Learning is social, Design is not

Here are some of the things that were shared via Twitter this past week.

@jonhusband – “Noticed in office … article titled “Learning Is Social, Training Is Irrelevant” .. from Training Magazine, November 1997 … yes, 1997 ;-)”

Jack and Marilyn Whalen, the IRL researchers contracted by Xerox to advise it on the ICS project, suggested that training need not take a full year; that it could, in fact, be dramatically shortened. How? By moving the service reps out of their isolated cubicles and bringing them together in shared work spaces, where a group of six or seven ICS staffers would be in constant contact with one another. In this communal environment, the workers would teach each other how to do their respective jobs; sales reps would share what they knew about selling, service reps what they knew about service and so on. And one other thing . . . the ICS workers would take customer calls from day one, putting into practice what they learned as soon as they learned it.

The response to this proposal from the corporate training unit back in Leesburg was a long, anguished wail that could be heard all the way to Texas. But Cheryl Thomas, the manager tapped to head up the ICS project, decided to seek a second opinion – actually, 30 second opinions. She asked the employees who’d been selected to be the ICS guinea pigs what they thought of the idea. To the question of whether or not workers could teach each other, the answer she heard was, “Why not? It’s what we do already.”

NYT: The Auteur vs. the Committee – via @petervan

AT Apple, one is the magic number.

One person is the Decider for final design choices. Not focus groups. Not data crunchers. Not committee consensus-builders. The decisions reflect the sensibility of just one person: Steven P. Jobs, the C.E.O.

By contrast, Google has followed the conventional approach, with lots of people playing a role. That group prefers to rely on experimental data, not designers, to guide its decisions.

The contest is not even close. The company that has a single arbiter of taste has been producing superior products, showing that you don’t need multiple teams and dozens or hundreds or thousands of voices.

What do you do if you don’t know what to do? by @nickknoco

Creation in the wrong place is called re-inventing the wheel. Re-use in the wrong place is called flogging a dead horse.

Valeria Maltoni: People don’t Converse: they Comment. Big Difference – via @raesmaa

Conversation with the right intent, or influence, is about turning together, connecting. Conversation is the opportunity. You don’t get that from commenting alone.

@justsitthere – “Face chaos without hesitation.”

@marksylvester – ‘”I can explain it to you, I can’t understand it for you” via an extremely smart woman we met on Friday.’

7 Responses to “Learning is social, Design is not”

  1. Paul Angileri

    I have a couple comments to make on these selections.

    Regarding Xerox and training, this story screams the “Toyota Way” to me very loudly. I’ve been reading about Toyota’s 14-point system, and this move at Xerox seems to ape many of the points in that system.

    With respect to the Apple vs Google question, Taking just the snippet you cited, I think that opinion piece is problematic. They aren’t parallel competitors except in a few key spaces (mobile devices, ads, office apps *maybe*), and each is a remarkable example of their differing core methodologies. Google has been very effective at big ideas using large groups, and Apple has been very effective at big ideas using top-down expertise. I think each one shows that greatness can be achieved via execution, not because one is necessarily better by design than another. Also, why should the question be relegated to just notions of design? Why is not utility the end goal? Both companies accomplish this in spades. The biggest way they compete is in their view of the world, where Google solves the everyman problems for us, and Apple seeks to be THE man to solve the problem.

    • Harold Jarche

      Of course Apple & Google are different companies. Apple is a hardware company and Google is an advertising company.

      Here’s another perspective on Apple v Google: http://twitter.com/#!/hjarche/status/96721295282147331

      I put together links from Twitter each week and sometimes a theme or a question pops out. I’m a big proponent of social learning and the Apple case is a good one for me to consider the question of when to drop social in the workflow. No answers yet.

  2. virginia Yonkers

    The problem with the one decision maker as Apple does is that when that person gone (or ill as Steve Jobs has been) there is panic in the organization. It is obvious that Steve Jobs has a wonderful business sense, but what about his organization? Will his successor have the same sense of what the public wants/needs? On the other hand, as people leave google, others will take their place. It seems though, with the reorganization after going public, that google is looking at a new model, which I wonder if it can sustain.

    • Harold Jarche

      Good questions, Virginia. I don’t have any answers and perhaps there are none, as there’s no single model that’s guaranteed to work.

  3. Jon Husband

    @Virginia @Harold

    re: Apple, I keep reading that Steve Jobs (somehow magically) makes all the decisions at Apple.

    While I think he is formidably intelligent, and no doubt rigorous and demanding, Apple is arguably not a small company .. and so I suspect that there are any number of very intelligent, rigorous, demanding and forceful executives, senior managers and professional individual contributors that work there. I also suspect that work together in teams, probably very collaboratively at times.

    If the people that worked at Apple did not work together well, or were not wicked smart, rigorous and demanding people, I doubt it would be the formidable company that it is.

    Every company’s culture is different .. necessarily, because it is formed from and by the interactions between people (whether top-down, always horizontal, or some combination(s) thereof) who choose or are chosen to work there.

    When Jobs goes, I am not sure it’s Apple who will panic most .. I suspect that it will be investors and brokers, because, well, you know, they will need something to talk about re: Apple’s prospects.

    • Harold Jarche

      Good point, Jon. I think one thing that Jobs has done is instill a culture that eschews decision by committee and makes every person responsible for his or her actions and able to defend their decisions. My understanding of Apple is that internally it is a very transparent culture. I think it will do just fine without Steve Jobs when the day comes.

  4. Jon Husband

    I think it will do just fine without Steve Jobs when the day comes.

    I think so too.


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