working smarter case study

In 2010/2011 Jay Cross and I worked worked with a corporate university of a large US company with the objective to cultivate a fully engaged, high performing workforce through rapid, collaborative, informal, self-directed learning. The aim was for employees to learn fast enough to keep up with the demands of their jobs and grow into experts in their field.

The university transitioned from designing processes for formal learning to increasing support for informal learning by:

  1. Establishing a learning & performance innovation team.
  2. Developing low-cost methodologies (Do It Yourself).
  3. Integrating informal learning support into work.
  4. Phasing out approaches, tools & methods that were no longer providing value.


learning to create the future of work

I recently wrote that when we look at the future of work, the loss of current jobs, and the effects of automation we should use a compass to guide us, not a list of what the jobs of the future may look like. These kinds of maps get dated too quickly. In preparing for this new world of work, policy makers and organizational leaders should look at how they can enhance self-determination for everyone: by fostering autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We are moving into an age of augmented work where much of the value we create is intangible, the knowledge we require to work is implicit, and most of this will be learned informally, outside the classroom. (more…)

culture is complex

I am in a rural village in France enjoying my last day here before heading home. This week was spent mostly in Paris, running a workshop and meeting with a few people. One of the frequent topics was AI: artificial intelligence, not actionable insights. I admit that I know very little about AI, but luckily I know other people who know a lot. My network helps to keep me informed. (more…)

permanent truths

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“To believe that our beliefs are permanent truths which encompass reality is a sad arrogance. To let go of that belief is to find safety.”Ursula K Le Guin (1929-2018)

@jessfraz: “Hire people who automate themselves out of a job. And then keep giving them jobs.” via @DustinKirkland

@Acuity_Design: “Hack events rush to solution doing/making. I’m still trying to frame the problem.”

@white_owly: “We can’t celebrate a shift to a short-term gig economy and complain about individual short-termism in the same breath.”


life in perpetual beta 2.0

The perpetual beta series synthesizes about 12 years of writing on this site. The four volumes examine learning, technology, democracy, personal knowledge mastery, leadership, and new working models. But life is in perpetual beta. Therefore the second version that builds on the series is now available. If you want the beta (latest) version, then this is it. At about 70 pages, this PDF, like the others, is DRM-free and you may print and share as you like, though my preference is that you don’t get into the publishing business with it 😉

Here is the table of contents: (more…)

no time, no learning

I do a fair bit of public speaking. But I doubt that much of it has changed anyone’s behaviour. I may have presented some new ideas and sparked some thinking. With a one-hour lecture, you cannot expect more. Yet a lot of our training programs consist of an expert presenting to ‘learners’. Do we really expect behaviour change from this? That would be rather wishful thinking. Learning is a process, not an event.

‘Setting aside any reservations about what they teach, religious systems have long emphasized what the secular world tends to overlook: if it’s important, it warrants learning repeatedly.

“By contrast,” [Alain] de Botton writes, “modern education adheres to an implicitly bucket-like theory of the mind: one pours in the contents and, bar accidents, they’ll stay there pretty much across a lifetime. That’s why we’ll think nothing of earnestly declaring a book a favourite—and deigning to read it only once.”

Bringing a truth to mind repeatedly gives it an enduring, three-dimensional existence in your head, by reaching you in every mood and every context, in every season, both at times when you’re enthusiastic about it, and when you’re tired of hearing it.’ —Raptitude 2018-01

To learn a skill or get better at one you have to practice. Deliberate practice with constructive feedback is the key for long-term success. This is how I learned to write. Before I started blogging my writing was quite bad. Even though I had two university degrees, I was not proud of my written work. But through blogging every day and now several times a week, I became a better writer. I also read a lot more and saw how others expressed themselves. I modelled their good practices. Yesterday Heather McGowan wrote that I am “a gifted communicator who provides clarity with simple images and carefully crafted words.” That made my day. It has taken me over 3,000 blog posts to achieve this clarity. (more…)

fifty percent

The dominance of men over women in society has been going on for a long time. I have suggested that our primary communications media have influenced this gender-based power shift, proposing that electric communications in networks are redistributing some power back to women. While the written and print forms of communication favoured men, oral societies were often matriarchal. It may be that electric communications will favour women, promoting what have traditionally been seen as feminine leadership traits. The deep past of our oral societies may help guide us into the future. (more…)

a compass for the future of work

There is little doubt that automation, by machines and software, is replacing human work and putting many current jobs at risk. How this will happen is uncertain, as an MIT Technology Review analysis of various projections shows a wide discrepancy. For example Forrester expects the US to lose 13.8M jobs and gain 3M in 2018. The World Economic Forum projects that 7.1M will be lost and 2M gained by 2020, in a sampling of 15 countries. On the other hand, Gartner expects a mere 1.8M jobs to be destroyed and 2M created by 2020. We can pretty well assume that nobody knows.

Even the overhyped focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics may be the wrong path in the long run.

“When technology can increasingly do anything, the question becomes, what should we do and why? We humans cannot be sufficiently equipped for the future without exposure to the social sciences, humanities and the arts … While essential, STEM as work skills (as opposed to research disciplines) harbor a Trojan Horse. The STEM capabilities required to create technology will one day generate technologies that accomplish STEM far better than human beings. If we’re too focused on STEM skills, we’ll eventually STEM ourselves out of work.” —Quartz 2017-11-22

We do not know which specific skills will be necessary for valued human work in the future. Whether this work is paid or not, is a topic for another post. I have put forth that certain competencies are not easy to automate: curiosity, creativity, empathy, humour, and passion. Ross Dawson has a more comprehensive list, based on three pillars of expertise, creativity, and relationships. (more…)


Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.” —Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)

“Imagination, working at full strength, can shake us out of our fatal, adoring self-absorption, and make us look up and see—with terror or with relief—that the world does not in fact belong to us at all.”  —Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)

“Society is at a transition point. Behaviors at all scales have similar challenges: Making relationships that work.” YaneerBarYam

“Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it’s not satire, it’s bullying.” —Terry Pratchett, via @ShaulaEvans

“Enterprise software: Built by people that won’t use it, purchased by executives who won’t either.”@SwiftOnSecurity (more…)

architects of our future

Stanford Prison Experiment

It has been generally thought in the popular press that the Stanford Prison Experiment showed that normal people act like sadistic guards when placed in a ‘prison-like’ environment. In this interview with Guy Kawasaki, Dr. Philip Zimbardo discusses his 1971 prison experiment, where students played their roles as guards or prisoners and abuses started within 24 hours:

“But on the second morning, the prisoners rebelled; the guards crushed the rebellion and then instituted stern measures against these now ‘dangerous prisoners’. From then on, abuse, aggression, and eventually sadistic pleasure in degrading the prisoners became the daily norm. Within thirty-six hours the first prisoner had an emotional breakdown and had to be released, followed in kind by similar prisoner breakdowns on each of the next four days.”

Our Structures Shape Us

Authority may drive us to do immoral things. German researchers have released horrendous stories of what went on with regular soldiers during the Second World War. As der Spiegel notes: “Newly published conversations between German prisoners of war, secretly recorded by the Allies, reveal horrifying details of violence against civilians, rape and genocide”.  But the societal/organizational structure seems to have been a primary factor, as stated in the concluding paragraph of the der Spiegel article.

“The morality that shapes the actions of people is not rooted in the people themselves, but in the structures that surround them. If they change, everything is basically possible — even absolute evil.”

We may think we will do the right and proper thing, but perhaps we are deluding ourselves. In this report from Science News we learn that moral talk is cheap:

“When faced with a thorny moral dilemma, what people say they would do and what people actually do are two very different things, a new study finds. In a hypothetical scenario, most people said they would never subject another person to a painful electric shock, just to make a little bit of money. But for people given a real-world choice, the sparks flew … But when there was cold, hard money involved, the data changed. A lot. A whopping 96 percent of people in the scanner chose to administer shocks for cash.”

The statement that ‘First we shape our structures, and then our structures shape us’, has been attributed to Winston Churchill. It shows that we become the product of our shaped environment. Father John Culkin, in A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan, wrote that, “We become what we behold.
 We shape our tools 
and then our tools shape us.” This aligns with the McLuhans’ tetradic Laws of Media. How we organize as a society is just another human-created technology, or as Harold Stolovitch wrote, “Technology is the application of organized and scientific knowledge to solve practical problems.”  (more…)