with driving a car or riding a bicycle.

When you’ve finished, you not only learn your top five signature strengths, but also how you compare to everyone who has taken the survey, people of your gender, people your age, people in your line of work, people with your level of education, and people who reside in your and neighboring zip codes.

Not only does it confirm the significant frequency of informal learning, it demonstrates that informal learning shows up in many ways: e-Learning, traditional book study, social learning, and experience.” [Traditional] To gain knowledge or information of; to ascertain by inquiry, study, or investigation; to acquire understanding of, or skill; as, to learn the way; to learn a lesson; to learn dancing; to learn to skate; to learn the violin; to learn the truth about something.

Do you use a summarizer to condense text?