Posts By: Harold Jarche

ASTD Conference

The ASTD Conference and exposition launched today in Washington. There are few local exhibitors at this year’s conferenc; nothing like the late 1990’s when we had about 20 vendors at Online Learning. Perhaps the largest local exhibitor is CSTD, which includes the newly-formed New Brunswick chapter. Other local companies are Ensemble Collaboration and LearnStream.

It’s nice to see that there is a Performance Improvement track at ASTD and I would appreciate any comments from delegates at this year’s conference.

Jay Cross on Workfow Learning

Jay Cross has written an article for ACM’s eLearning Magazine on workflow learning, which is, in a nutshell "how workers improve performance in a business ecosystem."

The concept and realisation is a bit more than this though. Workflow learning combines technological advances like web services and XML, with business process improvement (BPR, Six Sigma, HPT, etc.) and puts it all into a knowledge management/performance support framework. What’s exciting about workflow learning is that the technology has caught up to some of the theory, and the globalized economy is making workflow learning (or something resembling it) a necessity.

These are interesting times for learning professionals focused on business performance.

Who reads Blogs?

From Rick Bruner is this reference to a survey about blog readers. Rick’s summary analysis of the data:

Average age: 39
Percent of all respondents who are male: 79%
Average household income: $98,000
Average number of blogs respondents read daily: 8
Percent of blog readers who do NOT write blogs: 79%
Percent who have clicked on an ad on a blog: 67%

Read the entire survey results [scroll down] for your own evaluation.

Open Source CMS

A very good overview by James Robertson on the pros and cons of using an open source content management system.

Community-based CMS: these systems are best suited for organisations that have strong internal development resources, as customisation will need to be conducted in-house (in the absence of commercial support). This makes them unsuitable for any project requiring ‘out of the box’ deployment.
Commercially-supported CMS: these systems should be evaluated like any other commercial product. While the licensing cost is zero, the system must match business needs.

Quotes on Learning

From Quotes on Learning:

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists. – Eric Hoffer

Hope all Canadians are enjoying the long weekend! This is best one of them all – it’s fairly warm and the mosquitoes aren’t out yet 😉

Bill introduces Blogs to The Suits

Bill Gates introduced blogs to the business community today. I guess that means that blogging is officially mainstream. Anyway, here is Bill’s view of this "new" phenomenon – parts of which may come in handy when explaining blogging to "The Suits". [Note that I couldn’t just copy this material and then link to it, because the MS Bill Gates site doesn’t use anything as simple as a Creative Commons licence. Instead, I had to dig through many pages of Microsoft legalese in order to determine that the company allows for the quoting of up to 10% of an article. After copying and pasting and doing a word count of the article as well as my quote, I know that the selection below is 4.1% of the total article.]

Another new phenomenon that connects into this is one that started outside of the business space, more in the corporate or technical enthusiast space, a thing called blogging. And a standard around that that notifies you that something has changed called RSS.

This is a very interesting thing, because whenever you want to send e-mail you always have to sit there and think who do I copy on this. There might be people who might be interested in it or might feel like if it gets forwarded to them they’ll wonder why I didn’t put their name on it. But, then again, I don’t want to interrupt them or make them think this is some deeply profound thing that I’m saying, but they might want to know. And so, you have a tough time deciding how broadly to send it out.

Then again, if you just put information on a Web site, then people don’t know to come visit that Web site, and it’s very painful to keep visiting somebody’s Web site and it never changes. It’s very typical that a lot of the Web sites you go to that are personal in nature just eventually go completely stale and you waste time looking at it.

And so, what blogging and these notifications are about is that you make it very easy to write something that you can think of, like an e-mail, but it goes up onto a Web site. And then people who care about that get a little notification. And so, for example, if you care about dozens of people whenever they write about a certain topic, you can have that notification come into your Inbox and it will be in a different folder and so only when you’re interested in browsing about that topic do you go in and follow those, and it doesn’t interfere with your normal Inbox.

And so if I do a trip report, say, and put that in a blog format, then all the employees at Microsoft who really want to look at that and who have keywords that connect to it or even people outside, they can find the information.

And so, getting away from the drawbacks of e-mail — that it’s too imposing — and yet the drawbacks of the Web site — that you don’t know if there’s something new and interesting there — this is about solving that.

The ultimate idea is that you should get the information you want when you want it, and we’re progressively getting better and better at that by watching your behavior, ranking things in different ways.

Unfortunately there is no RSS feed (nor trackback URL) on his site.

Via Mathemagenic.

Other comments on the Bill Gates’ speech are available from Lee Lefever, BBC NEWS – World Edition, Kathleen at the Otter Group, and Cutting Through; among, I am sure, many others.

Business Plans

Seth Godin gives a possible glimpse of what it will be like five years in the future. Given these assumptions, how would you change your business plan?

Hard drive space is free
Wifi-like connections are everywhere
Connection speeds are 10 to 100 times faster
Everyone has a digital camera
Everyone carries a device that is sort of like a laptop, but cheap and tiny
The number of new products introduced every day is five times greater than now
Wal-Mart’s sales are three times as big
Any manufactured product that’s more than five years old in design sells at commodity pricing
The retirement age will be five years higher than it is now
Your current profession will either be gone or totally different

Balancing Work, Life, Dreams

Dave Pollard has another thoughtful post, reflecting my own attempt at achieving some kind of work/life balance. If you know me, or have followed the external links, you know that I volunteer at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute. We are a charity, and therefore are constantly low on operating funds. The work I do here is very gratifying, but highly paid. As a new consultant I’m always looking for the next project, or working on the current project. In between I try to spend some time with my family, or get out for a cycle.

The subject of work/life balance came up today with some business partners, and we’re all trying to keep the work coming, but try to do something meaningful at the same time. If we just wanted a paycheck, we would have stuck to regular jobs, but I’m sure that we’re all idealists at heart. Dave Pollard’s advice from a friend is to keep two lists (1 – things that pay well & 2 – things that make a difference). Start with the top item from list 1 and then try to do the top item from list 2.

My friend’s advice was simple. "Write the damn book. Now. Get it finished, get it out there. Then decide if you can afford, on your own terms, to do either or both of your two Next Things. If you can’t, pick the thing from List 1 that gives you the most money, and/or the most spare time to keep working on the plan, and the skills development, that you need to do the two Next Things, and do it, for as long as you have to."

Sounds like good advice to me – get on with it!

Universities and Learning

Sometimes I feel that universities in North America are out of touch with the needs of the knowledge economy, especially with observations like Daniel Lemire’s, on whether there will be universities in 20 years. However, after reading Kathleen’s conversation regarding teaching at a Berlin university, it seems that our hurdles in creating a learning society are small compared with Europe’s.

First, we have very few LMS systems at the FU in general, and most of what passes for "e-learning" here is the creating of "modules" — electronic versions of texts packaged in Pavlovian form — and these are indeed designed to occupy the masses. I think much of it has to do with the German university: it is under-capitalized, its relationships to society are ambivalent, and it has nothing of the dynamics of the US system. Somewhere online I’ve got an article by Mitchell Ash and Daniel Fallon who make the institutional comparison.
On a deeper level, you are assuming a respect for individuals and a high premium on personal expression and communication that, I’d guess for profound historical reasons, does not pertain here.

Culture runs deep, and it seems that in North America we may be better prepared for the creation of collaborative learning organisations than other parts of the world.

Performance versus Learning

Sometimes learning professionals (trainers, educators, instructional designers) get caught up in their own world. Here’s another reminder about what’s really important – performance. From e-clipping’s interview on collaborative technologies with Jay Cross:

I made up the word elearning because I wanted to highlight learning, but I don’t think learning is at the head of the train.
It is performance that is at the head of the train and only a fool would expect to get results from the technology alone.
It is the technology in support of key organizational goals that is key, and that involves incentives, leadership, innovation, esprit de corps….and this is all mixed in together.
As a matter of fact I’d be somewhat sceptical of any company that would highlight their intense [use] of collaboration technologies if they left out "What is important to us is to serve our customers and this is how we go about it".