Table of Contents
Jay Cross is a champion of informal learning, web 2.0, and systems thinking. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix. Full Bio
The future is people, not technology
by Jay Cross
Recently, I called for the abolition of corporate training departments. Now some instructors and traditional instructional designers see me as a job threat. They needn’t worry. Enlightened e-learning requires more people, not fewer.
Ten years ago, venture capital firms issued lengthy reports explaining why e-learning would take the world by storm. Their underlying economic argument was cost-cutting: less travel, fewer facilities and no more salary expense for instructors. It was a classic industrial age proposition: Replace humans with machines. That first round of e-learning largely failed for precisely this reason. You can’t remove the humans from learning.
Companies should embrace network-supported informal learning because it works better, not because it reduces labor costs. People learn more efficiently at the time of need, in the context of work, from people in the know and through virtual conversation.
When my colleagues and I advocate cutting back on workshops and classes in favor of building “learnscapes,” we aren’t suggesting firing the instructors. Rather, we recommend redeploying them in new capacities, serving as connectors, wiki gardeners, internal publicists, news anchors and performance consultants.
There’s no cookie-cutter formula for assigning these new roles and responsibilities. An active community of practice is a different animal from a bottom-up knowledge management network or a corporate news channel. New communities have different requirements than old.
In their book Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities, Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith describe different community orientations in terms of meetings, open-ended conversation, projects, content, access to expertise, relationships, individual participation, community cultivation and service context.
Digital Habitats posits the role of the community technology steward. Technology stewards are people with enough experience of the workings of a community to understand its technology needs and enough experience with technology to take leadership in addressing those needs.
A steward’s initial task is to shape a vision consistent with the community’s orientations. The steward then selects the simplest technology to advance the community as both the technology and the organization progress.
Digital Habitats also assigns these duties to the technology steward:
• Bringing new members up to speed with the community’s technology.
• Identifying and spreading good technology practices.
• Supporting community experimentation.
• Assuring continuity across technology disruptions.
• “Keeping the lights on” (including backups, permissions, vendor payments and domain registrations).
Internet Alliance’s Clark Quinn sees the need for a learnscape architect who nurtures the health of the learning network for collaboration, communication and learning opportunities. More a leader than a technician, the learnscape architect is the network champion who carries the vision, monitors metrics, promotes network participation and encourages continuous experimentation.
Mzinga’s Dave Wilkins describes several production roles. Producers manage the contributions of others, drawing out the best in them while also opting not to include contributions that aren’t as good. Moderators help ensure an environment of high trust by ensuring that people play by the rules. Expert moderators may vet the accuracy and clarity of information in their domains. Yet other moderators seed discussions to channel conversations in ways that might provide insight to the organization. Reporters and bloggers unearth what is newsworthy and document it for the community.
These tasks won’t happen by themselves. Furthermore, people throughout the organization will need to share the burden of helping everyone learn.Distributing learning throughout the social fabric of an organization requires storytellers, mentors, bloggers, community elders, schedulers and editors. We’re all in this together.
Some instructors will continue to instruct, but they will increasingly do so with network support and in smaller bursts. It’s a better use of their time. Face-to-face instruction packs a punch but is difficult to scale. Economics dictate that traditional instruction will play a diminishing role in corporate learning.
Traditional instructors and instructional designers are ideally suited to excel in these roles. They understand how adults learn and how to transform information into learning. It’s important for corporations to benefit from their learning people, not give them pink slips
“Employment Branding is the craft of being so completely organized that you are ready with the right message for the right person when she comes along.”
A brand is a relationship.
Brands only matter to the people who care about them. Mention the brand name outside of the circle of people who have the relationship and you will receive shoulder shrugs. Mention it inside the circle and you can spark a conversation full of passion and opinion.
The only brands that matter are the ones that people care about.
The theory and development of branding has been reserved, historically, for companies that could afford large broadcast media campaigns. The best examples of brand marketing are consumer product companies, from automobiles to popular music to varieties of American Cheese. The term brand is used to cover a wide range of circumstances from name recognition to deep affinity.
Contemporary talk about ‘personal branding’ generally refers to the act of managing the fifteen minutes of fame that social media bestows. Peppers and Rogers, the authors of popular books on database and relationship marketing, move the concept to tightly grouped members of a database.
It is useful to think about branding as an early stage technology. Purely a 20th Century invention, branding, like many first generation technologies, began in organizations that could afford clumsy and inefficient approaches because of their sheer size. For the past 70 years, branding has been a game of extensive spending to attract large numbers of people to a single product or company.
Today, however, the tools needed to build very clear, very small niche oriented brands are readily available. Like much of marketing, the tools are now available from the desktop. This “downward evolution” of marketing creates both expanded opportunity and expanded responsibility at the department and operating unit level.
The labor disconnect creates a new requirement for the development of Relationships between Employers and demographically defined pools of candidates. This process, which is an outgrowth of the emerging changes in the basic concept of management are nothing less than a redefinition of the boundaries of the organization.
The combination of need and trend is fortuitous. As the generational labor disconnect unfolds its consequences, the competition for employees must become increasingly precise. Over the next several years, we will continue to witness a series of increasingly successful branding exercises that focus clearly on the branding of subcomponents of the organization.
Talent acquisition precision is the opposite of what we’re doing in organizations right now. As social media lowers the barriers to massive data collection, the initial cut at a candidate list is usually huge. We’re still fighting the ‘resume firehose problem. Today, they are a lot less expensive per resume.
What makes Company X the employer of choice for Unix professionals is unlikely to be the dynamic that attracts candidates in accounting. A brand, as it is commonly understood is a good place to start. But, the focus on being a generic “employer of choice” is an inadequate vision for effective long term labor supply management.
- 2011 Talent Acquisition Predictions
The old standard Recruiting Guru Crew (Sumser, Wheeler, Sullivan, Crispin) was supplemented by a team of practitioners in this hour-long look at what will be keeping Recruiting leaders awake at night.
- HRX Market Panel
This year, HRExaminer is building a panel of HR leaders who participate in regular surveys about the industry, its practices and products. Members of the panel will have access to survey results and other benefits.
- TRU London
If you’re going to be in or around London on February 16, 17 and 18, check out the TRU London Conference. Presenters include lots of familiar names from social media (including Sumser, Wheeler, Bussing, Gorman) in this non-traditional conference by Bill Boorman. Here’s a review of last year’s event.
Out of Left Field
From inside of the HR industry, that’s where innovation seems to come from … way out in left field. The major players in the business are better understood as channels for innovation that happened elsewhere. HR vendors are largely companies that are adept at applying external changes to the local market. In our case, local refers to a profession rather than a place.
With the opening of the new Mac App Store, Apple is making a move to take the entire computing market onto the desktop. There are some pretty serious implications for the market and its vendors. This is a hybrid of SaaS and on-machine delivery. Installation is simplified and a part of the purchasing process. Updates, integration and maintenance are all embedded in the App store which is a component of the operating system.
It’s a real time world.
In many areas of the economy, the universe of things that came in big chunks is starting to come in smaller, more customized chunks. It’s not just the new App Store, it’s the products and services in the store and the way of thinking that makes apps small. It spells a radical rearrangement of all of the HR silos, particularly Recruiting and Training.
In the old days, step A always had to precede Step B because you couldn’t collaborate while the work was in process. These days, we’re headed for massively parallel processes operating to deliver higher quality, cheaper, just-in-time results.
Here are a couple of examples.
Knowlagent is a provider of training to call service companies. When the system notices slack in the demand for call operators, it delivers small slices of training. That way, the system stays up and the cost of training drops because slack time is being exploited.
The whole deal is made possible because youtube thinking and time splicing can be combined to eliminate the ‘classroom hour’. The need to assemble everyone all at once to get the same song from the same hymnal is a pre-internet artifact. Today, training modules are only as long as they absolutely have to be. That makes it possible to distribute and arrange them into available wedges of time on an individualized basis.
The Knowlagent tool is really useful in the streamlining of High Volume Recruiting processes. Smart RPOs will start using this sort of technique as a way of balancing workloads across populations of recruiters engaged in customer specific programs.
The other example is Mental Case:
Use it to learn a language, brush up on your human anatomy, or study for the bar exam. Enter your information directly, or import it from online sources like The Flashcard Exchange. Mental Case automatically generates lessons for you, syncs them to your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, and even tells you when to study.
Found on the App Store, Mental Case is a Flash Card generating application. It takes your data (or material found in their Flashcard exchange). It takes content and builds lessons and deadlines. It automates much of the curriculum development process that drives Training Department costs.
The future of the HR leader involves the assembly of full tilt programs from small pieces from a variety of sources. Cost effectiveness and high value delivery requirements will continue to force the practitioner to innovate whether or not the vendors do. They are going to do more with less and the result will be higher quality.
The innovations will seem to come out of left field.
Influence is a particularly tricky thing to understand. The right word form the right person, a nod when a wink would do, a thank you with just the wrong tone, the flow of opportunity are all examples of influence in action. Whether or not there should be, there is no correlation between merit and influence.
That some people are more influential than others is a given. Exactly how influential they are and what that means is a more challenging question. One of this week’s articles suggests that Influence is best understood from the perspective of the influenced. I think that means that everyone has their own internal Top Influencer list.
Many of the critiques in these articles are answered in part by the Traakr algorithm. (That’s what we use to make the Top Influencer lists). Traakr uses followers as a component of reach and couples it with cross reference behavior, inbound links and relevance to the topic at hand.
Influence will remain a potent conversation in the coming years. As we try to understand, model and predict organizational and individual behavior, influence will come to be understood as a key management tool. You might think of influence as the inherent environmental bias towards decisions. Influencers individually are the chorus of voices that move towards that predisposition.
Of course, that’s just one aspect.
- 6 Impossible Things
The right idea at the right time can generate viral influence beyond the imaginings of the opiner. This scientists notes that science is “a creative enterprise that has this in common with all other creative enterprises — you do it not because it provides you with security and a stable career ladder, but because you can’t bring yourself to do anything else.”
- Printing Social Currency: Influence vs Intentions
“The latest twist in the new currency movement is the idea that on-line influence can be used to support a currency. There is no shortage of noble leaders aspiring to “define the standard” in their own image as a service to the lesser masses who seek their respective place in the great new economic void. PeerIndex and Klout are the two main players that promote a social score based on influence, ostensibly to mimic the credit score upon which all currency depends.”
- Blogging isn’t dead, influence contests should be, and hyperlinks rock.
“Sure, an influence project might have sounded like a good idea in 2010. Many people disagreed. Strongly. Despite the backlash, new social media contests are still coming online for people to game. Predictably, strong critiques emerged, including those that focus on a different kind of digital divide. There is an emerging industry of analytics services that crunch big data and social recommendations to determine online influence or grade social media accounts, although they all have a long journey yet to evolve. Instead of encouraging a community to engage in a popularity contest, considering using the power of an established media platform to empower new voices, highlighting what’s unique about an area and connect neighbors who might not know one another.”
- Your Followers Are No Measure of Your Influence
“Since Malcolm Gladwell began popularizing his “Tipping Point” theory 14 years ago, marketers have fantasized about a world in which they can identify a small number of influential folks who can credibly, effectively and cheaply push product for them.” This Ad Age article debunks the notion that Twitter, in and of itself, generates any influence.
- Matt Creamer on Influence
“Influence is what makes the difference between an idea or behavior being adopted (or not) amongst those around us and those around them (and so on). Influence is often much easier to see after the fact and harder to predict ahead of time than we imagine – as Duncan and others have repeatedly pointed out – so we shouldn’t imagine that because something does or doesn’t seem to be a driver of others’ behavior that it would do so if we re-played the tapes). But it’s probably best understood as something the Influenced do in response to those around them (as opposed to something the Influential do to them).We call it Social Learning or plain old Copying