Networks – Internet Time Blog Thu, 05 Nov 2015 01:35:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why Organizations Don’t Learn Wed, 21 Oct 2015 18:34:58 +0000 Continue reading Why Organizations Don’t Learn ]]> Where organic, bottom-up meets corporate top-down.45720753_sAn article entitled Why Organizations Don’t Learn by Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats in the November 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review caught my eye.

The resemblance of their suggestions and the content of Real Learning is uncanny.

Both the article and Real Learning highlight:

  • Destigmatize making mistakes (they are opportunities to learn)
  • Embrace and teach a growth mindset
  • Avoid attribution bias
  • Don’t work to exhaustion
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Take time to just think
  • Encourage reflection after doing
  • Leverage your strengths
  • Give workers different kinds of experience
  • Know who you’re working with

While we share many ideas on what makes for a successful organization, HBR and Real Learning are as different as night and day. Harvard Business Review is written for managers and executives. Real Learning is written for people who want to learn. HBR is top-down; Real Learning is bottom-up.

HBR lays the responsibility for getting things done on leaders:

Leaders can use a variety of strategies to counter the biases, including stressing that mistakes are learning opportunities, building more breaks into schedules, helping employees identify and apply their personal strengths, and encouraging employees to own problems that affect them.

The problem is that everything recommended by HBR deals with the supply side. Real Learning looks at the world through the demand side. Real Learning appeals to people with an intrinsic motivation to learn — in order to meet their personal goals. Intrinsic motivation outguns extrinsic motivation because ultimately, individuals learn what they want to learn.

It wasn’t easy writing Real Learning from the learner’s perspective. (At first I tried to write the book without using the word learning, but that proved impossible.) One has to eliminate the trainers’ bias toward “them.” You can’t get away with platitudes about what leaders should do.

HBR’s prescriptions are the right medicine; too bad they’ve chosen the wrong means of administering it.

While leaders can and should do what they can to create a supportive learning environment and an engaging culture, things won’t change until workers begin to act differently.

People in the Real Learning Project learn to learn socially, experientially, and informally. Thus, they are prepared to deal with the daily surprises that are part of the baggage of complex work.


When I was in India in 2011, I found out that India needs to train 500 million people in the next ten years. The solution being batted around was to build 17,000 new universities to teach them.

What would those schools teach? The half-life of a professional skill is down to five years and is shrinking fast. It makes no sense to train people on skills that will become obsolete in short order. I suggested that people need to learn meta-skills, such things as:

  • learning how to learn
  • critical thinking and conceptualization
  • pattern recognition
  • design thinking
  • working with one another
  • navigating complex environments
  • software literacy

India has neither time nor resources to prepare teachers to transfer these skills to hundreds of millions of people. The answer? Flip Indian education. Delegate the delivery of content to electronic means, and focus teachers on coaching, leading discussions, helping people over hurdles, and relating lessons to real life. Also, teach students and workers to teach themselves.

The time is ripe for India to democratize education, to help students to think for themselves, and realize their potential. Top-down (17,000 universities) is not viable. Indians must empower people to learn on their own. Giving control to the learners is the only way to take control of the situation.

Networks of individuals instead of corporate monoliths

In January 2012, two dozen authors, managers, and agile software developers met on a mountain top in Stoos, Switzerland, to try to reverse the decline of corporations. How could the practice of management be updated to work in a complex, unpredictable world?

We concluded that Western corporations are broken. Workers hate their jobs; customers complain of lousy service; investors receive meager returns. There has to be a better way.

The organization-as-machine, the model that served us from the dawn of the industrial age until the beginning of the 21st century, leads to a quest for efficiency. That works in stable, unchanging times, but it’s a formula for disaster amid incessant, disruptive change. The living network is a better model for today. Organizations need to conceptualize themselves as networks of individuals and teams who perpetually strive to create more value for customers.

This flips the corporation into an organization that respects people for their contributions rather than seeing them as cogs in the machine. The new order democratizes the workplace.

Corporate Learning

In America and Europe, the corporate learning function is dead or dying.

A 2011 study by the Corporate Leadership Council reported that 76% of managers are dissatisfied with their corporate training function; 85% deem training ineffective; and a mere 14% would recommend training to their fellow managers.

Workers and managers learn their work though conversation, collaboration, and on-the-job experience. My colleague Jane Hart calls this “learning without training.”

Enlightened corporations trust their people to pull in the resources they need. They’ve flipped corporate learning by putting the learners in charge of defining the curriculum. These corporations concentrate on building self-sustaining learning ecosystems, what I’ve called workscapes, instead of individual programs.

Real Learning builds the skills for workers to take charge of their own learning. I’m currently writing a booklet on what managers and team leaders can do to support decentralization of corporate learning.

The Cluetrain Manifesto in action Fri, 11 Sep 2015 23:19:27 +0000 Continue reading The Cluetrain Manifesto in action ]]> themanifestoSixteen years ago, The Cluetrain Manifesto foretold the impact the Internet would have on companies’ relationships with their clients.  Some companies have yet to get the clue.

Excepts from the 95 Theses:

  • Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
  • Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
  • People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
  • There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
  • Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
  • In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business — the sound of mission statements and brochures —will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court
  • Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.


CIGNA insurance refused to pay for my drugs because it was the second time in a year I asked for a refill in advance because I was going on vacation.  The story is online.

Here are a few Tweets from yesterday evening. I had warned them and they blew me off anyway. These guys put their undocumented in-house policies ahead of human decency and common sense.

cigna10 cigna9 cigna8 cigna7 cigna6 cigna5 cigna4 cigna3




CIGNA called me this morning and said this shouldn’t happen to anyone. They are reviewing their policies. They are reviewing their internal procedures. They are sorry this happened.

Too bad they didn’t say that yesterday instead of telling me this was the way things were, policy is policy, and I would not be allowed to speak to a person higher up.

I’m off on vacation. I think CIGNA’s doing a little damage control.


Tweetsmap Sun, 23 Aug 2015 17:42:24 +0000 View jaycross’s profile on TweepsMap


danah boyd on teens and 21st century work Mon, 04 Feb 2013 02:23:15 +0000 Continue reading danah boyd on teens and 21st century work ]]> danah boyd opened ASTD TechKnowledge 2013 with a keynote on teenagers, networks, and work in the 21st century.

danah spells her name in lower case, but everything else about her is upper case: Master’s in Sociable Media with Judith Donath at the MIT Media Lab, PhD at UC Berkeley School of Information advised by Peter Lyman and Mimi Ito, fellow at the Annenberg Center for Communication, fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard, work at Yahoo, Intel, Google, and now Microsoft.

danah has been studying teenagers for a decade. She reminds me of Temple Grandin, the autistic horse whisperer who looks at the world from the animals’ perspective. boyd is an anthropologist who knows teenagers better than they know themselves.


danah boydTransformation happens at the boundaries of organizations, not the center. Organizations are like LP records: the outer edge is moving fast but the center hardly moves at all. Young people don’t understand why traditional employees gravitate toward the center. Why not go to the edge, where things are happening? Why stay inside the corporate walls when you can talk with everyone?

Information flows faster when it’s available to everyone. It’s stupid to keep secrets from customers and partners who can help you. Overall, young people are challenging the way boundaries work.

Changes in the technology sector are forcing us to consider changes in the organizational culture. Fifteen years ago, coding was a slow, laborious process. Programmers coded every function from scratch. Computers were slow. A programmer would submit a program on punch cards and wait hours for it to compile.

Computers got faster; compiling became instantaneous, and extensibility became the rule. How much of my code can be recycled? Instead of coding, programmers built apps by mashing up shared packages of code. Prototyping became fast and cheap. If a mashup produced a Frankenmonster, you threw it away and tried something else. Programming became communal, sharing replaced building from scratch, and programmers migrated to co-working spaces. They share information with competitors because sharing is to everyone’s advantage. It takes place after hours in bars. Social networks have become the fabric of the high tech industry.

Workers in high-tech know what their executives overlook. Learning is experiential. You learn from your peers and from doing things. Techies tend to move on every three years in search of fresh opportunities to learn.


Teenagers have a different perspective on what’s public and what’s private. They can talk with the world over the net, even when they are forbidden to leave home. They gain privacy by controlling the social situation.

A girl is horrified when her mom joins Facebook. Mom’s comments embarrass her. To tell her friends about breaking up with her boyfriend, she references a song from Life of Brian, Always look on the bright side of life. Her friends understand and begin texting her; her mother doesn’t get it. Privacy is attained by hiding in plain sight.

Sorry, but I can’t resist telling an old joke. A teenage boy writes, “Oh, no. My father has joined Facebook. WTF?” His dad writes, “What does WTF mean?” The son replies “Welcome to Facebook.”

Teens are hacking the Attention Economy. They play with boundaries, not within. Consider Remix culture. Mix Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Star Wars. It skips over the copyright boundary but creates something new and engaging. Teenagers on Twitter and Instagram have millions of followers. Their ecosystem exceeds that of adults. They see the Internet as their own.

The 21st century

Networks rule. People are organizing by networks instead of groups. This is a radical shift.

Success in today’s workforce is about being networked in a way that makes sense. How do you build relationships that help you sustain the right kinds of connections?

In traditional higher ed, colleges are not a place to learn skills. Professors give horrible lectures on esoteric subjects. They teach so they can do their research. People go to those institutions for social networking. Negotiating the dynamics of the Ivy League dorm room builds relationships that sustain the elite connections of our country.

This has gotten messier now with social media. Young people find people like them even before they get on campus. At work, people recommend people who are like them. This reinforces homogeneity. We need to train people about thinking how DIVERSE their networks are.

As you build skills, how to you build social networks and relationships?

When we see young people experimenting with networks, we encourage them. Yet young people are told not to meet strangers. We need to meet people who are NOT LIKE US in order to build and learn.

Building out relationships through social networking is not just an HR issue – it’s connected to the ability to become a lifelong learner. Exposing people to other people who know what they don’t know.

We need disruption to help grow things (e.g., outsiders coming into your organization).

How do we prepare learners for the skills of the future, and also how do we prepare them to engage with the ecosystem?

Future organizations

danah suggests that the high tech development approach is a great model for business organizations in general. I agree. The Stoos Movement is working to bring it about. For example, Steve Denning’s Radical Management concept mashes up the zeitgeist of Scrum, Agile, and Kanban with business management:

  • Delight customers
  • Dynamic linking
  • From value to values
  • Communications: conversations
  • Managers enable self-organizing teams

danah’s talk put another item on my to-do list: I’ve got to get to know some teenagers!



Cammy Bean’s live-blogged post on danah’s session was invaluable in writing this summary.



Your social wishlist Thu, 15 Nov 2012 18:50:35 +0000 Continue reading Your social wishlist ]]> How will you take advantage of your in-house social network?

Use networks to create services and share collective intelligence

Your company will install an in-house social network. The only question is how soon. Wise Chief Learning Officers are thinking about how social networks will augment learning & development.

Imagine that a Senior Executive in your company returns from Thanksgiving weekend having read white papers from IBM that say social business is the next step in the overall evolution of business. Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fast Company had already told him that brainpower has become the engine of innovation. It’s inevitable that businesses will construct networks that connect everyone in their ecosystems to co-create and deliver services that delight customers and share collective intelligence. Social business is the flavor of the day in the C-suites of the Fortune 500.

The allure of social business is captivating. McKinsey, MIT and others report that companies that embrace social business models:

  • reduce time to market
  • increase the level of innovation
  • speed up access to knowledge
  • reduce operating costs
  • make in-house expertise easier to tap
  • increase employee satisfaction

The social business juggernaut has arrived and the time to get on board is now. Front-running companies are installing social networks like Chatter, Jive, Connections, Socialcast, Yammer, Socialtext, Sharepoint, Ideo, and HootSuite like there’s no tomorrow.

The exec secured a mandate from the executive committee to experiment with social networking in three areas of the company, international sales, manufacturing resource forecasting, and learning & development.

You’re Chief Learning Officer. You’ve been doing your own research on “Enterprise 2.0” and learning networks. You appreciate that social business — connecting everyone in the organization in networks makes sense. You’ve also sensed a groundswell in the learning and development community favoring social, self-directed, “pull” learning.

You recently read a compelling argument that people in knowledge organizations learn three to four times as much from experience as from interaction with bosses, coaches, and mentors. And they learn about twice as much from those conversations with others from in classrooms and formal learning programs.

Social business is the flavor of the day
in the C-suites of the Fortune 500.


You could deliver a much bigger bang for your training buck by greasing the skids to make experiential learning more systematic, coached, and attractive.

The senior exec called you to his office and explained, “We’re going to experiment to find out how in-house social networks might strengthen our L&D and a few other areas in the company. Several vendors of social network suites have offered us incredibly deep discounts if we make up our minds in the next two days. I know it’s a sales gimmick and they don’t think we can do it. I need you to give me a one-page list of the capabilties you require from social software to make the most of social learning and carry out your vision of what we need to do. It’s an outrageously short fuse request but do your best.”

Let’s test your skills and ability. What functions would appear on your list?

Close the magazine, take out a sheet of paper, and jot down your requirements. What features would you need and why?

Here’s an example

Mobile access – Half of America’s workforce sometimes works away from the office. Smart phones have surpassed PCs for connecting to networks. More people Tweet from their phones than from their computers. If we don’t have mobile capabilities, we’ll lose more than half of our audience.

Jot down what you need. Turn to page ____ to check your list against the nine features on our wish list.

EDITOR.* This answers section goes on a page further back in the book.






Requirements for in-house social learning network

Profiles – for locating and contacting people with the right skills and background. Profile should contain photo, position, location, email address, expertise (tagged so it’s searchable). IBM’s Blue Pages profiles include how to reach you (noting whether you’re online now), reporting chain (boss, boss’s boss, etc.), link to your blog and bookmarks, people in your network, links to documents you frequently share, members of your network.

Activity stream – for monitoring the organizational pulse in real time, sharing what you’re doing, being referred to useful information, asking for help, accelerating the flow of news and information, and keeping up with change.

Wikis – for writing collaboratively, eliminating multiple versions of documents and email, keeping information out in the open, eliminating unnecessary email, and sharing responsibility for updates and error correction.

Virtual meetings – to make it easy to meet online. Minimum feature set: shared screen, shared white board, text chat, video of participants, ability to record. Bonus features: persistent meeting room (your office online), avatars.

Blogs – for narrating work, maintaining your digital reputation, recording accomplishments, documenting expert knowledge, showing people what you’re up to so they can help out.

Bookmarks – to facilitate searching for links to information, discovering what sources other people are following, tracking down experts.

Mobile access – Half of America’s workforce sometimes works away from the office. Smart phones have surpassed PCs for connecting to networks. Phones post most Tweets than computers. Google designs its apps for mobile before porting them to PCs.

Social network – for online conversation, connecting with people, and all of the above functions.

Search – for locating needles in haystacks.

* Note: This is the version of the article I submitted to CLO under the title H0w Will You Take Advantage of Your In-House Social Network? The article that appears in the magazine was edited by CLO editors. The edited version is always close but rarely the same as what I send in.

The Warm Feeling of Vindication Fri, 05 Oct 2012 00:52:09 +0000 Continue reading The Warm Feeling of Vindication ]]> When checking out of the Randolph Hotel in Oxford a couple of weeks back, I was surprised to be charged 3 for “Credit Card Processing.” What? When I pay hundreds of dollars for a room, I expect the hotelier to pick up the finance charges.

The next evening I posted my thoughts on the Randolph’s billing policy to TripAdvisor.

I forgot about the incident until an email arrived from Trip Advisor this morning.

In only 7 days, your review has had 327 readers

If my “review” turns off only one potential guest in 20, at $500/room, the Randolph will forego $8,000 in revenue at its standard $500/night rate. Reviews lose their punch after a while. Mine is the 747th review for the Randolph on Trip Advisor. In a month or two, my review will sink beneath the surface. By that time, they’ll have foregone more than $20,000.

Obviously, this is asymmetrical punishment. Hotel screws me out of $5 and offers no apology; I ding their sales by $10,000 or $20,000.

The internet empowers Jay the Avenger, to counter commercial injustice wherever he finds it. I feel good.

What Universities Must Learn About Social Networks Sun, 23 Sep 2012 17:02:01 +0000 Continue reading What Universities Must Learn About Social Networks ]]>

What Universities Must Learning About Social Networks


Increasingly, businesses are looking to more social approaches to employee learning and development. Higher education institutions must capitalize on this shift.

Co-written with Chris Sessums | Director of Educational Research, Internet Time Lab

THE ISSUE IS NOT whether you are going to become a socially networked university but how soon.

Businesses are being transformed into social businesses.

Social business is the flavor of the day in the C-suites of the Fortune 500. A social business is one where all the members of the corporate ecosystem (employees, customers, partners, and customers) network with one another to delight their customers

IBM describes socially networked corporations as the next step in the overall evolution of business. Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fast Company say collaboration and collective intelligence are the engines of innovation. The first question from new hires, accustomed to doing their homework and living their lives with friends on their networks is “Where’s the social network? Where do I post my profile? How do I search for information?”

Networks are the glue that connects us. No one works alone. It takes a team to get things done. No one learns alone either. Others show us the way, share their know-how, and help us make meaning of the world. We rely on colleagues and social networks to separate the signal from the noise; their advice makes our experiential learning productive. Collaboration is the key to success in both working and learning; they usually take place simultaneously.

The social business bandwagon has arrived and companies are installing Chatter, Jive, Connections, Socialcast, Yammer, Socialtext, Sharepoint, HootSuite, and more to replace outmoded intranets and improve the way they transact business. McKinsey & Company reports that implementing social business creates:

  • Improved business performance (profit, productivity, margins, etc)
  • Increased operational efficiency
  • Stronger outcomes from knowledge intensive work
  • Easier methods of capturing and retaining institutional knowledge
  • Better awareness about business opportunities and colleagues needing help
  • Richer cross-department contamination and collaboration
  • Reduced email traffic and information overload
  • Cheaper and quicker mechanisms to connect colleagues, find and reuse knowledge
  • Improved cross-departmental communication
  • Reduced travel expenses
  • Facilitating the emergence of collective social capital and limiting duplication of effort
  • Stronger employee engagement and motivation
  • Increased satisfaction of partners and suppliers
  • Reduced supply chain costs
  • Lower on-boarding and talent retention costs
  • New levels of business agility and faster cycle times

Social and informal learning are the hottest trends in corporation learning and development. Social networks empower workers to engage in self-determined “pull” learning. People learn their jobs while doing their jobs. They learn more in the coffeeroom that in the classroom. Some training departments see this as learning being out of control; workers flock to it for the same reason.

Many companies rely on Facebook, Twitter, and other consumer applications to connect their people. Others will never do that for reasons of security, lack of the ability to customize, limited feature sets, or the risk of relying on a wildcard like Mark Zuckerberg.

The question you have to face is not whether or not the university needs to provide the social networks that can supplement our educational offering whille at the same time bringing us together to operate more effectively.

Universities have a mandate. Most students, faculty, and administraters use social networks extensively outside of school. They will use them with your blessing or without it. Mobile devices route around IT; amateurs can bid software slaves do their will.

Some schools are comfortable encouraging students, faculty, and adminstratoin to use consumer apps on the open web. Most universities we’ve talked with are concerned about their responsibilities protecting students. But beyond making alternative social network connections available, a school with no internal networks is pushing its consitutents out into the street. It’s like hosting a teenage party. You don’t enjoy being chaperone for a messy event but if you don’t like the thought of the kids partying down at the beach on their own.

A handful of universities have adopted some aspects of web 2.0 but none have taken it all the way. Students everywhere joke about pre-historic systems. What universities need to do is make up their minds about the inevitable and get on with it.

Universities will transmogrify into networked universities.

Students, faculty, and staff share numerous benefits of social networks. Furthermore, universities need to become networked to meet the needs of businesses seeking training. Their employees already know how to use the networks and will adapt better to the learning experience.

By introducing social networks, corporate students will be able to organize study groups, share notes, and better prepare for exams and projects by using these networks to foster peer-to-peer collaboration.

It isn’t just to the benefit of students, though. Faculty use social networks to support communication and information sharing among committees, teams, and research projects. Institutional staff use social software to improve communication with students for both recruitment and retention purposes. Development offices use social networks to stay in touch with alumni and support them with news, information, and networking opportunities.

Each of these areas of the university may benefit from sharing next practices, facilitating cross-department collaboration, facilitating collaboration among departments or teams, streamlining business processes, building support for strategic initiatives, and reducing internal email.

Practical considerations.

Universities face many of the same pressures to embrace social networks as corporations. It simplifies and streamlines the transactional aspects of administration, it encourages open communication and shared decision-making, and it provides a learning ecosystem that enables students to co-learn in order to supplement the formal aspects of their education.

If you’re with us thus far, you next question is “Now what?” You have four or five options for turning on your social network.

Here are some suggestions that draw on Chris’s experience developing and purchasing university-level educational software and Jay’s work with corporations using social networks to implement experiential learning.

Don’t boil the ocean. Start with one team, unit, or department with a crying need and potential social network champions. Build on that success to inspire other groups to join the effort.

While institutions could get help from their LMS vendor, we advise they don’t. Social networks do different jobs than a Learning Management System (LMS). As social learning began to create a buzz, LMS vendors have responded by tacking blogs and microblogs (tweet streams) onto their registration and delivery systems. A bloated LMS suffers the same downside as a Swiss Army Knife. It may be handy to carry a leather punch and Phillips screwdriver in your pocket, but if you plan to do a lot of cutting, you’ll be better off with a single-purpose knife.

While it may be easy to develop a rudimentary social networking system in-house, it is advisable for higher education institutions to bring in a contractor who can develop a specific type of network and protect its security and growth.

Beware of any supplier who is not dedicated to building social networks. The tools of the social web are in constant flux. It takes a dedicated software provider to keep up with evolving user interface conventions and emerging technologies. Activity streams, a “river of news,” are the lifeblood of today’s social networks. Activity streams were virtually unknown until Twitter popularized the format a few years ago. “Favoriting” popular content so the cream can rise to the top caught on after Facebook made it de rigeur. In the last six months, mobile access has become essential. Six months hence, HTML5 will be an absolute requirement. Keeping up is a nightmare unless network software is your primary line of business.

Don’t use software developed by a faculty member (unless you’re Carnegie Mellon, Duke, or maybe Stanford.) The ease of assembling software applications from plug-and-play modules and checkboxes has led numerous faculty members to build social network systems in-house. This is like building a factory with Erector Set. Relying on such “free” software is penny-wise and pound foolish. Homebrew software is difficult to maintain, and often breaks when volumes increase. Keeping everything humming may require access to the author.

Choose the tool/application based on the types of relations/relationships you want to foster and build, not on the features of the tool. Prepare simple guidelines for implementation so that participants know what’s expected of them.

Very much like the continuous changes in social network software, network security is a day to day concern. Security experts work 24/7 to keep a step ahead of crackers trying to crack into their systems. Student and faculty privacy are sacrosanct. It’s vital to have pros lock the doors shut and be ever vigilant. We’re amazed when we find elegant software written by faculty that misses something so fundamental as privacy protection.

You have to weigh the values and culture of your institution to decide whether to provide a protective “walled garden” or the rough-and-tumble of the social internet.

Generally, we suggest: Design for short and long term goals. Measure gap closings, not simply engagement. Define clear objectives. Solve nagging problems. Pay attention to relationships. Get leaders involved. Create rewards and incentives for participation.

Where do you turn for your in-house net?

Sign up for one of the commercial social networks solutions like Jive, Connections, Socialcast, Yammer. Downsides: can be very pricey. Also, someone’s going to have to map your terminology and ways of doing things. These packages generally start life as a blank canvas. Do a pilot test with a moneyback guarantee to get a feel for things. Pick an area where communication has been a major stumbling block and there are enthusiastic

Several groups are preparing social networks built particularly for universities with academic and administrative starter kits already on board. these are start-up companies, so you have to put up with some rough edges but in return you can probably make a good deal. one of the more mature efforts, San Francisco-based GoingOn, has installations in this area, that area, whatever. A lot more of these will be popping up.

We both understand Moore’s Law: everthing gets faster, better, and cheaper at an exponential rate. If it hasn’t fully sunk in, Moore’s Law is what made you feel stupid when you recently bought a computing gadget, only to find a faster model for less money a short while after.

Open source “social network in a box” software is under development that will cost less than a nice learther sofa. That’s a one-time fee, not a subscription. Just as you shouldn’t avoid buying new technology, because there will always be a better and less costly alternative on the market in the future, don’t hold off experimenting today. You might as well start reaping benefits now.


The Evolllution

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Everything’s Coming Up Networks (except learning) Wed, 08 Feb 2012 22:14:02 +0000 Continue reading Everything’s Coming Up Networks (except learning) ]]> Sloan Management Review has a great interview with Andy McAfee on What Sells CEOs on Social Networking. CEOs excitedly agree with Lew Platt’s old observation about Hewlett-Packard: “If only HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.” They understand the power of weak ties in enterprise social networks. They appreciate the incoming generation’s new approach to working without limits. Sure, there are fears of losing control, the fact that hierarchy and social networks are not comfortable bedfellows, and the inevitable paradigm drag. But in the long run, people are eager to express themselves and enterprise collegiality is the path to “knowing what HP knows.”

Yesterday IBM presented a compelling case for social business excellence at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris. Social networks are so patently good for business that managers are routing around IT to put them in place. The social business captures value through capturing tacit information, fostering collaboration & discovery, filtering information flow & finding patterns, and transforming exception processing & making processes resilient.

David Weinberger’s Too Big To Know convinced me that networks have radically changed the notion of what constitutes knowledge. Lots of our previous concepts about knowledge were due to the limitations of paper, not that there’s some absolute truth out there. On the net, facts don’t stay on the page. There are no isolated ideas; there never were; there are only webs of ideas. We can improve those webs through open access, good filters, metadata, linking everything, and opening up institutions.

David describes leadership as an emergent property of an organizational network. Leadership resides more with the group being led than the purported leader. Strong leadership is simply a means for a group to accomplish its objectives.

Yesterday on Dan Pink’s Office Hours, Gary Hamel described the irrelevance of 100 year old models of management and the growing impatience of disgruntled workers, customers, and shareholders. Hamel has said that the future model of management looks a lot like web 2.0.

So networks underpin leadership, business performance, knowledge, and management.

It’s undeniable that the internet is an unprecedented game changer. People and ideas and knowledge and happenings are connected as never before, and there’s no end in sight. The omnipresent network makes us look at processes instead of events: everything has a precedent and an antecedent. Murphy’s Second Law kicks in: You can never do just one thing. Institutions that block connections, be they schools or close-lipped corporations, are increasingly out of step with the times.

But I have a question about this: Why isn’t anyone talking about learning networks?

Neither McAfee nor IBM nor Weinberger nor Hamel talks about networks for learning. This parallels the situation with informal learning and eLearning. Even after people accepted that informal learning is the primary way people learn to do their jobs, few corporate training organizations lifted a finger to do anything about it. eLearning — the boring, one-way, content slapped on pages for self study variety — was a total flop because learning involves more than exposure to information. Two major opportunities to boost performance were squandered. I don’t intend to stand idly by as business thought leaders repeat the same mistake with learning networks.

Networks were made for learning. And in a ever-changing world, learning is a survival skill.

Business people face novel situations every day. Solving problems and making progress require continuous learning. To be successful, a social business’s learning function must break out of the humble training department and spread throughout the organizational infrastructure. Increasingly, learning is the work and the work is learning. Smart organizations will get good at it.

Installing social network software and encouraging people to exploit their connections is only the beginning. The fabric of the social business must incorporate structures and guidance to help people learn. After all, learning underpins continuous improvement and helping to create a culture of continuous improvement is what this is all about.

This is hardly a new idea. I wrote about it in Informal Learning in 2005:

Learning originally meant finding the right path. Paths are connectors; people are nodes. The world is constructed of networks. We’re back where we started.

In networks, connections are the only thing that matters. We network with people; we use networks to gather information and to learn things; we have neural networks in our heads.

Learning is optimizing our connections to the networks that matter to us.

This satisfies both the community concept of learning (social networking) and the knowledge aspect (gaining access to information and fitting it into the patterns in one’s head).

To learn is to adapt to fit with one’s ecosystems. We can look at learning as making and maintaining good connections in a network. Cultivators of learning environments can borrow from network engineers, focusing on such things as:

    • Improving signal-to-noise ratio
    • Installing fat pipes for backbone connections
    • Pruning worthless, unproductive branches
    • Promoting standards for interoperability
    • Balancing the load
    • Seeking continuous improvement

This echoes a white paper, Informal Learning – the other 80%, I wrote nine years ago.

We need to think of learning as optimizing our networks. Learning consists of making good connections.

Taking advantage of the double meaning of the word network, “to learn” is to optimize the quality of one’s networks.

Learning is optimizing our connections to the networks that matter to us.

A sustainable social business provides the means and motivation for workers to learn what they need: the know-how, know-who, and know-what to get things done and get better at doing them. This takes more than access to social networks, blogs, and wikis. Organizations must provide the scaffolding that focuses on discovery, practice, sharing, and reinforcement. Organizations that lack a clear understanding of their learning architectures are doomed to descend into an aimless world of social noise and meaningless chit-chat. Facebook-itus.

Next week I’ll release a white paper on the Internet Time Alliance site on how to develop an enterprise learning network.



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