Training Leadership Summit Keynote

I had the pleasure of addressing the Training Leadership Summit conference this morning.


This is a group of senior leaders from Learning and Development that comes together each year to discuss and shape the direction of the industry.

Today the message was clear. Web 2.0 and 3Di are disruptive technologies to the profession and the do-nothing alternative is not in play.

Here are my charts from the session:

Lets get on with committing to the obvious!


What is the Uber Web 2.0/3Di Mash Up for the Eduprise?

Every spare moment this week has been devoted to investigating this question.

I come to this question having spent much time in the world of Electronic Performance Support (EPSS) and Workflow Learning and my perspective is informed by traditional Human Performance Technology (HPT) theory.

I can’t move on from that reference without sadly recognizing the passing of Geary Rummler. He truly was a giant in the field and his works were very influential on my own perspective and practice. RIP Geary.

OK, Investigating this question takes the tension of topic/content/formal versus task/context/informal we’ve been wrestling with for some time in learning/KM to the next level. It forces us to examine how Web 2.0 impacts the enterprise of the future as we migrate from database centric stocks of tagged explicit knowledge to social computing enabled flows of digitally enabled people with ability to find each other to innovate and problem solve in real time. In short, I am in a hurry to figure out the Enterprise (or Eduprise in my context) 2.0 IT infrastructure looks like…because we need to BUILD IT here at Fuqua by August of next year ; )

Mc Kinsey’s “Building the Web 2.0 Enterprise” Global Survey Results found that companies are using Web 2.0 technologies more frequently for INTERNAL purposes. Similar to its Web 1.0 cousin, it looks like the B2C period of inflated expectations has passed and we are moving to focus on pragmatic, internal applications with a focus on efficiency. Within the internal use category, the top six enterprise application areas were:

    Managing Knowledge

    Fostering Collaboration across the Community

    Enhancing Company Culture


    Developing Products or Services

    Internal Recruiting

Interestingly, as I look at analyst reports on the trends and lists of internal application areas where virtual worlds will have impact, the list is strikingly similar to those outlined above for Web 2.0.

Steve Prentice of Gartner has long maintained that the Business to Consumer Marketing focus of Virtual Worlds will retreat to the Enterprise and seek safe haven from the treacherous waters of an increasingly unpredictable market in the safe harbor of productivity focused internal applications of Collaboration and Learning.

Thinkbalm’s Erica and Sam Driver in their recent Immersive Internet report break enterprise applications into 8 High Impact use cases. They further hypothesize that these 8 use cases will array across three phases moving from Cost Savings, through Harnessing Unexpected Business Value, ultimately leading to Business Transformation.

Their time chart for how these enterprise applications array across the phases and time is shown below:


So what gives? If BOTH Web 2.0 and the Immersive Internet/3Di forecasts promise to have enterprise application in the areas of collaboration and learning, it seems to me that these emerging applications can only be a thoughtful and nuanced Mash Up of both. The trick here is figuring out what mix of what technologies for what outcomes.

Justin Bovington and his team at Rivers Run Red appear to have spotted this early. Here is a nice video that explains their Immersive Workspaces 2.0 offering developed with the Lindens:

From this overview, it is clear that much thought must go into the orchestration and coordination of digitally mediated presence, connection, conversation, sharing, presentation, co-creation, discovery etc…in order to enable a seamless 2D/3Di experience that allows people to work at a distance with mind-numbing ease.

Here at Fuqua we are right in the thick of prototyping/iterating/co-creating the Uber 2.0 Eduprise Mashup. We not only need to integrate Web 2.0 and 3Di but we also need to plug it into (or more appropriately position on top of) our existing technological infrastructure that enables the orchestration of World Class MBA programs at a distance (i.e. our LMS and LCMS).

In guiding our Itervation (Iterative Innovation that is), there are a few sources that provide direction:

FIRST is the Seven Sensibilities of Virtual worlds mentioned earlier in this blog. Our guiding premise here is to only leverage 3D where it makes a strategic and significant difference. No good doing 3D just for its own sake, much better to apply where it makes a marked and memorable impact on the end-to-end educational experience for our stakeholders.

SECOND, Erica Driver’s work at Forrester in defining the Seven Tenents of the Information Workplace have been very helpful. Here is our slightly modified version:

    Context: Today users have to make conscious decisions about when to use which tool to collaborate with others on a document or deliverable. To overcome this issue we need to clearly define what “contextualizes” and what is “contextualized.” Profile/Role, task and Connection Mechanisms will contextualize content and connections in real time around the endeavor at hand. This will lead to a more intuitive and usable immersive workspace that allows users to more rapidly get to the “Doing” rather than dealing with the overhead of planning, co-ordinating and connecting before getting to the “Doing”

    Individualized: The user (Prospect, Student, Staff, Faculty, Alum) must be at the center of the design of our next generation learning Collaboration and Learning Intuitive Learning Environment (CLIVE). The technology must adapt to the individual, not the other way around. CLIVE must have both a social/personal and personalized programmatic component. Leveraging our understanding of the Contextualizers (i.e. WHO the user is, HOW they are connected to the environment, WHERE they are in the workspace, and WHAT they are trying to do) allows CLIVE to tune the interface to the individual context and shift the burden of orchestration and coordination of resources required to accomplish a given task from the individual to the environment itself.

    Seamless: CLIVE must seamlessly integrate new Web 2.0/3Di service apps with our existing LMS/LCMS infrastructure. It must mask the complexity of back end applications and interfaces with elegant and intuitive simplicity on the front end. People must be able to invoke and act upon the information, contacts and tools they need with minimal effort. We should not burden the cognitive load of users in preparing to do work. Rather, we should provide a “draggy, droppy, clicky” environment that allows them to get on with the REAL work of collaborative co-creation.

    A consistent look and feel must be maintained across the various components assembled in the environment even when multiple back end systems are being leveraged. To the user, it should NEVER feel like they are switching back and forth between applications or telescoping up and down within a rigid navigation system to marshal resources to accomplish a task. CLIVE orients the world of content, contacts and connectivity around the user and shrinks the world to surface relevant resources to solve the task at hand.

    CLIVE must also accommodate the seamless movement back and forth between structured formal learning and unstructured collaborative peer learning in a way that both approaches are honored and activated where they are most appropriate and where the whole learning experience yields moments of synthesis for the participants that are greater than the sum of the pedagogical/technological parts. CLIVE must continuously strike the balance between structure and serendipity in the service of enriching the learning experience.

    Visual: Our mash-up should resonate visually and allow people to quickly grok content and intuit context (i.e. Tags and Social Network Representations in 2D space and avatar interactions with each other and data/models in 3D space). Traditional Web-Based navigation schemes are information-centric and thus challenged in their ability to keep pace with a user’s need to quicky scan, interpret, and act on contextually relevant information. Clearly there is an opportunity to leverage visualizations of meta-data via tag-clouds and social connectedness via Social Networking technologies have relevance here as does the opportunity to leverage the third dimension (avec ou sans avatar) to improve the “grokability” of the environment.

    Multimodal: Our system must recognize that, as Kevin Kelly so ably suggests, there is only One Machine and the Web is its OS. We need to strive to be able to accommodate all the devices that connect to the one machine in a seamless way (can we please hurry up with visualization and the cloud?) – Timestamp 3:15 to get to demo.

    Quick: Does this need explanation? Wiki is a Hawaiian word for Fast! CLIVE needs to work. CLIVE needs to work without a manual. CLIVE needs to ignite talent opportunity and passion around ideas and endeavors at an an accelerated pace, and CLIVE needs to activate the growing and incredibly talented network that is Fuqua (over 14K strong today) to address the pressing issues of our times. What am I missing, oh yes…..CLIVE needs to work YESTERDAY (OK, not yesterday, but late March at the latest).

The THIRD source of guidance for itervating CLIVE comes from Gartner’s analysis of the Business Impact of Social Computing on Higher Education. In this report, Harris and Lowendahl suggest that, “the incorporation of social software features and integration capabilities with institutional applications will become necessary to accommodate the higher education user expectations, while closing the gap between personal and institutional structures.” They go on to say, “If positioned strategically, social computing can fill a gap between the inflexible structures in place in most higher-education organizations and the chaotic personal structures that have spread across the desktops of both student and faculty.”

So CLIVE must bridge the gap between the existing enterprise infrastructure and the personal chaotic structure that has emerged to compensate for the ridgidiy and inflexibility of that enterprise infrastructure. CLIVE needs to provide an adaptive structure that allows users to CREATE, ORGANIZE, FIND AND INTERACT more intuitively. To do so CLIVE must:

    Provide Persistent Presence to allow ongoing openess for participation

    Render Content, Contacts and Connectivity that is contextualized to user role/workflow

    Organize Content, Contacts and Connectivity to reflect users current use and needs

    Encourage natural and serendipitous group formation based on location, activities and interests

    Leverage links, tags, ratings and usage to determine relevance, importance and quality

    Find content through people links and vise versa

    Dynamically update profiles based on content/tags created, involvement in interactions and aggregation of user-generated commentary,co-creation, content, filtering and organization.

The FOURTH area of inspiration for itervating on CLIVE comes from Anderew McAfee’s work on Enterprise 2.0 that I discussed in an earlier post here. Contextualizing his SLATES components to CLIVE comes out something like this:

    Search and Serendipitous Discovery trump Interface Navigation/Hierarchy. In fact, just as Thomas Friedman suggest that the world is FLAT. A core design point for our CLIVE is that the interface itself must be FLAT and that the content, contacts and connectivity elements are surfaced within that FLAT interface based on the contextual factors at play.

    Links, Tags and Extensions and Signals are the domain of User Generated Commentary, Content, Filtering, Organizing and Distribution that CLIVE must provide. The trick here is that it must work across all the underlying apps that the FLAT interface masks. How do we take all the richness of web-serviced applications, mash them up with existing enterprise platforms and allow the informal serendipity of fortuitous interaction to prevail in a system that is optimized to create a flow state for formal and informal learning and inquiry that rivals that of World of Warcraft?

    The very interesting thing about the participatory web approach is that it not only helps others find explicit knowledge but it also exposes the patterns and processes in knowledge work that others use. As McAfee says, these participatory systems make an episode of knowledge work more widely and permanently visible.

This is going to be a fun ride….anyone with any experience, advice, wisdom, counsel, please bring it on. This is new territory to be sure and none of us is as smart as all of us. Ideas and insights PLEASE.

Masie Keynote Video: My 23 minutes of Fame

Elliott Masie was kind enough to invite me to do a keynote interview with him at his Learning 2008 conference. Here is the video his team posted a few days ago.

It was a blast doing this. Elliott and I truly riffed…as you will see when he stops me and asks me to repeat something he thought was insightful and I reply that I have already forgot and we will have to check it out on the tape ; )

Here is our 23 minute jam on Technology Adoption and Hype:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Masie Keynote Video", posted with vodpod

You can see other great keynote interviews with the likes of Kevin Kelly, Steven M.R. Covey, Amy Sutherland and Wayne Hodgins just to name a few, by clicking here.

Thanks to Elliott for taking a chance on me and to all of the Learning 2008 attendees who were kind enough to attend my session. BTW if you want a complete set of charts from my session they are available via Slideshare by clicking below.

Redefining Education for the 21st Century?

I am about 60 days into my new role here at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. With each additional day I become more and more aware of just what an incredible institution I have been privileged to join.

The vision of the administration, the caliber of the faculty and the sharpness of the students are truly something that must be experienced to be understood.

Besides my teaching role here at Fuqua, I am also tasked with identifying key leverage points where web 2.0 and 3D internet technologies can be leveraged create distinct and differentiated learning modalities for our MBA programs.

If you stop to think about it, as Kevin Kelly so ably recounts, the web is just over 5000 days old. The amount of change that this innovation has brought to society at large and to industry and business is quite astounding.

On the societal front, the Myspace generation is truly wired. Or is it wireless?. In either case, their connectivity to others is both pervasive and persistent. They view the computer as a connector not a cruncher. They are not willing to be passive consumers of broadcast media, instead they demand to be active co-creators of content and insights and they want ongoing push-pull/dialogue to occur in the sensemaking process that amounts to traveling on many vectors of successive approximation toward the truth.

On the business front, we are moving to the era of the Globally Integrated Enterprise, one where work seeks its own level and supply and demand for various components of the business are optimized in real time through the IP network.

As I thought about my new role I began to wonder how my perspective on the thoughtful application of technology to learning would change if I put on my IBM Consulting hat and thought of my students as clients. How would they rate my service as a teaching professional? How would they rate me in terms of engagement and transformational learning given that they live in an age of permanent, persistant and pervasive access to information and experts with the touch of a button. How would I stack up relative to the array of technological affordances they have at their disposal to figure stuff out for themselves?

If I reframed my role from that of professor teaching student to one of service provider educating client would my strategic approach to the application of technology to improve the educational experience be different?

Suddenly my mind flashed to a great video by Michael Wesch, Digital Ethnographer from U of Kansas (you probably know him from the Machine is Us/ing us fame). The video below provides a pretty compelling look at what my clients most likely want to say to me but don’t dare to because I am not their service provider or experience coordinator, I am their Professor.

As a student of disruptive technology who has spent the past 20 years working in enterprise learning I believe we are now at a true inflection point where one of the most powerful sets of transformational technologies of our time is training its sights on the one institution/enterprise function that has heretofore managed to emerge unscathed from the application of technology: Education.

So here I sit in the nexus. In one corner, a set of technologies that are fundamentally transforming how we live work and play and, in the other, an institution (i.e. University or K-12 School) and or enterprise function (i.e. Learning Function) that has largely deployed technology not to transform how we facilitate learning but simply to automate how we teach.

There is an old adage that says that the diffusion of innovation follows a predictable path: A scientific discovery, informs the creation of a new technology, which ushers in a new set of business opportunities that end up reshaping the structure of industries and organizations. An apple falls on Newton’s head leads to the creation of the laws of physics, leading to the invention of the internal combustion engine, which dis-intermediates the thriving “buggy whip” manufacturing business and ultimately leads to Sloan’s notion of the Bureaucracy and Ford’s Assembly Line.

The is another adage which suggests that for change to occur there is a precondition that learning take place. With all the change that has happened in Society and Business over the past 5000 days due to the arrival of the internet and significantly more on the way in the wake of Web 2.0 and the 3D internet, I believe it is safe to say that individuals and organizations will have more than their faire share of change to deal with in the next 500 days.

So the real question is, how will they learn to deal with that change? Will it largely be self taught through the network or will those of us in the education business recognize the huge opportunity that lies before us and begin to redefine what education should look like in the era of the first-person interface.

Technology has fundamentally transformed society and business, can it do the same to transform education to help us cope with change in the 21st century. In his video on the next 5000 days of the web Kevin Kelly suggests we need to get better at believing in the impossible because if we don’t we will be more unprepared for the future when it arrives.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to rumble ; ) Let us all reach for the impossible when it comes to changing the game in learning rather than speeding up the past.

V-Business Expo Day 1

Currently in Forterra’s Olive Platform listening to Steve Prentice speak on virtual worlds. Here is the agenda. I will be keynoting this event tomorrow and talking about the 3Di web singularity.

Here is my real-time capture of Steve’s insights:

Virtual worlds are all about people not technology. Function is as an environment for people to interact. Basic premise underpinning is presence in concurrent space. If it is about interaction, is Myspace or Facebook a virtual world in its own right even without Vivaty. Are MMORPGs virtual worlds? Presence based interaction would say yes even though they are more deterministic than virtual worlds.

The real truth on the future of virtual worlds is very hard to predict. But his famous 80% quote was to wake up CIOs to the reality. 300M registered users in virtual worlds according to KZero.

Huge gulf between registrants is huge. So counting registrations is easy but not accurate. On average ratio is 12:1 in terms of registrants to users. For instance, Habbo is 90M registrants to 9M active users for instance. So a good rule of thumb to use. Some indications suggest for younger demographics have higher ratios.

But HOW MANY users don’t matter. More important to know WHO the users are. VWs are dominated by kind and tweens from a population perspective. However, adult residents of VWs are passionate about environments. Research shows that it is the older users (30+) that are most dedicated even though they are a smaller population. Lots of plugs for KZero’s anaysis. Encourages us all to take a look at the most recent analysis.

Virtual worlds are all about people, but this industry is being driven by engineers so the predictable pattern of functionality explosion and interface confusion. Technologists see things as physical problems when VWs are really about people. Therein lies a disconnect. User interfaces are a HUGE issue. Keep it simple. If you notice the interface it is already getting in the way.

Community and Socialization needs to come before creation. People like talking to people they have things in common. Community built around Love, Belonging and Self Esteem (Maslow). Contrasts going to Barbie Venue versus SecondLife. Secret of vibrant active virtual world community is about community not creativity, people not physics.

SecondLife saw huge growth early on. It is not a failure, but not as successful as some that focus on people. Carefully targeted or linked to toys. Look at IMVU, Habbo, closing in on 100M downloads. They relentlessly deliver against the needs of their segment. SL tries to target everybody…but everybody is not a segment.

We need to provide ability to personalize and customize. But just like you go to IKEA to buy your furniture instead of building yourself, this should happen in VWs. Societal pressure conspire adults to do things required to do rather than having fun. Kids are easier to target. Kids/tween worlds have strong aspects of gaming and social/reputational capital. Habbo is 2.5D but gets 10M unique users. High end features are not essential to success. Virtual worlds are about people and interactions.

How about Virtual Worlds in the Enterprise. Increasingly he talks about intersection of Technology, Business and Society. Notion of Co-Evolution. Business and Societal landscape. Ref to 1962 Arthur C. Clarke’s laws. Democratization of IT challenging the very fabric of how enterprise IT works. Users are increasingly changing the rules for Enterprise IT leaders. Rise of global communities that have broken free from the constraints of geography.

Why did initial enterprise foray into virtual worlds fail? Not understanding demographics and not understanding community. Enterprises got caught up in hype. End result was as predictable as it was disappointing. Few successes were focused on internal deployment rather than customer oriented. Educational Sector, virtual worlds have progressed quite well. Lot of universities are engaging with students around virtual environments. Broadcast media has also had some success.

Opportunity to engage with audience and control brand experience is attractive. Know your segment and build affordances around the community they want. Add the immersion of Virtual worlds and you have a place where people feel they belong. VWs are 21st century equivalent of Fanzines. TV program will become the trailer/advertisement for the Virtual World community build around it.

Training is the one place where promise has been met but it does leverage creative component. Virtual reality as tool for simulation and scenarios is a historical artifact here. Can do deterministic (simulations) and non-deterministic (social interaction) scenarios. Vastpark, Wonderland etc allow the technically savvy to create a controlled and customized environment. We are also seeing RRR and Sheep getting into this work. Scenario based role playing is a key area where Virtual Worlds have significant advantage. Training is always the first application he recommends. Role based scenario is key. ESA says 70% of major employers leverage games/virtual worlds for learning and half are role based.

Gaming is huge…average age is in late 20s. Most business audiences have serious WOW players. Maybe time for them to come out of the closet. If you are a good trader on EVE online you are probably a pretty good trader in the real world too. If you are a Guild Leader you could be a world class project manager. Maybe all the long hours at MMORPG keyboard can help you in your career.
Steve referenced our IBM GIO on online gaming research, he says…”Read it, digest it and leave it out for your boss to see.”

Beyond training there are also Meetings, Bloody Meetings. We can effectively use VWs for this. But we need to be careful. Sometimes Webex and Webcam is all you need. Sometimes you need Telepresence, but VWs fit into the face to face sense of belonging required for meetings. Immersive Work Space from Rivers Run Red. Wonderland may be strong in the enterprise next year. We will see more of the collaborative benefits of Virtual Worlds due to fuel prices. So first focus on TRAINING, then INTERNAL COLLABORATION. But beware on collaboration, do not get too carried away. Remember to keep it simple. They are but one tool.

Next stage for organizations will be about resolving social elements of work as we are no longer physically co-located. Virtual worlds are good for cementing and strengthening the social fabric and the culture of the organization. These trivial conversations are important. Virtual worlds can play an important role as a virtual water cooler. But ROI is hard.

What about external deployment. It will take a while. 18 Months or Two Years. Interfaces will have improved and user bases will have become clearer. Some good examples. Retail Shareholder example from a Steel Organization. Chambers from Cisco also hosted a meeting in SL. Opportunity to promote organization directly at the grass roots. Microsoft has made product announcements in SL at 30% of cost. Direct comms and brand building in public virtual worlds will pick up, but it will be a while. Controlled limited deployments with specific audiences and community/collaboration agendas.

Average dwell times in virtual worlds is about 15 minutes. This is very attractive for marketeers. Here is where Lively comes in. Maintain and build a community around a brand is going to be a key play. RRR and others are seeing this.

What about the future. Technology is advancing. Visual fidelity and gestural computing are on the way. Combine with multitouch and broad adoption of accelerometer. Much more intuitive control interface. Forget the mouse, forget the interface. These things will trickle out. If we don’t VWs will be abandoned by the mainstream. MOBILE will be huge. 3B of them as opposed to 1B interfaces. VWs need to build on the Mobile Platform. Not full functionality, but do need to maintain DIGITAL SOCIAL GROOVING. More valuable will be SEAMLESS CONNECTIVITY BETWEEN platforms rather than visual fidelity within 3D platforms. Huge explosion in Mirror Worlds using geospatial data. Virtual Travel before real Travel.

Big challenge is USER INTERFACES, THICK CLIENTS. Browser based interfaces need a middle ground. Interoperability is a key. He does not believe in the overarching Metaverse. People are getting used to maintaining separate digital personai.

Are we nearly there yet? No but people before physics, community before creativity and enterprise focusing internally on employee education and collaboration will be key. Today’s virtual worlds have interfaces that people do not have patience to learn. People don’t want technology they want magic. In the words of Jean Luc Picard…JUST MAKE IT SO.

The Play Element of Learning Leadership

Last Month I had the opportunity to participate in this wonderful symposium organized by University of Utrecht and IBM. Here is the conference agenda. Great line up of speakers.

It was a mixed reality event. There were participants physically co-located in Amsterdam and The Eduverse Foundation hosted a simultaneous event in SL. To do this show I was in my office in Durham on Skype with another machine open to the SL venue. It was a lot of fun but definitely demanded every ounce of attention I could muster to manage the various media streams. A Digital Native I am not ; )

You can check out videos of all the symposium talks here. Chuck Hamilton from IBM also spoke and I would also like to draw your attention to David Williamson Shafer’s talk where he brings up some very good points about the need for game design at the epistemic level as opposed to simply working at the skill and knowledge level.

HBR: Leadership’s Online Labs

I was in the Houston Airport today and saw that the May edition of HBR has finally hit the stands.

Byron Reeves, Tom Malone and I have an article in the issue that talks about two research projects we conducted looking at the application of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) and their application to Leadership. I have talked a lot about his research in previous blog posts that you can read here.

This is a big day for those of us who study learning, leadership and virtual world technologies ; )

A very well respected business journal talking about gaming and learning. I must say that I am very proud to have been part of this effort. On that note, credit is due to a number of folks who made this article happen. This research could not have happened without the foresight of David Yaun, VP of Communicaitons at IBM who leads the GIO project among other key innovation initiatives. Furthermore, beyond David’s insight, without the ongoing support and guidance from Kris Lichter, Director of the GIO program, it would never have been realized. Finally, when it came to the running the internal survey with IBMers who were also gamers my colleagues Eric Lesser and Michael DeMarco were instrumental in driving this work to completion.

18 months ago I shared with Tom Stewart the research we were doing and suggested that HBR readers might find it of interest. He put us in touch with Paul Hemp who was wonderful in helping take our research and helping us craft it into a piece worthy of publishing in HBR.

Today, a year and a half later, I see the article in glorious technicolor print in Houston. It has been a long journey, kinda like getting to level 70 in WoW, but we made it!

Thanks to all. Publishing in HBR truly is a collaborative, co-creative sport!

Thoughts (OK Rant) on this Month’s Big Question

A colleague of mine, Michael Carter, has a great rule. Any time he hears someone’s name more than three times in the space of a week he immediately picks up the phone and calls that person. I have always enjoyed the sporadic calls from Michael where he lets me know where my name popped up and what prompted his call.

In a strange way, a very similar meme is prompting me to write about this month’s big question. A few days ago I was asked to put in my .02 on the age-old debate on informal learning for a piece in CLO magazine. Then I see that Tony K and Karl brought this topic up as this month’s Big Question. Finally, today I was on a call with Andrew Paradise from ASTD Research today as they are gearing up for a new survey on – you guessed it – informal learning ; )

I many ways, my position (or commiseration) with respect to informal learning has not changed since the last go round on this subject. Only this time, I am a bit more fed up with our profession’s Ivory Tower approach. What is our RESPONSIBILITY for supporting the long tail in learning? Pause for a moment to examine our own language people! What was the buggy whip manufacturer’s responsibility for supporting the non-horse drawn carriage? Are we so self-absorbed in our own hubris that we actually believe we have a choice here. If so, how is it that we have become so deluded and how can we quickly pull our heads out of the sand?

To set the record straight, there is NOTHING informal about a person faced with the realization that they do not have the capability to engage in the very work activity that is required of them to satisfy their company or keep their job. And yet, here we sit in the Ivory Tower of our corporate schoolhouse, declaring the desperate efforts that these overworked and overstressed employees take upon themselves to learn what they can get the job done as being beneath us. Why? Because it is informal. Is it true that we are CHOOSING not to help these good folks because of semantics? If so, come on people! WAKE UP! If not, lets face our fears now and get on with our job of helping develop talent that drives sustainable competitive advantage for the organizaitons that we serve. Whether out of ignorance or fear, the time for inaction is over.

Are we so paralyzed by the classroom as THE only paradigm for learning that we have blinded ourselves to the very real possibility that, as Bill Joy would say, the future does not need us? Information in context is increasingly trumping instruction out of context and if we don’t wake up we are destined to go the way of the dinosaur.

Many of us have lamented how Google is our biggest competitor. This is because Google is often the only lifeline that these good folks have when the work environment surfaces a deficiency in their ability to add value or get their job done.

At least Google provides them with something. How does our profession respond to these teachable moments? Trick question or sad answer: We don’t. Why? Because we claim that the long-tail/informational tools that these desperate souls invoke to quell their survival anxiety is not our RESPONSIBILITY.

We have become increasingly addled by ADDIE, lured by LMSs, and enchanted by e-learning, all the while loosing sight of what matters most: The CLIENT. The poor sap out there in the infoglut feeling increasingly pressured by a world that is more confusing today than it was yesterday. The very same people who joined the company with the vigor and spark of a Supernova who have been now reduced to broken-down lumps of coal. What are we doing to help these poor people at their biggest moment of need?…… ANYONE? ….. I thought so. This is precisely what the client hears from us at their most acute moment of need. A big fat NOTHING. The sound of silence is worst at the greatest moment of need: That teachable moment where learning anxiety has finally trumped survival anxiety. And, our response is to remain silent. We are the king of mum precisely when our expertise is most needed by those that we are supposed to serve. Where is the sanity in this?

Instead of heeding the pleas of our clients, we sit in our Ivory Towers pondering whether or not we – the wonderfully talented learning professionals that we are – hould take RESPONSIBILITY for informal learning.

In another Big Question rant I have already discussed how the status-quo for formal learning is rapidly approaching extinction by painting itself into an increasingly irrelevant corner of our business. You can read that rant here.

In the meantime, I’d suggest we quickly get over ourselves and our hang ups about our responsibilities. We need to get back to basics and start focusing on what matters most: The CLIENT who desperately needs our help in figuring out to stay vital, vibrant and relevant in an increasingly uncertain world.

The glory days of learners as CAPTIVES in CLASSROOMS are over. The web has set them free. If we don’t start to take action soon it may be us who end up being captive to our own limiting paradigms as we continue to marginalize our value to the enterprise to the point of our own extinction.

Thanks for bringing this up Karl and Tony. I feel better now. Got all this off my chest yet again.
I wonder if it will make a lick of difference this time. It has not done so in the past.

The skeptic in me thinks not but I do feel better for having had the chance to vent. Long live the blogosphere ; )O

Learning in SL, Some Early Opinion

Building on the “Steak” portion of the Web 1.0 adoption meme outlined in my last post, we held a large session with IBM’s Enterprise Learning team to expose them to SL and to discuss the possibilities of this technology for learning.

Here are a few shots of the session itself. We had just under 100 folks from around the world attend in one of our IBM Forums:

We then did tours of the IBM islands and had some brainstorming on how the first-person interface could enhance the learning experience.

After the session we ran a survey of the learning professionals to see what they thought about the potential.

Here is what they said:

    58% agreed or strongly agreed that there are significant opportunities to leverage virtual worlds for learning

    57% agree or strongly agreed that virtual-world technologies will enrich the learning experience

    33% plan to apply virtual-world technologies to some component of their learning program within the next year

In terms of comparing application of the first-person interface instead of traditional 2D Synchronous Learning environments (i.e. Adobe Connect, Centra, Etc….) Here is what we heard from the learning professionals:

    28% agreed or strongly agreed they would prefer to use the 3D environment for team meetings

    15% agreed or strongly agreed they would prefer to use the 3D environment for Virtual Classroom presentations

    39% agreed they would prefer to use the 3D environment for Virtual Classroom Activities or Group Activities

This data confirms some of my earlier assertions that we need to approach this technology from its sensibilities backwards rather than trying to apply it to extend the classroom model. (i.e. Virtual People in Virtual Classrooms watching Virtual PowerPoint is NOT nirvana for First-Person interface learning).

The Big Question

The Learning Circuits Blog posed “the big question” and it sent a meme ripping through the blogosphere. I have really enjoyed the posts around this topic and thought I might throw my .02 into the mix.

The Big Question

The big question this month is what questions should we, the learning profession, be asking?

Here is my unfiltered stream of consciousness on this:

Why do we dismiss learning that is not within our jurisdiction by calling it INFORMAL?
The workplace is where learning happens. Furthermore, the work context itself it is where the motivation to learn or “teachable moment” becomes manifest (i.e. Oh crap I need to do this and I don’t know how…let me Google it real quick).

What will happen to the training profession if we continue to apply our understanding of how to help people learn ONLY in the FORMAL context?
If we to be truly honest about the state of learning today it is pretty grim. I have identified 7 scary problems in learning today. As you read through them and ponder their compounding effects, you gotta ask youself why we continue to paint ourselves into a corner.

Autonomous Learner – Web 1.0 and 2.0 technologies are making it easier and easier for people to become free range learners. They are no longer bound by the classroom and we need to start thinking about our audience as clients rather than captives. I know within our own context at IBM the search engine gets hit way more than the front end of the LMS/LCMs. We need to go where the clients are at and find ways to apply what we know to help them where they’re at.

Routinization – We have really only applied technology to pave well trodden formal learning cowpaths to date. We have applied technology to increase the speed with which we do what we have always tone…teach and train. Technology knows nothing about quality but will speed up anything you apply it to. We know that traditional training has a big set of issues in terms of impacting performance and transfer. Speeding this process up within a digital context is only rendering the inadequacies of traditional training faster.

Time – The current ISD process is too slow. Bringing knowledge from the edge of the firm, packaging it into nuggets and pushing it back out takes too long. We need to stay on the edge. Knowledge is the lifeblood of organizations….people’s conversations are the transport mechanism….organizational wisdom is the outcome.

Packaging – If given the time (which no-one has today since the average attention span of a human being is akin to that of a ferret on two cappuccinos) everyone would like a five course meal. The reality now is that people only have time to go through the drive-through. Our traditional packaging (i.e. the course) does not meet the needs of our users (yes I said users not students). Courses are organized around topics not tasks. People’s need and motivation to learn emerges largely from a task (i.e. work) context. Oftentimes they just want instructions not instruction. Information in context (i.e. a Google search on negotiation) trumps instruction out of context (i.e. signing up for Getting to Yes course).

Performance – Any way you slice it….people’s lack of knowledge is only PART of the reason organizations don’t perform well. Mix in the wrong set of data, tooling and processes with a dash of conflicting consequences and sub-optimized intrinsic motivation (i.e. job fit) and extrinsic motivation (i.e. greenbacks) and it becomes clear that we simply can’t be held responsible for moving a business performance needle all by ourselves.

Transfer – Even the best courses have a transfer issue. Not necessarily because the learning did not stick, but the resulting desired behavior did not become manifest. Knowing something doesn’t automatically imply that people will act upon that knowledge. My mother knows smoking is bad for her….but still smokes like a trooper. So do we just pass the buck to someone else and say well we did our job…they know the stuff or do we step up to creating the affordances in the workplace that enable transfer, change behavior and impact performance. C’mon people….the clock is ticking.

Value – Many of us seem to be happy that we are finally getting recognition in the executive suite. Learning is getting a seat at the table. Personally I am very frightened about this. Why…lets do the numbers. Training budgets are about 2% of payroll or (.44% of revenue) on average. If we maintain speed and course and throw technology at doing what we have always done, at best we can get to 100% improvement in productivity. We put the same number of butts through learning for half the price or we can put twice as many butts through. If we go with the former, then we deliver a whopping .22% of revenue back to the company. Not something that is going to have the CEO doing summersaults down the executive corridors.

What will happen to the training profession if we keep focusing on HOW to do what we have done in the past faster rather than revisiting at a fundamental level WHY learning matters to the people that fund us?
Too much emphasis has been placed on how we do what we have always done and not enough has been placed on what the fundamental value proposition of learning is to the organization. My work with Brenda Sugrue on the Strategic Value of Learning suggests that hard-nosed business people see learning’s value manifest itself in a number of contexts:

Leadership – Building the organization’s leadership and management capabilities.

Skill Gap Closure – Developing deep expertise of individuals within the business-units that provide a source of competitive advantage

Talent Management – Moving beyond individual skills to managing talent at a systems level. Building a stable of talent that is flexible and nimble and can adapt to rapidly changing business contexts.

Performance Improvement – Applying consultative performance consulting approaches to specific business situations to drive organizational effectiveness and business outcomes.

Business Unit Enablement – Aligning tightly with the operational needs of the business and governing the learning investment to yield optimized business unit productivity

Strategy Enablement – Learning not about creating programs it is about realizing the strategic agenda established by the executive committee. Learning’s job is to implement the people side of the business strategy.

Transformation – Executives are looking to learning to enable the organization to adapt to new business-models, sense and respond to customer demands and change the culture of the business to align with the environment within which it operates.

Globalization – Executives are looking to learning to take on a more strategic role in helping organizations extend beyond geographic boundaries. The accelerated globalization of the workforce requires more innovative approaches to learning.

Innovation – Executives are looking to learning to partner with them to cultivate a culture of innovation that will drive growth. This requires the application of collaborative and generative learning approaches

The first two (Leadership and Skill Gap Closure) are all about our bread-and-butter value proposition…they are focused on Individual Capability. The next three (Performance Improvement, Talent Management, and Business Unit Enablement) are all about driving Business Unit Productivity, and the four (Strategy, Transformation, Globalization and Innovation are about Enterprise Sustainability.
Learning's Value Drivers

Speaking strategically, we are placing the majority of our emphasis (i.e. investment and energy) in the lower left hand corner. We are busy trying to apply technology to increase the speed which we develop individual capability. The problem is, as outlined above in the seven scary problems, the expectations that our executives have for learning are much more grandiose that we are currently capable of delivering.

For me, I think the big question was best summarized by the CFO from a Fortune 500 company who said, and I quote:

“At the end of the day training needs to decide if it wants to continue to be an offshoot of HR or become a strategic part of the organization”

I’m Game…anyone else want to play?