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November 1, 2008
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Objective of this un-book
Provide you with tools and concepts for getting
things done in organizations in todayʼs Welcome to the trek
increasingly volatile, unpredictable world. Join me in learning how to nurture
more effective organizations. The
world is changing at an amazing
Lots more online pace, new pathways to prosperity
These printed pages are the front end are opening up all around us, and no
to content online at one has a map. I hope youʼll join me
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Come to our community site to chat
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The Informal Learning 2.0 Fieldbook. Thatʼs what I called this
growing heap of words until I realized I wasnʼt writing a book, and
my topic was broader than informal learning.
This un-book takes the liberty of
Not about learning? Learning is the cognitive process of taking many forms. It’s a
acquiring skills or knowledge. This treatise is about doing. In a perpetual experiment. If you
society of knowledge workers, learning is more important than want to see a topic expanded or
ever, but if it does not lead to action it is simply a distraction. Iʼd to recommend any pages for the
use the title Getting Things Done if someone had not beat me to it. shredder, email me or post a
notice on the Learnscaping
Not a book? Traditional books freeze an authorʼs thoughts in time.
The faster the world ﬂows by, the less relevant the book. The Community site.
material here will probably change at least once a week. The book
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This un-book is forever a work in progress. By responding to
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They learn from one another. Traditional books are one-way. The
author speaks; you listen. Consider the Whole Earth Catalog,
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use them. The Whole Earth Catalog pre-dated the Web. Now, http://learnscape.ning.com/
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Most pages here are learning
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Scribble a note on each page you
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Highlight meaningful text.
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Doses of about 30 minutes
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When you see a
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Current contents at http://un-book.com, the Learnscape Cloud
This un-book is for early adopters Early
Enthusiasts, visionaries, tinkerers, and experimenters are drink close
always the ﬁrst to try out something new. They are the crazy to the
ones. They put up with half-baked, pre-release products in
return for the opportunity to reap early rewards, bragging
rights for beating others to the punch, and having vendors the stream.
pay them respect.
You know these early adopters. When a new piece of
software comes out, they have to try it. When a different
approach to training appears, they volunteer their
organization for a pilot test. Manual? We donʼt need no
Uncertainty engages the mind.
Early adopters enjoy shaping products and services before
the concrete hardens. They regard problems as opportunities Donʼt be too certain
to give feedback. Frequently, they are artistic, creative
people trapped in rigid organizations. Pushing the envelope All learning is co-creation, a product of a learner and an outside
feeds their need for variety and innovation. Silicon Valley agent.
would wither without them, for they provide the initial toe-hold
for unproven concepts. A professor gave her class a paper on urban sociology to read,
explaining that there would be a test. The professor gave another
This is the early-adopter version of this un-book. If you are class the same paper and instructions plus a warning that the
not comfortable with typos, sentence fragments, missing material was controversial; it might not be correct. In other words,
chapters, and perhaps a few urban legends trying to pass the paper was beta.
themselves off as truth, wait a while. The dotted-i, crossed-t
version will be out eventually, and it will incorporate the The group that read the beta paper scored higher. Why? Because
changes suggested. uncertainty engages the mind.
If you are an enthusiast, please assume your preferred This is why it makes sense to label all learning activities beta.
identity: participate. When you dig into the online material Engage the learnersʼ minds. For that matter, mark plans beta: It will
here, add comments and make suggestions. Help make this invite participation. And make your department beta — after all,
better. Join the community, stoke discussion, and raise a everything is an experiment
Of course, as with everything else in here, this chapter is still in
In the knowledge era, learning is the work. Foolish is the organization that
tries to manage the pieces of learning as if they were independent from an
overall work/learning process.
In the previous commercial era, workers operated machinery to produce
goods. You could see what they were doing and touch the goods they
produced. Time-and-motion studies identiﬁed the one best way to do a job;
training taught workers how to do it. Successful workers followed
instructions. “Youʼre not paid to think.” Outcomes were predictable. Work
Today, workers apply knowledge to deliver services. You canʼt see most of “The purpose of the organization is to enable
common men to do uncommon things. No organization
what theyʼre doing, and their output is largely intangible. Thereʼs always a can depend on genius; the supply is always scarce and
better way to do a job; learning stretches minds to cope with new unreliable. The test of an organization is the spirit of
situations. Successful knowledge workers are rewarded for innovation and performance. The focus must be on the strengths of a
ingenuity. These workers are paid to think. Change is rampant and man—on what he can do rather than what he cannot do.
The focus of the organization must be on opportunities
unpredictable. Work is social.
rather than problems.”
Learning is the work Peter Drucker
Corporate learning used to based on the proposition that knowing how
people did things in the past was adequate preparation for the present.
This worked when there was generally but one, unchanging way to do a
task. Today, change is baked into everything. About all we can say about
the future is that it wonʼt be like the past. The topic of learning must shift
from what used to work to what works now.
High-quality learning is that which enables a worker to turn in an exemplary
performance, and this is a moving target. Pragmatic learning involves
continually acquiring knowledge, ﬁguring out how to do things, unlearning
concepts that have become obsolete, and keeping abreast of change. The
product of learning is adaptation.
Not so long ago, knowledge was thought to reside in oneʼs head. Now we
understand knowledge to be collective intelligence, a shared consensual
reality. We arenʼt mere consumers of knowledge; weʼre contributors as well.
One platform for work and learning
The new factory ﬂoor
Industrial age workers created value in factories. Where do knowledge workers
create value? I will call the knowledge-age factory ﬂoor a learnscape.
A learnscape is the platform where knowledge workers collaborate, solve
problems, converse, share ideas, brainstorm, learn, relate to others, talk,
explain, communicate, conceptualize, tell stories, help one another, teach,
serve customers, keep up to date, meet one another, forge partnerships, build
communities, and distribute information. Learnscapes are where and how
modern work is performed.
Landscapes and learnscapes
Landscape design is an apt metaphor for nurturing an ecology for learning. You
design, climate happens, things evolve.
• Design concept – strategic intent, shared vision, harmony Simple
• Preparing the Land – architecture, workspace design, organizational form
• Pruning – 80/20 focus, pulling the weeds, unlearning
• Maintenance – organizational network analysis, augmentation Robust
• Life cycle – of the learners, of the ecosystem Thriving
• Seasons – adaptation of the learnscape, cycle time Connected
• Tending each plant – I/O, progress, ﬁt, connections, response rate
• Nutrients – rewards, sunlight, stories, patterns, stability
• Yield = revenue
• Garden tours – customer feedback, beauty, charm
• Experiments – plant exotic species, keep mutants, innovate often
• Flows – the streams of information
Platform, not program
Learnscape architects work with platforms, not programs. A platform is an operating system for networks that puts their
users in charge. It is a framework, not a ﬁxed program. A program is a structured, rigid element thatʼs provided on a take-it-
or-leave-it basis. Software programs and training program both operate in the context of platforms. The happenstance
learning platforms of the past were as water to the ﬁsh: too close to be seen.
Learnscape architects sculpt ﬂexible, loosely-coupled frameworks for learning. They rise above events to tweak the into practice
connections in processes. They consciously move to a higher plane. Their concern is not individual learning so much as
the loftier vantage of meta-learning.
Courses end; learnscapes persist. Organizations and their members are living things, and the landscape/learnscape
analogy invites us to consider nature, symbiosis, interconnections, genetic make-up, adaptation, the change of seasons,
and life cycles.
The learnscape architect Powers
Role of the architect
Gardeners donʼt control plants; managers donʼt control people. They canʼt make a plant
ﬁt into the landscape or a person ﬁt into an organization; they can prepare an
environment to make this likely. Our role as learning professionals is to protect the
environment, provide nutrients for growth, and let nature take its course.
Learnscape architects nurture organizations to get things done as simply and naturally as
possible. Diverse elements, held in equilibrium, make for robust, thriving, vibrant
organizations. Learnscapes share many characteristics with the web: simplicity, clarity,
user-centricity, restraint and attention to detail.
Self-service workers connect to one another, to ongoing ﬂows of information and work, to
their teams and organizations, to their customers and markets, not to mention their
families and friends because they can easily navigate networks of “small pieces, loosely
joined,” the conventions they know from the internet.
A landscape architectʼs goal is to conceptualize a harmonious, uniﬁed, pleasing garden
that makes the most of the site at hand. A learnscape architect strives to create a
learning environment that increases the organizationʼs longevity and health and the
individual learnerʼs happiness and well-being.
Harmony is a tough sell in a topsy-turvy business climate. Business leaders are likely to
be more interested in its ripples, among them:
• building productive two-way relationships with customers
• fostering a culture of continuous improvement
• facilitating teamwork, collaboration, and joint problem-solving
• increasing corporate responsiveness to change
• cutting superﬂuous email and bureaucratic bloat
• strengthening bonds with all stakeholders
• attracting inquisitive, self-motivated talent
• keeping abreast of new developments in industry and markets
• fostering self-service learning without boundaries
• replacing antiquated control systems with enlightened self-regulation
Just getting started? Go to Our Cloud. Read Are you ready? and
Whatʼs in it for you?
The major obstacle
The web enables the many to wrest power from the
few and helps them not only change the world but
change the way the world changes. The cover of
Time magazine ran a picture of a computer monitor
filled with one word: You. The text underneath
read, “Yes, you. You control the Information Age
Welcome to your world.” This is hardly the first
instance of Time oversimplifying things.
There’s a speed bump on the
road to your world: THEM.
They are skeptical. They fear that no matter how well- A New York tailor has
intentioned and enthusiastic its fans, this web 2.0 stuff can an audience with the
wait. It is a diversion from the core mission. It might backfire. Pope. His friends all
It’s disruptive. The ROI’s not there. We need to plan first. We ask what his holiness
have to assign responsibility. We have to put controls in place. was like. “Heʼs a 46
We need to assess the pitfalls. Who’s going to take Regular.”
responsibility for this stuff? Murphy’s Law will kick in. Ad
The eight-letter word that summarizes these arguments is:
BULLSHIT. To win them over to your cause, you may want to
be less direct.
Where absolute superiority is
not attainable, you must produce
a relative one at the decision
point by making skillful use of
what you have. --Karl von
Clausewisz (On War, 1832)
“We don’t have enough time.”
Human brains have not changed much in the past 20,000 years. On
the savannah, evolution favored hunters who could make snap
decisions. Thinking long-term didnʼt matter when people lacked the
language to plan ahead, the average lifespan was under 20, and all
of humanity didnʼt leave a carbon toe-print. Times have changed but
brains have not.
From Calvin and Hobbes…
“Nothing I do is my fault. My family is
“Heʼs too busy chopping down trees to stop and sharpen his axe” dysfunctional and my parents wonʼt empower
exempliﬁes the folly of short-term thinking. You cannot postpone the me! Consequently, Iʼm not self-actualized. My
inevitable. “I donʼt have enough time” is a statement of priorities, not behavior is addictive functioning on a disease
a description of the availability of time. process of toxic codependency! I need holistic
healing and wellness before Iʼll accept any
responsibility for my actions!”–Calvin
“One of us needs to stick his head in a bucket
What’s holding us back? of ice water.” –Hobbes
Business has already squeezed the big process
improvements out of its industrial systems. For many “I love the culture of victimhood.”–Calvin
companies, the beneﬁts of collaboration and networking are
virgin territory. The upside potential is staggering: people
innovating, sharing, supporting one another, all naturally and
without barriers. The traditional approach has been to
automate routine tasks in order to reduce cost; the new vision
is to empower people to take advantage of their innate desire
to share and learn.
Web 2.0, the “collaborative web,” makes ﬁle cabinets and
hard drives overﬂowing with email obsolete. Members of a
group can share information and make improvements to one
copy thatʼs virtually available to everyone. Workers learn to
remix rather than re-invent, and having everyone read from
the same page overcomes the danger of mistaking obsolete
information for current. Distance no longer keeps workers
apart. As we remove obstacles, the time required to do
anything shrivels up.
Purpose of the Learnscape
Make organization more valuable to its stakeholders
Intangible On demand
Learnscape Work Transparent
1. Common rules for 2. It’s everywhere,
3. Contains loosely-
A learnscape is the platform where knowledge workers coupled, reconﬁgurable
collaborate, solve problems, converse, share ideas, brainstorm, networks
learn, relate to others, talk, explain, communicate, conceptualize,
tell stories, help one another, teach, serve customers, keep up to
date, meet, forge partnerships, build communities, and distribute
information. Learnscapes are where and how modern work is
Industrial mindset to network culture
End of Age of Stuff Beginning the Age of Connections
Cogito ergo sum Perception is reality
Material world Therefore, many realities out there
WYSIWYG, one reality Everything is connected
“It is I.” “We are all in this together.”
More than demise of industrial era Everything is relative
Newton just a summary Everything ﬂows
Focus on the visible It’s all connected
World is mechanical, predictable World is complex, outcomes uncertain
Pre-atomic, pre-quantum All is a work-in-progress
Belief in fundamentals, absolutes Time as a artiﬁcial overlay, i.e. a tennis racket
Some stuff is “ﬁnished” Ditto ownership (since things are a ﬁgment)
“We are nodes” “We are connectors”
Learning to do stuff Learning to be (take new vantage point)
This is the major issue of our time.
Crossing the Great Divide
Survival in business requires crossing the great divide between
where we are now and where we need to be a year or two from
Weʼve lived on the left side of the divide for centuries.
Enormous successes have lulled us into a complacent rhythm.
We have wrought miracles: electriﬁcation, electronics, bio-tech,
computers, television, mass production, trains, planes, and
automobiles: you name it.
Nonetheless, itʼs time to move on. Everything is going faster,
swinging further out of normal limits, and behaving erratically.
Weʼre ripping along so fast that the wheels are about to fall off.
Think demise of the planet, using up irreplaceable resources,
turning up the heat, weapons of mass destruction (unlike Iraq,
we have real ones), tribal and religious hatred, etc., etc., etc.
This is entropy.
Crossing the great divide colors everything else weʼll be talking
Learning to go beyond
People learn best in a context of common understanding, moral conviction,
emotional intelligence, and standards of conduct. Wise educators help build
platforms for learning that incorporate these qualities. They delegate the control
of learning to students and concentrate on nurturing platforms that enable people
to exercise their new-found discretionary learning power wisely.
How can we make it from where we
Collectively and individually, we need to lift our anchors to the past. Planting one are now to where we need to be?
foot in the future while keeping the other in the past is not feasible. Weʼre
accustomed to living atop a foundation of beliefs, assumptions, and values that
we perceived as reality. Leaving that reality behind requires us to accept that
there are multiple realities. The foundation we each tie ourselves to is not some
solid object that glues us to the earth.
The belief that our ships are immobile, as if moored in concrete, is learned
helplessness. We see what we expect to see and are blind to possibilities beyond
our expectations. What seemed to be a foundation is more like a personal ship.
Weʼre irrevocably tied to the ship (itʼs what keeps us aﬂoat) but the ship is free to
Why this is hard
Business context Network effects Worldview
Core/context Dense interconnections Emergence
Object orientation Accelerating cycle time Illusion of control
Bottom-up Interdependence Holistic
Customer voice Volatility Perpetual beta
Unpredictable Long tail Everything flows
Incessant change Ambient findability All is connected
Services/intangibles Signal:noise Process
Learning Internet values Knowledge
Informal Connections Collective intelligence
Adaptation Openness Socially-constructed
Becoming Transparency Context-bound
Know-who Authenticity Breakdown of disciplines
Drip feed Interactivity Group phenomenon
Need-driven Loosely coupled Social intelligence
Performance support Interoperability Cognitive breakthroughs
Up, up, and away
Density of connections
Work as improv
The new factory ﬂoor
In the last commercial era, workers operated machinery to
produce goods. You could see what the workers were doing and
touch the goods they produced. Time-and-motion studies
identiﬁed the one best way to do a job; training taught workers
how to do it. Successful workers followed instructions. “Youʼre not
paid to think.” Outcomes were predictable. Work was mechanical.
Today, workers apply knowledge to deliver services. You canʼt see
what theyʼre doing, and their output is largely intangible. Thereʼs
always a better way to do a job; learning stretches minds to cope
with new situations. Successful knowledge workers are rewarded
for innovation and ingenuity. These workers are paid to think.
Change is rampant and unpredictable. Work is social.
View day-to-day Industrial age workers created value in factories; knowledge
workers create value in learnscapes. A learnscape is the platform
where knowledge workers collaborate, solve problems, converse,
share ideas, brainstorm, learn, relate to others, talk, explain,
communicate, conceptualize, tell stories, help one another, teach,
serve customers, keep up to date, meet one another, forge
partnerships, build communities, and distribute information.
Corporations that learn and Learnscapes are the knowledge-age equivalent of the factory
ﬂoor; they are where and how modern work is performed.
adapt will prosper; those that
donʼt will not endure. In the knowledge era,
learning is the work.
Push and Pull Organizations
Telemarketers from the vendor with a push strategy call to sell you
insurance as you sit down to dinner. The Hard Rock Café displays Bo
Diddley’s guitar pick and plays throbbing music to pull you in. The
itinerant Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman pushes; the Gilroy Garlic
Festival is pull. Push is generally someone else’s idea; pull is what
you think you want.
The Industrial Age was pushy. Owners predicted what would people
would buy, built the factory, made large quantities to take advantage
of economies of scale, and then tried to convince people to buy.
Today change is so rampant and the future so unpredictable that Dell
doesn’t build your computer until you order it. You cannot set up in
advance when you don’t know what the future holds.
New management disciplines for the pull world all involve how
organizations relate to one another (outsourcing, orchestration,
productive friction). This, in turn, makes one think about where
strategic advantage comes from. China is rapidly becoming the center
for business management innovation, and this is the source of
continuing advantage; copycats won’t catch you if you’re always
ahead of them.
All of this is nurtured by networks stitched together with responsive,
Value, i.e. what it takes to stay ahead, used to reside in killer products
or shrewd finance. In the pull world, value results from talent. Talent,
in turn, is the result of maintaining relationships. The leading
organizations of the future will be those with the ability to create and
retain talent. Developing talent will become the role of the firm – and
the way people choose who they want to work for.
I know, I know: I have hammered the
Push/Pull metaphor to death here.
That’s because I find it so useful for
understanding what is happening in the
Push is the phone call during supper
urging me to donate $50 to some
charity I never heard of.
Pull is me using Google to find just
what I need.
Learners. Designation used by Workers. People paid by
learning professionals to escape organizations to get a job done. May
the pesky notion that people have apply to executives, factory hands,
lives outside of lessons and and paper pushers. Reminder to
workshops. focus on getting the job done.
Informal learning. Acquiring INATT. “It’s not about the
knowledge naturally, without a technology.” Shorthand for “it’s
curriculum. Often unscheduled and people that matter.”
rarely graded. Performance is its
measure of evaluation.
Jimmy Swaggart Syndrome.
People who excel at something are
often overcompensating for their
Performance support. own perceived shortcomings.
Embedding knowledge in work to Corrupt preachers selflessly set out
enable unknowledgeable people to to save us from their sins. Most
perform without learning. learning gurus have learning
disorders. Do-gooder politicians are
usually corrupt. Ask someone how
Problem. Self-limiting vantage they are helping the world, and they
point for looking at a situation that will tell you how they are helping
presupposes one knows the Un-anything. themselves.
domain for making things better. Re-conceptualizing a traditional
form such as a meeting or
conference to more directly serve
the wishes of its participants.
Money. If a fellow tells you it’s
not about the money, it’s the
principle of the thing, it’s about the
Complex adaptive systems. Learning. The acquisition of
The root cause of everything. The skills & knowledge. More
results of the interplay of complex meaningful when the skills &
adaptive systems are knowledge lasted a lifetime. The Timing. The first 90% of a job
unpredictable. world is changing so rapidly today takes 90% of the time; the
that adaptation is a more useful remaining 10% of the job takes the
way to think about things. other 90% of the time.
ADDIE. Rigid design model that IT. Organization that minimizes
enables government agencies to risk in systems by minimizing user
abandon systems thinking in favor choice, linkage to outside
of contract simplificaiton. environments, and
ROI. Literally, Return on
Control. Frequently, an Investment. Often abused by
oversimplification of the results valuing intangibles at zero.
cause-and-effect. I don’t have enough time.
Statement of your individual
Book. One-way means of sharing Curriculum. The subject matter
information, while freezing it at a of formal education. Pre-supposes
point in time and cutting the author learner choice.
eLearning. Meaningless term.
out of the feedback loop, at the Opportunities for learning offered
expense of trees. or supported electronically.
Grades. The measure of
individual accomplishment in
Portal. Doorway or entrance. In school. Outside of schools, a
computer lore, a portal is often a nearly random variable unrelated Program. An element that runs
one-way turnnstile that attempts to to wealth, happiness, power, or on a platform. (Why not go up a
trap users inside. success. level)?
Everything ﬂows. Everything’s connected. Meta
Without connections, there is no meaning. Nothing exists all on its lonesome. Treating
events as if they’re isolated from a broader context oversimpliﬁes reality. It’s a mental
short-cut that may save time but may also blind you to the broader situation.
When thinking about a project or event, I apply a simple
model to remind myself it’s part of a larger process. What
came before? What comes after?
This forces me to frame everything within in surroundings. Before
jumping to conclusions, I often go a step further. What’s up or down a
level from the one I’m on?
When we try to pick out
anything by itself, we ﬁnd it
hitched to everything else in
Internet Cultural Values
Honesty and authenticity. Simpler is better. The spirit of the
The values of the Internet Culture are the strongest foundation
net is to tell is like it is, to peel away the facade and be
upon which to evolve a next-generation learnscape.
authentic. “Be who you are!” suggested Nietsche. It’s easier
than faking it. In learning, being authentic means admitting that
Connections. Connections are everything. They create
we don’t have all the answers. It’s recognition that we’re all in
networks, and networks are growing exponentially. If your
this together. It’s hooking people up so they may learn from and
learning plans don’t embrace the power of networks, go back
with one another.
the drawing board for another look. Learning occurs in
conversations, collaboration, knowledge transfer, focused news,
Transparency. Seeing the inside of an organization enables us
and other network phenomena. A prime directive in any
to collaborate with them to make things better. People who
evolving learnscape is to increase the throughput of personal
hoard information shoot themselves in the foot; nobody will
network connections such as instant messenger, higher
know who they are. You’ve got to know an organization or
bandwidth, searchable directories, optimized organizational
person to form a relationship with them. You cannot make
channels, and water coolers, both virtual and real.
friends with someone hidden behind an opaque wall.
Push the edges. Twenty years ago, training departments
Perpetual beta. Nothing is ever finished. Hence, it’s better to
fretted about consistency: providing precisely the same training
put an unfinished offering out there before dotting the i’s and
experience to everyone in the organization. That’s not a good
crossing the t’s. He who hesitates for typos is lost. Do it, try it,
strategy for making money. In the old days, a hyper-proficient
fix it. Drive changes with feedback from learners themselves.
worker might outperform the average by twenty or thirty
More frequent reviews translate into less time invested in going
percent. Now that products are intangible, mindware knows no
down the wrong path. If someone says a project is finished, it is.
limits. Google figures a superlative engineer creates 200 times
as much value as his middle-tier peer. Back the superlative guy
The Long Tail. When it comes to learning opportunities, small
or gal, the wild ideas, and the weirdness of the new. Experiment
businesses, esoteric specialists, and fast-moving teams have
continuously. As IBM’s Tom Watson said, “If you want to
traditionally been short-changed. It wasn’t worth the effort. You
succeed, double your failure-rate.”
couldn’t reach critical mass. Now you can. Web technology
scales. Five-person companies use Salesforce.com for
Power to the peers. Networks subvert hierarchy. Users create
customer relationship management. Expect to see a learning
value and when information is plentiful, peers take over.
equivalent soon. As for the esoterica, distance no longer keeps
Abundant knowledge dethrones kings and fosters democracy. In
specialists from conversing with one another. Rich niches imply
a knowledge era, knowledge workers are the means of
that a need to assess upside opportunities more closely than
production. Forget command and control. Encourage bottom peers.
Knowledge workers want you to show them the dots but
demand that they connect them on their own. Think of learning
Loose coupling. A specific case is Cluetrain author David
as a partnership with the learners, not “delivery.”
Weinberger’s conceptualization of the web as “small pieces,
loosely joined.” I’ve been doing an increasing amount of my
Intangibles. More and more of the world’s wealth is intangible.
work on the web, and I am astounded how the ability to work
You can’t see patents, brands, good will, expertise, culture, and
with small chunks improves my productivity. What once took a
so forth, but they account for more and more of corporations’
rewrite now requires simply changing a link. No learning
value. Twenty-five years ago, intangible assets accounted for
environment need resist improvements until it bites the dust.
38% of the wealth of the Standard and Poors’s 500 companies.
What we once thought of as “maintenance” is becoming more
Forget about measuring only what’s visible to the naked eye,
important than the initial “deliverable.” Pieces of any system
(”ROI”) and begin assessing transfers of value. That’s where the
morph into plug-compatible chunks that can be swapped in and
smart money is headed.
out without disrupting the ecosystem. Changing a small item 27
Learnscaping does not require unpacking the whole apparatus.
Optimizing the benefits of people learning in organizations can’t be
realized within the confines of training departments. Well, perhaps
you can save a few dollars here and there, but the big payoff comes
from changes in attitude and corporate culture. Informal learning is
more a worldview than a specific intervention. Who’s in charge of
ripping out cubicles and installing pool tables? Things like that
undeniably increase informal learning but aren’t the responsibility of
the chief learning officer.
Informal learning is about situated action, collaboration, coaching,
and reflection, not study and reading. Developing a platform to Level 1 - Word of mouth
support informal learning is analogous to landscaping a garden. A 1. Open office structure
major component of informal learning is natural learning, the notion 2. Proximity and line of sight seating
of treating people as organisms in nature. Workers are free-range 3. Non-departmental seating
learners. Our role is to protect their environment, provide nutrients 4. Staff area with relevant magazines
for growth, and let nature take its course. Self-service learners are 5. Budget for staff get-togethers
connected to one another, to ongoing flows of information and work, 6. Brown bag lunches
to their teams and organizations, to their customers and markets, not 7. Book club/Budget for books on Amazon
to mention their families and friends.
Level 2 - Word of mouse
Informal learning is holistic. “It’s not my department is no excuse for 1. Skills database or profiles
suboptimal results or stressed-out workers. We must address 2. Intranet with workflow structure and linked learning
individuals, for helping everyone be all that they can be is not 3. Online quality system linked to workflow
charity; it’s good business. 4. EPSS software
6. Instant messenger
7. Discussion boards
from Donald Clark
Push and pull Meta
Push is a metaphor for imposing things on people; itʼs top-
down. Pull is a metaphor for free choice; itʼs bottom-up.
Push learning is mandated, formal, and curriculum-bounded.
Pull learning is self-service, collaborative, driven by
immediate need or curiosity, and unbounded.
Learning ecologies, not schools
At the point of being overwhelmed by repeated shotgun
blasts of infobits, learners are turning the gun around to hunt ... the best way to support learning is from the
down what they want. demand side rather than the supply side. That is,
rather than deciding ahead of time what a learner
They are selecting what mail, email, television programs, needs to know and making this explicitly available to
phone calls, and reports they want in their lives. the exclusion of everything else, designers and
instructors need to make available as much as
People will rely on systems and on other people for guidance possible of the whole rich web of practice-explicit and
in selecting what they want in this self-service environment. implicit-allowing the learner to call upon aspects of
practice, latent in the periphery, as they are needed.
An unpredictable world has no absolutes. Knowledge
management thought leader Denham Gray writes, “Pull is Stolen Knowledge,
good up to a point, but I suspect the really useful stuff, the by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid
key discoveries, will continue to come from the edges and
beyond, from outside your strong links, from the periphery.
What will be key is maintaining a ﬁne balance between self-
driven inquiry, network recommendations, individual foraging,
deep ʻlisteningʼ, awareness and critical review.”
Pull is something I go looking for. It attracts
Push is something that comes looking for
me. I want it. I go to the store or the site to
me. Itʼs my growing stack of email. Itʼs
ﬁnd it. I request it. I assess my needs so I
spam, pop-ups, corporate memos, and
(and perhaps others) know what I am after. I
homework assignments. Itʼs information glut.
get it or have it delivered to me.
It arrives on its own.
The natural evolution of
Metcalfeʼs Law posits that value of a network grows
exponentially with the addition of new nodes. Left
unfettered, networks reproduce like rabbits on high-octane
Think, for example, of the hyper growth of the internet, the
web, MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook. Once social
networks take hold, expect them to grow like topsy,.
Moreover, the denser the network, the faster its cycle time.
More connections make it quicker to get from one node to
Imagine how this can happen in an organization. The ﬁrst
nodes appear as the company experiments with a few
small projects such as coordinating online project groups
or making it easier to ﬁnd information with a “Wikipedia
inside.” New hires are accustomed to going wherever they
wish in a network; imagine that they begin communicating
between silos. HR realizes that the company-pedia can
accelerate on-boarding new employees. Customer service
improves as everyone gains access to corporate
resources such as who does what and how to ﬁnd them.
Replacing multiple versions with a single source of
information cuts bureaucracy and chops email volume
back. The growth of corporate connections feeds on itself.
The online presentation of this is a lot easier to understand
Continues on next page
Network Effects Learnscaping
Cycle time Information glut Volatility
The denser its Interdependence
you must keep up with
connections, the faster amplifies the impacts of
the network. change.
Business migrates to services
Value migrates to intangibles
The Long Tail replaces the normal
The Long Tail
Value came from the few...
Limited learning Most value
...and has moved to the many
provided Most value
Clay Shirky writes that, “I am old enough to know that
newspapers are where you get your political news and how
you look for a job. I know that music comes from stores. I
know that if you want to have a conversation with someone,
you call them on the phone. I know that complicated things
like software and encyclopedias have to be created by
professionals. In the last fifteen years, I’ve had to unlearn
every one of those things and a million others, because they
have stopped being true.”
“I’ve become like the grown-ups arguing in my local paper
about calculators; just as it took them a long time to realize
that calculators were never going away, those of us old
enough to remember a time before social tools became widely
available are constantly playing catch-up. Meanwhile my
students, many of whom are fifteen years younger than I am,
don’t have to unlearn those things, because they never had to
learn them in the first place.”
Here Comes Everybody
Pick a few symbols of the world of work when you joined it.
What was it like back then?
Then do the same for today. Reflect on the changes.
And here’s the tricky part: cast off vestigial beliefs and habits
that no longer serve their purpose.
Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an approach to building systems Tools
where the fundamental building blocks are connections. A software architect
begins by deﬁning the interfaces between business processes. Once these The Parrot
are solid and interoperable, the business process can change without
screwing up the whole system. A man and a parrot sit next to each other in a plane. The service in the
plane is really bad, the man hasnʼt had a drink for hours and heʼs
starting to dehydrate. The parrot on the other hand is getting drink
This is important to understand, and I'm not doing the best job at it, so I'll after drink by the harrowed cabin crew. Each time the parrot orders a
draw an analogy. Before loose coupling, the buzz-phrase for common drink it does so with a lot of cursing and shouting.
interface standards wired to some process behind it, corporate IT
applications were hard-wired to one another. Each M&M here is a separate The man decides to follow the same tactic and starts shouting. Hey,
business process: bitch get me a whiskey! To his surprise he gets his whiskey and
follows through with the same tactic.
With loose coupling, processes (or services) are separable at the Soon, both man and parrot outdo each other in shouting and insults
interfaces. We treat each process as a free-standing bundle and insert new until the cabin crew has had enough. They grab the man and parrot
connections between them. Each process becomes plug-and-play. and throw them out of the plane. Now both of them are plummeting
towards the ground below when the parrot says to the man: Boy, for
You can see what's coming. If I want to outsource a service, all I need to do someone who can't ﬂy you sure do curse a lot.
is unplug it. In fact, I could create a business process model that replicated
the service, and do what-if analysis until I hit on the best conﬁguration of
services to achieve my objectives.
The prevailing business wisdom is that you should do what you're good at and
hand off the rest. Thirty years ago, companies programmed their own accounts
payable applications; now they all rely on someone else to do that.
Fifteen years ago, companies ran their own payroll; now they hand it off to ADP.
The trend to handing off anything that's not your core expertise is growing. SOA
and Web Services will make it hard to resist a smoothly interoperable service
managed by someone for whom it's core.
Aﬁcionados of IT feel SOA is inevitable is because it provides:
Vendor independence, no lock-in
Standardization: it worked for the Internet, didn't it?
Modularity and granularity: like in the old days, when audiophiles were
forever swapping amps and speakers in and out of their systems to
achieve the optimal sound
Reusability: to avoid reinventing the wheel
Lower Costs: from standardization, integration breed efﬁciency
Loose coupling, that enables one to take one step at a time and to stay in
Reduced brittleness: because problems are contained before they hit the
Scalability: because, like on the Web, one-to-many relationships replace
Strategic innovation (e.g. Open Source)
Software Stack Businesses have streamlined, re-engineered,
and re-furbished every aspect of what they do
with one exception: management.
The practice of management today reveres the
rules and beliefs that were invented to run
textile factories and railroads.
Do not over-control
Don’t tell me Organizations
When we deal with others, control is often superfluous. The best
policy for managing knowledge workers is to get up on what to do!
managing them. Inspire them instead.
Managers Coaches need to give people challenges and very
broad boundaries to operate within. It’s analogous to a child’s
puzzle. Give people the dots but let them connect them for
themselves. Managers have build up elaborate rituals to double
check their people are connecting the dots in the proper
sequence. Cruft accumulates on the simplest of processes,
obscuring their original meaning.
Kevin Wheeler shared a story that provides a solid example: A
new manager found herself fielding the usual headaches of
dealing with “managed” workers. Some complained of having
too much to do. Others had finished what they were working on
and asked what to do next. Projects were falling behind
schedule. People were not happy. The manager was called
away for a month-long business trip. She called everyone into a
conference room. They brainstormed lists of what needed to be
accomplished while the manager was away. They left with an
understanding of what needed to be done but no individual
assignments for doing it. When the manager returned, the group
had exceeded all expectation. All the projects were
accomplished. People were proud of their achievement. The
manager learned that her job was to set direction and then get
out of people’s way so they could do it. Many managers spend
Tell knowledge workers
too much time managing.
what you need done, not
how to do it.
Give them the dots; let
them fill in the lines by
Learnscaping themselves. 38
What do CEOs want?
the Enterprise of the Future
The Enterprise of the Future radically challenges its business model,
The Enterprise of the Future is capable of changing quickly and disrupting the basis of competition. It shifts the value proposition,
successfully. Instead of merely responding to trends, it shapes and overturns traditional delivery approaches and, as soon as opportunities
leads them. Market and industry shifts are a chance to move ahead arise, reinvents itself and its entire industry.
of the competition.
The Enterprise of the Future surpasses the expectations of increasingly
demanding customers. Deep collaborative relationships allow it
to surprise customers with innovations that make both its customers
and its own business more successful.
IBM Global CEO Study 2008
Changing focus of learning
In a leisurely-paced world, the past is
a good guide to the future. Corporate
learning focused on what has
In a fast-moving world, corporate learning must deal
with issues as they come. Individuals need draw their
own lessons. The learning professional must build
great roads, not give directions to specific locations.
Nurturing informal learning
People learn their work by observing colleagues, trying
things out, engaging in conversation and so forth, not by
attending training classes and workshops. Exploring how
that happens in corporations was the major theme of my
last book, Informal Learning, Rediscovering the Natural
Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance. x2
When readers reﬂected on how they mastered their own
jobs, they discovered that sure enough, most corporate
learning is informal. They also agreed that corporations
invest in formal learning, while letting informal learning fall
through the cracks. No oneʼs accountable; there are no chief
informal learning ofﬁcers; informal learning has been an
Learnscape Architecture: Getting Things Done in
Organizations, examines what corporations can do to
improve informal learning. Outsized returns are not assured,
Spending Learning but it makes for an intriguing possibility, doesnʼt it?
Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire
Innovation and Performance, made the point that while most corporate
learning is informal, most corporate investment goes into formal learning. Organizations can do to all sorts of things to nurture informal
learning and get things done. They canʼt “manage” informal
learning directly, but they can actively nurture it. Knowledge
organizations can think their way to operating efﬁciencies,
innovative production, and unsurpassed service. How to do that is
the topic of this un-book.
Learning = making good connections
Networks are everywhere. Cognition
Our era could well be called The Age of Networks. Humanity is awakening
to the realization that everything’s connected. If something’s not a node,
it’s a connection. Each of us is enmeshed in social, communications,
information, and neural networks. Furthermore, our bodies and brains are
networks. Scientists are still conceptualizing the human protocol stack but
they affirm that our personal neural intranets share a common topology
with those of chimps and other animals. Maybe recognizing that people
are more similar than different from, say, squirrels, will rid us of the silly
notion that mind and body operate separately. Learning is a whole body
For the most part, we are unaware of the firewall that filters the
connections between our personal neural nets and the teeming mass of
networks on the other side. Many people have failed to change the default
settings their personal firewalls came with, even though the factory-
installed settings haven’t been upgraded since 1 million B.C. Without
changing our mental macro libraries, we continually snap into flee or fight
mode. Being alert to minute movements is a survival skill on the savannah
but not in the executive office.
The point of learning is to prosper within our chosen communities. Learning
enables us to enjoy relationships and knowledge. Learning involves exploring
new ground, making discoveries, and clearing paths that let us go deeper. To
learn is to optimize one’s networks. Taking advantage of the double meaning of
the word “network,” learning is making good connections.
Designers of learning environments can borrow tools and techniques from
network engineers. They would focus on such things as:
Improving signal/noise ratio
Installing fat pipes for backbone connections
Pruning worthless & dead material
Promoting standards for interoperability 42
Get rid of what Learn what you
you don’t need need to know
Get rid of what Unlearn what’s
you once needed obsolete
but no more
Aspects of Informal Learning s
Informal learning does not have to be a happy accident. You can prepare
the soil to encourage it to take root.
No one has time. Life on earth is faster, faster, faster. We are inundated
with information, showered with technological innovation, and pestered
by multiple media 24/7. Business is a blur. Life is uncertain. People are
stressed. Work is hell. Its time to do something about this new way of
A woman with a watch knows what time it is; a woman with two does not.
Most of us wear some watches set to agrarian age time, others to
industrial age time, and yet others to internet time. Our bodies, our
workgroups, our families, our employers, and our global environment are
out of sync. Our lives are incoherent because our worlds are changing
faster than we are.
Nothing is more important to business success than the knowledge and
know-how of workers. In the industrial era, managements role was
showing workers what to do. In the knowledge era, workers want to learn
but hate to be trained; telling them how to do something insults their
Study after study finds that workers get 80% of their job know-how
informally. The choice is whether they do it well or to do it poorly.
Important as it is, informal learning doesn’t show up on the corporate
radar because it isn’t recorded in industrial-age charts of account. No
one has a budget for it, but organizations that fail to leverage informal
learning leave buckets of money on the table. In a knowledge era, it is
irresponsible to disregard the prime means of creating, sharing, and
replenishing intellectual capital.
Informal learning is effective because it is personal. The individual calls
the shots. The learner is responsible. Its real. Its self-service. It is the The shaded boxes on this and the following four pages review
major concepts of Informal Learning.
only thing that will work with the digital natives now entering the
In the past, learning focused on what was in an individual’s head. The
individual took the test, got the degree, or earned the certificate. The
new learning focuses on what it takes to do the job right. That includes
the business environment, workflow, colleagues, partners, and
Accelerating change Free-Range Learning
Knowledge workers demand respect for who they are. Learning is successful adaptation to change. Informal and formal
They thrive when given the freedom to decide how learning are the end-points of a continuum. On one end, formal
they will do what you ask them to. They rise or fall to learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is
meet expectations. We need to set those expectations going; the passengers are along for the ride. On the opposite end,
and then get out of the way. informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the
destination, the speed, and the route. The rider can take a detour
Training, development, knowledge management, at a moments notice, to admire the scenery or go to the bathroom.
performance support, informal learning, mentoring, and
knowing are all components of performance networks. Informal learning happens out of class. There’s no curriculum and
Networks expand or die. Linking nodes distributes no certificate of completion. It goes on all the time. Informal
information and power. Networks subvert hierarchy. learning includes things like trying and failing, asking a neighbor,
The flatter the organization, the denser its reading a book, or watching television. Informal learning is how we
interconnections, and the faster its throughput. learn about life. Its how we make sense of things.
Humans exist in networks. We belong to social Formal learning–riding the bus–is great for novices. Its useful to
networks. Our heads contain neural networks. have help getting the lay of the land and getting to the destination.
Learning consists of making and maintaining better Training departments are very talented at setting up bus lines.
connections to our networks, be they social,
operational, commercial or entertainment. Informal learning, what the bicyclists do, is most appropriate for
people who already know the territory. They want tips on the new
A superlative engineer can be 250 times more short cuts and the essence of a topic. They want what they want,
productive than an average performer! Making a great to plug the holes in their knowledge, and they wont sit still for bus
performer better gives more bang for the buck than rides to their destinations. Training departments don’t devote much
moving an average performer up a notch. Its a human effort to helping cyclists.
Heres the irony: The cyclists are the high performers. Raising their
performance 5% blows the roof off. (Whereas raising the
performance of novices 5% doesn’t even register.) When it comes
to learning, most corporations are spending the most money where
Unconferences it will do the least good.
Business meetings used to come in one flavor: dull. New Some training departments justify treating everyone as a bus
approaches create meetings that people enjoy, often organized in passenger by saying that works for novices and the old pros. This
scant time and at minimal cost. Unconferences are characterized is flat-out wrong. The bike riders will always find a reason not to
by: take the ride. Workers with the most upside potential rarely receive
any focused learning at all.
No keynote speaker or designated expert
Breakthrough thinking born of diversity
Having fun dealing with serious subjects
Genuine community, intimacy and respect