15 essentials for successful learning

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

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

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

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

 

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

#itashare

Gazing at Nature Improves Performance

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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:

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#itashare

Hacked on Skype. No collateral damage. Whew!

skypelogoThis morning I awoke to find messages from a dozen friends asking, “Did you send me this?”

Hackers had managed to send everyone on my Skype account a link to a weight-reduction site. (“How Rachel Dropped 25 Pounds and 4 Dress Sizes!”)

I wrote everyone, “This is spam. Please don’t open it. (I wouldn’t suggest you need a weight loss program even if it’s true.)”

Opening the spam is apparently harmless. At least, it didn’t cause any collateral damage on my site.

The only positive aspect of all this is that I renewed contact with a dozen friends I hadn’t talked with in ages. Some of them have agreed to check out Aha! I received a printed copy of the latest version only yesterday.

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Meta-Learning

Clark Quinn mentioned The Meta-Learning Lab during #lrnchat today and it brought back a rush of memories. 14 years ago, Clark and I, along with Claudia Welss and Claudia L’Amoreaux, founded the Meta-Learning Lab.  We were ahead of our time.

Our foundation beliefs were that…

  • Everyone has the capacity to learn but most people can do a much better job of it. Learning is a skill one can improve. Learning how to learn is a key to its mastery.
  • Learning is the primary determinant of personal and professional success in our ever-changing knowledge age. People and organizations that strive to succeed had better get good at it. Our goal is to help them.
  •  

    These foundations help me understand what’s going on to this day:

    “The best learning happens in real life with real problems and real people and not in classrooms.” Charles Handy

    “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”H.G. Wells

    “The world we have made as a result of the level of the thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level (of consciousness) at which we have created them. . .We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humankind is to survive.”Albert Einstein

    “Never underestimate the power of a small but committed group of people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

    “We learn by conversing with ourselves, with others, and with the world around us.”Laurie Thomas & Sheila Harrie-Augstein

    “It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover.”Poincaré

    My metaphor for Meta-Learning was “going up to the balcony” to observe what was taking place below. (I’d just returned from a trip to Guatemala where I looked down from the colonial style plaza at the teeming crowd below and realized I was watching a tableau of learning in action.)

    What I witnessed remains an essential part of my thinking about how learning takes place.

    balcon
    From the Meta-Learning Lab site: Learning is so integral to human nature that it’s often overlooked. We have to rise above the day-to-day to recognize its presence.
    balcon2

    Walk with me up the stairs to the balcony.

    Rise above everyday rules, conventions, and sacred cows. Let’s find a vantage point that enables us to see what’s really going on.

    Look at the people in the plaza below. We see elaborate social exchanges where roles and status and self-image come into play. Some learning is planned; other learning just happens. Some learners are active, others merely receptive. Some are gaining information, others pick up new skills, and yet others are developing something deeper, beliefs. Teachers learn. Learners teach.

    The activity on the plaza stimulates some but distracts others. Some are adept at learning, others not. From a distance, we see patterns. We are looking at meta-learning.


    It’s humbling to realize that I am still on the same quest 14 years later. The Aha! Project is built on the same principles, the touchstones Clark, the two Claudias, and I came up with at my house in Berkeley at the turn of the century.

Monterey Car Week

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Photos

Monterey Car Week 2015

Thursday morning we arrived at Ocean Avenue in Carmel just in time to catch the arrival of the cars in the Tour d’Elegance. These cars, that would participate in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, had driven from Monterey to Big Sur and back through Carmel where they park for a couple of hours to enable people to gawk. 

Carmel Tour d'EleganceCarmel Tour d'Elegance

This fantastic array of cars included antiques such as Mercer, Stutz, Pope, Auburn, HIspano-Suiza, ancient Rolls-Royces, lots of Ferraris, blower Bentleys, Cunningham LeMans cars, Jags, Porsche Spyders, Alfa-Romeo race cars, and more. I walked among these beauties, talking with the occasional owner who wasn’t having lunch provided by the city of Carmel.

Carmel Tour d'EleganceCarmel Tour d'EleganceCarmel Tour d'EleganceI’d visited the event before. Six years ago we rented a cottage in Carmel for the month of August that was only five blocks from the Tour route. Things have changed. This year’s Tour was overwhelmed with people. Too many of them. Weaving one’s way among the cars felt like being in the crowd leaving the stadium after a popular baseball game. The Concours de Carmel, two days earlier, is less crowded and lasts all day.  Concours d'EleganceThe streets of Carmel, well, they’re really lanes, are a show in themselves. Every other car is a Maserati, Lambo, or custom Porsche. Ferraris are so commonplace you get tired of them. I was sitting in a wine bar yesterday. Up pulled two McLarens, one  chartreuse right down to its wheels, the other an eye-popping neon lime green. To the front and read were custom Ferraris. Across the street, I talked with the owner of a Lambo Countach, his third Lamborghini. He’s driven the Countach 165 but usually tools along at 120. “Feels like 60 in a regular car,” he told me. Carmel Tour d'EleganceThat evening we tried to get into the Baja Cantina, a Mexican restaurant covered floor to ceiling in automotive memorabilia. Thousands of other people had the same idea. They parked on the highway up to a 1/4 mile away. The wait time for a table was three hours. The patio had a live band and shoulder-to-shoulder car enthusiasts. We bailed and had a great dinner at Cafe Rustica in Carmel Valley.  Monterey Car WeekEvery year sees new events. The Concorso Italiano and the Ferrari meet-up at the Barnyard Shopping Center are old timers. There’s also a fancy invitation-only show at the airport, The Motorsports Gathering at the Quail, Legends of the Autobahn, a Porsche-only show, and my favorite, the Concours deLemons, a show dedicated to automotive failures and oddities (Pinto with license plate Ka-boom!) Throw in half a dozen major auto auctions and countless private events. Here’s a list This is the largest gathering of exotic cars in the world. People are talkative during Car Week. All share the lingua franca of automobiles. I’m generally reserved, but I talked with more than 100 folks in four days. Friday we drove to Laguna Seca Raceway for the Rolex Motorsports antique car races. We walked into the paddocks, where six lanes of cars were being prepped to race. A couple of Bugatti 47s drove by, almost clipping us, on their way to the track. Then minutes later, we saw them racing. Laguna Seca  Laguna SecaThe noise made by a Ford muscle car or a Lola is unbelievably loud, especially if it sneaks up behind you and revs the motor instead of honking the horn to get you out of the way. I took out my hearing aids but the roar was still one of the loudest things I’ve heard in my life.   Watching race cars from the 50s and 60s is a gas, made even more pleasant by the margaritas and beer that are for sale on both side of the track. We came home dusty and sunburned; the races are fun but one day (of three) was enough. RetroAutoRetroAutoSaturday we drove along the 17 Mile Drive (free if you’re doing something related to Car Week) to the Inn at Spanish Bay. I picked up my Pebble Beach tickets at Will Call. The Inn is host to the free Retro Auto show, a group of vendors selling books, posters, models, car literature, neon signs, and event clothing. Out front was a beautiful custom Delahay and a gigantic Bentley convertible. The driver started up the Bentley for me to hear. He drives it daily. He gets 6 to 9 miles per gallon “but I’ve got a 50 gallon tank,” he said. Laguna SecaLaguna SecaI registered to bid in the Rick Cole auction, one of two remaining auctions with free admission. Convince them you’re a potential buyer and you get a pass. On the second floor of the Marriott was a showroom containing a beautiful red Maserati race car from the late 50s, a 300SL, a Delahay, numerous Ferraris and Lambos, comfortable seating, and an open bar. We didn’t make it to the other freebie, the Mecum Auction at the Monterrey Hyatt, where you can wander among hundreds of cars ready to go on the block. Sunday I put on my blue seersucker suit and a flashy yellow tie and boarded a shuttle bus from Carmel to Pebble Beach for the capstone event, the Concours d’Elegance. Twenty thousand people joined me there on the 18th hole green of the Pebble Beach golf course. We’d each paid $300 to ogle two hundred incomparable cars. Concours d'Elegance Jay Leno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sterling Moss were in attendance but I didn’t see them. The weather was perfect, as it had been for our entire stay (this area is notorious for morning fog but we had none of it for four full days.)   Concours d'EleganceI began with the Duponts. I had never heard of the marque, so I asked a well-dressed fellow in a blue blazer and straw hat what the story was. Turns out I was talking with Peter Dupont. He explained that the cars were manufactured in Philadelphia at the beginning of the century. He owns three of them. Custom bodied, usually with a hood ornament of Lalique crystal. Amazing cars. Up next, a row of Dusenbergs and then historic cars from an Italian body maker. After a while, I came to a dozen Ferraris that had competed in the original Tour d’Elegance three decades ago; they all looked brand new. Monterey Car WeekConcours d'EleganceOn it went, past a half-dozen SS coupes (SS became Jaguar when the Nazis came to power with their SS, the Schutzstaffel.Schutzstaffel_SS.svg).  Invictas (I’d never heard of them.) The 300 SLR Mercedes in which Sterling Moss won the Mille Miglia in 1955. A gigantic Renault that was a gift to the president of Bolivia from the president of France; the fellow I was talking with brought it from La Paz. Three Cunningham LeMans cars. A Stutz Bearcat.  A Fiat Abarth that came in third in the competition that afternoon. A Moon. A gaggle of Alfa race cars. A rank of vintage Rolls Royces. So many cars, any one of which would draw a crowd under normal circumstances. Concours d'EleganceConcours d'Elegance

Concours d'EleganceConcours d'EleganceI bought a plastic flute of Moët Imperial for $25 to whet my whistle and went back to revisit my favorite cars. It was sunny and warm and after three hours, I was totally carred out. I walked out past the temporary exhibit halls of KIA, Tesla, Lexus, and Cadillac and caught the shuttle back to Carmel.   Here are the  winners. That evening, Uta and I headed back to the Baja Cantina, parked next to a gigantic Rolls from Ontario, and got a seat immediately. We pigged out on Mexican food and margaritas. When we got rolling Monday morning, the party was over. No more traffic jams in which half the vehicles were Italian exotics. Everyone had packed up and left. Car Week 2015 was over. Photographs of the cars are at www.flickr.com/jaycross We drove back to San Francisco via Highway 1 past fields of Brussels sprouts, artichokes, peas, strawberries and pumpkins. Ended up in Sebastopol to pick up the dogs and headed home. Monterey Car WeekMonterey Car Week

Writing down your learning goals increases the odds you will accomplish them

“The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.”
Lee Iococca

Do write down your goals? Share them with others? Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, says you are 21 percent more likely to achieve your goals by writing them down and sharing them with a friend or colleague.

[Errata: Originally, this post said “42 percent more likely.” Among other sources, Michael Hyatt had written, “Professor Gail Matthews of Dominican University of California did her own study not long ago that confirmed the power of writing down our goals. The study showed a significant improvement in reaching goals when they were written. In fact, just by writing down your goals you are 42 percent more likely to achieve them.”

One of the folks reading the Aha! beta raised an eyebrow. The 42% seemed fishy. He called Professor Matthew, who explained she had been misquoted.]

Take our brief survey.

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Dominican reports that participants in Matthews’ study were randomly assigned to one of five groups. The research study reports that:

•    Group 1 was asked to simply think about the business-related goals they hoped to accomplish within a four-week block and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before (and, if so, their prior success). This group accomplished 43% of their goals.

•    Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same dimensions as given to Group 1.

•    Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal.

•    Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.  This group accomplished 64% of their goals.

•    Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend. This group accomplished 76% of their goals.

Broadly categorized, participants’ goals included completing a project, increasing income, increasing productivity, improving organization, enhancing performance/achievement, enhancing life balance, reducing work anxiety, and learning a new skill. Specific goals ranged from writing a chapter of a book to listing and selling a house.

Click for summary responses to the survey

Imagining the internet. It’s what futurists do.

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The 2014 Survey: Impacts of AI and robotics by 2025

A very good read. Opinions from all the hot shots. VInt Cerf, Jerry Michalski, Ben Schneiderman, Hal Varian, Howard Rheingold, Tiffany Shlain, Stowe Boyd, JP Rangaswami, John Markoff, danah boyd, Doc Searles, and more.

My contribution was chopped to three sentences:

Jay Cross, chief scientist at Internet Time Group, responded, “The nature of work will change. Heaven only knows what comes after the service economy but it won’t be mass unemployment. Perhaps finally people will only need to work a few hours a day.”

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Free form for self assessment and career development

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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

Conferences can be better, a whole lot better

Presentation

The conference business is booming yet every participant has some major gripe about the way conferences are run. We all think we know better. It goes with the territory.

In the beginning of the year, I looked into the future of conferences. Would they go the way of record stores and newspapers?

I concluded that:

Flipping conference presentations can vastly improve learning outcomes.

Community First! Events should focus on nurturing the L&D community of practice before content.

Many Next Practices for conferences (I’ve listed 30) are not difficult to implement.

Asked what brings them to events, nearly everyone replies “face to face.” People attend events to be with other people, to rub shoulders with colleagues from other organizations and with industry spokespeople and gurus. The cliché is that you learn more in the hallways than in the classrooms. As in the workplace, informal learning at conferences has more impact than formal learning.

The Flipped Conference session differs from the Flipped Classroom in that content delivery takes place at the conference, not before. However, presentation time is greatly condensed and is delivered in a 10-minute Ignite session up front. As with the Flipped Classroom, the bulk of face-to-face time is spent on discussion and contextualizing the lessons

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The traditional building block of formal learning at conferences is a session. A typical breakout session is 45 minutes to an hour long. The session leader chooses the topic and presents a point of view (there’s a reason they call it PowerPoint) for the bulk of the session. This is an overdose of content. Most people’s attention wanders after ten or fifteen minutes. The bulk of the message falls on deaf ears.

After ten to fifteen minutes, we tune out the message. Between minute 15 and minute 50, I might as well be asleep. That’s 35 wasted minutes.

Flipping the session allocates a majority of the time to participatory events.

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Next Practices for L&D Conferences

Here is a dog’s breakfast of suggestions for improving the effectiveness of conferences.

Before the Event

Provide a generic ROI proposal for attending to send to the boss, saving people the time of working out the value to be extracted from the event.

See who’s coming and set up appointments in advance.

Participants should have expectations and set explicit objectives for the event.

During the event

Encourage social networking. Announce a Twitter hashtag and encourage people to Tweet. It’s a great way to tap into the pulse of an event and to find what’s going on.

During sessions, use Twitter to gather questions and make comments. Tweeting among participants spark reflection about what’s gong on. Perhaps make the Twitter feed visible on a separate screen in presentation rooms.

After the conference

Visit the backchannel to attend a conference virtually, get to know people before the event, or catch what you did not have time to visit.

Get rid of happy sheets. One’s reaction immediately after an event says nothing about their long-term gain.

Conference goal: co-learning. Taking the message back home. Make this mandatory. Conference ends with plan for distributing ideas back to home organization and team.

So?

Business is good. Attendance at the events I examined (eLearning Guild, Masie, Training, ATD, Learning & Technology, Educa) is rising.

John Seely Brown says every business model will be disrupted. Nonetheless, my gut tells me that L&D Conferences are here to stay for at least the next five years and perhaps infinitum.

The 20-page research report is here.

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