Category Archives: Workscaping

Through the Workscape Looking Glass

Your Workscape is everything in your organization except the training department. It’s where work is done and where people hone the skills they need to add value. It’s the biggest frame of the big picture. It’s relationships and culture and secret sauce. It’s the organization as organism. To prosper, you need to nurture it, plant seeds, pamper the ground. It’s your job to help the system thrive.

Learning Ecosystem, Learning Ecology, and Learnscape mean the same thing as Workscape. I don’t use the word learn with executives, who inevitably think back to the awfulness of school and close their ears. “Let’s talk about performance.” 


The Workscape is a systems-eye view of the workplace. Everything is connected. Rather than try to control nature, we do what it takes to keep the environment thriving.

In the same vein, I talk about Working Smarter instead of informal learning, social learning, and so forth. Some people denigrate informal learning but nobody’s against Working Smarter.

Your organization already has a workscape where people are learning to work smarter. That’s where all the informal and social learning we hear about is taking place. The problem is that the learning processes are haphazard, often a paving of the cow paths. Many employees and stakeholders miss out—and stumble. Most companies’ systems fail to get the job done. Our Workscape ecologies are entering a do-or-die phase like global warming. Management is demanding that the workforce be more effective. “What got us here will not get us there.” We must nurture the Workscape or face corporate meltdown.

Global warming signals in Workscapes

clarkWe hear that if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” yet most corporate learning and development is broken. 77% of the senior managers surveyed by the Corporate Leadership Council reported they were dissatisfied with L&D. 76% said L&D was not critical to business outcomes. Only 14% would recommend working with L&D. Clark Quinn’s recent book, Revolutionizing Learning and Development, slams L&D, which should be named Performance and Development, for seriously underperforming.    

Time is speeding up. More happens in a day than your grandmother experienced in a week. Keeping sharp and up to date is now a continuing part of everyone’s job. Corporate learning must expand from focusing on the classroom, which provides at best 10% of learning, to the entire organization  where learning while doing is the rule. Training a novice may lead to  productivity gains in the future. Helping an experienced person impacts the bottom line immediately. Little wonder that the training department is underperforming: they only touch a minority of employees, most of them newcomers.

transformationAs many as four out of five large multinationals report they are undergoing a digital transformation. It goes by many names, from Enterprise 2.0 to Radical Management or simply Going Paperless. Altimeter Group defines digital transformation as: “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”* The digital transformation of workplace learning involves moving from the limited training department to the holistic Workscape framework view of the world.

The input may be establishing social learning networks; the output is improvement in the business overall.

Scope of the habitat

Put on your ecologist hat. Let’s examine the diversity of species among those people in your Workscape drawing paychecks:

Novices and newbies have been the main focus of training. This includes new hire on-boarding and provision of basic and technical skills (we’re all novices at something). This minority uses a disproportionate share of the training department’s resources and mindshare.

Experienced producers bring home the bacon yet training departments overlook them. Training departments have single-shot solutions: courses. Courses are rarely appropriate for experienced workers. Many old hands will not tolerate them nor learn from them if they do. They know that experience is a better teacher. Tuning the learning environment to make systemic changes for this underserved population has fantastic upside potential, perhaps enough to get CLOs a real seat at table in the C-Suite.

Top performers are the 20% of the team that generate 80% of the results. A 1% improvement at this level makes waves. This species needs special handling, sometimes including personal service.

Compliance is a red herring that people point to when discussing how deep “training” goes into the organization. However, compliance is not learning. Sure, it’s required, but no body’s expecting much performance improvement in the area, particularly in its present primitive form.

Alumni are an overlooked opportunity in many organizations. IBM invested in keeping former IBMers abreast of what was going on back at Big Blue. The alumni connected over social media and saw demos in Second Life. The result? An on-going flow of leads from true-believers and those who contract with IBM.

Subspecies. L&D has traditionally focused on the needs of employees on the payroll exclusively, disregarding the fact that partners, customers, subcontractors, temps, service agencies, outsourcers, suppliers, and others are equally part of the value chain. Take the Workscape view. Let’s go up to a balcony overlooking a model of your business. Look at the flow of business. You can see that the product is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. Think carefully about who you want to be co-learning with.


The Workscape should address the needs of learners throughout the extended enterprise.

Theoretically, your Workscape — the realm where you’ll be wielding your influence on performance and learning — could stretch way beyond your firewall to include nearly everyone the organization interacts with. Imagine how much cooperation will improve if they all read from the same page.

Reading the temperature

The climate for Workscapes is changing, forcing a re-think of how things are connected.

Decision-making is migrating from institution to individual, from training to pull learning, and shifts “power to the people.” This is how digital transformation works: digital democracy first. Digital citizens exploit connections and take power. Making the shift is an enormous change management task.

Informal, experiential work is three times more effective than formal, top-down training. Experiential earning is migrating into the workflow at a very fast rate. Spread the footprint of the Workscape to the optimal size.

Workscapes are complex and unpredictable, in perpetual beta. Experiments are cheap. Plant lots (hundreds, thousands) of Workscape experiments and nurture those that catch on. Watch out for monoculture (using only one solution) and the echo effect (making judgments from a narrow spectrum of reality).

Nurturing the Workscape requires competencies such as business problem analysis, collaboration experts, community managers, and moxie. I foresee learning process SWAT teams attacking connection gaps. You don’t have these people on board now.

Forget about the traditional way you’ve trained people. Unlearn your assumptions about courses and top-down learning. Break with the present by looking ahead five years. Start with a blank piece of paper. Take a Workscape perspective. Assess the organizational benefits of:

  • embedding learning in work, covering a much larger audience
  • setting up learning as a continuous activity, not an event
  • leveraging self-sustaining processes instead of one-time courses
  • pinpointing high-return activities such as manager coaching
  • embracing social and experiential learning
  • changing the learning philosophy from push to pull
  • employing business metrics to gauge success
  • canvasing the organization for opportunities instead of waiting for requests
  • focusing on overall business outcomes
  • building self-sufficient teams
  • extending the Workscape to cover partners, customers, and outsourced services
  • making learning a driver with business impact

The learning conservationist toolkit

L&D’s collaboration experts and SWAT teams are digital MacGyvers who weave techniques like these into Workscapes:

Make Management responsible for development

  • Issue stretch assignments to grow staff
  • Mentors, coaching
  • Action learning

Personal Learning Network

  • Collaboration and cooperation
  • Friends and colleagues provide answers
  • Peer learning

Performance support

  • Job aids, bookmarks,
  • FAQs, aggregation, curation

Access to information

  • Wiki, inhouse YouTube, internet
  • Self-study catalog, portals

Enterprise social network

  • Activity stream keeps one up to date
  • Platform for conversation
  • Opportunity to share knowledge

Communities of Practice

  • Professional growth
  • Knowledge repository
  • Create knowledge


  • Individual publishing (Learn out loud!)
  • Follow thinking of others

Social learning

  • Make conversation easy
  • Collaboration


  • DIY

Performance feedback

  • Is it working? How can we do better?


  • Learning in tiny bites

Instead of taking requests, the traditional role of training departments, learning conservationists actively seek out opportunities where learning will have the most impact.

One group of L&D special agents posted this set of beliefs to explain how it worked to its internal clients:

  • We are open and transparent.
  • We narrate our work. Need to share.
  • We support continuous learning, not events.
  • We value conversation as a learning vehicle.
  • We drink our own champagne (or mimosas).
  • Business success is our bottom line.
  • We are not a training organization.
  • We value time for self-development and reflection.
  • We establish business metrics for every engagement and report back publicly on outcomes.


Changing the physical environment can improve learning.

The staff will use any tool available to improve learning, right down to moving the furniture. A computer manufacturer discovered that its chip designers learned from overhearing conversations among their peers. They replaced a cube farm with comfortable sofas, rolling white boards, and espresso machines — and watched the production of innovative ideas skyrocket.

Environmental impact report

In a 2011 book, A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown described the kind of learning necessary in this new environment as “whitewater learning”—the ability to acquire useful knowledge and skills while at the same time practicing them in an environment that is constantly evolving and presenting new challenges. They argue that our learning environments need to match the speed and degree of change happening in the world around us.**

The emancipation of both nature and the human imagination depends first on the capacity to ‘unsay’ the world and, second, on the ability to image it differently so that wonder might be brought into appearance.***

Over a hundred CLOs told us what they were currently doing was insufficient to prepare them to deal with the future needs of the business. Obviously it’s time to do something different.

Our People Growing Fast Enough

One way to accelerate people’s development is to optimize learning by looking at the organization as an organic, unpredictable, complex system. It’s time to fix the big picture by working on the level of the Workscape.


*Digital transformation by any other name, Jason Bloomberg in Forbes

**Aspen Institute, The Learning Ecosystem

*** James Corner, “Ecology and Landscape as Agents of Creativity,” in Ecological design and planning, George F. Thompson and Frederick R. Steiner, editors, (New York: John Wiley, 1997), p.99. quoted in Design Education and Innovation Ecotones by Ann Pendleton-Julian


Research funded by Litmos

Enterprise Learning & Digital Transformation


Enterprise Learning takes learning beyond the training department into the overall extended enterprise, the “Workscape.” It’s a breakout that’s happening throughout organizations as they embrace digital technology.

Enterprise Learning is the learning component of Digital Transformation, defined by Altimeter Group as:

The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.

Nine out of ten companies sampled by Altimeter are engaged in one or more digital transformation practices:


These efforts are being championed by the Chief Marketing Officer, the CEO, and occasionally the CIO. The digital makeover has yet to reach HR. It’s time for that to change.

Erik Brynjolfsson, professor at MIT’s Center for eBusiness has identified seven practices of highly productive firms that have embraced digital transformation. They closely parallel the advice Internet Time Alliance gives to companies adopting an Enterprise Learning approach:

  • Converting traditional analog processes to digital processes.
  • Distributing decision rights and empowering line workers, through increased decentralization and delegation
  • Adopting a policy of free information access and communication
  • Offering strong performance-linked incentives
  • Maintaining corporate focus and communicating strategic goals
  • Recruiting and hiring top-quality employees and committing the necessary resources to the process.
  • Strong emphasis on the investment of “human capital”

L&D will do well to seek out and partner with those in their organization who champion digital transformation and are running active experiments. If the CEO and CMO are gung-ho, it may be beneficial to ride into the digital era on their coattails.

What do you think? Shouldn’t digital learning transformation, i.e. Enterprise Learning, ally with corporate digerati already implementing new initiatives?


Conference Board Presentation



Introduction 4:25

In the next 40 minutes, I’ll share the Internet Time Alliance’s advice on implementing informal learning and Working Smarter in a large organization. Change is inevitable. Three out of four CLOs say what they’re doing now is inadequate to prepare people for the future.

Internet Time Alliance 4:21

When I say we, I’m talking about the Internet Time Alliance. We are first movers. We developed the world’s first online MBA program, the first software learning game, the first business curriculum for the University of Phoenix, and first use of the word eLearning. Now in its seventh year, the Alliance is a think tank and community of practice. Our clients learn ahead of the pack.

Power of Pull Learning 4:15

Experiential learning is three times more effective than traditional learning. Support Pull learning. Foster conversations – the “stem cells of learning.” People learn to do the job on the job. 

Enterprise Learning 5:52

The Workscape is the infrastructure for working smarter. It’s undergoing a transition from courses and information sources we design and control to setting up continuous learning processes like social networks and communities of practice. 702010 is an example of such a framework.

Stake Out Your Vision 6:29

You’ll need a clear plan to convince the organization to go along with the transition. Work and learning are merging — learning is becoming the work — so they much take place simultaneously. Don’t leave out suppliers, partners, customers, alumni., and your producers. Knowledge resides in networks.

Implementation 8:43

Start with your own organization. Plant lots of seeds. Don’t neglect the individual who needs to know what to do given freedom to act. Product Knowledge Mastery. Chefs as a community. Examples from Danone and Lego.

Resources 4:54

How to find this presentation, the Internet Time Alliance, the Informal Learning Center, and Jane’s 100 Tools list.

I am still chopping and editing the video, experimenting with editing inside YouTube. There’s some overlap; the actual presentation is shorter. Help me improve this. Leave a comment or ebetamail me at [email protected]

As the ultimate work out loud, I may make this into a free coaching piece to introduce the work of the Alliance.



howardIn his keynote presentation at Online Educa Berlin last week, Howard Rheingold emphasized co-learning.

Since the teacher learns more than the student, let’s all be both teachers and students. Esteemed co-learners, your job is to create new co-learning communities. If a group doesn’t exist for facilitate your informal learning, make one.

Peeragogy is a set of techniques for collaborative learning and work. It’s a both a discipline and a living book. Howard kicked off the Peeragogy project, many authors contributed to the work, and now a team is dedicated to making it ever better. Housed on a wiki, Peeragogy keeps on improving. Peeragogy walks its talk.


Version 2.0 of the book is out now. Free pdf & brand new softcover for $20.

Version 3.0 is in progress and you can help! Join “Peeragogy in Action” on g+.

I made a contribution on Peeragogy in the corporation for an early version of the book two years ago that presaged some of the current buzz about learning ecosystems.

The Workscape, a platform for learning

Formal learning takes place in classrooms; informal learning happens in workscapes. A workscape is a learning ecology. As the environment of learning, a workscape includes the workplace. In fact, a workscape has no boundaries. No two workscapes are alike. Your workscape may include being coached on giving effective presentations, calling the help desk for an explanation, and researching an industry on the Net. My workscape could include participating in a community of field technicians, looking things up on a search engine, and living in France for three months.

Developing a platform to support informal learning is analogous to landscaping a garden. A major component of informal learning is natural learning, the notion of treating people as organisms in nature. The people are free-range learners. Our role is to protect their environment, provide nutrients for growth, and let nature take its course.

A landscape designer’s goal is to conceptualize a harmonious, unified, pleasing garden that makes the most of the site at hand. A workscape designer’s goal is to create a learning environment that increases the organization’s longevity and health and the individual’s happiness and well-being.

Gardeners don’t control plants; managers don’t control people. Gardeners and managers have influence but not absolute authority. They can’t makea plant fit into the landscape or a person fit into a team.

In an ideal Workscape, 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.

The technical infrastructure of the Workscape

When an organization is improving its Workscape, looking at consumer applications is a good way to think about what’s required. Ask net-savvy younger workers how they would like to learn new skills, and they bring up the features they enjoy in other services:

  • Personalize my experience and make recommendations, like Amazon.
  • Make it easy for me to connect with friends, like Facebook.
  • Keep me in touch with colleagues and associates in other companies, as on LinkedIn.
  • Persistent reputations, as at eBay, so you can trust who you’re collaborating with.
  • Multiple access options, like a bank that offers access by ATM, the Web, phone, or human tellers.
  • Don’t overload me. Let me learn from YouTube, an FAQ, or linking to an expert.
  • Show me what’s hot, like Reddit, Digg, MetaFilter, or Fark do.
  • Give me single sign-on, like using my Facebook profile to access multiple applications.
  • Let me choose and subscribe to streams of information I’m interested in, like BoingBoing, LifeHacker or Huffpost.
  • Provide a single, simple, all-in-one interface, like that provided by Google for search.
  • Help me learn from a community of kindred spirits, like SlashDot, Reddit, and MetaFilter.
  • Give me a way to voice my opinions and show my personality, as on my blog.
  • Show me what others are interested in, as with social bookmarks like Diigo and Delicious.
  • Make it easy to share photos and video, as on Flickr and YouTube.
  • Leverage “the wisdom of crowds,” as when I pose a question to my followers on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Enable users to rate content, like “Favoriting” an item on Facebook or +!ing is on Google or YouTube.

Some of those consumer applications are simple to replicate in-house. Others are not. You can’t afford to replicate Facebook or Google behind your firewall. That said, there are lots of applications you can implement at reasonable cost. Be skeptical if your collaborative infrastructure that doesn’t include these minimal functions:

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 organization 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, 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. Bonus features: persistent meeting room (your office online), avatars.

Blogs – for narrating your 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, discover what sources other people are following, locate experts

Mobile access – Half of America’s workforce sometimes works away from the office. Smart phones are surpassing PCs for connecting to networks for access and participation. 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.


Learning used to focus on what was in an individual’s head. The individual took the test, got the degree, or earned the certificate. The new learning focuses on what it takes to do the job right. The workplace is an open-book exam. What worker doesn’t have a cell phone and an Internet connection? Using personal information pipelines to get help from colleagues and the Internet to access the world’s information is encouraged. Besides, it’s probably the team that must perform, not a single individual.  Thirty years ago, three-quarters of what a worker need to do the job was stored in her head; now it’s less than 10%.




February 2014: Creation Spaces


John Hagel tells us that “Answers can be helpful but they only have a fixed value. And answers, no matter how good they are, tend to become obsolete at an accelerating rate.  As conditions evolve, those answers that only a little while ago seemed so compelling and helpful now begin to seem stale and worn.”

Instead of answers, “… questions do something else that’s absolutely vital for influence – they rapidly build trust with the person posing the questions. The person posing these kinds of questions has just done something very important – s/he has expressed vulnerability.  S/he has acknowledged there’s something really important that s/he doesn’t know and needs help to solve.”

The most powerful networks would take the form of creation spaces that support the formation of tightly knit teams and then connect these teams in a broader space where they can seek out help from each other.

My colleague Charles Jennings says that to support learning effectively and engender behaviour change,  we need to create environments where emotional responsesrich experiences and social learning are at the forefront. These are prerequisites for Hagel’s creation spaces (and my own workscapes.)

In a series of articles, Jane Hart describes learning flows. A Learning Flow is a continuous steady stream of social micro-learning activities – accessible from the web and mobile devices. This is an important step beyond the course. Learning flows are another arrow in the workscape quill.

These are the top articles that passed through my screen this month.



FEBRUARY 24, 2014

The Big Shift in Influence

‘Influence is becoming more and more challenging.   It’s hard enough to attract attention, much less retain it or use that attention to shape the behavior of others. And yet, in a world of scarce resources and mounting pressure, the ability to influence others becomes more and more central to the ability to set big things in motion.


FEBRUARY 1, 2014

Theories Related to Connectivism

‘I was asked: But i have some questions about my research. First i need ten-year findings of connectionim learning theory, second i got confused with telling the difference between connectionism, connectivist because some Chinese translators/scholars have had their own versions.The version raises argumentation. Here is my own take on it.


FEBRUARY 6, 2014

Case study porn

‘A while back I tweeted “Stop reading case study porn and get on with it”. Even all those years ago when we were getting started at the BBC there was a pressure to justify what we were doing with examples from other organisations. Best practice” is a dodgy idea that is increasingly discredited. It is so easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis.


FEBRUARY 3, 2014

Learning is Behaviour Change: why is it often so hard to help it happen?

If you didn”t, your time would end soon — a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?”
82 Tweets 18 Tweets 15 Tweets 33 Tweets

I have a dream

135,000 people are attending’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. Mark Benioff, Salesforce’s exuberant CEO, proclaimed that the next big thing is The Internet of Customers.
It’s going to be a 1:1 world. Every company will become a customer company, dealing with us as individuals. Mark pulled out his wifi toothbrush which reports him to his dentist if he doesn’t brush. He showed his Canon camera which has a help button for instantly calling for help from the manufacturer. We’re social. We’re mobile. We’re going to receive services directly form the cloud.

2/3 of all companies feel left out. They need a new platform. That’s the only way to go forward in a world where everything’s connected. And guess what? Salesforce has developed just such a platform, Salesforce1.

Substitute “learning” for “selling” and you’d have the backbone of a powerful enterprise learning system. Everything’s connected. It plays on any device. Chatter takes care of the social aspects. Personalization is 1:1. I’ve been calling this learning ecosystem a Workscape. Either way, it’s the platform on which future training programs, extremely short ones, will play.

Dreamforce Dreamforce

Dreamforce Dreamforce

I had never heard of most of the 350 exhibitors before. Everyone here is about boosting sales, even those I had heard of. How the sales task can be that complicated is beyond me.



Drunk Tank Pink


CLO magazine

In the late 1970s, scientists discovered that certain shades of pink calmed people who were agitated or angry. Walking into a pink room sapped the energy of difficult prisoners. Police painted holding cells pink. Some football coaches repainted visiting team dressing rooms pink. CLOs, whatever you do, don’t paint your classrooms pink!

drunk2A new book by psychologist Adam Alter, appropriately named Drunk Tank Pink, tells hundreds of stories about how this and of other factors shape our thoughts without our permission or knowledge. Alter provides examples of “hidden persuaders” lurking in names, labels, symbols, culture, colors, locations, weather, warmth, and the presence of others. For example,

  • People come up with twice as many innovative uses for a paperclip after a picture of a lightbulb is shown to them, even thought it flashes by too quickly for them to recognize it.
  • People contribute more to victims of a hurricane if their name starts with the same letter as the name of the storm.
  • Given a choice, right-handed people prefer words made of letters from the righthand size of the keyboard.
  • Tell teachers certain students are “academic bloomers,” and those students’ IQs rise 10-15 points over the course of a year.
  • Show an Apple logo to people subliminally and they think more creatively than people who are shown an IBM logo.
  • Mount a photograph of peering eyes in the coffee room, and fewer people cheat the honesty box.
  • When Japanese mounted blue lights in train stations, crime rates dropped and suicides ceased.
  • Olympic wrestlers are more likely to win a medal if they are wearing red.
  • People think it’s easier to drive south because it’s down, not up, on the map.
  • People reflect more intently on messages in difficult-to-read fonts.
  • People are more aggressive in hot weather and amorous in cold.

Like it or not, environmental factors like these have huge impact on how well or poorly people learn.

As work becomes increasingly fast-paced and complex, more learning takes place on the job. Wise CLOs will shift their attention to improving what I call the Workscape, the on-job locus of experiential and informal learning. They will invest in factors that once seemed superfluous to learning. (An ADDIE analysis won’t lead you to change the color or temperature of the room.)

People are complex adaptive systems. We’re subject to the same guiding principles as other complex systems, such as the weather. Tiny inputs can have outsized consequences. A butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can start a tornado in Texas. A drab room or creepy photograph on the wall can hinder learning.

Alter has a marvelous acronym for the culture of the West: WEIRD = Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratized. We managers in WEIRD cultures don’t tend to think of situations like Alter’s. We miss the connections.

We inherited our way of looking at the world from the ancient Greeks. Aristotle analyzed objects in isolation from their context. Think of logic. The Greeks focused more on the individual than the group, and we do likewise today.

Asian managers see things differently. They see objects in relation to what’s around them. They focus more on the relationship of the individual and his environment. One suspects Asian managers are more attuned to improving their organizations’ workscapes than their WEIRD counterparts.

In the 1950s, social psychologist Solomon Asch conducted an experiment on social conformity. A group of seven people was handed a slip of paper with several lines of differing lengths on it and Asch asked each in turn to describe what they saw. The first person said she saw four lines of equal length. So did  each of the next five people. (They were all shills who had been instructed to lie about what they saw.) 30% of the time, the last person reported he saw equal-length lines, too! Such is the power of social pressure.

If social pressure is strong enough to make you doubt your senses, imagine the impact it must have on attitudes toward learning. Shouldn’t we be paying attention to how workers feel about learning and what they say about it?

By the way, in a recent twist, Asch’s experiment was recreated with that last member of the group hooked up to an fMRI machine. Half of the people who reported seeing lines of equal length actually saw exactly that. Group pressure trumps the senses.

Don’t you want to join the CLOs who are paying less attention to learning programs and more to learning platforms?



Learning out loud

workscapeGo ahead. Peak into my brain. New thoughts are percolating but the outcomes are still fuzzy.

I’m soundly convinced that Learning Platforms are crowding out Learning Programs. This is an inevitable part of moving from Stocks to Flows, from Push to Pull, from institutional control to personal freedom, and from rigid industrialism to flexible, more human work environments. Focus on improving the learning ecology rather than tackle one event at a time.

“Learning in advance” doesn’t work in a realtime world, so learning and work have converged. Learning is simply an aspect of getting the job done. Learning new things — sometimes by inventing them — is an obligation of corporate citizens. Most of this learning takes place in the workplace. The learning platform is the organization itself, not some separate entity.

I call these learning aspects of an organization its Workscape. A Workscape is a metaphorical space. The Workscape can include the water cooler, the Friday beer bust, the conversation nook at the office, wi-fi in the cafeteria, the enterprise culture, in-house communications, access to information, cultural norms around sharing and disclosure, tolerance for nonconformity, risk aversion, organizational structure, worker autonomy, and virtually any aspect of the company that can be tweaked to enable people to Work Smarter.

This afternoon I’ve been trying to come up with next practices for Workscapes in general. What are the design principles for optimal workscapes? What aspects of good learning should migrate into the Workscape. A starter list:

  • All learning is self-directed. Give people the freedom to chart their own course. “I like to learn but I hate to be taught.” Set high expectations and people live up to them. Help people make sense of and prosper in the world and the workplace.
  • Conversations are the stem-cells of learning. Foster open, frequent, frank conversation both virtually and in person. 
  • Experiential learning is magic. People learn by doing. Encourage experimentation. Insure that managers and mentors understand the impact of “stretch assignments.” JDI. Broadcast opportunities and projects. 
  • Teach people the least they need know to tackle things on their own. 
  • Make it drop-dead simple to access people in the know, the lessons of experience, how-to information, and performance support.
  • Learning is social. Encourage participation in communities. Narrate your work and share with others. Communities and guilds create knowledge as well as consume it. 
  • We want what we want, no more. Whenever possible, provide choices. Give me the pieces to create personalized learning experiences. 
  • Learning is for everyone, not just novices and up-and-comers. You can’t expect to prosper without it. Make sure everyone’s covered.
  • Learning takes reinforcement in order to stick. Seek feedback. Blog, tweet, and otherwise share your reflections. Revisiting what you learn fixes it in memory.
  • Innovation is born of mashing up concepts from different disciplines. Encourage looking outside the box.
  • Provide feeds for what’s going on in the team, the department, the company, the industry, and technical disciplines.
  • People confuse learning with schooling. Build lessons on learning how to learn into the Workscape itself.

I’ll keep building the list but I’m hungry for more. I don’t want to get caught thinking small. What other aspects of sustaining the organization should be here?

Most of the value of organizations derives from Social Capital. (See my post Measure what’s important.) Were you able to deconstruct an organization into molecules of social capital, you’d have:

  • human capital – the know-how of the workforce
  • relationship captal – your reputation and ways of working with customers and partners
  • structural capital – processes, systems, and secret sauce

social capital

Thus far, my list deals with only human capital. Help me think through the role of the Workscape in leveraging relationship capital and structural capital as well.